The Geneforged Sorceress (Part 2) – Lost in Silvasung Forest

It was days after Anya first entered the Silvasung forest, losing the danger of being hunted by the guards and the hissing, the ominous hissing which sound fell upon her stubby ears gave her a boost of adrenaline, enough to sprint faster and further into the forest’s depth. She was lost, surrounded by vegetation and had no clue or indication as to her location. The summit of Caldera could act as a point of reference but only during the day and only if the weather was clear enough that the cloud ceiling wasn’t obscuring the steam spewing beacon. Using the main road would have been too risky when she had first escaped, even if she did know it’s location she dared not return to it.

Her feet were in agony and went into spasm frequently while she tore fresh pieces off her cloak. Taking the self made bandages off her feet stung relentlessly. Is was the best attempt she could do to protect the open sores that were created through the exertion of running practically barefoot. The ash that was buried under the leaf litter still managed to find it’s way into the wounds and caused a minor sting that to her concern became duller by the day. Stepping on the smallest of stones however sharp was still noticeable and when dug into her fleshy soles provoked the pain to continue.

However bad the hurting she felt, it was mild compared to the bitter coldness of the nights. The first night away from the ambient warmth of Caldera was a drastic change for her body. Being a cold blooded creature the slightest change affected her, lethargy and depression kicked in, an almost minor sense of regret crept into her mind. ‘Was this really better than her life before escaping?’ While she was adept in survival the change in environment would prove to be a tremendous challenge, a far cry from the hazed alleyways and sewers of the city. Trying to start a fire was next to impossible because of the wood’s high resistance to burn and trying to ignite anything flammable would instead consume more energy than it would take for it to combust, something she was in short supply.

There was a strange lack of flesh based life for a forest of this size and with no clear indication as to why. Anya’s stomach was demanding, yet another ache brought to the forefront of her mind and required a sacrifice however small, to end it’s torment. The only life apart from the young drake herself was and assortment of insects found under the deadwood and moveable moss covered rockery. All the little morsels could be hidden under nearly every inanimate but moveable object and just required a small effort to overturn their protective homes.

Lifting a chuck of decayed wood revealed a plater of scurrying miniature life in an assortment of shapes antenna and many many legs, it would take a deft hand just to provide a small mouthful. For a carnivorous race like the Calderani, insects were not the palatable choice for those who become accustomed to dine of the meatier farmed livestock. Living rough in the shadows of others and the alleys of the Calderan streets, food wasn’t handed out a plate. So the feast before her was more that she would have eaten normally over the course of any week.

Greed filled her mind knowing that it still qualified as edible food, the requirement she needed to sustain herself. While the numerous appendages and frittering of many legs would have deterred many, Anya’s instinct and desire to survive kicked in. Hunger closed out of her mind the hideous sensation of each of them crawling around the inside of her mouth and over her dry forked tongue. There was no hesitation to chew and their wriggling bodies were brought to an abrupt end with her pointed teeth shearing through their carapace, barely mashed into a paste before being swallowed.

After a few cringing moments and cracking of abdomens, her belly filled enough that she felt content that starvation wouldn’t claim her, something she very rarely enjoyed. She continued her journey further into the forest. After many days walking with the agonising pain, fear set in as she knew that she could no longer continue. While her mind had the determination her body had no energy. Her legs froze stiff and could no longer hold her fragile weight, she slumped to the ground almost splitting her head open on a sharp outcropping rock, the war she fought against the pain had come to an overwhelming conclusion. Anya’s last conscious moments were of the horrible sound she tried sparing herself from the first days of her forestry hike.

…the hissing had returned.

From out of the bushes appear a blur of white hideous maws of miniature razor sharp teeth with legs and eyes attached. The hissing was the sound of millions upon millions of these small bug like creatures pouring over one another, struggling to be the first to their next destination. It almost appeared as a liquid slushing through the undergrowth where they slivered over and through everything in it’s path. They meandered towards Anya as incarnation of Ignaria and saw no resistance to their devastation, just as one would expect a creation of the Goddess of Destruction who would see to the end of everything good or bad. No remorse, no guilt. Just an eternal wave of devouring macro plague looking for a new host.

Reaching just inches beyond her feet a blinding light flooded the area and a strange force shield blocked the creatures which was just as close from the opposite side. The white mass piled up against the bubble, damned up by a protective magik. Anya was inched away hands first by an entity unknown towards an unknown destination…


Laura Steel © 2014

The Venator – The Perpetual Nightmare

To many having being cursed with reoccurring nightmares would be a problem, but Laurena relished every opportunity that presented itself. It was the same one over and over, of her mother Elenanor. Even awake she can clearly remember the day her mother died, as clearly as if it just happened the day prior. She was on quest of vengeance over the the death of both her parents and no one could stop her, the nightmare would only perpetuate the hate that boiled inside her.

…the panic in the twelve year old was quite clearly evident to her by the thumping of her heart even if she knew nothing of the reason. It was about to explode out of her chest. Along with her mother, they had reached their home in the poorest district in Umbran.

“Common hunny…quickly!” Elenaor was much faster and agile than her teenager and done her best to keep her at the same pace.

“Mum your hurting.” Laurena tied running running through the streets as fast as her mother but could have not kept up. Her hand was held tightly, which felt like her arm almost about to be yanked out of the socket…

A Day prior Laurena’s father Raenes attempted a kill contract assigned by the Venators Guild, he had failed. It was meant to be a simple run, no different than the ones before. A rather disgusting vocation to some – the basis for the negative notoriety of the Venators, to those outside Umbran that is. To the Umbrani it was little more than a job, one that brought home the standard going rate. A few hundred aurams for a life, that was just enough to keep their family going for awhile. Death was apart of their culture, one where only the strong survive and the weak are culled…or those who could afford to have another killed.

…with out trying even explain the situation to her child Elenanor rushed through their home without stopping. Dashed up the creaky wooden steps into Laurena’s bedroom, her mother prised open a secret wooden panel of the wall towards the back room. It used to be for storage but when their daughter was born it was converted into the only bedroom. Elenanor shoved her child into the tight space as much as possible, to the point that a bare supporting frame dug into the side of her, the adrenaline would stemmed the pain.

“…you must hid here my dear…and don’t make a sound!” Elenanor was panting from the terror that had beset her.

“But….mother?” asked Laurena as she tucked her knees to her chest even though it hurt to breathe.

“…No honey! Be quiet…and don’t move…promise me you won’t say anything…regardless of what you hear!” Elenaror knew time was short.

“Mother…what’s happening?” Laurena still confused in her inquiry.

“…Promise me!” Elenanor pleaded as she draped her necklace of the Goddess Noxia around her daughters neck. Laurena nodded as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“I love you!” Elenanor whispered. The loud crash of the front door had indicated to her that time had now ran out. She closed the wooden panel in front of her child.

“BITCH! Where are you?!” Bellowed a low rumbling voice in the next room.

Elenanor had unsheathed her sword and stood ready in the centre of the room as the door was almost smashed off it’s hinges.

“There you are you whore! You think you and you husband would get away with it?!” The large brute had found out who she was from one of the locals, undoubtedly sold out by a neighbour.

“Where’s my husband?” Elenanor asked even though she didn’t want to know.

The brute chuckled. “You mean that worthless skinny fuck. Who’s neck I snapped like a twig.” A deep sense of remorse flooded Elenanors entire body as she knew he had not lied or exaggerated .

“Nooo! You bastard!” Elenanor didn’t even try to contain herself. The rage over her spouses death built up and she lunged at the tall brute hoping to avenge her husband.

Her quick feints and deft attacks would have been enough for most, even without all the years of training and being a member of the most ruthless guild of mercenaries. The larger built up body of of the overbearing man-statue had far more experience as a fighter, proving to be too much for her.

Without even drawing his greatsword that was firmly sheathed on his back, he had knocked the blade from her hand and grabbed her by the neck with the other. Eleanor struggled to free herself from his grasp, trying to pry his hand away for one minute gasp of air.

A shallow gargling sound poured from her mouth and with one tight grip of his hand, a distinct crack echoed through out the house. Her hands dropped to her sides as he let go and Elenanor’s lifeless body fell into a motionless slump. He looked down at her corpse with a side worn smirk.

“Humpf, not worth my time…but no one fucks with Lugo.” He scoffs and walked out.

It’s at this point that Laurena wakes from her nightmare, something that used to be accompanied by a scream of terror, but after some months it fell silent. The same one that wanted to escape on the actual day of her mother’s death.

She still remembers covering her mouth with both hands, in an attempted to not scream out in pain, hoping to not attract Lugo to her location. Laurena had unfortunately bore witness to the whole event through the crack in the wooden panel. Paralysed with grief knowing how badly she wanted to help but couldn’t.

To see her very own mother, killed so effortlessly was unbearable. Specially from the woman who taught Laurena how to hunt and kill just as soon as she was old enough. It was the Umbrian way. Taking the life of another way often key to survival and it was the responsibility of the parents to ingrain it on their offspring as soon as possible. How could she even contemplate avenging her parents if they was meant to be the best hunters Laurena knew, let alone ever have the strength to do so.

She just caught glimpse of her mothers killer – who she at least now knew by name and one she would never forget. She could see he wasn’t human, a “Stonekin” in fact, remembered from one of her parents stories. His wide broad face was clear to see even through the slimness of the cracked panel. She done her best to remember his appearance as best she could. He was the first she had seen so up close and the tales of the Khryosians would allow her to recognise their appearance with little effort.

…for several hours Laurena sat their in her hideaway. Crying into her arms hoping that at any moment her mother was going to pull her out and hug her and say everything was alright. She never did. Her body remained in the same position, drained of all life and had turned paler than her Umbrian skin was already. No amount of wishing or praying would change it. Laurena knew now that she was now alone, from now on she would be on her own to fend for herself.

After she built up the courage to venture forth, she prized open the panel. She could see her mother so much more clearly. The deathly stare of her face with the her eyes still wide open was still worn. For a moment Laurena could have thought that her mother was still alive and merely jesting, but the realization would soon sink in that her mother would no longer be able tell Laurena just how much she loved her…

She awoke and sat up. She caressingly rubbed the Noxia pendent around her neck. The last parting gift from her mother brought some comfort from her dreams but it would quell them. As disregarding of passed on loved ones the Umbrians were, Laurena couldn’t help but feel nostalgia.

Even looking onto the side of her cabinet sat a painful reminder. Her training sword she had as a child. On her twelft birthday, the “coming of age” day that all Umbrani go through is to be presented with their first proper weapon. Training had been done with dull toy-like imitation and used just as a child would. It couldn’t cut through bone or flesh but sharp enough to cause pain from a lack of concentration.

Her parents trained her well in survival but not how to cope with their untimely departure, that was never in their nature as good Umbrian parents. Every new day was perpetuated with the searing pain of losing her parents, renewing her vigour to find her parents killer. She knew it was only a matter of time the Lugo would return to Umbran, as she could never afford to travel beyond the furthest edges of the continent Mortister.

She wouldn’t stop to avenge her parents, it was just a matter of time.

Laura Steel © 2014

The Venator – Dreadwood Hunt (Part 1)

A battle was raging in the Dreadwoods. Laurena had chased the gang to their hideout in a glade to where they would store their ill gotten gains. She was currently fighting against three opponents. They had surrounded her and were poised to attack. Their boss Lugo, who was experienced enough to make sure his cronies went first, watched from the sidelines, treating them as nothing but fodder for her blades.

“We’r gonna ‘av fun wiv you!” Sneered Krane. He eyed her up, thinking of more than the fight he was currently preoccupied with.”

“Heh heh…Yeh. Whatcha finking Raz? Free of us…one ‘ole each?” Smirked Brohz. Looking towards he comrade.

“I gets ‘er head…after I removes it from doe’s prit’ey shoulders!” Insisted Raz. He lets out a furious scream as he charges forward to strike.

It was cut short when in one deft move she side steps him and with no appearance of removing the blade from her sheath, sliced clean through his neck. It bounced across the grassy floor, flattening grass and flowers alike. It wore a surprised look of disbelief of how it could have happened, as his body slumped to the floor with thud.

“Fuck me…grrr get ‘er!” Fretted Krane. Signalling his remaining comrade to attack at the same time.

“Bitch we’re gonna gut yu!” Angrerly shouted Brohz as they both closed the gap.

Laurena danced between them gracefully, a leaf lighter than wind. The pang of steel on steel echoed through out the woods with the leafless twisted trees, as her twin swords clashed with each of theirs. Brohz attempted to strike hard when he thought an opening appeared, once deflected Laurena positioned herself behind him struck across his back, he fell letting out a groaning pain.

Krane attempted to strike only to be parried with such force that he was spun round. Recovering Krane returned to his original orientation to find a lost target. She could not bee seen.

“She’s right behind you, idiot!” Lugo shouted in frustration.

Krane readied his weapon in a futile attempt, as he looked around, she had plunged one of her sword through his chest. His body gave out and lost grip of his weapon and his knees gave way denting the ground. Laurena instantly pulled out her holstered gun with her now free hand and shot Krane through the back of the head, the force propelled him of her sword.

Now there was only one left, Laurena walked towards Lugo who had now unsheathed his great sword. As she walked past the still wreathing body of Brohz, who had until now been drowning in his own blood, she shot him to end his suffering.

The Sol was setting and her shadow stretched out across the grass towards her next target. It started to rain as a gust of wind picked up, a storm was coming. Even Lugo a brute of his experience, still hadn’t anticipated that Laurena would face his men and still be alive. He would finally taste a minor fleeting moment of anxiety before the adrenaline kicked back in…



Laura Steel © 2014

The Wandering Poet (Part 2) – Respite in Khrysos

One night at the summit of Mon’Aurum was enough to the poet Gredoe. His extremities were numb and hurting and he was almost out of food. He was however happy that in those moments of bitter pain he had come up with at least a few poems he could be proud of. With the nearest place to even resemble civilization was Khrysos, he knew where his next journey would take inevitably him.

After half a days journey through the snow he had made it.

“Oh my, isn’t that glorious,” he said as his neck was straining, looking at the large gates of entry into the underground city.

“Good thing that I’m here. I think my toes have snapped off,” As he continued to talk to himself, walking through the gates.

He was rather surprised to see that the guards were letting outsiders in, despite the rumors that the Prince had absconded he place within the castle. There was of course no reason to keep people out when they were only there to keep one person in.

Still he proceeded through, as his hunger was now dictating his direction.

“I think I’ll have something to say about all this!” He noted continuing down the street towards the most visible inn.
“Oh my yes, this is a good place to be, at least for my poor toes.” He added, oblivious to the stares of some of the locals.

Entering the inn, he had made a direct move towards the fireplace and sat down. Not before remembering to take out his pen and parchment from his pack.

Continued: Poems of the Wandering Poet (Part 2)

Laura Steel © 2014

The Wayward Prince (part 2) The forest village of Silvand

Opening the right door Kellum enjoyed the wave of fresh air that he had somewhat lost familiarity with. The sooty dust and metal tang of the smithy was more distinct in contrast, he had to regularly snort just to clear his nostrils. He wasn’t previously warned of the hazards of smithing before he was taken to live with his uncle but it was an adjustment he had made early in the years living with his uncle.

After his parents died, Kellum was taken miles away in the forest village of Silvand. The alternative was the orphanage of his hometown – which was not known for it’s high standards or safety record when it came to those left in their care.

Even with the death of his parents he didn’t allow himself to feel too sad about their passing, focusing all his energy to living his life with purpose. A value his uncle instilled in him while he was young and adjusting to the major change he was forced into.

He was rather cocky and at times required a minor cuff from his uncle to rein in his behaviour. Taking up his uncle’s profession was to earn his keep but even with the enthusiasm towards the trade, he was currently consigned with more menial tasks.

“I hope that cart arrives soon, it was meant to be here by now.” expressed in frustration, the blacksmith’s apprentice was like most younger men a sufferer from a lack of patience.

“Uhh…Oh calm it, it’s due soon. Clear a space for the new sacks.” replied his uncle Trint – the Master Blacksmith, in an almost grunting fashion through his large bristly grey beard.

He coughed for a few seconds bringing up a chunk of metallic red phlegm, spitting it into the furnace. Still monitoring intently the slowly whitening sword blank resting in the roaring furnace. Periodically turning it over to balance the heat evenly, all while pumping fresh air into the furnace with the foot bellows.

While not over-weight person, his sturdy frame made easy work for the hammer and bellows. Despite his age he was one of the strongest and hardest working in the village, after decades of forging the towns weapons and tools. The heat dried skin on his hands coursed with minor cut and blister scars, all reflecting his near life long experience.

His skill was renown and much prized, so much that he was once commissioned to forge the armours of the royal family in Khrusos – the city of gold. The city resided in the large underground cavern in the mountain, beyond the forest’s eastern edge.

“There it is now…afterwards mind if I go get something to drink?” Kellum asked as he noticed the faintly audible sound of the traders cart’s arrival.

Kellum proceeded to open the second of the double doored entrance into the smithy. Spotting in the distance the two Octeqous, pulling the large trader’s cart through the entrance. Their hooves rapid klopping along the cobbled street was a clear indication for everyone in village to know that it had arrived, their sound was unmistakable. The large eight legged mares made easy work of the even larger cart, as it took up most of the street width and much of the village was previously designed to facilitate this. The shear weight required metal reinforcements on every load bearing part, especially on each of the six metal wheels – half of which squeaked with their unoiled axles.

“That’s fine, but don’t get drunk…I will finish this sword soon and it needs honing.” Trint said in an almost demanding way.

“Ugh…I’m always honing or polishing, when can I actually start trying to forge them?” Kellum impatiently asked.

“Hmm…when I’m convinced you won’t hit your thumb or burn the smith down.” Rebuked Trint. “Hand me the straight peen.”

Kellum picked up the hammer from the side shelve and chucks it under arm towards his uncle. Trint sighed as he catches it firmly by the handle.

“And that right there is why you are not yet ready.” retorted Trint.

Kellum looks away realizing the evidence of his inexperience from the wisdom his uncle just imparted.

Staring out from across the street, Kellum spots another of the townsfolk Eldrik – a much credited rival because of their similar age. Walking out of the house of a young woman Graecy, Eldrik caressed her hands as he whispered into her ear causing her to giggle uncontrollably. Kellum saw them both part ways, screwing his face up with frustration. He walked back into the smithy to continue his work.

“Can you believe that?” asked Kellum, venting his frustration towards his rival, hoping for some sympathy from his uncle. His uncle looks up to spot the vacating Eldrik from the porch of Graecy’s home.

“Egh…what would you expect…from the mayors son no less. Doesn’t know the meaning of hard work that lad…and thick between the ears too if you ask me. Don’t let me catch you acting like that. Or you’ll be out on your ass faster that a Velox on heat!” Trint was all too aware of the promiscuousness of the mayors son, who had at one point been found by Trint, in the company of own daughter Elize.

“He is such a Monghound…he is never satisfied with just one girl.” Kellum continued as he turned towards the trader who had now pulled up and stepped off his cart.

“He has never thought with his head that one…and if he goes near Elize again, I’ll finish forging this sword and cut him in two with it!” Trint gritted his teeth together and grasps the blank harder as he imaged using it on Eldrik, the towns more sexually active individual. He coughed several times as his deep breaths caught some extra ash from his heavier breathing.

“Hello sir, your order: twelve bags of mobius. That’s three hundred and twenty Aurens.” the trader initiated the pre-ordered sale. Opening the side of the cart where the bags were located.

“ Here ya’ go, same again next month?” said Kellum as he unhitched the bulging pouch on his hip.

“Certainly Sir, but it will be more per bag next time.” replied the trader.

“Again? That’s practically every month!” Kellum responded somewhat alarmed.

“I’m sorry but apparently the alchemists are disappearing, which lowering the amount the rest can make. Hence the price rise.” explained the trader, annoyed that it wasn’t the first time he was asked the same question.

Kellum counted out the required amount out of the pouch attached to his belt – he took pride in knowing he was at least trusted with such a large amount.

“Thank you sir.” The trader eyed up the money ensuring the complete amount and stored it in his lockable wooden casket.

“Til next month.” replied Kellum reluctantly.

He finished the sale and started to lift lifted sacks of Mobius coal off of the cart, stacking them one top of another just inside the smithy, after the last bag the trader moved his cart off to further down the street. Kellum’s clothes were covered with the bright red alchemist dust, some of which had clearly leaked from a bag with a minor split.

“Aaand done…” Kellum let out a sigh as he slumped down the last of the bags – attempting to brush off some of the dust that had built up on his arms and legs.

“I’m gonna go head out for lunch if thats ok?” Kellum looked at Trint expecting an answer, yet his uncle was fast away with his thoughts.

“Uncle?” Kellum asked trying to get his masters attention with no effect. “UNCLE?”
Trint finally looked up as he finally took notice.

“Huh? Oh yes…sorry, yes you can go…but don’t get too Drond-assed.” Trint looked back down, taking the blank out of the furnace which was glowing pure white. He walked over to the anvil beside the furnace, taking hold of his smith hammer and laid the sword down on the anvil.

“I want this blade finished by the end of the afternoon.” continued Trint without even looking at his nephew.

“Of course uncle.” replied Kellum as he walked out of the smithy.

The ringing clang of struck metal started as Trint repeatedly struck the red hot blank, the rhythm of the metallic pings echoed out and into the street. Glowing white sparks of metal specks shot out from the impact, bouncing off every surface only to vanish from sight.

Kellum continued to walk down the cobbled street towards Clara’s, past the various occupied stalls and through the crowd. It was his favourite place to eat or drink, partially because it was the only public house for miles around and largely because his Uncle lacked the culinary skills to provide edible food for either of them.

The town of Silvand itself was in a glade, cut into the centre of a forest – one that had a large river snaking through, cutting the forest in two halves. The town sat solely on one side of the river and acted as the only port in the forest. It became a resting stop for travellers, traders and the towns fishing fleet used the river to supply much of the food. The buildings of the village were all made from it’s timber. The surrounding palisade barred any of the wild animals from overrunning the town and blended it almost seemingly into the still living counterparts.

Walking past the towns lumber mill which had been incorporated into the dock, running from the large retractable water wheel. Kellum looked out onto the fishing wharf which normally had his best friend Nieko reeling in the day’s catch from one of the fishing fleet. The two would often catch sight of each other and rudely gestured to each other, in a way only really good friends accepted, before continuing on. Today however Nieko wasn’t present. Slightly puzzled Kellum accepted his friends absence and continued onwards towards Clara’s.

“Hello Kellum deary” Abruptly spoken by one of the villages elder residents.

“Oh Hello Mrs. Casta” Kellum responded reluctantly wishing he had been able to elude the old women.

“My, my aren’t you getting big…you should meet my granddaughter…you two would make the perfect couple.” Mrs. Casta explained with much enthusiasm in her croaky broken voice.

“Uhh that’s ok Mrs. Casta…I uh have to go…Uncle needs something…and I uh…need to get it for him.” Kellum barely finished his sentence before running off towards his intended destination, forgoing the pleasantries normally exchanged when parting with a known face.

“…ugh why must she always pester me, I don’t even like her granddaughter.” he spoke to himself knowing he was out of ear shot. He sighed, feeling a pang of guilt over his action as if he was trying to reassure why he abruptly left.

The octogenarian wouldn’t have fully understood even if he hadn’t left it too late to tell her the truth. He was all too aware that her granddaughter already had a girlfriend to which she was betrothed too. It was clear to everyone that shed suffered from the illness Mindrot – but little could be done so she was taken care of by everyone. Bound by her illness to repeat the same thing over and over, every time they met she would ask the same thing, except the rare occasions where the symptoms subsided briefly to allow for new memories. Kellum continued on towards he intended destination and entered the tavern called The Twisted Viperene when it was first built, it was now called “Clara’s” informally – of whom is the current proprietor.

Greeted by other patrons who were already enjoying their afternoon lunch he found his favourite table, who was to his surprise already occupied by his friend Nieko. Kellum sat down opposite his best friend while Nieko signalled for two drinks to the hostess who brought both over – smiling at Kellum as she placed them down. He responded with an awkward slightly embarrassed smirk. He turned his attention back to Nieko. The waitress walked off feeling slightly disappointed by the encounter as she had done so previously.

“Your here early. What happened…got tired of flinging fish already?” He jokingly ask due to Nieko’s abnormal presence.

“Pfft, what fish there was…it’s like they all pissed off. It’s been happening for days.” Nieko explained.

“The fish have been getting less…and no we haven’t fished ‘em all. ” He continued frustratingly, the fish from the river was an important source of food and income for the village.

“What they’ve finally been scared off looking at your mug.” snipped Kellum jokingly.

“Hah, from yours more like…you know I can just ask them to hop into the boat with my good looks.” Nieko remarked almost as if it was a genuine fact. They both shared a chuckle before Nieko interrupted.
“…but seriously they are getting spooked and it’s not normal. Something is scaring them off good.” He adding worryingly.

They both continued to enjoy each others company for an hour before they merriment was interrupted. Crashing through the door bringing in with him the rain and wind which had picked up through out the hour. A clearly exhausted man completely drenched from both the rain and his own sweat. His interruption caused everyone inside to turn to look towards, looking upon him with a jumpy anxiety and suspicion. The stranger walked up to the bar panting clutching his left arm. The cloth was cut through which had an open sore caused by a sharp tree branch, watered down blood had stained the tear around it’s edge and surrounding area.

“…water…p…please.” The man was clearly dehydrated and was covered heavily in dirt, including his hair and short beard.

Clara who was bar tending at the time poured a mug of water from the only barrel that contained the pre-heat treated liquid, hesitantly giving it over.

“ you go.” Clara placed the full mug down on the top of the bar taking a step back, looking over to one of her more trusted patrons, her eyes almost asked him to make sure he would protect her should things get more violent.

“…thank you!” replied the extremely grateful stranger. Downing the mug as quickly as possible, overflown water from his mouth leaked and trickled down his neck. The droplet collected the dirt in it’s path. Caught by his collar staining what little cleanliness was left.

“Where’d you think he’s from?” ask Nieko in a whispering volume. Nieko and Kellum turned to look at each other, trying to keep one spare eye on the newcomer.

“I don’t know, can’t imagine it’s far.” Replied Kellum equally as loud. “Can’t have come far, must be from Khrusos…come to think of it he looks familiar.” Kellum knew he saw this man somewhere before but his recollection wasn’t perfect.

“Really? Your probably out of it…and only on the one tank.” Nieko’s snide remark was lost on Kellum who was preoccupied trying to remember where he last saw the outsider.

“Yeh…I know I’ve seen him somewhere.” Un-able to recall frustrated Kellum greatly.

They both drank from their tankards to appear less inconspicuous hoping it wouldn’t draw his attention towards them. The other patrons weren’t as worried.

“Is there a room I could rent?” asked the now un-parched newcomer.

“Umm…yes we have one available…mind if I ask your name?” Clara asked hoping it would help ease the tension.

“My name is…Jaeson.” Hesitating for a second to think of a new name.

“Ok..Jaeson. The rooms are 10 Aurens per night.” Clara informed him, remaining slightly suspicious.

Jaeson retrieved the required amount from the over burdened purse in his pocket, almost spilling coins on the floor handing them over. Clara accepted the transaction still on the side of caution.

“I’ll have someone show you the room.” Clara replied, signalling one of her hostesses who took Jaeson to the first floor.

“Hmm, now I definitely know that’s not his real name.” Said Kellum quietly. Watching the hostess and Jaeson disappearing out of sight to the where both guest rooms were located.

“It doesn’t matter…we should go or we’ll be in the shit.” voiced Nieko downed his remaining mouthful.

“Yeh, try and catch something this time. Ever tried using bait?” Kellum joked, after finishing his own drink.

“I will when you inevitably cut one of your fingers off.” Nieko scoffed as they both stood up and walked out of the tavern.

After leaving the building and walking down the street, both patted each others shoulder and parted ways back to their work. Kellum looked back onto the tavern knowing all too well that he had seen Jaeson years before but the specifics still eluded him. Trickling memories came to mind of a person who looked like Jaeson. Of someone who had come to the smithy to order something special. At the time Kellum was much younger and still feeling the loss of his parents.

Kellum walked back into the smithy were he saw the blade he needed to work on, placed on the stool in front of the grinding wheel. He picked it up and sat on the stool, starting to spin the large six foot radius stone with the foot peddle, stopping briefly as he finally remembered…

Laura Steel ©2014

The Wayward Prince (Part 1) The gold city of Khrysos

Perched on his favourite balcony sitting reclined with his feet resting on the railing the Prince, Jayanis Aurumis the Forth, of Khrysos – the City of Aurum, he would waste away his empty days apathetically devoid of any activity. Dressed in the lavish regalia bearing the symbol of his families crest. Intrinsically woven cloth lined with the purest of silk that went beyond comfort or style. Clothing fit for the future king was wasted on the Prince’s sense of humility.

The elegantly designed, solid gold crown he was expected to wear at all times was often thrown on the floor in a personal acts of defiance. Anger would cause him to remove it violently to the point that the crown had received scuffs and parts of the crown were no longer set at the originally cast position.

To anyone who would look up from street level would see the faint image of the Prince, as a lifeless gargoyle, disappearing to periodically to fill his stomach and empty his bladder. Or when he was called away to fulfil his royal duties.

Staring blankly out towards the open city below he would watch its busying populace below. Bored and devoid of a life of his choosing he would casually watch his ‘future subjects’, like ants in a colony mindlessly going about their business. His life, he knew, would be force lived, if unchecked. One that would mean controlling the lives the of autonomous masses below. A responsibility he knew he couldn’t maintain with any level of enthusiasm or content.

He would often look out towards the luminous caveline and inwardly sigh. Boredom would hypnotise him to just stare at the dark jagged roof inside Mon’Aurum, the mountain in which the city was carved out of centuries before. Mon’Aurum was the largest of mountains overlooking the rest of Hexterra. It’s peak even reached over the volcano city of Caldera and the floating city isles of Nubinsulam. The summit not visible from ground level, permanently piercing the clouds all year round. Along with a thick blanket of snow stretching out from miles around, white was a boring colour for this continent’s theme.

Pillars of supporting stone would hold up the rest of the mountain, stopping it from burying the city. Gigantic stretches of of bioluminescent fungi colonies kept most of the city bathed in a permanent soft white-blue light, enough to allow everyone to see well and live and work normally. While there was no true concept of day or night inside the cave, time was controlled to coincide with that of Sol – the planets star. Mechanically operated clocks would track phases of the day with everyone working shifts to maintain a consistent level production.

The Prince spent most of his time dreaming of what life was like outside the cavernous maw, he was bound to the castle. A prisoner in his own home, prevented from leaving to pursue his own adventures. When he was studying as a child he would often read books in the cities library about the world outside. The wonders it held explained to him in the form of tomes, detailing various places, animals, plants and the general concepts of outside life.

This fact was kept hidden from the King who would have most likely banned him from learning of anything other than the city and royal functions. The fact that he knew of a life outside of the mountain would fuel his curiosity. Leaving a burning desire to explore beyond the city and outside the mountain. Something which would be dismissed by his over bearing, over protective father.

A knocking of his bedroom door would bring him out of his trance. Before he could answer the door swung open to reveal one of the King’s couriers. The courier extended the issued command of his father for the Prince; to report to the throne room for yet another political meet. Many of which would serve as training for the Prince in the days after his father’s rule. This meets would consist of various diplomats from outside the city, the few who would be allowed to enter the city, save for traders which were limited to posts outside the cities limits.

In his younger days the prince would often speak out of turn. Asking questions of the diplomats; about life outside, descriptions of where they came from, and general world events that have happened. Always at the cost of infuriating his father feeling embarrassed that his son spoke out of turn. An example of his already increasing reluctance to rule, each time a spur that would hasten his desire to escape and one he repeated knowing so. This time would be the last.

The young Prince now infuriated could no longer stand the intolerability of his fathers rule. Stormed back to his room, crashing through the bedroom door. He planned to escape the his confinement once and for all. He knew he couldn’t wear his best armour or take his sharpest sword, they were too recognisable. Packing light and sparingly, excluding all of his luxuries that would have made his post escape all the more easy. Save for one particular item.

He searched his side desk for a small decorated wooden box, inside was covered with a pure silk. Cushioned in the middle was something very precious to him. A locket, one that once belonged to his mother. It was to be given to the Prince’s sister but after their deaths he took it as a keepsake to remember them by. It was intrinsically designed by the best goldsmith available but was more elaborate in design than more common variants and was encrusted with small emeralds on the outward facing lid.

He flipped open the locket with his thumb to reveal the two portraits; one of his dearly departed mother and the other his sister. Reminiscing briefly on fond memories of both of them before continuing to pack. He threaded his head through the chain attached to the locket to keep it safe next to his heart, continuing to pack the bare essentials that wouldn’t hinder his departure.

After sneaking through the castle courtyard the Prince had made it into the streets of the city before his father found out of his absence. Guards sent to collecting the young royal failed to find him, with only evidence of his furious outburst littering the room and the torn bedsheets making a make shift rope still attached to the bedpost. The guards reported the lack of the Prince’s presence back to the King. In a fit of rage the King demanded that all available hands be sent out to scour every inch of the city to find his wayward son.

Dressed in a tattered cloak “borrowed” from a servant, the Prince was now camouflaged to blend in with the locals, the only difference was his stockier build over most. Making his way through the streets he noticed guards lifting the hoods of others to reveal their identities. Before he could dodge the guards walking towards him, he felt the heavy patter of a metal clad hand grasp his shoulder. Forced to turn around, his face was now in full view of the pair of guards.

The guards instantly recognised their future monarch declareing that he must return or face being arrested. Politely declining their offer the Prince started to walk away, forcing the guards hand. Attempting to arrest him the Prince had disabled both guards in a spectacle of flurrying moves that left both of them unconscious.

The noise of clattering metal armour and the remains of one of the food stand one of them crashed into attracted more guards to his location, Using the echoing sounds to locate the residual commotion as the Prince dodged his pursuers through the side alley ways behind the commercial buildings.

With no clear way of leaving the city he paused to ponder his next move. Seconds later he could here the beckoning whisper of an old man behind him. He spun round to confront the old man but much to his relief there was no intention of hindering the Prince’s escape or alerting his presence. The old man mentioned the existence of a secret tunnel which lead outside.

The tunnel had been carved out by desperation of the people who found living in the city too much to bear. Reluctant at first he followed the old man to the tunnels entrance, located in a forgotten part of the city and buried in a dark corner of building used only for squatters and rats.

Crawling through the tunnel was hard. Much harder for those who were of stockier build, as was the Prince. Narrowly fitting inside he would have to drag himself through. Panic and fear would have to be suppressed if he was to find the end. Inch by inch using his elbows and toes to bore himself through. Forced to take breaks to cough when too much dirt became lodged in his lungs or find the extra energy to continue.

Hours felts like days and with no way to turn around and go back he had only one direction to go. Only the grey brown interior with a black abyssal pit lead his way. The consolation came from the luminous fungi that sparsely grew along the entire length of the tunnel, enough light permeated for him to see the locket almost dragging through the hard dirt. Inspiration for him to continue forward.

What seemed like an eternity later the ambiance grew lighter. Fresh air could finally be felt on his face, the smell filtered through the dirt clog nostrils. He knew that his freedom was soon to become a reality. Continuing forward with a second wind from the new breeze chilling the last molecules of moisture in his mouth. The light at the end was barely visible through the concreting dust in his eyes.

Finally exiting through into the white mountainside forest, he slumped in exhaustion on the snow. A soft blanket would sooth his aching body. Unable to even feel the cold in his hands as he scoffed clumps of snow to re hydrate his near husk of a body. He cleared his eyes as best he could and painfully opened them, only to have them react and shut again. They were now struggling to see the brilliance of Sol and would have to grow accustomed to the new light.

He would have all the time he desired now, with the only possession his trusted locket and the clothes he was wearing, he finally brought himself to stand. Walking down the side of Mon’Aurum the vague image of a settlement and it’s smoke stacks would be his beacon through the dense forest. This is where he knew his adventure was going to start.

The Academy of Caldera

Edit* This piece was written before the character of Anya was established and as such may be different to more recent pieces.

The Academy’s newly appointed subsidiary; the Geneforge, would be the new avenue of scientific discovery. It’s crowned masterpiece. Along with the newly development of genetic manipulation equipment, and procedures to filter out flaws in new hatchlings. The young of the Caldera, would be altered to coincide with the intuitions believe; that true progress of their species was through forced evolution. This wasn’t widely accepted by everyone but the Academy of Caldera would undermine the efforts of anyone who would protest of otherwise hinder it’s creation.

Inside of a sterile laboratory chamber, sat centre back of the room, was a large cylindrical tank.Tubes and wires feeding in and extruding out from the top and sides, that melded the whole contraption into the wall. Filled with a semi-translucent green liquid with bubbles of gas rising to the surface. Held aloft with a mirage of tubes and mechanical arms, sits a large egg. The bright lights spread around the room illuminating every possible corner, make out the moving silhouette inside the egg. A new born in it’s final developing stages.

One of the scientist stood outside the tank, decorated more than the others to indicate his seniority. Taps in on the console a series of commands with his curved pointed nails. With the last press key stroke, one of the idle mechanical arms inside the tube springs to life. It’s end tool; a large hypodermic needle, coupled with a long tube slowly filling with a viscous liquid substance, a deep red in colour with an accompanying ambient glow. Injected into the egg with absolute precision. The display monitoring the process indicates it’s completion rate.

Moments later the new born inside starts twitching with an agonizing spasm, the creature writhes in pain unable to vocalize to it’s overseers. Displays showing the heartbeat of the newborn’s life would periodically slow, ending with a whining high pitched tone. Many of the scientists around the room sighed as their lead member punches the console leaving a crack, forking out from the epicentre of the impact.

Seconds later proceeds to press a large button prominently placed on the console and the process begins anew. The egg it’s released and is sucked through the bottom of the tank along with the liquid in to a black void, flushed away to be discarded like a half eaten piece of food, now unwanted and disposed of.

Afterwards a new egg shortly takes it’s place inside the tank which starts to refill with the same liquid as it’s predecessor, the mechanical arms grasp the new egg and the displayed promptly display a new rhythmic beating tone. The same process repeated once again as the room is again filled with activity. One example of the many failed attempts at the experiment with in the Geneforge that day alone and the look on the scientists narrowing faces suggesting it won’t be the last.

The egg that was given up so hastily flushed out, continues down a snake into the cities sewer. Bobbing upon the waters surface as it slowly drifts down to an unknown exit. Remnants of previous attempts discarded and abandoned to what ever creatures inhabited the foulness below the city streets.

There was no need for a sewer treatment system, most if not all refuse was simply dumped into the fiery bowls of the active volcano to be incinerated. Constant vents and columns of steam rose up leaving most of the atmosphere in this particular grimy biome hazed over with a dense fog that filtered up through to the city streets above.

There are residents of the sewer, beyond the the rodent, insects and crustaceans.A few types of life feeding on any scraps of food disposed of, that were unfit by the cities inhabitants standards. Many of the exiled mages and the homeless would live in the larger chambers of the sewer network, creating a self sufficiency subterranean society. Life her was hard but not impossible, the mages would use their power to create a habitual life for those who felt forced to live here.

The pre-hatched egg was chanced upon by a couple wandering the cities underbelly. They brought to the rest of the sewer-folk to be cared for, although many at first glance considered eating it until realising that inside the hatchling was still alive.

Protected from it’s harsh environment for month the hatchling would emerge from it’s hardened cocoon. It’s head pieced the shell, mucous and egg shell parts spilled over as one of it’s protectors clears it’s covered face preventing suffocation.

For year afterwards the young hatchling would be the focus of the undercities attention, because of the rarity of the occurrence of the event leading up to her discovery. Equating her as a saviour for the magic welders against their oppressors. She would train with the other mages upon realising that she possessed as innate level of magic, skill of which would take years for others to master.

She would not be able to live up to their expectations however as shortly after her twelfth birthday, the section of sewers she called home would come under attack from solders of the Academy. In the event of an emergency her adopted parents had an pre-made escape plan. Upon realising there was no escape, they sought to hide her in a pipe leading up to the surface.

While out of sight from the soldiers of Caldera who had stormed the place, they managed to seal their child away. The soldiers finally reaching her parents trained their weapons on to them and were gunned down in front of her. With their dying breath they issued a desperate blood curdled command to climb through the pipe to safety. With her reluctance the young girl done so and slithered away.

Upon ascending through the pipe she reached a drain cover, she prized it open to be blinded by the brilliance of Sol’s light creeping through the narrow gap. Recoiling momentarily in discomfort before exiting into an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of everyone but the old drake standing next to a makeshift bonfire. From here on out she would be alone with no one to trust she would be forced to fend for herself.

The Order of Lumis and the Fallen Paladin.

Edit* This piece was written before the character Ayron Gloran was established and there may also be changes and continuity differences since I’ve written additional pieces.

The Tower of Lumis is a magnificent structure of white smooth durastone, twisting skywards in a cylindrical fashion. Inside and out the surface was lined with intrinsically carved ornaments, laced with highlights of radiantly polished gold. The constant of clear skies is no hindrance to the barrage of Sol light – Hexterra’s primary star, from reflecting of every angle, showering the city in a spectacle of amber rays. The tower was quite literally the beacon of the city, both metaphorically and literally. The chamber at the very peak of the tower held the cities very own Magicron, the sixteen sided orb radiated with an aura of brilliant white light. The chamber had a series of closable partitions that prevented this light from keeping the city permanently lit during it’s night life.

The city was protected by a large towering squared wall, scaling over the horizon of the largest buildings, encompassing the entirety of the cities boundaries, broken only by the strategically placed watchtower. The city was in the middle of a open flat plain, so vast that no invading army would be able to approach without first being seen, during the night the Magicron would be used to illuminate any potential threat. It’s main use of protecting the city from invaders.

This wasn’t the limit of the it’s power, as the cities scholars eventually realized it’s true potential. The Magicron’s aura could be harnessed with a large lens than was positioned to pivot around the housing chamber, it could be focused to a point. The beam was capable of disintegrating any hostile force with an intense beam of super heated light and with complete impunity.

The city surfaces were meticulous cleaned and polished regularly. Every road stemming from the Tower’s base had lush greenery running parallel, from grass, shrubs and tall trees, breaking up the monotony of white marble and gold inlays. Every home had hanging gardens on every free balcony and ledge. It was truly a paradise to behold. However one that would came at a high cost.

The cities population consisted of a hierarchy, first there was Serfs. The Serfs were little more than a over controlled workforce and if they didn’t have enough money to buy full citizenship, they were basically slaves, and were only allowed to leave the city with permission from a sponsor. Most were even punished for the sightless of mistakes and there was no repercussions from anyone mistreating a serf, beyond murder, which was still illegal regardless of stature.

The rigorous attitude needed to maintain this high level of maintenance and in having to perform their religiously strict routines, would breed contempt from lesser serfs. Merchants and smiths were those who would craft anything required from; pottery and utensils, to weapons and armour, or furniture and decorations. Traders would only be allowed to leave with permission and even then they were required to have an armed guard service. Who would also act as chaperones, to prevent unwanted anti-Lumis propaganda or escape. Last was the ruling body of the city; the Order of Lumis.

The Order of Lumis dedicated to the Goddess of the same name, is the religious trinity that have absolute control over the city of Solaris. Promoting all the positive things that was expected of the general populous, by preaching goodness and respect. Those who did not comply were silenced with a ruthless authority that left many unable to express anything other than praise for the Order’s absolution.

The religious leader the High Priestess oversees the largest Cathedral in Solaris, consisting of priests and priestess’s tending the Shrine of Light; acting as the guides and heralds of the goddess of light; The Conclave. It’s members would also provide all forms of religious services such as weddings, festivals and seeing off the recently departed. Through the use of the Lumicron. An artefact in the shape of any standard leather bound book, although it has no pages beyond the two covers. Text would flow on either of the inside in a barrage of glowing cascading  columns.

The Inquisitor Council. A select group of members who write the laws in which all citizens must comply. Who also act as judge and jury for those who would commit crimes against the state or those who would refuse to believe in Lumis. They were feared by everyone and only those of whom were fully devote did not hide when one graced the streets.

The policing force of the city is the Kinship of Paladins, men and women of whom act as the enforcers and executioners of every law currently in effect. As order of extremely well trained elite warrior’s they are all trained both in the use of an wide array of weaponry, firearms and Sol magic. Magic which when used can both heal the wounded and smite the wicked. They become living examples of what everyone should aspire to be. The paragons that carry the eternal light of Lumis with in their souls to show the people just what it was to be a good honest person.

Paladins were also the force to impose the ideals and beliefs with impunity and if needed; a brutal resolution. One that left the cities general population uneasy around them. This had over time cause a development of a secret group with non-worshipers, members who wish to live their lives without the oppressive attitude of the Order, with in the cities walls. Hoping to do so without the strict rules and regulations imposed upon them.

One venerated paladin, who had become the Champion of Lumis after years of service to the Order, would soon start to question the strict jurisdiction of one particular member of the Conclave; Inquisitor Zhidar.

 The two never saw eye to eye and many of their arguments were broken up via third parties, whenever they would become heated. Zhidar was widely known for his rather callous methodology and almost zealot styled belief. Both were given the order to scrutinize a manor just inside of the cities wall. Under suspicion of harbouring anti-Lumis protesters. The Champion and Zhidar argued over the proposed methods of inspection, and after their debate both reluctantly agreed to a means, proceeding to the manor with a handful of squires in their charge.

After a rather vigorous search of the premises no trace of residence was found. No piece of furniture was over turned, no room ransacked. Zhidar however still judged them to be anti-Lumis sympathizers, such was his paranoia. So sure was the Inquisitor that he ordered that the family members of the house be immediately taken to the city square to be tried for their crimes. With out any indication of their guilt the Champion’s immediate protest that they could not be guilty.

The family; including two small children, were dragged through the streets by the other squires while constantly pleading their innocence. This was done so without the Champions order but Zhidar’s. Even though the squires themselves hesitated they continued through fear of punishment, they followed their ordered with a nervous compliance. The Champion and the Inquisitor would continue to rally their argued points to each other while storming to the cities centre. At this point a crowd had starting to form, following the noise from the streets.

The family was lined up in a row in front of everyone, they had silenced their persistent defense with a morbid sense of their impending doom, the children couldn’t help but wear tears on their face, streaks of salty water flowed down their faces to crash onto their crooked knees dirty knees. Regardless of being told otherwise many people had started to scream and hiss at the family. Pre-assuming their guilt. Such was the un-wavering loyalty of everyone of who saw no reason to question the cities authority. Others in the crowd merely stood still, petrified of not seemingly acting as one with the crowd.

The Inquisitor who was a rather stocky and over bearing type, with a bellowing voice that when speaking almost made the lungs of everyone in ear-shot to vibrate. Started to spouting various passages from the Luxicron. The revered book was a guide to some but viewed as a doctrine to many, saying so would result in extreme punishment. After a few minutes of preaching, Zhidar started to denounce the family as heathens and made statements to the fact, citing the reasons for his belief, and slandering their otherwise good nature with unproven facts.

Zhidar ushered the squires to strike down the family in front of every one. The Champion would take exception, his experience was far greater than that of the rest of his unit and called for a stay of execution. Defying the orders of an Inquisitor is at best a death sentence, worse still is to become a Penitent; someone who is punished by wearing a extremely heavy suit of made of thick plated gold, the armour would at best cripple those who could not wield due to it’s unwieldy weight. Those who were not as fortunate died an excruciatingly painful death.

The stay was at great expense to the Champion, as he became aware that Zhidar was merely using the family to cause his downfall in front of everyone. Forced to choose; condemn an innocent family to death, or face expulsion himself, for not complying with his oath to follow the Order in it’s entirety. The conniving Inquisitor had not anticipated what would happen next. The squires had also halted in confusion, unsure of how to proceed.

A frustrated Zhidar attempted to continue the execution of the family himself, by casting a magic spell. The area lit up blinding most of every who wasn’t quick enough to react by shielding their eyes. The spell built up charge but before it was cast the Champion had drawn his sword and cut down Zhidar. The spell fizzled into stray streams of light, as his upper torso tore away from the lower section of his body, collapsing in a heap of internal organs, the once stainless marble floor was covered in a enlarging pool of blood.

Members of the crowd who had up until now,  not regretted being there. Everyone including the squires were horrified, their faces wore a masked mixture of fear and awe at the powerful display of the Champions shear strength and ferocity. The Champion himself was at a lost. With no idea of what to do after his impulsive reaction to help those in need. He chose to remain disarming himself before the squires, knowing they were required to arrest the Champion sought solace in the fact that he would at least be given a more fair trial.

Under normal circumstances members of the public would only face a Inquisitor at a trial, however this was a rare occasion. The Champion was standing alone and in chains in front of committee of the Order’s highest members, the High Priestess, the Grand Inquisitor and the Prime Archon – lord of the Paladins. One after another respectable eye witnesses were summoned to accounted for what happened in the city square. After many had given their worded evidence, it was a full day before the three returned from their deliberations and in front of the court issued the punishment set before the Champion.

Much to his relief not to be executed or even given a penitent sentence. Knowing that the people of the city would not accept his execution, due in large to his reputation and valiant past deeds. Nor would he be imprisoned or forced to become a Penitent, to remain in the city as a symbol of defiance. Stripped of all of his past honours armour and he would be forced to leave the city never to return, an exile to everything he knew and loved. As the first in many centuries to become a member of the Fallen.

After the sentencing, his punishment was put into action immediately. With few clothes, no weapons and little money, he was compelled to walk the streets with an armed escort in tow. Streets which were lined with a plethora of citizens, polarized with a variety of views and objections of his innocence or guilt. Given his one remaining possession; a Luxicron. Held with both hands to his tightly to his chest. He would have to brave the wilds beyond the city wall alone.

Unsure of his future, he walked through the city gates. Turning once to see one remaining group of people. The family he had a day since saved, who had stayed to see him off, the children had refreshed the tears on their cheeks but now accompanied smiles and waving hands. Hoping that he might be able to assist those in need far from the boundaries of Solaris. The newly Fallen Champion walked further and further away, until the city had grown small in the horizon. Knowing he had lost his home he was not dishearten, his persistence of seeking justice in Lumis’s name was still intact. His internal light would still remained.

The Knifed Skull and the Unknown Rogue

Edit* This was written well before I had established the character of Laurena Reaver, and as such she is not mentioned so in this piece yet

Deep in the merchants quarter, among the crooked streets, lined with stalls of all types astride the cobble paths, was an over-crowed tavern. One of much fame to the locals, or infamy if your an outside. It wasn’t the biggest in the city or even the prettiest. Not that there was anything to look at in this city beyond the towering Blackspire in the centre of the city. But this particular public house had it’s history. The Knifed Skull it was called. Mainly due to the large Torporc skull that was the priced trophy above in the loft space in the main hall. The grand centre piece, the main attraction, one that made every new patron crack their heads back upon first sight of the monstrosity.

How it was ever placed in such a building was subject to many a opinion and the instigator of just as many fights, some say the tavern was built around it from the ground up, the original owner couldn’t tell you, not from his grave. The wooden beams holding it aloft had buckled over time under it’s shear weight, only to have makeshift replacement planks patch up it where the split wood now grew. Adorning the now tarnished bone was with the famous longsword of swordsman Fedrick Spatose or so legend says.

Protruding at the acutest of angles in the beast’s right eye socket, it’s point exited through the left of the jaw bone wedging in it firmly. Age had covered much of the once polished blade to rust, however it’s value to the current proprietor or the aesthetic of the décor had never diminished. The odd tooth had been prized away from its large sloping jaw but enough remained to show off its gaping bite. Needless to say the Knifed Skull was home to many a drunkard, lured in to see this magnificent sight. Some one not so taken back by the splendour was a lonesome rogue, who used this place as a common retreat.

She always wore her leathery wardrobe, always worn with the hood up, one that covers the majority of her head. Her long bristre satin hair draped down through the hoods opening gape, flanking the sides of her face, one which nobody could see the true beauty behind. Her tight fitting outfit extenuating her slender figure, one that wasn’t made with the cheap leather in found stores. Nearly everyone in her profession most certainly wore a garb of much less quality.

Clothing not made from Vis or even regular cotton, was normally made with leather sourced from locally farmed Ferrisus, The six legged Ferrisus swine was also one of the main food sources for the city not for it’s irony taste of course. It’s leather was often used for armour and heavier clothes, it was tough and flexible as the same colour as flaking rust. The perfect material for creating garbs for those who wanted some measure of protection. Seedier persons would often darken their attire staining it with colour from the almost black crushed Noxweed petals, mixed with soot as an offset additive. To this stylish rogue sat in her corner wearing her more pricey regalia; and to someone of her experience, they were just in a childish costumes.

Her own outfit was made from actual Ferapex hide, it was the much prized material for those sordid types of a darker disreputable profession. Hide that didn’t come cheep either, not because of the rarity of the source animal but the stealthy ferocity of it’s nature, sulking the forests preying on large game or the a wayward caravan traversing the paved route through the dense foliage. A nocturnal predator of almost unbeaten prowess. Many people die when hunting one of these beasts is pursuit of it’s skin, claws and teeth. The veteran hunters of the creature, have an on going inside bet to see which of the rookie hunters fall prey to it first. The inexperienced unknowingly aware that they are but fodder for the Ferapex, as a means to slow it down. Survivors of a successful hunt were considered by many to be heroes, when in reality they had been lucky no to fall prey to the beast ferocious apatite.

It’s highly valued chameleon like skin retained this adaptable property even after the creatures death, as was like it was permanently alive and aware of it’s surroundings. Covering the skin was semi-light bending fur, each strand refracted light away from it’s body. The perfect predatory disguise. It’s special quality imbuing the rogues own attire as it would scantly blend the rogue in with her own surroundings, to the point that she rarely seen by even those who had not drunk a drop of liquor and although the fireplace blaring light and embers didn’t even cast a shadow of her.

There in the far corner however did seat someone, the quietest of rogues, she spoke when needed and only entertained the idea of chit chat with those of whom she most trusted. There was no one of that description here. Nursing her ale as if it was the last in the world. She sat alone, with one the male maids occasionally bringing her a renewed beverage. Leaving with the previous empty container and the four required coins already cascading on the table, a pre-order for the next.

Her feet resting crossed on the short and narrow, thick planked table. Her feet acting as the bouncer, guarding her from the rest of the taverns clientèle. So relaxed and laid back you could swear she was sleeping, her eyes were wide open of course. When her roguish paranoia kicked in her eyes scanned the room of it’s occupants, broken back up again by staring inside of the tankard. Occasionally when she felt comfortable enough she would stare blankly into oblivion as some of her past regrets that couldn’t help but take up the majority of her concious mind.

Strategically is was the most optimized place for a person who’s business generated a small amount of notoriety, very few knew of her true occupation,. Most of those who have, had taken that secret with them in their untimely swim in the Deadflow. Backed by the taverns brickwork and a lack of a shadow. Both of her sheathed serrated long swords rested by her side, making sure both hilts with always with in reaching distance. All entrances could be seen, along with the wall length bar. No one was going to sneak up on this tactful advantageous individual. She made sure that even while at her most drunk, no one could blind-side her. Her fast hand could reach for either of the twined pistols strapped to each side of her hips. Inebriation didn’t dull her reflexes least of all her aim.

The last person to try; attempting to force himself upon her. Even after she made it abundantly clear she wasn’t interested. Had to hastily vacated the tavern while screaming in agony. Both hands cupping the remains of his genitalia. At the same time being laughed out by those more wise to leave this woman alone. No one made that mistake any more. It was due to the combination of acknowledgement of previous deeds around the city and that type of fear that was rooted in the unknown. The sure-shooting woman in her colour changing leather left alot to the imagination about her past. Everyone knows her speed is unmatched save for an ignorant few, and all of the locals afforded her an un-leveled amount of respect…and she liked it that way.

Thanks for reading.

This is a short side story to a larger one I am working on, and may or may not be changed at any time to co-inside with it, nor is it indicative there of.

Laura Steel.