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Rated: E · Novel · Action/Adventure · #2051710
This is my novel in the works, there are some bit still to be worked on, so bear with me.
A Tale in Fantasy...

(rough draft #2)

By: Christian D.X. Daugherty

Started: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 8:22pm


Epilogue

A Tale in Fantasy


Far away, in a land called The Greater Plains lays a forest.

In this Forest, past miles of trees and brush, is an area called The Lost Wood.

In the Lost Wood, living his life in a quiet peace there is a young person by the name of Frit.


The Lost Woods, nestled in the lower reaches of The Greater Plains, part of the mass of land known as The Lightside, in a realm called Prynian. Formed by mystical beings known only as the Fae, Prynian is home to various forms of life, in each incarnation one could imagine, and a few one rather not mention....


The Fae are collectors, thier collection? Races, breeds, in short, life, in all of it's forms. They are able to conmunicate with anything in exsistance, so long as it has substance, the act of doing so has been refered to as "The Fae's Art", or magic to those not familiar with the histories of Prynian. It is not known to any that live now where they came from, or why they made us to live here, but as Legend tells it, there is a reason....


Frit is of the Sprites, a race decedented of the Fae, they appear as men aside from their rather out of proportion ears (however for a Sprite their ears are always in proportion so it's better to let them have their say). Normal Fae, also called Faeires, who are diminutive in size, are known to fly on wings of light, and are notorious for gifting those who gain thier favor, and humiliating those who don't. Although these are the common form of the Fae, the original Fae that first came to Prynian have not reappeared since the ancient wars of the Elven past...


Each has their own ability gifted to them by the spirit of nature, as it has done for all of its other Fae children. With Faeries, the gifts are multiple, and most Faeries don't even know what gift they even have... Sprites on the other hand, have just the one and it encompasses everything that makes a Sprite what and who he/she may be...


Frit has been gifted with the gift of understanding, thus meaning that if there is something no one knows, he most likely would understand it. Like all Fae gifts however there is a catch as even Frit himself doesn't really understand his understanding, while he understands that he does in fact understand he has it.


Not by reasoning and logic, mind you, this is Fae-Magic and as such, there tends to be loose ends here and there. Frit, being only of the wood, may be able to understand everything but that doesn't mean that he will know what it is or how to use it properly, understanding leads to many things but never instantly...


Now on one day while sitting under the shade of the tree he is currently talking to, (and it is quite an animated conversation to one who has never seen one talk to a tree) as living in the woods with just trees and a natural ability to understand them will lend an ear to learning "Barkish"- the Tree language, spoken quite well by one of the oldest trees in his wood, Twigger. While to the common man, the only thing to notice would be a mild change in someone's facial expression and mild breeze, a fully charged conversation would be underway with both participants highly animated in their vigor...or rather as animated as a tree can get...


Picture if you will, a mighty thick-barked tree, standing tall in the middle of a glade, every bit of wind, be it breeze or gust, is really just another sentence in Barkish, as trees are the elemental connection of Air to the Earth. So naturally they would be able to use the air around them as well, even though through different means. Branches and leaves instead of lips and teeth make a noticable difference...


Now for a tree, Twigger has a great deal of opinions and insights into his very young friend (young in comparison as Twigger stands nearly 50,000 years old, while Frit is a mere 150).


And he has been going on (for several decades, to be exact...) about how maybe it is about time for Frit to head out on his own and find something for himself to do (As all Fae are drawn into the service of keeping balance by the spirit of nature), but this current discussion has been a topic that Frit has always pushed aside, simply adding in: "What do you think I'm doing here?", stating his being in the Lost Woods all his life has been because he is the, self-imposed mind you, guardian of the Lost Woods.


In response, Twigger would say, "Wasting time, and not in a very creative manner", which as you should know, is in reference to the fact that the very same Lost Woods Frit claims to be guarding is really far inside of an already undeniably hard-to-cross-forest.


"Well, then I'm waiting on options...", Frit let the statement hang, hoping for an answer, but knowing there won't be one... "You know your options, same as your cousin Knil, who is still doing well with the Dwarves by the way...", Twigger mentions knowing that any mention of Frit's cousin will ease the young Sprite into being more communicative.


This time it was not so helpful....


Knil and Frit grew up like brothers in Dew's Point, sometimes the best of friends, other times bitter rivals, but never enemies, so thier bond stayed strong throughout the years. Knil was older than Frit by 200 years or so, granting him the moniker "Eldest", and Frit the title "Youthling". These titles emboldened the two into acts of adventure or to those around them, random mischief. And in respect to thier titles they would give no end of trouble to whatever unfortunate soul happened upon being thier next teacher. And they did train, in magics and sparring, with each other as sparring partners they would see thier weaknesses before the enemy would. They were the most promising students in the whole village. Until time came for Knil to follow The Fae Spirit.


He was given the Dwarven Mountaincity to protect and maintain. The Dwarven Mountaincity is the greatest engineering feat in all of Prynian. Being creatures of hard labor, the Dwarves used thier superior skills with metal and mind to work the great mountainous ranges of the west into thier home, and as a Dwarf is most at home whilst he works, the mountain soon became a massive forge. The amount of metal it can produce is only trumped by the different types of metal it can make. It is for this reason why Knil was sent to keep the rising rumors of bandits in the area under control. He wasn't given much time to prepare before leaving, so thier goodbyes were short...


However, Knil does manage to send the random trinkets his adventures afford him into finding his way. Knil learned how to scry Frit's position using a piece of his hair, as he knew that Frit is never one to stay in one spot for longer than he liked, which turns out to last around the better part of two days. Upon his visit to his cousin, once Frit had made his home in The Lost Woods, Knil remarked that he wasn't quite sure why Frit choose to stay, Frit however would only say that it wasn't his choice, The Fae Spirit made it for him... Noting this, Twigger wonders what about The Lost Woods keeps Frit subdued and complacient...


Even by Elven standards (which are the best to judge, if you were one to be placing bets on where to go in the wood), Frit's Lost Woods are lost for two reasons; First of all being that the trees in the Wood have been enchanted to keep anyone from crossing because just past the Lost Woods is the Great Expanse which lies on the Orcish lands, full of strife and never ending wars between the Orc tribes. And even though there are the occasional Goblin incursions, they are no great threat to the realm by far...


Which brings us to the second reason guarding a lost wood is pointless; no one would willingly walk into a land of war and certain death (and if they did, it would be incredibly bad taste to turn them away if they get that close). Fully making his point, Twigger fell silent, which he knows just makes Frit antsy.


Try imagining sitting in a vastly dense forest with an impressive grouping of tress all full of far reaching branches holding enough leaves to hold the wind itself, also healthy with various types of wildlife hunting and being hunted, not to mention the running streams and rivers full of strong fresh water fish fighting the current as it crashes against the rocks embedded under the surface, the same ground that carries the sounds of the hoof beats from the wildlife and the splash of the river on the rocks... now imagine hearing all that at the same time, because Frit does when he's not focused on keeping his hearing on one certain thing...


A fresh wind blew in from the west and an acorn fell to the east, landing in a brush of dead leaves. There was a long bit of rustling from the leaves and blades of grass by the squirrel who had dropped the acorn. Then a louder shuffle as the birds nearby left the area, sensing increased movement. The same movement that was coming from the wolf, which thought the squirrel, would make a decent snack. The low and rueful rumble still sounding in his belly shortly afterward proves otherwise...


The river that runs a fair distance from Twigger's spot in the Wood never seemed louder to Frit's hypersensitive ears carrying the sound of fresh salmon jumping and slamming into the rushing downhill stream. Twigger made no extra comments and most likely, he would not have said anything else for the rest of the day (as he had done before to prove a point) until finally Frit breaks the quiet....





Interlude:

The Orc Way


Now I'm getting ahead of myself, and this story. This tale deserves a proper introduction and one shall be appointed to it. First off, welcome to Prynian. It is a land for all things that can be, would be, might be, and some things that should be. All manner of folk were placed here long ago, so long ago in fact, that if you were to ask the oldest living thing on Prynian right about now, it would be hard pressed to tell you an accurate account of the goings on that first day, and while much could be said explaining the details of who could have placed so many things on this land (not to mention, the reason for such an act) there aren't many around who would be telling it to any without proper reason. So to save time (and an unnecessary explanation of things that will become clearer in time), we will start with Legend...


Funny that, whenever one hears a truly good piece of gossip, from the local Storyteller (affectionately called `Tellers), likelihoods of it being trust-worthy is slim to none. Most of all times when it starts with a rather surly gent, with enough of his wits about him from the drink to try to convey a lively story to rouse a crowd..., his opening line would be no other than: "...Now Legend has it ..." then divulge on into his tale. This one, however has more interlocking roads to cross on the way, as these are true people (as a side-note; while some of our cast are indeed, NOT people, the whole of the expression should still be taken into account for face value), each with their own short comings and faults that delay the normal workings of a quintessential "story-book" ending, but all things in moderation, let's move on.


As we move to The Bard's Barrel in the town of Steelfort, the capital of the human race on Prynian. It is a busy city filled with every manner of man-folk one can imagine, from nobles to paupers and all that may lie in between. Ruled by the wise and kind King Corvan Augustain, the First. The Human Kingdom has always tried to balance out the differences between the different races, as the early humans owe thier very civilization to the cooperation of others. His kingdom is in a state of upheaval currently, with a sect of people that don't agree with their current peace with the Elvish and Dwarven races that dwell just outside their borders. As of now, there are only small riots and protests in the outer laying villages, calling raise to more citizens to be called on to become Rangers to police the lands... Now, as so I am not too rude, delving into politics, I believe that our dear 'Teller was about to go on with his tale...


"...Now Legend has it, as it's been held ever so carefully by my own family down the line, for safe-keeping mind you, all these many ages about the goings on in our land, for while the word of a rambling man is fraught with ale and mirth, you can be sure of one thing,..." our 'Teller then takes a pause to see how his story is taking hold (and to take one more taste at his ale). All the faces in the crowd, bored from a long day of hard work and itching for something good to distract them that they were in store for pretty much of the same the next day, look toward the 'Teller with a look akin to a 5 year old child the day he learns he's getting a gift, the look our very same 'Teller was looking for: the sign of an attentive crowd. Only then can you tell a decent tale worth all the merits that come along with the thoughts of a good story.


Smiling, the 'Teller adjusts himself in his stool, to an angle that better accommodates his audience, he continues, "...that there is always some truth in any story, be it covered in lie from head to toe, there'd still be a hair's breath of truth, or you wouldn't be listening to it in the first place." He punctuates this statement with a rather satisfied nod that knocks him slightly off balance for a moment. Regaining his stature, at the grins and chuckles at his expense, he decides to get along with his story (before the rest of the drink takes over for him), "Back during the war times, death and mayhem were as rampant as the fish you see in the summer stream..., and what with a new war every five months or so, always more menacing than the privious one, asking for more aid than the last, while we still buried our dead from yesturday...just dreadful business it was...".


He pauses for effect again, nothing builds a good story like a little suspense (and it's a hell of an excuse to take a drink of ale too) "It's because of them Orc's we all know the truth in that they started this unholy season of death visited upon us daily. "They came low and quiet, at first, whispers of things moving in out-of-the-way areas that no one could really account for, what without being there him or herself. "Then that changed the day the town of Zinc Valley fell into shadow. "Now for those of you, who are lucky not to know how bad this was, well...be glad I'll leave the peaceful bliss only ignorance can bring with you, and move on..."


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(Note from the author: these asterisks will mark when our 'Teller is develing deeper into the history of a subject, which a 'Teller wouldn't normally do aside from unless there was someone in the audience who wasn't familiar with the histories...much like yourself, so be apprechiative and listen well, as 'Tellers rarely repeat themselves, and when they do, it's never as accurate as the first time... )


Zinc Valley, the city of knights, fell into destruction after one of the most devastating Orcish raids in the history of The Greater Plains. Once the second largest city in the Human Kingdom, now just a collection of rocks and bones... The doomed city rested just on the borders of the lower end of The Lost Woods, close enough to the Orcish Deadlands, that lie just on the other side of the wood. Orcs normally don't hold animosity towards Humans, but it doesn't exactly mean they'll welcome any unwanted people coming closer to them. Now Zinc Valley, home to the strongest knights in the realm, did not succumb to the vicious onslaught of Orcish war parties and Goblin raiders easily, it very well couldn't. So therein lays the mystery, how does a village filled with not only capable, but willing combatants get destroyed entirely? Exactly how does it fall into disarry?


The answer, magic...namely dark Orc magic, the first of its kind seen since the beginning of the races. Even at that time, it was basic and flawed, but not this time...no, the Orcish Magi this time around had found something to bolster thier resolve. And the results were evidently potent, as tall towers of steel and stone were rendered to rubble and smoke without so much as even the basic foundation to keep track of where one should start looking for those graceful enough to survive the encounter.


Of the survivors, there were two, one a small child, male and mixed of human and elvish, a half-breed as thier kind is known by, not as magical as the Elves nor as short lived as the normal man. These breeds have the best benefits of both races and as such not open to their weaknesses, but in its stead, all of the envy from those around them. When the child was found he was laying on top of a pile of still smoking Goblin and Orc corpses that from the look of the boy and the makeshift sword he had made from spare matierals found at the smithy shop he was holed up in, would have to had been dispatched by the child, as there were only other children and women around him. When asked, the boy had no recollection of what had happened or how he had fought anything, the last thing he remembered was the smell of fire, the sound of screams, and that he needed to keep himself safe.


Of the second survivor, also a child, but unlike the first child, this one did not survive by the grace of the Fae, as she was horribly scarred, and upon finding her she was currently being raped by a band of Bandits that usually raid a town after a major attack (trying to pick through the spoils while the Kingdom Guard busys itself with the ones behind the attack). Her assaulters were killed and the now mortified girl would no longer speak or write....so no one knows what she might have gone through before she was eventually found by the knights searching the town.


Aside from those two, there were others who lived after the initial attack, there were many others, but for thier part, were already dead inside, while the others just consigned themselves to death, either by starvation, going for revenge or suicide when the memories became too much for them. However, this is all in speculation, as not one of the other survivors uddered more than a syllable, and even the most basic of thier gestures showed no emotion, save for dispair and trauma, so there was nothing gathered in trying to converse with them.


There were no clues to follow as the town was so decimated that every structure that marked the great city was reduced to rubble in days, and what was left was destroyed during the raids from Bandits and wild Goblins alike. A city spanning several acres, with over 5,000 civilians and twice as many guards and knights, the main force of the Kingdom Guard, wiped from the map...and all without anyone having the slightest idea why...


As a whole, every race in The Allience, that being, Human, Elven, Dwarven, Faerie, and Gnome, took thier time investigating what could have transpired, out of all of them only the Faeries found the answer, but refused to share it due to a rivalry with the Gnomes, as mentioned before, the Fae can be quite petty and rarely is it at the right time. However, they did mention that while it was Orc magic, they wouldn't see it's like for the better part of a century, and when they did, we would know it to be them...


But with the knowledge of who was behind the attack, there were few who could sit by while thier known enemies were still moving free able to plan another savage attack at any time. So The Alliance made a drastic choice. They went to war, with the enitre Orcish race. This war, dubbed The Retalitary War, began with excursions into the Orcish Deadlands to find captives they could gather information from. The first of these captives killed thier would be captors in mintues, their reinforcements in even shorter spans of time...


In time it was found out that after the attack on Zinc Valley, the Orcish forces kidnapped the resident blacksmiths and metalworkers, along with any peoples of considerate skill, the reason for which one can only assume to utilize our own skills against us, fighting fire with fire, so to speak.


Then the advance parties that were stationed on the outer edge of the Elven Woods, then the patrols that lie deeper inside of the Alliances lines. The Orcish forces seemed to be waiting on thier caution and had laid traps to catch the Alliance off guard. By the time any had noticed how close together these attacks were going off; over half of the troops sent were decimated in the trees.


They underestimated the collective progress of the Orcish race...


At first, the Orcish Warhoard had not cooperated, believing that one's individual strength makes them worthy. This obviously bred a great deal of disturbance from any who could want or could have a reasonable claim for power, but that is not the Orc Way. The Orc Way is force. The Orc Way is strength. The Orc Way is to demand what you want...and take it if you don't get it, because you deserve it.


It was the strongest of all the Orc clans that made the claim for unification, U'llsbarek, an Orc said to have lived for over a thousand years. In that time, he first dominated his own clan leaving only the strongest and most loyal to him alive. Then he took over the smaller clans, allowing for more power for him exhert against his foes...


In time his progress increased, allowing for a clan bigger in size and ability than smaller clans. However before he could make his claim to the whole of the hoard, he needed an advantage...with smaller clans still holding off his advances with use of Goblin magic, he now knew what he needed. So he did what all Orcs do in times of desperation, he prayed.


In Orcish religion, there is but one God. He does not show mercy. He does not love. He respects power and those willing to use it to thier advantage. He was only known as The Burning Life, the life that takes as it gives, leaving nothing behind as it once was. It was with his guidance that U'llsbarek found the way to unify the separate clans. The Burning Life, respecting the power that U'llsbarek had shown dominating his people into his control, gave a gift to the Orcish leader. This gift was one of power and magic, power that eminated from every step taken by U'llsbarek, reverberated through the ground with the force of a mild earthquake. His strength was enhanced far beyond the normal Orc, leaving any would-be opponents no match at all in open combat.


The magic however was the biggest gift offered, as it stemmed from The Burning Life itself, granting abilities and power not found in the confines of The Fae's Art. This new line of magic came to be known as The Burning Art, in spite of how the Fae had saw fit to bless only Elves and thier kin with magic in the first place. The Burning Art was devastating where The Fae's Art was impressive, fierce in place of natural, and filled with the desire to destroy anything that did not bend to one's will.


Armed with The Burning Art, U'llsbarek quickly dominated the remaining clans in half the time it took to dominate his own. With thier support he began his plans to make the biggest attack in the history of Prynian. After the Orcs were unified under his banner of The Burning Life, a dragon eating the world, he moved on to bring the Goblins into his fold. Goblins are the mix of a regular Elf born under the unfateful circumstance of being in the vicinity of the Orcish Deadlands. The nature of this phenomenon lies in the resentment of the Orcs.


When the Elves and the Orcs were first placed on Prynian, the Fae split the land between them when cooperation was no longer an option, as their fighting had led to much destruction during times meant for building and teamwork. So the Fae split the two and left them to thier own devices, letting each side rule thier own land. Where the first two races once lived now stands The Lost Woods, a vast stretch of wild forest that separates The Greater Plains from The Orcish Deadlands. Where the Elves saw fit to grow life and enhance each others knowlegde of the world they lived in, Orcs perfered to learn about the world through domination, and in domination, then gaining true control. In time the vast desert spanned on end of the wood, while an even more dense and lively forest grew beside The Lost Woods, leaving the still waring middle villages alone to thier own devices.


In time the leader of the forest Orcs, Miandi came to the point where she saw this would never end, and they would never advance, neither race, through thier stubbon war. Seeing no end in sight and no help from the outer clans, Miandi was desperate. So Miandi did what Orcs do. Miandi prayed.


And in her dreams came The Burning Life respecting her knowledge and foresight, for knowing what would happen down the line. His gift to her would be the darkest turn of events in any age yet to come. The birth of the Goblin race. He allowed for the spirits of future Elven children to be born with Orcish spirits inside them, allowing for her influence to the rest of thier children over time. Being Fae, the Elves did not respond well to corruption. Thier faces became distorted, twisted versions of the normal beauty Elves would show. Totally unrecognizable at this point they called themselves Goblins after thier forest God Gol'buri, The King of Mirth.


In truth, Gol'buri was only another form of The Burning Life. Having multiple clans under his power since the dawn of the ages, left most of them wanting independence from those concidered weaker, or less deserving of power. So The Burning Life made several instances of himself, and spread them amoung the Orcs and the Elves, so that wherever they would go or whatever they would do, they would be in his debt, and under his power.


This was no different with the Goblins, as in time they weren't allowed into the very villages they would be born into, being thought as a curse from the Fae, a rebuttle from them not joining the other Elves in the Magi War. It was these stranded and frustrated few who were found by Miandi, and taught the ways of the Orc. It didn't take long for them to get used to the new lifestyle, which fit them much more naturally than normal Elven life, which was mostly training in magic and science, as to understand the world. The mixture of the two backgrounds gave way to a new society, one that would use magic and logic to take advantage of anything they could. After that an Orcish form of common sense called forth thier lessons in The Burning Art, to which they adpoted and then mastered, far beyond it's normal calibur as it now rivaled The Fae's Art on almost every level...


Along with the domains thier power afforded, the Goblins left themselves in an area close enough to Humans where they could, and on often occasions were, mistaken as Elves and given the opportunity to masquerade as them in efforts to break The Alliance. Dressing as hooded Elven Magi was thier most obvious ploy, as most would be hooded to begin with, and they rarely spoke when they did. Speech is a talent not favored amoung the Orcs, and as such, leaves one feeling as threatened speaking to an Orc, as much as looking at one with his weapon in hand...


However, the Goblins were just the advantage that the Orcs needed, with their Elven ancestry; their speech was inheirently more fluent and pleasant to the ear. This made it easier to converse with the Human troopers that they came across during thier trips away from thier home in The Lost Woods. In time, there was so much influence from the Goblins that small fights had broken out between the neighboring townships and villages. And watching her children blessed by The Burning Life to live until the last of her kin dies, was Miandi, The Goblin Queen, Bride of Gol'buri, The King of Mirth.


This was the dawn of a new age in the area of land known as The Greater Plains. Since the begining, Elves and Fae had been the only practictioners of magic as they were the only ones that knew the rules of magic... However with the Goblins, the world learned that magic was not being restricted by the powers that be, more so that it was waiting for those powerful enough to use it. And so did the Goblins become powerful, powerful enough to rival the Elven villages next to them, wars then broke out, lasting for over several decades, the rements of which are still visible to this day...


Elves believing themselves to be the masters of all things arcane and magical, was left terribly unprepared for the onslaught of destructive magic that was unleashed by the skillfully destructive and malicious Goblin Magi, who themselves were well versed in the Elven schools of magic, and used that knowledge to decimate thier foes. Thier greatest threat came from thier voice, as it was through deciet that the Goblins brought the most devastating defeat known to The Greater Plains. Being basically Elves in nature, Goblins are born with a more elegant tounge than most Orcs, as flowery words are most definitely not the Orc Way. Orcs use words as one would use weapons, that being, viciously and without restraint, better to have ones opponent think wary of thier prey, than be thought weak himself. That being said, an Orc is just as threatening in a conversation as he would be walking to you with an axe in his hand...


Goblins on the other hand are craftier, as they don't have the wild brute strength of the Orcs to assist them. Instead, they use thier enhanced intellect, and keen senses to trick unwary travelers and Human Kingdom Guards into thinking themselves Elven Magi, wandering the Woods... These hapless souls befriend, enlist and share not only details of thier town, but also detailed information concerning thier Kingdom, and The Alliance. After no more information could be gleaned, the Humans were then slaughtered, having thier remains scattered amoung the outlaying trees outside thier village before they would then attack. Several more towns and villages fell in a similar manner, enough for word to reach U'llsbarek, and for him to seek out the aid of Miandi and her elk...


Then Zinc Valley fell into flame. The plan was simple, because no one would expect an attack from magic they did not know of, so that would be thier main and only form of attack. A long-range bombardment of high-level devastation fireballs decended upon Zinc Valley, from Orcish spellcasters taught The Burning Art from U'llsbarek, rained down enough explosive fireballs into the area. Thier targets were marked by placement crystals left in place by Goblin Raiders who had placed them there earlier in the week. The Raiders would enter the town as merchants then move about the town sizing up the defences and the lay of the city. Then scouts would pick out places of high traffic and importance and leave thier placement crystal. The crystal in itself was merely a becon to focus the Goblin Spellcasters energy for locking on to later. Focusing on the vibration in the crystals, thier destructive fireballs left nothing of the outlaying city, aside from sundering rubble...and mangled remains of people defenseless against the onslaught. Smoke rises from the center of the town, the area where the greatest of thier fireballs came upon them, the very size of it was said to be the same as the sun, if there where one around the right size for the city...


*********************************************************************************************


"No human force could uproot an entire village in one fortnight, much less one single night alone. "As only they could, the Rangers (peacekeepers and freeswords that travel the Greater Plains in service to the King) who found that town knew the hand that wrought this mayhem, all that were left of the village was foundation and bone, all else reduced to ash..." Looking about the crowd, 'Teller decides against one more sip and continues, "..., so here we are in our present age and day, when the rumors about those days continue still. "Sure, the war has been good and done with for a quite a decent stretch now and we've seen not an Orc's leavings much less one in whole..."


Now 'Teller leans in close, as if to confide in his crowd a most important secret, "...but there's been word that one of them Elf Mages found himself rather fond of Orc history and decided to compare notes with the real deal. "Mind you, Orc's aren't brainless kill-drones, set to rape, burn and kill (although they do rape, burn, and kill), they've got as much structure as us folk here, which I find to be the reason they don't take to kindly to us- but that's another tale for another time, as I feel the drink upon me I would like to feel myself upon it once more... Good Morrow Gents, Ladies, and all of you who would be otherwise, but too shy to want to be noticed." Afterward, the crowd talks amongst themselves, some afraid, and some brave...making plans with weapons in mind, and tools to administer them with...


On this night there are a few that keep to thier own company, one hooded figure standing by the entrance as if he's waiting for someone; the next a man who by all appearances looks to be part of the Kingdom Guard, just off duty for the night sitting close to the Tellers table; waiting for a good tale to come up to take his mind off something horrible that happened earlier that day...


After him the next most suspicious person, would have to be the man standing outside the tavern apparently leaning up against a tree. This person has been obviously paying attention to the activity inside the tavern, but remains outside, as if waiting on something...the only person he interacts with is a small slender woman, who keep her hair wrapped in her shawl as to keep the long flowing locks of hair bound upon her head from flying into the winds, which are rather more active tonight than most nights. She speaks to the man and him to her; however what is said between the two is not heard...


Back inside, the Kingdom Guard orders another flagon of ale for the 'Teller, if...:"he can go more than three seconds without his head in the bottle, I don't come to the tavern to see how well a drunk can hit the ground...although I'd give you a solid silver mark for that first tumble earlier...", remarked the Guard who kept his helmet on for the duration of the exchange.


"Looking to take yur troubles away in tales, eh?", replies the 'Teller, smiling at the Guards moxie... "Not one to blame ya, been doin' the same since I were a lad, learning these here tales from me Da...I tell ye what, get me three more to match this 'un here, and I'll tell the grandest tale in all of The Greater Plains...The tale of The Return of The Burning Life..."


At mention of the title, the entire tavern goes quiet, and most are waiting to fish out where the person bold enough to mention those words are, as all have heard of The Burning Life, the ever-living encarnation of contempt and dismay for all those not swayed to his power. As well, all know that he very well almost took over the world, not even a year from tonight. Now with the captive audience of the entire tavern waiting on his next words, our 'Teller clears his throat for an annoucement...


"Ladies and Gents, plus all those who would be otherwise, harken well to my voice and learn of the bravest heroes our meager Greater Plains have and probably will ever know... I spoke of one such of these heroes before, but no hero ever stands alone, so for those of you willing to concider my tale...remember that these days we live in, while not the best, were granted to us by those who knew it could get better..."


"Why I wonder if any of you would even remember any mention of Brook, Hero of Stonewall; Zanith, The Ranger Lord; Knil of The Mountain, The Dragonguard; and last but not least Frit of The Lost Wood, Guardian of the Land...", our 'Teller looks about for hints of recognition on the faces of his audience, but finding none, mutters a solem sigh, and continues on... "No matter, these people saved your very lives, and for that reason you should be glad to be able to hear it in full..."


And with that, our 'Teller makes his way to the bar for his last rounds of his ale, and we return to the Lost Wood, Twigger, and a very tense Sprite by the name of Frit.




Chapter 1

The Guardian of the Lost Woods


"I know nothing of the outside world Twigger," said Frit, withdrawn from the comment itself, "and even if I did, I like it here." He said defensibly, "Besides, what if one of these days something comes down and decides `I want to end the world of Men, all I need is to not run into a well-prepared Sprite guarding the border.' Then -wham-" Frit snapping his fingers (to simulate how quickly he would have handled said would-be-world-conqueror), "...and I have just saved all of Prynian." He says while giving the most modest of nods, sure of his abilities (As he usually is). Now it should be said that Frit does indeed possess a great deal of skill in several forms of magic and is well versed in several styles of combat, hunting, tracking, and his own personal skill in discerning the way certain things work, almost on instinct, it comes second nature to his mind, like a flash of information. It can be said this is how he is able to learn so many things at such a rapid rate...although it does not say why he has such a simple nature...


Breaking the quiet as usual, Frit says,

"Matter of fact I think it's about time I went on patrol."


********************************************************************************


Frit is not one to shy away from conversations, in truth it is often the problem is to get him to stop.


Twigger sensing that his friend was only looking for an exit to this uneasy conversation, pre-empted the next dialogue; "My roots sense something in the Outer Wood, past the river Tambor." If you would, I would like to accompany you on this journey." Frit stares blankly at the massively tall tree, with leaves singular to Twigger alone.


As a few favor spearheads and others differ in their number of points, a color of bark that is the richest of forest green striped downward showing only an even brighter shade of forest green underneath almost as if the tree were garbed in bark, a massive trunk with just enough hollow space in-between for resting in, as he is now... which has suited him well for shelter during the raining seasons, and his ever-so easy to climb branches that seem to reach out to catch him, instead of the other way round. Therefore, it is while doing this, he cannot help but get a flash of his first time in these woods.


Centuries earlier, Frit thinks of when he first arrived with his father in the Lost Woods for his rite of passage as a Sprite. As ordained by the spirit of Nature, once a Sprite is of age or shows remarkable skill, they then must be sent out into the world to find where they should belong. So as it was with Frit's father, Napael, hard-pressed by the fairy village of Dew's Point not to upset Nature, forced him into finally taking his son outside of their village. He had lived there for well over 50 years before he was exiled "for his own good" he was told. Being of the Fae, it is very hard to take things in a bad light, especially if it is the Fae that are the ones handling the things. For the Fae are kindly, peaceful people who at best would choose to build you a house than leave you in the rain, while a choice few have their "touchy areas of conflicting darkness", the whole of the race remains overall peaceful and generous.


It was not a cruel choice, as a child Frit had learned basic skills that any normal fairy child of his age would not have even bothered having interest in. This gave him an advantage in the type of survival situations he might run into; there was only one worry on Napael's mind. Could Frit handle being on his own? Frit knows this much because unlike the most other interactive family types the Fae treat all members with equal respect, sharing every thought with the other as a way to clear the uncertainty, because considering the number of randomly new things one can find talking openly, it was a good fun way to kill time (being immortal takes a toll on your enjoyment of quiet moments in the woods).


So it was that the high priest had Frit sent from Dew's Point, without naught much other than some food to get by the first few days and good of amount of supplies to help him get by, such as tools and trinkets of magical worth.


His oldest friend and cousin Knil, who was off for the Dwarven Lands in the mountains gave him Dwarven Boots that can be worn for much longer than most other boots (more brothers than cousins, Frit and Knil have been by each other's side since they first met. Because of that, Knil knows that Frit will eventually be okay but will not have any means of obtaining fine footwear; enter the Dwarven Boots). The shelf life of these boots has yet to be determined yet, but so far, they have always been the most comfortable foot ware that Frit has ever owned.


His next gift was an Elven hood from the Elven Magic Guilds, as he was their best student (and they would have hated to see him go a day without practice because he caught a cold). The hood is made so that it has a vest-like torso so that his arms are able to move with a higher agility, complete with metal plating and reinforced fabric that makes for good reinforcement during close combat.


A memento from his Elven mother was enchanted armlets that could show him through any path that had been walked before. This came in handy when he first impressed the trees by getting past their game they play with their "visitors". The game is called "Find Your Way Home"; the rules: Find a way through the path of concentric circles made by the moving trees. The paths get more eccentric the closer you get to the other side of the Lost Woods. The game starts once you are in the Wood after dark (which the trees consider fair enough time for a well-prepared person to go about their way, and the not-so-prepared person to start getting prepared for a long night).


Marveled with Frit's navigational skills and luck, they befriended the Sprite and informed him that if he was to stay he would have to speak to their caretaker, Twigger of the Eldinari. Frit agreed, as it would be in bad taste to start living in someone's space before asking permission first...


So it was that Frit came to meet Twigger, sitting in the middle of his usual grove, surrounded by streams and just enough light around him to be comfortable. "Why are you here? "You are a young Sprite, and I have not heard that you should be here from the Spirit of Nature, so explain yourself and then be on your way, for we have no use for your kind here..."


"Why so cross?" asked Frit, "I take it not too many that come through here know how to speak to trees...and you seem to speak very well for a tree yourself, so why not keep me around if for nothing else, then for the conversation?" Frit asked with the most straight forward and honest expression on his face.


It was then that the first silence fell between the two (and for a tree, while trying to be civil, Frit lost his senses in the moment and the sounds of the wood drove him near mad, it was then that Twigger fell into deep laughter as to shake his leaves from his branches landing on Frit and bestowing his magical charms to learn magic among the plant life in the area...) and he has been there ever since...


******************************************************************************


Gathering his few belongings, and some fruit for food along the way, Frit then turns to Twigger, who is not only his fateful friend and council, but also his main means for defending himself...using the form of nature-based magic taught by Twigger during his years in The Lost Woods. As one can assume, this can make living in a forest much easier for one who is not a tree...


His most useful training has been with condensing the full form of fully grown trees and using them as staves. His prior training with that weapon made his training with Twigger go much more smoothly than expected from Twigger. The same fell true for the rest of Frit's training as well...as the training in forest magic went by in a flash, then so did his herbology, especially when he started to get advice from the plants he already knew.


His lessons were straight-forward, if not simple, as Twigger covered every basic avenue of nature magic that he thought Frit could handle. Frit met his expectations eagerly, learning a new spell with each new day learning, with the ancient tree. At first they worked on growing moss, the most common and easily grown form of nature, and moved on the grass the next day, followed by bushes and the small hedges. By the end of the first month, Frit was growing trees half the size of Twigger on his own power. Twigger was impressed and gave the Sprite the title of "young treehand", a title that Frit never really cared for as it had no respectable value aside from his botanical prowess...


So came the second month, and increased training for Frit. After learning how to grow several types of plants, Twigger moved on to the next phase of nature magic, shaping your plant. This requires the caster pay immense attention to the influence they put towards thier plant in all areas, mentaly; as thier emotions can make a living plant more hostile, physically; as the plant cam become more interactive with it's enviornment, and lastly but most importantly spiritually; as the basic nature of the caster will imprint on the plant, making it not just the caster's copy, but a faint reflection of what the caster would be, without formal education that is...it is still a child basically...


Once again, Frit mastered these new lessons without undue effort or exhaustion of his will. Frit made himself a very fine Hometree; from a maple he had grown himself from a seedling. He gave it three floors, the first, filled with all manners of shelves and areas where he could put away all the trickets he found during his patrols or adventures. The second floor, he made into his guest room, for when the ever-so-rare occasion that his cousin Knil would visit, filled with a nice and soft bed, as all Dwarfs sleep on the rock they paved, and while that is nice for Dwarves, Frit knows there's nothing like a nice soft bed to keep the pains away at the end of a day. For the third floor, he made into his own living quarters, complete with all the accomodations most wouldn't even find a a noble's household, like a full-sized down mattress, a well stocked kitchen, given his supplies in The Lost Woods, a training area on a balcony halfway to the top of the tree.


Twigger named Frit's Treehome, Branchless, as he made the tree only with the functionality of a house in mind, and as such was no attention paid to having it grow like a actual tree. Worried for the health of Branchless, Frit made one final addition to the very top of Branchless, a dense leaf canopy that lays over the entirety of the house, shielding it from the elements and allowing it to continue to grow as the years continued. Although, after all the effort Frit had already put into the tree, it looked as though it would be a few decades before any noticable growth came in...


After that, they continued to make advanced progress in Frit's training, escalating to the point where there was very little Frit could learn from Twigger about the natures of the plant-world. At that time all Twigger could say was "If there was something I thought you should know, I would have taught you...", to which Frit replied with "All my training has been to maintain, and protect these regular trees, but what about yourself?". Stunned by the lack of foresight on his part, Twigger then started to teach Frit about the rituals nessassary to preserve Twigger should the worst come to pass.


The first of thier lessons covered the histories of the Eldinari, how the first Elves need helpers to keep them appraised of when changes would occur in thier newly formed wood, so they could either continue thier work or move to fix whatever complications that arose. Then once thier woods became the great forest it is today, they gave more intellegence to the Eldenari, making them equal in knowledge with themselves, and as such better caretakers for thier massive forests. The Eldenari then used thier newfound knowledge to move themselves far away enough to keep contact with each other over the great distances and not close enough to conflict with one anothers rule over the lesser more wild trees, which were more abuntant in that time as humans haven't started chopping thier kin down to make thier homes just yet.


But the Humans did come, and with thier arrival came the mass deforestation of the center of the stretch of land called The Great Expanse, now all that remains of thier vast beauty remains in the vast grasslands that are known as The Greater Plains. There is great bit about the mild war between the trees and Humans, but the story is one-sided as the Humans, not knowing Barkish, were completely oblivious to the pleas of help coming from their soon to be stacked piles of lumber. Learning this tidbit kept Frit cautious of Humans and he made sure to keep his distance of something that could be so destructive unwillingly, and without any thought to what reprecussions could come from thier choices. However, it did not keep him from wanting to complete his Nature magic training...


So it was only a matter of time before he decided to use his magic on Twigger (after a great deal of begging and pleading from Frit). The first few times was awkward for Frit as he did not know how large exactly Twigger was in full. This led to many of the spear forms Firt would make for the massively sized tree, only to have him end up as a very discombobulated and an oblong shape, with roots that would still be showing at the tip. In time Frit got to the point where he could transform the entire shape of Twigger without the slight hint of there ever being a massively grown tree from the spot where he had taken him from.


After mastering this new trick, Frit put less stress on learning how to protect Twigger, as if he would be at his side during his fights, as Twigger would have wanted, there would be little reason for worry as in staff-form Twigger's condensed bark would be stronger than most metals even Dwarven, and any scratch would heal in moments as Frit's magic would use energy to make the staff whole again...making Twigger very much unbreakable...


So Frit then cast his spell to change Twigger's form into a mobile spear and cast magic on the earth to make his blade to top it off with. Afterward they set forth toward Lake Tambor in order to investigate what exactly the disturbance was...




Chapter 2


The Rule of Three


My name is Capurin. These are my several journals dipicting my time as a student with The Burning Life. The time spent, while unbearable and at times hellish, in every sense of the word, did shape me into what I am now. Being so I have decided to glean through my memories and give my story. The story of my life before my "encounter" is dull and really has no bearing until I became intwined. There are, as I count, two other Elves to delve into the research I am currently trying to complile as a lesson plan for those less informed on the subject. I am currently, at the time this is pertaining to, trained in several elven arts, and working my way to the prestigious title of Elven Scholar. As I sit in the Index, this hall of elven history and magic, I am taken back to the first day I came here and my very first lesson in magic...



It was the first thing they told me, the first rule; this rule of three.

"All things are beset by the Rule of Three."

"Life gives."

"Death takes."

"The Middle makes the choice."


There are three aspects to all things in nature, one is good: the given way for life, joy, the feeling of peace when you stand in a field on a calm and sunny day. Its opposing side is just as equally bad: giving way for pain, malice, the sense of dread that befalls one before they get injured or die.


However it's within the third aspect of nature is the most important and most over-looked aspect of them all. In the third aspect is the middle ground for which choices are made and the worlds continue to spin. With this belief in your mind, you are to be able to begin learning the nature of the world in attempts to sway it to your power by magic.


At least from what I can gather that is what is means...


To say that this is easy to understand is the greatest understatement I could imagine. It took several years just to understand everything that little bit of gibberish they first told me tries to convey. And then came the actual balancing of elements...


Fire is an element of constant motion. To understand it fully one must know how everything moves, how it interacts and behaves with and without different objects in its presence... and then speed it up dramatically in a matter of seconds to engulf everything in its flame.


Water is, unlike the world perceives it, very much like fire. Only the state of motion for water is not being forced and does not require energy to maintain. It is a still motion, only really "moving" when the world moves around it. There is no real control over water, only the situations that can make it move. Being so, water is always the last element Mages master.


Earth is the first. It is still. It doesn't move. It can't move, it's only real moment of strength and danger falls when it gets moved too much into one space. You see; as you place more Earth on top of itself, it will only pile up, not build. Earth does not compile power, but disperses it evenly throughout all areas of itself. When it hits a building point, either a mountain or a deep cavern, it only needs a small catalyst to trigger its fury.


Wind is the hardest element to master. Try grabbing a hold of something with your mind when you can't even see it? That's the first five years of practice. After that, you get a handle for controlling the currents and the elements of the air. A true master of this element can make a storm from whistle, a breeze sharp enough to cut through stone. By any way you measure it Wind is a scary element.


Once you get past the main four elements then you get into the area where I have started to become a master of; The Spiritual Arts. Learning this skill takes an inept sight into the life of all things and how they blend into one another. Learning that a tree grows toward light, not just because it feeds of it, but because the light makes the tree feel more alive than anything, and is a part of what it means to study life.


Now I have begun my studies on death, an area very dangerous for one to partake in. My teacher has told me that if I wish to fully learn all the aspects of The Rule of Three, I am to not rush this part, for fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Being an immortal elf living in the glorious world of Prynian leaves time as an afterthought to most of my kind, but to me it is an ever present reminder of what life is.


The passing of time gives way for the water to flow, the water wears down the rock and forms the lands, the land builds upon itself to shape the winds, the winds move the weather to make heat, and heat is the birthing ground for fire which can only be stopped by water.


All this takes time.


It is ever-constant, ever moving and relentless. I feel as if I am standing still during a grand show I can't take a part in. So I must find a way to contribute to this land I call home, in any way I can.


For my studies, I am to find a deceased person from any era, and glean from them what knowledge I can about the spirit world. I have had success in contacting the dead in my studies, and even have learned several things about the other-side. However I feel there is more to be learned here. To do so I might have to find a more learned individual in touch with more parts of the world, like a spirit of an old elf killed in battle as it is the only I know of that we can die.


So I go through the old scrolls in The Index one day and come upon just what I was looking for. An Elder Dragon, far gone into The Ether, was once so connected to the land that it was said he could control entire plains worth of growth in a matter of moments with his thoughts and feelings. A being with such skills would be invaluable to my research, so I sought out my new found interest carefully as there have been rumors about a dragon King-God long ago that devastated the land and almost brought the world to ruin.


I am too close to let over-thinking the cons outweigh the pros of this situation. My mind tells me that I should inform my teacher about my findings, but the moment passes, and I continue with my test...


I enter The Ether with my mind and reach out for the ego in the void...


In the void, the other-side, there are none of the familiar scenery one would expect from in the realm of the living. There are many things to take into account. For instance, there is no ground, but you will be standing once you arrive. You don't need to breathe, but your still living mind will insist you take normal breaths, as so your still living body doesn't die while you are away. Interaction with others are conveied through impulse emotions, so a clear head and quick wits are a standard for all who choose to glean the other-side for it's secrets. Also, there is no magic on the other-side, not as we know it anyway. As the only thing in control in the void is your mind, it is your only weapon, as well as your only defence.


I trained for over several decades learning how to defend myself from spiritual attacks from not only my peers, but also my teachers as well. Only when I was certain of my abilities, did I gather my supplies, make my way to the practice grounds in The Index, and attempt to make contact...


There is silence at first.


Then the feeling of a great rushing wind sweeping all around me covering me in warm light. It was the same when I made contact before, so I knew now I was on the right path for contact...


Then HE spoke...


"I AM FilaV'fik, the one known as 'The Burning Life.'" His voice is as if a great flame is yelling inches away from your face. I recoil by reflex, but maintain my composure in the presence of such a powerful spirit. "What does one such as you seek in reaching out to me, Elf?"


I think out my reasons carefully before I answer, "I am Capurin, an Elven Scholar." "I am studying the nature of life and death for my Spiritual Arts studies and thought you would have the best insights of all the long deceased."


There is a bright flash of light before me. The sensation of the great fire before me turns violent and savage. The feeling of warmth grows more intense and that feeling of dread that comes from The Rule of Three overtakes me.


This is a critical moment for me in the void. I could either, escape now with my dignity in tact and not brave the wrath of this creature I have awoken from his slumber. My training is useless, none of the effort I am excerting is making the slightest effect. I feel something similar to a great hand grasping me all around my body, tightening as I resist.


Panic overcomes me and I try to break my connection with FilaV'fik, but it is too late...


My eyes open and I get up and walk out of The Index. However on the way out, my teacher stops to ask me something. What he says I can't make out because the moment he gets out half a word his head has already been torn in half by a sharp gust of wind from MY hand...


A panic ensues, with guards coming to aid the doomed teacher. They fall just as quickly into the quicksand that has formed under their feet the moment they piece together it was my hand that fell the good teacher.


They aren't seen from again as the ground that swallows them up hardens solid in an instant after all trace of them is gone.


Then it gets bad.


I turn around and watch in horror as The Index becomes a tomb for all those that sought refuge from me inside. The massive tower that held all our Elven history gets dragged underground as well leaving an empty lot of evenly placed limestone, to mark their graves.


Afterward I turn around and do the following to the rest of the village I once called home.

Everything gets buried; homes, schools, nurseries, even the hospital.


Afterward I turn around and do the following to the rest of the village I once called home. Through it all I can hear MYSELF laughing like a madman during the murder of my friends and family...If I could have cried where I was, I would have run out of tears during the first hour...


The entire massacre took half a day.

Eons of life and love.

Years of family and friendship.

Now no more, due to one reckless act...


As I try to fight against the impulses of murderous content flowing through my body, I find that I am helpless against his will and as such, not likely to break free without permission from my new "owner"...


HE has control of me and I am HIS prisoner. HE tells me, "Foolish Elf-child, you are young and impetuous, but I AM THE BURNING LIFE!!!" "All that meet ME are granted their needs, at the expense of meeting MINE FIRST..." "To meet your request, I will show you the way of the life and death...however there is one lesson you must learn first...and that is what this was..." "To know life and death there can be no ties to both, so I have now rid you of them..."


FilaV'fik was NEVER dead, he WAS the Dragon King-God that almost destroyed Prynian so long ago, and I have just set him loose on the lands, again, in my own body.


There is a mantra for The Rule of Three:


All things are beset by the Rule of Three.

Life gives.

Death takes.

The Middle makes the choice.


Life is what is given to us. Death is that gift taken away. The Middle are us who live and die and make the choices that make it so.


My choices led me to this end; I have no other option now other than be HIS puppet, however, if there is a way to be free of this living hell, I WILL find it...


Now as we head east toward some unknown direction, I can only hope that HIS confidence is bolstered by pride...


...and somehow I'll find a chance to break free before it's too late...





Chapter 3


Zanith Crestfall


...I am Zanith Crestfall, 3rd tier Ranger in service to His Majesty, King Corvan Augustain, The First, of the Human Realm. I have lived 150 years of men, in service to our King by fealty and loyalty, for the King is not just my Liege, he is my benefactor and caretaker.


From the time my mother left me as a young child on the steps of the castle, from what My Lord tells me, as I have little to no recolection of my childhood, My Lord has been both wise and caring; akin to the father I never had, or for my part, can't remember... I write these words now, as I feel some accurate detail of my comings and goings must be kept in truth...lest I become the stuff of Legend...with Teller's sloppily telling of my deeds with half a breath of truth, the other half fused to ale... My rise in rank was at first by the insistence of My Lord...as I had wanted to make him proud by earning it on my own merit. All My Lordship would say on the matter was "I'll not have one of my own treated like some snot-nosed rook!"...and that was the end of that discussion...and several others like it, leaving me to assume it better left alone for another time...


Even before then, My Lord had always been the one to keep an open ear on my interests, making sure I always had at the very least a wooden sword to keep me entertained, My Lord would often make jokes at how I wouldn't die unless I had a sword in my hand, and if death didn't have one to spare, he'd be hard-pressed to take me without one!


My childhood was brief, for what I can remeber from it on my part, as much of my earlier memories leave me with more questions than answers...but what I do remember I cherish, for those were the best times of my life. Being abandoned by my mother on the castle steps wasn't the worst move my mother made that fateful night, even though I wish she had not. For the King was a generous and graceful man, looking after me himself, only a few days after finding me and hearing that no one in the entire Kingdom would want a half-breed under their roofs.


You see there is a fine line I walk just by being in my skin. Half-breeds, as we are known the half-human half-elf bastard children of The Greater Plains. We all, be us Man or Fae, have needs and with these needs be they basic comfort, or just the wild battleground of the heart, we will find those who can accomidate...not always a perfect match, but the heart wants what it wants. In my case, I don't even have enough of a backstory to blame either my mother or my father, mainly because I can't even recall thier faces... Now you're wondering what could possibly be the stigma between the fair and magical Elven Race and the Tech-savy and rugged Human Race? How about the fact that each one of our kind is abandoned, each one left by our human parents.


On the Elven side there isn't any stigma, we are just viewed as less than they are by being dilluted through our ansestry. So at least that side doesn't miss out on the old fashioned bigotry... It could very well be because of the Elves open acceptance of the half-breeds occur in the first place. Physically, we have the basic rough look of Humans, aside from our pointed ears, which start rounded at birth...which is why each half-breed would know where they came from as our ears don't start to point out until around our eighth birthday...


I recall that being my call-sign for a period, "Oy, Little Point!", they called me on account of my ears and my wooden sword, till My Lord caught wind of it and fired all he found guilty of even hearing the name and bringing it forward. Thusly started my famous relationship with the peoples of Steelfort Castle...while not all were sore at me for losing old friends they had worked with for years, most were, nearly over half the castle which at least allowed for me to learn how to cook, clean, and pretty much take care of my own needs. Amoung my few friends, were Elliot Bulkin, the Duke of The Greater Plains own son, and Crown Prince Gerald Augustain.


Our antics, while varied and often widely misjudged on our own level of incompetence, left us fairly happy and minorly brused at the end of the day, and in essance isn't all we really need from childhood? Our favorite pastime would be to take the spare parts of different knights armor and use it to make our own custom fit armors for own swordplay. We'd line the suits of armor with padded tunics, to soften the blow, as it only takes one good strike, even with a wooden sword, to know protection is not only needed, but highly valued for those who wish to take up this enterprise in earnest. While I did the best at the sword, Elliot master his sling before either Gerald


While still far from being concidered a natural swordmaster, I did take to my combat lessons quickly; gaining speed, numerous skills, and an attention to detail that only comes in those brief moments during the heat of battle... When you can see the fatigue on your opponent's face, notice the way his knee will give out just before they move, how their grip will falter at the hilt of their weapon... Then their feet slide slightly in your direction, their stance becomes solid, their grip in an instance firmer and better placed... Knowing that when they straighten the level of their eyes, you have only moments to react or you're dead...that type of knowledge comes easy to me for some reason...also having Prynian's best swordmasters at hand with pointers doesn't exactly lessen one's chances...


Curiously, each one of my intructors have given me this look from time to time in our early sessions. The look says "I should watch myself around this one...", or "Inside you lies something either amazing or horrible...". However, not a one has spoken a word of these suspisions outloud. When asked, they get this flustered look that I can recognize now as shock and fear. Shock is a normal responce given the fact a child of twelve is asking in depth, personal questions about thoughts once believed to be secret. Fear on the other hand raises suspisions, why would they be afraid? Who were they afraid of? If it was me, the fear would be noticable throughout our entire session, and a man of common sense would be reassigned. So my only option that makes the most sense is that someone is keeping these men afraid of me, but to what end?


This new mystery preoccupied my studies for The Rangers, who I was due to apply for later that same year. While my Swordplay classes were like second nature, I found my other classes lacking, appearantly politics and economics are important to a Kingdom...


In the time I should have been studing to make my grades improve, I in its stead, have been following my pet project; the mystery... My latest find has been the most promising. Each one of the tudors assigned to me was hand-picked. Hand-picked by The King himself. If My Lord was behind this, I can only assume that his intentions were well-meant, and I have lost this year's entry into The Rangers for nothing more than minor curiousity.


However My Lord, knowing me so well, was wise to my actions and was waiting for me in my chambers at the end of the day, with all my intructors.


"You will be granted a time to say your piece, but until we have had ours...", was the first thing I heard as I opened the door. The King was sitting in my thinking chair, with each one of my thirteen tudors around him. He pointed to spot in front of all of them, where all my weaknesses would be easily found out upon surfacing... He turned to my first intructor, Swordmaster Myres, the man who taught me that the weight of a man's sword gets heavier if he has no urgent need of it. A sensable man, with a presence that commanded repect and obediance from all near him.


"Zanith, my boy, still fighting hardest on the fights not deemed important by your betters...", Myres says to me with a face more stern than kind...as was his way. For the most part I knew I was here to be chastised, but I did not yet hear any scorn in thier voices...


The King started to cut off Myres, only to allow my politics tudor to speak, Instructor Hughes said to me, with his ever-so bushy bearded face, "You see! If you had kept to your studies, we would have no clue as to what you were up to...", which to me sounded like he was more dissapointed that I got caught than taking his class..."there are channels one must learn about in order to find information in this world young sir, as I hope tonight will teach you.."


Hughes comes off even sunnier than the brightest day in the heat of mid year, as he is supposed to. The head of politics in a world shaped by them means, any man respected in this field by his rivals, much less his peers, is a man to take serious note of...


Prime Minister Dougan, of economics was next in line. He took his time before speaking, analizing every corner of my face, as if it would never be seen again, "Child, if you ever learn anything about money, or life, know this, it is only as good as the person who wants it...know your customer."


Never does one feel praise from Minister Dougan, especially with his famously emasculating way of calling everyone (even those older than him) "child", in a fashion that would leave any feeling as though they were actually a child...


Dougan is the type of person that you wouldn't be sure if he is wondering how much you are worth, or if it's worth his time to even be around you. Controlling the finances for the Kingdom for decades now has made the man concerned about only how much money he can make with each breath he takes...and he regrets every moment he doesn't, one imagines with the grimacing look upon his face all the time...


Then Head of the Guard, Justin Delvan, my main reason for joining The Rangers in the first place, stepped up to say his part. One would have to be a mind reader to see what Justin was thinking, as his face never betrayed his cavalier grin, which promised no matter what, he had things under control...which he did. "Your motives were justified, but not authorized...leaving you in line for disiplinary action...that I won't be administering..."


The trials an initiate in the Rangers has to go through are based on their physical status if they are up to the challenge then they have three years to prepare. My challenge was to slay a Crystal Dragon, because of my background I accepted, maybe a bit more readily than I should have because they sent me to begin my three year training session right away, with very little time for a civil "I'll be out of town for the next few days"... I was sent to the island of Dracoul, known to have numerous Goblin hordes... I'll spare you the gory details of. my first few weeks living out in the wilderness; let's just say I wasn't too much of a woodsman living in a castle all that time. Luckily, I happened upon a troop of hunters that took me in and taught me the basics; tracking, gathering, picking herbs, being deathly silent when stalking, and most importantly the process of laying a trap.


These lessons lasted for a couple of months, increasing in detail each time. After a while their lead hunter asked me why I had come to such a place so unprepared, when my answer was that I was training to slay a Crystal Dragon, all my lessons tripled in difficulty. On the last day of my third year at the island, I was given The Gol'Buri Eye, a Goblin-made weapon, covered in hundreds upon hundreds of runes, each with its own magical endowment...to this day I'm still not sure of all of them... Then finally the day came, I was gathered by the Rangers and sent to the Dragoon Plateau, home to all manner of draconic creature.

The three years during my training, The Rangers had been hunting my Crystal dragon for me, and had tracked his home to the very cave I was left to hunt him at. I was not left unprepared, as any supplies I requested were offered upon order. My demands were precise: fifty yards of the highest quality rope they could offer, a small cutting knife, a jar of honey, two empty clay-set jars with closable lids, a jar of lantern oil, flint and sawdust, plus basic trap tool scraps, all packed in a crate with my platemail armor and dropped off with me a few meters outside the area. I begin fashioning my traps and placing them in areas outside his cave.


It took three days of scouting and planning to get the placements in the right area, and then my prey showed himself, coming outside to hunt for fresh food...

I was taken aback by the sight of it up close, a massive crystalline creature, taller than a house and tougher than a mountain...one would have second thoughts about such an undertaking, however all I remember thinking was that I should have asked for more rope.


I toss a rock nearby to alert him to my position, and carefully let him stalk me back to the first of my traps, a rope pitfall trap with net. I know there aren't any ropes in exsistiance capable of holding such a beast, however this trap isn't for catching the beast, it's for testing my tools... While he's stuck and thrashing about, I take out my enchanted blade and set to work at testing the edge on his hide.


The blade slides through with as much effort as it would have if it were swung through the air. I take its left leg clear off and as the formerly attached limb falls heavily to the ground; I start to head over to remove another. The Crystal dragon picks up on this and summons spines that appear from in-between its scales and inch outwards as if they were being readied for something.

Instincts kick in, I dive under a nearby log I placed for cover, the moment I move, countless tiny crystal barbs fill the air covering everything in a layer of spiked crystal.


When I hear the final barbs make contact, I wait for the sound of movement, for which I find none...meaning my prey is already on the way to my second trap, the honey when mixed with the lantern oil I asked for, makes a smell easier to track in this forest than using your eyes, if you happen to have a trained nose for it that is...



My marking solution lets me follow my prey all the way back to its cave. Along the way, I find he came across some make-shift log-traps I set in a few of the treetops when I first got in. I take out the final of my tools; a smoke bomb I made from the flint sawdust lantern oil and some mushroom I gathered in the area.


Without knowing how effective they would be, my best bet for them to work would be in the cave.


I toss the first one in as far as I can and run in after, so I can try to spot him before he either flees through the smoke or tries to finish me off before I get the chance...


When the bomb goes off, all of what was left of my vision in this dimly lit cave is gone as the cave is filled with smoke. But while I've lost my sight so has he, and he's still covered in the oil/honey solution making him the one thing I can focus on in the impossible to navigate cave. I toss my last smoke bomb right at the dragon and the resulting explosion ignites the latent oil still on him from my marking solution.


Now with an easier to hit target, I draw my sword and set to work... First, I drive my sword in

point-side first to gauge where my attacks are landing.


Based off his movements from my stab, I can tell I'm behind him, because as I make contact his

tail swipes my helmet clear off, I barely avoid losing my head along with it by ducking as soon

as he made contact.


Now fully aware of my situation I follow some advice given to me from the

lead hunter before I left camp..."Hey Elf-Kin, if you are serious about going after that

monstrosity then you'll need to know one thing...that there blade 'o yours can slice through

almost anything easy as butter, so if ye get inna pinch, you swing away boy...you swing away..."


So I ready my sword and start slicing any area that isn't connected to me directly.

It takes me several moments after to realize that I've been carving out chunks of his corpse for

the better part of an hour on the occasion that the smoke hadn't cleared the cave yet.


Once it had, I gathered the pieces of his carcass in the supply crates and made my way back home to The

Greater Plains, Steelfort, and my Liege; who would be waiting for me with a special gift for my

return...




Chapter 4


The Natural Order


Now fully restocked with a full flagon of fresh ale, our Teller returns to his seat and starts his tale

of this new mysterious character, Frit and why learning about Sprites would help his story any...


"We are all familiar with the different basic Fae Races, Elf, Goblin, Troll, Ogre, Fairy and

Nymph...


"A Sprite is born of the coupling of an Elf and a Fairy, their shape, size, and very demeanor may change depending on what they are influenced by during early development."


"In the case of this one Sprite, he was born into a Fairy village, but shortly after he was kicked out because they just had no room for such a larger scale citizen, as a normal full-grown Fairy will grow to be about 1/4 the size of a normal man."


"They are each given a task from birth, whispered into their ears by the Great Mother Fae, or the

Fae Spirit as she is called. What each task is ends up being is different for each Sprite, but for Frit he knew from the very beginning that he had to protect The Lost Woods, that forbidden area east of here and our only stable connection to the Orcish Deadlands..."


******************************************************************************


I'm the Sprite Guardian of The Lost Woods. It wasn't easy gaining this title, or earning it either. I was born in the Fairy village of Dew's Point, a nice metropolis nestled just outside of the Elven Lands. For my first twenty-five years of life I lived, trained, played, and pretty much was a Fairy...until that twenty-sixth year, when I continued to grow even when reduced to my normal form.


Before then, it was paradise. Living with my Dad to guide me and my cousin, Knil to make sure I followed his guidance, life was good.


Well, after that the cat was out the bag, and my father was forced to find some other place for me to live, as I was soon to outgrow my house, if not excluding my room as well. It took ten long years traveling the Elven Lands for just the right spot that I would be safe until I reached full size; even then I was about double the height I had been before we began our trip.


My father, ever the cautious Fairy I know him to be, most likely knew I'd be well off in The Lost Woods because I've always had a good rapport with nature. Ever since I could remember, I could talk to anything with a spark of life, upside; you're never alone, downside; not everything can talk for a reason...I'll leave it at that.


Another upside to growing up as a Fairy, you get all the coolest gear growing up, like gauntlets that can tell not only where you are, wherever you are, but also how to navigate the area for eight miles.


As well as a Fairy's Hood, made from leaves from a Fae plant that has amazing stretchiness; all I have to do is stretch it over myself and the material seems to go on forever as all my clothes have been made from stretched out pieces of cloth cut from my original outfit when I left the village.


There are also these boots that are perfect for any terrain; wet, dry, underground, on top of a mountain, crossing a river, and even the bottom of a lake. A highly apprechiated gift from my cousin Knil, rather nice of him as I've gotten him nothing the enitre time I've known him...


There are suspicions that it could take a couple steps in lava...but I'm not about to spin that wheel

of fortune just yet. Being a Fairy, our main mode of self-defense has been magic tricks, or hiding, our kind isn't fond of violence.


However, there does happen to be the occasional rare Fairy born with "The Bloodsmile", a term

used for Fairies who are born with a deep-set bloodlust...and use their magic to kill people that wander into their lands...


My mother was a Elven Hunter, who would use her magic to shrink to Fairy-size when she

would be between hunts so she could move along the Fairyfolk without harassment. That was

when she met my father. He invited her to the village's many festivals, and in time I was born

shortly thereafter. The details of her disappearance were never brought up as anytime I would

hint at anything regarding my mother, my father would go into a very depressed state and be very dull to be around.


So if anything I bet I have a touch of "The Bloodsmile" in me by that relation, or I'd like to think so. The mixture of Elf and Fairy usually makes another Fairy, but in my case, as well as Knil, we came up full fledged Sprites. Sprites are, at least in respect to the Fae-kind, are concidered to be the warrior race of the Fae, gifted with blessings from the Fae Spirit, and moving about the world keeping her world in balance as she would want....or we can he as "she" isn't as talkative as most would believe...


I'm not heavy on violence, but I do enjoy a good skirmish here and there. Having nothing but traveling staves at hand, and a forest swarming with Goblins, sooner or later it would come down to a fight when one wanders through the wood. My father and I fought a few small camps on our way to The Lost Woods. And it helped me get a decent handle on how to defend myself.


Being a true Fairy at heart, I was a pacifist and prone to avoiding conflict instead of starting it.

I'm betting some of my mother had rubbed off on my father, because he would fight or hunt anything that would come into view. Sometimes he would even go out looking for something that he "could've sworn was out there", and not stop until he found it.


All the same I got very familiar with staff-fighting and always keep one on me where I go. I even made this spell that turns trees into staves by condensing their size into an extremely flexible staff, which at its core is still a living tree that I can stick back in the ground, whenever I choose...nifty ain't it?


Aside from these few trinkets, I am still armed with my wit and the resolve to follow The Fae Spirit when she calls.


All Sprites are in tune with The Fae Spirit, she sends us her wishes in our dreams, showing us

things that will come to pass and our part in them. Which is probably why I take bad news so well, I already heard it a few days earlier...


So there I was left on my own, in The Lost Woods, abandoned by my family and friends to live out the rest of my days in the service of trees and a disembodied voice that for all I know still could be a figment of my imagination... I had stumbled about for the first few years completely lost, and distraught at the fact that I was on my own at the tender age of thirty-seven, which is plenty tender considering that we of the Fae are known to live for centuries. Then one day I was introduced to a most curiously green tree, unlike any of the others I had ever seen. The two of us get to talking and I find out that I've found the last of the Eldinari Trees, a line of ancient trees blessed with magic.


Their line has dwindled as of late due to human foresters cutting them down for their wood, which would last much longer than any other piece of lumber by centuries. I learn that my new friend is called Twigger, his real name is the same as the spell that made the

Lost Woods as his seed was the first planted when the Fae made that forest in the Beginning

Time..., but it was way too long to pronounce that so he picked up the name Twigger for social purposes...although I can't seem to figure out what social purposes a tree has outside of photosynthesis....


I tell him of my situation or lack of one and he accepts me into the wood on one occasion, I must guard the wood from any that would cross its lines. I am informed that doing otherwise would endanger all Prynian to chaos and death. So I accept, more than willing to pull my weight, and he agrees to teach me more of how to be ready for what my new task involves.


Over the years that follow; I learn how to shape metal from the dirt in the earth to make tools for casual use, or for weaponized tips that will go on the end of my staff to make a pretty decent spear; how because I'm a Sprite I can understand the basic nature of anything be it well-mannered or just plain blood-thirsty, right down to the function of tools; how to make my way through the most convoluted forest in the world, and even sharpened up my fighting style fending off the random groups of Goblins that would try to cross into the Orcish Deadlands.


At first, it was fulfilling, to be able hold off the dangerous hordes of evil that were hell-bent on destroying all we hold dear...then the Goblin encounters came less often, a few weeks later even less. By the fourth year, I was pretty sure there wasn't anyone else in the forest aside from me and the trees.


Boredom sets in, and idle hands make for crazy thoughts, and mischievous trees wear down on my nerves...these woods starts to play tricks on the mind...and I admit, I went a good degree insane.


To this day, I'm still not sure how long I had traveled the wood, random spear in hand, hunting

The Lost Woods for food, sport, and sometimes just paranoid fear. During one such hunt, I came back in contact with my old friend Twigger, who then brought me back from the edge of madness and from then on out, has been my constant companion. Just when I thought I had gotten back to my old comfortable, albeit tame life when I happen upon this Elf, dressed way too importantly to be walking lost in The Lost Woods; even though, if one were to be walking around lost, the area is aptly named...


I approach the suspicious Elf and ask its business in my wood. He responds with silence, a stare colder than a hailstorm, and a wave of this limestone staff he was walking with, the very next moment, I'm off the tree I was hanging on and tossed clear to the floor. When I get back my legs, I turn to attack the Elf but as I do, I get a vision of a massive stone dragon looming over the Elf.


"Be gone, pest..." is all he says before he raises his staff again and I'm caught in a flash of light.

The light dissipates and then I'm surrounded by a pack of twelve Goblin Hunters, one of which is carrying a banner with a picture of a massive dragon eating the world.


They have encircled me by the time I awakened, and the rest of the group has their weapons drawn. I notice one of them has my own self-made spear, which I dropped when I hit the tree.


Realizing battle was upon me; I leapt into the trees and ran for safety... What? I told you I have a

Fae upbringing, we're not born knowing that fighting first is an option... Belittling judgment on my character or not, I still get caught by the Goblins while traveling through the trees...not my best day back as Guardian of The Lost Woods. To add insult to injury, I notice it is the very same Goblin that has made himself the new owner of Twigger in spear-mode.


Twigger, being a living, thinking, lively tree himself, saw fit to educate the Goblins about the

Lost Woods and who its master is... Instantly, sprouts grow into monstrous sized trunks and branches, enclosing the Goblins in a net of wood and vine that is slowly losing space to breathe in, much less fit a troop of Goblins at one time. The several moments of crunching bone and wailing Goblin blur for a few moments until I realize there's bigger prey...the elf...he knew how to summon Goblins...and they listened, plus that vision of the dragon has to be reported...a dragon in the Deadlands is just bad news...,not really sure how or why, but I feel it...so I make my way back to the last spot I made contact with the elf and begin following his tracks.


The trail leads me to the outside of The Lost Woods and beyond, into Orcish lands...I dare not enter alone for I know I'll be on a one-way trip. Entire armies have tried to pacify the Deadlands; most of them didn't come back...the humans had the best shot of keeping the Orc hordes at bay so that's why dominion over the Greater Plains belongs to them.


It is also the reason Twigger thinks we should head to the closest human we find and tell them...but I've never been one to let important tasks be left to chance...I tell my long-time friend to prepare for our journey to Steelfort, basecamp for The Rangers...




Chapter 5


The Map


There is a pause...


A drink...


A belch...


And then, he begins:


"Know thee, I ask, of the tale of Brook, hero of Stonewall, and the impoverished alike. As Legend tells it, his tale begins long before he meets our heroes, and is worthy enough to be told in its own length...at a later time. For now there is a bigger story to be told, and to me holds it's telling..."


Vincent Williamson-Brooke.


Or just Brook, to my associates.


A pleasure to introduce myself to any interested in my favorite subject...: myself. A close friend of mine once told me, "Never trust a drunk to details...you'll never be pleased at the order in which they return to you...".


Since then, I've taken a shine to chronicling all of my advents and journeys in written form over an annual account, a jour`nual if you will. While I have a great many experiences under my belt, I will share what has to be the most awe-inspiring of all my tales...'The Quest to Kill the Dragon-God'.


Quite riveting isn't it?


From the title alone!


I was living in my "hometown" of Stonewall, crusted jewel of the Greater Plains, set smack dab in the most south-eastern edge of that region, just outside The Lost Woods.


To those of you not familiar with this region, that means we have a giant man-eating-malcontent-magical-elf forest to one side of us; along with untold expanses of land, with the given time before you even see another living thing again, much less another town, will be three days at most...


Set on another side of this lovely locale; and to add one more detail to the topography of our lands, just to the south end of our city, there happens to be the most torrential rivers known in the Greater Plains...some say it's because the trees in The Lost Wood get 'oh-so' parched and begin to take in the river in great draughts, while the consensus has been its that our river is on the tail end of the Dwarven Mountain River, after rapids that fast-few could say the two weren't connected.


No size boat has survived any test through the rock filled death tunnel.


Of course this lends the local people an extra sense of 'earned privacy'.


But with all the tranquil and relaxing personal space afforded with a three-day delay in contact with the modern world, what else could one honestly hope to ask for? Another gem our little 'slice of Heaven' has going for it is its reputation as 'haven' for 'liberal' minded individuals with 'aggressive negotiation skills' and a penchant for rebellion, although the common term for such individuals to be: "Thief, Traitor, Smuggler, Murder, Pirate, Blasphemer, Graverobber..."...and well the list goes on.


But you must understand the full situation before you get misled-however; I digress, back to the story. One day as I was finishing overseeing a shipment of Sunsflare Ore, known to be extremely combustible and is used in high-level explosives, like the ones I use in my particular line of work, the details of which I shall divulge later. When I finish my shipment drop-off, I head on the way to my base, and happen to see an Elven Scholar, a fair degree unkempt, but nevertheless, appeared to stand as if he owned everything AND it's ancestry. All the same, the elf walks into the shop on the way to my base.

This shop happens to be owned by me, so I felt it was time for a check-up. Upon entering the storekeeper gives the silent sign that he has absolutely no idea where our visitor has come to us from, so I ask him...


"Might I help you sir?" I ask of the elf. He takes his time responding, as if he either always takes his time before he speaks or it's been a really long time since he's said anything at all so he wants to make sure it makes sense... "I require a map of the land." He says, in a tone more final than death, "I have begun a sojourn to my homelands and I need provisions before I return to the roads...I can pay in whatever manner best suits your taste, as I am an Elven Scholar."


"Well you Scholar-types usually don't need our help in the knowledge department..."

"My research was somewhat..." he pauses, lost in the memory, "...cut...short, in that particular area...if you are not willing to barter-"

-Now don't go getting hasty..." I jumped in with my expert salesmen skills to never lose a sale.


"I'll help you out, here's a map of The Greater Plains, latest update!" "You won't find a more comprehensive piece of paper in the whole wide berth of Prynian...of that you can be sure because I made most of the updates myself!"


You'd be surprised how effective suggested marketing works....


"From where do you hail from?" "If I get an idea where you're going, I can be of better assis-"

"-I am fully aware of what I will be needing." The elf cut in, just as hard and forceful as before.


However, if our guest wasn't going to offer his information, he could then still offer his wealth...

"If you know what you'll need then all that needs to be explained is the form of payment..." I said fully noting the lack of an answer to my question.


He walks back out in the middle of the road, touches his hand to the ground and the very moment his hand makes contact, everything that was made of stone in Stonewall, from the lowest stone to the highest rooftop and every rock in-between becomes the purest, highest quality silver. People in the streets instantly start rejoicing for the miracle-worker. He then walks back inside from the cheering crowd and hands the storekeeper a list of his supplies, after they are gathered he asks where he could send a message to the royal squire for the ruling courts of the kingdom to herald his travels. Apparently our friend travels in high circles, rubbing elbows with the King...


These too were paid for by another grand show of magic as he then turned every piece of metal in the city to gold. This level of magic only existed on the lips of drunken Tellers, weaving a grand tale from a birthing ground of high-spirited imagination and alcohol for the entertainment of easily impressionable youngsters. Our guest was indeed a high level player in the world, and we had no idea he even existed in the first place. The rest of the day continued the same way: Elf asks for something, and then pays for it by magically transforming things into a more valuable version of its former self.


The men and I were astounded at his knowledge of the arcane; it bordered other-worldly origins...


Finally we came to the point of the day when all of our gracious benefactors' items had to be prepared for travel. "Leave them in three of the biggest wagons your town can afford..." said the Elf cold, stern, and uncompromising."...I will take care of the rest..." Just then, the air around him begins to flicker like viewing his general area from the top of a flame, as if all the images were moving to avoid his power - or under the sway of it. Then his arms slowly edge forwards, with each motion the very ground underfoot seems enthralled to his whim, pulsing and sinking into the ground under where his hands were directed. Then the pulsing stops and the sinking deepens into a small, yet still expanding crater.


My men, not used to the forms of magic, or the Fae-ish ways of those from the woods wouldn't take a single step near the Elf; much less ask him anything...so I handled every transaction that day. During the task, I noticed that each purchase seemed to be for either a very long trip, or for a great deal more people than just him on his own... Would the elf summon more helpers from the very dirt itself?


He took special care to jot down some writing on the map I gave him in certain locations, locations I happen to know belong to major towns in the Human Kingdom, one of them our very own Steelfort. "He must be making marker tags for his trip", I figured and left him to his business...


I got my answer soon enough. With a sound akin to a man-sized hammer hitting a rock in a cave, a deep bellowed thud came in from under our feet as the dent left in the ground beneath us began to rise as if it had somehow come to life... As the intensity of the sound increased, so did the size of the cracks coming from the ever-growing crater in the ground before us. Normally one would grow a Golem from the dirt about the size of a small child, but would only move as its maker willed it to.


This thing seemed to have a will of its own, presently filled with an urge to break free from under the now silver-laden courtyard of Stonewall. The cracks increase and swell in the metal encrusted ground as what lies under comes forth with all the grace of a thunderclap in a quarry, whoever wasn't deafened by the initial birthing of the Golem, or caught in the debris as it was launched towards each helpless bystander watching in terror-tinged-awe, instead was gaping like a jackanapes, at the monstrous giant Golem before us...myself included.


He towered at a decent 20 feet above the normal man, had the shape of an over-grown Dwarf in heavy armor. His face, with a very loose grasp on the concept of the word 'face', looked sullen and devoid of emotion, the only real notable part was that the area where his eyes appeared to be looked a bit...off.


At least in comparison with the rest of the creature...


He then instructed the Golem to latch the wagons together with the rope he had also bought, and wait outside Stonewall's gates. He then took back out his map and pressed his staff into the middle of it. Then he was gone. No one had actually noticed that he had used magic right then, given his earlier spectacles. Unlike before, there wasn't any rippling-shimmering light or rumblings off in the distance. I guess with payment out of the way, the need for showmanship had declined, and we were left with the empty hat without a false bottom.


Or much of a rabbit either, for that matter.


However one must look at all the ongoing activities that take place in one's own establishment...having a great deal of one's 'hometown' turned into the biggest silver livable mine this side of the Dwarven Mountains wasn't exactly nothing. Of course, good tidings aside - we couldn't just allow some unknown magician, of unknown origin, to just waltz into not just our town, but our very base, demand our supplies, order us around, and actually get away with it?!?


So, knowing he was trouble we wouldn't want to be connected to, I'd need an outside party to follow, spy and, pretty much be cannon-fodder if things went south. And who better to ask to risk their hides for my benefit than those who have sworn by sword to do just such a thing? What I needed was a Ranger in the Kings service. Only they might have the skills I'll need to track my gracious benefactor and his mysterious origin. However due to my more 'Philanthropic' activities, I am remiss to make an appointment in person...


Although, there is a saying here in Stonewall: "There's nothing that one person can't do, that he can't get someone else to do for the right price..."

All I have to do now is find the right volunteer...





Chapter 6


The Rule of Art


"The Rule of Art: is as it is viewed - so is it as powerful..." This was the second lesson taught to me, Capurin: Last Student of The Index; the storehouse of all our knowledge and histories, our culture and milestones...all brought to an abrupt end by its biggest mistake. I realize only now that I never really paid attention... All those old lessons came bleeding back in while I sat in the darkness, in the old dragon, in my own self-pity. This is my truth. Viewed through The Rule of Art, it is my seal.


As it is taught, in The Rule of Three there is The Giver, The Taker, and The Chooser. To utilize magic, one needs to have one symbolic avatar for each of The Three.


One to give power, or shape and form and purpose, under the mark of The Giver. This is the element that taps into the very heart of The Fae and the powers they used to shape this world.


The energy The Giver supplies connects right to the spirit of Prynian, and all things therein connected to it. The Giver can be anything you see that can take under your power, and use as a source of power for your spell. Be forewarned...the object you choose will only give power equal to its size can handle. The Giver is the 'spirit' of your spell, as such size is paramount. You wouldn't use a rock to level a mountain, that's the whole principle...


The Taker will be the 'tool' your spell is using, the shell of your spell in most cases. The guidelines are, in a reverse of The Giver, only important if your Giver has the power to supply it.


Once the spell has been cast, the Giver supplies the Taker, allowing it to summon forth magic.

However, a Chooser is always needed even for the smallest spell, as without it will drain energy endlessly without limits...


The Chooser is your 'controller' for your spell. It might be you or something with enough willpower to do what its name implies, and chooses where and in what way - that energy gets used depending on how it can be used, and what it's using that energy on.


This, like all the other lessons I learned from the Index, only seem so clear now, after I can no longer use their knowledge while still trapped in this beast... It was after what I believed to be a month and a half of travel from Dawn's Flower, that I lost track of the days. Walking around in one direction; always one direction: east.


East toward the Orcish Deadlands and whatever my next "session" in FilaV'fik's "lesson plan" might be. While I have no physical control of my body, it's still my body and I have had little other option than to stand by and watch as that thing acts as me. That's right, in the weeks that have passed, he's been posing as me using my memories to find his way around and get things he needs. We had just left Stonewall, with his silver golem close behind with our supply wagons. During the ordeal, I learned that there really is no way for me to regain control through effort of will alone...I screamed to every person that came across my path, at least I screamed in whatever limbo-hell let's one live in his body, minus the living... My attention is focused on our path and trying to find a way to get my body back.


We arrive at the entrance to The Lost Woods. He dismissed the Golem to guard the empty covering of limestone that used to be known as Dawn's Flower, most likely to keep questions to a minimum until he's ready to not care about questions anymore... I wonder what the use of all these supplies was now that he's gotten rid of the only thing that was helping us, until I notice the Goblins coming out of the forest... I figure he would decimate the troop with magic he was obviously fluent in.


Instead, he extends his arms toward them openly...the air takes an amberish-orange glow as this form takes shape around my body. The shape is just randomly floating like embers around a flame, never fully bright-yet still light enough to see as it floats in the breeze...


The embers then dance in circles, all in the same motion. They then slowly move into a collective form, muddy at first appearing as a giant blob the size of a small hill. The blob then gains some features, such as wings, a tail, a head that could only belong to a dragon, that dragon, FilaV'fik showing himself to these Goblin raiders, but to what end?


The Goblins waited patiently while the form was constructed, rather in awe with the whole spectacle; apparently FilaV'fik is fond of his showmanship...this I will take note of for later use.


When the features became more known, the Goblins became more manic-jumping and pointing at the image as if they've seen a myth. It might be just that, as they quickly bowed before me-it-us. "Give us the path to the Orcish Deadlands..." He demanded with no explanation, and the Goblins quickly proceeded to guide us through The Lost Woods, a feat thought impossible by my reckoning, as the very trees themselves decided how your feet are carried in this forest.


The Goblins found a loophole in the rule, if there are no trees, then the roads stay the same... So they cut down every tree on our way, not just by choice mind you as the very trees themselves were attacking us with their branches and roots, tossing rocks and opening pitfalls in the ground...this was not a light undertaking, yet these Goblins were giving up their lives just for us to cross this God-forsaken forest...


What was the connection?


What linked these savage Goblins to this ancient demon? My main disadvantage was that I had no information about my adversary, and from my experience I gleaned that not only was FilaV'fik well versed in The Fae's Art, but seemed to have immense resources of energy for his spells...

He knows somewhat of the lay of the land, but none of the current landmarks that were built since the dawn of The Age of Men, when The Greater Plains were tamed by the still-expanding Human Kingdom. From the limbo I found him in, FilaV'fik must have been dead for centuries before I found him, and then there's the legend...


**********************************************************************************


By now it's regarded as a myth, an ancient dragon had been given full knowledge of The Fae's

Art and asked to form the lands for the people that The Fae Spirit would be bringing to Prynian.


Honored by the offer, the dragon assisted The Fae and gave shape to the flat rock, motion to still waters and breath to the dead wind. He then gave spaces for The Fae to make plants and wildlife abound for food, sport, survival and balance. Finally, when it came time for The Fae to bring their children to Prynian, they gave the dragon a task.


He was to be the Steward of the lands, and guard the places in Prynian that were not meant for wanders. In time, the dragon had become rather displeased with his current status, and sought out a way to fix the situation...by subverting the local populace into his devoted followers.


In time, the dragon had most of Prynian worshiping him as their gracious benefactor, awarding him with gifts and pampered treatment. All the praise had tempered the dragon at first, but as more time passed the dragon once again felt there was more he deserved for his contribution.


So he started demanding sacrifices once a year, the dragon's tastes in satisfaction growing ever darker...soon it was every month, in even less time, every day.


Legend tells it, it took the divination of The Fae Spirit to stop the dragon, but by that time the dragon had been feeding off the life-forces of all his sacrifices, becoming entwined with the essence of their life while at the verge of death had turned the dragon immortal. Now armed with the knowledge he was beyond recourse, the dragon engorged himself on the peoples of Prynian almost without end, a terror to be spoken only as "The Burning Life".


As for the people of certain areas he would stay at, inside temples he built to himself, it was said if the number of living villages would drop to a certain amount he would trek across to the Orcish Deadlands for a while...


***************************************************************************


Recalling the legend, I know now why I should have been more perceptive...as it viewed, so is it as powerful. There was a connection between the legend and reality, all too frightening to comprehend at the time...so I focused on the facts. He was a dragon. He is known to be immortal based off the countless souls he has consumed over the timeline. The Fae had tried to stop him and failed, due to their lack of attention. He had traveled to the Orcish Deadlands during a time when it was rumored he was worshiped worldwide...


Then it seems the Goblins prefer a blunter and commanding ruler, something more honest to their selfish-sadistic worldview that has earned their loyalty, and fear... So his spirit lives on only from his Orcish followers, who from what I can tell are just as devout as ever....


Finally something that I can use against this demon!


Now I just need to find a way to use this knowledge to my advantage... Suddenly, my head jerks rapidly to the left where I find this redheaded sprite hanging from a spear that looks to have been made from a freshly grown tree.


The sprite is giving me hard glare, while grinning through his teeth, proud of having made his dramatic entrance, if I were to take a guess at the reason. "State your business!" Said the sprite, in an even yet, somehow lighthearted mood, "I am Frit of The Lost Woods, guardian of all that transpires within...name yourself!"


There was absolutely no movement among the Goblins at all, as they beamed their attention only upon me-us-it, waiting for the next move... "Be gone from my sight..." the dragon said with dead cold words from my lips then I felt the surge of energy that comes with tapping into The Fae's Art fly through my arm as it swung the staff 'it' fashioned out of the limestone that now covers my former home. What I saw was FilaV'fik channel the wind through his staff and towards the sprite hanging off the tree, what I didn't see were the Goblins vanishing through the bright flash of light that followed the gust of wind from the staff...


As the light fades from my eyes, I realize we've been back on course through The Lost Woods, apparently having finished our business with the sprite. There were only two Goblins with me now, instead of the full troop that had greeted us on our way into this now violently active forest.


Our normal pace has more than tripled after running into that Sprite, as the entire wood became intensely violent and winding, trying at every turn to make us double back or deter us by blocking our path, only to be answered by feral Goblins hacking away at anything plantlike in our way, moving or not...


As we moved what I could only guess was closer to the Orcish Deadlands, the trees and now even the smaller forms of plant life came to head us off by force. It was at this moment I felt great warmth overcoming me like sitting next to a furnace or in front of a bonfire. FilaV'fik was getting angry, impatience is not a good color for you FilaV'fik...you're immortal and to be without a respect for time leaves an immortal with many questions to be asked...


As it is viewed, so is it as powerful...The Rule of Art rings true once again a new purpose has been realized...my salvation... The more time I spent around the dragon the more I learned. The bastard had the gall to induct me as his apprentice...then I shall take up the offer and show my new teacher how good of a student I can be...


And then, as it is viewed, so shall I be powerful...





Chapter 7


Twigger


So after Twigger had finished off the Goblin troop that random elf had ambushed us with in the woods, we had tried to follow their tracks but their lead would be too great at the speed they were making progress through my now highly agitated forest. They seemed to be burning a wild path through the wood, either driven by fear, self-preservation-or both...on top of which everytime I thought I caught a glimpse of him, the wild trees in thier bloodlust would try to swarm over the area he was in, drasticly changing the course I was taking through the trees...


That and when I finally caught up to him I would like to be better prepared for flying into other blunt immovable objects... So we made our way out The Lost Woods and deeper into a new frontier for me, The Greater Plains. As a child, my father never had the best opinion of Humans, but from what I heard from my friends, they had a lot of qualities that are very similar to Fae life. Be that as it is, the realm of men was still a blank slate for me, and I planned to take my fill...while still keeping to our most dire mission, of course. Our plan:


Find a Ranger to help us gather numbers against our foe.


The closest human encampment near The Lost Woods was this little pile of rocks called

Stonewall but, I can't tell you how it got the name...the entire city seemed to be encased in silver.

Furthermore, every wall seemed to lack any trace of stone whatsoever.... Upon entering the town I was greeted by this man of medium build, short brownish-red hair, and emerald green eyes that gave an indication this was a man who really knew something...although what that was, wasn't all too clear at first. "Good journey to you Fayish traveler, what brings you to Stonewall at such an early hour?" asked the man with the most sincere honesty I've heard in a while...although the company of trees and Goblins leave your conversations rather one-sided and dull-if not confusing. "I need several supplies, and a rather recent map, as I must make my way to the King with news most dire..."


His face jolts into recognition for a few minutes, then immediately slips back to his normal half grin..."The King you say...well it must be a big day for him in the kingdom, you're the second faekind to mention having business with our lord that we've seen in our parts...could our lord be so great he garners assistance from even those outside his blood?" He laughed afterward, quite pleased with his small joke, "I mean no offence, but you must understand we here don't have much in the way of entertainment..."


Just then, he catches himself mid-motion, as if he something unseen has caught his attention then, one of his eyebrows rises higher than the others, "You wouldn't also happen to be another magician?"


I knew he had to be talking about that weird elf that had those Goblins chasing me through the woods...

"You didn't happen to catch his name per chance? I'm heading on a recon mission for the good of the kingdom and that elf is a serious threat!", I informed the man, "What's more, I know that not only is he in league with Goblins, but he has some under his command and was last seen heading towards the Orcish Deadlands...now I'm no expert, but that doesn't exactly spell out peace making party when they attack people on sight without cause..."


Hearing this, the stranger straightens out his stance, a new, more intent look on his face. "So that was his game..." he continued to say, "Well then you've come to the right spot friend, I'll help you in your quest better than any simple map could." He rises up from the table and extends his hand, then says "My name is Vincent Williamson-Brook, Brooke for short. I've made it my certain responsibility that all citizens of The Greater Plains are taken care of and this elf didn't seem so bad when he turned our entire city to silver, but NO ONE needs a Golem the size he made-I don't care what supplies you've bought or if you know the King..."


Then with his serious glare focused entirely on me, he continued "What do they call you, where you come from traveler?" I was going to reply, when Twigger interjected, saying something about how I shouldn't trust every breeze that knocks down my door, not understanding the advice I continued by saying, "Well met, I am Frit of The Lost Forest...and Guardian of all therein..." I ended the statement with the slightest of nods, to punctuate the title...then I raised Twigger in-between the both of us, "...and this is Twigger my trusted companion, bodyguard, brother in arms...take your pick really..." Brooke's head darted back and forth; looking for the person I just introduced him to, "Umm....a pleasure, I'm certain..."


"He's this staff..." I said dejectedly, more hurt for Twigger's sake than my own, he will never say it but he does wish there were more people he could interact with, instead of those wild and brutish trees of The Lost Woods... Even though from what I remember, he used to be more like them when I first met him. The blank stare I receive from Brooke tells me I should inform him of the details behind Twigger's origin before I'm labeled as a loon and placed in an asylum for such people...


*********************************************************************************


"Long before the world was fully formed; much of Prynian was wild and untamed, like The Lost

Woods only more wide spread. It was then the first elves made special trees that were calmer and more bearable to live around without the constant fear of being pulled into the ground, or assailed by roots and vines... These newer trees were dubbed "The Eldinari" meaning "The Elder Line" as a fresh start for new trees across the world.


Twigger was one of the last ones made, he was to calm the area of The Lost Woods, but the events of The Great War forced him to leave the area as it was in order to protect the surrounding villagers from the oncoming Orcish war parties that were underway. He made a deal with The Lost Woods; if they kept The Greater Plains from being invaded they would be free to remain as they were as long as no innocents were injured from their antics.


After the war, the humans slowly started to find the Eldinari forests and began harvesting their wood for lumber, and having not learned treespeak, the pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. Soon there were no other Eldinari to be found, and Twigger and The

Lost Woods was all that remains of that old world now... And such is how it's been for centuries..."


After a few moments and some slow nods of understanding from Brooke, he finally said, "Well thanks for the history lesson, but I knew most of that tidbit already...what puzzling me is why you would waste such high quality wood for just one spear?"


"Oh there's no waste..." I take up Twigger and plunge his blunt end into some soil in a flower pot that had not been turned completely into silver, much to the protests of Twigger, as he's not too fond of the cramped space of flower pots, much less those comprised of mostly silver. The moment he touches the soil, my spell begins to unwind it's compression on the trunk of his body. Brooke's jaw goes slack as Twigger continues to expand, his roots reaching into the houses behind Brooke and beyond. Finally, having exposed enough of my wooden friend I enable the spell once again, so Twigger is more sociable, if not just easier to be around without all his complaining...


"What manner of creature are you?" Brooke asks, "I've never seen anything like that outside the

Elven Woods..."


"Just a little something I picked up talking to trees..." I said with as straight a face a person could make while making such a statement... Then remembering the reason I came all the way here in the first place...


...that elf...


"So you mentioned your assistance? I must make haste to the closest place I can find a Ranger or better yet the King himself..." I add in to get us moving back on track.


"Yes, that I can assist with...but what type of assistance could having a master tracker with us help?" Brooke adds in uncertainly, almost as if he didn't believe the words he was saying himself...


"If we find where he came from, we'll find out who he is and more importantly, what he wants..." Frit adds in coolly, sure of his plan... "Furthermore, we'll then have to inform the Dwarven people of this news, as their assistance will come in handy if we find ourselves outmatched..." Even Twigger had to comment on how well thought-out my choices were, even though shortly after he mentioned how it was mostly through the fact of my natural ability to understand the natural and basic details of everything I come in contact with. Twigger says I was given this gift because without it The Fae Spirit would have felt worse for my simplemindedness than she does now, I say it's because there isn't any other who would use this ability well enough...and well...we really don't talk about that subject much.


"So, what about you?" Asked Frit, "What's your story?" Brooke takes a long moment thinking about the question, his face grimacing from the memories dug up from his past. There is a moment when Brooke begins to open his mouth where it seems I'll get the answer to my question, he says after a breath, "....We'll keep the mood light for now..." Then flashing his salesman smile he adds, "...no need to bring down such happy travel companions..., so on that note, shall we?" Brooke extends his arm, as to show the way is clear for us to begin our journey.


And so we do.


The crowd sits patiently, waiting on the next part of the story. Our Teller can see clearly his audience, and being a Teller, can feel empathically what each one is expecting to hear next, as a Teller is only as good as his audience, for they will be the ones to spread his tales... "If you don't mind, I'll take over from here on out..." said the Teller knowing full well his crowd wanted more...






Chapter 8


Dawn's Flower


It's a good day for me.


I've finished the last of my Ranger training, earning the title of "Longbow", a mentoring and leadership position complete with the freedom to explore The Greater Plains dealing out my lord's will to the outer villages...


Tomorrow I begin training my own troop of trainees, showing them how to avoid all the mistakes I made during my time learning the ropes...well all of them I remember. I even have my own station as the King's personal guard, even though that's mostly for political reasons, as well as a patrol area to maintain, as the old one went missing a few weeks back... My first mission is to find out what became of my predecessor and report my findings, with the support of my new troop to assist. While this could be potentially dangerous, I am sure that there aren't that many troubling unknowns in The Greater Plains to give us any difficulties, unless there's another Crystal Dragon on the loose...and besides, we're Rangers...it's part of the job to risk your life.


The day has come.


I greet my troops; twelve in all, as all Ranger troops are in groups of twelve or more each with one or more special fields...the breakdown of my own troop goes as follows:


Shield-hand

Richard a farmhand that wanted more for himself and his family joined up for the money, stayed because he saw the difference he was making and the change in himself...


Brawler

Emily was to be a servant girl, until the recruiter spotted her fighting off seven of her would-be "masters" when they tried to take advantage of her virtue...


Spear-hand

John, joined because his family has background in the Rangers, most likely to be my most reliable member as he seems to know more than I do about the protocol of the Rangers...


Recon

Mitchell, used to be a traveling vagrant, but the number of times he was found in lock-up got him to talking to the City Guard and they informed him of how he could get a full paid tour of The Great Plains, the next day he signed on...


Secondary Shield-hand

Margret, a shield-maiden from the Northern Prospects was assigned to the Rangers for intensive training, a sure hand if I ever needed one...


Commander (Shortbow)

Elliot, a son of a Duke and a personal friend, he has been with me on several advents before I made Longbow and for his assistance I made him my Shortbow, this is the only time I've pulled strings to make something happen...


Sniper

Carli, an elven archer sent to us by The Lady of Wood, Princess Lily of the Elves, in accordance with our laws and treaties...


Mage

David, this one I'll have to keep an eye out for, he's our mage and as such, he will most likely have his head in some form of book or dreamland, like most mages, and such as he was during our meeting...I doubt he even remembers it...


Warrior

Du'barn, one of my best fighters- next to Margret that is, came to us by way of Stonewall, just living in that den of thieves and still wanting to hold on to his sense of morality is an admirable quality in itself, not to mention his excellent swordsmanship...


Longsword

Duncan, never in my life have I seen a man more obsessed with the word of the law than he. His family line has been in several major wars and always as the hero, I just hope he doesn't feel too eager to follow in their footsteps...


Archer

Neil our secondary archer, only by a fluke, as during his trials he scored slightly lower than

Carli, and to come close to an Elf in anything is far past remarkable...

Rook

And finally Marcus, our Rook, which is pretty much the guy who would be in heavy armor at the front lines for every battle, you can't give someone this position, they have to ask for it, and so he did, without complaint for the rest of the troop...


And then after a few months of team-building and practice, we set out on our first patrol in the location of my predecessor, the forests that surround the Elven magic academy in the village of Dawn's Flower...


Our trip there for the most part was uneventful; there weren't any raiders, Goblins, or malcontent beings of other-worldly nature out on the road with us..." Maybe they knew we were still rusty, and wanted more of a challenge..." Carli joked. I told her to keep those types of jokes to a minimum, as they usually bring what they advertise...then I added in, "...but if all else fails, we can rely on our quick-as-lightning mage, isn't that right David? David...?" I asked of the absent minded man, who still, to this moment, wasn't paying too much attention evidently, as he said in a distinguished undertone, "Whaa...?"

"Praise The Fae! We are in the protection of one of her golden sons today my comrades!"

Exclaimed Margret, to the amusement of the rest of the troop. Duncan pulled his horse closer to mine to ask the most pivotal question of all when on a trip...


"Are we there yet?"


My solemn face and the number of maps I had David double-checking seemed to give the impression that I was lost, as at the time we had entered the Elven Woods known for being exactly as it was since the day the Elves came there. This means no roads, and no roads mean no paths, and no paths mean no tracking by foot, and the sky is always shrouded by trees, so I can't even use the clouds, sun or stars to find our way... Its okay, you can say it...


I'd make a pretty bad elf...


Fortunately for us, Carli doesn't. She found a familiar tree during the third day of wandering the woods, how can one tree stick out in a forest?


Ask a real elf, I have less than any clue...


With the aid of her path finding, we should have arrived at Dawn's Flower to be greeted by some welcoming party and to figure out where or what happened to the previous Rangers stationed here...

However, there must have been a misstep in her path finding as all we saw was a massive plain of limestone, large enough to wonder why no one had mined it, if this wasn't the Elven Woods...


"Do you think we made a wrong turn at a tree back there?", I asked trying to keep spirits high.

"No sir, this is Dawn's Flower...lax the details that make it so...", said David in a remarkably insightful tone, "I trained here for a few years before they sent me back to Steelfort to finish my combat training for the Rangers...". We should have seen the towering presence of the Elven Index, massively marble tower it is, before we even entered the forest, now that I think on it..."


Well so much for David's insight...


Now as we looked around the barren area, there was a sound in the distance, just past a small brush of trees. It sounded like a controlled rockslide, but we were on as flat of a plain as it gets in these parts, just then a crop of trees fall toward our general direction. Then we saw it.... First, a giant silver arm jutted out from the trees, knocking over the remaining trees that were blocking his path, along with a better view of the massively-sized silver golem, who was still making its way towards me and my troop. Instantly we go into defensive positions, defining our front lines...


Marcus, already in his heavy armor, pulls his grand mace from his steed and marks our front lines, as expected of the man who jumped at the chance to be our Rook - which might I add has to be our most suicidal position, as all Rooks have to take point man position during every conflict. Nomatter the oppent mind you, it could be a random rampaging dragon and still you would be expected to fly head first into battle, on the other hand they do get paid more than even my position allows, medical reasons and what have you.


Following protocol, Duncan falls in line right behind him as is the Longsword's duty. While not as suicidal as a Rook position, the Longsword is the troop's most tactical member, training since birth to fight everything in arms reach, and few beyond.

Following the instinctive movement, our fighters ready their weapons, falling in line behind our

Shield-hands Richard and Margaret as the close-quarters fighters; our Warrior Du'barn,

Shortbow Elliot, Brawler Emily, David the Mage along with Sniper Carli and Archer Neil being guarded by Spear-hand John and Recon Mitchell. Du'barn and Marcus were ready to launch themselves at the monster, but as good soldiers they know one does not jump head first into battle, no matter how well you happen to be armed...


"Mitchell! David! What in the divine is that!?!" I asked of my men, as the gleaming beacon of doom marched its way toward us slowly... "It's a Golem sir, apparently made entirely of silver...where did the user acquire so much at one time?" Wondered David, as another monstrously large silver foot slid closer, digging into the limestone that was ground aside underfoot... "We'll get to that after we figure out a few things namely; what's powering it David!?!And is it after us?!?" Shouted Mitchell, over the next thunderous footstep that slammed down closer than the last... "Umm..." Muttered David, as he tore through the scrolls assembled in his satchel, "Ummm...working on that...so far I know that Golems work off the mineral they are made from, so when that energy is expelled, they fall apart...", was his frantic reply as he tossed scrolls about.


"Great! We'll tire it out with diversionary tactics!" I yell out to my troop, who were already making the necessary steps... Carli and Neil fired smoke bombs around our general area as so we have some maneuvering room, while our Rook put away his mace for a Dwarven Earthmasher, a cross between an anvil and a sledgehammer, and grips his weapon as he stands his ground. John readied a razor-sharp mythril spear with a reinforced staff, and lined up behind David and the archers, who were still dispersing extra smoke bombs to our surrounding area for extra cover.


"David!!!Will you tell us if this thing is after, us or were you holding on for dramatic effect!?!" I exclaim at our diligent mage as he makes his way back to reality from his satchel, from which I hope he has found a way to answer me...


Another thunder-step, now we can tell this creature is indeed the size of a small tower...


"Well, I've talked to the spirit inside it and...It is indeed after us, but we won't be tiring it out...it's tied into some massive outer force...we'll have to take it down ourselves...", he said rather calmly taking into account our current predicament... "I'll need a minute..."

And then he was lost to the world of the bag, naught to be retrieved easily even to the rallying call of: "Get your SLOGGING HEAD OUT OF THE DAMNED BAG!!!"


Thus was my request of my Mage...


He declined...the next earth-shaking step landed close enough for us to lose our footing...


"Damned Mages! Neil cover me!" Yells Carli as she breaks formation and runs from the smokescreen in front of us launching diamond-tipped arrows at where she believes the eyes are...they in fact were not there, as the Golem paid no heed to her attack...

"Time to start the show then...", says Du'barn to Marcus with a smile akin to goblin in a gold mine all set aside for himself. Marcus, runs out to meet the silver-clad golem with Earthmasher in tow, as Du'barn runs to the opposite side with a bomb ready in that hand.


Marcus brings back the massive bludgeoning object for a swing, then let's it loose towards the sky flinging the weapon like a dog's master would toss a twig. Du'barn then ignites his bomb and places it near the next footfall of the creature before it comes, and jumps clear of said foot before its fall.


"Ah, it should be just about ready now...", said David suddenly, as if we were waiting for the same thing... "Stand clear!" He shouts, then raises his staff to the sky where there are clouds of such a thick blackness that I should have noticed them sooner...I'll never be totally used to magic, but each time gives me this feeling of nostalgia...akin to a distant voice calling my name...


But I digress.


As the storm clouds swirled overhead, I noticed our golem had stopped moving, taken in by the light show as well... David began to chant something faster and faster, and the more he chanted, the more the storm would stir... Soon lighting began striking random points around us, and on the golem, each blast melting a piece off the metal monstrosity at a time... Now there was one lightning bolt that jumped around the rest glowing brighter with each bolt it touched as if they were merging together with each connection, until one massive flash came down and landed upon David's staff.


Upon contact, David took on the grimacing visage of someone trying to push a mountain, beads of sweat building on his face as if there was a rainstorm equal to the amount of clouds we just saw, and all th rain was falling on his brow. The emence energy coming from the bolt took David down to one knee, as if it had enough weight to bring him down.


David, then glowing with the energy all around him, and with a face possessed with power, points his staff towards the golem, and a pillar of light flies toward the behemoth, covering the creature in furiously motion like blades slashing wildly against the surface of the golem, countless strikes assaulted the golem each one melting its massive size down to scale until in a matter of moments it was nothing more than a red hot pile of liquid silver...but that wasn't the end...


Out of the molten pool rolled forth an onyx orb, smoother than anything I've ever seen, David motioned his hand toward it and it flew towards his hands...


"This is the core of that thing...if we leave it here it could reconstitute itself over time...might be better to take it with us...", added David as though his last display of immense power was just a casual thing...


We in the troop, during our first mission aren't used to such sights that this was something to scoff at. All of us have about ten years maximum in the Rangers, and the first eight are filled with intense training and learning...


We stared, blank faced at David as he studied the orb...most of us composed enough not to have our tongues hanging out...we'll just have to excuse Du'barn later...


"People! Give me those status updates, lets check those limbs...", I ask of my troop. "Alls well here, Longbow...", replies Duncan. "No more aches than what I started with Longbow, thank ye fer askin'...", from Du'barn, as he rubbed his sore shoulder. "I would kill for a drink..., damned, if that wasnt tense!", exclaimed Carli, obvioulsy still hung up on todays activities.


The rest of the troop followed with likewise replies, all equally as reassuring...aside from David, who, for the last few minutes had been burried in his bag, studing his new trinket in earnest. "What ho, David? So is it pissed you melted his body like so much butter?" asked Neil.


"Just the opposite, I'd say..."he's" been thanking me for freeing it from something it keeps calling "the burning life", curious that...", answered our mage, at the time, we weren't quite sure that we could take that for the truth... "At any rate, we should get back home and report this to the King..."


"No time", I cut in, "If we want this information to be useful, we need more intel...Recon, form up!" This is the rallying call for any troop of Rangers to split into multifunctional teams, that being, one of offensive strentgh, and the other more biased toward information gathering and subtifuge.


The usual formation of a Ranger Recon unit is, divided by it's leading member the Recon, who is then assisted by the Warrior, the Swordmaster, the secondary Spearhand, and the Brawler for support.


So we have Mitchell, Du'barn, Duncan, Margret, and Emily for our Recon unit, they lined up awaiting my command. "So as it stands, we have no idea where this golem came from and we don't know who sent it or why it would attack us, but all we know is it didn't want us leaving this area, so while we learn what we can from this area and David talks up our friend in the orb, I need you to head to the nearest town and get in touch with the nearest Rangers base you find, inform them of our predicament, the rest of us will track our rouge mage through the woods till you guys catch up, Carli will mark the roads behind us as so you will know our general direction. Until we know excatly what we are up against, it is safer to keep to smaller groups as so we don't draw attention...", when I finished giving out orders, the troop breaks off without further intruction.


"Alright people I hope to see you in the same condition I left you in...", I say as my part of the troop packs up to head back into the Elven Woods.


"No worries Longbow, they've got me to watch over them, so I'm more worried for you lot...you've still got David...", adds Du'barn to the amusement of everyone, aside from David who was still talking to his new friend, the onyx orb.


I do hope he knows what he is doing with that thing...



Chapter 9

The Mage Mind


After two days of the most horrifing and perilous crossing through that death trap called The Lost Woods, "we" found ourselves with only one goblin left, as the rest had to be used as fodder for those murderous trees, each time we cleared one expanse, several more trees would slide in as the last one fell. For a moment I thought "he" would step in and clear out some of the madness, but I forgot who I was talking about...


Such as it was we were still free of The Lost Woods, and now I saw why they called the land beyond The Orchish Deadlands, for as far as the horizon spans, there is just dust, rocks, and desert for miles on end. Crossing this stretch of land would consume more time than I would like to remember, so as to continue my efforts working against this damned dragon in my body, I reflect on my training...


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The Mage Mind, the area of a persons body capable of manipulating the flow of magic. It is with the Mage Mind that we call forth energy from our Givers to bestow thier temporary control over thier actions through our Takers, the middleman for any well-made spell as The Rule of Three governs the flow of energy without direct contact from either party physically. The first lesson one is given to master this technique is making water turn to ice, this test is twofold, on one hand you will be judged on how quickly you can make your water into ice, and on the other hand you will be judged based off of how you turn it into ice.


Now, based off The Rule of Three, the water we want to freeze is our Taker, so with such a small amount of water it is a simple matter to choose from anything to use as the Giver, mediating the flow of energy as the Chooser.


The testees are given a bowl of water, a table and several means of utilizing any element that would be useful, and a handful that aren't, just to keep things interesting.


The most practical approach is to make the air around the water turn cold by making a breeze with a low energy yield, as so it stays cold and will only take what heat is left in the water. Once the wind is ready, all that is left is to move the wind about the water so it chills quickly and doesn't waste water by splashing it about while the air is moving through it. Easier said than done, but still.


Now that we have the basic construct of our spell, this test wasn't to see if it could be done, but rather how it would be done. Most of my classmates took the heat straight out of the water itself, and wound up freezing not just the water but the bowl it sat on and most of the table along with it. One interesting bit of information that pertains to this lesson, each race is capable of the same forms of magic, but thier specialities lie in seaparate areas.


For instance, for every Elven student, it seemed logical to use two seaparate elements instead of having one, as so it is easier to balance how much energy to give to the spell. For the Human students they took the same approach but instead used three elements, as humans are strong believers in teamwork, as it is how they survied for so long, as such their minds are more focused on how things work together than seaparately. The Dwarves however, used only one element, the element they were focused on, water, as Dwarves are stubborn and headstrong, so thier plans follow the same suit.


However, this is where all that previous explanation before comes to be of use. The Mage Mind, works along the basic reasoning of the Magi using said certain spell. Therefore, if you can understand the Magi, you have a fairly good chance of breaking thier spell. In the world of combative spellcasting, this is the prime lesson to have in mind.


As such, Elves will typically take more time getting set up for a spell but once ready will be more focused on the spell than most races. Whereas, Humans will take the longest but wind up with the most complex spells, making them fearsome when in magic combat. Likewise with the Dwarves, as thier single-mindedness tends to make them more likely to focus only on the main part of the spell and in doing so making it vastly more powerful. An Elf's advantage in a mage battle lays heavily on thier knowledege of magic and how readily they can call it forth when in need...


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So, lets take a look at our opponent, Fila'Vik, The Burning Life, The World Serpent. Feared for centuries by all who came into his presence, the dragon used thier fear to power his goals and then drained the very lives of his followers to make himself immortal. His magic then is not governed by The Rule of Three, and as such, based off of his own power...which would explain why he only uses his power when in highly public places. For how else would the dragon get more followers, without having new ways of showing his strength?


The question now is how to use this to my advantage...? If I can find a way to make him spend more energy than he normally would, he would undoubtly have to recharge...and during that process all that would be needed is for me to syphon off a small portion of it for myself, as to cast a counter-spell, one to help me regain control, if not all at once then at the very least in minor doses...


My attention is roused back to the waking world by the sounds of horns in the distance. While we crossed the desert expance, apparently the sun had set and it was well into the blackest part of the night. Again the horn sounded, and as it echoed througout the air it was answered by another horn off to our other side, which still lay just outside of our vision. We were surrounded, by unknown, most likely Orcish hunters, who by habit and nature are cannibals. Sensing a window of oportunity coming, I cursed myself for not thinking of my spell sooner...


The muffled beat of hoofs in the distance, signaled that whoever had found us was getting closer, but in the thickness of the night, the most I could see was the faintest outline of the limestone staff that "he" carries with him. Then as the hoofbeats get closer, and louder, "he" raises our hand and makes a small fireball just above our head, akin to a small sun. With this very much apprechiated illumination, we have blurred movements at the corner of our eye to accompany the hoofbeats, and horns.


As all this is going on, I expect "him" to do something useful, anything really to establish himself...but he stands and allows thier approach. Then suddenly, "Don'cha Elvez, knew better thin to be triapsin inta Orcish land witout 'scorts...?" said the first Orc who stopped just short of running us through with his bone spear, which in itself looked to be made from a horse's spine. His clothing carried a more civilized tone than his voice where as I had expected rags and furs, he instead had on shaped leathers and metal, accented with bits of bone, adorned across his person like metals one would see on a war hero.


"Perhaps the lad was waiting on us to escort him...", said his companion, who unlike his friend, seemed more civil and knownledgable. "So what say you, little Elf-kin? Are you lost and in need of escort?" The way they pharsed the word "escort" made me wary, however it seemed "he" had something in mind... "Where would you be escorting me to, exactly? For I am of a mind to see the Temple of Burning Life..., are you familiar with it?", asked the dragon with one eyebrow raised, hinting at something hidden that I would assume would only be known to those that have gone through this particular part of the world...


"T-the Temple!?! Who are you Elf-kin, state yourself now or my friend would be tempted to run you through like a stuck pig...", said the more civil-Orc, while his cohort was grinning like a mischiveous child once physical pain was mentioned. "No need for hostilities, besides, we are all friends here, right?" , said the dragon through my voice... "As for who I am, just think about who else could possibly know about the temple...aside from the Dwarves who locked it that is..."


At the mention of the Dwarves and the temple, my memory jumps to an old history lesson concerning the Orcish lands...


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"In the older times when much of the world was ruled by those of great power, before the Elves came together to balance the land with the Fae, there was one mighty force of dread that ruled the Orcish Deadlands...." This was a general explaination of how several areas of Prynian got formed, by my former teacher, "However at the time, these lands weren't dead until the Orcish deity, Fila'Vik saw fit to drain the land of all it's energy. The Orcs, respecting power and those who wield it with impunity, took after his lead and became dominating and aggressive." "In time, all that was left of thier former society was in distant tales, and whispered rumors from far off places, not known to man..."


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As the realization of who he has been talking to dawns on the Orcish envoy, a look appears on his face that seems to be the mix of fear, hope, disbelief, uncontrolable fervor, and certain doom spans across his face multiple times. At the same time, his companion drops everything, throws himself from his horse at our feet, "My Lord....I was a fool, tis true, but furgive meh my rudeness en I'll offah meh sword and soul to yer servahcies...such as thea are..."


"He" takes a moment to think on his offer...then turns to face the now scared wittless Orc and says, "Your offer is accepted, given we can reach MY temple as soon as possible..., otherwise...you might as well have just offered just your soul..." He lets that last bit hang in the air, as serious as death and the effect isn't lost on our new escorts, as they help us up on one of the horses, and we make way for The Temple Of Burning Life...




Chapter 10

Honest Living


Vincent Williamson Brooke, last born son of the noble Brooke family, known for being the liegelords of Stonewall since it's conception. As such, our line has had a direct connection to the King's line, myself being the 33rd in line to the throne (with the 32 ahead of me not as paticent or grateful for not having first grab at the weight of the throne and crown). As a child, I was tutored in several forms of science from my Dwarven teachers, they taught me the basics of commerce, engineering and the ways of crucial thought.


Also my first requirement before I became able to run any of the household was to "get aquianted" with our houses library, filled with endless tomes on business, science, agriculture, herbology, medical knowlegde from the several races, along with several other subjects that allow me to be as elequant as I am now. My favorite subject was chemestry, making ibjects into something more by combining thier similar elements. The simplicity of how it works made me get invested early on in my life, and I would say I know enough to rival a few Elven Magi on a few subjectsn namely combustion. Who doesn't apprechiate a little boom here and there now and again?


My lessons while arduous, were for my own benefit I learned early on, as I was to take over most of the stores our family ran on Main Street in our city. Our family, still retaining favor with the King (as we were one of the few houses that had not tried to take over the thrown. To show his apprechiation, we were granted the mainstay of all shipments, like building supplies, food, troops, persons of interest, and the like for the better part of the Greater Plains. Usually my older brother would have seen to the overhead, but the unforseen death of our foreman for our mines in the Dwarven Mountians made his need to leave more urgent than earlier percived. Not wanting to let my time in the spotlight pass, I made the most of my new position and learned not only where our shipments came from, but who made them, what they were used for, how they were used, and what other uses might they have.


I've always had a penchent for numbers, so with me at the helm of our finaces, the house of Brooke was doing mildly better than even the King... This obviously garnered the attention of the other nobles and in time I was the founder of Brooke shipments. Our crowning achivement was the aquisition of a Dwarven contraption they call a train, which, to the uninformed, are massivly sized metal containers on wheels that are pre-affixed to rails of metal they have bolted to the ground. I took note of this during my travels to the Dwarven Mountians during a shipment run. The Dwarves had been using smaller sized versions for personal transport for decades, it only took a bit of Brooke ingenuity and money, to have them extend the rails to the Greater Plains and increase the weightload for high load transport.


I usually find Dwarves much more easier to deal with than men or Elves, as they get straight to the point with little to no muddling up details with anything other than a concern for payment for services rendered. Men will want to have a contract to state they should continue to get paid for years for one years worth of work, or sometimes even work they don't even do. Elves care not for money or business, if they can't make it themselves or through magic, they just don't care for it....just dreadful for business...but aside from that...


When I started I was just outside the carefree age of 13, by the time of my 16th birthday, I found a better use of my resources. As I may have mentioned earlier, I happened upon several connections during my business shipping supplies around the kingdom. Not all of these connections were the most...civilized of business partners, as most of the borders of the Human kingdom are very difficult to cross as it is, much less when trying to send high volumes of ore and various other matierials to outside reigions like the newly aquired Northern Prospects just outside the Dwarven Mountaincity... So naturally utilizing the skills of several former smugglers to be my export overseers made perfect sense, at the time...


But as their choices to make the shipments became more and more drastic and bordering on criminal, as a good portion of the overseers had quite the prelevent careers in thier former line of work, and the guards were none too pleased that now they were being paid for what they were good at. So now the question is how does one continue business while all his main cohorts are questionable rouges?


Become a rouge yourself, obviously. While the mention of such a idea bordered on having my own house being called in for solicitous behavior, I decided to err on the side of caution. Masking my appearance as so I would appear average to the normal person, for while the Brooke name holds much weight in the kingdom, not all know what a Brooke looks like in person... My first few trips with the smugglers were simple runs, helping to get me aquianted with the names of contacts, locations, and passwords all run to maintain smoothness and efficentcy in all areas of this line of work. I donned the new moniker of "Brook the Crook" a character from Legend's infamous tales of regular men rising to the occasions and options open to him.


After I was familiar with the basics, we moved on to longer and more complex runs, finding specially made paths to cut down time, and of course a whole new line of passwords and the people that it mattered who knew them. The thing about the password was that each one had a circumstance for which it should be used, and actions to take once used. There were some that would signal that we needed extra men to offload our supplies far off-road, to be taken through town and recollected on the otherside, as so no one person would be carrying what a certain guard might be expecting of them. The more I moved around the more Brook's identity became more my own, while the old me I was drifted to the wayside, as there were intances where we would encounter kingdom guards trying to inspect our wares in an area where such objects weren't allowed. It was here where my knowledge of chemestry came in handy with some smoke bombs I made from random trinkets I gathered during our supply runs. After seeing how useful the smoke bombs were, I started making diviations of that sort, in the forms of fire bombs, flash-blinding bombs, along with my favorite, the Draco-bomb, a bomb powerful enough to match the explosive power of a full-sized dragon's flameburst attack.


However, my most favored memories come from when my shipments started to expand beyond the Dwarven lands, where there is a settlement of men outside of the kingdom came together to thrive, on thier own means, sans King, if you will. These individuals, with thier zeal to oppose the statis quo, haven't made the best of impressions with the kingdom, as they have been branded Bandits by those less willing to listen to thier reasons for acting as such. I however, am not so restricted by laws of legal eticate to divine the secrets of thier origin.


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The Bandits started as a rebel noble house, the House of Askain, which was always second in line to the throne, never cared for how the King would allow our own people to come second to the Elves. While in truth we've been on equal standing with them, they see it differently. As such, they started making requests to even this divide of preference. Thier first demand was for land, the biggest purchase of land since the Human domination of the Northern Prospects. An area of land a fourth the size of the Dwarven Mountains and just to the south of those same mountains became Askain Valley.


One would think becoming the undisputed rulers of thier own provence would settle the minds of those none to happy with the current regime. One would be wrong, as within the span of a fortnight, there were rumors of attacks and raids on the Dwarven Mountains, supplies stolen, civilians killed, and untold damage throughout their lands. When these hostilities became more noticable, the Rangers were called into play to track them down. Eventually, it ended as all good history lessons do, with a massive fight in Askain Valley, between the Rangers and the Bandits. While the Rangers won in the end, the Bandits found that they couldn't take them from the land that still belonged to House Askain. As such, to notifiy all the realms of the Alliance, the region was renamed to The Bandit's Ridge, as so all would know what would lie in the area.


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Now, how does this involve me in any way shape or form? A very good question, you see some of the people that became my esteemed overseers, were in fact Bandits. Once they signed with me however all forms of thier former alligence to the Bandits had to be severed, as to ensure loyality. Not all were okay with my terms, but those were the one that lost out on the gold...the others on the other hand were more than happy to find gainful employment in my service.


So it only made sense when thier fomer co-workers came forward looking for advice on avoiding being noticed by the kingdom guards and not to mention The Rangers. Apparently our password system was the best way to remain inconspicuous while performing increasingly criminal activity. The best part of it being that we had advanced to the point where every village and city in the Greater Plains, all with thier own passwords checkpoints and lookouts. I granted an audiance to the current leader of the Bandits, Lord Kasper Askain, notrious for his bloodthirsty manner and contempt for "lesser races". All the same we talked on end about how my system could benefit him, as well as his allies, of which he was selective to speak on beyond more mention that he had allies, and all thier efforts were fueled by the Bandits actions.


Ever the businessman, I inquired as to what our benefits would be if we allowed them access to our password system. The ability to move unrestrained throughout a kingdom should come at a high price. So thats just what I asked for...the highest price I could think of, a high ranking place in thier order. My reasoning was two-fold, one side of it has me learning the members of this secrective and suspect organization, while the other has me well positioned to make sure thier actions were in the best interest of all, be they Fae or nay.


Of course he didn't excatly jump at the chance, but as there is usually very little room for negotiation while I'm the one making terms (makes it easy for one to be pleased with a deal when they have control of choices I find...) but can't say if there wasn't more I could have asked for. So I guess I technically am a Bandit, given not in the traditional sense, but at this point I am solely responcible for what happens if they get too rowdy, as anyone with enough incintive to follow the bread crumbs will find me sitting very comfortably at the top of this syndicate of crime.


So, there we have it, my humble beginings, my joining with the Bandits, and my rise to power. And here we are, me the not-so-well-known co-leader of the Bandits, traveling with a Sprite, into the bowels of the one place that could spell downfall on everything I have been working so hard to build. However, knowing what lies at stake, that being the well-being of all the peoples that dwell in the Greater Plains and some places beyond, I would be remiss to try to do anything less than my all.


As we made ready to leave Stonewall, getting all of our supplies and matierals ready for our trip, Frit, the Sprite I was going on this journey with was busy talking to his tree-friend Twigger, about what? Well you'd have to ask him as all I heard was just Frit making noises close to that of a gentle breeze... When our supplies were ready, I gave special notice of what to do should the unfortunate call of death came for me while out in the wide wild of the world. Then we boarded my own private train car, made for personal trips throughout the Greater Plains, it is accomodating to those of a more pampered lifestyle, with amendities to match such a claim. I almost died of laughter when the Sprite saw the train itself. The look on his face could best be discribed as flabbergasted mixed with trepidation and awe, priceless...


The trip to Steelfort would normally take a few weeks to cross on foot and half that time with horses. With the train, we arrived in under a few hours, during which time, the Sprite saw fit to fill the space if time talking on end about everything and anything aronud him, more curious than a child, and intelligent enough to ask the right questions to find out his curiousity. "So Brook, I was wondering, how excatly did Humans come to be here? I know about the Dwarven and Elven histories, to some extent, but my time with Humans have been brief and far off encounters, mostly with lost hunters that had wandered too far while tracking prey and finding themselves in The Lost Woods..."


"Ah, brushing up on the locals before being caught up in the world of back-talking, traitor-danger, double-meaning-conversation-having politcal world that is Human life...wise young Sprite, very wise...", I acknowlegded of my new companion. "Well I'll give you a breif account of how things are for us Humans, and why..."


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The Human Kingdom did not just suddenly appear from out of nowhere, aside from what you might hear from most Elven historians. The first Humans were in truth Elves that had no capability with magic and in thier free time they built most of the tools, sciences, blacksmithing, chemestry, and various forms of life that you would find in any culture. They were dubbed as builders and tasked as such working on various projects across the area known at the time to be The Vast Expanse. The builders however while pleased to have a purpose, started to feel they were becoming undervalued as most of the attention at the time was focused on the building of The Fae's Art, and other forms of magic.


It was when the Elven Magi War began that they saw they didn't fit in the world they lived in anymore, and saw fit to make thier home elsewhere. So, before hostilities became more erradtic, they potistioned for a section of land for themselves. So they gathered thier numbers in the center of The Vast Expanse, as so they would be able to have space from the mainstay of the fighting that would take place off to the east of them. Seeing as they weren't able to assist magically in the war, the builders began to use the centuries to bridge the gap between them and the Magi.


Thier first step in accomplishing this was to create a form of defense against the Magi, to that end extensive research was done to accomplish this task. While no definitive stories remain about how they finished the research, one thing is certain. The builders had chanced upon having someone amoung them who had befriended the Fae, and as such was capable of fantasic, while in Elven eyes mundain, abilities such as, talking to elements, animals, and spirits with no noticable connection to either magic or Magi.


This person would come to be known as the first Human King, as he regined in several wild animals of use, like pigs, cows, chickens, and most other creatures now concidered to be "tamed" or "farmyard" animals. Then he communed with the forest trees around them to even out the land so as they could grow thier plants and animals on areas of land that would be nessesary for all of them to thrive. Because of thier dependence on his abilities, this person known as Delvan Corvan, became thier leader, ushering in a new age where through cooperation, the builders unified to become more than they were, they became Humans.


These Humans wanted thier worth to be equal to the other races, so they asked Delvan, who at the time was thier most traveled builder, what thier options could be. He went to the Fae Bed, deep in thier lands to the north, an area of so much ice and snow just the light from one beam of light would light up the entire area brighter than day. Delvan was always a smart man and knew any plan the Fae could give would have them set for life. When he arrived he told the Fae his people's problem and in responce, they threw him a rock. Now keep in mind that The Fae are not malicious, nor are they generous, they help or distract in whatever way tickles thier fancy, however thier favor can (and has several times in the past) be bought...


Delvan sensing himself at the mercy of the Fae, asks thier price, to which they say "We want to help you who are so very outnumbered here in this land, take up the rock and let our lessons begin..." And so it was while The Vast Expanse was being reformed to make room for the builders, Delvan took up lessons in Fae arts unknown to any before him. At the end of his several months learning from the Fae, Delvan was a different person than before, he could see the conections in how the world works and he knew why the Fae wouldn't teach his skills to everyone, as such he made sure to thank the Fae and promised only those in his family would know of what he had learned.


Once again, in responce, they threw a rock. This time Delvan knew how to respond. He took up the rock in his hand, whispered to the rock, and was taken back to the builders settlement. Upon his arrival, Delvan immediatly began making a special kind of magic, called "Mineral Magic" due to how it requires only a knowlegde of rocks to use. This was the one thing he was allowed to teach to others as it would benefit all who knew it, and the other races would have suitable proxies... These simple spells weren't on the world-bending scale of the Magi, but to have magic where there was none was more than enough for the builders. With thier "Mineral Magic", Delvan's assistance, and no interfernce from the Elves outside of sparse noises and flashes of far-off light from the non-stop fighting from the war, life began to grow into something close to normal for the early Humans.


At first due to the long-lived war of the Magi, the Humans were undisturbed during thier early settlement days. They built massive cities of stone and metal thanks to the smithing skills they gleaned from the Dwarves. The fields they paved from the vast amounts of forest they needed cleared for use of the timber and land for harvesting crops, once planted. They built systems of power that left Delvan in control, but delegated his authority among his trusted advicers, these were the first Lords.


These Lords, while by far not as conceted as thier later kin, were still enthralled by the weight of thier power and ultimately, fell under the sway of corruption by way of pride. It is here that the politics of the Human world was born. For there was no real currency at the time, all wealth was veiwed through what one could trade, and as such the hoarding of supplies began in many outlaying areas. The harvests were plenty, and the people lived well, so no one complained about thier liegelord gathering more than was needed.


This continued for decades, until finally the Magi War was at it's end and the Elven races called upon thier builders to help them restore what was lost. In reply, Delvan sent himself and two of his Lords with him to parlay with Lily, the Lady of the Wood. During thier discussion, he informed Lily of what had transpired during thier time apart from the Elves. Upon finishing, he took out his crown, that was made for him for this event, and asked if she would deem him the rightful King. Lily however was not impressed with thier progress, asking for explainations for what they could accomplish seaparate from the remaining Elves and with no magic to aid them. In responce, Delvan insisted that they weren't trying to be seaparate, in fact, now that they were settled, he had plans to combine all races together, for the betterment of all in the realm.


Pleased with his offer she donned him King Delvan Augustain, The First, and the Human Kingdom was born. After donning his crown, King Delvan renames his land The Greater Plans. Now granting his Lords proper regality, they began to trade with the Dwarves for silver, gold, and jewels, which in time becomes more valuable than the food supplies. Thusly this made the transfer into common currency faster as they were trading at a competetive pace, trying to out-do the other for the biggest pile of treasure. With the Lords busy building vast amounts of treasure, the common folk of the Greater Plains are realizing they no longer matter to thier liegelords, while those under the King still live not only well, but lavishly.


This breeds discontent among the villagers, and eventually there comes a brave few who think themselves smart enough to take thier liegelord's treasure. These bold individuals became thieves, banding together across the Greater Plains to ensure that thier wealth would be spread to everyone in need. However, the King could not let these thieves continue, or else there would be worse actions from those less civil. So the King was left with one option, disban his current liegelords who weren't doing thier jobs, and make the thieves thier replacements.


However, this only was the begining...


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"In my honest opinion", Brooke says to Frit in thier traincar, halfway to thier destination. "...it makes perfect sense, who better to guard you from criminals, than criminals? They have the background expeirence, the knack for what the work entails, the connections to pull it off without anyone even raising the slightest eyebrow about any of it, and because thier work is legal now, they don't even question the hours!"


Brooke let out a hearty laugh, having just realized the perks of the enterprise himself just now... "Why, that's the way all business should be run if I have a say..." Frit, his face just coming back from his grimacing visage, the way anyone would look trying to digest that much information in such a short time, not to mention his gift, which was making twelve adjusted calculations for every two toughts he had...in short he was reliving not only the history that happened, but the ones that hadn't happened either...so long story short, it just might hurt... Then when he appears to have regained his full capabilities, he says "But if everyone knows this, why don't they just weed out the thieves and keep everything for themselves?"


"That sounds all well and good, but what if one day, our good king gets real mad and then poof!- All our resourses gone to war, and no money aside for those who would settle our kings mood...not very promising is it?", asked Brooke taking his time to shape the importance of the question. Frit took no time in deliberating the answer, "I see, so the ones in charge, aren't really in charge..."


"Exactly my Fae-born friend, now don't you catch on quick!" Brooke noted his relative ease for digesting a rather healthy bit of history with ease... "In fact I know that there is a council in Steelfort, very ancient, very powerful, and very influencial...if you follow our meaning. Which is why they are so secretive...so secretive that to mention thier actual name would cast a scrying spell that allows them to find you anywhere...."


The silence that followed seemed sufficient for Brooke to get his point across all the same...


"Scared yet?" Brooke inquired.

"Never...just a bit more cautious now..."




Chapter 11


The Divided Troop


With the still-warm puddle of silver, that was all that remained of the golem they were just in combat with, laying just nearby...Zanith and his troop of Rangers make their plans anew after discovery of the village they were sent to protect, instead turned now into a vast limestone field. David their Mage was currently in deep meditation with the core found inside the golem.


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