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Out of the Gull.

Out of the Gull.

Timeline:

The time for war draws near.

Friends come and so do the foes.

 

Yet, the stance of some is unknown,
for friend and foe is a matter of perspective..

..and side.

 

For nature has neither and holds neither..

 

 

The beginning of this story
goes as far back as
Vivid Visions,
Temporal Insanity,
“I believe this belongs to you..”
and ends after
Kumse Beetles and Pixie Dust!

 

 

The undead were relentless. They came at them moaning, howling, and did they come at them shrieking!

And side by side with the dearest man of her life, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, fought, tooth and nail, and did she deny herself of her heritage, for, at that very moment, she was not the princess of the high elves, but the Queen of Death, herself..

And behind them, her cousin, Anglenna Sunsear, rained her own kind of death and destruction and she was immaculate at it, as she had been in everything she did. Deep down, Alor’Nadien ne had always admired her cousin’s cool and somewhat aloof demeanor as she had, when she had been, but a tiny little thing, yearning to go and knock at her aunt’s door in Bari Na-ammen and beg her to give permission so her cousin would play with her.

 

The irony in that was lost to all but herself.

 

Alor’Nadien ne had never yearned to actually play with Anglenna, so much as she wanted to observe her..

..and be awesome like her!

The games had been a mere excuse and sort of a bonus..

..and she had had the chance to make someone eat her cakes, her cookies, and her pies, though, looking back, said cakes, cookies, and pies shouldn’t have had raw onions because she’d thought they made her pies crunchy. Her cookies also shouldn’t have had baby powder because she’d thought cookies ought to have that white thingy on them, nor should her cakes have had her mother’s hand cream because she’d strongly believed all cakes just must have whipped cream on them..

Yet, her cousin Anglenna had eaten them anyway, which, in later years, told her several things;

That her cousin had preferred her, quite horrible, hideous, even, cooking skills, coupled with her highly creative ingredients, than to spending time with her own mother..

That she must have enjoyed her little baby cousin’s presence, even against the prodigious, one hundred and fifty years age disparity..

That deep down, she had, in fact, been fond of her and cared for her, looked out for her, and perhaps most important of all, believed in her, even against all of her own mother’s indoctrinations..

That she would make her the queen she, Alor’Nadien ne, had never yearned to be, whether she wanted it or not..

And that she had, at some point, stopped seeing her as merely her cousin, but started viewing her and ‘that young man’ as one, and had started protecting them both..

 

Alor’Nadien ne was not sure why all these had crossed her mind at that point, but at some subconscious level, she felt that they all meant something.. something more that changes in characters, or choices, or perspectives, but change..

..in a sense that could only be defined as ‘total’.

 

And that was when she had come face to face with the Draugr, the undead monstrosity her cousin, Anglenna had warned her about. Unwittingly she’d stared at the soulless creature’s voids, where there were supposed to have been eyes and seen..

..Abyss.

 

Alor’Nadien ne blacked out.

But she did not back down.

 

With the savagery of a High Woods lynx, she slashed and hacked her way through the undead until there was only the Draugr.

She did not hesitate.

With her near three-yard long glaive and the thirty-inch deathly steel, she stabbed it..

..in the heart.

And for a bare moment, she felt the death throes of that heart carried all the way from the deathly blade, down the long shaft of her glaive, and in her hands.

She thought she felt something familiar about that final tremor in that heart..

 

And then she came around.

Staring in horror at the fallen and bloody form of her Udoorin.

 

It all went sideways after that and try as she might, Alor’Nadien ne just couldn’t remember anything.

Only that it had been she, who had slain her love.

And in her post-madness insanity, there had been that howling scream of some churning wind, followed by a brilliant flash of light..

..and that’s it.

 

She was no longer down in the stinking sewers of the once glorious city of Arashkan.

✱ ✱ ✱

Sheriff Standorin stood silently as he stared down at the rickety bed, and the tall, alluring figure lying in it with a horrible expression on his face.

Much like all the other dormitories in the temple, this small room was also comprised of a single bed, a chair, a nightstand with a washing dish, a lockless box for personal effects, and..

..that’s it.

The only variation to these had been the addition of extra beds in most of the other rooms since the arrival of the half-born, making the already small dormitories rather cramped, though the new, otherworldly guests never complained. For them, this was Heaven, as opposed to their previous ‘Hellish’ pits..

 

The tall, alluring girl, Constance, had tiny beads of sweat on her contorted face, her brows frowning, her bright red lips pressed together and though her eyes were open, there was a glossy shimmer about them; pained and somewhat glassy, as tears ran down and disappeared in her long and disheveled black hair.

She was trying, very hard, to put on a ‘happy’ front, but was failing quite miserably.

As much pain as she was in, she still managed to be quiet and dignified about it and the only other sign that would have given her apparent pain away, was her fisted hands, blessedly hiding under the itchy blanket that covered her up to her chest.

She managed to turn her head to make sure they were alone, then unclenched her lips and tried for a smile.

 

“There.. really isn’t any cause.. for such ruckus, dear Sheriff.. Standorin.. Shieldheart.. And.. I do not believe.. my actions merit.. such a scowl..”, she whispered.

 

Sheriff’s face became even more horrible.

“What did you do?”, he growled in his deep rumbling voice.

 

Constance stared at him, her gaze glassy and a bit off.

“We gave an oath.. Sheriff. To sweat.. to bleed.. and to die, to attain.. our Ascension. I have bled.”, she said with a forced smile.

 

“And now.. I am sweating..”

 

“I am not very good with levity, Miss Constance.”, scowled Standorin, as he fumed.

“Then I shall refrain.. from it..”, she smiled even more, though she had closed her eyes tightly and her frown bespoke of much pain.

“Sheriff Standorin..”, said a shy, soft, earnest voice from the door. “You should go. Constance needs rest and time to mend.”

Standorin turned to the door to see the small Inshala standing there. He inadvertently scowled at her as well, causing her to flinch, but she refused to back down. Blushing furiously, she held her ground. “Sir. Please. What she is going through is a delicate matter and requires tender care. If you are willing to give her that, you may stay. If you wish is to intorodate her, you really should leave, because she is hurting and is in much pain.”

“Intorodate?”, the sheriff asked a bit baffled.

“My Aager knows what it means. You may ask him later if you wish.”, she replied, blushing even more.

“I only want to know what is going on here. She was fine two days ago when she suddenly disappeared and this evening she was found, lying unconscious and beat, in the dirt, several miles away from the village. If there is a crime done against her, the felons must be found and face the harshest of punishments!”

“No crime was done here, Sheriff, sir.”, Inshala said, quietly. “What has befallen her, is something she has brought upon herself.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”, the sheriff growled.

“I.. I am very sorry, sir. That is the best I can explain.”, she struggled. “I do not have the right to say any more for.. certain other.. people are involved.. Should she wish it, she may share it with you. But her sacrifice is not mine to reveal. Now, she needs to rest and mend.”

“People? What other people? What sacrifice? What the heck is going on here?!”, Sheriff Standorin very nearly blared.

“Sherif Standorin.”, said a young, sharp voice, and Thomas Dimwood appeared behind Inshala. “You will refrain from such demanding attitudes and you will not raise your voice in my temple. And you will respect the privacy and sanctity of my guests and those under my care. Must I remind you that the Temple of Light is not under your jurisdiction? You, on the other hand, are in mine, now, as you are not even a guest, but a visitor. I do not want to have to remove you from my grounds, but if I must, I shall.”

 

The room’s temperature suddenly plummeted and an ominous silence spread.

 

“That was a tad uncalled for, young man.”, Standorin growled.

“So is your attitude towards my guests, the Ritual Guardian, Liaison Constance, and your free reign of my temple.”, replied Thomas cooly.

“Old Demos would never have taken that tone with me—”, the sheriff said scowling fiercely.

“You would never have done what you just did, had our Father, Demos were alive, Sheriff. Perhaps you imagine his absence gives you some leeway?”, Thomas said and his tone had taken a frosty edge now.

“Dear, Thomas..”, came the brittle voice of Constance as more tears came down her closed eyes. “..please. Friends should not fight over such technicalities. I and my brothers and sisters are new, here, in this Mortal coil, but we watch and we learn; I am certain the esteemed sheriff means no disrespect to your, your guests, nor your sanction. He.. he is merely worried.. Which is understandable and was my doing.. I shall.. tell him.. what he wants to know, and what he needs to know, also.”

“I agree.”, came Inshala’s small voice as she stared at her own feet. “I really am sorry, sir. I can say some things, I can not say some other things. There are forces in this world and.. other places.. that are beyond understanding and mustn’t be put to words on a whim for they may hear, and bring their retribution upon us. Please, sir. You must accept what I say, and stop there. I apologize for making this harder for you to understand but I am young and silly and I lack words.”

 

Standorin stared at Constance, then at the little girl, Inshala, then at Thomas, who was staring back at him, not quite as coldly as before, merely as adamant and immovable as him.

 

“I apologize for my attitude, Temple Guardian. I overstepped my boundaries in my moment of pique.”, the sheriff rumbled, though it was rather obvious, he was quite furious the way the young man had ‘man-handled’ him the way he had.

He then he walked over to the door, dropped on one knee before Inshala and with a much softer voice, he said, “And I apologize to you as well, again, and twice; once to the Ritual Guardian, and once you, dear Inshala. You have been nothing but good to this town and the refugees and probably doing more than I can see and comprehend. It would seem I am out of my debt here and trying to understand things quite beyond me, much like, it would seem, I am doomed to kneel before you and apologize, time and again, every time I turn around.”

 

Inshala’s face smoldered.

She was so embarrassed, she seemed like she was looking for some tiny hole to hide in.

So she did the only thing she could think of.

She hugged the huge, kneeling, man and hid her face there!

 

“Please do not kneel like this again, sir. Not to me, not to anyone. Decent and honorable men should bow to no one. Your son, Udoorin, never did, accept that one time when he was trying to learn me what it meant to love. He was always nice and polite to me. My Aager shows respect to everyone but feels only for very few and you are one of those few.”, she spoke from where she hid her face.

 

Sheriff Standorin blushed.

“Well, I—”, he faltered.

“—Lost?”, offered Thomas with a grin.

“I suppose I did..”, he sighed.

Then he kindly parted with the little girl, got up to his feet, and looked at the two of them.

“I would like to stay here with our Liaison until she gets better and is able to return to her duties. Lady Inshala, I would be grateful if you would go and inform Master Aager, that until such time as I am able to return to my duties, he will take over my duties as the acting sheriff, effective immediately.”, he said.

 

“Uhhmm.. Your sheriff is telling me somethings to tell you, but I have no idea what he just said, my Aager.”, Inshala whimpered in her head.

“What did he say, love?”, came Aager’s voice.

“He told me to tell you that you are something something acting something sheriff, escaping immediately!”

“Shit!”, Aager cursed vehemently. “As if I didn’t have enough on my plate..”

“AAGER FOGSTEP!”, gasped Inshala.

“I am sorry, love. Not in a very good mood today. I just can’t seem to teach this lot why we go for the jugular instead of the kidney in an ambush. I guess some people just like the drama of watching a violently struggling victim in an abhorrent amount of pain who is likely to manage a scream while he is kicking around in massive spasms as opposed to silently lowering him down with the least struggle while he quietly bleeds out!”

“Ow.. Tigers always go for the jugular! Nature is the best killer!”, Inshala said enthusiastically. “But I think your sheriff just wants to stay with Liaison Constance until she gets better.”

“Ahh.. that sounds.. familiar..”

“Ow, my.. I suppose it does, doesn’t it? Where are you? He told me to GO AND TELL you, so I think I must go to you, mustn’t I? I mean, I can’t just tell him, I just told you!”

“Yes, that would be hard to explain. Might as well come, love, perhaps we could take an early break and go home?”, Aager offered.

“I’d like that.”

 

“Alright. I guess I will go now, then?”, Inshala said with an exaggerated and guilty sort of tone and left.

 

Standorin stared after her, shook his head, then turned back to Thomas.

“Liaison Constance is a member of my office.”, he continued. “I must make sure she stays as part of my office, well and healthy, hence I invoke my right to sanction, Temple Guardian Thomas, and I believe anyone who invokes such sanction must be admitted without question or hindrance.”, he said and grinned at Thomas.

The young senior temple guardian frowned.

“I see you have been reading jurisdictional and temple laws, Sheriff. A bit out of your way, isn’t it?”, he mused.

“The esteemed Liaison has made me aware, I have been lacking in that area. Hence I took the time to remedy it. Now, if you will..”, the sheriff said and let it hanging..

“Very well, sheriff. I shall send some food to both of you soon enough.”, Thomas conceded.

“I would like to pay for them.”, Standorin said.

“We do not charge here, sheriff.”, reminded the young temple guardian.

“No, you don’t. But as small an amount as it may be, I am sure it will go somewhere better than where I’d have spent it. Accept it as a tithe, if you will. Unless you want two of your guests under your care to starve.”, Standorin said sternly.

Thomas frowned.

“What is it about you Shieldhearts and your obstinacy, I wonder.”, he said.

“It’s all about the Heart, really. The Shield, we use to bash out the obstinacy from young men! Now, if you will, I have a young Liaison to care for.”

✱ ✱ ✱

She is waking up.”, whispered a petulant voice.

“She is an early riser. But then, she’s been falling asleep where she kneels, crying all day.”, replied another voice, also in a whisper, though this one was soft and sounded like she laughed a lot in her normal merry voice. “It breaks my heart seeing her like this, day after day and it’s been weeks. I’ll admit, her boy is sort of cute, in a puppy-eye way, but the bushy thing he’s got on his face irks me.”

“Ow, yes, Temessa. It totally creeps me out! Did you bring her something to eat? I brought her my best peaches yesterday, she didn’t touch them.”, the petulant voice said.. petulantly.

“It is possible she might not like peaches, Yamara. Some Mortals do not and it even irks them. It has to do with the hair on the peaches, I think. A bit like how the boy’s bushy face irks us.”, explained Temessa in her hushed voice.

“That was not a nice thing to say, Temessa. My peaches are delicious. She didn’t eat your apples, either, if I recall.”, Yamara said in a hurt voice.

“True. But my apples are always dark and red and sweet and juicy. Just like me! Some Mortals prefer the hard and sour kind.”, shrugged Temessa.

“She didn’t touch Cherriot’s cherries, Shyad’s grapes, Kardenymp’s quinces, nor Veraminks’ berries. She is Mortal. She must be hungry by now. She will suffer scary visions and horrible dreams and die if she doesn’t eat soon.”, Yamara said a bit freaked.

“Maybe that’s why she is so skinny?”, Temmessa mused. “I wish Aremela were here. She’d know a way to make her eat and stop crying. She was the only one among us to very nearly understand Mortals.”

“It has been nearly twenty years since she’s been gone, Temessa.”, Yamara reminded her, though she said it with a very slight tremor in her own voice.

“Yes. But she was my friend and we always had the bestest fun when she was with us.”, Temessa signed.

“That’s true.”, Yamara admitted grudgingly. “Even though she snitched me to Mother, once.”

“She didn’t snitch you, Yamara. She told Mother, yes, you were being rude to everyone and, yes, you did charr Cherriot’s cherries because I snitched you to Mother and Mother asked her if this was true!”, Temessa replied simply.

Yamara made an unhappy noise.

“Did you know Mother was thinking of talking to that Blom Bundlebim Hobim so he would write all his adventures? That way, everyone will remember Aremela Berrybush!”, Temessa said suddenly.

“Ow, wow! Will we be in it, too?”, Yamara asked eagerly.

“Probably. I mean, we were there when they met, weren’t we?”

“Yes, we were. We are going to be so famous!”, Yarama beamed.

“Shhh! She is opening her eyes.. She has lovely eyes. Like dew grass after a spring rain.”, Temessa said with an adoring tone.

“Yes. But she also has dark circles around them and her face is swollen. She must eat.”, Yamara observed critically.

“Good morning, Yamara. Good morning Temessa.”, whispered Lorna..

 

..because that was the only strength she had left in her;

A whisper.

 

Temessa and Yamara just stared at her.

 

“Sweet Alor’Nadien ne. We have brought you new apples, peaches, grapes, cherries, and berries this morning. We give these to you freely and Mother knows this.”, Temessa almost pleaded.

“Yes, she does, even though she told us we could bargain for them if we wanted to. Please accept them. We already lost many of our sisters here some time ago to some villainous dwarves and it has made us very sad. We do not wish a pretty Mortal to die, as well.”, Yamara begged.

“I am sorry for your loss, dear Yamara. But it’s alright. Once my beautiful Udoorin is gone, I shall take my leave and die elsewhere. That way, I shall not ruin the sanctity of your beautiful valley.”, Lorna replied hoarsely.

“Please, pretty Alor’Nadien ne. Eat at least one peach or one apple, or even some grapes and cherries and even some berries. Before Mother comes and asks you again.”, Temessa said, this time actually pleading.

“I thank you both and your sisters. You have been nothing but kind and generous to me. My answer to Mother will be the same as it was yesterday, and the day before that, and I shall carry your kindness to my grave.”, Lorna breathed rapidly..

..and vaguely realized this rapid breathing was a new symptom.

 

Yes. Her time was coming to a close and.. rapidly..

 

The fact that she had survived as long as she had, was likely to her connection to the Spirit of High Woods. But like her woods, she too was ending.

At least she would get her moment to say farewell to her Udoorin one last time before she crawled out of Gull’s Perch.

And with that thought, she looked down at the strange,  quartz-blue, crystal-like coffin she was leaning where she lay, and where she’d woken, day after day, and fallen asleep, night after night..

..where, under layers of the quartz-blue crystal, lay the young man she had slain in her moment of insanity.

She could see his unmoving face, peaceful, yet oddly faceted and fractured in the crystal and the bloody hole that was his heart.

She remembered that moment they had first met.

In her anger, she had charged at the people that had come bursting into the room, down in the dungeons below the ruins of Themalsar, her dark, smoking glaive raised.

Whether it had been a matter of luck, initiative, skill, destiny, or fate, the young man had reached her before she could swing her blade.

He had reached her with both of his great battle-axes already at the end of their radius, and just about to cut into her slender neck.

But in his moment of madness, he had stopped, both blades nicking at her. He had stopped and opted not to slay her. And furiously blushing, he had grinned at her and said;

“Uhhmm.. Hello. I am Udoorin.”

She hadn’t.. In her madness, she had stabbed him, in the back and in the heart..

 

Inevitably, her eyes teared.

 

“I am so, sorry, my Udoorin. Today, I shall beg her again; mine life for yours. Perhaps today she will see reason.”, she whispered. “For if she will not, I am afraid you will be staying here for a while, but I shan’t. I feel the claws of death and I am all but spent. I deserve what is upon me. Should you wake, please think not too unkindly of me, for I loved you..”

“With all my heart..”

 

Heart.

 

And that single word broke her all over again.

 

“Dear child. How long shall this mourning last?”, asked a rich, throaty, mature voice asked.

“Will you not see reason?”

 

“Oops. Mother is here!”, hissed Yamara. “Better scram!”

“Right..”, agreed, Temessa and the two girls, one dryad, the other a fire nymph, took off in a haste.

 

“Your offer is beyond me, Mother Summer. And isn’t a choice I may adopt on my own. It involves him, his life, his future, and his line. Should I make that choice for him, never shall he gaze upon my face again. But at least he shall stay here and.. live.. forever..”, Lorna sobbed.

“My dear child, he may stay here, but not forever. One day, he may rise. Mortals have always been thus unpredictable. Have you given any thought as to what he will do, should that happen? His father, his friends, and you, the spark of his life, all gone and past, centuries over. Perhaps you think this a wise course of action and a mercy on his part. I do not. Mortals do not cope well when their loved ones leave. But in time they learn to live with it, for time prepares them for such losses and fills the gaps they leave. However, they never cope when they are suddenly made aware, all their loved ones are dead and gone and centuries ago. I have witnessed this before. And he was not even a Mortal, but a fey. It drow him mad; a once noble of a Court became the vilest of us all. I believe he haunts this world still.”, replied the rich, mature voice.

“Mother Titania. I beg of you.”, Lorna pleaded, her eyes tear-stricken, her voice already near hysteria. “Take mine life and give it to him. Give my beat so he would live..”

“My dear, girl, you did not do this to him. The madness of Draugr-kin is not a fairy tale. It is as infectious as it is corrosive.”

“But it was I who did this to him.. I stabbed him in the back. I destroyed his beautiful heart. I do not deserve to live when he is dying.. Take my beat. Please. Take it, and give it to him..”, Lorna wept.

“I do not take lives on a whim. And never from a Mortal who has done me no wrong. This is something the Queens may not do. This is the Law of Nature. Much like I may not give, without balance. This is who we are, and this is what we are.. A life for a life was my wont. But not yours for his. Mortals always do rush to give what they do not know. But then, how could they? You have never lived it all!”

“M.. Mother, please.. Just take it.. I give it freely..”, the beautiful princess of High Woods begged.

“You will give your life for him, and expect him to accept that, do you? Perhaps you think too little of him, after all.”, mused Titania.

“Give it to him. He does not have to know..”, Lorna cried.

“You wound want a Queen of the Fey to lie? Will that not destroy my own reputation?”, the Queen of Summer asked mildly.

“You will not take my life for his, but you would take the life of my unborn child?”, Alor’Nadien ne wept. “What will he think of me when I have given away his child?”

“Your child shall live long and happy, dear girl. She shall be the Summer Lady. The time nears when Mortals shall require all the help they can get. I am summer, and I may not mingle among Mortals. The Summer Lady can. She will have her Summer Knight to defend and protect her. And she will be much loved and honored among us. Your daughter will help shape the world and aid Mortals free us of the foul demon infestation. I have seen it. And have I also seen, how the lack of the two Ladies has caused the end of one cycle after another. This, you must know, and this you must understand, for this was why your great ancestors, Terandel Solace, Sinderel Tranquil, and Elorellen Feymist abandoned their homes to come this far and settle where they did; to prepare the Mortals for the day they would grow and gather to fight and end the demon infestation. Know this, young Alor’Nadien ne; the demons are coming. Gullem the Damned is preparing to move against the Humans at Heaven’s Hand and the elves at Tranquil even as we speak. And they will bring the numbers to overrun them.”, Titania said calmly, then paused as if considering, and arriving at some monumental realization herself.

“Know also that your arrival here was not by chance. Of all the Mortals that have ever come to my sacred sanction, only two did appear by the whims of fate. One, to cleanse my valley of uncouth Mortals bent on lustful greed and to make it whole again, for which both he and I paid a terrible and costly price. You, dear child, are the other.”

“He.. If he must know. He must agree..”, Lorna moaned.

“No, he must not know. He can never know..”, the Queen of Summer said kindly.

“Why? Why shouldn’t he know?”, cried the princess.

“My dear, dear child, as much as he loves you, cherishes you, cares for you, and honors you, he is still Mortal and can not see beyond his years. Not now, not in his lifetime. Humans are not mentally equipped for such impartial decisions, hence they must not be put to task with such a verdict. Know though, shall he be long gone by the time I come to collect my charge. Willy-nilly, this bargain is between you and I, dear child.”

“And should I fail to make a choice?”

“Then he will rise, one day, and mourn, for the first thing he sees, shall be your remains and thus he shall rage, for there shall be nons he has known left; his home and his town and everyone he has thus loved and cared and cherished shall be long gone and beyond his reach and beyond his comprehension, also. He shall come to realize that he is not mere alone but in a world forever gray for him. He shall roam the lands, never to feel love, nor luster, for what he feels, he feels only for you. Thus shall his rage be without equal, and in his unquenching madness, shall he sin and slay, and thus shall he be hunted, slain over, and thrown in a pit where there shan’t even be a stone to mark his grave..”, Titania said with a certain finality.

 

Lorna’s vision darkened, her heartbeat hammered harder than she could ever remember, her mind swirled, she was breathing harshly now.

 

“Dear child. I would ask you to take my offer. Should you prolong it any further, I am afraid, there will not be anything of you left that can regain any health. The things you feel now are the accumulation of your self-imposed hunger, fatigue, irregular slumber, and your heart-felt devastation over the course of weeks. It is time, child. Know, though, I do not make such an offer lightly, nor have I ever made this offer to any Mortal in this cycle and not because I have deemed Mortals unfit, but nons have I found a Mortal worthy.”

 

Alor’Nadie ne never realized a whole day had passed just in that single conversation.

✱ ✱ ✱

What is wrong, love?”, said Berete Hamna Vir, her voice very worried, as she came and sat next to the little boy. “You have been sitting here in the dark all night. I know it is quiet and serene down here, but you should come and play with us.”

The little boy, Dar Derune didn’t move. He just sat where he was and staring off somewhere, far, far away, and beyond the cavernous crypt.

“Here. I brought you your favorite sam-wish. And I managed to grab two sugar canes for you.”, the girl with the sharp features said in hopes of raising some kind of response from the boy.

“I am not hungry Hamna Vir.”, mumbled the boy and sniffed.

“You.. Have you been crying, love? Yes, you have. I can see the streaks on your face. Why are you crying, my baby mate? Did someone hurt or upset you?”, asked Hamna Vir and a frown appeared on her face.

 

The boy sniffed again, then, just like that..

..he climbed into her arms and started to cry with heartbreaking sobs.

 

“Ow, my dear, dear baby. What is wrong? Please tell me. You know you can. And we two have never had any secrets.”, Hamna Vir pleaded as her own eyes blurred as she fiercely hugged the little boy.

“She.. she..”, sobbed Dar Derune. “She’s gone!”

“Ow, love. She was gone but she’s back. Constance is back. Yes, she is hurt, but she will be alright.”, soothed Hamna Vir.

“No.. Arezme.. She is gone!”

 

Hamna Vir froze.

 

“What do you mean, she’s gone?”, she whispered.

“I have been looking in on her every day to make sure she was alright, ever since she entered the Door.”, sobbed the boy.

“But.. why?”, asked Hamna Vir.

“Because.. because I can see, Hamna Vir. And I saw a spark in her heart that day when we walked out of the Door and gave our oaths, and she went in.. The spark all Mortals have, yet none of us do. The spark of a Mortal’s heart! That is how I knew she was the first amongst us! And this evening, when I looked at her again.. I saw her spark.. bloom! Then the bloom spread and spread and became incandescent. It.. its light was so bright, it almost burned me. And just like that, it was gone. I can not see her anymore, Hamna Vir..”

“I can not see Arezme, I can not see our Merisoul.. There is only light.. Brilliant, burning light.. She’s gone!”

 

..and Dar Derune broke down in her arms and cried, uncontrollably, like the little boy that he was and spluttered.

 

“What are we going to tell mirima Temez? They were BFF!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Are you feeling any better?”, Sheriff Standorin asked.

“Will you return to your duties if I said I was?”, replied Constance with a weary smile.

“Master Aager is a trustable man. I am sure he is handling things just fine.”, Standorin said, trying for a smile himself, but not quite getting there.

“It has been days you have been here, dear sir. What ails me will wear off, given enough time.. Just not in my lifetime, I am afraid.”, the tall, alluring girl said. “Apparently, some things end up being much more costly than we ever anticipate. I feel almost Mortal in my folly.”

“You speak in words I do not really understand, Liaison Constance.”, Standorin said with a frown. “But I will ask you one thing because I am hoping it will be something I shall comprehend.”

“You wish to know why I asked you out.”, Constance said. It wasn’t a question so much as it was a statement, really.

“Well.. Yes..”, the sheriff admitted with a flush. “I mean, I am quite older than you. Shouldn’t you find someone your own age, perhaps? Someone young and.. handsome?”

 

Constance closed her eyes, drew one of her slim hands out from under the itchy blanket and placed it on her forehead, and sighed.

 

“What is it about you Mortals and age? It is merely a number that signifies how many years ago you were conceived and absolutely nothing else. It tells me nothing about who you are, about what you have done in those years, nor about what entails you. Tell me, sir, does that number truly encapsulate you? Does it tell me your accomplishments? Or how decent and caring and how honorable you are? Would it matter if I were to tell you it has been five hundred and thirty-two years since I was conceived?”

 

Standorin gulped.

 

“I.. wouldn’t have thought you were a day older than twenty-five, ma’am..”, he mumbled. “Are you really—?”

Constance sighed again.

“Years pass differently where I come from, Stan. Yes, by your Mortal years, I guesstimate I am five hundred and thirty-two. By our standards, I am twenty-eight— which still tells you nothing about me. Not of my sins nor my deeds. Nor why I and my kind chose to abandon the only place we were perpetually abused but would never stand out. And it certainly does not tell you why I chose to date with you, does it?”, she asked wearily.

“No. I suppose it doesn’t.”, Standorin conceded.

“I promise, I will tell you. Only if you would but help me get out of this bed and wash up, as I am, very likely, quite unseemly, and perhaps even help me change. And then maybe you could take me out for lunch, or dinner? I honestly do not know what time of the day it is as these rooms have no windows. I must admit, I am quite famished. Perhaps you would go as far as a dare and we could eat at your place? I have studied Mortal cooking some. Maybe I could try my hands on it. Should you honestly like it, we can eat that. If I fail, I suppose we can go someplace where I can embarrass myself less. We can then sit there and talk or perhaps take another long walk, though, as tired as I am, you might end up carrying me back.. I leave the choices to you. In the end, I shall never take what you are unwilling to part. All I would ever want from you is to know I have someone to lean on, and that someone would make me feel mildly wanted. Should you agree, however, I would like you to expect, and accept, similar trust and care from me.”

 

Standorin gulped again.

 

“We.. could eat at my place.. though it hasn’t been touched by a woman for many years. But only if I cook while you rest. I.. can’t invite you and make you cook. That would be just wrong.”, he said, both flustered and abashed.

“I am in your care then, Standorin Shieldheart.”

 

Sheriff Standorin was a man of his word. As embarrassed as he was, and with a very flustered face, he helped the tall, alluring girl out of the rickety bed and sat her on the simple wooden chair, brought the washing dish over and with strong, calloused hands, he washed her slender hands and arms, her very appealing face, her slim neck, ran his wet hands over and through her long, silky black hair, and went as far as washing her proportionate, narrow feet, all without any sensual implications, but with tender care, and Constance silently watched his face with a demur blush but refrained from even the smallest smile.

The tall, alluring girl was a surprisingly perceptive and considerate creature.

Then, he went over and opened the door, and to the red-headed, bewitching little girl who had been silently sitting there with a naughty smirk on her face and an ear on the door, he said, “Young Demelze.. It isn’t nice to eavesdrop. But since you are here, I would consider it kindness on your part if you would bring the esteemed Liaison a brush, a pair of shoes, and a dress appropriate to her station.”

The smirking girl blushed furiously, jumped on her feet, and took off, while she mumbled to herself;

“Blistering Bloody Imps!”, she cursed. “Busted!”

 

He turned around to see Constance smiling at him.

“Uhhmm.. Is there something amusing?”, he asked a bit gruffly.

“No, no.. Merely admiring how aware you are of your surrounding even under duress.”, she replied. “Demelze won’t be able to decide whether she should be embarrassed for getting caught or feel happy you remembered her name, even though you met her only once.”

“Occupational hazard, I suppose. And I have been a lawman for quite a number of years. And.. I wouldn’t define.. uhh.. washing you a matter of duress, really.”, he replied uncomfortably.

 

There was a knock and the sheriff turned around and opened the door again to see the same red-headed, bewitching girl holding a long, elegant dress, a pair of high pumps, a hairbrush, and an odd expression stuck somewhere between a flush, a wicked smile, and a pout as if the girl just couldn’t decide on which one she should settle.

 

“Thank you. I would be happy if you would also compile a detailed progression report on the Pixie Project and have it ready by tomorrow morning.”, he said as he took the dress, the pumps, and the brush, but left her expression where it was.

Demelze squinted at him and the wicked smile on her face disappeared.

“Homework? Really?”, she said in disgust.

“You are a fully grown woman and require no homework, young lady. But Master Aager will need said report as soon as possible, and you seem like a person given to details. Unless I am totally mistaken, of course.”, Standorin said with a straight face.

Demelze’s squint turned into a distinctly deploring pout. With seething vehemence, she spun around and started marching away, all the while stomping her tiny feet!

Constance gave out a refrained, bubbly laugh.

“You have a unique way to deal with people, sir.”, she said.

“Let’s get one thing straight.”, the sheriff frowned a bit. “I would rather you didn’t ‘sir’ me when we are alone.”

“But we are in a temple, and your official standing puts you in a ‘sirly’ disposition, as silly as that sounds.”, she replied with a smile. “Though I am open to suggestions as to what you would rather I call you on a regular basis, other than Stan.. sir.”

 

Standorin fumed a bit.

Limnia Karya, his beloved deceased wife, had never played these games with him. She had been a ranger, and a decidedly practical, no-nonsense sort of woman, though, in all candor, she did act like a much younger girl when they had been alone. Then he remembered something Aager had told him about never to compare and once Standorin gave it an even cursory thought, he came to the conclusion that the young man had been right; one, they were not some fruit, vegetable, or furniture, but people, both distinct and both unique, and two, comparing was doing them both much disservice.

 

Silently he put the brush and the pumps on the bed and came near the young woman and just stood there.

It took a bare moment for the tall, alluring girl to comprehend the pause. With a shy blush, she turned around and..

..let her dress fall.

 

Standorin stared at the rather slender, curving back of the tall woman, gruffly cleared his throat, then, with decidedly clumsy hands, he helped her put on the new dress, from head to feet. 

Then, while he was down there, he reached over to the bed, grabbed the pumps, picked her feet, and put the high-heeled shoes on them, each and one at a time, as Constance watched him, silent and still.

 

“I would like to touch your hair.”, she whispered down at him. “A girl may not be tortured thus thoroughly and not be given even a crump of surcease.”

 

Sheriff Standorin didn’t say anything.

He just stood kneeling where he was, as he did the tiny clasps on the pumps and long, slender fingers ran through his hair and a sensation he hadn’t felt for nearly twenty years rippled down his spine.

 

“Stan.. Stan will do, for now, Constance..”, he whispered back.

✱ ✱ ✱

Something woke Sheriff Standorin from a deep slumber. He felt slightly groggy and looked around to see he had fallen asleep on his couch that was facing the fireplace in his two-room home.

The fire had died down to a smoldering kindle, giving a low, red-orange cast and gave the young, beautiful face sleeping peacefully on his chest a whole, different kind of glow, as Constance breathed quietly at his face, her body limply sprawled across his.

Standorin tried to recall at which point he had fallen asleep but failed. He remembered having cooked something that involved diced beef, fried onion rings, and mashed potatoes, along with some chilled apple cider. Then he and the tall, alluring young woman had taken their plates and drinks and sat on the couch and quietly talked, while they stared at the fire dancing in the grate.

The sheriff had been quite surprised and had felt not a small amount of embarrassment coupled with some guilt when he’d found out how much he’d had to say.

Standorin had never really been the talk and laugh, type.

She, on the other hand, had kept silent most of the time and had only spoken to inquire about things she couldn’t quite understand or relate because she would lack the individual reference points.

At some point, though, she had fallen completely silent and with a certain sense of frustration, the sheriff had noticed, she’d dozed off.

He berated himself on a number of levels at that point, foremost for being a boring man to have made a girl literally fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.

Then he came to the ultimate, logical explanation; Constance had gone out of her way, for the past few days, and quite beyond, to put up a ‘good’ front for his sake, making light of her pain and extreme fatigue until they both had come crashing down on her with compounded interest.

Ahh.. that was when he had taken her into his arms, and sort of leaned back..

..and had fallen asleep, with her pillowing her head on his broad, rumbling chest.

 

Then he remembered something had woken him.

He wasn’t quite sure what it had been, but he thought it sounded like an animal in pain.

It was then he heard a careful knock on his door and very carefully, and with no small amount of unexpected revelation and resignation, he slid the young woman off himself and stretched her on the couch and into a more comfortable pose.

For a man his size, he padded over to the door with surprisingly quiet steps and opened it to see Aager Fogstep standing there and behind him, his little mate, Lady Inshala.

Standorin immediately knew something was wrong for the young man lacked his leather hood and half mask, his face was stricken, contorted, even, and the little girl was holding on to him from behind and sobbing into his back.

“What is it Master Aager?”, he asked in his low, rumbling voice.

“You.. you had better come, sir.”, Aager growled through clenched teeth.

Standorin cocked an eyebrow.

“Where are we going?”, he asked.

Aager paused for a moment before speaking again.

“Is.. is the Liaison here, sir?”, he asked.

“Yes. She is.”, Standorin said with a frown.

“We.. we will need her as well, sir.”, Aager replied with a decidedly determined voice.

“Why? If I might ask. She is still recovering from her.. predicament and is sleeping at the moment. I would rather we didn’t wake her.”, the sheriff said, his frown deepening.

“She is the Liaison, sir.”, Aager grinded his teeth. “And we will need her to do her job, right now, and fast.”

“What is going on, young man?”, Standorin asked, fuming a bit now.

 

Aager paused again. When he spoke this time, Standorin was astonished, for he heard a certain tremor in his voice.

 

“The leader of the Escape, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, has gone.. feral, sir. She.. and quite a number of them are breaking and burning everything that gets in their way. Thomas, Morel, and the other temple guardians have managed to get as many of the children out as they can but they are fighting amongst themselves now and against Thomas, Morel, and the temple guardians. Thomas has asked you to bring their Liaison to speak in our steed and perhaps find a way to defuse the situation before it goes any further and make sure the remaining children are not injured or worse.”

Standorin stared at him.

“They gave their word. Their oath. Why would they break their oath and risk everything they have forsworn?”, he fumed angrily.

“They.. they didn’t break their oaths, sir. They merely received some quite distressing news and.. they are hurting.. Apparently, they do not know moderation when they are upset.”

“What news? What could possibly have happened to have riled them enough to risk everything they gave up to come here?”, Standorin asked harshly.

“Perigren Ostlanna Temez just found out she lost her BFF, sir.”, Aager replied quietly and Inshala hugged him even tighter and her sobs grew louder.

“BFF?”, asked the sheriff, a bit baffled.

“Best Fiend Friend, sir. You see, Perigren’s BFF was no other than Merisoul Xyrotwu, and she and Ranger Lieutenant Laila and Master Gnine had all gone to Silent Hills together. I don’t know how, but they just found out that Meriso.. they found out.. that they..”, he said as he tried to gulp down the lump rising earnestly up his throat. “That Merisoul is gone!”

“I.. see..”, said Standorin silently. “I.. did not know her very well. But she was the nicest felon I apprehended in my entire life.”

“She was my friend..”, came Inshala’s sobbing voice. “She was always nice and always alone. She saved me. She helped and saved everyone!”

 

It was apparent, nothing else intelligible was going to come from her anymore and not any time soon.

 

Aager turned around and hugged her tightly and held his scourging stance for as long as he could as a low, infuriated scream escaped him.

 

WHAT DID YOU DO AGAIN,
YOU STUPID, STUPID GIRL!

I DIDN’T SEND YOU WITH GNINE AND LAILA
TO KEEP THEM SAFE.

I SENT THEM WITH YOU
TO KEEP YOU SAFE!

 

 

Then..

..with rage unseen in Serenity Home,

..he howled at the night sky..

..and winter spread in jagged, sharp, spiking icicles..

..as cobblestones popped, cracked, and shrapneled..

..and brittle-blue, chilling frost covered everything..

..a hundred yards..

..in every direction.

✱ ✱ ✱

Two figures stumbled into view two days later from the east and up the banks of Arashkan River, both leaning on the other and both with severe, grim, lived, suffered, and ‘paid in full and done’, expressions on their faces.

 

Liaison Constance Alure Smithen
with a happy, serene face standing next to a grim
and relieved Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart..

 

..and an eager and joyous
Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane
standing next to an also grim, but relieved
Aager Fogstep was waiting for them.

 

Right behind them, another pair stood,
Anglenna Brightleaf, her face drawn
and on the very verge of an emotional breakdown and
an awed Armethelius Riverblade..

 

..and another;
Bremorel Songsteel, relieved, smiling,
and wanting to scream with elation and
Thomas Dimwood, calm and adamite.

 

 

AND JUST BEHIND THOSE,
FIFTEEN THOUSAND HIGH ELVES STOOD IN RIGID,
SILENT, SOLEMN MILITARY FORMATION, AND BURNING
WITH RIGHTEOUS EXALTATION, AS THEY WAITED
FOR THEIR KING AND THEIR QUEEN.

 

 

And Princess Alor’Nadien ne Feymist came
with Udoorin Shieldheart..

 


 

arashkan şehri book 06 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül savaş serenity the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

Voice Recognition: Verified!

Voice Recognition: Verified!

Timeline:

Deep down the rabbit hole,
one gnome, one half-elf, and one..

 

..something else,

 

..move in silence,
as though honoring what was,
what is..

 

..and what might!

 

This story is the continuation of;
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More, And Ascend.

and
Deep in Silence..

 

 

The girl in her strapless skirt dress flew fast and straight overhead. With her raven-black wings feathered lightly, her skinny arms spread out and wide, her long, honey-brown hair rippling, ruffling, scattered and wildly and around her dark purple crowning horns, her naked, slender legs, smooth and lustrous, moved subtly as though swimming, and her tiny, darling feet tickling under the wind of her flight, she was an otherworldly beautiful creature. She carried herself over the long, endless, soundless, and muted halls carved deep under Silent Hills with her small, cherry-red mouth, just a tad pouting, and with sad, solemn, and mournful eyes.

 

Eyes that bespoke;

I have seen the end of times.

It is dark, it is bleak and it is lonely.

 

Damn..

 

Merisoul Xyrotwu landed gracefully next to the gnome, Master Gnine Tinkerdome, and the Ranger Lieutenant, Laila Wolvesbane.

 

“Another great hall. Not as great as the one we left behind, but quite cavernous, and occupied.”, she said in her calm, remote, soft, and somewhat breathy voice.

“Occupied?”, asked the gnome. “What’s occupying it?”

“A demon.”, the otherworldly girl replied.

“Dammit.”, hissed the boldly pretty half-elf, Laila. “At least give us a variety. I mean, other than fiends, demons, and undead.”

“The undead are the variety, dear Laila.”, said Merisoul, in her hushed, soft, breathy voice. “I am guessing they are the collateral side effect of having too many demons pend up in one place for thus long, though I’ll admit, the ‘one place’ in question is quite large, deep, and lengthy. Tell me again, Master Gnine, why do gnomes need this much space?”

Gnine shrugged.

“Give a gnome enough time, buoyance, and rock, and we can dig forever.”

“So can dwarves.”

“True. But we do it neatly!”, he said with a smirk.

“I see. Well, your kin has had rock and said buoyance, but seem to have run short on time, to our relative consolation, as doleful as that sounds. Otherwise, we would be here for your ‘forever’.”, replied the raven-winged girl.

“You said one demon.”, Laila said, staring at Merisoul questioningly for she had learned, the otherworldly girl had an odd, unintentional habit of, not quite disregarding, but.. dismissing? absenting? abstracting? Laila wasn’t sure which, but the raven-winged succubi half-born girl did it anyway and you had to ask her for details or you were likely in for unexpected and unprecedented surprises where she would just look at you and say, “I did tell you there was one demon, did I not? Must I use your imagination for you?”

“Yes.”, Merisoul said with a small smile.

“What is it? Is it big? Is it dangerous? Why one? Why here?”, Laila asked.

“What’s in there?”, added Gnine.

“Ow.”, said Merisoul with a surprised expression on her diminutive face. “You actually want details! Of course! And understandable.”

 

And paused! Long enough to for the gnome, Gnine, and the half-elf ranger girl, Laila, to look at one another, then back at the succubi half-born.

 

“If you are waiting for dramatic effect, you are just about due, I believe.”, said Gnine.

“Almost.”, said Merisoul vaguely.

“Almost? Almost for what?”

“Almost ready. I was preparing a visual pamphlet; a presentation, if you will! I am just about done with the texts, the spreadsheets, the tables, and the 3D pie-charts and running it all through the spell-checker. If you would give me but a minute, I will have imported the images and linked the videos. Thought I might add in a gloomy sort of background music as well.”, she replied happily.

Laila ogled at her while Gnine looked up at the unseen sky and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“And done!”, she said, smiling at them. “I apologize for the delay, but I haven’t prepared a corporate presentation for quite some time now. My last was about two years ago, and as part of my graduation thesis, though that was strictly PG18+ and not quite for Mortal eyes!”

“Corporate presentation?”, Gnine ogled at her.

“You’d be surprised how many Mortal corporates have their base of operation stationed in Hell, Master Gnine, and they all want, and need, high quality visual presentations. One could go as far as calling it part of their religion.. or marketing strategy.. Impressively sad, really!”, the beautiful, otherworldly girl said with a beaming smile.

 

Gnine ogled at her some more.

 

“The presentation..”, Ranger Corporal Laila coughed lightly, sort of to nudge the girl.

 

“Ahh, yes.”, Merisoul responded happily..

..And with a wave of her hand, the image of a red, barren land appeared, right then and there! The land seemed to go forever in every direction and comprised only of sharp, edgy rocks sticking out of the dry and dead land like shark’s teeth. The sky appeared as though it was some hazy, diaphanous, gauzy, scarlet tulle and no clouds nor any birds flavored it. Other than the spurting of bubbling, molting lava, yes, this land was barren, in the most literal and infernal sense.

Gnine just stared at the casual display of enhanced and vivid imagination with despair.

Laila looked at it with mild interest, coupled with a certain amount of skepticism. Then she bent down and whispered at Gnine.

 

“Can you do that?”

“I might..”, replied Gnine deploringly.

 

The image rumbled and the jagged rocks tumbled and tossed and with a sharp, brittle clap, a crack zigzagged across the barren wasteland. As the endless, red landscape quaked, the crack widened and a halo of deep, infernal fire spewed out of the crack as the rocks and dirt crumbled into the gaping fissure.. And a hand, big, broad and mighty came out of the fiery depths of Hell, and with tremendous force, it slammed onto the sides of the lava spurting fissure and gauged the dirt.

 

“Wow. It’s animated too.”, whispered Laila. “Can you do that?”

“I might..”, Gnine replied with a deflated tone.

 

Great and charred, bat-like wings spread out of the infernal crack as another arm came out and slammed down, slowly pulling and dragging something magnanimous, out of the abyss below. A pair of heavy, curved, at-least-six-feet-each bull’s horns appeared, followed by a face, hideous and cruel, shoulders like ox carts, a grotesquely enlarged torso that defied physics, and legs, thick and mighty, and ending in with black, burning hooves.

 

“I like!”, whispered Laila. “Can you do that?”

“I am being chastised and tormented for something I don’t know what!”, Gnine replied with a destitute voice.

 

The nearly twenty-foot monstrosity took a step forward, rose its mighty arms, holding a long, burning scimitar in one titanic fist, and a crackling, thorny whip in the other. The demon took another earth-shaking step and bellowed as the first notes of a violin were heard in the background, followed by a depressing piano!

 

“Ow.. It’s got audio too! Eno Moricane! I love that.”, whispered Laila, cracking one of her rare grins. “Can you do that?”

“Maybe. I can mathematically calculate the notes!”, replied Gnine resentfully.

 

The demon raised its powerful arms into the hazy, red sky and bellowed with hot, furnacing fire jetting out of its maw. It brought its great, burning scimitar down, sending a blast of fire. Then with a mighty heave, it cracked its whip, and long, slithering tendrils of jagged lightning crashed from the sky. And the image froze!

There, in big blocky fonts, a title appeared over the demon followed by an explanatory subtitle in smaller relief;

 
 
Regnalog
BALOR
Class X Demon.

 

 

And a whole string of spreadsheets started running, punctuated with comparative charts and diagrams, comprising of size, relative hit points, resistances, and immunities, to hit and damage stats, and special abilities.

 

“Damn..”, whispered Laila in a concerned voice. “That’s going to be hard to kill. We’ll need like four of me, three of you, and at least another one of Soul. Should it spot us, and it can, it’s got Truesight, we can’t even run away from it, even if we wanted to. It can run faster than any of us. I mean, I might be able to stay just ahead of it if I used my Longstrider, but it can also fly, making how fast I run, sort of a moot point.”

“No, we can’t. If it’s down to our running skills, we are done for.”, Gnine replied, carefully inspecting the demon’s stats.

“Well? How did you like my presentation?”, Merisoul asked, displaying something she almost never did, a pretty, and vague grin.

“I loved it!”, Laila admitted. “Didn’t know you were Moricane fan.”

“He’s a bit depressing for my taste, really, but he does do justice to his craft, per se. His tunes are quite famous in Hell!”, she said happily.

Gnine coughed at the implications of that!

“Why is this Balor named Regnalog?”, he asked.

“Well, he’s a rare specimen even among the Balor. ‘Grumpy’, if you will. Hence, they usually give him guarding assignments, if any. He doesn’t mind sitting in a lonely cave for centuries and cracking his whip. No one really knows why, or what goes through his mind, for that matter, but he is quite strong, resilient, and cunning. Many young and foolish demons tried their hands against him. —for bragging rights.. He is here but they are not, so I guess that answers the question of, who won, I guess.”, she replied.

“Can we take him? If we unloaded everything we got, I mean.”, asked Laila.

“I doubt.”, said Gnine glumly. “The old cuss is quite buff. More so than what’s written here, I think, if he is sort of unique among the Balor.”

“Dammit.”, hissed Laila. “What now, then? We have to move forward.”

“There isn’t much we can do, really. Regnalog will be immune to all my fire-based spells, resistant to pretty much everything else I got, and will see right through my illusions and likely any of my mental assaults as well.. Doesn’t seem like we got many options left. We can’t even get near him without catching fire!”, said the gnome, still frowning at the frozen image.

“Can’t you use that invisible hand-thing? The one you used in Tempest Temple when we were still back at Arashkan. You did pummel a stone golem with it.”

“Laila.”, Gnine fumed. “That golem, as tough as it was, was still subject to many elemental attacks. And had a limited amount of life force. This.. thing.. is HUGE! I mean, boxing it with that hand will be like a love tap. IF we had about a score of people casting as many hands, then yes, we’d bring the demon down.. eventually. Provided he stands still and does not retaliate.”

“Ow.. It did seem impressive when you had smashed the golem, the way you had. Perhaps you need a bigger fist?”, she offered.

Gnine glared at her.

Laila grinned.

“Not my fault you have small fists, my friend.”

Gnine glared at her some more.

“Is there anything else there?”, asked Laila.

“Maybe we should all go and see.”, Merisoul said. “I am certain I missed things. I have noticed, I don’t always see what might or might not be relevant for you two. I perceive people, creatures, and objects by their possible level of interaction, and whether they may present themselves as an obstacle, or help achieve a certain objective, which might or might not always be conclusive, as what may be insignificant for me, might be quite significant to you.”

“Alright.”, agreed, Gnine, taking a last look at the odd, otherworldly girl’s presentation, and the technical readings of Regnalog.

“Quietly.”, inserted Laila. “Maybe I should go ahead. Follow me at thirty feet distance and be ready to run.”

That said, she picked up her long, elven bow, drew an arrow out of her quiver, and with her bow now half-drawn, she silently ranged out. By the time she got near the end of the long, quiet hall, it had already become almost unbearably hot and she was sweating profusely. She edged her way to the exit and gave a quick peek and went absolutely still.

The chamber ahead wasn’t huge as she’d expected. Or perhaps it was. She estimated a stretch of at least five to six hundred feet across, making the chamber cavernous, just like Merisoul had said. But the main ‘walking’ area was perhaps merely fifty feet in radius. The rest was all empty, pitch-black darkness as if the walking area were some center platform that stood in the middle of a very large, very deep fissure or a bottomless chasm. And in the middle of the center platform, the was a ring of furnacing flames, reaching up to forty feet.

 

And in that column of flame was something.. BIG!

 

Laila had always known, heights, widths, and depths given in numbers and units could be misleading, as they were, after all, just numbers and hence, could be quite abstract. Thus, even in her early years as a ranger novice, she had been specifically trained to recognize what numbers in inches, feet, miles or individual objects meant. How far and how many were probably the most important aspect of being a ranger, really, as they ran for miles, or were expected to guestimate how far something was; i.e. a pack of fifteen wolves, a family of three bears, a single dear, a roaming band of twenty-four goblins, or an ambush of eight Orken, since she was going to have to adjust the angle of her bow depending on said distance, preferably before the ‘how many’ enemies reached her.

Staring at the forty-foot reach of flames, and something twenty-foot high charring in it was.. a hair-raising experience.

She gulped down her very parched sense of fear, withdrew, and motioned the two to come —quietly.

 

Gnine also stared at the flames and the more he stared at it, the more he seemed to deflate.

Laila touched his shoulder. When that didn’t help, she put her hand on it and slightly squeezed.

Gnine stared at her and the ranger lieutenant gave him an encouraging smile and whispered. “We came this far, didn’t we?”

Gnine returned her smile with his depressed one.

Then he pulled them aside and spoke with a hushed, serious tone.

“Alright. What do we have here, then? Tell us what you can see, other than the obvious.”

“The central platform where the demon, Balor, is, is perfectly circular, meaning it was likely—”, Laila began.

“—Gnome crafted.”, inserted Gnine.

“Yes, maybe, I don’t know. It is, however, surrounded by a chasm that goes down as far as—”, she continued.

“—the very molten core of the earth.”, prompted Merisoul.

“Perhaps. I wouldn’t know. Wait! Really?”, asked the ranger lieutenant in astonishment.

“Likely. Which is why Regnalog has been here for so many centuries without getting bored. He must be feeding off the very core of the world!”, replied the succubi half-born with some consternation.

“Okay.”, Laila said. “Is that in any way significant?”

“Yes.”, mused Gnine. “Not immediately, but in the long run. The more he stays perched here, the more powerful he will become. And, I am guessing, because he will have devoured too much of the world’s essence, he will be as if he is part of this world, hence become unbanishable! He will be able to return to Hell and back, here, at will, without the need to be summoned. He will also act like a conduit, an anchor, if you will, for other demons to be summoned as well. Much like Themalsar was. Accept Themalsar was an old man when we faced him. I doubt this guy has any sense of time, in a Mortal terms..”

“Very astute, Master Gnine.”, said Merisoul admiringly. “Which is also why there are half-borns like me. We were made for this very reason. The variety in our kind is merely due to necessity of ‘as per need.'”

“Made?”, asked Laila with some bafflement.

Gnine, however, understood the whole implication of that simple statement, and suddenly, a great many things about this strange, otherworldly beautiful girl clicked in his mind.

“Damn..”, he said hoarsely.

“I am.”, replied Merisoul with a brittle, cheery voice.

“What?”, asked Laila. Then, it dawned on her as well. Not the whole picture, and certainly not as broadly as Master Gnine had, but the fringes of it. For Laila, however, that was more than enough.

Quietly, and boldly, she stepped up to her and took her into her embrace.

“We are who we are, my dear Merisoul Xyrotwu. But we can be who we choose to be. I love my father, but I can’t even remember my mother’s face anymore. Of her, I only have the memory of her beautiful, sad voice, and nothing else. I do remember how they loved one another and how they loved me. Or rather, I remember that warm feeling.. But unwittingly and certainly without ill intent, they made me; a girl who is a human, and an elf, yet neither a human nor an elf. Accepted among humans, tolerated, at best, among elves. My best friends are Gnine, a mischievous, all-ways-in-trouble, gnome, Bree, who is human, who is my cousin and also a troubled, social outcast, Udoorin, who I became friends, but only after beating at each other, Lorna, another half-elf, and also an outcast, Inshala, another weird girl, who is also an outcast.. and you! I do not make enemies out of whim, Soul, but I choose very, very carefully who my friends are because as much as I love and care for my friends, I do not want too many of them in fear of losing them. That is how much I care and love them!”, she said, drew back to stare at the succubi half-born in the eyes, just to see her face blotched.

“Do you understand me?”, Laila asked and for some reason, her voice had steel in it.

“I do not.”, Merisoul said. But she had started shaking like she was suddenly cold, which was odd, considering the oven heat coming from the cavernous chamber ahead.

“Do you understand me?”, Laila repeated, her voice even harder.

“I do not know!”, whispered Merisoul, trembling uncontrollably, now.

“Uhhmm.. Laila? I think she’s losing it!”, warned Gnine.

“We can be who we choose to be, Soul. That is ours, and no one can take that away from us. Do you understand me?”, she hissed at the half-born.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I understand the words and what the words mean, but I do not understand what they are supposed to make me feel!”, she said, as she quaked and with large tears coming down her beautiful, sad face, and fading in the heat of the hall.

Laila was not a book philosopher. She was a ranger, and like all rangers, she was a practical girl with practical solutions because if something was not practical, it wasn’t a solution, but a bad excuse for sloppiness and a lazy mind.

She grabbed Merisoul’s right hand with her left..

..and placed it on her own left breast, right over her heart, as she raised her right hand and placed it right over the half-born girl’s left breast.. and over her heart, and looked her in the eye.

“You, of all people, should feel what I feel. And through me, what you feel. Now tell me if you still don’t understand me!”, she said harshly.

“Uhhmm, Laila?”, asked Gnine a bit flustered.

“Shut up, Gnine. And don’t interfere. This is a girl thing!”, she hissed, never taking her eyes off the savagely shaking girl.

 

 

Merisoul..

..crumbled!

 

 

Gnine stared at her, then jumped to help her.

“No!”, Laila hissed again. “She has felt love, friendship, care, anxiety, fear, loss, happiness, victory, failure, and the Great Heavens know what else in me, and through me, she has felt herself and everything she carried but never felt for all her years! She has genuinely and truly felt them. Now, she knows, and now she can relate!”

“Wow, girl. You.. you fixed her!”, stammered Gnine.

“No, Gnine. Fixing a broken soul is not like fixing a broken arrow. I only showed her what it is she felt. I pointed at the door. The rest is up to her. It is she, who must decide what to do with the door. Now she has something to start and something to build on.”, Laila replied, looking down at the unconscious girl with compassion. “And it’s going to hurt.. a lot.”

“Did you feel what she feels, as well?”, asked Gnine in wonder.

Laila didn’t say anything for some time, still looking down at the succubi half-born, and there was a slight frown on her face.

“Yes.”, she said finally. “I did.”

“What did she feel?”

“That’s none of your business, gnome! Suffice to say, her kind of intense is insane!”, replied Laila, scowling down at him.

“Ow, I am suddenly a gnome, now, am I?”, grinned Gnine.

“Gnome was kinder than ‘midget’!”, smirked the half-elf girl.

“Harsh.”, Gnine said, shaking his head. “Very harsh..”

Laila snorted, then turned back to the big, cavernous chamber.

“Didn’t know you felt all those things, girl. Not to mention, what you just did was very, very risky and dangerous.”, Gnine said.

“We all feel such things, Gnine. One way or another.. I just don’t feel the need to make a spectacle of myself in public. As for the risk, becoming your friend was a risk too. Don’t think for a moment I didn’t know about your pranking reputation when we first met. But I took the risk and I did become your friend.”, she said, still gazing ahead.

“Yes. And look where that got you..”, scowled Gnine.

“..to the Halls of the King of Silent Hills!”, she finished and gave him a smirk.

Gnine snorted.

“I see burnt.. or charred.. corpses.”, Laila said and pointed at some, rubble seeming things at the far side of the center platform. See?”

“Are you sure?”, Gnine asked in a sick voice.

“I have excelling eye vision. Those are charred corpses, and likely belonged to some gnomes.”

“Gnomes?”, Gnine exclaimed.

“Or perhaps kobolds. But I have not seen any tracks nor traces of kobolds ever since we came here. And kobolds have tails. Those don’t seem to have any.”

“Nice of you to notice our primary difference relied on the lack of a tail!”, scowled Gnine.

“Yes..”, replied Laila merrily. “As opposed to both races being mischievous, having the potential for great trouble and catastrophe, and dig deep underground and live there.”

Gnine scowled some more.

“See that?”, she said pointing at something.

Gnine squinted.

“Nope. What am I supposed to be seeing?”, he asked.

“Hmm..”, mused Laila. “Perhaps it has to do with elevation.”

 

There was a distinct moment of smoldering silence.

 

“That.. was truly uncalled for, girl!”, Gnine fumed.

Laila snorted.

“I am sorry, Gnine.”, she said.

“No you are not!”, Gnine replied, still fuming at the ranger lieutenant.

“No, I am not.”, agreed, Laila with another snort. “But I was being literal when I said it might have something to do with elevation. There is a very long, very slim, bridge-like path leading away from the central platform. Just like the one we have here. And maybe there is a third one on the far side, to our left. Sort of like a triangle, though I can’t see it through the flames. Maybe we can make a run for it? I mean, if the Balor doesn’t take flight, I can make it to the other end of where the charred corpses are and over that bridge. I am guessing, if there are any live gnomes, that’s where we’d find them.”

“That’s a big pair of ifs, Laila.”

“She.. she is right..”, came a small, devastated voice, and both Gnine and Laila turned to see Merisoul sitting, her legs pulled up to her chest, her slender arms loose limply at her sides. Her face wasn’t quite a blotchy mess, but something told Laila that had she been a ‘mortal’ girl, it would have been. Or perhaps not, because Merisoul seemed like one of those naturally classy, elegant, and delicate girls that didn’t make a blotchy mess when they cried or ‘lost it’ in public. A bit like the princess, Lorna.. and linearly opposite of her cousin, Bremorel!

“Are you alright?”, Gnine asked with consternation.

“I do not know. I have never.. felt.. before!”, she replied with the first facial expression, other than her usual sad, solemn one; awe!

“How.. how do you even cope.. with all this?”, she asked Laila in a desperate, frightened voice.

“We don’t, Merisoul. Not always. That is why we break down at times. And why our friends hold our hands and pick us back on our feet, or offer a shoulder to cry..”, replied Laila kindly. “I have no idea what you went through in your youth, or if you were even allowed to live, or even have, a youth, but I suspect you had a lot of pent-up emotions. Mortals live them by the day and carry them along with them. In time, we either choose to let some of them go or seeth with them.. very seldomly, we choose to nurture them. The ones that ought to be nurtured, which is what forms good friends.. and sometimes.. new life..”

Then, as if remembering, or perhaps, awakening to something, she turned the little, pint-sized sprite, hovering around the gnome; Whimsi Lola.

“You! Pint-Size!”, she said, pointing at the sprite.

Whimsi Lola turned to her, very slowly, and gave the ranger lieutenant a glare that could only have been baleful!

“How dare you?!”, the tiny sprite hissed. “Unlike YOU, I am NOT pint-size!”

“What?”, said Laila, a bit baffled.

Gnine grinned.

“YOU..”, the tiny sprite girl spluttered. “..ARE NOT EVEN A FULL ELF! I, ON THE OTHER HAND, AM A FULL SPRITE!”

“What?”, asked Laila, even more confused. “What are you talking about, girl?”

“I AND ALL MY ANCESTORS WERE SPRITES! I AM NOT A PINT-WHATSIT!”, the sprite girl hissed.

Gnine started to cackle.

“Pint-whatsit?”, Laila asked totally confounded. Then it dawned on her. “Girl..”, she fumed. “I was referring to your size. NOT your origin!”

“Ow!”, froze Whimsi Lola. “Is that what pint-size, means?”

Gnine’s cackle turned into a silent, vindictive laugh.

Laila glared at both of them.

“Well..”, said Lola. “In that case, I apologize for my outburst about your origin. I spoke out of turn, hence I owe you now, and must complete a task to even the scales and attain balance!”

Gnine stopped laughing and sighed.

“There is no need for that, Lola.”, he said. “We are all friends, here.”

“No.”, she objected. “We are not. I am your indentured cooperative auxiliary. That’s all. They are nothing to me, and I am nothing to them. We owe nothing to each other.”

“True. But we have shared food. You have also looked out for me, and by proxy, you have looked out for them. You have sat on Jay, and together you had fun. And both Merisoul and Laila have fought for me, and by proxy, they have fought for you and your safety.”, Gnine explained.

Whimsi Lola scowled at him.

“Let me put it this way, then.”, said Gnine. “You are not my pet, or my servant, my slave, serf, vassal, attendant, retainer, or maid, and certainly not my familiar, yes?”

Whimsi mulled over that a bit.

“No. I am not.”, she consented, though dubiously.

“I suppose that makes you, my friend. Other than an indentured cooperative auxiliary. And by my proxy, that makes them your friend as well.”

Whimsi signed.

“Why do you mortals always want to complicate things, and not leave them as they are? Alright. I will concede that the ranger lieutenant and the soul bearer are my friends because thinking about this is giving me a headache and I don’t want to ask Mab if your logic is sound or fallacious and end up owing her again!”

Laila just stared at pint-size!

“Well? What do you want, Friend Ranger Leuitenant Laila Wolvesbane?”, the little sprite sniffed, a tad disdainfully.

Laila shook her head, then asked her. “You said you knew what had happened to my cousin, Bremorel Songsteel, and how she was made a lieutenant, and why..”

“Not personally, no. I overheard it mention in the Fey RSS!”, Whimsi said.

“Fey RS-what?”, Laila asked.

“Fey RSS —Rather Simple Snitching! Don’t you mortals know anything?”, she said exasperatedly.

Gnine snorted again.

“Apparently not.”, said Laila, looking up and pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Can you tell us more about what they are doing? Or how my cousin is? Do you know who she is?”

“Of course I know who she is. All fey in Ritual Forest knows all the rangers and the druids and the witches so we do not get in trouble with them.”, Whimsi Lola scoffed.

“What is she doing, then? How is my cousin?”, Laila asked excitably.

“How should I know?”, Lola asked irritably.

“But you said you knew her.”, Laila said a bit deflated.

“I know her, I don’t know what she is doing. We do not go into that place you have named Serenity Home because it is surrounded by dead trees, it has nothing but stones and iron in it and it is full of very boring mortals. Now that everyone wants to make war with everyone and kill one another, there is even more stone and iron there! And I am cut off from the Fey World ever since we entered the evil Demon Fog. I thought I told you that already. My Fey RSS is offline and I can’t even check my fe-mails!”, Whimsi explained exasperatedly.

Laila’s shoulders drooped. Just for a moment there, she had thought she could get a glimpse of her cousin’s and what she was doing and how she was..

Gnine came up to her and patted her on her hand.

“They’ll be alright, Laila. I am sure of it.”, he said kindly.

“How do you know? We are running out of time and literally stuck here.”, she seethed, her hands balling into fists.

“I know..”, said Gnine very, very seriously. “..because they had better be alright.. and because I don’t know what I’d do if they aren’t.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Perhaps Merisoul can carry you?”, Laila offered, looking down at Gnine. “I mean, even if I cast a Longstrider on you, it still won’t be enough.”

“I can’t carry him.”, Merisoul said with a confused and subdued voice. “I have managed to attain my ability to fly just recently. My wings were broken when I.. was at a very young age.. I started to work on them when I was on the roof of that inn we were staying.”

“Is that why you were always up there?”, asked Gnine.

“The rooms were crowded already. Princess Alor’Nadien ne, Laila, Lady Magella, Inshala, Sunsear.. When I entered the room, they started bumping into each other because of my wings, so as not to bump into me. So I spent most of my time up there and only came down when necessary. I did a lot of things up there. One of them was constantly moving my wings so as to strengthen them.”, she explained. “But I can dive into the chasm and come out from the other side, though if Regnalog sees me and decides to come after me, he will overtake me, and the feathers on my wings will catch fire and I will drop right into that bottomless chasm.”

“Sounds too risky, then.”, Laila said.

“Tis alright..”, she said wanly, “..and an acceptable risk. I will be only visible for but a moment as I jump down from this end. I will be totally in his line of sight when I come out on the other side though. But then, all of you will.”

“Don’t worry about me.”, said Gnine.

“Ow?”, asked Laila, staring down at the gnome with a frown and wondering just what kind of a convoluted plan he’d just come up with.

“I can simply teleport myself there.”, he said with a smirking shrug.

“You can do that?”

“Well, yes. I just said I can, didn’t I?”, he smirked some more.

“That leaves only you, dear Laila.”, Merisoul said softly.

“Whimsi can make you fly!”, offered Gnine and grinned happily.

“Thanks, but no thanks. No offense Lola, but I have seen the two of you dabble in that and how you land people. I’d rather not entertain broken arms or legs.”, she said in clear rejection.

“I wasn’t my fault!”, exclaimed Whimsi. “I told Master Gnine not to clench, but he just wouldn’t listen.”

“Clench?”, Laila asked with one arching brow.

“His butt!”, scoffed Whimsi with an exasperated voice.

 

Laila hurt herself.

Merisoul just stared at the tiny pint size, then at the furiously blushing gnome.

 

“Okay. Perhaps we can act like neither of you heard that?”, he pleaded.

“Ow, Hell no!”, smirked Laila triumphantly. “I now know all the dirty little secrets of a King!

“Damit!”, Gnine scowled. “I am not even a king yet, and I already have blackmailers! At least let Whimsi put invisibility on you, girl!”

“What for? Balor can see invisible creatures.”, Lorna pointed.

“Yes, but he has to be near enough, you know. His Truesight skill isn’t horizon to horizon!”

“It’s alright. I can make that run in under thirty seconds!”,  she smiled.

Gnine ogled at her then made a quick calculation in his mind and ended up with a claim of twenty-five feet per second on her part! Over seventeen miles an hour!

“Wow, girl. That’s around four miles more than an average human or elf!”

“Yea. I knew I was faster than the average elf, but it feels good to know just how much.”, she said happily. Then she looked at Whimsi Lola. “Can you make me invisible?”

The pint-size stared down at her with silent disdain.

“I suppose you can, then. I saw an archway at the end of the bridge. That’s where we must get to, though I do not know what will happen if Balor sees us, and decides to come after us. He might try and bring down the wall and enter, or the bridge.”, the ranger lieutenant said.

Gnine frowned a bit.

“We can’t let Balor on the bridge, no matter what. If a fight occurs and he is on that bridge, he will bring it down and that is our only sure way out, and likely the only exit for any gnomes that might still be alive. If we end up facing him, be sure to fight in that central platform.”, he said intently.

One half-born, the other half-elf, nodded at him.

“Merisoul, you are at go. I am thinking you will have to dive deep to arc back up there without Balor hearing your wing flaps, so go, now! Then it’s you, Laila. I’ll be last.”

Merrisoul walked up to the edge of the hall, turned around, and faced them. With a weak smile, she said, “I will meet you on the other side, then.”

 

And let herself go..

..arms spread..

..and vanished in the pitch-black chasm.

 

“Damn. That is just so beautiful, scary, and awesome.”, whispered Gnine.

“Yea. Some people can do clichés and still make it look awesome.”, admitted, Laila.

“Whimsi. Are you ready?”, Gnine asked.

“Wait.”, Whimsi said. “We are NOT fighting that demon?”

“No. We are not. He is way above our pay grade. And I am not wasting the lives of my friends on a fiend.”, Gnine said grimly.

“Ow poo!”, pouted the pint-sized sprite. “Why don’t you just smack him with that fist of yours?”

“Again with the fist. I can’t just smack this guy, Whimsi. He won’t even feel it!”

“Well, perhaps you need bigger fists, then!”, she said disdainfully.

Gnine scowled at her.

“Whimsi, please. Do your thing and let’s get a move on, shall we? Merisoul will be out of that chasm soon.”

“Ow, alright.”, she said and flung a tiny hand full of her own pixie dust on Laila..

..and Laila vanished.

 

Gnine didn’t even hear her go.

“Laila? You still here?”, he asked just to be sure, but got no reply. “Right. Whimsi. On my shoulder, if you will?”

Whimsi landed on the little gnome’s shoulder and held on tight.

Gnine mimed drawing a tall, vertical rectangle, chanted a few words, reached out, and pushed the ‘door’ he had just drawn.

The ‘door’ opened, Gnine stepped through, and the door closed.

Another identical door opened, some five hundred feet away, about fifty feet before the archway, and Gnine stepped out.

He didn’t look back.

He just cast another spell and disappeared from his spot, to reappear thirty more feet away.

And ran the last twenty feet as Merisoul piked out of the chasm, her slender arms stretched and her wings flapping and thrashing furiously..

 

The two slid past the archway when a deep rumble, followed by the sharp cracking of a giant whip echoed..

..from behind!

 

Laila appeared, some one hundred feet away and still on the bridge, fear etched on her face. She turned around and saw the furnacing flames rise higher..

..and Balor, Regnalog, stepped out of the flames.

 

For an infinite second, she looked back at Gnine and Merisoul.

And whispered;

“RUN, YOU FOOLS!”

 

Then.

Laila ran.

Her elven bow, Gracious Warning, drawn.

At the demon!

✱ ✱ ✱

WHAT IS SHE DOING?!”, shrieked Gnine!

“What a ranger should; To be the first to face evil, and the last evil has to face!”, replied Merisoul. “We have been had, Master Gnine..”

Gnine started back at the bridge, quite mindlessly, and without a moment’s thought of self-preservation.

Merisoul jumped after him and toppled him over, face down, her black, raven wings beating hard to keep him down.

“Let me go, Soul! She is my friend! She needs my help!”, Gnine snarled.

“She is my friend. And she needs your mind!”, Merisoul replied hoarsely as she tried to bring some semblance of thought to the little gnome struggling to escape from under her as she pleaded desperately. “Your spells will not help against Regnalog! Please, Master Gnine. You must go! Go and find your gnomes. Find help! Make her sacrifice worth the cause!”

 

Gnine lost it!

He snarled and kicked and almost squirmed from under the otherworldly girl.

Leaving but little choice for the succubi half-born..

 

“YOU MUST NOT!”

..she heard a thundering voice crack, sharply in her head.

 

“I shall do what I must to save my friends!”, she replied, quite calmly, though her heart seethed, a something that had never happened before.

 

Merisoul Xyrotwu recognized it for what it was.

After years and years of wondering and toiling,

scheming, failing, and crying, she finally..

..felt!

 

“..AND SUFFER THE SAME RETRIBUTION AS BEFORE!”

 

“Suffer me your best! I shall not abandon my friends..”, she smoldered..

 

..and did something she hadn’t done for a good, long while. Against all warnings, she used her heritage;

 

She bit the squirming and struggling gnome.. by the ear.. drew the tiniest bit of blood.. and whispered in her soft, sad, and quaking, yet mesmerizing, throbbing, and enthralling true voice..

 

“Go, Master Gnine. Find your gnomes. Or find help. Go and never come back without either.

 

..and let go of the gnome.

 

Gnine jumped on his feet and spun around in circles, his eyes white and wide.

 

He spun once..

..twice..

..trice..

..and darted off into the only hall leading out.

 

Merisoul looked up and at the unseen sky and spoke harshly and in defiance.

 

“I am ready. Bring me down your retribution and smite me.. I only ask for the brief duration of a delay to save my friends. This, I am sure, I have thus earned. This I ask, in the name of Compassion!”

“WHO ARE YOU TO SPEAK OF COMPASSION?”

“Someone who was born with it, lost it, then found it again.”

 

The Voice of Wrath fell silent.

 

“STILL TRYING TO ATTAIN YOUR ASCENSION THROUGH FOLLY?”

 

Merisoul Xyrotwu..

No.

Arezme Ara Serraphyn spoke.

 

“Have your precious Ascension, Priceptine. I care little anymore. Judge or Speak, but either way, I will save my friends, for they have given me something you never bothered; a heart!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Regnalog rose out the incinerating flames, and with a thunderous boom, he stepped forth, a monstrosity, some twenty-five feet high with thirty-foot wingspan wielding a fifteen-foot, burning scimitar in one, great, scaly and clawed hand, and a long, barbed, and crackling whip in the other, and all of him reeking in his own sheets of flames.

With a powerful beat of his enormous, bat-like wings he launched himself..

..and with a thunderclap, he landed before the tiny-looking mortal girl, defiantly running at him!

Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane did not wait nor pause for any dramatic effects, nor for any challenges or counter verbal spat, no thundering, righteous demands of ‘yield or die’s.. She was a ranger and rangers had little use for stupid!

She had but a single mission in her mind;

Keep the demon off the bridge, keep it busy and stay alive.

The last part was important. And not in just a self-preservation sense, but dead people were dead and could not help their friends.

Laila was a practical girl like that.

She drew her long, elven bow as she ran. The legendary bow of Silendenien Sunlight, Princess Lorna’s long-deceased aunt, murdered during the first Themalsar War some eight hundred years ago by the mad priest himself, and the youngest of the three siblings; High Lady Angrellen Sunsear and Ri Grandaleren Feymist, Gracious Warning, started to glow and radiate. It was not burning with fire, but that of brilliant golden light.

“The ‘Warning’ is over..”, she whispered in exhilarated fear. “Time to be ‘Gracious!'”

Laila loosed the arrow as she ran and cocked a second, almost seamlessly, and loosed that one as well.

The arrows, burning bright and gold, streaked through the air and struck home..

The monstrosity barely noticed them as they hit, one on its massive chest, one on the shoulder.

But then they bloomed!

With a searing, radiant light, the arrows bloomed and burned the demon.

 

Regnalog roared..

..and brought its smoldering sword down.

 

Laila dashed..

..and she never stopped.

 

The fiery, molten scimitar sliced and the whole platform quaked as large rocks and boulders came crashing from above with choking dust and debris.

Laila stumbled, for a mere brief moment, regained her balance, and once more, she was on the run as she sent two more arrows; one burned and winked out in cinders, but the second struck.. and also bloomed with brilliant, radiant light before it too burned and turned to ash.

 

“Those arrows cost money, dammit!”, hissed the half-elf girl, and loosed two more.

 

Again and again, her Gracious Warning sent blooming arrows and sparked on the Balor, each causing the great demon to howl and roar, bringing more rubble and rocks down.

 

Regnalog roared..

..and with a thunderclap, brought his whip.

 

The whip cracked like nothing Laila had experienced before as long, jagged streaks of lightning jabbed at her and the barbs of the whip crashed, opening a sharp fissure in the platform that crawled and branched, sending bits and piece of rock, shrapneling in every direction.

Laila crumbed on her knees in pain, bloodied and bruised, and smoke boiled out of her scarred leathers. “No, dammit.”, she snarled and rolled on broken, jagged rocks as the thundered whip and came down again, followed by the screeching wind of the burning scimitar!

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine Tinkerdome ran as he’d never ran before. It was like he was under some mindless compulsion or even a geas. Deep down, something told him it was the touch of the succubi half-born that had driven him into such dire straights, but the voice was subdued, and for some unknown reason, seemed to agree with her.

So he ran, for how long, he couldn’t discern, but the stabbing pain at his side told him he was tethering at the end of his endurance. Still, he ran because the voice, the other one, the soft, sad, and beautifully enthralling voice had told him to go and to never come back. Not without his gnomes, or help!

It was then, he stumbled into the large, circular chamber at the end of the hall. The room was perhaps one hundred feet across and eighty feet deep and for a bare moment, he did wonder why gnomes built rooms, chambers, and halls always so much larger than they would possibly need. Even the hall he’d just ran through had been at least thirty feet wide and possibly sixty feet high.

With haste born of desperation, he looked around and noted the room was not empty. There was strange machinery of one kind of another scattered everywhere, consisting mostly of consoles with odd, blocky buttons, arms, levers, and knobs, and many, many small screens and displays, though they were all dead, blank, or just cracked or smashed.

The main display, the one in the center, however, was huge, perhaps sixteen feet wide and nine feet high. Though it too was somewhat cracked at one corner and chipped on its dusty surface, it had somehow remained intact.

And there, right under it, was an elegantly molded, brushed steel, double-handled circuit breaker. And right under that was a label embossed on a brass plaque in some strange, cryptic letters, and in elder gnomish;

 

 

“if you are”

 

 

Gnine had no idea what that meant. But he grabbed at the circuit breaker and pulled it down.

Because at that moment, a deep, thunderous roar and the crack of lightning echoed down the hall and he was just that desperate.

He heard a sudden, whining sound coming from somewhere under his feet followed by numerous large, clanking, metallic noises, the lights on many of the panels burst alive making odd, jarring sounds, and most of the unbroken smaller screens and displays lit, scrolling some green, mono-space texts with a lot of alpha-numerical jibberish..

..and that’s it.

 

Nothing else happened!

 

“Are you kidding me?”, Gnine cried deploringly. “We came all the way, and bleeding along, here, and that’s it? Some weird whining and clanking and some creepy light show in retro, steamchunk theme?”

Then he heard, quite clearly, a matronly voice, though a bit on the squeaky side;

 

> Voice Activation: Verified!

> Welcome, Gnine Tinkerdome.

> You are now in the HQ of Silent Vaults.

> Please select from the choices presented on the main display using the GID – Gnomic Interaction Device and press the [ENTER] key!

> You will receive a verification code for confirmation which you must also enter, using the GID.

> Should you wish to listen to the instruction again, please press 1..

> Thank you and have a nice day.

 

And with ogling fascination, Gnine stared as blocky gnomish texts that came scrolling down the big, main display.

 

> [1] Listen to the Instructions.

> [2] Security Cameras and Alarms.
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

> [3] Cryo-Sleep/Hydbernation Chamber.
> Current Status: ACTIVE.

> [4] Sentinel Turrets (Caution).
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

> [5] Power Lines and Ventilation.
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

> [6] Water Lines and Aqueducts.
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

> [7] Sewers and Recycling.
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

> [8] System Updates (Admin Status Required)
> Current Status: 2,793 Pending Updates.

> [9] ULTRABER! (Extreme Caution).
> Current Status: OFFLINE.

 

As dumbfounded as he was, Gnine’s mind worked at an incredible pace as he ran down the list and promptly hit the number [2], on the GID —Gnomic Interaction Device!

Whatever this all was, it wasn’t just magic and gnomic engineering at its best, it was base, mad, ingenuity. Something only someone like him would have admired and found genuinely appealing.

 

A tiny, pipsqueak voice buzzed in his head.

 

> Verification Code for Security Cameras and Alarms

 > 4-8-2-1

 

Gnine quickly entered the four digits into the GID and while many of the smaller screens stayed dark or had random dots and lines of static, some did show live images in black and white. And in one of them, he could see the great, very nearly endless vault of tombs they had seen. And in the image, he saw dark, clawing figures creeping in their direction. In another display, he saw Laila crash into the ground, bloodied and bruised as something huge raised its seething sword!

“Regnalog!”, hissed Gnine and hit [5], [6], [7], and then [4]!

 

He was suddenly spammed by a number of tiny, buzzing squeaks!

 

> Verification Code for Power Lines and Ventilation

> 3-8-7-5

 

> Verification Code for Water Lines and Aqueducts

> 1-2-1-5

 

> Verification Code for Sewers and Recycling

> 5-6-8-3

 

> Verification Code for Sentinel Turrets (Caution)

> 0-9-1-1

 

He entered all the codes, one by one, through the GID and the whole room lit by some sourceless-seeming ambient light. Through the security screens, he could see more tunnels, halls, and chambers light up. He wasn’t sure what Water Lines and Aqueducts, and Sewers and Recycling had done, but the list had refreshed and they now showed their current status as; ONLINE!

The effect of the cautioned Sentinel Turrets turned out to be quite a bit more distinct..

On the tiny screen, displaying the tomb room, many contraptions sprung from the floor and walls, and in a bloody rain of deadly projectiles, the demons there were all nothing but indiscernible heaps!

“Alright.. that was a bit gruesome..”, he said in a sick voice. “Effective though!”

Then he slammed the console and screamed with despair.

“All of this is nice and cool but they aren’t helping Laila!”

 

Then he saw it.

He didn’t pause, he didn’t hesitate.

 

He hit his own number: [9] —ULTRABER!

 

> Verification Code for ULTRABER! (Extreme Caution)

> 0-9-9-9

 

Another loud clanking noise came and this one just to his right. A section of the wall dropped down and disappeared into the ground, revealing something.. HUGE!

It was perhaps eighteen feet high, made out of steel and perhaps some kind of carbon alloy with an elongated, egg-like head, a round, tubular torso, long, segmented arms that very nearly reached down to the floor and ended with three-fingered, pincer-like hands. It seemed old because it was covered in dust and rust all over.

With a sharp hiss, the front of the tubular torso opened, not unlike a window shutter, revealing a tiny, compact room with many buttons, arms, levers, and knobs, and a small, gnome-sized armchair.

 

Gnine cackled with glee.

“Larger fists, did you say? Larger fists, INCOMING!”

 

And as if on cue, a rope ladder rolled down and all fell silent again, waiting..

 

Gnine slithered up the rope ladder and hopped into the seat and noted the inside of the.. whatever this thing was.. was quite clean and dust-free. He poked his head out and looked a bit more closely at the paint job and noticed..

“Damn. It’s retro-paint! Someone’s gone to some serious trouble to give this a steamchunk-look. Obsession, much?”

Then he looked around him and noticed all the buttons, arms, levers, and knobs were neatly labeled. There was even a bundled user manual!

“I’d say, someone really wants me to use this!”, he cackled some more.

 

He grabbed the user manual and skimmed through it. By the time he was done, in under two, short minutes, he was amazed.. and somewhat scared..

This.. thing.. ominously named ULTRABER, was not a toy. It was a weapon of potential mass destruction!

 

“Looks like someone was preparing for a rainy day!”, he murmured, then turned to the little sprite, Whimsi Lola, who had been silently hovering just over his head with a frightened expression on her tiny face and said in a low, growly voice.

“You will wait here, my little friend. Balor is not something you can fight. This, I think you already know. I am aware that you don’t owe Laila Wolvesbane anything, but should I not come back, I would like you to stay with her and keep her safe and happy, just like you did with me. And should.. neither of us comes back, you can stick with Miss Merisoul, or you may return to your forest and unindentured. You owe nothing to anyone anymore, my little friend. Savvy?”

Whimsi Lola stared at him.. with a running nose!

“I have no idea what savvy means, but I will honor this last bequest of yours, Master Gnine.. I shall wait here, a year and a day. And should you or Friend Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane have not returned by then, I shall take my leave and return to.. Mab.. Dammit! I was this close to having escaped her!”, she sniffed and drifted off and perched herself in front of one of the security displays and started slurping something out of a tiny little can!

“Right.”, said Gnine grimly and slapped the big HATCH button, shutting the doors of the DOCKPIT, oddly named as it was, and pulled at the STARTUP lever, and smashed down the foot paddles..

ULTRABER lurched forward, taking a giant step, followed by another as Gnine paddled the mechanical monstrosity using his feet and spun the torso and the arms using the two, steel, circuit breaker levers.

Then he punched another button labeled;

 

T.O.N.I.C
Terminal Output Neuro
Interface Coefficient!

 

“Hold on, girl.”, he hissed through gritted teeth. “Never just ended! I am coming..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Laila tumbled and rolled, barely keeping a step ahead of the lightning whip and the molten blade but Regnalog never gave her the chance. He roared and bellowed and smashed his fiery scimitar with the fury of Hell and sent streaks of lightning each time he clapped his whip.

Laila felt her strength drain as she bled from numerous cuts, burns, and wounds as exhaustion settled in.

“Not gonna give in! My friends depend on me, dammit. My father doesn’t even know where I am! I can’t let him suffer the same thing he did after my mother died. Not again..”, she squeezed the words and sent another blooming arrow.

Then, just for a moment, Balor stumbled.

And Merisoul appeared, high and above, and a long spear of brilliant golden light streaked out of her hands and struck the monstrous demon. Then she sent another beam of the same golden, radiant light.. and another!

Laila had seen the odd, otherworldly girl mime that same way before. Many, many times. It had been her go-to spell! Much like shooting arrows was hers. But always before, it had been a dark, purplish, lightning-like thing. Now it was this brilliant, golden, radiant, streaking beam.. The change was significant, Laila was sure of it. She just couldn’t figure out what.. or why? Or perhaps she was just so hurt, bloodied, and tired. Nevertheless, she didn’t waste the opportunity. She held her breath, carefully aimed, and loosed two more arrows.

One struck Regnalog on the temple, causing it to howl and roar, and inevitably turn her way, a something Laila had anticipated. Her second arrow struck him..

..in the eye!

 

Balor froze, for just a moment, and the arrow bloomed!

With a searing golden explosion, Regnalog’s eye turned into a gaping, cavernous, empty hole!

 

The wrath of Balor knew no bounds after that. A wave of molten flames burst out of him, burning everything in its path. The fire spread along the platform leaving nowhere to hide.

Laila’s last thought was, “Totally worth it, bitch!”

Then the flames washed over her, and swept her away, not unlike a tsunami.

With one short cry of pain, Laila Wolvesbane was gone and over the edge.

Her whites visible with fear and terror, she disappeared in the bottomless chasm..

✱ ✱ ✱

Good afternoon, Gnine Tinkerdome.”, said a raspy, tenoric voice.

“Gimme all the specs on this ULTRABER thingy!”, he barked.

“ULTRABER; The Ultimate Mechanical Bear—”, started T.O.N.I.C.

“Bear? This thing looks nothing even remotely like a bear!”, scowled Gnine.

“—is totally corrosion-proof and can stay up to five hours underwater and is airtight, effectively making you immune to viral, bacterial, and/or fungal infections and diseases and poisons in gaseous forms for the duration. It can stay functional in arctic conditions and can stay in pressurized lava for up to thirty minutes before the DOCKPIT is ruptured. It has a wide variety of weapons; one AEARFGL —Area Effect Air Propelled Fire Grenade Launcher on the right and one STAGL —Single Target Acid Grenade Launcher on the left shoulder, one ASGL —Area Stun Grenade Launcher on the lower turret, one stationary FRBC —Focused Radiance Beam Condenser right above the DOCKPIT, and two HVPARGs —High-Velocity Projectile Auto Reloading Guns, one on each arm! The ULTRABER can punch through an average enforced siege wall at a rate of one foot of seamless stone per ten minutes. Its pincers can eviscerate a dragon’s hide with little trouble, and has ALG —Auto Leveling Gyro to move its legs automatically to avoid tumbling or falling. And of course, the built-in USDS —Ultimate Self Destruct System that can level a half-mile radius and an EEM —Emergency Ejection Mechanism!”

“Girl, whoever you are, you sure like your acronyms, don’t you? Lost a lot of sleep over them, I am sure!”, mumbled Gnine, and stepped on it.. figuratively..

 

ULTRABER moved at an impressive speed and agility and Gnine figured out why the halls, the tunnels, the corridors, and the rooms of Silent Hills were so big, wide, and high..

 

“Damn. They must have thought of making multiple numbers of these monstrosities!”, he frowned as he carefully inspected all the other labels under each button, arm, lever, switch, and knob, and there were a lot of them!

Most of them were self-explanatory, others were left without any explanations but sounded more like names.

One punch-button read; [CORA] and Gnine’s fingers itched to hit it.

The itch won and he yelped when the DOCKPIT was suddenly filled with cool, arctic air and the temperature inside dropped drastically.

Another such button read; [BROM] and Gnine stared at it suspiciously but punched it anyway and a strange tune began to play in the DOCKPIT..

It was a savage tune. A beastly, intriguing, itching, rapid, and very nearly asynchronous tune.

It was a tune that reached Gnine at his most, basic level. It was a tune that had been created by someone who had suffered the toils of the Great Northern Tundras and it was a tune that was the culmination of that frozen land as he’d seen it, beheld it, and understood it; wild, free, endless, and tormentingly beautiful!

And it seized Gnine, hit him over the head, concussed him, and left him stunned and bewildered..

“Damn, girl!”, Gnine said, a bit awed. “This is one good song to go to war!”

 

Then he noted the third button with another name; [SERESSA]!

Somewhat elated by the previous two buttons, he mindlessly hit this one as well.

Gnine thought he heard a very faint hiss, but nothing else happened.

“Perhaps this one is broken.”, he mused as ULTRABER clanked arduously down the hall.

Then he picked up the scent!

It was a beautiful, brushing scent, perhaps of ripe strawberries, or cherry blooms, or.. phloxes?.. and something else.. something intimate.. and tender.. and feminine.. and soft.. and..

Gnine blushed furiously.

“Alright.. Apparently, someone had some interesting fetishes! Better mark this one off as ‘off limits’..”, he coughed.

Whatever this SERESSA was, it definitely was an.. exhilarating.. yes.. honestly exhilarating.. chemical!

 

Then there was the [DIE BIACH!] button and Gnine had no intentions of ever touching that one!

 

Red lights suddenly lit inside the DOCKPIT and the raspy, tenoric voice of T.O.N.I.C was heard again.

 

“Warning! Warning! High-temperature heatwave signature detected! UEA —Unknown Extraterrestrial Anomaly sighted! Analysis Reports: Balor; Class X Demon. Extremely Dangerous.. Arming STAGL, ASGL, FRBC, and the HVPARGs.. Distance: 700 ft. and closing.. Route: Civilian Bridge..  Status: Damaged Infrastructure.. Suggested Exit Strategy: Full Thrusters!”

“Full Thrusters!”, barked Gnine and ULTRABER bursts forward and Gnine felt himself flatten against the DOCKPIT armchair! At an accelerated speed, the hall suddenly ended and ULTRABER rammed right through the wall, and over the bottomless chasm!

✱ ✱ ✱

Merisoul watched her friend get flung over the edge and disappear in the chasm with unadulterated horror as she heard her tiny yelp over the roaring fire.

She wasn’t quite sure which hurt more, that her friend, Laila had just vanished into the bottomless chasm, or that her wings had caught fire and she was slowly but ultimately burning.

“So be it.”, she murmured.

 

Slowly she tilted..

..and piked down and after the ranger lieutenant!

 

She felt every single one of her feathers simmer, shrivel, and disintegrate by the fire of Balor, and tears of pain streaked out the side of her sad, solemn eyes. Her slender arms stretched before her, she made herself as small as possible and beat her wings savagely to attain a speed faster than terminal velocity, otherwise, there would be no catching up to her friend no matter how far down they fell. The gaping distance between them just would never close..

With a burst of sparkling cinders, her wings burned out and she saw Laila, her eyes closed, her boldly beautiful face pinched in pain and horror, her long, soft, brown hair lashing wildly and her beloved elven bow clutched tightly to her chest, she portrayed a figure who knew she had done all she could but it just hadn’t been enough.

 

“Your eyes.. Open them, my friend..”, Merisoul sent her thought at her.

“Mm.. Merisoul?“, Laila mumbled with fright.

“Yes. I am coming.. Open your eyes, for they are pretty and I must see!”, Merisoul whispered.

“Don’t come. There’s no coming back! Help Gnine. At least he should get to be king and save my home..”, she whispered back.

“Together. We agreed on this. When we first went into the Fog, did we not?”

“Yes. We did. But I am done and you can’t carry me out.”

“No. I can’t. Regnalog burned my wings.”, Merisoul said sadly.

“Then, why come?”, Laila asked and opened her eyes to see the odd, otherworldly girl rushing at her.

“Because no one should die alone..”

“Go back, girl. I am sure you can save yourself. You excel at everything you do.”

“I have never used a bow like you. And never had a heart like yours.”

“Take the bow. Gracious Warning shouldn’t be lost in the debts of some bottomless pit. As for the heart, I believe yours is the greatest one there is. No one has suffered what you have, and still did the things you did for any mortal. Yet you have.. Take the bow and go back.. Tell Gnine.. and my father.. and my cousin.. I am sorry..”, Laila said and closed her eyes again as pain engulfed her.

 

 

“Sacrifice..“, Merisoul whispered..

“..Should not be wasted thus gratis!”

 

Soul Bearer closed her eyes and mind..

And she turned off the world.

The wind rushed fiercely.

Tears ran and free.

And her heart..

Stopped.

.

 

 

I submit.


I am not a taker, my dear girl.
I do not take.
I give.

 

You gave.
Now, is my turn to give back.
Please. I must save my friend.

 

You plead a bargain with me
to save a Mortal, at the expense
of your own life?

 

My whole life, I sought a heart.
This Mortal learned me mine.
And for the first time, I ‘felt’.
It is beautiful!

 

Thus, you are..
Rejoice!

 

I have attained my merry soul, at last.
Nothing more have I wanted.
The purpose I set for myself,
and my existence is done and done.

 

Nay, dear girl.
Your existence has just begun.

 

She has love and loved ones. I do not.
Few will shed tears after me
and forgotten shall I be soon enough.
Her father and her friends shall mourn
for many long years, and many Mortals
shall die because she has..

 

You undervalue your existence.
You have friends and a BFF, do you not?

 

My mirima Temez is strong.
Unlike me.

 

No, dear child.
She is strong, because of you.

 

Please..
Please, just do it!

 

You are bonded.
I must but ask Priceptine.

 

No.. He does not understand..
A silly and foolish girl is all I am to Him.

 

Perhaps you think Him silly and foolish,
missing the point where He isn’t?

 

He has been nothing but cruel to me.

 

He has been everything but cruel to you.

 

He will never consent to my Ascension!

 

It was never up to Him,
nor was His concession ever required
for your Ascension.

 

He hurt me and pummeled me,
like a drunkard upon his woman!

 

He was trapped in that locket,
because of your former master!

 

He.. he knew?

 

Of course, dear.
How could he not?
Did I not know who you were,
when we first met?

 

He—

 

—Saved you!

 

Can’t you just do it?
Before He comes?
I gave you my hand when you asked.
You owe me..

 

You gave me your hand
because you are kind.
Yet you want to bargain your existence
for the sins of your former master?

 

Yes!

 

Why?

 

Because she is my friend.
She learned me my heart..
I feel now. It is beautiful.
And I am scared..

 

My dear Merisoul..
Live up to your name and live a merry soul.
Offer yourself the time to attain that, at least,
before giving up. Do not deny this of yourself.

 

I have attained all I wanted.
I am free of Hell.
My BFF is free of Hell.
All my kind are free of Hell
and thus
we have ‘life’, we have ‘heart’,
and we have ‘choice’ now.
And this is mine.
Please.. Honor it..

 

For one thousand six hundred years
have I suffered the vilest sins at the hands
of your former master.
Gladly would I suffer more and a like amount
for the single beat of your heart.

 

My heart has beat enough.
Her’s must more!
Please.
Ad Ara.

 

Very well.
Priceptine, if you will..

 

 

AHHH, AD ARA..

IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG AND THE MORTAL COIL
HAS SUFFERED YOUR ABSENCE.

 

My dearest Priceptine.
Much have you frowned upon the
follies of Mortals and shied
from their greatness.
Yet here is one that is beholden to you and
thus she has proven my point, cast eons ago;

Had we only given them better options,
this world would have been a merrier place.

Behold thy testament;

This merry soul would wish to trade her
existence for mine to save her friend.
You must agree on this, and free her
of your bond.

 

HOW MANY MORE TIMES
MUST SHE BARGAIN FOR HER FRIENDS?

*SIGH*

SHE CAN DO AS SHE PLEASES.
FOR SHE IS MORTAL NOW!
SHE HAS HEART!

 

I.. I am?

 

YOU TRULY ARE
A FOOLISH AND SILLY GIRL!

DO YOU NOT HEAR
THE MORTAL BEAT OF YOUR
OWN HEART, NOW?

CRUEL, THOUGH, YOU HAVE THOUGHT I BE,
YOU MUST KNOW, A HEART MAY NOT BE GIVEN.
IT MUST BE REALIZED. FOR WHAT IS GIVEN
CAN NEVER BE AS PRECIOUS AS WHAT IS EARNED.
AND A HEART THAT DOES NOT BEAT, IS BUT A DEAD HEART.
OF ALL MORTALS, I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT
A FOOLISH AND SILLY LITTLE GIRL SUCH AS YOURSELF
WOULD HAVE NOTICED THIS,
FOR IT WAS YOU, WHO STOPPED YOUR OWN,
TO START ANOTHER’S, ONCE, DID YOU NOT?

AND SHOULD THE SAID HEART WANT TO BEAT,
IT MUST BEAT ON ITS OWN, AND WILLINGLY,
AND MUSTN’T EXPECT OTHERS TO SQUEEZE IT
TO KEEP IT ALIVE! THAT WOULD BE A RATHER
SLOTH EXPECTATION, WOULDN’T YOU AGREE?

YES, I AM THE ARCHANGEL OF WRATH
AND THAT IS MY PRIMARY ASPECT, AND TIME AND AGAIN,
I HAVE WATCHED THE FRUITLESS EFFORTS OF
MORTALS SIN ONE ANOTHER OVER AND OVER,
OVER THE CYCLES, HENCE I HAVE GROWN
WEARY OF THEM AND MY WRATH UPON
THEM IS JUSTIFIED. BUT I DO NOT LACK
COMPASSION.

IT IS TRUE,
COMPASSION IS NOT MY PRIMARY ASPECT,
BUT ONE CAN NOT BE AN ANGEL AND LACK IT!
THIS TOO, I THINK A GIRL AS FOOLISH AND SILLY
AND AS DEAR AS YOU WOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED, YES?
CONSIDERING THE CARE AND COMPASSION
YOU HAVE THUS SHOWN,
NOT ONLY TO YOUR MORTAL FRIENDS
BUT BY SAVING YOUR BEST FIEND FRIENDS AS WELL.
I AM WRATH, TRUE, BUT MY CLOSEST AND
DEAREST FRIEND
HAS ALWAYS BEEN COMPASSION,
FOR I ONLY COME WHEN SHE LEAVES!

SUFFICE TO SAY, AREZME ARA SERRAPHYN
(DO INSERT ALL YOUR OTHER SILLY NAMES HERE, IF YOU WILL),
THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
IT ALWAYS WAS..

 

Then..
..I choose her life,
over my existence..
Hoist her from this bottomless pit.
For here, she does not belong..
Here, it is dark, it is bleak
and it is lonely..

 

THAT IS A SAD CHOICE TO MAKE.
PERHAPS YOU WOULD WANT SOMETHING
IN RETURN..

LOVED YOU HAVE,
TO ALWAYS
WANT TO BARGAIN..

 

Yes.
I want a Cup.

 

A CUP?

 

A Cup;
Four parts sugar.
One part salt.
And five parts bitter..

 

THAT IS A GOOD CUP.

 

✱ ✱ ✱

The walls shattered like eggshells and ULTRABER burst out! And with a great, graceful arc, it arched over the bottomless chasm, and slammed into Regnalog!

The monstrous Balor roared and grabbed at the giant mechaber and struck, hurling ULTRABER back.

ULTRABER’s ALG —Auto Leveling Gyro kicked in and it landed on its legs and a shaft of brilliant, searing light burst from its chest and struck Balor, leaving a gaping hole on his giant torso.

And with a series of plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk sounds, a volley of Acid Grenades launched from one shoulder, leaving marred, molten, fleshless scars on the bellowing Balor.

“You.. you son of a.. You killed Laila.. my best friend.. the only person who was always been with me! And you killed Merisoul.. the only person who never judged me.. You.. They.. They were my friends you bastard!”, spluttered Gnine, in the DOCKPIT, his eyes ablaze and burning with hate..

“DIE BIACH!”, he screamed..

 

..and hit the [DIE BIACH!] button!

 

The tenoric voice of T.O.N.I.C screeched in the tubular DOCKPIT;

 

“DIE BIACH Protocol initiated!”

“Warning! System Overload in 3.. 2.. 1..”

 

ULTRABER..

UNLOADED!

EVERYTHING..

ALL AT ONCE!

 

The STAGs (Single Target Acid Grenades) hissed wildly with mad, chaotic, arching fumes as every single acid grenade volleyed forth, and all at once.. The ASGs (Area Stun Grenade) plunged —all of them— and with ear-bleeding and eye-searing thunderclaps, detonated around Balor. The FRB (Focused Radiance Beam), stabbed and speared right through him like the wrath of Shal -ah Galad, the Spear of Light, itself! And with a roaring Ratta Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta staccato, the two HVPARGs (High-Velocity Projectile Auto Reloading Guns) zapped and zigzagged like thousands of fist-sized angry hornets buzzing with red-orange trail-lines, and left bloody cloud puffs wherever they hit, and ULTRABER emptied the whole content of its destructive payload!..

 

Not satisfied, Gnine spun the ULTRABER at a wide, ultra-speed velocity, and struck with one eviscerating pincer followed immediately by the other..

Over and over and over again, like some crazed desert dervish..

 

And with a tremendous and resounding crash, Regnalog’s massive head smashed into the burning platform, right next to its shredded, molten, seared, riddled, and ravaged body!

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine slammed at the [CORA] button and flushed the overheated DOCKPIT, then hit the HATCH button and ULTRABER’s tubular torso split open. He tossed the rope ladder and scrambled down and ran to the side of the platform, tears running shamelessly down his pinched and distorted face.

“LAILA! SOUL?”, he shouted down the bottomless chasm and his tenoric voice echoed through the Silent Vaults, perhaps the only live gnome’s voice to have been heard since the Demon Fog.

“No, girl..”, he wept and fell on his back fisting his hands. “It was supposed to be me! Not her! Why? Why, dammit? She was nothing but a good, brave girl, and the only person to have bothered to be my friend! No kingdom is worth this.. No kingdom can replace her. And poor Soul.. She just got born!”

 

It took him a while to notice the screaming wind.

 

When he did, he noticed the brilliant golden light rising out of the bottomless chasm, also.

He stared at it with hopeless abandon and with incredible speed, the golden radiance came out of the chasm, and lo..

 

Gnine Tinkerdome beheld the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sight he had ever seen.

A tall, slim figure in some ancient but delicate golden plate armor, her face luminous and serene, her eyes lost in the far distances of eternity, her majestic, snowy-white wings stretched far and wide, an Angel rose!

 

No..

 

Ad Ara rose..

 

And in her arms, she held Laila Wolvesbane.

 

“Behold, young Master Gnine Tinkerdome, for I gift you, your friend back. Love her, care for her, and cherish her, for she has fought bravely and valiantly and against a foe much disproportionate to herself for you, your people, your Silent Vaults, and the cause of decent men. Had there been but a few more of her brave and arduous kind, this world would, indeed, have been a merrier place..”, Ad Ara said, her gentle voice echoing and reverberating in vast halls of Silent Hills, and gently, she settled the depleted form of Laila on the platform.

 

Gnine just ogled at her.

 

“Merisoul?”, Gnine chocked in a hushed voice.

“Dear Merisoul Xyrotwu has parted. Her last wish was of sacrifice; the life of her friends for her existence. Cherish that, also, for methinks that is the greatest of sacrifices and par to Ascension.”

“No..”, mumbled Gnine and saw Laila too was awake and silently crying where she lay. “She.. she is one of us! She belongs to us.. She is our friend!”

“Thus you are, and thus you, Gnine Tinkerdome, and you, Laila Wolvesbane have fought, time and again against the sins of men and that of foul fiends and demons, risking your lives in return, did you not? At any time, could either of you, or your beloved company could have perished. Knew you this risk, and still took it, did you not? And willingly did you still sweat, and bleed and oft times, endangered your very lives for such noble a task.. Thus has she.. Mourn not, for her sacrifice was not in vain nor was it a folly loss; she saw the merit of her friends, because of her friends.. She weighed the value of your friendship and the worth of your lives, so much dear to her, as she saw it, understood it, and felt it, and against her very existence and deemed it a worthy exchange. Know though, her choice was well informed and done willingly. Her last and only bequest was that you, Laila Wolvesbane, keep her ever-loyal familiar, Jay, and comfort him, for he will not understand sacrifice, but only live its consequences.. Farewell and rejoice, for she and I are now, Xyrone..”

 

And with that, and with a brilliant, golden, radiance, Ad Ara, the Archangel of Compassion streaked up, and up, and was gone!

 

And the only thing that remained was the sound of smoldering flames of what was once Balor, Regnalog..

..and the croaking whimpers of a tiny dragon.

✱ ✱ ✱

Are you ready?”, Gnine asked with a subdued voice and hiccuped, when he heard little Jay’s whimpering croak again..

..and broke down, once more.

Laila sniffed loudly as she came up to him and held him tightly in her scarred embrace.

“I don’t even..”, she began and faltered. “I don’t even know what to tell the others..”

“I don’t even know what to tell myself!”, mumbled Gnine as he sobbed. “She was so nice. Always there for me, for you, for the others.. She was nice even to Aager and Anglenna and no one is nice to those two!”

“Accept Inshala.”, Laila said and sniffed again.

Ow. My. Good. Heavens! Inshala! What are we going to tell her? She will be devastated!”, Gnine’s muffled and broken voice came from Laila’s embrace.

The Ranger Lieutenant did not reply.

Silently, she wiped her eyes and reached over to the GID-thingy, Gnine had shown her.. and finished what they had come for; quietly, she pressed [3], then looked at the gnome, with tears running down her eyes again.

 

> Verification Code for Cryo-Sleep/Hybernation Chamber

> 2-8-0-8

 

..buzzed the tiny, tenoric voice in Gnine’s mind.

“You do it..”, he mumbled.. “2-8-0-8.. It’s the day when the bloody Demon Fog first settled on Silent Hills.. 28.08.7316!”

..and cried some more.

 

The war hadn’t even begun yet and they had already started losing friends!

 

Her face pale, soot smudged, bloody, tear blotched, and drawn, Laila Wolvesbane tapped in the numbers and hit [ENTER]..

 


The cup Merisoul Xyrotwu asks as her wish is a reference to her own description of Love that she gives (four parts sugar, one part salt, and five parts bitter), when Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane bursts into the girl’s room in the inn they were all staying back at Arashkan before its destruction, pleading any and everyone to tell her what love is, in the story; Lilly & Shala

 

 

arashkan şehri book 06 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül role play serenity the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

Deep in Silence..

Deep in Silence..

Timeline:

The Orken Horde have arrived on the doorsteps of Serenity Home. Many have gathered to defend the ‘serenity’ of this once peaceful and quiet town but it is doubtful they will be enough.

The heroes scatter all around the kingdom to find those allies. Some go to other cities, some to their own people to get help.

And some go where they shouldn’t..

Gnine Tinkerdome, Laila Wolvesbane, and Merisoul Xyrotwu travel to Silent Hills and quietly enter the Demon Fog to find a way to pass the slithering fog and enter the Silent Halls. The only clue they have is the strange riddle that Nadine Graciousward gave them.

With the help of unexpected allies from Hell itself, the three have gained access into the long-forgotten, dusty and silent vaults under Silent Hills.

 

This story takes place a few days after
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More And Ascend..

 

 

And, here they come again!”, swore Gnine Tinkerdome as he took a step back and to the left, making room for Laila Wovesbane and her great bow.

“Persistent, aren’t they?”, replied Laila cooly as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes and drew a pair of long shafts from the quiver buckled to her back. “Don’t they know, these arrows cost money!”, she added mournfully.

“Perhaps these will pay..”, scowled the gnome as he started weaving his fingers into some strange, cross-over knot and started incanting.

“Persistence is the herald of victory. This they know. This they will use, always..”, came the soft, alluring, and vague voice of the unearthly beautiful girl with the raven black wings, and the dark, crowning horns, Merisoul Xyrotwu, from behind them. “..and they are likely bored!”

“I hate being the butt-end of relieving the boredom in demons!”, grimaced Gnine, and released his spell..

..and a faint, barely visible giant hand appeared in front of the half dozen fiends howling and charging in their direction. The fiends, barely humanoid in shape and size, otherwise black, spike riddled and bearing long, ugly-looking claws, smashed into the hand and stumbled back.

Laila ‘loosed’ her arrow, cocked the second, and sent that one as well, as she drew more arrows from her quiver and sent them one after the other —all in seamless, fluid motions.

Looking at the pretty ranger corporal, one would think she was knitting, rather than raining arrows into demons!

In all candor, it was quite rare for any talented bowyer to shoot half a dozen arrows in under a few seconds. What made the Ranger Corporal Laila Wolvesbane particularly unique, was the ‘cool’ in her deliberation, anticipation, and application.

“Want me to nuke them?”, asked the alluring voice from behind. “Or save it for later?”

“Save it for later..”, growled Gnine as he gritted his teeth. Holding back the demons with the very nearly invisible hand was a tasking chore and beads of sweat had started gathering on heated his face. “I believe Laila’s got these.. You got these, right?”

“I got these..”, confirmed Laila as she riddled more and more arrows into the dark, and angry fiends pushing the giant hand, step by step closer to them.

“Now, I am bored..”, said Merisoul with an unhappy voice and released a pair of erratic, brilliant purple shafts of force sending two of the fiends smashing into the ones coming from the rear.

“Three down. Three to go..”, reported Laila, and hung her bow, drew her two long blades, and dashed into the remaining fiends.

“What. Are. You. Doing?!”, half shrieked Gnine.

“Arrows are expensive.. Thought I told you that..”, replied Laila as she rammed into one of the fiends, slashed it open with one sword, and stabbed it with the other. The fiend let loose a horrific scream, then fell back dead.

 

The remaining two rushed the ranger corporal!

 

Another pair of sizzling, erratic shafts of bright purple lightning-like beams cracked in the dark tunnel and struck one of the fiends, pushing it some twenty feet away, and buying just enough time for Laila to get into a defensive stance as Gnine sent a flaming bolt of fire, hitting the third and causing it to yowl like something that could barely be called feline.

Laila didn’t give the third one time to recover.

She lept forward, slid under the creature’s claws, blew her bangs out of her face, sliced open its belly with one sword, and half gashed open the demon’s scaly leg with the other.

The demon shrieked in pain, stubbled, and fell facedown onto the ground.

Laila stabbed it in the back of its neck, severing its spine.

The ranger corporal did not like half-dead enemies.

She liked them dead.. all the way!

Another pair of jagged shafts of purple lightnings jazzed right past her and the last demon crumbled, its chest caved in.

“Well..”, said Merisoul, merrily. “That went well!”

“Damit.”, spat Laila when she bent down to inspect the corpses. “Two more arrows, broken beyond repair and are now totally unsalvageable. I really hope I get paid. Or I am never going to be able to replace these.”

“You will get all the arrows you need.”, said Gnine, looking down at the dead fiends. “I will personally pay for them. Or have them crafted for you.. If and when I get my throne..”

“Ow? That’s generous of you.”, smiled Laila —a something she rarely did.

“Of course, my dear girl. You are risking your all, coming here with me.”, replied Gnine.

“Actually, I am here just to make sure you come back and in one piece.. As for your promise, I would like the same deal for ‘Bree’ as well!”, she smirked.

“Why? She’s not here..”, scowled the gnome.

“She’s my cousin. She gets what I get.. Unless you want to explain why she’s not getting the same generosity from the prince of the gnomes.. To her face!”

Gnine Tinkerdome sighed.

“And something for Merisoul as well. If anyone is risking anything, it’s her.”, she added.

“It’s alright, love. I don’t really need gifts. What I need has long been forfeit from me and can not be procured. Only comprehended, earned and merited.. Something neither my old master can give, nor my new shall ever deign to bless upon me..”, said Merisoul, with her own sigh.

 

The hour was early.

And it had been four days since they had entered the silent vaults under Silent Hills.

Early or late, it didn’t matter. Fiends, demons, and.. other ‘things’ came at them constantly, relentlessly, and mindlessly..

Yes.

Mindlessly..

And always insane!

As if the Demon Fog had driven everything in it, fiend, beast, and even the occasional walking corpse, insane..

They would come at them and just charge them.

Like some endless stream of rotting debris being carried off in some nightmarish, swift-running river.

Other than what they had offered thus far, the vaults themselves were barren, silent, and bereft of cognatious life. Gnine hadn’t minded it at first. As a matter of fact, he’d marveled at the geometry of it all. In a very non-human, defiantly gnomish way, the structural design of the vaults under the hills was.. beautiful! After four days —and nights, however, he’d started having doubts, for they hadn’t seen or met a single other soul.. The unearthly beautiful half-born, Merisoul, had inspected everything she could with mild interest, pointing at this or that —things she thought were… well… interesting. Laila had found the lifeless halls depressing at best. ‘Spooky’, was the word she thought was more fitting. Perhaps, if and when ‘life’ came back to these halls, vaults, and vast chambers, it might make these hills ‘spectacular’, though, even then, she thought, she wouldn’t have stayed here even if she were being paid for it.. Laila loved nature. And trees, and the sun.. None of which, she would ever find here. She looked down at her little friend, Gnine, with sympathy as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes. From her point of view, he was genetically predestined to like such depressing and dreary places.

There was something about this place that Laila truly found.. intimidating?

She was not really sure.

These vaults, great as they were, were also silent. Too silent. Much like the tombs under Serenity Home temple. Laila had been down there, but only once. Sort of as a private ‘dare’. It was cool, dark, not musty or moldy, nor did the place stank of death or anything.. just.. ‘still’.. and unmoving. And this place, these halls, and the vast, empty chambers they had left behind, were just like how those tombs had been. But with much, much more dread and certainly at a larger magnitude.

Monumentally so. 

It made her feel diminished, sparse, scared..

..And alone.

 

Laila inadvertently shivered.

 

Yep, her forest, her trees, and her sun, out there, was much, much more preferable than here and now.

What truly hit her was the thing she secretly feared most. That she was likely going to lose one of her oldest friends; Gnine Tinkerdome, to these halls, even should they survive and succeed in their endeavor, for here would be his home and his kingdom, and not Serenity Home anymore, and just the thought of that, brought a knotted lump up to her throat she found trouble sending back down..

She sighed and tried to remember their happier times. It was something she often did, for she knew it was important to keep one’s spirits up. If they fell to despair, likely the next encounter would be their last.

“Now there’s a gloomy thought!”, murmured Laila.

“Happy thoughts, girl, happy thoughts.”

Then she thought of ‘Bree’ Bremorel, her cousin and wondered what she was doing right now. She remembered the voice call they had received from her some months ago and inadvertently smiled.

So.. Thomas, that skinny boy, had finally garnered enough courage to be able to speak with her cousin, let alone go on some mission with her. Who would send that kid on any mission? The boy was a bookworm! And suddenly he was sent all the way to Dim Woods on some dangerous mission? With her ravishing and equally raving cousin, Bremorel Songsteel?

Laila liked Thomas.

Yes, they had never really had much in the way of interaction, other than the rare times she’d visit the town temple and he would greet her with his serious but generous smile.. And when they’d see him scurrying behind them like someone’s lost puppy whenever they returned to town in hopes of finding some desperate opportunity to speak, or at least get a glimpse of Bree.

Laila thought he was a good boy even if she found his quite mindless and very nearly melancholic obsession with her cousin a bit creepy..

Then, perhaps because they hadn’t seen each other for some time, Laila felt she should amend her perspective.

Thomas was not just a good boy, he was a good young man. Good, decent, calm, well-mannered, and well educated, but never condescending the way most ‘well educated’ tended to become. And both the orphans and the other children of the town loved him, as he’d somehow find the time, among his overcrowded temple duties and his studies to engage in all sorts of games with them, particularly the one called hog-ball even though he would end up losing in most.

Laila smiled.

Hog-ball; a game that involved a rough, ragged ball wrapped and knotted with strips of leather thongs, and lots of pulling, pushing, kicking, and tripping. Laila had played it a few times before, but only after she’d become a ranger novice. It was too rough a game and seemed to have one basic rule; if you ended up with lots of scratches, scrapes, a black eye, preferably two, and likely a bloody nose, you won —in a personal achievement sense.

Gnine had played it too. Gnine played everything that would get him hurt, for some reason. And when he played hog-ball, he chose to be the goalkeeper; the sole person where EVERYONE pulled, pushed, kicked, and tripped! Kids on their teams wanted larger boys to stand in front of their goal. Someone who could take the heat, AND block the big barrel; the goal. And Gnine would defiantly be their team’s goalkeeper and take all the heat.. just not block the goal. Once, the opposing team had simply picked him up and stuffed him, head first, into the barrel, along with the leather ball!

Her cousin, Bree, had participated in them since she was six and always came back with black eyes, a bloody nose, split lips, skinned knees, ankles, and knuckles. But she would also return triumphant and likely laid waste the whole playground!

The children of Serenity Home had heaved in collective and popular relief when she’d been drafted off to be trained as a ranger!

Another time, some years back, when they had come to town after a particularly long patrol, they had chanced upon one such game. Bree had elbowed her and both had entered the fray where they had ended up in opposing teams. Thinking back, Laila conceded that her cousin had deliberately joined the side where Thomas had been.

Poor boy.

He had run in front of her cousin the whole time, screaming like a lunatic and literally throwing himself on anyone who would try to tackle her! It had been a mindless, selfless, totally unnecessary, and endearing brevity on the boy’s part, leaving him massively scraped, thoroughly grilled, heart-breakingly bleeding, and outright concussed, but had given Bree the opportunity to score an epic goal!

Her cousin, however, had NOT found his ‘protective’ approach amusing..

At all.

She’d raged down upon him, hissing and screaming at his witless attitude all the while, until she’d found him lying knocked unconscious—

—with a stupid smile on his face!

Bremorel hadn’t talked for two days after that. She’d just steamed with confused furry and equally puzzled and somewhat scared expression on her face. Laila had kept her company with badly concealed amusement, triggering further frustration from Bree.

 

Funny how the stupid things people did in life had such devastating effects on others.. More so than the smarter choices they made.

Thinking back, she could still remember what Thomas had said, when she’d asked him why he’d acted so.. ‘rashly’.. rather than be the smart person that he was..

The boy had said, in his calm, serious voice;

“The smart choice was the stupid choice; no one is going to hurt Morel so long as I am around.”

 

Laila chuckled.

The stupid things people did, indeed!

But then, Laila wasn’t one to complain either.

She entertained bangs!

The girls back in Serenity called them ‘fringes’ but Laila liked to call them ‘bangs’. Sounded more.. well.. ‘rangery!’

Rangery? Was that even a word?

Rangerish, then..

Laila snorted. Like that made a better word!

She deliberately dismissed both words and returned her attention to the issue at hand;

Bangs!

Bangs were bad in fights..

Bang kept getting in her eyes..

Bangs made seeing near impossible when swinging swords while dancing among fiends, demons, and crazed corpses..

Bangs made aiming a problem too..

But there she was.. persistent with her bangs perpetually biting into her eyes..

 

The things people did to impress others.. Even when they weren’t there to be impressed!

 

Laila huffed her bangs out of her eyes and plucked another arrow out of one of the dead fiends.

The arrow splintered.

“Damit!”, she murmured in frustration.

That was the third arrow now, totally destroyed!

✱ ✱ ✱

It’s a big room.”, whispered Whimsi Lola.

“Big? How big?”, asked Gnine, to his sprite familiar in hushed voices.

“Big..”, replied the tiny, ‘less-than-six-inch’ girl as she hovered next to Gnine’s head.

“Big like.. a farmhouse?”, asked Gnine.

“Big..”, repeated Whimsi Lola.

“The farmhouse and the barn?”

“Big..”

“Ok.. the farm itself, then?”

“Big..”

“Two farms?”

“Big..”

“Hmm.. Three?”

 

Laila just stared at the two as they ‘haggled’ about the size of the room with the eerie light, at the end of the hall, some two hundred yards away.

Merisoul though seemed much amused and caressed and stroked her own familiar, Jay the little pseudodragon. Jay purred and made happy croaking noises as he sent his pretty mistress mental images of the room ahead and indeed, it was..

 

“Big..”

 

“Four farms? Geez, how big is that room?, Gnine asked in an exasperated voice.

Whimsi Lola shrugged.

“Big..”

“Great Heavens, girl. Don’t you have a word to describe just how big it is?”, fumed Laila finally.

“No.”, replied Whimsi simply.

“Well, is it ten farms big?”, she asked.

“Dunno..”, said the sprite vaguely. “How big is ‘ten farms big?'”

“And this is why I never have pets!”, she glared at the minute girl.

“I am not a pet.”, replied Whimsi Lola with pure indignation and added with a disparaged huff, “I am an indentured cooperative auxiliary! I would have thought a big girl like you would know the difference. Apparently, I was mistaken!”

Laila glared at the minute creature buzzing in the air.

“I don’t think you even know what you just said, means.”, she growled back.

“Of course I do. All fey know about debts and what they entail, and we very much stick to them, once owed, Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane!”, replied Whimsi Lola, buzzing higher and staring down at the ranger corporal with a distinctly superior tone.

“Don’t you look down on me, young lady! And it’s ‘Ranger Corporal’. Not lieutenant.”, scowled Laila.

“Not from what I heard, you aren’t!”, sniffed the ‘not-even-six-inch’ fey girl with admirable disdain.

“What?”, stared Laila up at the tiny, buzzing girl.

“We fey always correctly define things so we are not called upon our mistakes that would lead us to more debt. Don’t you know anything? You had Mistress Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, the Ritual Guardian, for months with you to learn you all this!”, piped down Whimsi Lola in disgust. Then she turned to Gnine and gave him a look of pure exasperation. “How do you mortals even manage to live as long as you do, not knowing anything that goes around you?”

Gnine coughed.

Laila just ogled at her.

The little creature turned to Merisoul and scolded her as well.

“You are not fey, ‘Soul Keeper’, but you are aware of the things I speak. Why have you not learned them these things?”

“It is a mortal thing, dear Whimsi Lola.”, replied Merisoul. “It takes time for them to be adequately equipped with the necessary wisdom to start to notice such things. And by the time they do.. well.. they run out of time!”

The tiny Whimsi Lola glared down balefully at Gnine.

“You had better not run out of time soon, Master Gnine Tinkerdome! We just started having some decent fun!”

“I.. will make a point not to..”, replied Gnine a bit deflated.

“So.. I am a Ranger Lieutenant now? When did this happen?”, asked Laila a bit shaken.

“One month, twenty-four days, and the time since we entered this horrible Demon Fog! The Fey do not come here so I do not know exactly. It happened after your mothers’ oath-sisters’ daughter, a Bremorel Songsteel and the Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood returned back to the mortal town you know as Serenity Home. They had both you and your cousin change ranks!”

Laila ogled at the tiny creature, some more..

“Wow.”, said Gnine. “That must have been some mission those two went to. I wonder what happened?”

“They fought many very big creatures there, with the elves and some dwarves. Creatures that have no respect, called Greater Orken. The elves warned us not to come near, so the details of what happened are a bit sketchy.”, shrugged Whimsi Lola.

“The Orken attacked the elves, again?”, Laila asked feeling a bit sick.

“Yes. But the elves were ready this time. And were backed up by your cousin and the Temple Guardian. Many elves still died, but then the dwarves from Elder Hills came, and together, they defeated these Greater Orken.”

“But.. why would the Orken attack the elves again?”, frowned Laila. “..unless they wanted the north of Ritual Forest cleared to move in their main forces without hindrance when the time came.. And I think the time finally did come! Dammit. We had better get moving and fast.”

“So we are back to the room ahead, then.”, said Gnine, staring down the two hundred-yard, tunnel-like hall.

“Big!”, prompted Whimsi!

Laila sighed.

“She is right, you know.”, said Merisoul from behind them. “The room is rather big. Possibly bigger than your Serenity Home itself, though its purpose escapes me. Why do the little races want to always build things so much bigger than they are? And certainly bigger than they need?”

“Well.. we like to..”, stammered Gnine.

“..compensate for something, perhaps?”, smiled Merisoul.

“We just like to emphasize things, that’s all.”, replied the gnome sternly then shut up.

The unearthly girl smiled at him again then started down the long tunnel.

“I think you just got served.”, snickered Laila.

“Yes. Yes, I did..”, agreed, Gnine, then he smirked at the ranger lieutenant. “But at least I got served by something otherworldly..”

Laila scowled at him, then up at the little, buzzing ‘indentured cooperative auxiliary’..

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine Tinkerdome gazed down the eerily lit room. But to call this place a ‘room’, was like calling the gigantic monstrosity of a T-Rex they had fought months ago in the Arashkan Arena, a rock lizard! It seemed to go on and on and on forever and it was not empty. Rows and rows of tall, stone boxes were laid out and aligned both vertically and horizontally in military precision so much so that it was downright creepy.

“Wow..”, said the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “What is this place?”

Gnine looked up to see the succubi half-born, Merisoul Xyrotwu flap her wings overhead, with unveiled envy as she glided past them again, doing a wide circle in the great hall. It seemed like she was having a lot of fun while doing it. Fun, Gnine thought, that he would never hope to achieve. The gnome had many weak spots in his life. His unquenchable desire to be the things he saw, pretty faces, and to be able to fly, at will, and free of constraints. He secretly gave a side-long glance at his closest friend, Laila, and saw similar envy in her eyes. But there was a distinct nuance in how they viewed the half-born’s flight. Laila viewed it as something unique and perhaps wanted to try it out of thrill, and because it would make travel much easier on her feet.. Quite a practical wont, really. Gnine, on the other hand, much preferred the immense pleasure he could only imagine it would give him. The kind of pleasure only ‘total freedom’ would give. He watched Merisoul, a magnificent creature; her raven black wings stretched, her arms wide open, her honey-brown hair whipping among her dark, crowning horns, her very nearly black-purple strapless dress fluttering, and her tiny, baby pink feet tickling and who had a distinct dreamy expression on her face, disappear in the distance.

“Wow..”, repeated the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “I feel jealous, now. I mean, you have got to admit, that’s just awesome!”

“Yes. Yes, it is.. It is almost a sin, watching her like this and know how hard she tries to be a mortal. She must truly want honest love and compassion.”

“She’s an idiot!”, fumed Laila.

“What? That’s a bit harsh, now, don’t you think?”, asked the gnome, taken aback with her sudden vehemence.

“That girl already feels love. And she certainly feels both passion and compassion..”, replied the ranger girl, frowning after the succubi half-born.

“How do you know?”, asked Gnine, a bit surprised because Laila wasn’t one to open up easily, nor give her opinion about ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’. On this score, he thought she was more catatonic than her cousin, Bremorel had ever been. As a matter of fact, he knew Bree displayed her emotions, like, all the time. Yes, it was mostly limited to anger, but Gnine knew it was to hide her real feelings. Laila, on the other hand, was always.. well.. ‘cool’.. Which is how she hid her emotions..

“Gnine.”, she said sternly, looking down at the gnome. “You do not sacrifice your own blood the way she keeps doing to ‘heal’ others, without some sort of genuine feelings. No one can be that ‘chore-oriented’. I mean, look at Lady Magella. She healed us so many times, I can’t even come up with a number, and she still snapped at the end and she doesn’t even have to bleed to heal us.”

“Huh..”, grunted Gnine.

“That girl..”, Laila said, pointing at the general direction of the succubi half-born, “..does that every time she thinks any of us are in danger. I have yet to see her flinch when she is being attacked. I mean, she’s all like, ‘meh’, when a demon trice her size incoming at her, yet she very nearly panics when we are. That just can’t be ‘chore’!”

“Hmmm..”, mused the gnome, also looking in the direction where Merisoul had disappeared.

“Yes, she has issues. Issues I could only define using words like, monumental and otherworldly.. But she feels love, passion, and compassion. I can not imagine a girl who does not have those and do the things she does.. Have you seen her face? Actually seen it, when Princess Lorna said, ‘I thought you were my friend..’, back when we had just ran away from High Woods and were hiding in that cave? And the time when the two of us declared her as our friend when we were stumbling in that bloody Demon Fog? She very nearly broke down and cried. Had we been just a bit less nonchalant, or a bit more formal in our impromptu declaration of friendship, I fully believe she would have fallen apart.. Like, really fallen apart.. I was half afraid we had, inadvertently dismantled her! That girl lives for things we have and take for granted.. The things every ‘mortal’ has. Her problem isn’t the total lack of the things she wants. It’s connecting what she has, to her heart.. and mind.. She can’t relate.”, she said, and not without a certain amount of rage.

“Damn..”, Gnine whispered. “That’s.. that’s just sad..”

“When she says, she is broken, she actually means it. And until WE, her FRIENDS, find a way to make her relate to things she already has, she will STAY broken.”

“That’s going to be one, hard task, that is.. And I must admit, I am impressed AND pleased you opened up, the way you just did. Thank you.”, said Gnine happily.

Laila just stared down at the gnome.

“Just which part of anything I said, gave you the impression I was talking about me, let alone opening up, little man?!”

“Ahhaa..”, smirked Gnine. “..Anger! You always get angry when I am right.”

“No, I don’t.”, scoffed Laila.

“Yes, you do.”

“No. I. Don’t!”

“Then what’s with the name-calling?”, snickered the gnome.

“It’s the pre-warning you get before I knock you out of your socks!”, Laila fumed.

Gnine snickered, some more.

“You know, you really should go and have a long sit-down with that pretty boy, D.D. Dexter!”

Laila’s eyes blazed!

“That. Is. Non. Of. Your. Business. Dead. Man!”, she hissed at him.

“The well-being of my oldest and closest friend is non of my business? Just what world are you living in, girl?”, asked Gnine, still smirking. “If you are going to smack me, by all means, do, but my stance in this matter isn’t going to change.”

Laila glared down at him even more. Lucky for her though, or perhaps for the still smirking gnome, Merisoul appeared and did a stunning dive in their direction, swung up at the last moment, then gently settled down next to them!

“Wow, girl. That was truly spectacular, amazing, mind-boggling, and simply awesome.”, admitted Gnine.

 

Merisoul blushed!

And both Laila and Gnine noticed it.

 

That.. had never happened before.. Merisoul never showed any emotion other than perpetual sadness in her otherworldly beautiful face. Yet, here she was blushing..

Gnine ogled at her.

Because a blushing Merisoul was a whole new definition of ‘otherworldly beauty’!

Laila cleared her throat as a certain heat washed over her.

Damn!..

The half-born was unprecedentedly beautiful and Laila just now understood what would have happened had the girl actually used her succubi heritage over them the whole time she had been with them.

She also got a glimpse of what the girl truly meant, when she’d said, she was ‘hungry’ and hadn’t ‘eaten’ since she’d been forced to switch masters!

‘She must be starving!”, she thought, more than unnerved. ‘How does she even stay sane?’

 

“Tha.. thank you, Master Gnine.”, stammered Merisoul, still blushing in a baby pink-red color.

Gnine tried to clear his mind but failed.

Laila stepped on his foot and asked with a somewhat hoarse voice, “Uhh.. What have you seen?”

“Tombs..”, Merisoul replied. “These stone boxes are tombs.. All of them.. Thousands upon thousands of them.. It goes on for as far as I dared to fly..”

Gnine reeled back in desolate horror.

“Tombs? What the..? Why?..”, he spluttered.

“Relevant questions.”, Merisoul replied, all business again. “I suspect they all contain someone in them.”

“How do you..?”, the Gnine shuddered.

“They all have similar-dissimilar names, carved on brass plaques at one end of each box.”, she said.

“How do you mean, ‘similar-dissimilar’?”

“The names are all unique, but have a similar phonetic function, meaning they are likely all kin or of the same race and familial clan, Master Gnine. I believe we found your Silent Gnomes. I am, however, afraid it might be a bit too late for them.”

 

Laila suddenly felt sympathy for her little friend when she saw the sick expression on his face..

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine, Laila, and Merisoul examined the ‘tombs’ for hours only to find very little more than they had expected to find. And now, Gnine was sitting on the cold, smooth floor of the immense hall of tombs with his back on one of the stone boxes and seemed very much on the verge of breaking down when the succubi half-born silently came and sat next to him.

Quietly, she put one arm over his other shoulder and hugged him closer to herself, and spoke in whispers. “I am sorry Master Gnine. I did the best I could to bring you here.”

“Tis alright, dear Soul. None of this was your fault, nor your doing. We were a couple of centuries too late.”, sniffed the little gnome.

“I know all seems lost, but I am not certain, nor do I know if they are actually dead or in some kind of suspended animation or cryo-sleep. If so, then there must be some way to deactivate it. Otherwise, It doesn’t make sense, preparing all these stone boxes, just to lie down in them and die.. Besides, the logistics behind it all doesn’t add up, either.”

“How do you mean?”, asked Gnine with a hoarse voice, stifling another sniff.

“There must have been a considerable number of gnomes left behind who were not put to ‘sleep’. Gnomes that had to ‘activate’ these ‘sleep-stones’, to care for them, and to make sure they were left unscathed.. Basic logistics and maintenance.”, she explained.

“She’s right.”, Laila said as she appeared between the stone boxes, further down the hall. “Other than the wear and tear of ‘time’, I noticed pretty much all the containers, or coffins, are still in pristine condition. So I checked for tracks. The floor is not marble, but very smooth and tightly fit stone, much like the walls. There is, however, quite a bit of dust. I found many tracks. Most of them belong to the demons we have slain on the way here. I found some small bootprints too. Seeing as you are one of my oldest friends, I could easily say, these prints also belonged to gnomes, though they are old. Very old. I happened upon many dead demons as well. Having looked closer, they all seem to have been ambushed. I suspect that Temez girl and her friends came through here. She did say they cleared all they could on their way to the Door.. The ones we met thus far were likely wandering around, rather than stationary sentries. We should move on.”

“We could be just wasting our time, you know..”, Gnine said in a depressed tone.

Laila looked down at the little gnome.

She felt a fluttering pang in her heart, for him.

But she refused to show any sympathy.

Her brows crossed and her gaze turned hard.

“Get up.”, she said with an unmerciful hiss.

“Wha—?”, gapped the gnome at her.

“I said, get up. Or I will hurt you. This is no time for your sorry feelings. We didn’t come all the way here, and through Hell, just to go back empty-handed. My town.. Your town needs you.. And I have no desire to see it go to waste by the Hell-Spawn Orken. I have seen firsthand what they did to Arashkan. I have seen what they did to High Woods as well, and so have you. Will you give up now and let our town, our homes burn because you are feeling sorry?”

Merisoul tried a poor attempt of a cough.

“Well, now. That was a bit harsh, girl, don’t you think?”, Gnine said taken aback. “‘Get up’ was more than enough. You didn’t have to beat me into the ground.”

“I don’t do ‘half ways’, little man.”, said Laila sternly. “Nor do I like doing repeats, re-do’s, begs, or pleads.”

“Apparently you don’t!”, mumbled the gnome. “I think you have hung around Bree for a bit too long.. All her bad habits seem to have rubbed off on you.”

Laila scowled even harder.

“Okay, okay..”, said the gnome in defeat. “There.. I am up! Geez, girl, you can be harsh at times..”

“Quit whining, Gnine!”, scoffed the ranger lieutenant.

“I think she’s right.”, smiled Merisoul.

“By all means, chose her side..”, grumbled Gnine.

“Well, yes. You are cute. But she’s prettier, and she has bangs!”

“…”

✱ ✱ ✱

Finally.. That was one, big, room.. We must have walked for.. How many hours?”, wondered Gnine Tinkerdome.

“More than five, closer to six.”, came Laila Wolvesbane’s voice, off to his left.

“How do you know, girl? There’s no sun here to determine—”, wondered the gnome.

“She’s been counting her steps.”, said Merisoul Xyrotwu simply, from his other side.

“What?”

“Easier than counting steady heartbeats, I must admit. But I have wings and skip a step or three, now and then..”, the succubi half-born replied a bit abashed.

“You have been counting your heartbeats?”, asked Laila, with a surprised tone. “Won’t that be a bit.. inaccurate? Considering it changes when sleeping or in exertion such as running or even prolonged walking, as we have been doing.”

“Yours does. So does Master Gnine’s. Mine?.. Mine only changes under particular conditions? Otherwise, it’s much like a metronome swinging on even surface.”, replied Merisoul, with a reluctant voice.

“That is ..remarkable; a truly metronomic heart!”, admired Laila.

“Not as much as you make it sound.”, Merisoul answered with the same tone.

“How so? And how do you do it?”

“I don’t do it, dear Laila. It has to do with emotions. More like the lack of them in my case. Hard to have a hyped heartbeat when you can’t feel love, fear, anger —or any other form of excitement.”, she said in a monotonous voice.

“But you said, yours does, under particular—”

“—When I feed, dear Laila.. My heart rate changes only when I ‘feed’..”, came the half-born’s defeated voice.

“When you feed?”, asked the ranger lieutenant a bit confused. Then it dawned on her. “Ow.. when you ‘feed!'”

 

Gnine coughed.

Laila blushed furiously and shut up.

 

Gnine cleared his throat after several silent moments.

“Ahem.. Back to the issue at hand, then..”, he offered.

“The thing you are actually wondering..”, said Laila in a subdued and flushed voice. “We came just over 30,000 yards. Each stone box/coffin/crate/or whatever you want to call them is two yards long and one yard apart. There were twelve rows, each row has four lines of crates grouped together. You do the math. I did the steps!”

“Fair enough.”, Gnine said and did a quick calculation in his mind but voiced it for the benefit of the girls. “That’s 10,000 crates per row..”

“How did you come up with that number? I said 30,000 yards..”

“Well..”, said the gnome. “..Each box is two yards long so we can reduce 10,000 yards off right there and another for the length of each crate.. Then we have twelve rows, each row with four crates, making the lot 48 actual rows in total. Now we time that with the 10,000 crates and we’ll get 480,000 crates in total!”

Laila whistled..

“That.. is a lot of crates!”

“It is indeed..”

“You reduced 10,000 yards, twice, right at the start. Why?”, she asked.

“Because, my dear girl, 10,000 yards of it is just empty space between each sequential crate, and the second was because 20,000 is in ‘yards’. It is not the number of crates per column.. Each crate is two yards long, so that’s 20,000 divided by two..”

“Ow.. right..” *cough* “Well.. Let’s just get moving, shall we?”

Gnine did not laugh. He did not even snicker. A friend never laughed at his friend, and certainly not at a girls’ blindside or folly. But that wasn’t really the reason.

The Heir to all the gnomes of Silent Hills had just come to a stunning realization.

These.. were not crates..

These.. were tombs containing his gnomes, his people!

 

Damn..

 

The adventures of the Wizard Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane, and the sad, otherworldly creature, Merisoul Xyrotwu will continue as they travel deeper into the demon-infested vaults of Silent Hills, desperately seeking answers and allies, and the original denizens of the hills..


 

book 05 books dungeons and dragons karakter analizi komedi role play serenity home tarihçe the plot thickens tundra walkers

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” III

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” III

Timeline:

Bu hikaye, Brom Bumblebrim adındaki, Bowling Hill’de yaşayan kendi ırkının diğer bütün üyeleri gibi ‘normal’ ve hayatını olabildiğince keyifli ve tembel geçiren bir hobbit’in, beklenmedik bir şekilde ne idüğü belirsiz bir şey tarafından ısırılmasıyla başlar.

Genç hobbit’i her ne ısırdı ise, o günden sonra Brom bir türlü yerinde duramaz ve en sonunda, gecenin alakasız bir yarısında, eski arkadaşı ve aile dostu olan Gamwise Samgee’ye evini ve gülleri emanet ettiğine dair bir not bırakarak yollara koyulur. Uzun bir gece boyunca nereye gittiğini bilmeksizin, öylece, istikametsiz bir şekilde yürür durur..

 

Bu hikaye,
A Bard’s Tale XIV, “a Bit of a Bite” II ‘nin
devamıdır..

 

 

04.05.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Mayıs başı.
Tinker Hills..

 

Sen iyi misin, evlat? Biraz hırpalanmış gibi bir halin var..”, der yaşlı gnome han sahibi Brom’a.

“Biraz hırpalanmış bir haldeyim zaten.”, diye cevap verir Brom acıklı bir sesle ve yaşlı gnome hancının getirdiği sıcak, etli çorba kabını sımsıkı tutmuş ve sesli höpürtülerle yutkunurken.

 

Brom Bumblebrim, Croaking Mire bataklığından kurtulduktan sonra, korku ve panik içerisinde bataklığın hemen kuzeyindeki ormanlığa kaçmış ve günlerce bir o yana, bir bu yana koşuşturmuş, yorulup takati bittiğinde ise bulduğu bir ağaç kovuğu, devrilmiş, içi boş bir ağaç kütüğü yada çalıların yoğun olduğu yerlere sürünerek girmiş ve pestili çıkmış bir şekilde uyumuştu —uyuyabildiği gecelerde..

Bataklığın buz gibi soğuk, çamurlu, bulanık sularında karşılaştığı ‘kız’ ve akabinde konuştuğu ‘Muhafız’dan sonra zavallı hobbit’in bütün dengeleri altüst olmuş gibidir. Bu ‘küçük’ gibi görünen olay, Brom’a kati olarak bir şeyi öğretir;

Yaşadığı dünyada pek az şey göründüğü gibidir ve her an, her yerden beklenmedik bir şeyler çıkıp onu öldürebilir..

Zavallı hobbit, bir anda panik ataklarla tikleyip ve titreyerek ormanda kendisini kaybeder.

Gündüzleri sessizce sinerek ve evinden ayrıldığı günden beri yanında taşımasına rağmen hiç kullanmadığı, babasının eski kılıcı ve amcasının antika denebilecek gürzünü sırt çantasında çıkartır ve hayatında ilk defa elinde silahlarıyla dolaşır.

Brom, Croaking Mire bataklığından kurtulmasından sonraki günlerde tam olarak ne yaptığını, yada o günleri nasıl geçirdiğini asla tam olarak hatırlayamaz. Yıllar sonra bile, o günleri hatırlamak için de herhangi bir çaba göstermez. O günlere dair isteksizce hatırladığı az şey, her mantarın yenilemeyeceği ve nasıl pişirirse pişirilsin, sıçanların tatlarının iğrenç olduğudur!

 

“Nereden geliyorsun böyle, delikanlı? Buralara hobbit’ler pek uğramaz.”, diye sorar yaşlı hancı.

“Ben uğradığımdan dolayı pek mutluyum, hancı efendi. İnanın bu şey, aylardır yediğim en güzel yemek.”, diye etli çorbayı şapırdatarak kasesinden içmeye devam eder Brom.

Hancı ‘fırk’lar.

“Evlat. Benim yemeklerimi beğendiysen, ya başına çok kötü bir şeyler gelmiş olmalı, yada gerçekten hayatından bıkmış olmalısın.”, diye gülerek cevap verir yaşlı gnome.

“Her ikisi de, hancı efendi.. Her ikisi de.”, diye acıklı bir sesle söylenir Brom.

“İstersen birkaç gün kalabilirsin. Bakla, bezelye, enginar ve kabak için hasat zamanı. Bu yüzden gündüzleri hanım boş oluyor. Çiftçiler ancak akşam saatleri uğruyorlar. Bakladan ne kadar nefret ettiğimi bilemezsin ve burada gururla o şeyden yetiştiren ahmaklar var.”, der gnome hancı yüzünü buruşturarak.

“Evet, bakla yemesi de, pişirmesi de zor bir sebze. Aç kalmakla bakla arasında bir tercih yapmak zorunda kalmak istemem doğrusu.”, diye cevap verir Brom ve kendisi de yüzünü buruşturur.

Hancı buna kahkahayla güler.

“Ne işle uğraşırsın, delikanlı? Konuşmalarına bakılırsa kitap okumuşluğun var gibi.”, diye sorar hancı.

“Brom. Adım Brom Bumblebrim, efendim ve ben bir ozanım.”, der genç hobbit ve bir anda, aylardır Lir’ine dokunmamış olduğuna ayılır.

“Bir ozan!”, diye ünler yaşlı gnome. “Bu harika. Bak ne diyeceğim. Neden sen burada birkaç gün kalmıyorsun? Akşam olduğunda bu hanı şenlendirirsen, yemek ve yatak benden. Canın sıkıldığı zaman tekrar kendine eziyet etmeye geri dönersin.”

“Kabul!”, der Brom ve içinden, olur olmaz zamanlarda onu ısıran şeye lanet eder ve birazcık olsun yakasından düşmesini diler.

“Anlaştık o zaman, Efendi Brom. Tanıştığıma memnun oldum. Bende Kimbletyne.. Kimbletyne Tinkerdome. Buralarda herkes bana Kimble amca der.”

“Ama ben size Efendi Kimbletyne, diye hitap edeceğim.”, der Brom ve sırıtır.

Yaşlı gnome, Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, genç hobbit’e takdir eden bir ifadeyle bakar.

“Şimdi. Sizden üç şey rica edeceğim. Öncelikle, bu akşamki gösterime başlamadan önce bütün müşterilerinizi kaçırtmamı istemiyorsanız, sıcak bir banyo, su ısınırken, bu harika yemeğinizden bir kase daha, ve uyuyabileceğim sessiz bir de oda. Biraz dinlendikten sonra Lir’imi bir gözden geçirmem ve performansım için hazırlanmam lazım.”

“Tabii, tabii, genç efendi. Hemen bir kase daha getiriyorum ama korkarım sizin kalibrenizdeki bir şahsiyeti tatmin edecek taş küvetimiz yok. Sadece yıkanma fıçılarımız var. Yukarıdaki odalardan istediğinizi alabilirsiniz.”, der hancı mutlu bir şekilde.

“Fıçı olur, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, der Brom anında. ‘Fıçı da olur, küçük kum kovası da.. Gökler adına, bardak bile olur!”, diye geçirir içinden.

. . .

Brom odalardan hiç birini istemez. Onun yerine, uyurken de, akşamları söyleyeceği şarkılar için hazırlanırken de rahatsız edilmeyeceği tek yeri tercih eder; tavan arasını!

Hancı Kimbletyne’in onun için hazırladığı, içi sıcak suyla dolu fıçı, Brom’un düşündüğü gibi gnome boyunda bir fıçı değildir. Daha doğrusu boy olarak gnome’lara uygundur —ki bu da Brom’un işine gelir, eni ise.. aynı anda en az beş cüceyi içine alabilecek genişliktedir. Belli ki gnome’lar suda oynamayı seven bir ırktır ve bu bakımdan kuzenleri olan dwarf’lardan ciddi bir şekilde ayrılırlar.

“Evladım, sen yıkanırken ben de bunları yıkayıp getireyim.”, der yaşlı, tiz bir ses ve Brom neredeyse ‘bi kaşık suda boğulur’!

Başını sudan çıkardığında, yaşlı bir gnome teyzenin, elbiselerini almış, klinik bir ifadeyle onları incelediğini görür.

“Uhhmm..”, diye afallar Brom.

“Seni ürküttüm mü? Kusuruma bakma, evladım.”, der yaşlı kadın tiz sesiyle.

“Sorun değil, teyzeciğim.”, diye cevap verir Brom nazikçe.

“Sen nerelerde dolaştın, evladım. Çamurda mı yattın? Bu elbiselerin hali ne? Ben hobbit’leri daha temiz sanırdım.”

“Özür dilerim teyzeciğim çamurda yatmadım ama çamura düştüm..”, diye cevap verir Brom.

“Nereye gittiğine dikkat et evladım. Çamur düşmek için iyi bir yer değil!”, der yaşlı gnome teyze.

“Haklısınız teyzeciğim. Size zahmet olmasın, ben de yıkardım.”, diye utanarak cevap verir genç hobbit.

“Eyvahlar olsun!”, diye ünler teyze. “Hanımıza bir ozan gelecek ve elbiselerini kendisi yıkayacak.. Duyulmuş şey değil!”, diye dizlerini döver gibi söylenir ve elbiseleri aldığı gibi gider.

 

Brom teyzenin bu tepkisine hayret eder. Evet, bir ozan olarak Bowling Hills’de de saygı görmüşlüğü olmuştur ama bunun daha çok rahmetli anne ve babasının tanınmış ve hürmet edilen şahıslar olmalarından kaynaklandığını düşünmüştür daha çok. Teyzeden —ve geri dönüp baktığında da— hancının kendisinden gördüğü ‘hürmete’ bakılırsa, ozanların dünyadaki yeri oldukça saygındır. Biraz izcilerin, gittikleri her yerde gördükleri saygı gibi.. Sadece biraz daha ‘kültür’ içerikli.

Brom o gece iyi bir performans göstermek için elinden geleni yapmaya karar verir.

Genç ozan, sıcak suyla dolu fıçının içinde, fıçının hemen yanına bırakılmış iri sabun kalıbı ve sert keçe ile neredeyse bir saat oyalanır. İşi bitip sudan çıktığında, su soğumuş ve rengi de kahverenginin pek de hoş olmayan bir tonuna bürünmüştür.

Brom hızlıca kendisini havluya sararken utanç içerisinde karamış suya bakar ve huysuzca söylenir.

“Bu hep senin suçun!”

 

. . .

 

Brom, sessiz bir beklentiyle kendisini süzen, bir han dolusu bakla çiftçisine bakar ve tırsar! Evet, Bowling Hills’de daha önce bir iki defa gnome görmüşlüğü olmuştur ama şu anda en az otuz, kırk tane, ellerinde dolu maşrapalarla bekleyen huysuz görünümlü gnome ona bakmaktadır.

‘Hay shit!’, diye geçirir içinden. ‘Beklenti olayını biraz abartmış gibisiniz, sanki.’

 

Brom yıkandıktan sonra odasına, (tavan arasına) çekilmiş ve yaşlı hancının büyük bir nezaket göstererek süpürdüğü, havalandırdığı ve çarşaf, yorgan ve battaniyesiyle serdiği koca yer yatağına yüzü koyun kapaklanmış ve akşama kadar uyumuştu.

Genç hobbit’i, tavan arasına çıkan merdivenin başında durmuş, elinde derin çukur tabak dolusu yemek ve soğuk elma şırasıyla ‘psst’layarak küçük bir gnome uyandırmıştı.

Brom uyandıktan sonra, yatağının yanına bırakılmış yıkama kabında ellerini ve yüzünü yıkamış, sonra da küçük gnomu’un getirdiği yemek ve şıraya dalmıştı. Yemeğin tamamını temizledikten sonra, hiç vakit kaybetmeden aylardır sırt çantasında duran Lir’ini çıkarmış, zavallı antikayı utanarak bir güzel temizlemiş sonrada tellerini akort etmeye başlamıştı.

Genç ozan Lir’iyle uğraşırken, küçük gnome onu baştan sona kadar sessiz bir ilgiyle seyretmiş, sonra kalkıp yanına oturmuş ve hobbit’i daha yakından incelemeye başlamıştı.

Küçük gnome gerçekte şirin bir çocuktur ancak bu şekilde Brom’un neredeyse burnunun içine kadar girmesi, genç ozanı biraz irkitir ama yine de çocuğa sesini çıkarmaz.

Brom, Lir’in akorlarını son bir defa daha kontrol eder, sonra o gece söylemeyi planladığı şarkılarını seri bir şekilde zihninden geçirir ve peşinde küçük gnome ile aşağı iner..

 

..’Hay shit!’, diye geçirir içinden Brom. ‘Beklenti olayını biraz abartmış gibisiniz, sanki.. Kimbletyne amca naaptın sen? Bütün Tinker Hills’i mi davet ettin buraya?’

 

“Merhabalar..”, diye açılışını yapar Brom.

“…”

“Bu güzel bahar akşamında nasılız?”

“…”

“Uhhmm.. Keyifler yerindedir umarım?”

“…”

“Peeeki.. Sanırım şarkılarım için sabırsızlanıyorsunuz..”

“…”

“Öhöm! O zaman sizleri daha fazla bekletmeyelim..”

Brom iyice tırsmış bir şekilde hanı dolduran gnome’lara bakar ve bir anda terlemeye başlar. Temkinli bir şekilde tekrar boğazını temizler, Lir’ini alır ve bir yandan çalar, bir yandan da söyler..

 

Ozanların canı yanmaz
Hiçbir şey hissetmiyorum, ne zaman öğreneceğim
Acıyı sindirmeyi

Parti olduğunda çağırdıkları benim
Çağırmak için kapıma dayanırlar, tokmağını kırıncaya kadar döverler
Sevgiyi hissediyorum, sevgiyi hissediyorum

Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak
Bir, ki, üç, çak

Sızıncaya kadar çalalım, oynayalım

Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden
Sanki yarın yokmuş gibi çalacağım
Sanki hiç yokmuşçasına bir kuş gibi gece boyunca öteceğim, dökülen göz yaşlarım kururken hissedin
Avizeden sallanacağım, avizeden

Canımı dişime taktım, hayata tutunuyorum
Gecelerimi doldurun sabaha kadar çünkü bu gece zor tutunuyorum
Yardım edin…

Brom bu şarkısını en son Bowling Hills’de, Greener Kasabasındaki handa söylemişti ve o zamanki seyircileri çıldırmış bir şekilde “Tekrar! Tekrar!”, diye ıslık eşliğinde bağırmışlardı.

Şu anki tepki ise..

 

“…”

“…”

Evlat, senin ciddi sorunların var..

“…”

 

Brom fena halde bozulmuş olmasına rağmen bunu gizlemeyi başarır. Brom kendi duygularını gizlemeyi iyi bilen bir hobbit’dir..

Lir’ini tekrar kaldırır, “Evet.. o küçük performansımızla ısındığımıza göre artık başlayabiliriz..”, der ve tam kendi kasabasında pek sevilen bir başka şarkıya geçecekken karşısında hobbit’ler gibi hayatlarını tembelce bir mutluluk içerisinde geçiren bir kalabalık değil, bir han dolusu bakla çiftçisi olduğuna ayılır ve sebebini tam olarak kestiremese de, içsel bir içgüdü ile taktik değiştir..

 

Seni bana getirsin diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Beni sana götürsün diye bir şarkı yazdım ki
Bunu bu akşam saatinde çiçeklerine söyledim ki
Gülümse de yanına geleyim..

Olduğun yerde canın sıkılmasın ki
Diye, söyledim sana bu şarkıyı ki
Ben hala buradayım ve seni düşünüyorum ki
Üzülme de yanına geleyim..

Benim adımı sen koydun ki
Çağrıldığım da gelebileyim ki
Mutlu olasın diye bu şarkıyı sana yazdım ki
Hadi beni çağır da yanına geleyim—

Brom’un daha önce hiçbir seyirciye sergilemediği, rahmetli annesi dışında da kimseye söylemediği bu şarkı bir tepki alır. Bu tepki istediği yada beklediği tepki değildir, ama yine de bir tepkidir işte..

Tavan arasındaki odasından indiğinden beri sessizce bekleyen gnome’lar, benzer bir sessizlik içerisinde ellerindeki maşrapaları kaldırırlar ve iri yudumlarla kafalarına dikerler!

Yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, elbiselerini yıkamak için gelen yaşlı teyze ve küçük gnome çocuk, ellerinde dolu maşrapalı tepsilerle masaları gezerler ve boşları dolularla değiştirirler! 

‘Nasıl yaa?!’, diye hayretle gnome’ları seyreder Brom.

Brom bunu takip eden iki saat boyunca, kötü kafiyeli ama yazarken içten duygularla yazdığı bütün şarkıları sırasıyla söyler ve o şarkılarını söylerken yeni maşrapalar, yemekler, meyveler ve tatlılar gelir, boşlar gider.

Boğazı kurumuş bir şekilde ayağa kalktığında bütün gnome’lar da ayağa kalkar, son maşrapalarını ona doğru kaldırırlar, sonra onları da kafalarına dikerler..

..ve sessizce handan ayrılırlar!

. . .

Günaydın, Efendi Brom”, diye yüzünde mutlu bir ifadeyle karşılar Brom’u yaşlı gnome hancı. “Dün akşamki performansınız harikaydı. Mesleğinizin hakkını verdiniz..”

“Teşekkür ederim, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, diye nazikçe cevap verir genç ozan ve boş handa, pencerenin yanındaki bir masaya ilişir.

Yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, elindeki uzun saplı süpürgesiyle ortalığı süpürürken, bir yandan da sırıtarak genç ozanı süzmektedir.

Genç Brom ise dışarıdaki bakla ve kabak tarlalarını, ve aklı hala karışmış bir şekilde tarlalarda çalışan çiftçi gnome’ları seyreder.

Brom dışarıyı seyrederken, “Buyur, evladım. Dün geceden sonra acıkmışsındır.”, diye tiz, titrek bir ses duyar hemen yanından ve genç ozan yaşlı gnome teyzenin, elinde bir tepsi içerisinde beyaz peynir, kaşar, çam balı, kabak reçeli, tavada sucuklu yumurta, fırından yeni çıkmış bir somun taze ekmek ve kremalı çilek turtasıyla durduğunu görür. Brom ister istemez yine irkilir. Teyze yaşına rağmen yine dibine kadar sessizce sokulmuştur!

“Uhhmm..”, diye biraz afallar, biraz da utanır. “Zahmet etmeseydiniz, teyzeciğim.”

“Zahmet, kıymetin göstergesidir, evladım.”, diye dişlek bir sırıtışla cevap verir yaşlı gnome teyze. “Dün gece söylediğin, annenle ilgili şarkını, bu gece de söyleyecek misin?”

“Uhhhmm.. İsterseniz, tabii ki söylerim.”, der Brom ama genç ozanın içine bir kurt düşer. Yani.. Evet, o şarkı içten yazılmış bir şarkıdır ama hiçbir şekilde ‘müşteri’ amaçlı yazılmamıştır ve kötü kafiyeler ve zorlama anlamlarla doludur. Brom, şarkının ‘eğlenceli’ ve ‘mutlu’ temposuna rağmen herhangi bir seyirciyi coşturabileceğini düşünemez. Zaten şarkının mutlu temposu da gerçekte Brom’un, acısını örtbas etmek ve kendi kendisiyle alay etmesi amacıyla düşünülmüştür.

“Çok isterim, evladım. Çok hoşumuza gitti.”, diye gözleri dolmuş bir şekilde cevap verir yaşlı teyze, sonra yavaşça, kırış kırış olmuş, titrek elleriyle genç hobbit’i yanaklarından tutar, kısa bir anlığına gözlerinin içine bakar, eğilir ve Brom’u başından öper, sonra da dönüp tekrar muftağına gider.

Brom tamamen tırsmış ve kafası karışmış bir şekilde yaşlı teyzenin gidişini seyreder.

“Nooldu şimdi yaa?”, diye kendi kendisine sorar afallamış bir şekilde.

Yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne, elinde bir fincan, bir de kupa dolusu sıcak çayla gelir. Sırıtarak fincanı Brom’un önüne koyar, kupadan da kendi çayını hüpletir.

“Ten Ton Wressa’nın kusuruna bakmayın, Efendi Brom. Bazen böyle içlenebiliyor.”

“Bakmam, efendim.”, der Brom ve bir tepsi dolusu kahvaltılığa hiç utanmadan dalar. Bir sonraki yirmi dakika boyunca muhteşem köy peynirlerini, kaşarları, balı, reçeli, sıcak ekmeği sucuklu yumurtaya bandıra bandıra yer ve fincanı keyifle yudumlar. Tepsiyi boşattığında, evinden ayrıldığından beri ilk defa kendisini bir hobbit gibi hisseder.

Yaşlı hancı kalkar, bir tepsiyle geri gelir, boş tabakları toplar, turtayı Brom’un önüne bırakır ve gider. Tekrar döndüğünde, yüzünde mutlu bir ifade, elinde tazelenmiş fincan vardır.

“Bu.. hayret verici..”, der hancı gnome sırıtarak. “En son ne zaman Wressa’nın yemeklerinin bu kadar seri bir şekilde silinip süpürüldüğünü hatırlamıyorum bile!”

“Rahat bırak çocuğu, Kimbletyne. Beni oraya getirtme!”, diye yaşlı gnome teyzenin tiz sesi duyulur mutfaktan.

Kimbletyne tekrar sırıtır.

“Uhhmm.. Teyze..?”, diye temkinli bir şekilde sorar Brom.

“..Kendisi ablam olur ve bu hanın da, gördüğün bu toprakların da gerçek sahibi o dur.”, der yaşlı gnome mutlu bir ifadeyle.

“Teyze beni ilginç bir şekilde sevmişe benziyor, Efendi Kimbletyne. Genelde insanlar küçük ırklara biraz kuşkuyla bakarlar.”

“Sorunun cevabı, kendi içerisinde saklı, Ozan Efendi.”, der Kimbletyne ve daha da sırıtır.

“Uhhmm.. Nasıl yani?”, diye sorar Brom, aklı iyice karışmış bir şekilde.

Yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome içten bir kahkaha atar.

“..Biz ‘insan’ değiliz..”

Brom kendi salaklığına ayılır ve istemsizce ‘fırk’lar.

Çayından bir yudum daha alır ve işte o anda, daha önce gördüğü, ama uyanamadığı bazı küçük şeylere daha ayılır genç Brom ve bunu tetikleyen şey de yudumladığı çay fincanının ta kendisidir.

Fincanın üzerinde, ne olduklarının anlaşılması zor, ancak imtina ile hazırlanmış ve muhtemelen bir zamanlar çok ince, zarif, altın ve pembe renkleri kullanılarak çizilmiş çiçek desenlerinin olduğu bir fincandır ve bunların kümülatif olarak bir araya gelmesi ona bir şeyi açıkça söyleyiverir;

 

Fincan eskidir..

Fincan çok eskidir.

Yüzlerce yıl, eskidir!..

 

..ve her ne kadar kendisi, göreceli bir şekilde saygın bir ozan olsa da, olağan bir sabah kahvaltısında böylesi paha biçilemez bir antikayı hakketmediğini de kati olarak bilir.

Dahası, fincan onun önüne spesifik bir amaç için konulmuştur. Hobbit kültürlerinde fincanların ‘yadigar’ anlamda önemini bilecek kadar onları tanıyan, yada bu konuda bilgisi olan birisi tarafından..

Brom, kendisini sessizce izleyen yaşlı gnome hancıyı, varlığını hissettirmeden yanına sokulan teyzeyi ve önceki akşam sergilediği performansı ürkütücü bir sessizlik içerisinde seyreden diğer gnome’ları düşünür ve dış dünyaya dair bildiği kıt tarih kırıntılarını bir araya gelir..

“Haklıydın, Wressa..”, der yaşlı gnome sırıtarak. “Sanırım çözdü.”

Yüzünde mutlu bir ifadeyle, yine Brom’un yanında peyda oluverir yaşlı teyze.

“İlk gördüğümde akıllı olduğunu biliyordum. Akıllı.. ve farklı..”, der Wressa teyze tiz, titrek sesiyle.

“Siz.. sizler Tinker gnome’ları değilsiniz..”, diye ağzından kaçırıverir Brom. “Sizler Silent Hills gnome’larısınız.. Sizler Sessiz Gnome’lardansınız!”

Yaşlı teyze, elinin bir hareketiyle kardeşini oturduğu tabureden kovalar ve onun yerine oturur. Hancı Kimbletyne yan masadan kendisi için bir tabure kapar ve ablasının yanına çömer.

“Evet, evladım. Bizler Sessiz Gnome’larız.”

“Ama.. bu nasıl olabilir ki? Rivayetlere göre Silent Hills’e o garip sis çöktükten sonra bütün Sessiz Gnome’larını da oraya hapsettiği, sonrasında da hepsinin neslinin tükendiği yönünde.”, diye hayretle konuşur Brom.

 

“Sevgili annem, Seressa Ton Wraiven..”, diye başlar yaşlı teyze. “Annesinden —benim anneannemden— aldığı bazı talimatlar çerçevesinde, böyle bir şeyin başımıza gelebileceğine dair uyarılarda bulunmuştu ve bizler için gizli kaçış yolları hazırlattı. Buna rağmen çoğumuz yine de o mebus sisin içinde takılıp kaldı.. Ama bazılarımız kaçmayı başardı ve güneye, Endless Watch ve oradan da Standalone Fortress’i geçip büyük Sulking Woods ormanlarına yerleşmek için yola çıktık.

Burada olanlar, o gruptan gizlice ayrılanlar, onların çocukları ve torunlarıdır.. Bizler buraya yerleştik çünkü plan buydu. Herkes, hepimizin güneye kaçtığını sanması gerekiyordu ve öyle de sandılar. O mel’un sisi başımıza indiren düşman, onların peşine Orken denen, kıyım için özel yetiştirilmiş yaratıklarını gönderdi ve en sonunda da onları yolda yakaladılar ve hepsini öldürdüler. Bu, o kaçanların bilinçli olarak yaptığı büyük bir fedakarlıktı ama Silent Hills neslinin devamı için yine de bunu yaptılar. Düşman onları öldürdükten sonra, Silent Hills’in neslini kuruttuğunu düşündü ve bu da, sebepleri olmasa da, sonuçları olarak rivayet halinde bütün krallığa yayıldı.

Bizler.. Bu köyde gördüklerin, Silent Hills’den kalma son halkız.”

 

Brom duydukları karşısında daha da hayrete düşer.

“Ama.. ben bile sizi bulabildiysem, başkaları da sizi bulabilir!”, diye ünler.

“Aaaa.. İşte bu yüzden sana ‘farklısın’, dedim. Çünkü bu köy, özel koruma büyüleriyle çevrili ve kimse buraya elini kolunu sallaya sallaya giremez. Deneyen çok oldu, ama muhafazalara takıldılar ve akılları karışmış, neden burada olduklarını da unutmuş bir şekilde de geri gittiler. Ama sen.. Sen bir anda burada peyda oluverdin.”, der yaşlı teyze gnome.

“İnanın bende buraya nasıl geldiğimi bilmiyorum. Günlerdir, kendimi kaybetmiş ve korkmuş bir şekilde buranın doğusundaki ormanlarda dolanıyordum.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Brom ve zihninde, onu olur olmaz zamanlarda ısıran ne idüğü belirsiz şeye tekme atar!

“Hmmm..”, diye düşünceli bir şekilde masanın üstüne koyduğu yaşlı ellerine bakar Wressa teyze. “..O zaman vakit yaklaştı..”

“Vakit yaklaştı..”, diye onaylar aynı düşünceli, ama ağzı açık bir ‘hayranlıkla’ karışık hayretle mırıldanır yaşlı Kimbletyne. “Ve en sonunda..”

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa teyzenin gözleri dolar.

Kardeşi ona sarılır ve kendisi de mutlu göz yaşlarıyla fısıldar.

“Evet abla.. en sonunda..”

“Torunlarımdan birisi hakkı olan tahtına oturacak.. en sonunda..”, diye ağlamaya başlar teyze. “Biz göremeyeceğiz ama Silent Hills’in tekrar sesi duyulacak. Halkım tekrar bu dünyada özgürce yürüyebilecek. Tekrar..”

“Tekrar, abla.. Tekrar..”, diye onaylar Kimbletyne sessiz bir hayranlıkla.

“Uhhmm.. Anneanneniz olacakları nasıl tahmin etmiş olabilir ki?”, diye kendisi de hayret içerisinde sorar Brom.

“Anneannem.. çok özel bir kadındı..”, diye cevap verir Wressa teyze. “O.. o Silent Hills’in gelmiş geçmiş en büyük kraliçesiydi!”

Brom, tepesinden kaynar suların boşaldığını hisseder.

“Ne? Nasıl? Yani siz? Kral soyundan mı—?”, diye kekeler.

“Evet, Efendi Brom. Ama bunu hiçbir yerde söyleyemezsin, ve hiçbir zaman da tekrarlayamazsın..”, der yaşlı Wressa teyze.

“Tekrarlamam. Ama neden bana söylediniz ki? Ben yanlışlıkla buraya yolu düşmüş, önemsiz bir hobbit’im!”, diye itiraz eder genç Brom.

“Hayır, Efendi Brom. Sen yanlışlıkla buraya gelmedin. Çünkü yanlışlıkla buraya giremezdin. Neden ve nasıl olduğunu bilmiyorum, ama senin buraya girmene izin verildi. Ve bizim sana yemek dışında vereceğimiz bir sırrımız var.”

“Bilmek istediğimden emin değilim, efendim. Bu iş şimdiden benim için biraz fazla çetrefilli.”, diye somurtur Brom.

Kimbletyne Tinkerdome kıkırdar.

“Sana bir şiir vereceğiz. Bunu, Silent Hills’den kaçarken sislerin içindeki bir şeylerin fısıldadığını duymuştuk. Ama bununla ne yapacağımızı asla bilemedik. Sonra sen geldin ve gece uyurken biri bana rüyamda bunu sana vermem gerektiğini söyledi. Senin de bunu bir başkasına vermen gerektiğini, vereceğin kişiyi gördüğünde tanımayacağını, ama bileceğini söyledi..”, der yaşlı teyze.

“İşte şimdi gerçekten çetrefilli oldu!”, der Brom mutsuz bir şekilde. “Niye ben yaa? Önemli birisi bile değilim. Aslına bakılırsa, bu son bir kaç ay içerisinde öğrendiğim bir şey varsa, o da hiç kimse olmadığımdı!”

“Kendine inancın biraz daha fazla olmalı, genç Brom Bumblebrim.”, der yaşlı Wressa teyze. “Bu köye ‘hiç kimseler’ giremez..”

“Öyle olsun, teyzeciğim. Sizi kırmayacağım ve isteğinizi yerine getirmek için elimden geleni yapacağım çünkü ben bir hobbit’im ve ‘evimi’ ne kadar sevdiğimi biliyorum ve hiç kimse evinden mahrum edilmemeli.”, der Brom ciddi bir sesle.

“Evet. Edilmemeli, genç Brom. Umuyorum sen de bir gün evine tekrar dönebilirsin. Ama senin geleceğinde yapman gereken daha bir çok büyük işlerin olduğunu seziyorum.”

“Böyle bir şey sezmemiş olmanızı tercih ederdim, efendim.”, diye somurtarak cevap verir Brom.

Hancı Kimbletyne tekrar kıkırdayarak güler.

“Anneanneniz.. O kimdi? Böylesi büyük ve ön görülü bir Silent Hills kraliçesinden bahsedildiğini hiç duymadım.”, diye sorar Brom.

“O ise.. veremeyeceğimiz bir sır, genç Brom.”, der Wressa teyze nazikçe. “Bu konuda bütün Silent Gnome’larının vermiş olduğu bir kan yemini var. Varlığından haberdar olmuş olmanız bile bir ayrıcalık.”

. . .

Brom, o geceki performansına hazırlanmak için odasına döndüğünde kendisine verilen muallak şiiri düşünür ancak şiirin neresinden tutarsa, tuttuğu yer elinde kalır. Belli ki şiir, ilgili şahısların eline geçtiğinde anlam kazanacaktır ve o kişi de kendisi değildir. Brom bundan dolayı dürüstçe bir şekilde mutlu olur zira kendisi bela peşinde koşacak kadar ahmak değildir ve tek istediği evine, güllerine, şarkılarına, mutlu yemeklerine ve tembel hayatına geri dönüp o şekilde de yaşlanmaktır.

 

into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
knock
more
and hallow
blood for blood
soul for soul
and
life for life
trade and be king
freely given
and
ascend

✱ ✱ ✱

27.06.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Haziran sonu ve Temmuz başı.
Miasmire..

 

Brom Bumblebrim, neredeyse iki ay Tinker Hills’de yaşayan bu garip, sessiz gnome’lara takılır ve her gece onlara, dünyanın geri kalanının ‘fiyakalı’ olduğunu düşündüğü şarkılarından değil, çok daha sade, cafcafsız, sanat amaçlı olmayan, içinde daha çok ‘özlem’ barındıran hem hüzünlü, hem de mutlu bir çok şarkı söyler. Ve önüne konan bütün yemekleri de yer! 

Sessiz Gnome’larla geçirdiği süre içerisinde onlardan bazı şeylerde öğrenir. Söz gelimi, bakla çiftçilerinin neredeyse hiçbirisinin gerçekte çiftçi olmadığını, çoğunun Silent Hills’den kaçanların çocukları ve torunları olduğunu, dolayısıyla silah kullanımı, istihkam, kimya, hendek ve siper savaşları konularında da eğitimli oldukları hayretle öğrenir.

Aynı süre içerisinde yaşlı Hancı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome ile uzun yürüyüşlere çıkar ve bu yürüyüşlerde hem Sessiz Gnome’lar, hem de Silent Hills hakkında bir çok unutulmuş bilgileri edinir.

Sessiz Gnome’ların saklı kasabasına geldiği günün akşamı karşılaştığı küçük gnome ise onu nereye giderse takip eder, yaptığı her şeyi ilgiyle izler ve..

..taklit etmeye başlar!

 

Brom dışarıda dolaştığı bir gün, gnome çocuk ile ondan bile daha küçük, pabuç kadar boylu, pembe, daha çok pofuduk bir pamuk şekeri bulutunu andıran tüleri saçlı bir kız gnome arasında geçen bir konuşmaya kulak misafiri olur;

 

“Bugün ne oluyoruz?”, diye sorar küçük, şirin kız.

“Bugün..”, der küçük gnome, “..Ozan olacağız!”

“Umm.. Bir; Ozan ne? İki; Neden?!”, diye sorar minik kız.

“Sevgili Terrah Doodlebellz, ozanlık, gelmiş geçmiş en saygın mesleklerden birisidir. Öyleki, nereye gidersen git, seni prensler gibi karşılarlar, ne söylersen söyle, kanunmuş gibi dinlerler, Lir’inle ne çalarsan çal, sanat olduğunu sanırlar ve seni yerlerine çakılmış gibi dinlerler..”, diye grant bir şekilde sırıtarak açıklar küçük gnome..

“Bana daha çok kaybolmuş da yanlışlıkla gelmiş, laf hokkabazı gibi geldi.”, der cıvıldayan sincap gibi sesiyle Terrah Doodlebellz.

Brom kaşlarını çatar, “Laf hokkabazıymış!”, diye burnundan soluyarak ‘hıf’lar ve oradan uzaklaşır.

 

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa teyze ise inatla her sabah, her öğlen ve her akşam bir tepsi dolusu enfes yiyeceklerinden getirir Brom’a. Kadıncağız, bir halkın son prensesi gibi değil, basit bir hancı aşçısı gibi ona hizmet ederek genç hobbit’in, evinden ayrılmasından sonra kaybettiği bütün kilolarını geri almasını sağlar.

Yaşlı teyze, sadece bir sabah Brom’a servis etmez.

 

Silent Hills’in son prensesi Ten Ton Wressa 7589 yılının Haziran ayının 27. gecesinde sessizce gözlerini dünyaya kapatır.

 

Ertesi gün bütün Silent Gnome’lar cenaze için toplanırlar ve garip, ürkütücü bir sessizlik içerisinde yaşlı prensesi defnederler.

Brom o akşam handa toplanan gnome’lara hiçbir şey çalmaz. Elinde Lir’i, katatonik bir hayal kırıklığı içerisinde öylece taburesinde oturur.

Vakit geldiğinde, handaki bütün gnome’lar dolu maşrapalarını tekrar ona doğru kaldırırlar, sonra kafalarına dikerler..

Yaşlı Ten Ton Wressa’nın vefatıyla Brom da ayrılma vaktinin geldiğini düşünür zira buraya ‘getirilme’ sebebini de çözmüş gibidir.

Brom, gelecekte onu nelerin beklediğini bilemez. Ama evinden ayrıldığından beri ilk defa, an itibariyle sebebini bilemese de, kati olarak ortada bir sebebin olduğuna ayılır. Buraya, Silent Hills’in son prensesine yetişmesi de sebeplerden bir tanesidir.

Ablasının vefatını olabildiğince vakur bir şekilde karşılamaya çalışan yaşlı Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, artık gitmesi gerektiğini söylemeye gelen Brom’a itiraz etmez. Yaşına rağmen genç hobbit’in elini, kendi güçlü elleriyle sıkar ve genç ozana koca bir bohça dolusu erzak verir. Yaşlı hancı Brom’a, içinde bir kaç adet, kelek büyüklüğünde toplara benzeyen bir şeylerin olduğu ikinci bohça daha uzatır.

“Bunlar Bakla Bombasıdır.”, der Hancı Kimbletyne. “Temkinli kullanmanı sağlık veririm. Kaçman gereken durumlarda, şu gördüğün mandalı çekip bombayı at.. Tercihen düşmanlarına doğru. Onları öldürmez ama sana kaçacak kadar zaman kazandırır. Her ne yaparsan yap, çıkacak kokuyu soluma ve rüzgarı karşına alarak atma!”

“Umm.. Bu bana biraz tehlikeli gibi geldi, Efendi Kimbletyne.”, diye tırsmış bir şekilde bohçanın içindeki ‘toplara’ bakar.

“Tehlikeliler zaten. Burada keyif olsun diye bakla yetiştirmiyoruz. Hiçbirimiz baklayı sevmeyiz. Sadece ithal ederiz.. ve bunun gibi Bakla Bombası imalatında kullanırız.”, diye acı bir şekilde sırıtır Kimbletyne.

“Teşekkür ederim, Kimbletyne amca. Bana hakketiğimden çok daha iyi davrandınız. Sizleri hep iyilikle anacağım.”, der Brom.

“Hayır, evlat. Ben sana teşekkür ederim. Hepimiz adına. Özellikle de Wressa için.. Sayende mutlu.. ve onurlu bir şekilde gitti.. Bir prensesin böylesi bir yerde unutulmuş olmasını engellemiş oldunuz. Bunca yıldır onu hiç bu son bir aydır gördüğüm kadar mutlu ve hayat dolu görmedim. Ablamın şarkı söyleyebildiğini bile unutmuşum. Sen bize sadece ablamı geri getirmedin, genç Brom. Sen bize onurumuzu, umudumuzu, geleceğimizi ve prensesimizi geri getirdin. Bundan daha alicenap bir şey düşünemiyorum.”, der yaşlı Tinkerdome ve kendi evladına sarılır gibi hobbit’e sarırlır.

“Elveda, Kimble amca.”, der Brom üzgün bir sesle.

“Elveda, Efendi Brom., diye karşılık verir Kimbletyne Tinkerdome, sonra döner ve hana doğru seslenir.

“Gnine.. Evladım gel, bak. Efendi Brom gidiyor. Ona ‘güle güle’ de..”

. . .

Brom, kendisine verilen sayılı Bakla Bombalarından ilkini, Tinker Hills’den ayrılmasından kısa bir süre içerisinde kullanır. Sessiz Gnome’ların köyüne gelirken çılgınca bir panik içerisinde bir oraya, bir buraya koşturmasını, gnome’ların sakin köyünde, ve özellikle de Wressa teyze”nin yemekleri sayesinde üstünden atmış gibidir ve oldukça düzgün bir yol takip ederek Silent Hills’in hemen kuzeyindeki Miasmire bataklığına girer.

Miasmire, daha önce saplanıp kaldığı Croaking Mire bataklığı gibi değildir. Evet bu bataklık çok daha ‘ıslak’tır ama bu da biraz normaldir. Nede olsa tam ortasından Endless Sea denizine bağlanan bir akarsu geçmektedir. Ve burada zemin çok daha derin, kaygan ve sivri sinekli olsa da, Croaking Mire bataklığındaki gibi ne bir sis, ne uçuşan hayalet ve hortaklar, ne de kendisine ‘kurtarması için’ adıyla yalvaran ürkütücü yaratıklar vardır.

Bu, hiçbir şekilde yolculuğunun kolay olduğu anlamına gelmez. Öyle olmuş olsaydı Bakla Bombasını kullanmak zorunda kalmış olmazdı!

Miasmire bataklığının ortasından salınarak sürünen bulanık akarsuyu geçtiğinde, Brom’un daha önce hiç görmediği, neredeyse 15 adım boyunda, tamamen bataklık bitki ve sebzelerinden oluşan bir yaratık, muazzam bir devinimle çamurlu, bulanık sulardan yükselmiş ve küçük hobbit’e saldırmıştı.

Brom bir anda kendisine saldıran dehşet karşısında hiç düşünmemişti.

Kimbletyne amcanın verdiği bohçalardan birisine elini sokmuş, içinden kelek büyüklüğündeki toplardan birini çıkarmış, tepesindeki mandalı sökmüş ve kocaman ağzını açmış onu tek lokmada yutmaya gelen yaratığın hazır açtığı delikten içeri fırlatmış..

..sonra da sonuçlarını görmek için bile beklemeden arkasını döndüğü gibi kaçmıştı!

Brom arkasından ‘Vump!’, diye boğuk bir ses duymuş, bunu ise yaratıktan gelen acı ‘vıyaklama’ çığlıkları takip etmişti.

Brom, Miasmire’dan çıkıncaya kadar koşmuş, ancak Gulls Perch denilen yerin güney sınırına vardığında durmuştu.

Genç hobbit, evinden ayrıldığından beri değişen pek az şey olmuştur. Söz gelimi, hala farkındasız bir şekilde ellerini kollarını sallaya sallaya dolanır, ve karşılaştığı yaratıklardan anında kaçar ve saklanır.

Ancak bazı şeyler de değişmiştir. Mesela, o ilk gecesinde olduğu gibi erzakını hemen tüketmez ve olabildiğince günlere yaymaya çalışır. Eski tembel haline nispeten çok daha dayanıklıdır ve artık kendisini bulduğu ilk ağaç kovuğuna, devrilmiş bir ağaç kütüğüne yada sürünerek girdiği yoğun bir çalılığa sinerek uyumaz.

Kendisine, küçük de olsa bir kamp ateşi yakar, sıcak yemek pişirir, amcasının antika gürzünü, uyurken yastık olarak kullandığı sırt çantasının altına saklar, kılıcını da ince bir kayışla bileğine bağlayıp öyle uyur.

Birileri bütün bunlara bakıp gülebilir. Biraz daha nezaket göstermek isteyenler için ise bu küçük değişimler ‘bebek adımları’ olarak yorumlanabilir. Ancak Brom için bu değişimler gerçekten büyüktür ve onu bekleyen geleceğe hazırlayan zorlukların ilk meyveleridir..

Brom Bumblebrim’in hayret verici maceraları
A Bard’s Tale XIV “a Bit of a Bite” IV ile
devam edecek..


 

arashkan şehri book 03 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül role play serenity the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

Quiet In The Library

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 was 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, the 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 THE 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 the 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 girl’s 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.”

 


arashkan şehri book 02 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül role play serenity the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

Birthright (18+) (Doğum Hakkı)

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. Lots and lots 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 get away. 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’ basis.”

“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 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 a while. “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 latter, 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

 

book 02 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül role play the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

And Just Beyond That (18+)

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 at 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 lord’s 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 thought. 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 in 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?”

“Though 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 then shrieked like a hawk.

“CHARGE!”

 


Ri: elvish for a king.

Rise: elvish for a queen.

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

Riserin: elvish for a 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..