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After Her..

Timeline:

This is a recollection of certain events taking place from around the Themalsar War to centuries later and ending somewhere amongst the ruined lands of Demon Plains and Arcanton Mordenon’s faulty demon gate..

This is a story on how the letter-scroll Prince Gordigon gave to Arcantonic Palecog traveled through time and space to end up back in the hands of the little gnomic girl after she lost it during their hurried flight from the war zone of Themalsar.

It is also, however, a projection of the story
Left Behind (18+)

 

 

Brom Bumblebrim gets bit, again, by whatever it is that keeps biting him on occasion as he brushes by the Tinker-guy on his way out of the Great Arashkan Library. And on an impulse, he burglarizes him, unwittingly taking back the letter-scroll that Tonic had lost, some 800 years ago, just past Ogre’s Foot during their first prophecy.

Stories:
Birthright (18+) – first part,
Quiet In The Library

 

As to how the scroll comes by the gnome, Gnine Tinkerdome is an adventure all by itself;

About a week after its loss, the scroll is first discovered by one of the scores of scouts belonging to the Durkahan Paladins and the Koruxan Knights heading towards the battle against Themalsar. The document is handed over to the Keeper of Durkahan Archives who is killed, some two weeks later, along with hundreds of other military personnel during their final push against the Themalsar’s forces when goblin sappers strapped with fused bombs charge out of their hidden trenches and into the ranks of the Durkahan Paladins and Koruxan Knights..

 

When the war finally ends, the paladins, the knights, the elves, and the dwarves refuse to loot the bloody, stinking, corpse infested battlefield. They collect their dead and wounded, and head home, leaving the Arashkan Military to deal with the mess.

The not-so-happy Arashkan Army loots everything they can find and take them back to their own city, inadvertently raising the economical level and power of the city by tenfold while all documents and writs found are sent to The Great Arashkan Library to be sifted and eliminated; a long and tedious process that unwittingly forms the foundations of ARIS, Arashkan Intelligence Service.

Some of the writs and documents are forwarded to the department of history, and some are handed over to the military, while others are sealed and archived in the royal palace vaults.

 

Many centuries later, a disreputable and quite a drunkard professor is excommunicated from the University of Arashkan for selling antique books and documents in the black-market, also finds himself on the wrong side of the law for forgery and falsifying official documents.

Afraid of being locked in jail or worse, he seeks sanctuary among the Thieves Guild of the same city. The thieves ‘hire’ him to work for them in their ‘information department’, for a small fee to prove his loyalty; the professor is to bring his whole batch of pilfered antique books and documents.

Story: Birthright (18+) – second part

 

Unfortunately, the conflict between the thieves guild and the cutters known as Them Friggin Bastards escalate and turn into a bloody, open street warfare after the seemingly unexpected murder of a high standing aristocrat, a Lady Felisia Fremeir, over some stolen ‘royal gifts’. The professor, along with his marketable antiques are ‘shelved’ and put on hold, and shortly after, are totally forgotten when the professor’s liver finally gives in and he dies of over abuse of alcohol.

Story: Neye bulaştın, Felishia? (18+)

 

A few years later, a young half-elf thief named Darly ‘Darlius’ Dor searching for a means to avenge his unspoken lover, the Lady Felisia Fremeir brings his ‘friends’; Aager Fogstep, Laila Wolvesbane, Inshala Frostmane, Merisoul Xyrtowu, and Gnine Tinkerdome to the ‘information department’ of the thieves guild to ‘help’ them in their search to find the whereabouts of the highly wanted and elusive rebellion, Gar Thalot.

During their hours-long excavation among thousands and thousands of documents and bits and pieces of parchments with various information on the city, the city denizens and officials alike, the keen ranger corporal Laila Wolvesbane stumbles on a very old letter-scroll. To the great surprise of everyone in the group, the letter is written by a Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome some 800 years ago to his father, King Drine Tinkerdome of Silent Hills. The letter-scroll is handed over to Gnine Tinkerdome, also a member of the same company.

Story: Birthright (18+) – second part

 

 

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Historically, when the Demon Fog settles over Silent Hills, some few colonies of gnomes do manage to escape the disaster. The majority of these gnomes travel far south and west, never to be heard of again as they are hunted down and slain by some very large, orc-like creatures, possibly the first-ever sighting of the Greater Orken. Some few, though, secretly settle at Tinker Hills to form their own small and ‘silent’ community. Nearly three hundred years later, a highly intelligent, and dangerously proactive young gnome is born into this community; Gnine Tinkerdome.

 

Burning with curiosity about his possible heritage, and with the help of his bond, Whimsi Lola, the gnome, Gnine, starts to secretly break into The Great Arashkan Library in hopes of finding more information in the restricted, official archives, where he meets a rather unscrupulous hobbit named Brom Bumblebrim, who, upon a familiar sting, burglarizes the gnome and inadvertently retrieves the letter-scroll and returns it to Tonic..

Story: Quiet In The Library

 

This, seemingly minor ‘hiccup’, would constitute the basis of the obsession in the little gnomic girl, Tonic, and inadvertently trigger the events that would lead to the story; Left Behind (18+), some 180 years in the future, pushing and urging her to find a way to open an Astral Gate where time and space get distorted, to get back to her one and only love; Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome..

 

 

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In an unprecedented irony, Tonic follows her uncle, Arcanton Mordenon’s researches on ‘gates’ , and after decades of trials and errors, she finally constructs her own functional gate. Not a gate leading to the Abyss to summon demons, however, but something ultimately more destructive; an Astral Gate.. A plane of pseudo-existence where time, space, and matter are torn apart, shredded, and corroded down to their base moments, units and elements..

 

What becomes of Arcantonic Palecog after she steps through the Astral Gate to get to her prince is never quite clear. Rumors assume her to have been, inevitably torn apart in the Astral Void, as she sought, for relative centuries, to find a counter exit point to reach the moment she met her desire. But rare historical records found after the lifting of the Demon Fog in Silent Hills’ long-forgotten and crumbled vaults, however, mention one of their greatest kings to be a King Gordigon Tinkerdome son of King Drine Tinkerdome son of King Knine Tinkerdome and speak of his fiery little queen.. The identity of the said queen, however, is never discovered as it seems to have been diligently never recorded!..

Interestingly, the name of King Gordigon’s firstborn is recognized in The Silent Archives; a beautiful little gnomic girl named Seressa Ton Wraiven!

Story: Left Behind (18+)

 

Having fulfilled its prophetic purpose, the letter-scroll thus finds its way back, like the song, ‘Time’,

 

‘..Linking places, spaces, events, and relations by the simple expedience of relating the past to the future..’

 

to its true owner; Arcantonic Palecog!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

As for her pair, Seressa Wraiven slowly deteriorates into the madness of hopeless despair at the loss of her pair and is rumored to have last been seen roaming mindlessly, like the broken ghost of her former self around the devastated and rotting lands north of Durkahan City and Kahan Mountains, among the ruins of Demon Plains, ferally seeking a way to get passed the endless sea of undead and fiends, streaming out of Arcanton’s faulty demon gate.. and enter it, in hopes of finding a way, through the Abyss, to her pair or to just end it all..

Story: Post Left Behind (18+)

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Late one night, many hundreds of leagues away, a certain hobbit gets bit, perhaps one final time as he dons his lorica, his sword, his cap, and his cloak.

 

“There really was no need, my friend..”, Brom Bumblebrim mumbled quietly.

“I had already made up my mind.”

 

He hauls his backpack, grabs a simple, nondescript walking stick, and picks up his antique lyre, gives a final, mournful look at the empty depths of his home..

..and leaves.

 

Once more, he drops a note to his, now quite a bit older friend, Gamwise Samgee. Unlike the note he scrabbled nearly two centuries ago, this one would be a bit longer;

 

My dear Gamwise Samgee,

 

Due to quite expected reasons, I will be leaving and I am afraid there will be no coming back this time. You will find the deed for my home and everything I own, all listed and cataloged, in the small chest, in the study; my garden, my lands, my roses, my phloxes, my cherries, my books, my songs, my mother’s tea cups.. have all been transferred to your name and properly notarized. I would greatly appreciate that the aforementioned lands and properties stay in your family and never be sold and the roses, the phloxes, and the cherries are allowed to remain.

 

I have but two boons to ask of you; a package containing various odds and end, and a staff I had been trying to mend and repair for the past few years.. You will find them both hidden behind the seed sacks, down in the cellar. The package and the staff are to be taken to a certain house at Salt Woods. You will find the exact location marked on the map I left with the package. I am afraid you will personally have to make this trip as you are the only one I can trust for this delivery. You will have to approach the site from the north side and use a password to safely enter as the boundaries of the house is heavily warded.

 

 

For my second boon;

 

Live, my friend.

 

Live and be happy.

 

 

Well, that’s it, then..

 

I must now part with the acceptance of a curse to find what I should have taken when I had the chance. The time for me to shed my cowardice, my ignominy, and my disgrace has arrived.

 

I shall take up the mantle of my love and my passion, and wear it, even though I do not deserve it. I go to redeem my self of a sin I did by abandoning my heart for reason.

 

I leave to seek a lost soul and to right a wrong. A wrong I let happen one hundred and eighty years ago..

 

Farewell, my dear friend.

 

Yours truly,
Knight Laureate Brom Bumblebrim.

 

 

P.S. Be particularly gentle with the staff, if you would, please. I had meant to finish it before this journey, but I am afraid, my time is up.

 

When people come to call and ask about my grandfather’s rusty old sword collection, they will want to know if they are magic. Never answer that question. Always smirk —silently. The way I did. It will drive them crazy, but the legend must go on!

 

The password for the wards is;

 

“The Wonder In Pinks”..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

For many days and deep into the nights, he traveled north, skirting The Savage Plains and Endless Watch. He passed Tinker Hills, then Silent Hills, and decided to skim by Serenity City, rather than stay. He didn’t want this venture to turn into a parade. And just when he’d passed Gulls Perch, there she was..

Standing at the side of the road was a particularly grim-looking tundra elf barbarian bearing deep, frostbite scars, whirling dark blue storm tattoos, long, snow braids, and wearing the mark of a Riserin —the sign of the Princess of Ironfrost.

“You decided then..”, she said gruffly.

The hobbit nodded mutely.

“Took you bloody long enough.”, she scowled.

“Didn’t want you to come.”, he said quietly.

“Didn’t care what you wanted!”, she said bluntly. “You don’t get to make choices for others, Brom. Made her choice for her that one time, and look where it got you. Where it got her!

“We both paid the price.”, he replied inaudibly.

“Seems like only she paid any price.. ALL THE PRICE!“, the barbarian girl glowered. “You know, you are a lucky little hobbit, and my friend, because I so want to beat you into the ground, right here, right now!”

“Yea..”, replied the hobbit morosely. “..lucky me.”

“When you made her choice, you abandoned her, Brom. You made us abandon her. Do you think she would be the way she ended up, had you been with her?”, she said mercilessly.

“There really isn’t anything that you can say, that I haven’t already said to myself, Cora.”, Brom replied quietly.

“That is possible. But I shall give it my best!”, she bit savagely.

 

 

A few days later, when they were passing Misty Forest, they came out of the filmy haze like a pair of wraiths and joined them; a cold, sinister-looking man in dark, patchy clothes, holding the hand of a very pretty, ‘still needs some filling’ little girl with sad, forlorn eyes, strawberry lips, long, silky hair, and beautiful, curving horns. The man silently nodded at them and they start walking in the same direction.

“Dear, dear Brom.”, said the skinny girl, with misty eyes. “The heart wins when the mind submits. He wanted to beat you. But I said please, don’t. He asked me why he shouldn’t and I reminded him how I had to sneak up to him all those times and whispered into his ear, just to get his attention, the first time we met, and he barely took notice of me..”

“I noticed you. Four years before we ever met. You had my attention. Grilled those two, mule-headed ranger girls, Laila and Morel, for hours, but they refused to give me anything about you.. When we met, you were just too young..”, the sinister-looking man, Aager, growled. “I didn’t want to make choices for you. Nor take away your options..”

 

“Yet, by doing that, did you not do just that? Take away my choices?”

 

..she replied, but there was no rancor, nor rebuff in her voice. Inshala turned to Brom and spoke with a conversational, matter of fact voice.

 

“I had decided I wanted him. He knew I wanted him. He knew he wanted me. Yet he decided it was better for me to wait. He wanted me to stay as a baby, not a girl. And wait we did..” Then softly she added. “And lost years.. Years I wanted him.. Nothing is as sweet as the moment you want something.. One can live with regrets, but never with lost opportunities.

 

I carry no regrets. But I do miss the lost opportunities.”

 

“Told him pretty much the same things, all those years ago.. just more bluntly.”, inserted Cora. “But our hobbit here is a bit thick in the skull!”

 

They passed the ruins of Arashkan and decided not to stop at High Woods, even though Inshala very much wanted to.

They traveled further west, resupplied at Vodgar, and followed the road passed Dark Forest.

They took a boat across Kahan Lake and beached at the dying shores of Demon Plains..

Carefully they traveled towards the dreary lands and there, at the very edge of the Demon Plains, they beheld the slight figure of another tired and desolate soul.

 

The beautiful heart of High Woods silently rose and told them that she has thus passed her legacy and her heritage to others and that she would accompany them in their sojourn to help find a friend and perhaps, find her twin sister as well.

With a steely determination, she would join them, and perchance her own Dorin..

“Is this what he would have wanted, my Queen?”, asked Brom sadly.

 

“I am queen, no longer, dear Brom. I shed my burdens ere I came. Nons shall take pride over my death, nor carry my burden as a trophy.”

 

..replied Alor’Nadien ne with her soft, brushing voice.

 

“You will always be my Queen and hold the throne of my heart.”, said the hobbit sincerely.

 

“Methinks your heart’s throne already has her queen, dear Brom, but my King is not here and by his stone, my grief is no longer bearable.

 

I have been offered many prospects since then; other kings and princes, merchants, and royalty. They never understood; I have never wanted to be queen. Yet I chose to be one for he was there to bear its burden with me. Much like he chose to be king, for that was the only way we would be allowed to be together. And by his hollow seat, day and night, year after year, for a century and more, I sat, appearing like the person I no longer am; strong, alive, and willing.

 

I no longer hold the strength nor the will to carry on. And I see no point to stay any longer, my friend. Where he is, he awaits. Where I go, will be there.”

 

“The fight. Who will—”, asked Brom, words failing him now.

“If the fight has come down to a tired, broken soul such as I, then surely we are lost already. New hands with vigor must pick up that mantle now, and bear its burdens. Not these tired hands.”, she replied solemnly.

“What of High Woods, my Queen?”

 

“My youngest granddaughter, Alor’Derune, the Allure of Dorin, has been chosen and the mantle passed. I shall miss the heart and the breath of my forest. The spirit of High Woods promised I would cherish and prosper. So I have. From the ashes of my forest, I have lived to see my kingdom reborn, and by my King’s love, my children and their children strive. But everything must come to a close. We thought we saved so many but lost so much more. We gave our all, and more until we had none..

 

I relish my moments in this life. And I cherried my beloved friends. But like my King, most are gone, now. This life no longer offers me favors, nor passions. Thus I yearn for the other and for over a century now, I have counted my days. I have kept him waiting because he asked this one boon of me; that I live and be happy.

 

I have lived, but he did not know, he had bereft me of all happiness when he left. Nay. I think I have kept my promise. It is time he honors his and accepts me.”

 

Brom quietly nodded. That was all he could do. When a person talked in a language one could understand, but not relate, one knew, they were on two, very different levels of perception; the Queen of High Woods, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist Shieldheart was already gone. What stood here, was nothing but her shade.

 

Yes.

They had given their all.

And more.

But such was the required sacrifice of the few, select mortals to save their world from annihilation.

 

“It’s a bit late to start. We have lost the noon sun. Will make them stronger as the hour’s pass. Might as well make camp early, and start at first light.”, Brom said.

“Did I ever tell you how much I hate ghosts, wraiths, and zombies? Ow, and demons.. Especially the ones with the long, barbed tentacles..”, he added with a voice that was barely audible.

“Yea.”, replied Cora said from somewhere behind him. “They always go for the little, fat ones!”

Brom snorted.

He squinted at the distant lands, dead and rotting. He took a deep breath and faced his preening destiny.

For a long, long moment, Brom thought of the very tall, very dark girl that had ruined him for everyone else..

He remembered the time when she had whispered into his mind. The time when he and Cora had thought they were going up against a terrible demon, all those years ago, on Ice Wolf Horde’s request. It had also been the time they had first met.. Thinking back, she could have whispered at Cora, yet she had opted to whisper to him.

He remembered the way she had flopped and klutzed, face down into the snow, displaying all her curvy glory in pinks.. After nearly two hundred years, he could still remember that image, and so vividly..

He remembered when she had gone up against Cora in defense of her pair, Tonic, at Mount Dreadmaw, and had so dearly paid the price.

And he remembered the way she had blushed so furiously and had been so embarrassed that time when he had caught her with Tonic’s foot in her mouth.

“This isn’t what it looks like!”, she had blurted in unveiled panic, with Tonic’s foot still in her mouth. “I am not eating her!”

Brom wondered why she had feared that he would think her eating Tonic.

Had she done something silly as she often did, in her past, and someone had said something stupid to her? What kind of a demented idiot would be so cruel, he wondered.

 

And suddenly he knew he needn’t seek the cruel idiot far away.

That cruel idiot was right here.

 

Then, just like that, he started to shake.

And silently, Brom Bumblebrim wept..

..he wept while staring at the dead lands where ‘The Wonder in Pinks’ was off, somewhere, not even sure if she were alive. Her beautiful mind gone, as she crept and crawled in the filth of the rotating land towards the demon gate.

 

“I will not offer comfort by saying it isn’t your fault. Because as sure as it is, it is mine as well, Brom Bumblebrim. When you chose to do what you did, I chose to stand by you. Many things could have been different if I had ignored you and just picked you up and threw you at her! Knowing her, she would have caught you, and kept you.. along with her dignity and sanity..

You are not the first to think less of themselves and feel unworthy, Brom. And Seressa was a great soul..”, Cora said.

“She always was. And like the coward I am, I turned away from her, thinking she deserved better, deserved more.. Never bothered to ask her what she wanted. Just like all the other animals out there who never bothered to ask her what she felt.. I sinned her, Cora..”, Brom shuddered as he wept. “I burned her when I abandoned her.. I did her wrong and now, I dragged you into this.. I deserve everything you want to do to me.”

“Well, when you say it like that, makes me wonder just what kind of a girl you think I am. Shall I fetch my whip? Would you rather pole lashing or have me do it while you are stretched on a rack!”, she said mildly. “As for the dragging, I doubt you could drag me anywhere even if you tried.. That’s what friends are for; being dragged without being told. It was my choice to be your friend, Brom, and so was accepting you as mine. You were there when I was down. You let me lean on you. Yes, I never cried on your shoulder, but I did know that your shoulder was always available should I ever needed it.. Now I am here for you to lean back. Doesn’t mean I am not pissed off at you. This one, though, I am doing for her.”, she said.

She looked down at the shuddering hobbit, removed her heavy fur cloak, and settled it over him.

“Go on. Get some sleep. I will cover the first watch with that Aager-guy. He is worse than I am. I didn’t use to talk because I was so ‘can’t be bothered’ and ‘cool’. He doesn’t even care about cool. The only one I have ever seen him smile is his wispy little wife. Wonder if I should ask him just how old he is.. and why! Pain to get him to talk.. And creepy as hell, the way those two just ogle at one another like newly eloped teens, without ever saying a single word.”

“Tomorrow is going to be one, long day..”, sniffed Brom.

“Yes.”, agreed Cora. “Tomorrow, we enter Demon Plains and retrieve a friend. Two, if we are lucky.”

Then she looked at the shade of the Queen of High Woods, Alor’Nadien ne, lost in her own sorrows; loved ones and friends..

“But I mean to leave no one behind. A girl of her stature and grace needs a proper stone and a decent shrine. Not a ditch in the ground..”

 

 


The twin sister referred to here, is the recorded kinship of Arcantonic Palecog as a Feymist, on the day Alor’Nadien ne is born, by Nadine Graciousward. Both of their names are entered into the royal archives of Bari Na-ammen on the same day, making them, ‘technically’, sisters and twins..

 

The staff Brom refers to, is the Staff of Blooms that belonged to Seressa Wraiven since shortly after her graduation from the Academy of Melshieve.

During the story, Left Behind (18+), Seressa breaks the staff in wroth and despair, never wanting to see the beautiful, pink cherry blooms that it would sprout. During one of his visits to check in on her, Brom finds the broken pieces of the staff and takes them, in the hopes that he could fix it, and return it to Wraiven, proving to her that the broken can be made whole again and that nothing is beyond repair.

 

 

And that is the summed up story behind the mystery of how in the blazes did that letter even get here.. Good luck discerning any sense out of that paradoxical loop! This is where an unforeseen variable is introduced into a perfectly linear equation, turning it into an infinite loop, causing it to either freeze or crash your processor.

 


 

 

 
 

Quiet In The Library

Timeline:

Arcantonic and Brom slip silently into the night to do somethings that might very well break the prophecy they were sent for.

Adamant that she must do what she set out to do, Brom has little choice but to help accompany the ‘cute little demon’ of a gnomic girl.

 

This story takes place on the same night as
“Benim gitmem lazım.”
The Returning of Shal -ah Galad
Geleceğin Adımları
“Not Yets” and POV’s (18+)
and right after
Between The Blinds.

 

 

THAT. WAS. AWSOOOOOME!“, Tonic half shrieked, half cackled with manic fervent and triumphant hysteria. “I can’t believe she held me.. No!.. She hugged me! The Riverin of High Woods, The Princess of Bari Na-ammen, the daughter of Ri Grandaleren and Rise Nadine Graciousward.. THE FUTURE QUEEN OF THE HIGH ELVES, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist herself, my twin sister by adoption, no less, and she hugged me! Oww my Gosh, she smelled so nice.. So warm.. And you know what? I think I will go visit her again, once this is all over. Just for more of that!”

“Girl.. She offered you the throne of Bari Na-Ammen, literally, and all you can think of is her hugs? I’ll be the first one to admit, she is a beauty, par to Wraiven, but really, now.. Your priorities are a tad eschewed.”, Brom said with a bemused tone.

“Look here, you little hobbit!”, she said pointing a tiny finger at him. “This here is the hair of a Princess. And not just any princes, but that of Alor’Nadien ne, herself! And not just a snippet, either. She gave me a whooooole strand!”

 

Her tiny finger, the one she was pointing at Brom, was nearly all black! Because her fingers were so small, and the Princess truly had had very long hair, flowing nearly all the way down to her feet. She had enlaced the hair around and around her finger until it had all but covered it.

And now, the little gnomic girl was skipping and hopping like she was the proud owner of one of the rarest wonders in the kingdom..

..which, she was!

 

“You are such a dork, Tonic.”, Brom smiled. “..And a fangirl!”

 

The two had left the huge Dorin guy and the beautiful, graceful, and pretty princess behind and were heading to their next, and hopefully, last stop for the evening; to the Great Arashkan Library.

Why was every officious building in the city named ‘Great’, Brom had wondered.

The Great Arashkan Courthouse, The Great Arashkan Library, The Great Arashkan Arena, The Great Spires, The Great First Lord Princeps Palace.. It wasn’t like there was another city just over the hill with a courthouse, a library, an arena, some spires nor another first lord that one would confuse, now, was there?

Or perhaps there were some ‘baby’ Arashkan courthouses, libraries, arenas, spires, and first lord palaces and hence, the ‘great’ ones had real and practical significance.

Brom couldn’t imagine a conversation where some stranger would ask; “Excuse me, mate, where’s the First Lord’s Palace?”, and get a reply, “Which one? I mean, we have so many!”.

Brom suspected, that conversation would devolve into something like;

“The ‘great’ one..”

“Yea, okay, but which one? We have a lot of ‘great’ first lords in Arashkan. You’ll have to be a bit more specific, mate!”

“How many First Lord’s do you have, in this city?”

“19,876 by the last count. We had a new First Lord spawn just the other day!”

 

Apparently, Brom’s live-imagination was at play again!

 

But there was, however, some truth in his creative perception. All these ‘greats’ didn’t make the city anymore endearing.. Only pompous! No one, it seemed, was near-honestly humble like hobbits in this world. Hobbits lived in nice, quiet, rolling hills. They didn’t build giant monuments, nor put awesome statues to impress others. Seemed a little like too much work for no gain at all. Hobbits made their homes in the hills and.. well.. they lived in them.. Happily too!

The near-honestly was because hobbits were just unenthusiastically lazy to be bothered by such frivolities!

Elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves.. none of them ever seemed satisfied with what they already had. Always they would thrive for more..

..and still, be unhappy.

Just how stupid was that?

 

“Brom.”, Tonic said sternly. “I know what she offered. Think of my history. I know what power is. I lived with my uncle for years. And I know what power can do to you. My uncle.. He had power. Lots and lots of it. Even his demons feared him and it really is hard to instill fear in a demon. And look what it brought him. Banishment to the depths of hell he is never coming back from. It is possible he is still alive. And burning perpetually there.. And Heavens willing, he should burn for more, and then some.”

“I.. can’t say I admire his disposition. But why? Why did Nadine banish him and not just kill him and be done with? Death seems kinda more permanent, don’t you think?”, asked Brom a bit taken aback by the little gnomic girl’s savage tone.

“No. Death is not always thus permanent. Not for guys like my uncle..”, she replied, her tone much more subdued now than just a moment before.

“Ow? How do you mean?”

“My uncle, Arcanton.. He made many deals with many beings.. Outsiders.. Creatures that do not belong to our plane of existence. Planes where time and space get distorted. You literally can’t kill those creatures, Brom. You can only banish them from your own reality and hope some fool will not summon them back.. At least not in your lifetime!”, Tonic said quietly.

“Hmm.. So Arcanton made deals with things out of our plane of existence. But so did Wraiven, come to think of it, did she not? I mean, The Raven Queen doesn’t exactly belong to our plane of existence either, you know.”, Brom said carefully.

“Seressa did not make deals with the Raven Queen, Brom. Not in the sense that my uncle did. My pairs soul is her own. And belongs only to her. I doubt under any circumstance would she give up her soul to anyone.. or anything! Seressa is bonded with the Raven Queen via a pact. She does her bidding in return for her queen sharing a part of her power and knowledge with her. It is sort of a mutually beneficial agreement between two parties. She can, if she wanted, dissolve that bond. Yes, she will lose the Raven Queen’s favor and the power she imparts to her, but the fact remains; she can end the bond..”, Tonic tried to explain.

“So she can.. But I still don’t see the difference.”, said Brom as he squinted into the night.

“The difference is, unless you got more balls than brains, you literally can’t break the deals you make with Outsiders. Once the deal is done, your soul is on the market! It’s ‘Going.. Going.. Going.. Gone!’“, she said seriously.

“Well, that sucks.. I suppose. I like it that Seressa is free. I like her free. And she should always be free. Social rhetorics do her enough injustice and chain her as it is. She doesn’t need any more constraints.”, Brom said quietly.

 

The two walked on for some time in companionable silence. As it turned out, they ended up going the longest possible way around, taking the streets between the Officers District and Heaven Park, behind the Archery Military Camp, and by the Lights Temple. For some reason, the First Lords Palace and the streets surrounding it seemed to be teaming with burly, scowling patrols and neither Brom nor Tonic needed any complications or altercations with the city’s law enforcement’s that late, that night.

 

“Don’t.”, Brom said finally.

“Don’t what?”, asked Tonic, a bit surprised.

“Don’t ask the question you have been meaning to ask all night, Miss Tonic.”, he said with a destitute voice.

“Actually, I wasn’t going to ask anything.. And you really don’t need to ‘Miss’ me you know. Every time you say ‘Miss Tonic’, it sounds like ‘I miss Tonic!’ in my head, and that’s just weird.. and creepy!”, she said.

“Well, now. That is weird.. And creepy..”, mused Brom, but it seemed his mind was elsewhere.

“I did wonder though..”, Tonic began.

“And that.. is what I meant when I said, ‘don’t’!”, Brom frowned.

“You know. It isn’t fair you get to do all these psychoanalysis on me and then fend me off when I want to ask you some personal questions.”, she sniffed.

“I am not the one with the accumulated issues, Miss— Tonic.”, replied Brom, but there was no heat nor beration in his voice.

“So only people with decent backgrounds get to analyze others, then?”, asked Tonic mildly.

“No.. There just isn’t anything there to analyze.”, Brom replied allusively.

“Ahh.. I see.. So it’s perfectly alright if I did ask you a few personal questions, then?”, said Tonic with a victorious smirk.

“What? No.. How did you even get to that conclusion, girl?”, replied the hobbit feeling exasperated.

“Using awesome logic!”, smirked Tonic again.

“Using logic..”, snorted Brom. “You are not going to let this go, are you, girl?”

“Nope.”, replied Tonic happily. “So.. What do you see in Seressa?”

“Thought I already told you that. Just this evening. At least twice.”, frowned Brom.

“Yes, and no. Your description of her was a bit.. too intimate and heartfelt.. One could argue it’d make an excellent book cover, let’s say.”, said Tonic tentatively.

“I don’t know what kind of books you are into, girl, but I would suggest you read something that has actual literature in them.”, Brom scowled now.

“So you don’t like her, then?”, she blurted.

“Now why wouldn’t I like her? I mean, what is there not to like?”, replied Brom honestly.

“So you do like her..”

“Ow. My. Gosh, girl. You are going to push this in your direction whatever I say!”, exclaimed Brom, waving his hands.

“I just want you to give me an honest, and straight answer. Is that too much to ask? I mean, we are friends, right?”, persisted the gnomic girl.

“Just because we are friends, that doesn’t mean we share everything..”, said Brom exasperated.

“But you said, ‘We suffer. We mourn. We sing and we celebrate.. We do. And what we do, we share!‘. Your words, not mine.”

 

Brom ‘hoo boy’ed.

The little demon was persistent.. and she stuck on him..

..like a tick!

 

“That is possibly the worst misuse of a friendly conversation, Miss Tonic!”, Brom said angrily. “But I will tell you, just to get you off my back!”

“Yeshh!”, Tonic fisted her hand into the air. “Victory!”

 

“When I see your pair.. No.. When I see Wraiven, I sometimes wish I was a taller man. And better looking, perhaps. ‘Cooler’, so to speak. Maybe a bit more muscular.. You know, the type girls like to ogle at.

 

I love everything about her and she sees me only as something that she can, perhaps, cute into her coin purse. Not that I would mind being pursed by her, but that will still not make her see me in the light that I would rather have her see me.. If that makes any kind of sense to you.

 

We are so impossibly different, yet she makes me simply not care. Which is the core of the problem. She doesn’t see me that way, period. I mean, what am I to her, really, but a bushy little hobbit?”, said Brom then fell silent. This night had offered him many wonders. Just not the ones he would have wished for.

 

Tonic stared at the back of the hobbit as they once more fell silent.

She had been surprised by this unscrupulous hobbit a few too many times this evening. But this last bit gave her a whole new insight about him because he hadn’t been staring at her pair for the simple visual pleasure of having ogled at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure, counter-underlined by some macho male animal instinct, but for something more. Something that was intimate. Something that had real depth.

Tonic suddenly felt angry and jealous.

For all her pretense otherwise, she didn’t feel like sharing her pair with anyone, even though she had taken her pair a bit too much for granted.

Then she felt shame.

The hobbit —No! Not the hobbit.. ‘Brom’, had done nothing but give his best to help a cranky, cantankerous, contrary, grumpy and surly little girl his all, and not just that evening, but carefully, every day, ever since they had met. And for some reason, Tonic didn’t think he’d done any of it to gain favor with her pair, by proxy. For all his seeming indifference towards everything, lack of base enthusiasm, exasperation level of sloth, and blatantly unscrupulous attitudes, he was smart, cunning, always seemed to show unsolicited kindness, and he was loyal, educated, and well-spoken, even though he hadn’t been to an academy such as Melshieve and thus far, he’d more than pulled his weight in fights.

Much better than she had!

Hells bells, he’d also played that lyre like a siren! She remembered all the times she’d thought he was just staring at her pair’s butt, while he had persistently claimed he was composing a song.. in his mind!

And he had been telling the truth all along.

‘The Endless White’.

The tune he had played, back at the inn that very evening was something that was simply ‘mad’..

..and Tonic had loved it!

And now she didn’t want to share her pair with him?

Like her pair was hers to give or not..

Just how arrogant was that?

 

“Yes.”, inner Tonic said. “You really are selfish, you know.”

“Whose side are you anyway?”, blazed Tonic but her heart hadn’t really been in it. She’d flared more out of ‘muscle reflex’ than true intent.

“Does it matter? It was you, who wanted to try ‘this way for some..’, wasn’t it? Now you want to quit? I wasn’t aware it would be this short. Must have missed the memo. Had I known you’d be this fickle, I wouldn’t have fought against it so hard, knowing you’d come around on the morrow..”, inner Tonic said, and she didn’t even bother with the sarcasm.

Tonic shut up.

From the inside!

 

No. The hobbit was not just ogling at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure.

Brom was staring at the heart of all that and desolately knew, he could never have it.

The ogling was just his way of fooling those around him..

..and himself.

 

“You could tell her.”, she braved mutely.

 

“To what end? There’s nothing neither of us can do about it, particularly if she doesn’t see me that way. If I tell her, all I will get is either the basic ‘You are my friend’, talk or the infamous ‘But I love you like a brother’, talk, which I would rather forgo and Heavens forbid, will never happen. However Seressa sees me, I never want her to love me like a ‘brother’..”, replied Brom, and not without a good dose of bitter disgust.

 

“So you are going to do nothing?”, asked Tonic incredulously.

 

“I never claimed to be a brave man, Tonic. As a matter of fact, I did say I was a coward, this very evening, I might add. Being refused by someone as awesome as Wraiven is not something I ever want to experience. I’d rather just ogle and make sure she sees me doing it.”, he said quietly.

 

“Make sure she sees you? Why? That doesn’t make sense.”, said Tonic befuddled.

“I don’t like sneak-peaking at her. Feels wrong. Feels like cheating.. Feels immoral —and yes, I am fully aware of the monumentally depraved irony there. That doesn’t change the way I feel, though.”, said Brom, frowning a bit.

 

“But.. but you are suffering and she doesn’t even know!”, bewailed Tonic.

“What’s got you so riled. It’s my problem. I’d rather look at that beautiful and wonderful, and beautifully wonderful girl with the impossible dream of a ‘chance’, than never to be able to look at her again when I get refused or be declared as ‘loved like a brother’!”, said Brom, gruffly.

Tonic ran up to Brom and stopped right in front of him and looked him in the eyes.

“That’s.. That’s just wrong, Brom.. and sad..”, she said with brimming eyes.

“Well. I am a sad sort of man. I got a problem, and I am using the cowardly way out. Nobody is feeling bad and no one is getting hurt..”, he said flatly.

“Accept you.”, she said quietly.

“Yea, well. There you have it. Chew on that psychoanalysis if you will, Miss Tonic.”, said Brom, brushed past the gnomic girl and with determined steps, started towards The Great Arashkan Library..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Tell me again.”, said Brom with a mute, stoic voice. “What do I say to this Tinker-guy, again? And how in the blazes am I even going to get up to that window anyway? It must be at least fifty-five feet up there. Probably more, since this is a library. They would require higher ceilings to store all the books.”

 

Brom didn’t feel well. He had never wanted to divulge his feelings about the very tall, very dark girl to anyone. And certainly not to Tonic. Not because he thought she couldn’t keep the knowledge to herself, but perhaps, and because, he thought, she would keep it to herself.

“Damit.”, he thought. “Why now? Why tonight, of all nights?”

Had it been the tune he’d played to the audience that evening?

The one he’d named a tad grandly as; The Endless White.

He knew he should have named it just The White... or even White... but white was just too generic.

Or perhaps it was the song he’d sang after that; Time.

In all honesty, Brom Bumblebrim knew, he just knew, it wasn’t him, who’d written that song. Unlike any other song he had written, this one had ‘come’ to him.. and in the most literal sense possible. Word by word, the song had written itself in his mind and heart during his two-year sojourn from Bowling Hills, all the way to Shakehands.. Which is when he’d met Cora. But tonight had been the first time he had actually put it on display, so to speak. And now, the song was out..

..and out of its ‘time’, Brom thought with a sardonic inner snort.

Or perhaps it was because of having met an angelic being.. or seen that dark, very sinister-looking man he’d ended up feeling ‘distaste’ at best, then getting all his emotions totally eroded when he saw the same, sinister man looking at the sweet little skinny girl the way he had. And the look she had given him had been emotionally ruinous all by itself for Brom.

He was a bard, damit, and love was the bread and butter for all bards.. But the thing between those two.. he found he couldn’t define it..

..because he could not comprehend it.

It had been so.. nubile in its beauty..

So primevally intense.

There had been no decorum to it. Only base, raw, savage, and somehow, awe-inspiringly tender and desperately lonely longing in the look the two, very unlikely man and girl, were giving one another.

And they were giving it in a sense that was singularly unique! It made other people’s love seem like they were merely and briefly lending their hearts to others, while those two had already and literally given theirs.

So much so that what beat in one, was actually the heart of the other..

 

What man, woman —or bard— could truly comprehend that?

 

The intermixed irony that was put under the broad beam of a bright spotlight was not lost on Brom at all;

One, inhumane human, and one, infinitely humane, inhuman!

It was likely that very destitution the two had, that’d sparked the fire that had previously been a mere and happy little kindle..

..into searing pain.

 

“Damit!”

 

Tonic gave Brom an even look.

Whether she surmised what was really going through the hobbit’s mind, she kept it to herself.

For now, at least.

Which was a grace, all by itself.

 

“I have seen you climb walls before, Brom. That cloak of yours will more than suffice. If you want, though, I can give you a potion that will make you climb pretty much any surface. Another for you to pass through any gap, or to safely float down. I can send a rope all the way up there.. The window is in range.”, she listed methodically. “I suppose, if you want, I can bring out Mechaber. He can give you a fifteen feet head-start sort of a jump. But I haven’t really had the opportunity to field test that. And I can’t promise a quiet landing. Likely, it will bring a lot of patrols upon us. I am guessing you’d rather avoid that.”

“I am guessing, you would rather avoid that!”, scowled Brom.

“Yes. Yes, I would.. Very much.. The technology behind Mechaber is not out yet, and I would rather it didn’t. Not yet, and not until it’s perfected and certainly not until I install the self-destruct unit in it.”, she said seriously.

“The self— what?”, asked Brom incredulously.

“Self-destruct unit.. You didn’t think I would artifice something as dangerous and deadly as Mechaber and then hand it over to the irresponsible humankind, or have it stolen, now did you? I designed it. I must make sure it never falls into wrong hands..”, Tonic said like she was paraphrasing from a blood-signed doctrine!

“Ooookay.. Good, we got that cleared, then.”, Brom said.

“Mechaber is serious business, Brom. Nothing to joke about. The fact that you have seen it, let alone know about it is a sign of how much Seressa trusts you because if it were up to me, you’d have never seen, nor heard mention of it.. Well.. not for some time, anyway.”

“Ooookay.. Good to know where we stand too, then.”, Brom said with the same tone.

Tonic scowled.

“Look, just because you like someone, doesn’t mean you hand over the nuclear launch codes to them, alright!”, she said with an exasperated voice.

“The what lunch codes?”

“Never mind.”, said Tonic. “Read it in some silly futuristic sci-fi book.”

“Psychic-what? What are you talking about, girl? Just what the hell kind of books are you reading?”, Brom asked.

“Look, the story begins when a pretty Erossian spy falls in love with a mad and delusional Camerican nuclear scientist—”, the gnomic girl promptly began..

“Tonic!.. It’s late. I am tired and in all sorts of ways.. Let’s just get this over with, shall we? I am sure Cora and your pair have noticed we have been too quiet by now and gone to your room to check and see as to why! I think the story about some mad psychic-whatsit can wait, don’t you?”

“Right..”, said Tonic and blushed a bit. “Just tell him what I told you. Don’t loiter. Don’t chit chat. Get in. Tell him. Get out. And..”

Brom cocked one eyebrow.

“And?”

“..And, thank you. I made you do things tonight you would rather not have done.. At least not with me, nor for me.. So.. Thank you..”, she said with a small voice.

“You are welcome, Miss Tonic. And no, I wouldn’t have done any of this, not tonight, not ever, but not because of you. I just wouldn’t have done them because I would rather have taken a light snack, cleaned and tuned my lyre, and then went to sleep. Thanks to you, it is unlikely I will find any light snacks nor find the time to neither clean nor tune my lyre. And because it’s nearly the end of the night, I will not be getting any sleep either..”, Brom said.

Tonic frowned.. and felt a bit.. hurt..

“But I did do all the things I would rather have not, and I am now a better man for it.. All because of you.. So.. Thank you!”, he added with a smile.

Tonic’s eyes teared.

“Go.. Now.. Or I shall call you an ass and totally ruin the moment, Brom Bumblebrim!”, she sniffled.

 

Brom smirked, turned around, pulled his magic cloak around him..

..and started climbing up the side of The Great Arashkan Library like some odd lizard or possibly, an arachnid!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Who is there?”, a slightly tenoric male voice whispered harshly in the darkness.

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, spoke Brom, with a hoarse, hollow voice as he produced a very high, very eerie, screaming tune from his lyre.

 

The poor antic instrument wept at her misuse.

 

Brom had found the ‘Tinker-guy’ with relative ease. The gnome was taller than Tonic but while the gnomic girl was proportionally slim, this gnome, the possible great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon was a bit on the stocky side. Though he looked quite young and robust and had keen, intelligent, and pursuing eyes.

Brom had thought of a dozen different ways of approaching the gnome, including stepping up to him and saying, “Hallo there, matie. Got somin te tell yer! Go there them Silent ‘ills an’ grab what’s there fer yer self and be quik ’bout tit! And while at tit, quit mawnin’ ’bout things ‘cuz non wuz yer falt! But I’d suggis yer watch yer arse cuz sum fellers wantsit!”

And now he was gnawing his knuckles, hiding a few rows, behind and above him, stuck on the ceiling!

 

“Whot?”, the gnome, Tinker-guy, said in a baffled and spooked voice.. And one of his hands formed claws as a huge ball of fire appeared in it!

 

“Ow crap!”, thought Brom. “A trigger happy fireballer!.. We are in a bloody library, damit! Who uses a fire hall in a library? That is a universal reason for contempt, almost akin to speaking aloud in a theater! Doesn’t he know there’s a special kind of hell for people like that? And this idiot is the heir to Silent Hills?”

He produced his own Wand of Ice, just in case the fool actually did fire his ball and he had to put out the fires!

 

And just then, they heard a monotonous, matronly voice echo.

 

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, OR YOU WILL BE FINED! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

 

“What the..”, said the gnome, Tinker-guy.

Brom snickered. Ow, this was going to be fun!

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, he repeated, with the same hoarse, hollow voice.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 50 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And I have come to give you tidings from the beyond, young Tinker-guy!”, hallowed Brom.

The gnome, Tinker-guy, cocked an eyebrow, his face puzzled.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“What the hell?”, the Tinker-guy said.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 150 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom snickered, some more. If Tonic caught him doing this, she’d have his hide, and then some!

“You shall go to Silent Hills.. There you will find your kin..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must reclaim your heritage..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 250 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Ow. My. Gosh!”, exclaimed the Tinker-guy. “Can you please stop?!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t!”, moaned Brom.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 350 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“For I..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 400 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..am the Ghost of Silent..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 450 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Hills, Past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 500 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A WEEK. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Present and Future!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 550 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop!”, cried the gnome!

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 600 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And you shall do my bidding..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 650 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop. Just stop!”, shrieked the Tinker-guy in desperation.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 700 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t..”, repeated Brom, his eyes shut, his face flushed and he had started doing strange, snorting, bubbling noises.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 750 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A MONTH. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You shall go to Silent Hills, and into the Demon Fog to reclaim your birthright..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 800 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must also know, young Tinker-guy..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 850 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop! You are going to get me permanently..”, cried the gnome.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 900 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom could hardly breathe by now.

“..what befell you in the past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 950 CREDITS! PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CONDEMN LIMIT. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..was not of your doing!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1000 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BANNED FROM THE GREAT ARASHKAN LIBRARY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Whot?”, exclaimed the gnome and there appeared a haunted expression on his face. A face that bespoke of shame, self-loathing, relief, pain lived, and pain endured..

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Those who put your heritage into desolation sent their minions to slay ye and yer line..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

The gnome’s face paled. He tried to speak, but words utterly failed him.

“..to ensure, none would ever bring ‘voice’ to Silent Hills..”

And now, Brom wasn’t snickering anymore.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Hence an evil plan they hatched.. A heinous plan.. And they brought down your home and buried you, and yours..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1400 CREDITS! PLEASE PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CIVIL RIGHTS LIMIT. STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Tears appeared in the Tinkey-guy’s eyes and ran down shamelessly.

“My mother? My father? My brothers and sisters by the dozen? Terrah Doodlebellz? All my friends? My neighbors? —They all died because of me?”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1500 CREDITS! THE CIVIC GUARDS ARE ON THEIR WAY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT AND WAIT FOR DETENTION! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Nay, young Tinkerdome. They all died because someone slew them. They all died to kill your line. Make their sacrifice worth the world, young Tinkerdome..

Reclaim your Heritage.

 

Reclaim your Hills.

 

Reclaim your Kingdom.

 

Reclaim your Throne.

 

Reclaim your Destiny.

 

Reclaim your People.

 

And be a King!

 

 

And with a job well done, Brom Bumblebrim silently climbed down the ceiling.

Quite as a mouse, he brushed past the devastated Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon, got out the window, and skimmed down the walls of The Great Arashkan Library..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

WHAT DID YOU DO?!“, nearly shrieked Tonic in panic as she grabbed the hobbit and started running back the way they came. “The place is suddenly crawling with civic law enforcement!”

They ran past the Lights Temple, along the Archery Military Camp, and cut through the street between Heaven Park and Officers District.

“I said, just talk to him, say the things, and get out!”, spluttered the gnomic girl.

“Which is pretty much what I did, girl!”, panted Brom, his face flushed and he truly felt tired, both physically and emotionally. And he was scratching the upper end of one leg, near the buttock, just where he couldn’t see.

“What is the matter with you?”, Tonic asked, her eyes wild now.

“I got bit.. Again!..”, spat Brom, and mumbled to himself, “This is the last time I fall for a cute face!”, as they heard someone shout “HALT!“, from behind them.

“Whot?”

“Never.. mind.. Not a story.. for now..”, Brom said with a harsh scowl.

RUN, THEN!“, hissed Tonic.WE CAN’T GET CAUGHT DAMIT! OW. MY. GOSH!

Aaaand the gnomic girl was about to get hit with a full-blown panic now!

Something neither of them needed at that very moment.

“Calm.. down.. girl!”, said Brom harshly, as he huffed, and puffed.

 

The marching footsteps were getting closer.

HALT! HALT I SAY! HALT IN THE NAME OF THE FIRST LORD!“, repeated the same voice from behind, but much closer now, than before.

 

“Can.. you.. disappear?”, Tonic gasped as she ran next to Brom.

“Umm.. Yes.. But only myself!”, breathed Brom heavily.

“Ok, then.. Go.. Shoo! Vanish! Scram!”, she said.

“NO! Not.. leaving you.. Not happening..!”, Brom breathed.

“I can.. take care of.. myself.. damit!”, snarled Tonic.

“Together.. or not.. happening.. I.. never want to.. face a Wraiven.. with you.. missing!”, he gasped.

“Damit!”, she said, produced two vials with green, vaporish something in them, and a tightly packed clay sphere out of her artificer’s satchel. “Here, drink this in ten!”, she said and handed one of the vials to Brom, as she tossed the clay sphere behind her.

“You know, disintegrating civic guards is not a good idea, Tonic..”, Brom said lightly.

There was a stunning bang, and the civic guards on their heels dropped to their knees and slumbered face down.

“Neat..”, admired Brom.

“Won’t keep them down for long. Now shut up and drink! The effects of this potion should last about an hour, possibly more. I am usually generous —or heavy-handed— with ingredients, depending on your point of view.. Meet you at the inn.”, she said and topped her own vial.. and suddenly, Tonic fell apart!

“I like you, Brom Bumblebrim.”, she said in a warbling, escaping, gaseous, and fading voice. “If you are so bent on martyring alone, I shall abide by your wishes. But you shouldn’t decide for Wraiven without bothering to ask her. That truly is cowardly. And not really any different than all the other animals out there who only see the pinks and never wonder what’s in it.. I made that mistake and it cost me—”

Whatever it had cost Arcantonic, she couldn’t say.

Her form drifted away in a hazy wisp of smoke!

 

Brom scowled after the now gone gnomic girl.

“Inserting a last word right before the disappearing act.. Cheap, Miss Tonic. Very cheap! Well, I am warning you now, girl, there’s a whole slew of pain coming your way..”, he said darkly and drank his own vial..

 

It was the strangest sensation he had ever felt.

It was like his whole body was flying apart into tiny, dust-sized bits! He felt the hair on his bushy head rise on their ends, accept he had no hair left either. Every part of him just.. puffed into smoke, and he got carried off with the slightest wind.

Now all he had to do was somehow steer himself in the general direction of the inn, preferably away from the scores of civic guards.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Had a good evening, did you?” asked Cora as she stood in the hallway up the stairs to their rooms in the inn.

Her arms were crossed.

She was scowling at the little hobbit.

And her lips had that pout again.

Brom was smart enough not to comment on how cute Cora looked when she pouted.

Or rather, when she pouted while she was angry!

“Ummm.. Had a good evening yourself, did you?”, replied Brom, as he peered into their room.

 

The room was a wreck!

Everything, including bits of the floorboards, the windows, the window sills, the curtains, the flower pots, the walls, the feather bed, the nightstand, the lamps.. were either broken to bits or were cracked beyond repair. Feathers from the bed matres and the former pillows floated about and covered everywhere while food crumbs, empty and broken plates, bowls, and further cracked mugs and bottles were tossed and scattered haphazardly.

“This is not mere destruction.”, thought Brom in awe. “This is very nearly art! I could literally write an epic on this!”

 

“What did you do, Brom Bumblebrim?”, she fumed from her nose as she loomed over the hobbit, glaring down at him with her glacial blue eyes.

“Again with the ultimatum name use! What is it with my name and ultimatums, girl?”, asked Brom, frowning a bit. “And, I could ask you the same thing, Cora Sleet!.. What did you two do here?”

“We had a girls night. What does it look like? Seressa said we had to wreck the room at the end, so we did.. Was fun like I never had in my life!”, she replied seriously.

“And did you wear pinks too? I know for a fact, neither of you had pajamas!”, smirked Brom.

 

Cora’s eyes blazed and her face pinked.. just a little.. Barely visible, really, and if Brom hadn’t known the barbarian girl for as long as he had, he would have totally missed it.

 

“So.. how did you like it? The pinks, I mean..”, he asked blandly, and secretly kicked himself for having missed perhaps the only chance he would have ever gotten to see a Cora Sleet in Seressa’s mini pinks!

“It was a bit drafty but otherwise comfy!”, she replied with a straight face.

“Any chance for me to—?”, he asked.

“Never happen!”, Cora replied and now she really was scowling. “WHAT. DID. YOU. DO. BROM? We left you so you can calm Tonic. Not make her cry more!”

Brom sighed. He’d really wanted this to be kept between himself and the gnomic girl. Just to preserve her dignity, if nothing else. He didn’t want the cute little demon, as she at times became, to be seen as a ‘break down’ or a ‘cry baby’ and hence, an unreliable ‘loose end’, but there was no going around Cora when she got stubborn as she did now.

“Best way is to pull at it fast and sharp, and get it over with.”, he thought, took a deep breath, and spoke his piece.

 

“Before, she was crying for dubious and barely justifiable reasons.. I, on the other hand, gave her a genuine reason, so now, she is crying for real!”, said Brom and sure as he was a short, bushy-haired hobbit, his voice was now quite low, unsophisticated, and kind. “I am sorry Cora, but the current storm is inevitable. Once it blows, however, she will be done. She will then thank me because she will be feeling much, much better, and be stronger for it!”

 

Cora looked down at the hobbit. But the ice in her glacials were gone and she was looking at him, not with her looming glare, but with the one that said..

‘You and I..’

‘We are equals.’

 

“Something happened.”, she murmured softly.

“No.. Maybe..”, Brom replied evasively.

“Must I drag it out of you, my friend?”, she said with part annoyance, part amusement, and part.. wonder, perhaps?

“I’d rather you didn’t. This one isn’t about me, Cora.. Please.. Let this one go..”, he said without looking up at her.

“Grilled you, did she? Alright, then, go.. You look beat. Missed me in pinks, though.”, she smirked.

“Yea. Missed a lot in pinks tonight.”, he mumbled quietly and left for his room.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Tonic, luv..”, said Seressa softly. “Do tell me what’s wrong. It pains me to see you thus.”

Seressa had silently entered the room they had planned on staying that evening like a whisper. She had skimmed the wooden floor, went over to the large, feather bed, scooped up her pair, and cuddled her in her arms.

And like a broken little girl, Tonic had clung onto her very tall, very dark pair and shook violently as she’d wept.

“Tell me, luv. I am your pair. We share.. Share me your hurt.. Please..”, she’d said into her ear.

Arcantonic Palecog clung to pair, spluttering with uncontrollable manic and desperate tears, unable to form words.

“He saved him.. He brought him back!”, was the only thing Seressa could discern out of her.

As to who had saved whom, or brought who back, Tonic’s comprehensibility had ended there.

Clutching something in one hand, she’d wept and wept until she’d slumbered right there in her pairs arms like a cotton doll, as the exhausting venture of the night, unbeknownst to her pair, had finally caught up to her.

Seressa had hugged her pair to her heart’s content, long, long past her slumber with all the love and compassion she could muster, then sighed, “My little luv. You mean the world to me. Please understand that.. And never cry. Be happy!“.

She got up, and lightly limped as she carried her pair, and slowly put her into her bed.

“Hmm..”, she frowned. “I could have sworn I had taken her shoes off before..”

Being careful with the left one, she unlaced her little, cup-sized boots, took them off, and put them down near the bed.

Then she went to the wardrobe and pulled down a heavy quilt and covered her pair with it. Tonic looked more like a sad little kitten, curled up the way she had. Even smaller, the way she slept in a feather bed six times her size and eight times her length.

Seressa walked up to the window and pulled the curtains and closed them. The sun would dawn soon and her pair needed sleep. So did she, for that matter.

The very tall, very dark girl wondered if her pair would mind if she curled right next to her. The feather bed was certainly big enough and the idea appealed to her.

It had been one hell of a night. If she’d known girls nights was this much fun, she’d have patronized Tonic into one, years ago. She did feel a bit guilty though. Her pair had been stuck here and crying all night while she and Cora had partied like there was no tomorrow. Seressa felt like she’d abandoned her pair at a moment of her dire need.

Then she inevitably smiled.

Damn, that barbarian girl knew how to party, though!

She thought she would also have to find a proper way to thank the hobbit, Brom, as well, for keeping Tonic company while she and Cora had dismantled a goodly part of the inn. Seressa loved her pair, but she was not totally blind to her shortcomings, either. She didn’t need to bet to guess her pair had probably made the hobbit’s life miserable during his stay with her.

 

Tonic sighed in her sleep and lost grip of the thing in her clutch. It rolled off the bed and dropped on the floor.

Seressa looked down and frowned.

It was a very, very old, tattered, and crumbled scroll now.

And it looked vaguely.. familiar somehow.

Seressa had a very good memory for things; what people said, their faces, and objects she’d seen, which was why she’d rarely bothered taking any notes back at the academy. She could recite the things her tutors and professors had said almost verbatim, and identify an innumerable variety of objects and readily label them.

It sure had drawn the envy of many of the other students to no end. Seressa had given them a good lesson on ‘humanity’ that being pretty and somewhat ‘silly’ and ‘honestly vain’, didn’t equivalate to ‘stupid’.

Seressa liked feeling ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful’, and ‘pretty beautiful’, damit..

So, there!

 

Deep down, though, she knew her appearance was mere ointment for the blunt void she felt at never to have felt the love she desperately wanted. The love she wanted had to emanate from a man like the heat from the core of an oven. Like it had to be something that was tangible.

The only problem with that was, the oven was there, men just weren’t emanating the fire.

Only.. temperamental and ephemeral sparks..

Men, it seemed, were definitely into her. And that’s about it. They were never interested in what went through her mind, nor her heart. And none of them wanted a dark, lumbering klutz of a girl with horns, a tail, and a fetish for pinks looming over them for a mate. Only as a plaything, at best..

A curio.

Might as well be an obsidian doll!

Which is what she was now.

She didn’t mind the ‘play’ part. She was very nearly sure it’d be fun. But it was the ‘thing’ that turned the whole idea stale. She just refused to be a ‘thing’ for anyone.

And no one worthy should be seeing her as a thing anyway, right?

She’d gone after the pretty ones. When that failed, she’d gone after the smart ones.. Apparently, whether they were pretty or smart, neither equivalated to ‘heart’, where men were concerned.

But then, what did? What did really equivalate to a heart?

Seressa felt bitterly cheated in life.

And sorely confused.

She was given all these amenities.

They just weren’t of any use..

She perpetually felt like she was a beautiful flower who only attracted pests and wasps, but never the bumblebee..

 

She sighed, and silently she reached down and picked up the rather worn scroll and carefully, tenderly, even, she unrolled it, and with a shocked expression, she read the very old and tattered scroll that had somehow been preserved through centuries, persevered against impossible odds, and had traveled all the way from the depths of Ritual Forest, through a bloody, demon-infested war zone, to here, to find its way back to her pair..

 

“Dear, dear Bumblebrim..”, Seressa said softly with brimming eyes, and a curvy little smile, as she finally figured the ‘who’ in ‘whom’, and remembered too, when and where she had seen the old scroll before; some relative eight hundred years ago, when they were waiting for Tonic, and the Prince Gordigon had given this letter, rolled into a scroll, carelessly laced, but not cased, in the hopes that the ‘courier’ herself would read it!

“I have no idea how you did it, but you have given back my pair a life, and a world of joy.. Thank you, for you are truly, and inexplicably amazing, luv.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

 
 

Birthright (18+) (Doğum Hakkı)

Timeline:

 

Time.

 

You cannot see it,
you cannot feel it,
taste it, smell it, or hear it.

And yet, it wears the hand,
takes the sight and the sound
and bends the spine!

 

Time.

 

You cannot fight it,
you cannot resist it,
beat it, wound it nor slay it.

You can only yield to it..

 

Time.

 

It is cunning,
it is stingy, ruthless, pitiless
and sparse.

It turns a spark into a fire, and fire into ash.
It grinds mountains to dust.
It gathers trickles into oceans.

It gives birth to rebellions and liberties
and brings down empires..

It gives meaning to patience,
diligence, and vigilance.

It is the key to mortality
and the lock to eternity.

It precedes
and postcedes..

One day we are,
one day we are not.

It is hope and it is despair..

 

Time.

 

Never gentle,
and never kind.

It is what tells us
that the moment we are born,
we have started dying..

It is there,
it is inevitable,
it is unyielding and
unforgiving.

Tic by toc,
it graves away,
leaving less than what we were.

Whatever we have built,
it shall down.
Whatever we have done,
it shall sow..

One would think we’d give life
the meaning it deserves..

 

Time.

 

It is the link between places, spaces, events, and relations by the simple expedience of
relating the past to the future..

It gives meaning..

 

Time.

 

This story.

 

 

The events in this particular story take place over a vast stretch of time —relatively speaking. It starts shortly after
And Just Beyond That (18+)“,
and ends some eight hundred and fifty years later, in the dark, hidden, rundown, moldy basement of the local thieves’ guild of The Great Arashkan City, where all sorts of stolen goods, documents, and officious papers are kept for bribe and blackmail..

 

 

Ow damn..”, someone spat, followed by a string of black, blistering curses.

‘Tonic’, thought Cora. It was never hard to guess who was saying what, even in the pitch dark, as they were now.

When Brom spoke, he always seemed to need to precede what he wanted to say by underlining it with a note or two of his lyre.

When Seressa spoke, she said it with this wide-eyed, ‘always surprised’ tone. And if she was really surprised —or exasperated, she would start with, ‘Ow, for all that’s good and not..’

As for Tonic..

 

Tonic cursed!

At everything.

Every time.

 

If she wasn’t some midgety little gnome and wasn’t so cute, she would have made a great witch, Cora thought, what with all the cursing and all!

Then she wondered what her traits were. Or more to the point, what her friends thought her traits were.

It seemed people could, with quite ease, catch, kill, and skin the traits in others, but never themselves.

Funny how that went.

 

Cora Sleet blew out some steam and harshly whispered, “What is it now, girl?”

‘Girl..?’, she thought. She couldn’t remember any time she referred to anyone using that word, or tone in Ironfrost. Guess Seressa’s habits —and traits were rubbing on to her and Cora didn’t know if that was really a good thing..

“Girl..?”, snorted Brom, from off the other side. “I can’t remember you referring to anyone like that before.”

Cora scowled.

Then stopped.

‘Great, now I am scowling like the midgety gnome!’..

..and scowled some more.

For scowling!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

My pack..”, Tonic groaned. “It’s gone!”

“It’s only a pack.”, said Seressa. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you a new one.. Once we get anywhere that is remotely civilized.”

“No, damit. That pack was where I kept the lot of all my good stuff!”, she groaned again.

In fact, it was more of a moan than a groan.

So much so that her voice trembled like she was about to cry.

 

That got Cora’s attention.

She couldn’t imagine the little gnome crying. Lot’s and lot’s of non-stop cussing and swearing, yes, but a crying Tonic?

Crying was so.. out of sorts for Tonic.

‘Out of sorts?’, she thought. Damit, I did it again. I used Seressa’s words..

‘Damit?!’, I just used Tonic’s word. Bloody hell—

Cora decided this was a good time to shut up!

 

“The good stuff? That sounds ominously like some sort of contraband..”, noted Brom.

 

Thank you Brom. Go on, ask her all the relevant questions..

‘Relevant?’, —damit!.. Ow hell!.. Just did it again..!

 

“What? No, damit. Some of my very important gadgets and hardware were in it. Like my duo-meter, pseudo-emissioner and..”, she stumbled.

“And..?”, asked Brom, as if he knew what a duo-meter or a pseudo-emissioner was. Though he could proudly tell the difference between a hammer and a wrench as one was good for pinning nails while the other was not.

“A letter..”, said Tonic, her voice strained.

“A letter? Who was it from? Didn’t know you received letters. I never do..”, signed Seressa’s voice.

“It wasn’t a letter for me. It was someone else’s letter.”, blushed Tonic’s voice.

 

There was a collective, pregnant silence.

 

“Oookay..”, said Seressa, stretching the word.

“Damit, girl.. If you must know, that silly boy gave it to me so I could give it to his father.. There.. Happy now?”, blazed Tonic.

“Boy? What boy?”, asked Seressa, sounding totally baffled.

“That Gordigon boy..”

“Ahhh.. Prince Gordigon.. had a chat with him in private, did we?”, asked Seressa with an insincerely innocent voice.

“Casting yourself in the third person now, are you? The boy was going to go all out and fight for us against half a hundred ogres just so we could getaway. The least I could do was to take his bloody letter to his father.”, admitted Tonic, but not as vehemently as she made it sound like she wanted to.

 

Seressa paused.

So did Brom.

Cora had shut up, so she didn’t even bother to pause.

 

“Ahh.. Well if you did have a private moment with him, luv, I wouldn’t have blamed you. He was a rather handsome devil, he was. And want him to be as you might, he certainly was not a boy. I know boys. That gnome was giving you the kind of looks no boy can imitate. That comes with time, hardship, and on a ‘first sight’ bases.”

“It was not a ‘first sight’ thing, alright? There were no ‘first sights’, no private moments, and no ‘just one kisses’.. or anything else whatsoever going on.. He gave me the letter, and I nearly brained him for it!”, blustered Tonic.

“No, dear luv, you didn’t nearly brain him, you fully brained him! But even if you did any or all of the ‘whatsoever’s, I’d would’ve said the same; Why not? For all that’s good and not, girl, really, why not? I would have been happy for you if you did. I mean, I can see you blush from where you are, right now. You are literally glowing in the dark! It’s so cute, I could pounce you right now!”, said Seressa with a supremely smug voice.

“I am not blushing. It’s just hot! And there will be no pouncing, thank you very much!”, replied Tonic indignantly, trying very hard to suppress a growl.

“I totally agree. You certainly are hot.. for that ‘boy’!”, said the very tall, very dark girl with a very happy tone.

“The hell I was..”, said Tonic and this time, she did growl.

“Alright..”, butt in Brom, knowing full well he would be very sorry about it in the end, but he just couldn’t help it. “..so it was just a letter from some guy to his father and it got lost. Nothing to worry about, then?”

“Nice..”, he heard Seressa’s voice in triumph.

 

Tonic shut up. A bit like Cora.

 

She was a smart girl with an artificer’s degree. But she knew when it came to mouthing off, she had no chance against Seressa. Her pair was just too good at it and had, had an ‘early start’..

And now, she’d teamed up with the bloody hobbit!

“Taking sides with the unscrupulous little weasel now, are you?”, she croaked.

“Heey..!”, objected Brom, but Tonic ignored him.

Her heart plummeted for she felt betrayed.

But not for long..

Very long, very dark arms came at her from nowhere and she never saw them coming. They came, they wrapped and they held her like clamps.

For the first time, Tonic felt the touch of her pair.. and her smell.. and damit, she smelled so nice! Very much like those pink flowers, whatever they were called —she’d hated herbology at the academy and it had merely been one of those classes she’d been burdened with, just to have filled up her ‘total hours’.

In fact, Tonic thought, her pair smelled exactly like those flowers, but innately, intimately and infinitely warmer.

As for her touch, Tonic refused to comment on it, not even mentally..

 

“Tonic, luv..”, Seressa said quietly to the little gnome caught in her vast, mind-numbingly warm, enthralling embrace, “..right or wrong, I am and will always be on your side. If ever a side is to be taken, without any doubt or reservation, I will be on the side of my pair, gales and gallows.. But if you felt something for the boy, do not deny this to yourself. Do not deprive yourself of the beautiful feeling that you felt, nor demean his sacrifice by defying his.. As short-lived as it was, he came to you openly and honestly, without deceit or trickery.. Do yourself the same courtesy, if not to him..”

 

Seressa’s voice was kind, tinted with the beckoning hand of tenderness..

Tonic swallowed.. hard.

Her pair was getting near one of those subjects she’d sworn off years ago, after her stupid uncle Arcanton did what he did and was cast out and banished, lepering his whole, extended family in the eyes of the world.

Since then she’d disliked and eventually, hated everything and everyone. She hadn’t even wanted to have anything to do with the silly pairing ritual, the academy had foisted on her.

And here was her pair, literally smoldering that hate and drugging her with her pinks and flowery fragrance —what was the bloody thing called, damit? Creeping Loks? Creeping Flocks? Well, it certainly was creeping her out.. Creeping Phlox.. Yes, that’s what it was called; Creeping Pink Phlox!

 

While she was struggling with pinkses and phloxes, something dawned in Seressa’s mind and she finally got it.

And so did Brom..

..the true significance at the core of Tonic’s ire and grief.

Brom did not say anything, but Seressa did.

 

Tenderly she whispered.

“Oh, my dear girl, you read the letter..”

Tonic did not answer.

Tonic could not answer..

Only a bitter sob escaped her.

“Yes.. Stupid of me, reading someone else’s letter like that.. Stupid, inconsiderate, rude and.. stupid..”, she finally said when she could, with a broken voice.

‘Wow..’, thought Cora, ‘..for Tonic to declare herself ‘inconsiderate’, ‘rude’ and ‘stupid’ so seamlessly and find a fault in her own, she really must be hurting.’

 

“No, my dear, the letter was barely for his father.”, Seressa disagreed softly. “Why else would he have given it to you? He could have handed it over to anyone in his company. They were all trained military. Any number of them could have carried it to his father and we were going nowhere even remotely near Silent Hills. Considering the importance and the time constraints of our mission, he had to have known that you would never have had the chance to take the letter to his father.

No, baby girl, the letter really only had one intended recipient, and she got it. Hence, it was, in fact, for you..”

 

Tonic sobbed again.

“I am so, so happy for you..”, Seressa said with genuine elation.

“Then why? Why would he do this to me.. or to himself?”, she asked, her voice lost in Seressa’s embrace.

 

“Because the moment of our birth, is not who we really are. That is a mere chance. It is the moment of our death, we see who we really are. For the great few, that is choice.. When it comes, it comes at the moment and time, that which is the culmination of our actions and our deeds.. And all the choices we have made thus far..

Gordigon sought a fine, honorable, and beautiful death by carrying out an impossible mission given to him by the Heavens to help us break through the hordes of Themalsar.

He hoped to find a fine, honorable, and beautiful girl to share what life he had was left remaining to him, be it a day or a century..

Wished them both, he did.. and was granted both.

At the same time!

He must have been the luckiest man if there ever was one!”, Seressa breathed to her pair.

 

Tonic sobbed some more..

..with an uncharacteristically broken heart while her pair held her as if to shield her from whatever the world might throw at her, with a steely determination that only bespoke the fact that what her pair felt, she felt as well..

 

Later..

Quite a bit later, really, the little Tonic girl sniffed loudly.

 

“If.. if you pick me up or try and coin purse me, I will hurt you, girl..”, she threatened. She knew she couldn’t, or rather, wouldn’t hurt her pair, and be damned if anyone tried.. No, she would never hurt her, not any more than she’d already done in the past two years, but she was not going to get into a coin purse, damit!

“No, luv. I shan’t. Not that I wouldn’t want to, mind you. In fact, there’s nothing I’d love more, but pairs just don’t rob each other off their dignity.”, whispered Seressa with a smile and unlocked her pink, flowery fragranced embrace, and let go of her little gnome.

 

“Sooo..”, Brom said, trying to skip over the awkward moment, “..about the letter.”

“There’s nothing that can be done.”, Cora finally spoke and felt she had once more found her own voice. “We move on. I can feel we are being hunted. They are moving fast and they are impressively light on their feet, but the wind is on our side. The orken are upon us!”

They started moving again and picked up the pace as much as Brom and Arcantonic could endure.

They made late camp that night, putting as much distance between their pursuers and themselves. They ate cold rations and snuggled under the harsh, military-grade blankets they were given. Soon, everything went quiet, and fell asleep.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

“That was an awesome speech..”, said Arcantonic quietly into the night.

Seressa did not say anything.

“When do you even think of these speeches, girl?”, the gnome asked in a whisper.

“I never do, luv.”, replied Seressa after awhile. “I say them as I feel them. Preparing such a speech precludes a certain amount of pre-intent and interest, hence, ‘falsehood’ and ‘hypocrisy’, neither of which have I ever entertained where you were concerned. I don’t want anything from you, but everything. Because that is how I define friendship.. You give your all for them, becoming whole and more than what you were..

And, you can never burn with the passion of a prewritten speech, because it’s never just the words, luv. It is the honesty, the sincerity, and the.. fire..

It is very much like the vast difference between simple irritation and.. WRATH!“, said the very tall, very dark Seressa, with a voice that burned.

Tonic blinked.. and fell silent.

 

There was a long absence of any sentient voice as Tonic thought of her pair.. and a certain boy. And perhaps for the first time in her life, she felt genuinely wanted. She, who had been a top case for ‘undesirable’ all her life, felt an indescribable, fervor elation..

And she felt brokenly happy as a wet smile appeared on her small, diminutive face.

Happy for having the former by her side, with all the encompassing meaning of the word, and happy for having had the later, as short-lived as it had been.

She listened to the hooting of an owl nearby, the chirping of countless nightcrawlers, and quietly stared at the only part of the starry sky that she could see through the small gap in the thick canopy of the Rituel Forest.

 

Gales and Gallows..?“, whispered Arcantonic into the night.

“Thought you might like it..”, whispered Seressa back, her illustrious voice somewhat drowsy and slurred, now.

“I loved it. It was so.. beautifully said. Did you make that up too?”

“It came to me, then and there.. and I meant every word of it..”

“Gales and Gallows, huh?”

“Gales and Gallows, luv, Gales and Gallows..”

 

Arcantonic silently cursed and raged at her well damned and idiotic uncle, her family, the community at large that she’d been forced to endure, the leperdom at the bloody academy while she mentally throttled the unscrupulous little weasel of a hobbit as well, just so he wouldn’t feel left out, but not the boy she’d barely known, but felt something.. something throbbing.. and aching.. love, perhaps?, nor the very tall, very dark girl that was her pair..

..then bagged them all; her rage, her stubborn little rain cloud, her mental punching bags, her happy moments of incinerating the academy, and more. They wouldn’t be gone. A lifetime of traumatic mistreatment does not just go away. It could, however, be bagged, and that is exactly what she did. Yes, she would certainly let them out for some fresh air and to blow some steam. That kind of pressure couldn’t be ‘just bagged’, either and Tonic had no intention of fooling herself about it. But this prophecy of theirs seemed to promise a lot, by way of ‘depressurizing’ her pend up wrath. And if it helped clear their path off some unwanted obstacles in the form of orcs, goblins, and possibly an ogre or three, it was a win-win, wasn’t it?

“Alright..”

..spoke Arcantonic with a voice that said a lot, and a bit more.

“Gales and Gallows, it is..”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Bu taraftan.”

Darly Dor, yanında Aager, Inshala, Gnine, Laila ve Merisoul olmak üzere, Büyük Arashkan Şehri’nin bilinmeyen yeraltı dehlizlerine gelmişler, oradan da saklı Hırsızlar Lonca’sının sadece yüksek mertebeli olanlarının bildiği, pis, küf kokulu, karanlık bir mahzenine inmişlerdi.

Darly, Lonca dışı kişilerin buraya gelmeleri için gerekli izinleri üstlerinden alabilmek için, elinde olan ve olmayan ne kadar mal varlığı ve kişisel statüsü varsa kullanmıştı. Ama sonunda buna değecekti. Anglenna yılanı arenada elinden kurtulmayı başarmıştı, ama bu sefer değil.

“Bu sefer değil, Felishia, bu sefer onu yakaladık!”, diye geçirir içinden.

Yanlarında Anglenna’nın olmamasının sebebi de buydu. Udoorin’in bir şerifin oğlu, Lady’nin bir tapınak muhafızı ve prensesin de, eh, bir prenses olması, dolayısıyla da ‘onlar için uygun olmayan bir yer’ bahanesi, gerçekte Anglenna’nın gelmesini engellemek içindi..

Darly, grubu birçok kilitli ve tuzaklı kapıdan geçirmiş ve en sonunda onları, kaynağı belirsiz loş bir ışıkla aydınlatılan oldukça büyük, küf kokulu, havasız bir odaya getirmişti.

Oda, yerden tavana, duvardan duvara raflarla diziliydi ve rafların hepsi de tıka basa eskimiş parşömenler, dokümanlar, ağızları bağlı bohçalar ve farklı boylarda, ama taşınabilir sandıklar, kutular ve tahta kasalarla doluydu.

“Dur tahmin edeyim..”, der Laila, hicveder bir sesle, “..bunlar çalınmış yemek tarifleri değiller, öyle değil mi?”

Darly sırıtır.

“Çalınmış yemek tarifleri gibi bir fantazin olduğunu bilmiyordum, İzci Onbaşı.”

Laila kaşlarını çatar ve Darly’ye pis bir bakış atar.

“Ama merakını giderecek ise, evet, burada çalınmış gizli yemek tarifleri de var..”, diye daha da sırıtır Darly.

“Buraya neden geldik? Bizi Arashkan Hırsızlar Lonca’sının şantaj odasına getirmek için sarf ettiğin çabayı göz önünde bulundurursak, bu senin için kişisel olmalı..”, der Aager sessizce.

“Şantaj..”, der Darly, “..çok çirkin bir kelime. Biz ‘ikna’ ifadesini tercih ediyoruz.”

Aager cevap vermez. Sadece Darly’ye bakar.

“Sizi buraya getirdim çünkü bu odada olan her şey gerçek. Bu oda yalan konuşmaz. Siz, Gar Thalot’u bulmak istiyordunuz, onun nerede olduğu da buralarda bir yerlerde yazılı. Ne yazık ki ilgili belgeyi bulmak için onu biraz aramamız gerekebilir.”, der Darly biraz utanarak.

Aager, Gnine’a, Laila’ya ve Merisoul’a bakar.

Laila kaşlarını çatık bir şekilde binlerce doküman, sandık ve bohçadan oluşan yüzlerce rafa bakar, sonra, ‘yapacak bir şey yok’, der gibi omuzlarını silker.

Merisoul biraz şaşkın bir ifadeyle muazzam odayı süzer. “Ölümlülerin birbirlerini kazıklamak için gösterdikleri çaba gerçekten hayret verici!”, der ve o da omuzlarını silker.

Gnine’da omuzlarını silker ama yüzünde analitik bir ifade vardır.

“Saatler, sürebilir. Ama bu sadece de iyimser bir tahmin. Günler bile alabilir.”, diye makul bir tahminde bulunur. Sonra Darly’ye döner. “Bütün bunların listesini tutan, bunların bakımını yapan biri yok mu?”, diye sorar ona.

Madem herkes omuzlarını silkiyor, ben de eksik kalmayayım der gibi, Darly de omuzlarını silker.

“Buranın eski bakıcısı, Arashkan Üniversitesinden atılmış eski bir profesördü. Neden atıldığı meselesine girmeyeceğim. Kendisi bir kaç yıl önce öldü — tamamen doğal sebeplerden dolayı.. Yani, aşırı ucuz alkol tüketimini ne kadar doğal kabul edebilirsek, o kadar doğaldı. Ondan sonra ise burası için gerekli vasıflara.. ve güvenilirliğe sahip birisini bulamadık açıkçası. Takdir edersiniz ki, çalınmış gizli yemek tariflerinin yanı sıra, burada Arashkan’ı, ve başka bazı şehirleri daha yerle bir edecek kadar çok bilgi ve belge var.”, diye sırıtır..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Aradan saatler geçmiştir ve Darly kendi istediği ‘belgeyi’ çoktan bulmuş ve ceplemiştir zira onu oraya yıllar önce kendisi koymuştur.

Ama sözünde durarak ve yaptığı şey fark edilmesin diye, diğerlerine Gar Thalot’un yeri hakkında gerekli bilgiyi bulmalarına yardım eder.

Aager, Gnine, Darly ve Laila, Gar Thalot hakkında birçok bilgi kırıntısına rastlar. Ne var ki bilgiler ya eskidir, ya da fazla muallaktır. Inshala ise bütün çabalarına rağmen yazıları anlaşılmaz bulmuş, en sonunda da küçük bir topak halinde bir köşede sızıp kalmıştı. Bunun gören Aager hiç sektirmeden omzundaki pelerini çıkarır ve kızın üstüne serer. Gnine’dan onunkini de rica eder ve topak ettiği ikinci pelerini ise kızın başının altına yastık yapar.

Darly ise bu olanları çaktırmadan, hayret ve hayranlıkla izlemiş, içinden ‘Bu küçük kız ve bu adi herif.. Hala inanılır gibi değil!”, diye geçirmişti.

 

Merisoul, içi krema dolu bir fıçının içine düşmüş kedi gibi, çılgınca bir heyecanla eline geçirdiği bütün belgeleri okur, değerlendirir ve hatta bazılarını, zihnindeki gizli bölmelere;

 

Arşiv No. ARZME-1012237 – 2nd_lord_correspondence.zip
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012238 – cutter_contract_for_ff.docx
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012239 – angrlln_cursed_gift.jpg
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012241 – secret_recipies.txt
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012242 – stoln_artifact.zip
Arşiv No. ARZME-1012243 – new_orkn_sightings.avi

 

..şeklinde kodlayarak yerleştirir.

 

 

Aradan yine saatler geçer ve Inshala esneyerek uyanır. Üstüne serilmiş battaniyeyi kaldırdığında, karnının olduğu yere yumulmuş bir fare ailesinin, onun sıcaklığı ile uyumakta olduğunu görür.

Inshala gülümser ve onları uyandırmadan sessizce ayağa kalkar. Sonra bir yavru kedi gibi, kayıtsızca tekrar gerinir ve Aager’e hafif mayhoş, kayık ve utanmış bir bakış atar.

“Dalmışım.. Arena tahmin ettiğimden fazla yormuş beni.. Snare çok şeker bi dal, ama çok büyük. Çağırılması biraz yoruyor..”, diye bir fısıltı duyar Aager zihninde.

“Sevgili Inshala, arenada hepimiz iyi iş çıkardık ve yorulduk. Ama aramızda muhteşem olan bi sen vardın..”, diye içten cevabını geri yollar Aager.

Inshala’nın yüzü pembenin harika bir tonuna bürünür..

“..uykuyu ve çok daha fazlasını hak ettin. Gelmene gerçekten gerek yoktu ama. Handaki yerinde daha rahat ederdin.”

“Taş üstünde uyumaya alışkınım ki! Ayrıca kız kardeşinin benden pek de hoşlandığını sanmıyorum. Sanırım kendisine sormadan saçlarını örmemden alındı biraz..”

“Lilly.. Lilly’nin biraz zamana ihtiyacı var. Onun için bazı şeyler yerli yerine oturuncaya kadar, sanırım hepimizin göreceği tek şey onun çatık kaşları olacak.”

“Ama öyle yapınca bütün güzelliği mahvoluyor!”, diye hayret içerisinde ünler Inshala. “Ayrıca çok pasaklı.. Bremorel abla bile bu kadar pasaklı değildi. Ve elbiselerinin hepsini yanlış giyiyor!.. Kim elbiselerinin hepsini yanlış giyebilir ki? Temiz ve düzgün giyebilsin diye, dün akşam hepsini alıp yıkayıp tamir etmek istedim, bana öyle fena bi bakış attı ki, odadan kaçmak zorunda kaldım..”

Aager istemsizce, ve hafif acı bir şekilde ‘fırk’lar.

Drashan, mutlu, ‘doğru giyinen’ insanların doğduğu, ve öldüğü bir şehir değildir. Ve Aager, yeni bulduğu kız kardeşinin geçmişinin de kendisininkinden daha mutlu olabilmiş olduğunu düşünemez. Drashan, erkek çocukları öldüren, kız çocuklarını ise.. ‘değerlendiren’ bir şehirdir..

 

Odanın diğer yanından Gnine sırıtarak sessiz bir zafer hoplayışı yapar.

Tam o an da Laila’dan da benzer bir ses gelir ama onunkisi zafer değil, mutlak bir şoku ifade eden ‘Ohaa!’dır.

“Sanırım buldum.”, der Gnine.

“Sa.. sanırım ben de bi şey buldum..”, der Laila, zorlukla.

Aager, Gnine’ın ona uzattığı belgeyi inceler.

Neden sonra, “Evet.. Tarihler ve yerler tutarlı gibi. Sanırım onu bulduk. İyi iş çıkardın Efendi Büyücü.”, der Aager.

Suratında garip bir ifade olan Laila, sanki küçük dilini yutmuş ve dikkat çekmek ister gibi elindeki oldukça eski gibi görünen belgeyi Aager’e doğru şiddetle sallamaktadır.

Aager, Laila’ya bakar ve bir kaşı kalkar. Uzanıp Laila’nın salladığı parşömeni alır ve okumaya başlar.

Aager elindeki kağıdı okudukça, diğer kaşı da yükselir.

Neden sonra, “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar Aager’den.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

 

 

 

Sevgili Kralım Drine,

Korkarım bu mektubu benim geri dönmemden önce aldıysanız, sarıldık, iyi bir mücadele verdik ve toprağımızı da, atalarımızı da hak ettik, demek oluyor.

Gök Varlıkların bize verdikleri kutsal bir görev için yola çıkmıştık. Lanetli Themalsar’ın güçlerini yararak geçtik ve iblislerin ruhu bile duymadı. Askerlerinizle övünmelisiniz zira elflerin prensi Grandarelen bugün hala ayakta ise, bunu tamamen sizin askerlerinize borçlu. Ne var ki Ogre’s Foot bölgesine yetiştiğimizde büyük bir baskına uğradık ve bu mektubu aceleyle yazmak zorunda kaldım.

Sevgili Kralım ve Babam, biliyorum ki benim için hep iyi şeyler istediniz. Bunu şu anda çok daha iyi görebiliyorum. Bana her zaman rahmetli annemle sizinkisi gibi bir aile kurmamı telkin etmiştiniz ama bu güne kadar sizin annemde bulduğunuz vasıfları taşıyan birisini bulamadım.

Şunu bilesiniz ki arayışım bugün, bu savaş alanında sonra erdi.

Siz bunu okuduğunuzda, ben çoktan ölmüş olacağım. Ama beni ölümümle hatırlamayın. Beni, hayatını vermeye değecek bir kızı bulmuş birisinin sevinciyle hatırlayın ve teselli olun, çünkü ben bu teselliyi kendimde buldum.

Sizi seven oğlunuz,

Prens Gordigon Tinkerdome
4. Gnowitzer İstihkam Alayı Komutanı
Silent Hills Tahtının Varisi

29.11.6853 B.Y.S.

 

 

 

 

Prens Gordigon Tinkerdome’un veda mektubu
(Dokümanın aslı)

 

 


 

I

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Örtünün altından Çaldı gitti çocukluğumu.
Bir melek
Masumiyet
Örnek Büyüyüverdi anlamadan
Emekleyerek, yürüyerek, koşarak

II

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Yorganın altından
Çekip aldı gençliğimi
Bir aşk Heyecan
Deli kan
Bıyıkları terlerken
Hevesle, hovarda, coşkuyla

III

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Anıların arasından
Silip geçti olgunluğumu.
Bir hırs
Çaba
Koşturmaca
Hayatta kalmaya çalışırken
Ev, eş, evlat, baba, anne, can

IV

Tik tak
Hırsız zaman
Kat kat
Toprağın altından
Ne çalacak geride kalandan?
Bir ömür
Ölüm
Son nefes
Secdeden kaçacağın son an
Secdesiz namazın kılındığı
Zaman…

 

—Nezih Dolmacı

 

 

 
 

And Just Beyond That (18+)

Timeline:

The prophecy has been heralded.

The choice has been made.

The die has been cast and fates, sealed.

The ‘Chosen Four’ have been sent, through place and time by the proxies of the Celestials to right the wrongs of the unholy Outsiders.

In a wild cacophony of tumbling and painful sliding through the jagged and jarring madness of time, the Tundra Walkers find themselves disoriented, in a place and time quite out of their own..

..by a gross number of centuries.

 

This story starts 16 years ago, in some tattered tent full of wispy old hags, at a place far, far north of the Great Northern Tundras, in a small village called Star Watchers and ends in the misty haze of the forgotten past, some 820 years further in the line of history.

This story is the (relative) continuation of
Kocakarı Hikayesi (18+)..

 

 

What the bloody hell is this?”, the sour voice of the little, pale gnome grudged as she lay flat on her back. “No one said anything about this much hazard! Hells bells, has the term ‘precaution’ or even ‘risk assessment’ ever occur to those stupid old farts? No wonder people seldom return from the past!”

“Old farts?”, snorted a boxy, feminine voice in the dark, from somewhere behind her, also lying on her back.

“Yea, picked it up at the academy. Some of the ghouls used to use that kinda slang. You wouldn’t know..”, she said with a groan.

“I know, what an ‘old fart’ is”, sniffed the voice in the dark, “what surprises me is the fact that you’d be into such vulgar slang. And the proper word is ‘nerd’, not ‘ghoul’..”

“Nerd, ghoul, same difference. Boys who have zero social lives who live underground, play weird games with imaginary characters and cooked up monsters and carry rule books with more reverence than they would carry their holy writs..”, bit back the pale gnome.

“Yea?”

“Yea..”

“Sounds fun. What was your character?”

Arcantonic Palecog scowled.

“If you must know, I had a very tall, very pretty barbarian girl with thick, white braids and jugs, that smashed everything in her path with a mindless rage..”, she said and hastily added, “..no offense intended!”, giving a sidelong gaze at Cora’s direction.

The squeaky snort of a hobbit came from off, the other side.

“Some taken..”, replied the tall barbarian girl with thick, white braids.

There was a bothersome pause.

“Umm.. Which part?”, asked Arcantonic, tentatively.

“Will let you know when I want something —in mindless rage!”

“Well, shit!”, grumbled the gnome.

“You truly surprise me at times, girl..”, snickered Seressa Wraiven as her dark face appeared over the gnome. “Are you hurt? Other than your head, you seem all in one piece.. Could carry you if you like..”

“You wish..”, said Arcantonic sourly.

“Very much.”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

Someone’s coming”, Cora Sleet whispered harshly as she sprang up and helped the little hobbit to his feet.

Brom Bumblebrim dusted off his pants and coat and mumbled a silent thanks while the very tall, very dark figure of Seressa pulled up her pair.

Arcantonic did not thank.

She just scowled..

..some more!

 

The slow, irking hiss of a blade was heard as  Cora drew her long, great blade off her back and spread her legs, ready to fight whatever it was that was coming.

Out in the darkness, the marching of many boots in perfect order drew closer and a platoon of tall figures appeared.

Without a pause, the platoon split in two and surrounded the Walkers and than held their ground. They gave no sign of aggression, only that of determination.

They all wore similar, very elaborate and very beautiful plate armors, high winged helmets and carried a quiver of arrows, a short bow, a half size kite shield, and a long, slender, almost fragile-looking sword..

 

High Elves, thought Cora for a moment.

High Elves?, she baffled in the next.

‘Great Heavens, where are we?’

 

“Greetings, Messengers of the Celestials..”, said the leading elf with a curt, formal nod. “If you would be so kind, I pray, follow me and we shall take you to our lord. It is he, with whom you shall speak.”

Cora nodded back, more out of reverence than a formality, for these were High Elves, the highest and noblest of elves.

Without waiting for a reply, the leader of the high elf platoon turned did a quick hand motion, and walked off, back into the darkness..

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The sight was ghastly. That was the only word Cora could think of.

Ghastly!

They had traveled with the high elf platoon for the better part of sixteen hours, trooping, running, hiding, sneaking and.. fighting..

..and there was less than half of the platoon left.

Cora thought she knew how to fight. But what she knew was nothing like what she saw with these elves in their shiny, beautiful armor. One particular young elf had caught her eyes. He had had an angular face, a straight, noble sort of nose, a dedicated, rich mouth, prominent high brows, and long, braided, pale gold hair.

Cora was never the type of girl to lust over boys, even before the destruction of her village. But the look he had given her with his beautiful, soft, pale green eyes had been solemn, honest and.. flattering.

 

The young man had died in the next encounter with what she thought were mountain trolls. The brutish monsters had rushed right into the platoon and one of them had crushed the elf with his eight-foot club that had been thicker than Cora’s waist..

Cora had never seen a mountain troll before.

Cora would never see the young, beautiful elf again after that..

 

Tired and bloodied, they were met by more elven platoons and soon ushered to the top of a hill where stood a tall, deep maroon colored tent surrounded by more high elf guards in even greater looking armors, carrying long, curved, two-handed elven scimitars in silver embroidered purple mantles. Up at that hill, Cora and her friends saw the extent of their prophecy.. and the extent of the devastation taking place down below..

Row upon row of elven warriors in tens of thousands stood before and around the hill.

There, far across a very bloody field was another army of row upon row of orcs, goblins, ogres, giants, trolls, and what Cora surmised to be shambling ghouls, broken skeletons, moaning zombies, and barking demons and their numbers seemed to stretch as far as she could see.

And between the two armies was a field of death, all burned, scorched, even, and pitch-black smoke rose from broken and mutilated bodies scattered everywhere.

The sight she looked was nothing less than ghastly..

..and the more she looked, the more her face paled;

The hill they were standing on, was very much surrounded!

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

On the hilltop, Cora and her companions beheld the bloody battlefield below as thousands of arrows formed an arching bridge over them and fell into the ranks of the enemy horde while elfish wizards and sorcerers launched their deadly spells, raining fire, fist-sized hails, and swirling multi-colored arcane missiles. Batches of temple guardians walked among the wounded, doing their best to keep them alive as groves of druids of many races sent bolts of lightning and hurricanes into the demon ranks.

Something very large groaned and with an earth-shaking thud, a hut sized rock landed in the middle of a platoon and instantly killed and buried the elves caught under it.

More boulders landed haphazardly into the elfish ranks. The crushed didn’t even have the time to scream.

Orders ran up and down the elf ranks and the first half of a dozen line of elves drew their swords, pulled up their shields, and started out as the following ranks crouched close behind them, bearing long halberds and glaives.

The demon horde charged..

“This way, if you would please.”, said the platoon leader and led Cora and her friends into the tent at the top of the hill.

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The tall elf guard in purple mantle opened the tent’s flaps for the company, then, without a word, turned and left for his post.

Although the inside of the tent was dimly lit, it appeared to be surprisingly comfortable and richly decorated. The ground was covered with a thick, red carpet that had elegant designs inlaid in it, barely a shade or two darker, or lighter than the base red. Many embroidered tapestries hung on the inside of the tent. There were two comfortable looking divans, many stools, and a large, portable table placed at the far end, covered with parchments, maps, markers, quills, and writing feathers.

A young, beautiful young elf girl slept peacefully on one of the divans. She had a striking figure, full and healthy. Her face had soft features; smooth skin, rich, vibrant, inviting lips, long eyelashes and brush free, slightly wavy, honey-colored hair and she was sleeping in her tight, elf woven lorica.

Cora heard a stifling sound from the other end of the tent, and for the first time, she saw the elf lord, sitting behind the portable table.

Cora did a double-take and silently ‘woa’ed for this was the most beautiful face in a living being that she had ever seen. She just stared at the elf lord..

 

“So, the Celestials have sent another batch of messengers.”, said the elf lord, in a barely hidden contempt. He had a beckoning voice, rather masculine and resonant but somehow musical in nature. If Cora heard this voice in any other male, she would likely have snorted. With this elf, however, it felt ‘just right’.

“A tundra elf barbarian, a hobbit from Bowling Hills by the looks of it, a half-demon and a deep gnome..”, he said.

“It seems the greats above shall not even bother to hide their pun!”

Cora and Brom bowed before the elf lord.

“We have been sent to right a wrong by the Seers of the Star Watchers, my lord.”, Cora said, in her soft, somewhat throaty voice.

And right then, Seressa and Arcantonic both produced something made from fine leather and folded from their belts, flipped them open, and showed the elf lord, a strange, arrogantly carved badge.

The elf lords eyebrows shot up.

“And what business interests does the Academy of Melshieve have here, in this blasted, forsaken battlefield?”, he said in a voice that sounded more tired than of any particular interest.

“Academy business.”, Seressa replied curtly, which was very much unlike her.

“We two are here to observe and preserve.“, added Arcantonic, in a similar curt tone.

“Of course you are..”, replied the elven lord bitterly. “Couldn’t have sent a few of your airships..”

“We are here only to observe and preserve.”, Seressa repeated her pair, speaking with a kindlier voice this time.

“I see.. You are free to observe. There will be no preserving done here today, or anytime soon, I am afraid. The situation stands thus; we are surrounded and outnumbered at a critical level. We can barely open small gaps in the enemy lines at the cost of too many lives that I’d care to count. A few months ago, we sent word to Koruxan, Vodgar, Palantine, and Durkahan pleading for their support. So far, we only have a quarter half of Arashkan forces here, dwarven armored platoons from Scowling and Elder Hills, wood elf support from Dim Woods, druids from Ritual Forest, and gnome sappers from Tinker Hills and Silent Hills.”, said the elven lord quietly.

He paused for a bit as if to gather his thoughts, took a deep breath, and continued.

“We had a great start. Our.. our own rangers kept on harassing the enemy lines from the sides and managed to get to their rear as well. We held the enemy at bay for three years and made them pay a good price for every step they took in any direction. But that was up until some two months ago. Our gnome sappers discovered something we never expected. Turns out, while we were entertaining ourselves up here, they were diligently digging miles and miles of tunnels right under and around us..

We destroyed all the tunnels we found, but not soon enough. And now, they are all around us and their numbers have been growing steadily every day.

For weeks we send messengers to the other cities and yet, no one has responded. I am afraid, we will not last the month. Enemy warlocks have warded the area, making it impossible for us to open portals for new troops to teleport in or take our wounded out, not to mention near to non of our summoning spells work, hence we can get the support of neither the elementals nor the fey.

I will be honest with you. You are not the first Celestial messengers that have arrived here. There were six other groups, though never this many at once. You are the seventh group and they all said it was their destiny to right a wrong. I hope your prophecy was better than theirs.”, he said in the same tired voice and Cora finally recognized the nuance.

The elven lord wasn’t just tired. His was the voice of a man who had lost all hope. It was a defeated man’s voice.

Cora felt a lump at the pit of her stomach.

And she felt a vast sympathy for this beautiful elf.

“If it is possible to reach these people, we shall..”, she said in fierce determination.

The elf lord looked up at Cora and for the briefest of moments, a smile appeared in his handsome face.

“I had heard our long lost brothers and sisters up in The Great Northern Tundra’s never gave their word for simple tasks. They gave them only for the worthy ones.. and always kept them. Had I, but a thousand like you..”

Cora tried very hard not to, but failed.. and blushed.

 

Just then, the tent flaps opened and an elf runner dashed inside and in a rushed, terror-stricken voice he said, “My Riverin Grandaleren. Themalsar approaches from the south..”

“What?”, said the elf lord in a shocked voice. “How?”

“By ships. He landed troops to the south by ships!..”, said the runner, his face even more drawn now.

“My Lord, they come!”, he whispered.

 

Riverin Grandaleren’s shoulders slumped. He turned to the four standing before him.

Cora’s mind reeled..

‘Riverin?’

That was a very old elven name for ‘prince’. It had never really been used by her people, only ‘Rive’ which meant something along the lines of ‘king’ or, more like, ‘chieftain’..

‘Good Heavens..’, she though. This was no mere elf lord. This was ‘her times’ Ri Grandaleren Feymist of the legendary Bari Na-ammen himself..

..and since he was warring this Themalsar, it had to mean, they had been sent back some 820 years, to the first Battle of Themalsar, as the humans called it..

It was better known among elves as;

“Maeth -o Nev Evan escence”

BATTLE OF NEAR EXTINCTION..

 

Some innate instinct also prompted Cora that they were at the very northeast edge of the Ritual Forest and that meant; just to their north was the Trapped Mountains.

Her mountains..

And just beyond that, her Ironfrost..

It was still there, ‘now’..

Her mother hadn’t been born yet, but her father had. He would be younger than she was now.. but alive..

None of her friends would be around for at least seven hundred years yet, but her home, her Ironfrost would be there.. Now..

For the first time since the death of her beloved father, her beautiful mother, her friends, and her people, the true impact of her loss hit her.

Cora Sleet’s eyes teared and silently, she mourned for Ironfrost and everything that it meant and encompassed for her.

It was so damned close. It was ‘this’ close.. Within her grasp to go, and to see.. And perhaps even to..

..reclaim.

 

If she could just go there, and perhaps warn them of their coming annihilation, even at the cost of being branded as a mad woman..

A hard two weeks trek right now would get her there —much less if she left alone! Yes, these strange ‘soft’ people had fought alongside her, but she owed them nothing..

Certainly not her Ironfrost..

 

And that is when it hit Cora; she was not with them because of some untold, unnamed or unpaid debt. She was with them because this was her future. This was her now and there really was no going back. These strange, soft, very much unbarbaric people were her new friends..

Her new family.

Her new.. Ironfrost!

And as if on cue, a small, warm, delicate hand reached up to her and held hers.

She looked down to see Brom Bumblebrim looking up to her, his eyes also glistening. He smiled at her and kindly patted her hand, squeezed it once, and let it go..

Yep..

This was her new Ironfrost, alright..

 

Brom, her talkative little brother who never shut up. Tonic, her grumpy little baby sister who hadn’t yet gotten passed her ‘NO’ phase, and Seressa, her other sister.. the odd one in the family. Every family had one of those, right? She had been the odd one in her family, hadn’t she? Many people had said so.. Yes, she certainly hadn’t been odd at Seressa’s level, nor had she ever worn laced, pink, almost see-through.. things! But there really was no scale for odity, was there? The moment you stepped out of the boundaries of common, you were odd.

And now she was given the new position as the eldest sister. Seressa had merely swooped down and happily claimed her abandoned seat!

Here, some eight hundred years in the murky mists of a forgotten time, in one of the bloodiest battlefields in known history, up against impossible odds, Cora Sleet had found her new family, and in doing so, she found herself.

 

GO.. NOW.. Our time is up. If Themalsar gets here, we will lose any chance to break any openings for you.”, said the prince harshly. He turned to the runner. “Get Selvius Brightleaf, my general, and Aramlerien, my master wizard here immediately. Then go and ask Master Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, the head of the druid groves and General Drills, the gnome sappers’ general, if they would be so kind as to join us. Send for Decona Dwarwic, the dwarven dreadnaught leader as well. We will need her ‘meatgrinders’ sooner than planned.”

The prince paused for a notable breath.

“Please inform Archangel Priceptine of the situation and ask him if he would grace us with his presence and wisdom..”, he added somewhat grudgingly.

“At once, my Riverin..”, the runner bowed and dashed back out of the tent.

“Well, I suppose this was a short-lived encounter.”, Grandaleren said, with an ironic and bitter voice. “I would know your names if you would honor me.”

“No!”, jumped in Seressa. “No names.. I am sorry Riverin of Bari Na-ammen. But those are the rules; under no circumstance may our names be revealed nor recorded!”

“It appears the academy has an answer for everything. Just no solution. So be it. You will be noted as ‘a tundra elf’, ‘a hobbit’, and ‘an academy pair’ who were here to observe and preserve! Now, go..”

Cora and Brom bowed once more to the Prince of Bari Na-ammen and turned to leave.

 

And that is when Cora realized something else;

The beautiful elf girl sleeping on the divan in her linen-like lorica had not moved, at all..

In fact, she was not breathing.

 

The hoarse voice of the prince of the high elves came from behind them.

“Selendenien Sindarin.. My sister. She.. she was killed late last night by Themalsar himself. Her life ebbed away by Malocchio, an entropy death curse, particular to his master.. She was the heart of High Woods and the jewel of Bari Na-ammen. The Sunlight of Selendenien shall never bless this world again..”

Riverin Grandaleren choked.

“Now please.. Go.. Give this man a few moments of peace to grieve over a beloved one..”

 

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

 

The company moved silently and swiftly, hidden among burly dwarves and nibble gnomes.. That had been the plan; if they were to escape through the encircling army, they would have a better chance with the dwarves and gnomes, in particular, since the enemy was seeking high elves..

..And they had to use the tunnels dug by the gnome sappers.

Seressa had given one look at the small, tight, gnome size tunnels and groaned.

“Ow bugger..”, she’d said, “..not again!”

That had cheered Tonic a bit.

 

For three days, they ran, hid, slid, rolled, and tumbles through dark, musty, stuffy tunnels, and then over and under heavy brush and mud and reached somewhere near a cluster of rolling hills known as Ogre’s Foot, at which point they got ambush by half the ogre population living in the hills.

 

“Here..”, said a young, handsome gnome; the captain, of the gnomic company and the de facto leader of the dwarven contingency, as he handed a sealed, rolled-up parchment to Arcantonic. “..if you ever manage to get the chance, give this to my father please.”

Arcantonic just stared at the gnome boy.

“Who the hell are you and why are you giving this to me? You don’t even know me..”, she inadvertently blurted out.

Seressa smacked her forehead with her hand.

If the handsome gnome was taken aback by Tonic’s language or her brute attitude, he showed it with a dazzling, infectious smile.

“I, the hell, am Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome. Son of King Drine Tinkerdome and the apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills.”, he said.

 

Arcantonic ogled at the gnome.

All things considered, he was a rather handsome devil. Pretty, even.

If the gnomes smile was dazzling, however, it certainly flew right past the gnomic girl standing before him.. and the infection failed all efforts on her as well.

 

“It is likely this is where you and your friends will depart, as we are surrounded, outnumbered and outsized, but not quite bested. We need to make enough of a ruckus here, so they won’t go looking for your, there!“, he said pointing at the general direction of Dim Woods.

“Hence, it is unlikely any of us shall survive. You, on the other hand, must, my lady!”

Arcantonic ogled at the gnome..

..some more!

Somewhere deep inside her mind, a squeaky, irritated voice said, “Did you.. Did he just ‘lady’ us?”

“Thought I’d give you this letter to be handed to my father, in case of an unexpected demise on my part, and if you would, I would also like to have your name, my lady, and your hand, of which, I promise, I shall keep only one, though I would very much like to keep both..”

“Yep..”, the squeaky voice in her mind confirmed. “..the idiot just ‘lady’ed us —again! And he wants our hand. Why does he want our hand?”

“I.. I can’t give you my name. That.. that is forbidden. And what do you want my hand for? Are they dirty?”, stammered Tonic as she blushed with a tone of pink that would have made her pair proud.

“Oh, for everything that’s good and not..!”, exclaimed Seressa with an exasperated voice, and smacked her forehead with her other hand..

Brom snickered from the side and Cora just stared at Tonic like she was some kind of strange contraption and she just couldn’t figure out what its purpose was.

“I do not know.”, smiled the gnome prince. “Hard to see from here. Must look at it from a closer angle.”

Whatever was going through Tonics mind at that very moment, it was hard to say.

Her face, however, said ‘What the hell kind of an idiot is this?’

Or perhaps, ‘Why is it always the weird ones?’

 

The prince reached out, took the little gnome girl’s hand, gracefully bent over and..

Seressa held her breath.

 

Brom bit his knuckles.

 

Cora cocked an eyebrow and eagled down on them..

 

..And Tonic smacked the prince of the gnomes..

..over the head..

..with her wrench!

 

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!“, she blared. “MY HANDS ARE DIRTY AND YOU WANT TO SNIFF THEM? WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT ARE YOU?

With that, she stomped off..

 

The combined company of gnomes and dwarves burst out in gleeful laughter as the prince picked himself off the ground, very much dazed, obviously in pain and thoroughly embarrassed, he said “I suppose, I had that coming.. But wow, that there is one blazing girl and very hard to get; the best kind there is.. Too bad my times up. I would have loved to have stolen a kiss of ‘farewell to life’ from a girl as beautiful and fiery as her..”

The laughter died and every dwarf and gnome picked up their weapons and shields.

“Dwarves at the center. Sappers cover the flanks.. and careful with the mortars and the gnowitzers.. I want carpet-bombing thirty paces in front of the dwarves at all times. No need to be shy with the ammo.. Artificers, with me.. Boomsticks at the ready..”, he barked his orders.

Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome, son of King Drine and apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills gave the still scowling Tonic one last, toothy glance than shrieked like a hawk.

“CHARGE!”

 

 



Ri:
elvish for king.

Rise: elvish for queen.

Riverin: elvish for prince (usually used for the likely future Ri).

Riserin: elvish for princess (usually used for the likely future Rise).

Selendenien Sindarin: one of the three children of the current king of the high elves of Bari Na-ammen, Ri Lienierre Moonlight. The eldest of the three is High Lady Angrellen Sunsear, followed by Riverin Grandarelen and the youngest, Ranger Marshal Selendenien Sindarin (Sunlight).

Malocchio: ‘Evil Eye’, in Italian. In-game terminology, an evil, forbidden, very destructive, and an almost always deadly spell. Anyone caught casting or possessing the spell is instantly executed in the Kingdom. Requires a complicated ritual to cast. The end result can vary depending on how it was cast, the intensity of the intent of the caster, and how badly the caster wants the intended to die. The end results can change from something as simple as a heart attack to causing the heart to physically explode, ripping open the rib cage of the person..