The negotiations were going well enough with Elta and Jern, but something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right. They kept calling me Ameira. It wasn’t right but I couldn’t figure out what they should call me. I was missing Christoph, as he had retired earlier claiming fatigue. What had that man done to make him so tired and leave me to be diplomatic.
My thoughts were interrupted by Phearya’s abrupt arrival and declaration that this isn’t real. Before I could ask her to explain she slapped Jern across his bearded face! I demanded that she reframe herself and explain while Jern got up and very humanly left in a huff. Pheraya dropped a tome on the table and flipped it to a page, with inscriptions and runes. She told me she’s not a mage, she can’t read this, but I could. I asked her why to which she stated I’m not a queen and Jern isn’t a king.
There’s a forest! There’s fog.
I moved quickly to catch up to Jern. He’s not with the real Elta. I’ve met her. There’s the sense of danger but it’s fleeting. I saved Elta from a hanging with help. I burned down the town. Well part of it. This isn’t Elta. She declared it didn’t happen. I grabbed Jern by the arm to get him away from the false image. He tried to resist but relented when I released him. This is urgent. I still can’t say the whys, but I knew by instinct. I showed him the book that Pheraya couldn’t read yet I could. Finally we began moving quickly to the armoury. I’m talking to him about his annoying hammer with the licorice addiction and asked him if he liked licorice. He hates the stuff. Then why did he have a pouch full? Finally something came of our conversation, the licorice was in his hand.
In the armoury I locked Elta out. I focused on this not being real. Jern had a harder time with it. We argued and he steeled himself as she cried out in pain and agony, her demands of being let in changed to begging. I have become hard as I forced him to endure the sounds from his wife.
The room darkened, fog rolled in, and the walls changed. They were rubbery.
And no Christoph.
Jern attacked it and his hammer got stuck. Pulling it free he swore, Pheraya couldn’t make heads or tails of this thing that we’re in. I believed we were in something’s stomach. It was trying to eat us. Where’s the throat? Does it have more than one stomach? I heard a sucking noise and directed Jern to it. He attacked it and the hammer was sucked through. Was this the way out? Should we let him go? Or keep him here? Pheraya yelled at me to assist her in keeping Jern here. I moved to do so.
Ishnafeyra! Are you in there?
It rang true. That is me! That’s the name I choose when I became an adult officially. Yes? I asked back. I’m in here!
Who is out there? Who is alive? Everyone from before and before is dead. From Strom, from the resistance. All dead. So who defies the gods?
Do you have the dwarf? I ask, still holding onto him.
He’s stuck, is the reply. Please be friend not foe.
I shoved the dwarf and pulled my sister off balance. I pushed him again and looked around again for Christoph and shoved my sister next. I still don’t see him. Did he get eaten or managed to escape?
I could hear a raucous outside. Cries of push! Push! Push! You’re doing great! Like some great mother was labouring. A cold hand grabbed my wrist and another my arm and then with several great heaves I was tumbling out, covered in stinking slime. I flicked it off of my arms, how I wish I could cast Clean. There was a short being, a short elf? Jumping around like a dancing imp. The voice that was encouraging the ‘births’ of us is owned by the black shrouded being. Daniel is its name.
There’s a tall Brokki as well, not the source of cold hands as his armour was covered in spikes. Clarence is what Jern called him.
The one that got us out, who knows my name, was standing aside showing fangs at the dwarf. His eyes are glowing red, skin is more pale than I recall. He’s feral.
Uncle Pronkar! I couldn’t contain myself. A friend and family has appeared! Help!
I rushed to him and glomped him tightly. He smelled of weapons oil, leather, and steel. I missed him. But I was a fool. A bloody fool! He is a feral vampire, who is fool enough to believe that Lorelei chose to take up ranks with the Kabal after fighting them alongside my parents and the rest of Strom. He doesn’t care about the state of things or bringing back certain gods. Nothing. He arrogantly believes the Kabal will do naught against him as he preys upon their scared sheeple. Sure… They have a powerful necromancer as their leader.
So why did he help? Because I summoned him when I called out for him. The battle of the gods was still going on. But why did he help? And what in the Seventh Pit of Hell was that?! Not even Pronkar knew. He left us, after Jern gave him words about a missing friend whom Pronkar turned. What the Hell? 90 years ago he made a spawn? I needed to clear my head, and meet with the new arrivals, the magi, either blood or book I know not, is Daniel. The Brokki looks like a shield mauler, I hated fighting those… He used to be a house guard and was going to bring Daniel in. If there’s wanted cards for him, then he’s on a quest. I will watch him. Magical items are limited on them, perhaps I’ll study them later to ensure no communication items are upon them.
Another bit of information that Pronkar didn’t want to part but did after my pressing: my siblings were divied up amongst the Lords like battle prizes. Aunt Lorelei took Pheraya. My sister who is with me now was taken. No one ever escapes…. Is she an agent or is Pronkar mistaken. I need to clear my head.
He believed that Lorelei gifted me a mercy by banishing me. Right, becoming a fighting pit slave is better. Well better than a pleasure slave at least, but damnit it’s not a mercy. Death is.
I got the group back onto track, we had to move quickly least the battle ends. Daniel declared he is on board with bringing back the fire God, after I told him a short version of the plan. Then he asked if I had a list. Given the company, I shrugged and said yes. In for an ounce, in for a pound. Clarence apparently now watches over Daniel to ensure he doesn’t burn everything down. Smart.
The group trudged forward, and Daniel sprinted off. I separated under guise of watching the flanks and took wing to watch over the small one. He’s shorter than Havaan. Is he a dusky skinned elf too? We talked, then I sent him back to the group. He came back and we talked some more then I sent him back. This time I heard yelling. In the forest with things trying to kill us or eat us, someone is yelling and making more noise than the armoured dwarf. I swiftly flew back then shifted my form to land before the group and scold the loud one.
We moved again until weariness started to take us over. We devised a watch order, the two warriors and I. Clarence actually used his shields to give us a wall though the spaces between were a little wide….
I reveried to try and think what to do and reexamine the ritual I was creating. Jern woke me for my watch and I took out the golem heart after his snores were steady. I asked Arisa to scout around as I began to examine it….
Only to hear a snap of a branch as something approaches. I put the heart away and pulled my scimitar out trying to figure out what’s coming. Nothing good of course.
I enlarged the fire and called an alert as a skeleton form came in. I asked for it to not be a Morgh, I got my wish, but it was worse. It was a Spawn of Kyuss, Kyuss being the worms that created it. I shout again and toss fire at it. I inform all of it’s strengths, no known weakness and the dangers of the worms. And that they can use tactics. Intelligent undead, how horrible when it’s not an ally.
Two more come and they surround Clarence, after smacking Daniel out of the way. Oddly, Clarence placed Daniel behind him…. I wasn’t expecting that. Jern moved in to help as did I, moving the fire and attacking one of them. There’s screams and Clarence has to stop fighting to rip worms out of him. I don’t know where my sister is.
After I drop mine, I saw a green worm crawling in a cut that Clarence had made in an attempt to get it out or kill it. Not thinking I coated my hand in fire and struck at it in bill strike, perhaps injuring him but I got the bugger out and cooked it.
I kept the second one coated in fire as I suggested Clarence use a knife rather than his sword to get at the worms. Daniel was scrambling all over the spiked armour attempting to help.
Finally when all three were dead, I looked for my sister while stuffing a cure light potion into Clarence’s mouth. Behind him was my sister, passed out and bleeding. I freaked believing she had worms crawling in her to only realise her wounds matched Clarence’s. All of them. I poured a cure serious down her gullet noting how few potions I have.
Once she came to she began fixing herself, and I was both angry and relieved. This is the second time she over extended herself.
I looked over everyone and decided they’ll be fine. I looked at my sister and told her we need to talk. I took her by her arm still vexed about her nearly dying.
We walked a ways then I demanded that she explain herself. About the lack of self healing that she can do, what happened regarding the resistance, who attacked, how she was captured. All of it. The anger of what has transpired, her attempts of suicide now twice, her refusal to talk, Pronkar’s refusal to help.
We argued and I attempted to barter. She tells me what happened and I tell her about where I was. No dice. I tried reasoning, but damage was already done. I told her she can keep her pain then. I spun off and walked away to cool off and give her space.
I still love my sister, I want to still trust her, I want to help her. She’s was never the hard one, she was sweet, shy, hated being alone. I miss her.
There’s an explosion and what sounds like a tree falling. I shift my shape and fly towards the sound and then begin tracking her moving away from the group. I followed her and gave her space. But she kept going farther away, so I finally landed before her and switched back to human form.
You really shouldn’t be walking around by yourself in this forest, I tell her. She snarled at me for how I treated her, I deserved that. I pointed out that I am worried about her, how she’s changed. She pointed out that I changed too. I told her I had to.
Some of the facts and questions they raise:
- Aunt Lorelei was the one to attack the resistance and it was a total disaster. Elta had been there… As had the Princess of Mysel. Are they still alive?
- She had brought her army and they were well trained, an assumption as many of the members were very well trained, and in the time we had been there we had been working on teamwork and fighting alongside each other.
- Pheraya had lost consciousness and awoke in a soul gem. For 7 years she was stuck alone in there. A girl afraid of being alone forced to stay in solitude. Complete torture in the purest form for her.
- She didn’t know that our brothers were also taken, much less given over to the others. I hope to the Gods above and below Rajin isn’t with his father.
- 2 years ago she was taken out of her gem by man she knows not and put into her body. Is it her body, or was she put into an empty shell like our father when the Kabal stole him from his realm? Who is this man? Did he release others? Can he be an ally?
- Did they programme her with any conditional orders? Can I trust her? Screw it. I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
- She’s been hiding for these last 2 years. Surviving. Barely.
I had to embrace her, hug her tight. I wrapped my wings around her and held her tight as she cried. I have heard crying helps sometimes, unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of showing that weakness.
I sat her down and kept an arm around her shoulders as I shifted back to human. And I began to tell her about what had happened to me from spotting Lorelei’s coach and being unable to hide or get away she banished me. That I wound up on the Fire Plane where it’s so hot it’s hard for even me to breath. The air jets, toxic fumes, electrical storms made it impossible to fly. I succumbed to a poisonous gas pocket that didn’t realise that I was in Tilburg began to black out.
I awoke shackled and chained in a cart handled by Salamanders that took a bunch of us to the Brass City, where the Efreet rule.
- I barely described the Hell I went through on the auction block. I told her it took a while as I refused to ‘behave and be meek’. I’m my mother’s daughter. But eventually an Efreet with a gladiatoral stable bought me.
- He managed to get my scimitar which he eventually fused into my leg. He kept a spell lock on it to keep me from drawing it outside of the pits. Training was horrible, the food barely edible. I lost a lot of weight, to the point that my muscles were very much visible.
- Training was worse than the food or the bare cell. He tried to break me and I refused. I took many lashes. I had made a friend early on, but I had to kill her in my third match. Either one of us kills the other or the archer kills us both. Anyone who tried to get close was set up to die. I stopped befriending strangers and kept to myself.
- The bastard had attempted to use a brand to mark me but that proved useless, so he had me tied up and unable to move when he had his mark tattooed upon me. I tried cutting it out, scrubbing it, changing forms, yet it remained.
- I couldn’t tell her everything. I won all of my matches against non champions. They were always to the death. I couldn’t tell her how the personal champions of each stable that I fought toyed with me before incapacitating me. Those matches were specifically for when I was rebellious. I skimmed over the visits by the wealthy, simply, I didn’t always win.
- My escape was pure fluke. Something happened and I took advantage of it. I had my armour, my weapon, a few items that I accumulated for my fight wins. I fled through the market and stole what I needed to get out.
- I fled across the plane to where the Shadow Plane touched and pushed my way through. I flew as fast as I could seeking the land of Vrynith Kareel. There are many places in the Material Plane, and it took me a long time to find the continent. Worse something that doesn’t sleep began to chase me. It popped into existence and moved closer to me daily.
- I was chased into a mountain range and caught in a box cannon. When I flew it knocked me down. When I tried to climb it plucked me off. It was about to get me when Nameless took me and placed me near Pheraya.
She was surprised that Nameless had done that. He’s changed, which I already knew. But I still trust him. He got me on the path of where we are.
We discussed what he told me, about needing blood to get Pyrico back. As I looked at it, it does make sense. She was in the process of giving me heck for creating and combining a ritual. We needed stealth, as Christoph had pointed out.
That was when a voice interrupted us. It was male, deep, and had the snapping of fire. I grabbed Pheraya and moved her behind me as I did not know if the voice was aloud or in my head. I walked backwards looking for the source.
‘You should learn how to mask your presence.’
He walked out from behind a tree, an Efreet, well dressed but in a style they do not favour. I tensed, an enemy here. Judging him, I know I won’t win against him. I told my sister to run, which predictably she said no. What a fool. He was talking and slowly approached as we backed away.
I barely remember the conversation as I was more focused on how to ensure Pheraya doesn’t become a slave. Foolish girl.
The Efreet claims he engineered the conditions for my escape confident that I would take advantage of it. He apparently not only won much wealth from betting on me but also attempted to buy me from the bastard. He warned that my former master is determined to reclaim his escaped property and is now moving to find where I crossed over to the Prime. Great. As if I’m not under pressure already.
Next point of interest, he wants a place on the Prime to call his. Sure, let me get that for you. I told him he’ll have to work for it. Apparently he dabbles in information. Well that could be useful. I want to know each of the lords’ weakness. I have brothers to rescue after all. He tells us that Vrelix has an Advisor from on of the Infernal realms, either Hell or Abyss. He’s not sure which one, but he plans on looking into it.
It’s in his interest that we win, and I don’t get captured. No idea why. He overheard my sister’s protest of creating a complex ritual by modifying a couple of additional rituals…. And so offered to look over what I’ve had planned. That took a lot for me to not only approach him but to give him my book with all the notes. My notes apparently were on track til I added in the stealth. He made some comments and then with flourish wrote a new ritual schematic complete with inscriptions and blended the cloaking in smoothly. Honestly, it was brilliant but I’m not going to tell an enemy that til he’s proven himself a friend. I snatched the book away and in the typical attitude of his species he asked if there was anything else.
Well I asked if the antiscrying magic was still in tact. Yes.
How is the bastard going to find me? He’s following your presence and using items. Great… My father’s ring that he gave to my mother. The necklace Phearon had given me years ago was taken when I was captured.
You said I need to mask my presence. How? For one, stop burning everything. For the second you’ll have to figure it out yourself. How useful….
We are short on goods…. Especially items of magic. Two of my companions were wounded, and may have contracted a disease… He is already offering up a large sack which I carefully take and peer inside. I can see several potions and easily identify the healing ones. This is good.
He made an off comment about me self healing which I snerked at. All you have to do is trust the flames. That stops me and before I can look at him, he’s gone. No one in the realm of fire knows what I really am. I kept my appearance human. A secret friend even confirmed that I didn’t lose my form when I fall unconscious. He had been concerned about that after I had let him in on my secret….
How does this Efreet know? And what does he know? Does he know of my lineage? Is he one of the fire allies mother had been hoping to call in.
Too many questions!
Hurry, I told Pheraya. If the bastard is crossing where I landed we have a few weeks maybe before all Hell breaks loose. The bastard will aim to kill and enslave those with me. My only hope, ironically, is that the Kabal harry them. A hunting party will make a much bigger splash than 1 entity entering.
What do I tell the others? The dwarf and Christoph I owe an explanation to, wait Christoph is missing. The other two…. I’m not sure of. I’ll have to ask for Jern’s input. But the plan must be spoken so if I’m gone they’ll continue. They must!
- Call back Pyrico. Free the elves from their statis around their village. Secure this forest as a home base for the resistance. No scrying means no direct teleportation. If possible see if Warmonger is interested in fighting Kastral to give Pryrico time to recover and fix his forest. Maybe awaken Merlai a little. The Earth Mother has been far too quiet.
- We need to figure out where ALL the local mines are. Elta should be in one and we need her for the next step: liberating the dwarves and convincing them that the forest is safe for them. And to work with the local elves. I’ll need Jern to help me with this. Dwarves were sent off to mines and forges nine years ago. I’m certain they are still there.
- The other Elemental Lords need to be awoken. I don’t have a plan for that yet. We need to CAREFULLY recruit people.
But somehow I doubt I’ll be around for that. The bastard is coming. To the now, not 7 years ago. Did I lose track of time while a slave? I know it was months on the Shadow Plane. And both Shadow and Fire Planes are 1:1 ratio in time. The fact that I slowed down in aging after I reached puberty doesn’t help, it is possible that 9 years passed and I only aged a little. Was I in statis when the Salamanders caught me? I know I spent a lot of time healing after many of my boughts and lost track of days. Gah! Too much to think.
Must focus. We have to move. And I need to talk to Jern.
And I must see that my sister goes through the rite before we call to Pyrico. I must also write down the rituals for sacred space and memory of the line. Just in case I die or am taken, she must know mother’s traditions.