Black Desert Online - The Velkan Quest

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Black Desert Online - The Velkan Quest Empty Black Desert Online - The Velkan Quest

Post  Mammona on Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:04 am

((Story based around my guild in BDO - Black Desert Online))

The first rays of the climbing sun arced through the forest’s trees. Dappled light danced across the river’s surface, casting a myriad of shadows and sparkles across the rocky banks. The air was rich and earthy, the legacy of a thriving, fertile landscape that was home to countless denizens that went about their business. At this early hour, it was that magical threshold between the nocturnal and diurnal. The night’s creatures were finishing their activity, while the daytime ones were starting theirs. The sounds of birds and insects were prominent, and there was a distinct lack of humanoid influence. The river flowed past, bending unerringly through the pristine landscape. At the base of one of those bends, a large oak stood, branches and leaves waving slightly in the morning breeze. The water rushed by below it, a brilliant blue stripe.

A small spot of red disturbed the otherwise sapphire water. A small rounded bauble, bouncing slowly along the river’s surface. It resisted the current, staying in one spot as the water continued on its way. The bauble quivered slightly, twisting to the left and then back to the right. It partially submerged, reappeared and then shot underwater, casting a small spray of water straight up. Then, it was yanked out of the river with a sharp tug, the fishing line coming fast, along with the bauble, more line, and a writhing grayling. The hooked fish shot up into the oak, where a slender arm snapped out and grasped it. The fish struggled fiercely, but it was no use. In a moment, a knife had been drawn across its gills, and it lay unmoving on the branch. A petite, tanned face hovered over the fish and the knife began to scale it.

Egami Kalimaru narrowed her eyes to avoid any stray scales as she finished preparing her breakfast for the morning. She sat cross-legged upon the large oaken branch with her long sleeves pulled back, The tip of her tongue poked out of the side of her mouth as she concentrated on making sure the grayling was prepared correctly. Don’t want any scales to make it into my stomach, she thought. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

Egami had been fishing since before dawn, knowing that the best time to target grayling was as they roused to feed. She had climbed the tree and fished form the branch, in order to avoid any stray Khuruto that happened to frequent the nearby woods. She was looking forward to the meal. It had been over a day since she had last eaten.

People who beheld Egami never thought much of her. She was small, barely coming to the shoulders of most average-sized humanoids, and positively tiny compared to a giant. She weighed next to nothing, and her body, while small, was wiry and strong, and she moved with the lithe grace common to most felines, a necessity for her chosen profession. She kept her blue-tinged hair tied back to keep it out of her eyes while she hunted. Her face was unadorned, dominated by two large green eyes, with several striped of paint she kept upon her cheeks to lessen the sun’s glare in her own vision (a common hunting trick). As she finished cleaning and gutting the fish, she swung down from the tree, landing lightly at its’ base. She quickly knelt down and scooped up a handful of dirt, rubbing it over her hands to get rid of the fish blood and its scent. She then pulled down the long sleeves of her dark green tunic and readjusted her small leather jerkin. She gazed up into the tree, and held up a hand, and mouthed the word ‘stay’.

A low grunt answered her. Nieka, Egami’s companion, lounged amongst the branches of the oak, red eyes fixed on his master. Nieka, an ethereal avatar of the wolf god Heilang, had been Egami’s constant companion since they had met early in the tamer’s life. They were inseparable, and had been through much together. Now, the black beast watched over Egami, knowing that the reward for doing so would probably be part of the juicy grayling.

Egami quickly had a fire going, and she inhaled deeply as the aroma of cooking fish filled the forest. She knew she was taking a risk by cooking, but she was too hungry to care. She lowered herself to her haunches as she watched the fish flesh crisp in the flames. She inhaled again, but this time fish was not the only thing she smelled. This time, the aroma of something different hit her nostrils. Someone different. The crunching of leaves sounded behind her and she spun, her sword flying to her hand as if by magic. Leveling the straight blade at the source of the sound, Egami’s voice rang through the morning air.

“Show yourself.”

A low, feminine chuckle answered. Egami lowered her sword and rolled her eyes, of the laugh was a familiar one. It was followed by a heavily accented voice. “Unless you’re planning on sticking that sword somewhere fun, put it away, little girl.”

Egami looked up at Nieka, who observed the exchange with an almost human expression of amusement. “Traitor,” she muttered, as she put away her sword. She turned to the newcomer and replied “I make it a point not to stick my sword anywhere pleasurable, Devotchka. It blunts the blade.”

Another laugh. “And that’s why you’ll never find a man.” A tall, raven-haired woman stepped into the clearing, a smirk crawling across her beautiful features. “Seriously, Egami,” Devotchka Czack pressed as she took a seat near the fire, sweeping her long coat behind her as she did so. “You need to lighten up. Not all of us mean to kill you.”

Egami chuckled as she removed her fish from the fire. “Not all. Just most.” She offered the fish to Devotchka. “Hungry?”

“For grayling? Heavens, no,” the sorceress responded with a wink. “I smell enough of fish already.”

Egami cringed inwardly, and took a bite of fish. “Why are you here, Devotchka? I mean, other than to tell me about your personal life.”

Devotchka laughed. “No small talk, eh? All right.” Her expression grew abruptly serious. “Denryo sent me. She needs us. All of us.”

Egami’s stomach immediately sank. “Denryo?” The Velkan guild master seldom bothered the adventurers under her banner. She usually remained content to let the members of the Velkan alliance forge their own paths. It was difficult to assemble all of them at once. Egami, for one, liked to spend long months alone in the forest, whereas other members such as Vahlodian Ironwulfe and his mother, Yommie, often took on challenges together. The members were incredibly diverse and occupied many forms of life, such a trading, hunting and questing. Egami frowned as the thoughts raced through her mind. For Denryo to summon all Velkans meant something was either very important, or very wrong. The diminutive tamer had a bad feeling that it was the latter.

Devotchka nodded. “She’s instructed all of us to meet him in Calpheon in one week.”

Egami finished her fish, tossing the stick aside. As she leaned over to put out the fire, she asked “Any idea what she wants?”

Devotchka’s raven locks quivered as the sorceress shook her head. “No clue. She sent me after you, because she knew that I would be able to find you the quickest. Last I heard, Vahl and Yommie have been informed, and they’re looking for the others.” Devotchka stood. “Come, we must leave now.”

Egami heard the quiet thump as Nieka landed behind her. After a moment, the tamer sighed and began gathering her belongings. “One week to get to Calpheon? It’ll take us longer than that on foot.” She gestured to the large creature behind her. “I can ride Nieka for a short time, but he tires quickly.”

Devotchka hiked a thumb over her shoulder. I have my horse staked on a forest trail a few minutes back the way I came. We can ride double.”

Egami sighed again as she hoisted her travel pack to her shoulders. Seeing no other options, she nodded. “All right. Let’s go.” She gestured for Nieka to follow.

A familiar grin crept across Devotchka’s features as she covered her chest with a pale hand. “Please don’t try to cop a feel on the horse, or I might have to stop to enjoy it. I bred the horse for pleasure, but not MY pleasure…”

“You know, I can always revise the sword thing,” Egami grumbled. Devotchka laughed, but there was little behind it. Both Tamer and Sorceress knew that Denryo Mistfollower would not have called them without good reason, and both had a feeling that the reason may end up turning out to be anything but good.

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Post  Mammona on Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:19 am

Potato Farm – 15 miles north of Calpheon

“Mother, we don’t have time for this…”

Vahlodian Ironwulfe threw his head back and stared at the sky. His robe rustled lightly over his lean body as he sighed impatiently. The Wizard was weary and his legs hurt from having to ride for so long. However, he knew that he needed to ride a little more. He glanced over his shoulder to the road leading out of the small farm, where the two horses were staked. He turned back and beheld the source of his exasperation, who stood deep in conversation with the owner of the farm, a middle-aged, pot-bellied man of middle years.


“Vahl, these people need our help.” Yommie Wulfemother waved a hand dismissively at her son, her silver hair flying about her as she fought to keep it out of her face in the breeze. “To help others costs nothing.”

Vahlodian snorted “Except time. Mother, Devotchka has probably already found Egami and they’re in Calpheon already, or at least closer than we are. Do you really want to be the last ones there? Denryo won’t be pleased.”

Yommie rolled her eyes. “I really don’t think Denryo would begrudge us a few hours, even if he did say it was important. We have important matters here as well!”

“Mother, I hardly think ridding a small potato farm of gophers qualifies as ‘important’ in Denryo’s eyes. Especially since the summons came a week ago.”

Yommie politely excused herself from the farmer and marched up to Vahlodian. Staring up at him, she simply stated “I am not leaving until we help these people.”

Vahlodian sighed. She said ‘we’. Not ‘I’. Why do I keep getting dragged into these things? He stared at his mother in frustration, knowing that Yommie’s legendary streak of helpfulness would not allow them to leave until the job was done. Parma and Jaim had already gone on ahead, knowing that Vahlodian and Yommie would be a while. I should have left with them, Vahlodian thought ruefully.

He glanced at the farmer. “Show me the field.”

Moments later, Vahlodian was standing in front of the sorriest looking potato field he’d ever laid eyes on. “Gophers’ been at ‘em for weeks,” the farmer said. “Gotta flush ‘em out of their holes to get at ‘em. The only way. It’ll take the three of us half a day at least.”

Vahlodian’s patience vanished. He grinned at his mother and waved his hands in the air. “Or…” He turned to the farmer. “How’s your yield been this season?”

The famer looked confused. “Not much, one account of the gophers. Why?”

Yommie caught on. “Vahlodian Ironwulfe! Don’t you dare – “

No sooner had the words come out of her mouth than the sky opened up. Jagged bolts of lightning struck the earth with a resounding crack. Flames followed as the meteors crashed into existence. The superheated rock slammed into the field, and the air itself caught fire as shockwaves issued forth. Yommie and the farmer threw up their arms as the first wave hit them.

Vahlodian chuckled as he waved an arm, extinguishing the flames. Where the field had stood, a jagged crate now lay, complete with the charred corpses of dozens of rodents. He turned back to the farmer, who was surveying the damage in stunned silence.

Vahlodian grinned. “No more gophers.”

Before the farmer could react, Vahlodian reached into a pouch at his hip, withdrawing a small gold bar. Flipping the expensive metal at the farmer, he said “This’ll cover your yield for the rest of the year. No need to thank us. Only doing our jobs.”

The wizard turned to his mother, who stood with her hands of her hips, staring daggers at her son. “Can we go now, mother?”

Yommie sighed. “I suppose so. At least your method was effective.” She turned and made her way past the still-stupefied farmer, towards the horses. Vahlodian followed, the grin still evident upon his features.

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Post  Mammona on Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:13 am

Calpheon Marketplace – Midday

Devotchka strutted confidently through the main market street. Egami followed at a somewhat more reserved pace. The towering walls and closely-packed stalls conspired to make the tamer nervous. She had already made Nieka shift into the spirit realm so that he wouldn’t draw too many glances. Egami preferred the solitude and openness of the wilds. She was not the social type and apart from Nieka, it was not uncommon for her to go months without interacting with anyone or anything. Crowds made her nervous, particularly in such a massive city as Calpheon.

Looking around, the diminutive tamer saw many merchants lined up and down the street, plying their trades and selling (or attempting to sell) their wares. Egami let her eyes pass over the cosmetic goods, and linger on the herbs, armour and weapons. Maybe I’ll find an upgrade to my current gear while I’m here, she thought. Making your own is fine, but sometimes a bargain could be found. However, her lack of funds probably prevented her from acquiring anything worthwhile. Months in the woods does have its drawbacks, even if it is my preference.

Egami moved closer to the edge of the streets, out of the press of people. She kept her gaze lowered, trying not to draw attention to herself. Devotchka, however, seemed to revel in attention. She moved right through the thickest part of the crowds, laughing loudly, slapping behinds and generally coming up with all sorts of rough language. Egami guessed that the extroverted sorceress knew a fair few people in Calpheon through her own endeavours. That, or she’s just really offensive, the tamer thought dryly.

Devotchka, seemingly sensing Egami’s discomfort, threw a wink at her, before addressing the two soldiers that stood in front of her, obviously trying to steal glances down the front of her robe.

“Now now, boys! Keep your eyes on my face! Buy me a drink later and maybe you’ll see more than you want!”

One soldier’s response was to grab a handful of the tall woman’s backside. She yelped in false pain and turned around. “Don’t be too rough, soldier, or I may decide to be as well!”

“We can handle it,” the second soldier said, moving behind Devotchka. Egami, who possessed a finely tuned sense of danger, realised that this was no mere game of grab-arse. These soldiers were serious. Seriously bad. She could already see the crowd parting, with several merchants and travellers hurrying away with their heads down. They don’t want to mess with these soldiers, Egami thought as she made her way towards Devotchka and her two unwelcome guests. They must have a reputation.

Egami had almost reached her friend when one of the soldiers suddenly lunged and encircled Devotchka in a crushing embrace. The sorceress yelled in surprise, and black energy sprouted from her fingertips. However, with her arms pinned, she could not make the necessary incantations, and so her magical arts were useless. Egami broke into a run as she saw the other soldier draw a knife. Her hand flashed to her sword hilt, and she began to draw. She heard the soldier leer in Devotchka’s face.

“Now let’s go somewhere quiet, so we can be – “

He never got to finish his sentence as he was yanked bodily off his feet - by his head. Egami skidded to a halt, her sword half out. She saw the massive fist encircling the would-be assaulter’s head. A huge, muscular arm twisted, bringing the surprised, kicking soldier eye-to-eye with a snarling, bearded face. Devotchka grinned.

“Oh boy, you gents have really screwed up now…”

“Indeed,” rumbled the deep voice of Jaim Grymauch as he stared into the terrified eyes of the soldier in his grasp. “So much for protecting the city.”

“Jaim,” Egami greeting him, sheathing her sword and moving up next to the hulking giant.

“Egami,” the berserker responded, squeezing tighter. The soldier screamed in pain as his companion also drew a knife.

“S-stop!” he shouted, still holding Devotchka. He put the knife against her throat. “Let him go or I slit the whore’s throat!”

“I resent that,” Devotchka muttered. Jaim’s only response was to squeeze harder. The giant grinned, a horrible sight.

“Your friend’s head will pop before mine’s throat is slit. Your call, hero.”

“No,” a new voice sounded from behind Devotchka and her assailant. “It’s mine.”

A loud clang rang throughout the market street. The soldier’s head snapped to the side, and he crumpled. He hit the cobbles hard, his knife clattering away from limp fingers. Behind him stood a dark-haired, pale-skinned woman holding a sturdy shield. She grinned evilly beneath her neatly bobbed hair.

“Usually I have to hit them harder,” Tooots Parmantots (known to her friends as Parma) chuckled. She stepped forward, offering a hand to Devotchka, which was accepted.

“You know, I could have handled that,” the sorceress grumbled, climbing to her feet.

“No doubt,” Parma grinned. “I haven’t shielded anybody in a while, so I thought I’d give it a try.” She hiked a thumb towards Jaim, who still held the other soldier. “What should we do with him?”

“Kill the scum, preferably,” Devotchka replied with an evil grin. “And possibly violate the corpse.”

Egami groaned. “He’s a soldier, Devotchka. People will notice if he turns up dead, scum or not.” She turned to Jaim. “Let him go.”

Jaim smiled. “Hard?” Egami shrugged in response, so the muscular giant drew back his arm and threw the soldier. The would-be-assaulter tumbled through the air, crashing into a vacant merchant’s stall, obliterating it. Jaim nodded at Egami and addressed his fellow Velkans.

“We’re late. Shall we go?”

Egami and Parma followed the giant as he exited the Calpheon markets. Devotchka made to do the same, but stopped suddenly. Parma looked back. “You coming?” the Valkyrie asked.

“In a moment, Parma,” Devotchka replied with a smile. “I need to get a purse first.”

Parma raised an eyebrow. “What? Now? You’re not feminine enough for a purse, Devotchka.”

The sorceress responded by jutting out a hip and twirling a strand of dark hair. “How about now?”

Parma rolled her eyes. “Just be quick. Denryo’s waiting.”

Devotchka nodded and turned on her heel, heading back into the street. Ignoring the merchant’s stalls, she bent down and picked up the soldier’s discarded knife. She strutted towards the soldier Jaim had thrown, who was attempting to extricate himself from the destroyed stall. Fear flashed on his face as the sorceress planted a boot in the middle of his chest, shoving him helplessly to the ground.

Devotchka spoke, her voice as cold as ice. “Soldiers be damned. I need a purse, cretin, but I do not want to pay. I can make one, but I don’t have the material.”

She made a show of lifting a finger, as if she had an idea. “I know!” She pointed the wicked blade at the man. Or, more specifically, between his legs. His eyes widened.

“You wanted to use those earlier,” Devotchka hissed. “Let’s use them. They’ll make a fine purse.”

She knelt down, raising the knife. "Hold still. This'll be messy.

Last edited by Mammona on Tue May 03, 2016 8:05 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post  Mammona on Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:27 am

By the time Devotchka entered the small building, everyone else was seated apart from Yommie, who was busily serving ale from a large pitcher that rested on a table to the side. The hall the Velkans called home was a modest building that used to be a tavern, before Denryo, Vahlodian and Parma had purchased it, saving the then-owner from near-certain bankruptcy. Since then, it had been the official meeting place for the Velkan guild, although to some of the more nomadic members such as Egami, the word ‘home’ was maybe stretching the tale a bit. While she was more comfortable in the hall than the streets surrounding it, the tamer’s true home was the wild. Still, seated around the large table and sharing ale with friends did fill her with an undeniable contentedness. She watched Devotchka made her way to her seat, wiping her hands on a dirty rag.

Parma smirked at the sorceress. “Find your purse?”

“I did,” Devotchka replied, flicking the cloth aside. She grinned back at the Valkyrie. “The pattern was wrong, so I discarded it.”

Egami caught the unmistakeable ounce of menace in Devotchka’s tone, but decided not to comment. The sorceress was a fun-loving individual, but Egami had witnessed her rage first-hand. She did not envy those caught in its’ path. She glanced at Jaim, who shook his head wearily.

“A purse?” Yommie asked. “What kind?”

“A small one,” Devotchka answered with a grin. “One might call it a clutch.”

“One might call it stupid.”

The room fell silent at the voice. Every Velkan’s eyes travelled to the head of the table, to the roughly wolf-shaped chair that had been specially carved for the guild master. The woman who sat in that chair could only be described as Amazonian. Long, tanned legs shifted as they were recrossed, only the barest part hidden by a sheer white dress that left little to the imagination. Her body was voluptuous, with a heaving bosom barely contained by the scrap of cloth. Sinewy, tattooed arms crossed them, and a heart-shaped face with full lips furrowed in disapproval. From her back, two black wings sprouted, folding against the wood of her chair. Long hair cascaded from the regal features, falling across her face as Denryo Mistfollower leaned forwards to grasp her ale.

Devotchka shrugged at the Velkan guildmistress. “Why stupid?”

Denryo shook her head. “Ummm, I don’t know, really. Maybe because you castrated a city guard in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded bloody street?!”

If the room was silent before, it certainly was now. Egami shut her eyes in exasperation. She heard Yommie’s sharp intake and breath. Vahlodian sighed, his feelings mirroring her own. However, Denryo’s voice continued. This time, however, it contained a trace of mirth.

“Still, it took balls to do what you did.”

The room was silent for a moment longer, then the Velkans burst into laughter. They laughed long and hard, and Denryo raised her ale. “To the wolves!” She tipped back her mug, draining the contents, slamming it down with a mighty belch.

“To the wolves!” The others replied, doing the same. Vahlodian shot a glance at the guildmistress. “Den, how long have you had wings?”

“Not long,” she replied, stroking the feathers. “A couple of weeks, maybe.”

“They’re pretty,” Yommie conceded. “Do they work?”

“Regrettably not,” Denryo said with a shrug. “Just cosmetic. Got them from - ”

“Well, I like them,” Devotchka interrupted. “They really take the focus off your chest.”

Denryo raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“No,” Jaim said without pause. “Not in the least, especially in that dress.” Another round of laughter followed this.

Denryo puffed out her chest. “Good. I’ve been working on these puppies for a while. Makes sense that I should have ‘em on display.”

Egami shook her head. “That’s all well and good, Den, but did you have to steal my dress to do so?”

Denryo chuckled. “None of my clothes fit me like yours.”

“Yes, they do!” Egami shot back. “You steal my clothes precisely because they don’t fit you! Anything to show a bit of leg or chest! Why don’t you buy your own? You’re the damn guild leader, for Heilang’s sake!”

Denryo grinned and refilled her ale. “More fun this way.”

“And more risqué,” Parma added, pushing a strand of hair from her eyes. “She tries them on in the stable when you’re out in the forest.”

Not the stable!” Egami shouted. “You know that goes on in there!” Devotchka cackled in delight, while Vahlodian made an extremely rude noise.

“Well,” Yommie said, having sat quietly throughout the exchange. “Now that I’m unable to sleep for the next few weeks, we really should put business before pleasure.” She glanced sideways at Denryo. “Den, why have you called us here?”

At once, the jovial mood vanished. Ales were set aside as the Velkan members stared at their leader, questions in their eyes. Denryo sighed and leaned forward, setting aside her own drink. “We have a problem.”


“Ecril has approached us.” Denryo stated.

“Ecril?” Egami echoed. “Who’s Ecril?”

“Not a person,” Jaim replied with a frown. “A guild. It formed around about the same time we did. They went east, while we stayed near Calpheon. I thought they disbanded.”

“No,” Vahlodian interjected. “They’ve reappeared recently, with many more members recently. They must have recruited over east.”

“Yeah,” Denryo acknowledged, before continuing. “New members weren’t all they came back with. Stories followed them. Stories of blood, mayhem and death.”

“Sounds encouraging,” Devotchka muttered.

“What stories?” Yommie asked.

“It seems they made those new members by recruiting the most obedient and bloodthirsty members of other guilds,” Denryo replied. “Near as I can guess, they approach a smaller guild, offering them the chance to join. If they accept, they are assimilated. If not, they are either convinced or destroyed.” The ranger frowned. “Many refused, as first. Ecril then proceeded to carve a bloody path from the east. Soon, the guilds learned that obedience was the best option.”

“I don’t like where this is going,” Jaim stated flatly. The hulking berserker leaned forward. “So Ecril has approached us?”

Denryo nodded. “They have. Their envoy, a strange fellow named Shgaem – “

“Shgaem?” Devotchka interrupted with a snort. “What kind of backwards name is that?”

“Sounds foreign,” Vahlodian replied absently.

“Can I continue? I am the guildmistress, after all.” Denryo interjected. Egami noticed that the usually vibrant ranger had become subdued. She shot a glance at Yommie, who returned it and nodded slightly. She had seen it too.

“What did this Shgaem say?” Yommie asked.

“Basically the same thing they’ve been saying to all the guilds?” Denryo replied. “Shgaem talked for a long time, but the gist was the same. ‘Join us and make money, refuse and you feed the scavengers.’”

“That’s not all, though,” Egami interrupted. Everyone turned to look at her, but she kept her eyes glued on Denryo. “What else?”

Denryo sighed. “It seems I can’t hide anything from you guys. Ecril is a large guild. Over eighty strong. However, the stories I hear mention dozens of guilds falling under their banners.”

Parma frowned. “Dozens? That would put their members at well over two hundred.”

Jaim stood and paced the room. “And yet there are eighty.”

Denryo nodded. “Which means…”

“…that many of the members who join Ecril do not survive.” Devotchka finished, all humour gone from her features.

Denryo sighed. “We are in trouble. If we accept, we probably die. I cannot see Shgaem and the rest of the guild giving us any special treatment.”

“And if we refuse, we are put straight in their sights.” Vahlodian finished.

“Why us?” Egami asked. “Why now?”

Denryo smiled. “Maybe because of my fabulous arse.” She laughed half-heartedly. “I really have no idea. Maybe Shgaem remembers us. He did mention he was one of the founding members.”

“Maybe we were in a past life together?” Yommie offered. Vahlodian began to laugh, but stopped when he saw the seriousness in his mother’s features. “Possibly.”

Parma leaned back in her chair. “Speculation is immaterial. We need to decide what we must do.”

Denryo waved a hand at the Valkyrie. “I agree. We need to vote. Join, or refuse.”

Yommie stood. “We can’t join. We’ve been together for a long time. Nothing has drawn us apart.” She looked earnestly at Vahlodian. “You are my son, Vahl. You have a son of your own. Do you really want George to grow up in that environment? Or without a father?” She turned back to Denryo. “I refuse.”

Vahlodian stared at his mother for a long time, then closed his eyes. “You’re right. If we stay together, we have a shot at living. I refuse as well.”

Jaim stopped pacing. “It’s a matter of playing the odds. Almost certain death if we join, and a slightly less chance of certain death if we refuse.” He smiled. “I refuse. At least until I get a chance to crack some skulls.”

“Well, you can’t argue with those statistics,” Devotchka said sarcastically. He glanced at Denryo. “I’m having fun here. Especially looking at your ‘fabulous arse’. Might as well stay that way. I refuse.”

“That’s four,” Denryo stated with a wry smile. He turned to Egami and Parma, who had yet to speak.

Egami sighed. “I really have nothing to say here. I spend most of my time running around the forest. It’s a life to which I’m accustomed. I’m not here long enough to make any sort of meaningful contribution.”

“And yet you are one of us,” Yommie said with a smile. “We’re family. You get a say.”

Egami smiled back. “Very well. I refuse.”

Parma stood, and walked over to where her sword and shield lay propped against the wall. Staring at the weapons, she spoke softly. “We’ve been through too much to become someone else’s victim. We’re not victims. We’re survivors.” Turning back to the others, she shrugged. “I refuse.”

“Unanimous. We refuse to join Ecril.” Denryo said. She stood, her black wings unfurling and spreading wide. The other members also stood. Egami felt a chill as Denryo’s voice echoed throughout the hall.

“The Velkans are officially at war.”

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Post  Mammona on Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:33 am

“War,” Parma repeated with a shake of her head. “This is precisely what we don’t need right now.”

“We don’t have a choice,” Vahlodian replied. “The alternative is worse.”

“I know.” Parma returned to her chair, taking a sip of ale. “What is our next move?”

“First, we need to find out Shgaem’s and Ecril’s plans for us. Once we do that we can figure out what to do.” Denryo also sat.

Yommie frowned. “If we hang around to do that, won’t we be making ourselves more obvious?”

Jaim nodded. “It’s a risk we’ll have to take. Information is power. With it we can – “

A sharp knock on the door stopped the giant’s speech. The Velkans turned towards the door as one as a muffled voice shouted through it. “Open up in the name of the Calpheon Royal Guard!”

Egami’s eyes widened. I know that voice. One of the guards who we dealt with earlier. The one Jaim took care of. She stood up quickly, moving towards the door. Reaching the doorframe, the small tamer lowered herself to her haunches, staring out of the small gap between the door and the frame. She saw the bruised face of the guard as he continued to beat on the hardened wood. She also saw the five other guards behind him, swords drawn. Behind them, a large figure in a black cloak stood. Egami couldn’t see features, but it was clear that the figure was definitely not a passerby. He was with the soldiers. Perfect, she thought. Standing up, she turned back to the others, holding up seven fingers.

Denryo’s eyes shot daggers at Devotchka. “The city guard?”

The sorceress shrugged. “They don’t like purses.”

“Wait a minute,” Vahlodian said, also rising. “They wouldn’t have known where you guys went afterwards. It’d take them hours to search the city.” His eyes blazed. “They knew where we were.”

“Which means someone tipped them off,” Yommie surmised. “And I think we have an idea who.”

Denryo rose, her bow appearing in her hand as if by magic. “All right. Step one: Escape. Split up and use the city. Step two: Regroup. We’ll head for the forests to the west. Regroup at the Abandoned Land.” She stepped out from behind the table, wings spreading. She drew an arrow from a quiver on her back and nocked it. Forcing her ample bosom down with an elbow and drawing her bowstring, she winked at her guildmates. “Get ready.”

“In the name of the Royal Guard, I demand you open this door!” The bruised guard yelled again. “This is your final warning!”

Jaim stepped forward, standing before the door. He drew two giant axes from behind his back and rolled his massive shoulders, limbering up. Devotchka moved to stand behind him, waving her arms as black energy crept forth from her hands. Parma raised her shield and took a step back, situating herself between Devotchka and the two spellcasters. Vahlodian and Yomie mumbled incantations. Fire erupted from Vahlodian’s eyes, while Yommie’s hands misted with frost. Egami crouched down next to the door, mentally calling Nieka. She felt the familiar link of the beast in her mind, and she looked back at Denryo and nodded. The ranger nodded back. “Jaim, go.”

“Who goes there?” Jaim thundered. There was silence for a moment, and then the guard started to answer. Jaim did not wait. He slammed a booted foot into the door as hard as he could. The heavy wooden door exploded off its’ hinges under the force of the giant’s kick. The guards shouted in surprise as the bruised guard tumbled back, crashing to the floor under the wood. The guards began to regroup, but the Velkans were ready.

Dark energy surged from Devotchka’s fingertips, shooting past Jaim to envelop two more guards. They froze in place as the sorceress clenched a fist, trapping them in her power. Denryo loosed her arrow, punching it through the eye of one guard, while Egami leaped from through the door, felling the other with a whipping kick that snapped his head sideways. The tamer rolled free as the other three guards raised their swords. Parma came barrelling out into the street, shield raised. The Valkyrie hit the guards like a charging bull, smashing them back with a war cry. Her sword flashed and one of the three found himself missing his sword – and his hand.

Yommie and Vahlodian released their spells at the two remaining guards. A bolt of fire sped through the door, striking one guard in the chest, turning him into a staggering, screaming wall of flame. His scream lasted mere seconds as he collapsed to the street, smoking. Yommie’s spell conjured a sliver of ice that hit the guard, rooting him in place as the ice spread throughout his body. Jaim stepped through the door and swung an axe with incredible strength, shattering the frozen guard. He died without a sound.

“Quick! Before more come!” Denryo shouted as the rest of the Velkans exited the guild house. She raised her bow and loosed another arrow, sending it flying towards the cloaked figure, the only one to stand in their way. Vahlodian sent another bolt of flame soon after.

The cloaked man’s arm snapped out with the speed of a striking serpent, snatching the arrow from the air. Before the Velkans could react, the figure snapped the arrow in half and sent the two pieces hurtling back at them. Denryo tried to jerk out of the way, but Parma was faster. She jumped in front of Denryo, raising an arm. The wooden shaft clanged harmlessly off of her shield. “Egami!” she called.

The tamer leaped from behind Parma, placing a boot on the Valkyrie’s shoulder. She vaulted from Parma’s back, flying through the air towards the cloaked figure. She rotated and aimed a kick for the figure’s chest, aiming to knock him off his feet in order to give the others a chance to escape. The figure’s arm snapped out once again, catching Egami’s boot. He flung her aside as he would a child, sending her crashing to the cobbles. She climbed painfully to her feet as Nieka appeared at her side, roaring at the figure.

A stab of dark energy shot past Egami as Devotchka ran to aid her friend. The figure simply deflected it as one would swat a pesky fly. As Jaim and Parma regrouped for another assault, the figure reached up drew back his hood, revealing a hairless head with silver eyes. A scar ran across his neck from one side to the other. The leather armour he wore had a symbol on it. The symbol of a raven flying over a mountain pass.

"Ecril," Jaim spat in disgust.

The man grinned at them, before turning and running in the other direction. Jaim and Parma went to follow, but Yommie’s voice stopped them, along with a gurgling, rasping sound. Egami turned, feeling the anguish in Yommie’s voice crawl up her spine with icy fingers.

“Vahl…oh god…”

Vahlodian was on the ground, the second part of Denryo’s arrow lodged firmly in his throat.

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Post  Mammona on Sat Apr 30, 2016 9:00 am

Five days later…

Denryo sank into the small chair, fighting fatigue and sorrow. She leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table before her. Her hair, usually immaculate and shiny, was dull and fell in tangled masses over her forehead. Her dress was ripped, revealing more of her body than even the scant fabric normally provided. The ranger did not notice the chill in the small cabin. Her eyes stayed fixed on the prone form of Vahlodian Ironwulfe, wrapped in a sheet, that lay on the table before her. Tears welled in Denryo’s eyes as she mourned her friend.

The past few days had come together in a blur of running, fighting and hiding. After their altercation with the cloaked Ecrilian man and his paid-off Royal Guards, the Velkans found themselves the main public enemies of Calpheon City. More guards had come, and they had been forced into hiding. They flitted from backstreet to backstreet, staying in the slums where they had less chance of being found. Still the guards had come, and more than once the saddened guild had to fight – and kill – in order to escape. This was compounded by Yommie’s distress over her son and the Velkans’ refusal to abandon his body.

Only the Velkans’ fighting skills and teamwork had enabled them to prevail. After two days of dodging guards, Devotchka’s knowledge of the city had enabled them to find a way out – a disused underground irrigation system that had emptied out near the river. From there, Egami had come to the fore, and over the next two days she had led the others deep into the forests, skirting north past the farmlands to an old, disused cabin in the depths of the wild. There, they were able to finally set down Vahlodian’s body and regroup. Devotchka had used her arts to enchant the body, so that nothing would happen to it. Egami had hunted, providing them with wild game to eat while they grieved. Yommie was inconsolable, and only Jaim’s intervention had prevented her from marching back to the city to confront their enemies. Now, she lay in the corner, turning in fitful sleep, burnt out from the trauma.

Denryo looked around the cabin. While Yommie slept, the others simply sat. Numbness hung in the musty cabin air. They had been beaten, and beaten thoroughly, by one Ecrilian. And there were eighty-odd more to account for. The first battle of the war had been fought, and lost. At a loss, the guildmistress slammed her fist down on the table, frustration and fatigue overwhelming her.

Jaim glanced up from where he sat before the small fireplace. The massive warrior barely fit in the cabin. His head scraped the ceiling when he stood. He set down his axes and dipped his head in respect. “Denryo, get some sleep. There is no benefit to blaming yourself at this point.”

Denryo merely shook her head. Devotchka spoke up, her voice muffled from the pheasant she was munching on (one of Egami’s trappings). “At least eat something. This bird is tough and stringy, but at least we can beat it.”

Silence followed. Then, the cabin door opened. Jaim and Parma had their weapons half out before Egami stepped into the cabin, several rabbits slung over her shoulder. The two warriors relaxed as the Tamer deposited them on the hearth. Taking in the mood of the cabin, Egami said nothing. She simply sat across from Denryo, saying a silent prayer to Heilang for Vahlodian, as she had done every day since. She glanced at the surprisingly peaceful face of the fallen wizard, and went to look away. However, something gave her pause. Looking back, her eyes widened. She stood and reached for the sheet covering Vahlodian, pulling it back. Yanking her hunting knife from her belt, she swiftly cut away the wizard’s robe, exposing his bare, pale torso. Ignoring the protests now coming from her comrades, the tamer also cut away the robe covering Vahlodian’s legs. Gasping, she stepped back.

Vahlodian’s entire body was covered in red welts and raised bumps. The welts started at the wound in his throat and spread down his chest, disappearing under his clothing and reappearing at his legs. They shone angry and crimson in the flickering firelight. The rest of the Velkans ceased their protests and gathered around Vahlodian’s body.

“Gods…” Devotchka remarked, staring at the markings.

“What are they?” Parma asked. “Did he have them before?”

“No, he didn’t,” Denryo confirmed. “I saw him stabling his horse before our meeting and he had none of this…”

“I’ve seen this before,” Egami stated flatly. “The Ruins Spiders to the north of here. They live in the Bree Tree Ruins and have been known to attack and bite travellers. They cause markings like these.”

“When did Vahl get bitten?” Devotchka asked. “It’s not as if he teleported to the ruins right before he…” the sorceress trailed off.

“No,” Jaim said. “He must have gotten this from our Ecrilian friend.”

“Why would he poison Vahl if the arrow would have sufficed in its own?” Parma inquired.

“He wouldn’t,” Denryo said, realisation dawning in her eyes. “He didn’t mean to. He must have passed through the ruins and gotten some spider juice on him, which then rubbed off on the arrow he threw.”

“Spider juice…” Devotchka muttered. “Yuck.”

“That means we know where he went!” Yommie’s voice startled them all. The silver-haired witch vaulted from her straw mat, making for the door. However, Denryo stepped in her way.

“No, Yommie. You cannot go. Not in your state.”

Tears welled in Yommie’s eyes. “He was my son, Den! Don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do! You’ll either let me go or I’ll burn the rest of this cabin to the ground!”

“Hear me out,” Denryo said softly. “That’s all I ask.”

Yommie stared at her for a long time. Finally, trust in her friend won out and she nodded once. Moving back to the table, she sat next to her son. She pulled the sheet back, covering him once again. The others sat as well. Denryo spoke softly.

“We were beaten. Soundly. We need to plan our next moves carefully, or we’ll end up the same a Vahl.”

Denryo glanced around at her guildmates. “Our only three leads are our mysterious cloaked guy, the Royal Guard he’s bought off and Shgaem. Seeing as we don’t know where Shgaem is, we need to address the other two.”

“That sewer rat’s smegma of a Guard Captain would have to be in on it,” Devotchka spat. “Why else would the whole damn city be after us?”

“All right,” Denryo said, leaning forward.”Devotchka, you and I will head back to Calpheon City and ‘pump’ the good captain for information.” Devotchka grinned, the prospect of painful revenge dancing in her eyes.

“Egami and Parma, you two can move the fastest out of our guild. You’ll head up north to the Bree Tree Ruins to see if you can find any clues leading to Mr. Cloak.”

“Great,” Devotchka said sarcastically. “We infiltrate a city full of people who want us dead while they go for a walk in the woods.”

Spider juice.” Parma said.

Devotchka shuddered. “Fair enough. I withdraw my complaint.”

Denryo smiled, and turned to Yommie, who was in the middle of voicing a protest. “Yommie, you’re in no condition to do either of those things at the moment.” Before she could speak, Denryo continued softly. “George needs to know what happened. It’s only right he finds out from his grandmother.”

Yommie began to speak again, but then closed her mouth. Tear began to flow again, but she nodded. Jaim, taking the hint, stood and sheathed his axes. “I’ll go with her.”

Denryo nodded. “All right. Good luck. We’ll meet back here in another week. See where we’re at.”

Egami shook her head. “Are you sure about this, Den? Even for all our planning, we still don’t know what we’re walking into.”

“No, Egami,” Denryo sighed. “I’m not sure, but as of now we have no choice. Our only option as I see it is to survive.” The ranger smiled. “Now get going before I kill you myself.”

Egami smiled back, as did the others. “You’d have to catch me first, chesty. Those things aren’t exactly forest-friendly. And I want my dress repaired, by the way.”

“Jealousy does not become you. Now, go.”

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Post  Mammona on Tue May 03, 2016 7:53 am

“Why did you bring me here? I hate heights!” Devotchka whined as she flattened herself to the roof tiles.

“Stop whining,” Denryo chided, edging towards the edge of the roof. “Think of the alternative…”

“You mean walking through the woods with Egami and Parma? Oh yeah, that’s really undesirable compared to jumping from high place to high place like a fricken’ grasshopper.”

Denryo sighed. “You really have this whole stealth thing down, don’t you?”

Denryo and Devotchka had arrived at Calpheon to find it locked up tighter than a crab’s buttocks. It seemed the guard had been tripled since the Velkans’ exodus from the city. Going in through the city entrance would have been suicide. Even retracing their escape route through the sewers would probably have resulted in a run-in with the guards. Therefore, Denryo had decided that the best way to infiltrate the city was to go high. They had climbed a tree stationed near the walls of the city and used it to vault onto a nearby roof. Since then, they had been inching their way along the rooftops, making their way towards the city watch command post. Progress had been slow, partially because of the roofs, but also because of Devotchka’s seemingly endless fear of heights.

Devotchka shuddered and shimmied across the tiles to settle next to Denryo. Together, sorceress and ranger peeked over the eaves of the house, seeing a large patrol of guard moving past below them. They were ever-viligant, scanning every doorway and alleyway. Anybody found there was given a quick talking to and moved on without pause. Denryo cringed as particularly lowly-looking beggar was evicted from his filth-heap.

“They’re sure thorough,” Devotchka commented, forgetting her fear briefly as she watched the scene.

“They are,” Denryo agreed. “We did really do a number on them.”

“Devotchka shook her head. “This isn’t because of us. The guards would have checked every inch of Calpheon City by now and realised we aren’t here. They wouldn’t be patrolling a city they already knew we escaped from. This is something else.”

Denryo’s eyes widened. “This is servitude. Someone has paid or scared them into this.” Her eyes flashed in anger. “I think I know who.”

Devotchka rolled her eyes. “I wonder.” She poked Denryo in the chest. “So what do we do, oh fearless leader?”

Denryo frowned, crossing an arm defensively over her breast. She pointed to the ground with the other. Or, more precisely, at a doorway situated in a two-story building across the street. “There’s the watch commander’s post. The guard captain is in there.”

“Across there?” Devotchka stared at the door. “How are we going to get there without being seen?”

Denryo didn’t respond. Instead, she unlimbered her bow. Reaching behind her, she drew a long arrow with a wound cloth tip from her quiver and nocked it. She smiled at the sorceress. “I need a light.”

Devotchka grinned as she raised a finger. A dark tendril of energy issued forth, wrapping around the cloth tip. A small flame sprang to life with a tiny whoosh, and soon the tip of the arrow was ablaze. Denryo stood and stepped back, out of view of anyone on the street. She drew the bow, sighting down the arrow as she prepared to fire. Her companion frowned, staring at the ranger’s chest.

“Do those things ever interfere with your shooting?”

“Not the time,” Denryo muttered as she picked her target.

“Just saying. Could end up with a nasty case of nip – “

Twang. Denryo released her arrow. The flaming shaft sped along the rooftops, arcing down and into an open window a few blocks away. A few moments later, smoke could be seen curling into the sky. Devotchka began to finish her thought, when a loud boom rattled the roof tiles around them. A multi-coloured fireball rose, chasing the smoke. Soon whistles and alarm bells sounded, followed by the stamping of running feet as every member of the city guard sprinted towards the explosion., including those guard stationed inside the watch commander’s post. Denryo turned to her friend and grinned.

“Alchemist. Lots of flammable chemicals.”

“I can see that,” Devotchka shook her head. “So what now?”

“That should buy us about half an hour. The captain would still be at his post. Let’s go. Quietly.”

Devotchka bowed theatrically. “Of course. I can be very discreet.”


The door to the commander’s post blew off its hinges with a loud crash of dark energy, careening through a short hall to smash into the base of a spiralling stone staircase. The black flame subsided as Devotchka stepped through the now-empty doorframe, picking her way through the rubble towards the stairs. Denryo followed, her eyebrow raised.

“Discreet, huh?”

“Like I said. I can be discreet,” Devotchka replied, throwing a wink over her shoulder. “I just choose not to be.”

The pair climbed the stairs, taking the steps two at a time, coming to a halt before a closed door. Devotchka began to open it, but was stopped by Denryo. The tall ranger turned the handle, opened it slightly, and waited. After a moment, a small sound issued from the wall next to the door. Denryo smiled and kicked the door as hard as she could. The strong door swung around on its hinges, stopping abruptly as it hit the person hiding behind it. An overweight man collapsed to his hands and knees, clutching at his sword. Devotchka lunged through the open door, shouting a spell that froze the heavy man in place. Denryo came after and launched a vicious kick that shattered the man’s nose. His sword fell from twitching fingers as he landed heavily. As he lay on his back, whimpering in pain, Devotchka leaned over him.

“Hiya, Captain. Don’t get up. We won’t be staying long. We just want a little chat with our favourite piece of dung before we proceed to scrape him off our boots.”

“Go hang, whore!” The captain shouted. Devotchka merely grinned. Her eyes turned black as she summoned her arts to her. Black energy began to gather as Denryo stepped in front of her.

“You don’t want to upset my friend, Captain. She has a habit of being a bit…unstable.” The ranger reached down with a tattooed arm and yanked the captain to his feet. She shoved him towards his chair. “Sit. Now, tell us who bought you off. Who set you and your dogs on to the Velkans?”

The captain winced as he touched his broken nose. “No one. We clear out the scum by ourselves.” He spat blood at the ranger.

Denryo’s hand released and an arrow appeared next to the man’s head, embedded in his chair. Devotchka laughed. “You did a fine job, by the way. You managed to drive us out of the streets into your office. Now, who paid you off?”

“No one.” The captain’s eyes began to shift and sweat broke out on his bloody forehead, further exacerbating his already impaired vision. Denryo leaned in close and smiled sweetly.

“Do you have a family, captain?”

The pummelled man turned pale. “You wouldn’t…”

“That’s a yes.” Devotchka crowded in beside Denryo. “This woman is more than an archer with giant… arrows. She’s a guild leader, and she’s being threatened. Now I’m not scholar, but I would say that the likelihood of mistress here going after your loved ones is fairly high.”

“No, please… they said they’d kill me…”

“’They’ aren’t here, captain,” Denryo whispered darkly. “We are. We may not know where your family is, but we’re smart.” The ranger gestured to Devotchka, and the sorceress stepped behind the captain’s desk and began rifling through documents. The captain began to weep.

“Please don’t make me do this!”

“Ah!” Devotchka stepped back beside Denryo, holding a sheet of paper with figures written on it. “Yield calculations for a farm, if I’m not mistaken. The shire stamp is familiar. It’s an eastern farm.”

Denryo raised an eyebrow and turned back to the captain, who was now sobbing. “An eastern farm, eh? Not many farms out there.”

The captain stopped crying long enough to compose himself. He sniffed. “It’s not a farm. It’s a ranch. My family built it east because of the temperature. I hope to retire there. The stock flourishes in the cooler temperatures.”

Devotchka smiled. “So it’s a cool ranch?”

Denryo ignored his companion, speaking directly to the captain. “Now, if you want to survive this encounter and get back to your cows – “

“Chickens, actually,” the captain said, spitting out blood. Even Denryo paused at that, staring incredulously.

Devotchka giggled. “You farm chickens at the cool ranch?”

The captain frowned defensively. “Their wings, properly cooked, make for a decent meal. We can also sell the eggs.”

Devotchka burst into laughter. “You have a cool ranch with chicken wings?!”

Denryo shook her head. “We’re getting off topic here.” She leaned in close to the captain and flicked his broken nose. When he yelped in pain, she did it again. “The point is your cool ranch will be splattered with blood if you decide to keep your secrets.”

The captain stared at her for a long time. Finally, he hung his head. “Ecril contacted me. Paid me handsomely to arrest you.”

“For what?” Denryo asked.

“Attempted murder,” the captain replied glumly. “The deviant guards were a convenient excuse to find you. We were to apprehend you, then we’d lock you up so that…”

“So that Ecril could finish the job,” Denryo finished.

“Attempted murder?” Devotchka shook her head. “That’s not my style. I’m more of an indecent exposure kind of girl myself.” She swung her hips side to side to punctuate her statement.”

The captain stared at the sorceress. Denryo sighed. “Who from Ecril contacted you?”

“Some long-winded guy. Name was Shgaem. Paid me to do the job and gave me a lecture why I was doing it.” The captain tried to laughed, but the pain stopped him. “Like I gave a damn why. Money is money. At least, that’s what I thought.”

“Yes,” Denryo chuckled. “We proved you wrong on that. Now, last question. Who is the man with the scar on his neck?”

“No idea. Shgaem said he was our ‘liaison’. Didn’t give his real name. Didn’t even take of that damned black cloak. Shgaem told us to call him ‘Fassi’.”

“Shgaem and Fassi,” Devotchka repeated, the humour vanishing from her face. She arched an eyebrow. “What happened when you couldn’t find us?”

“Shgaem rocked up to this office with Fassi and another twelve guys. Slaughtered an entire platoon of my men who tried to stop them. They told me the whole guard was the price of our failure. Said they’d massacre every last civilian in the city if we didn’t turn control over to them. Given what they’d done, I was inclined to believe them.”

The captain was interrupted by shouts from the window. Denryo glanced through it and saw some guards walking back. Evidently the fire had subsided. Devotchka snorted and shot a glance to Denryo. “All right. We’ve got what we needed. Can I kill him now?”

“Wait, you said – “ the captain objected, tears rolling down his face.

“You are not a part of this conversation.” Denryo stated flatly, before telling Devotchka “If we kill him, we leave a trail. He may prove more useful alive."

Devotchka sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” She walked forward to stand before the captain. “Here’s the deal, ranch-man. You tell your cronies we went west towards the coast. That we busted in here, assaulted you in revenge for what happened to Va – our comrade.” The sorceress grinned. “You do that, or your chickens will enjoy a nice dinner of human drumsticks, courtesy of your family.”

The captain looked at Denryo, who nodded. He sighed. “All right. I will. But you know that Shgaem and Fassi won’t believe me. No way would you see me just to break my nose and leave.”

“He’s right,” Denryo conceded, crossing her arms over her ample chest. “We need something more.”

“I can help with that,” Devotchka replied cheerfully. She raised a finger and pointed it at the captain. The wounded man began to say something when a thin needle of dark energy shot from the woman’s finger, lancing through the captain right eye. Blood welled from the punctured eyeball as the captain screamed. The dark needle withdrew, taking the eye with it. Devotchka grabbed the removed ocular organ and grinned. “His cronies hurt us. An eye for an eye.”

“I don’t think you fully understand that saying,” Denryo said in disgust as the captain continued to scream, falling off his chair to writhe on the floor. The ranger shook her head and planted a solid kick to his temple, rendering him unconscious.

Devotchka frowned. "Shame. I feel like a cool ranch chicken wing."

The voices became louder, drawn by the captain’s screams. Denryo slung her bow across her back. “Come, we need to go. Out the window. It’s a short trip across the roofs to the tree.”

Devotchka held up the eyeball. “I see.”

Denryo sighed. “Just come on.”

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Post  Mammona on Thu May 12, 2016 9:13 am

Jaim whirled and brought his axe around in a vicious slash. The heavy blade met only air as his strike missed its target. He followed up with another slash with the axe in his other hand, this time a devastating overhead swing that cleaved the very air in twain. This strike missed as well, burying the axe into the dirt at his feet. The berserker yanked on the handle, freeing the weapon with difficulty. However, it was too late. His assailant was upon him.

A black streak shot past the giant’s defences. His free hand was batted aside with the flat of a slender blade. A fist was driven into his face, staggering him slightly. A whirlwind of steel ensued, the blade making the air sing as it ricocheted off of Jaim’s armour again and again. For the first time since the fight began, the barbarian took a backwards step. His assailant pressed the advantage, using blinding speed to overcome the warrior’s brute strength. The blade flashed, coming in for the final blow.

Jaim grinned. He raised a hulking arm, catching the blow on his heavy gauntlet. His other hand shot out, grasping the assailant’s arm. Yanking the man towards him, the berserker brought him to eye level. He looked the assailant dead in the eyes and spoke a single word.

“Almost.” The giant threw his assailant twenty feet through the air into the forest, where he vanished into a bed of soft shrubs.

Yommie frowned from her perch on a nearby rock. “You could have gone easier on him, Jaim.”

Jaim shrugged his massive shoulders. “He needs to learn. He won’t do that by being soft.”

“I won’t learn if I’m dead.” A voice sounded from the shrub. The assailant climbed painfully to his feet and rolled his neck this way and that. Thin, sinewy limbs carried the slender human out of the shrubs and back into the clearing where Jaim waited. Blonde hair the colour of ash was scraped out of shrewd eyes and dirt was brushed from leather armour, fitted over a loose kimono. The sword, a long, slender katana blade, was sheathed as the assailant frowned at Jaim.

“How did you catch me?” asked George Ironwulfe, son of Vahlodian. His face betrayed his disbelief.

“You have no defense,” Jaim replied matter-of-factly. “You left yourself wide open when you went for the final stroke. All I had to do was block it, and you’re mine. Protect yourself at all times, Vahlmorn.”

Yommie came up behind her grandson, laying a hand on his shoulder. “He’s right. You need to protect yourself.”

Vahlmorn shrugged off Yommie’s hand. “Like my father did?”

Jaim sighed. “George…Vahlmorn… what happened to your father was not his fault. Nor was it ours, yours or anyone but the man who threw that arrow. You demanded we take you with us when we found you. You demanded. Even though you hadn’t finished your training. You are a Musa. Trust in your code and our guidance if you want to avenge your father.”

Vahlmorn’s gaze softened. After a moment, he nodded. Yommie stepped close and drew him into an embrace. “Keep training. We’ll find him, and you’ll be ready.”

Yommie and Jaim had found George in Serendia, honing his Musa skills on the imps and bandits that frequented the area. The young swordsman had taken the news of his father hard. Jaim had stood quietly by and watched Yommie recount the tale and attempt to comfort him. George had hung his head and shed a tear, but true to the Ironwulfe name, he had borne the news with stoicism. He had wasted no time in drawing his sword and swearing vengeance, renaming himself Vahlmorn and insisting that he accompany Jaim and Yommie. While initially resistant and unwilling to place her grandson in harm’s way, Yommie had relented upon Jaim’s advice. The young Musa needed to do this. His father’s honour depended on it.

Yommie sighed, walking over to where her travel pack lay. Picking it up, she tied it to her saddle and swung up onto her horse. As Vahlmorn followed suit, Yommie spoke quietly.

“We need to move. Denryo and Devotchka should be back by now.” Assuming they made it back, the witch thought worriedly. She also hoped that Egami and Parma were all right. Ecril had eyes everywhere, and they could not afford to be lax in their travels.

Jaim nodded, moving toward his horse. “Let us hope that the information from the guard captain proves fruitful.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” a voice sang. Jaim whirled around, his axes appearing in his hands. Yommie shouted a phrase and lightning crackled between her fingers. She spun and threw out the hand, ready to throw her ‘big one’ (as she called it). However, as she saw who had spoken, the lighting faded, to be replaced by a confused look upon her silvery features. Vahlmorn also frowned, drawing his sword and holding it in the Musa two-handed grip, leveling the point towards the newcomer.

The voice had come from a slender, lilac-haired man wearing fine, expensive clothing. He perched on the rock Yommie had recently vacated, lounging back with one long leg crossed over the other. His face was handsome, peering out under the purple hair with a smug smirk. A dagger lay nearby, within reach but not in use. The man grinned and inclined his head at the trio. His voice had a mocking quality, as if nothing they said could reach a creature of such self-confessed-beauty.

“Been a while, friends.”

Jaim growled, still holding his axe. “Arky. What do you want?”

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Post  Mammona on Mon May 23, 2016 9:02 am

The Bree Tree Ruins to the north of the Calpheon region contained one of the strangest ecosystems known to scholars. The crumbling stone temples had been there for eons, as had the various mobile plants that inhabited the area. For some unknown reasons, life-forms living in the ruins somehow incorporated the stones into their own physical bodies, evolving into strange new beasts that seemed to be half creature, half stone. The Ruins Spiders were only the start of the myriad of strange stony creatures that frequented the areas. It was not uncommon for unwary adventurers to find themselves crushed flat by a giant humanoid rock creature. However, Parma and Egami were hardly unwary.

The large creature had given away its position with a grinding sound as it had unfurled its rocky limbs. Lying near the entrance to a clearing in ambush, it had struck with speed belying its massive size. However, Egami was well-versed in these woods, having traversed most of Calpheon’s wilderness in her travels. She had recognised the Ruin Creature’s attack instantly and had shouted a warning. Parma was no slouch, either, and she had leaped back in time to avoid the giant stone fist that was slammed into the ground, shaking the earth. Now, Valkyrie and Tamer stood facing the twelve-foot-tall monster that roared in frustration, lumbering towards them, murder in its’ eyes.

“We don’t have time for this,” Parma muttered, stepping back in time to avoid another blow. “The trail grows colder by the minute.”

Egami smiled grimly. “Don’t worry about the trail. I can pick it up. Worry about our friend here.” The small woman shot up a tree, climbing hand over hand as she scampered up the massive redwood. “Distract it!”

“Oh, sure, give me the hard work!” Parma retorted, raising her shield. She beat her sword against it, filling the crisp air with a loud ringing. The Ruins Creature turned towards the sound, growling deep in its throat. It swung again, only for Parma to adroidtly sidestep and lash out with her blade. The sword struck stone, causing a shower of sparks. A long groove had been cut into the creature’s rocky arm, but no apparent damage had been done. Parma frowned. “How do we hurt it?”

Egami’s voice rang out from a branch directly above the creature. “The joints! They’re only plants!”

Parma stared at the creature, and found Egami’s voice to be true. The Ruins Creature’s massive arms and body were weathered stone, but the joints that held the massive chunks together were barely more than vines. The Valkyrie shouted a battle cry and charged forward. The creature raised an arm and brought it down, intending to crush the annoying pest that dared to attack it. Parma raised her shield, one edge angled down. The creature’s blow deflected off the shield, the angle directing the momentum towards the ground. However, the mighty blow was still enough to send shock up Parma’s arm and knock her off her feet. She heard Egami’s voice, still coming from the tree. “Nieka!”

Tucking into a roll, the Valkyrie bounced to her feet in time to see the massive ethereal wolf crash into the side of the stony behemoth. Already off balance from its’ missed attack, Nieka’s weight caused the creature to stumble, dropping its guard as one arm slammed into the ground to steady it.

Parma did not waster her opportunity. She flew towards the creature’s exposed leg, lashing out with her sword. The hardened steel sliced through the vine joint, shearing the stony leg from the creature’s body. It roared in pain as it collapsed to the earth, throwing dirt and detritus in all directions as it flailed around, seeking purchase. Parma’s sword flashed again, taking off another limb, this time an arm. Now crippled, the creature lashed out at the Valkyrie, seeking to take its’ foe with it to the grave.

Egami leaped from the branch above, she hurtled through the air, her sword flashing from its sheath as she landed lightly on the beast’s back. The thrashing creature bucked and roiled, but the tamer held her balance with almost superhuman agility. She hopped from back to neck, raising her blade. She drove it down in silence, punching the sword through the back of the Ruins Creature’s neck. The roaring turned to a surprised whimper, and the creature sagged. Egami jumped from the creature to the ground as the once-mighty leviathan began to disintegrate, leaving a pile of plant and stone rubble in a roughly humanoid shape upon the clearing floor.

Egami walked towards Parma, sheathing her sword and stopping briefly to give Nieka a pat. Parma likewise put up her weapons, nodding in approval. “Well, that was easy.”

Egami smiled. “It's not usually. It’s best to avoid the Ruins Creatures. I suggest we do that from now on.”

Parma chuckled. “Point taken. We’re no good to anyone as stains on the forest floor.” She glanced around. “So what about our trail?”

Parma and Egami had reached the ruins the previous day. Picking up a trail had been difficult, partially because their unnamed assailant had been very careful to mask his tracks. However, the presence of Ruins Spider venom had led the pair to a nest of the creatures that frequented an area close to a main road. By Egami’s reckoning, it made sense that the black-cloaked man had picked up the venom residue from there as he had made is way through. Sure enough, a set of tracks had been found, moving up the road with purposeful steps. Parma and Egami had followed them until they had turned from the road, heading east towards the village of Florin. Upon Egami’s assistance, they had diverted from the path there to move through the forest. It was better to exercise caution, lest they ran into unwelcome company of the Ecril kind.

After a few hours of careful travelling, Egami held up a hand, signalling for pause and silence. Parma acquiesced, knowing that Egami’s tracking abilities had kept them alive on more than one occasion. Both women hunkered down in the brush, and the Tamer turned to her friend.

“It’s best I go alone from here,” Egami whispered. “Florin is usually a quiet place, but I hear a lot of noise coming from it.” Sure enough, the air was rich with distant shouts and clangs. Parma frowned.

“Sounds like an army. Weapons being readied.” While lacking Egami’s wilderness expertise, Parma was far more experienced in the sights and sounds of warfare than her guild-mate. “Florin is a peaceful town. The army wouldn’t go there.”

“Unless it isn’t the army,” Egami replied, her eyes darkening. “I’ve been thinking about the Ruins Spider venom. The black cloak would have had to deviate from the path to pick up the residue on his clothing, unless the spiders had swarmed.” Egami held her friend’s gaze.

“You think the venom was deliberate?” Parma asked. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Egami answered truthfully. She shifted on her haunches. “Let me go and see. Maybe I can find out why.” She smiled at Parma. “You should retreat to the clearing where we fought the Ruins Creature. I’ll meet you there in a few hours.”

“And if you don’t come back in a few hours?” Parma asked.

Egami smiled. “Tell Denryo he can ‘borrow’ all the clothes he likes.” With that, she was gone, melting into the undergrowth, leaving Parma to retrace her steps.


The small village of Florin was an average farming and trading village that lay nestled in a small valley that acted as a northern pass to the next region. Nothing of note had ever happened there, save for the occasional encroachment of forest creatures that needed culling. It was a sleepy, quiet place, home to a few families that never left. That was why, as she stared across the main path to the village from her perch in a leafy tree, Egami realised that things were much worse than they had feared.

Bodies were piled high at the village entrance. Judging by the plain clothing and dirty features, Egami guessed that they were Florin’s farmers and traders. All dead, she thought with a twinge of anger and sadness. The ringing of metal and the roar of conversation assaulted her ears. Beside her, Nieka growled quietly. The Tamer laid a calming hand on his head, and the wolf quietened.

Florin had been transformed into a bloody outpost. Men and women swaggered through the village, roaring and joking. Their black armour, weapons and faces were streaked with blood. They strutted confidently through the streets, helping themselves to whatever loot they could find, be it gold, food or women. Egami gritted her teeth. This is butchery, she thought. Her keen eyes spotted a pattern on the black armour – a pattern shared by all of the murderers. A raven flying over a mountain pass. A symbol matching the one on the cloaked man. Ecril, she thought. They’ve lain waste to the entire village.

Almost as if he had heard her, the cloaked man emerged from a house into the daylight. He did not bother to look around. Instead, he strode straight to the centre of the village, where two other figures waited. Egami almost growled along with Nieka as she beheld the cretin who had attack them and had left them with Vahlodian’s body.

The Tamer forced her anger from her thoughts, struggling to replace it with calm detachment. She was there to gather intelligence, and she couldn’t do that paralysed with rage. She studied the two other figures. They were obviously leaders amongst this Ecril battalion, as they carried themselves with authority and confidence that set them apart from the other soldiers.

One figure was a man, so thin he bordered on being skeletal. He was dressed in fine robes and wore no weapons. His face was dominated by a vulture’s beak of a nose that hooked down sharply over stained teeth. His very bearing had an oddity about it, almost as if he had no place being there among seasoned warriors. He looked like a talker, not a fighter. She realised with a start that this was the ‘Shgaem’ that Denryo had spoken about – the recruiter who had approached the Velkans in the first place.

The second figure was a massive roll of a woman. Fat cascaded from her figure like the waves of the ocean. She wore a leather jerkin that barely concealed her epic belly. She walked with a heavy stride, leaning back to support her copious gut. In one hand she carried what looked like a giant padded mace, with a long string dangling from the handle. In the other hand she held a bloody piece of fish, which he tore chunks from with a surprisingly small, beak-like mouth.

The monstrous woman stopped chewing long enough to ask the cloaked man a question, her voice rumbling almost to where Egami sat, the sheer volume carrying to her even if the words didn’t. The cloaked man must have answered, because the woman tossed back her head and laughed, sending bits of fish spraying everywhere. The skinny man also spoke, gesturing to the cloaked man’s clothing. The man nodded in reply.

It was then that Egami realise that the spider venom was no accident. They wanted us to find it, she thought, her mind racing. They wanted us to come here. As more pieces of the grisly puzzle fell into place, dread welled in Egami’s heart like a heavy black mist. We were supposed to find the venom. We were supposed to track the cloaked man. We were supposed to come here – into their trap. Gods, they murdered an entire village simply to catch us. Egami shook her head, tears welling in her eyes as she realised just how truly malevolent Ecril was. They were prepared to massacre entire villages just to get what they wanted – the deaths of a few who defied them.

The tamer realised that she had been there long enough, and jumped from her perch to another branch, heading back to Parma with a heavy heart. This fight may well be our undoing, she thought.


By the time she had reached the clearing, Egami had calmed down somewhat. She knew that time was with them, for the Ecrilian would not abandon Florin, for fear of missing the Velkans. That bought them at least a week to return to the others and inform them on what they’d found. Egami moved faster, seeing the break in the trees ahead. However, a shrill voice caused her to stop dead in her tracks, eyes wide. It had come from the clearing ahead. She slowed to a crawl, moving forward silently. As she peeked into the clearing, she was greeted by an armoured back. Past it, she saw Parma, sword drawn and shield raised. The shrill voice sounded again.

“I will not ask you again! Where is George Ironwulfe?!”

George? Vahl’s son? Egami raised an eyebrow, confused. She stayed put as the shrill, grating voice continued from the armoured figure. Parma’s eyes drifted to Egami and she also raised an eyebrow.

“Why would I know where he is? Or who he is, for that matter?” The Valkyrie asked, keeping her tone carefully neutral.

“Don’t give me that nonsense!” The squeaky voice shot back. “He’s a Velkan, same as you! Where is he?”

Parma sighed, lowering her sword slightly. “What is your quarrel with George? Maybe I can help.”

“The only way you can help is to tell me where he is!” The armoured figure squealed, stepped closer to the Valkyrie. Parma shook her head, her bobbed hair quivering. “What did he do?”

“I’ll tell you what he did!” The prepubescent voice whined, grating more and more on Egami’s nerves. “He killed my bandits! My bandits! That was my spot and George came and took it!”

“Your spot?” Parma asked incredulously. “Yours? How can it be yours? If it had bandits, surely it’s everyone’s spot?”

“No, it’s mine!” The voice whined. A sword was raised. “I’ve been there longer than he has! He took my bandits! I want my revenge!”

Parma sighed. “Revenge? Have you thought this through, child? You’re asking me, a guildmate to George, where he is so you can kill him? Is that your brilliant plan? What happens in your masterful strategy if I say no?”

The voice grated to a new pitch and the sword was raised further. “Then I, Kimichi, will kill you as well! I will kill all the Velkans! You can’t stop me!”

Parma shook her head and chuckled. “Well, I can’t, but she sure can.”

Egami stepped into the clearing behind the armoured warrior. She placed both hands at his back and gave him a sharp shove, realising that while he wore plate armour, Kimichi was no heavier than she was. He stumbled forward, straight into Parma’s gauntleted fist. He crashed to the ground like a sack of excrement, dazed. Egami wasted no time in snatching up a set of vines from the Ruins Creature’s corpse. She bound Kimichi’s arms and legs, trussing him up like a turkey. She stepped back, shaking her head as the adolescent warrior regained his sensed. She shot a sideways glance at Parma.

“I leave you alone for a few hours and you find this?”

Parma chuckled. “I’m as surprised as you are. Our young land baron here simply walking into the clearing and started yelling at me.”

“He reminds me of Devotchka when she doesn’t get her evening wine,” Egami observed.

“Worse,” Parma replied. “At least Devotchka shuts up after a while.”

“Let me go!” Kimichi screamed, veins popping up on his pockmarked, pimpled face. “Let me go so I can kill you all!”

“As lovely as that sounds, you spoiled son of a pig,” Parma chortled, drawing her sword. “I would prefer to just kill you here and be done with it.” She raised the blade.

Egami held up a hand, ignoring the shouting Kimichi. “We don’t have time. He’s harmless. Leave him. We need to meet the others.”

Parma sheather her sword, worry creasing her features. “That bad?”

Egami sighed, her eyes shining. “Worse. Much worse.”

Both Tamer and Valkyrie turned and headed for the clearing exit. As they passed Kimichi, still strung up on the ground, he screamed after them.

“I won’t forget this! Ironwulfe is dead! You’re all dead! My guild will declare war on all of you! I declare war on you! I promise you that I will never un-declare! We will be at war until the end of your days!”

Egami called back over her shoulder. “I would worry about your own days. If you keep screaming, the Ruins will make sure they are cut short.”

Egami and Parma vanished into the forest, leaving only the dappled sunlight and the shrill voice of Kimichi behind them.

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Post  Mammona on Thu Jun 09, 2016 8:24 am

“My, my. Such hostility!” Arky sang jovially. He hopped off his rock, landing lightly before Jaim. Looking the giant dead in the eye, he grinned. “I would think you’d show an old friend some manners.”

Jaim scoffed. “’Old friend?’ We haven’t seen you in years and all of a sudden you turn up on a rock in the middle of nowhere calling yourself an ‘old friend?’”

Arky pouted. “Spoil sport.” Turning away from Jaim with a flick of his hair, Arky winked at Yommie. “Mrs. Wulfemother. Always a vision. You must tell me who does your hair like that.”

“It’s called ‘twelve hours on the road’,” Yommie replied with a trace of annoyance. Arky did not notice, instead fixing sparkling eyes on Vahlmorn.

“George? Is that you? By the gods, the last time I saw you – “

“Vahlmorn now,” the musa replied with a frown. “Arky, what are – “

“Vahmorn? Does that mean our little George has finally become a man? I’m so proud! From toddling around the farm – “

“Arky…” Jaim prodded from between gritted teeth.

“You are the spitting image of your father! You know, except with a different robe. Much better. I like the pattern. I have a good tailor who – “

Enough!” roared Vahlmorn. He swung a fist at the rambling man. However, he hit only air.

“Vahlmorn!” Jaim shouted far too late. A blur of movement followed, and the young musa found himself on his knees in the grass. Arky was behind him, with Vahlmorn’s arm held in a painful grip, his dagger at his throat.

Arky leaned in to Vahlmorn’s ear. While his smile remained, his eyes now glittered dangerously. “A word to the wise, youngling. Don’t make threats your fists can’t back up.” The slender human shoved Vahmorn forward, sending him sprawling. Stepping back, he sheathed his blade and raised his hands in a gesture of supplication.

“No harm done.”

“Arky.” Jaim thundered. “What are you doing here?”

“Same thing I just did,” Arky answered with a laugh. “I’m here to give advice.”

“Advice about what?” Yommie asked, helping Vahmorn to his feet.

“Hmmmm, let’s see. What would a handsome devil like myself possibly ride miles and miles to find members of the Velkan guild for? What could they possibly have going on that requires advice?”

“Ecril.” Yommie spat. “You could have said that at the start.”

Arky laughed. “And miss young Vahmorn’s little outburst? Over my drop-dead gorgeous body!”

“What do you have to say about Ecril?”

Arky’s laugh died and the smile left his face, leaving it uncharacteristically serious. “Do not mess with them.”

Vahmorn sniggered. “That’s it? ‘Don’t mess with them?’ Surely you have more than that!”

Yommie winced, expecting a retort. Instead, Arky rounded on the young swordsman, his features grim. “I do. That is precisely why I’m here. Why I’m giving you this warning. Do not fight them. It will be your folly. Your deaths.”

Jaim frowned. “Our deaths? How can you be so sure.”

Arky held his gaze and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sure.”

Yommie gasped. Jaim’s eyes narrowed and he took a step forward. “You’re sure…”

Gods,” Yommie whispered. “You joined Ecril.”

Both witch and berserker took a step forward, weapons raised. Jaim growled. “Did they put you up to this?”

Arky held up his hands, a rueful smile on his face. “In a word, yes. They learned of my connection to the Velkans and dispatched me with a one-time offer. They want to treat with you. Give you one last chance to negotiate.” He shook his head. “The warning was mine. I had no choice. You don’t mess with those people.”

Jaim frowned. Arky was not someone who was pushed around easily. Despite his casual clothing and narcissistic self-obsession, he was an extremely capable fighter who had won many a battle off the edge of his own sword. He was never one to bend the knee to anyone, much less let himself be backed into an unimaginable corner. For Arky to be this way, then something must be seriously wrong, Jaim thought. It takes either serious family or serious danger to make Arky act apprehensively.

Yommie sighed. “We took a vote. We’re going to fight them.”

Arky laughed. “That would be a very bad idea.”

“You don’t understand,” Yommie pressed. “Vahl… he…”

Arky’s smile vanished. “I see. I am sorry. Truly. But I still urge you to reconsider.”

Vahlmorn bared his teeth. “Never. We will get our revenge. Ecril will burn. And so will you, if you side with them.”

Arky’s smile returned. “Remember what I said about threats, little one.” He turned to Jaim. “At least promise me you’ll pass on my message to Denryo.”

Jaim stared at the purple-haired warrior for a long time. Finally, he nodded.

Arky nodded back. “Make haste, friends. Ecril are not known for being patient.” With that, he turned and made his way back to the road. Within a few steps, he was whistling. Vahlmorn watched him go with a look of distaste.


“Arky says he had no choice.” Yommie started to head back to where the horses stood.

“And you believe him?” Vahlmorn’s voice was incredulous.

“He has no reason to lie to us.” Jaim stated flatly, following Yommie. “If he did, he would not have mentioned Ecril.”

‘Wait,” Vahlmorn stopped. “You aren’t seriously considering telling Denryo about Arky’s offer.”

“We are a guild,” Jaim replied. “We fight together. If need be, we die together. We don’t keep secrets.”

“I don’t like it, but I agree,” Yommie said. “Den and the others need to know.”

Vahlmorn screwed his eyes shut. After a long moment, he relaxed. “You’re right. They should know at least.”

Yommie smiled and placed a proud hand on her grandson’s shoulder. “You grow before my eyes. Come, let’s go.”

The three Velkans mounted up and rode east towards the cabin, each lost in their own thoughts of blood, death and betrayal.

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Post  Mammona on Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:18 am

“Devotchka, what is that?”

Devotchka shrugged. “What is what?”

Parma pointed at the sorceress’ chest. “That pendent. I haven’t seen you wearing that before.”

Devotchka smiled. “Oh, that. I got in in the city. It’s a vision, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” Denryo interjected. “Not for a certain guard captain, though.”

Parma raised an eyebrow. “What did you do?”

Before Devotchka could answer, Jaim raised a hand, silencing her. “Enough small talk. Den, you’ve heard what Arky has to say. What do we do?”

The ranger sighed. “Arky’s never been one to take things lightly. Sure, he acts the fool, but if he’s saying this, we need to at least consider it.”

The Velkans had reassembled at the small cabin to day before. Weary from their travels and tribulations, they had greeted each other but not done much else. Egami had left to hunt and returned with a freshly killed deer slung across her slight shoulders. Dinner had been eaten in silence and sleep had come soon after. Egami had stood watch for half on the night, ruminating on the current events. When Denryo had relieved her, she had asked a simple question.

“Den, what happens if Ecril get their wish? What happens to the Velkans?”

Denryo had simply shook her head. “I don’t know, ‘Ami. We might stay together, or we might…”

“Not.” Egami had said no more. She merely nodded her head goodnight and left the Velkan guildmistress to her own thoughts.

Now, with the morning sun streaming through the rustic walls of the cabin, Denryo had called the Velkans together. They sat around the small room. Jaim, Denryo, Vahlmorn and Yommie sat at the small table, while Devotchka and Parma leaned against the cabin walls. Egami stood a short way off, near the cabin door. The tamer looked around, seeing the sombre faces of her friends. Her green eyes shifted this way and that, scrutinising their expressions. She did not like what she saw.

“Arky may not be a fool, but he doesn’t have the reasons we do.” Vahlmorn said bitterly. Yommie rested her hand on his. The young Musa squeezed it before continuing. “We cannot side with them. Honor demands we avenge my father.”

Parma spoke up. “Honor is not something to be taken lightly, but neither is the very real prospect of death. Ecril numbers in the hundreds. That they are willing to slaughter an entire village just to catch the seven of us is a testament to their brutality and persistence.”

“We can’t avenge anyone if we’re dead,” Jaim continued pragmatically. “We cannot keep fighting them and if we run, it’s only a matter of time before they find us.” He shook his large head. “How many more innocents will die because of our conflict?”

“That’s not the point,” Devotchka piped up. “We’re good at what we do. Ecril outnumber us, but do they possess our abilities?” She grinned. “Or our idiosyncrasies?”

“I doubt it,” Parma answered, with a pointed look at the spherical object that hung from Devotchka’s neck. “But ability counts for nothing when you’re outnumbered hundreds to one.”

The sorceress grinned. “At least I’ll make a beautiful corpse.”

“Arky was scared,” Yommie stated flatly. “Arky doesn’t get scared.” She glanced at her grandson. “I am sorry, Vahl, but your safety trumps my desire for revenge. I do not want to bury you.”

“Nor I you,” Vahlmorn replied. “But I don’t want to be a part of these people. Killing indiscriminately and murdering women and children. You cannot ask me to be a part of that.”

“No one is asking you, Vahlmorn,” Denryo said softly, speaking for the first time since the discussion started. She leaned forward, sinewy arms crossed before her on the table. Her voice was low.

“This is not something we can vote on. This is people’s lives at stake. I cannot ask you to adhere to an oath that may lead to death. People need to make up their own minds.”

“In that case, I say we join.” Jaim stood, rolling his massive shoulders. “We live to fight another day.”

“Are you serious?!” Vahlmorn stood as well. “No way will I join. Not on your life!”

“Vahl, Jaim had made his decision, just as you have made yours.” Yommie sighed. “I don’t like this, but I like the idea of you getting hurt even less. I will join. At least until I can ensure your safety.”

“Grandmother?! Why?!”

Yommie tenderly touched his cheek. “As I said, my child, you have your reasons and I have mine.”

“But – “

“I’m joining as well.” Parma stepped forward, seriousness blazing from her neatly-bobbed face. “I’ve had enough of hiding. At least this way we get some measure of freedom.”

“Ah, hell.” Devotchka slammed a hand down on the table, rattling the loose wood. “I’ll go with you. You both’d be lost without me.”

“Well, that settles it,” Parma muttered. “We’re dead.” That remark drew a few half-hearted chuckles.

Denryo gazed across the room. “’Ami?”

Egami stayed silent for a long time. The cabin creaked in the light morning breeze. Egami finally looked up, a solitary tear rolling down her cheek.

“I am not like you all. I do not care for bustling cities. I don’t dabble in power, wealth, strength or war. I do not have the standing you all do, nor do I have the desire to obtain it.”

The tamer held Denryo’s eye. “What I do have is the forest. It raised me and it has been good to me. If this is what you all truly want, then I will return to it.”

Denryo sighed. She stood, moving to embrace her friend. Turning to look at the guild she had formed and had been through so much with. Choking back tears, the ranger began to speak.

“As of now, I release you all from your oath. The Velkan guild has officially dis – “

The cabin door exploded in a shower of splinters, along with most of the surrounding cabin wall. Denryo and Egami were launched into the cabin as the roof caved in. A horrible keening sound filled the air as the warriors reeled from the explosion. Jaim and Parma had their weapons out, searching for invisible foes. Dark energy sprang from Devotchka’s fingertips as she climbed to her feet, her long hair sticking out in all directions. Yommie lifted a hand and the morning breeze became a whirling tempest, blasting the debris in all directions away from the cabin. Vahlmorn streaked through the ruined wall, blade drawn and ready to fight. He was greeted instead with retreating shadows that shot into the trees, leaving the ruined cabin behind.

“What in the seven hells was that?!” Devotchka cried.

“Ecril?” Vahlmorn asked, returning to the group.

“No idea,” Jaim grunted, kneeling over to grasp a support beam that was once part of the cabin’s ceiling. Lifting the beam, he tossed it aside, revealing the crumpled form of Egami. “Are you injured?”

The bewildered tamer shook her head, allowing herself to be helped to her feet. Nieka appeared in an instant, nudging his owner in a clear display of concern. Egami leaned against the giant wolf for support, blood streaming from a cut above her eye. Tearing a strip of fabric from her tunic, she wound it about her head, stopping the flow momentarily. It was then she noticed that something was amiss.

“Where’s Den?”

The Velkans looked around. They were greeted with silence, save for the breeze blwing through the ruined cabin.

Denryo was nowhere to be seen.


Two months later:

Thassi Cavecaller grinned a horrible grin, a strong of drool running from her birdlike mouth. The enormous woman stood with her pudgy arms folded across her voluminous gut. Her perverse delight seemed endless as she beheld the scene unfolding in front of her. The gates of Florin were propped wide open and Ecrilian soldiers were everywhere. Weapons were held levelled at the six people who stood in front of the gates.

Thassi gestured to her guild manager, the vulture-like Shgaem Speechmaker, to start the initiation. The thin man’s reedy voice began to drone like the sound of a listless bee, washing over the six figures like a repulsive tide.

“Do you, the former members of the Velkan guild, agree to join the Ecrilian Legion without scruple or agenda? Do you agree to serve Thassi Cavecaller and her lieutenants faithfully and without question for the length of your servitude in this Legion?”

Moving to each of the figures, Shgaem smiled under his hooked nose as he intoned each of their names.”

“Do you swear, Parmantots Tooots?”

“I swear.”

“Do you swear, Jaim Grymauch?”

“I swear.”

Do you swear, Yommie Wulfemother?”

“I swear.”

“Do you swear, Devotchka Czack?”

“You bet your skinny backside I do.”


“I swear.”

“Do you swear, Vahlmorn Ironwulfe?”


Do you swear, Vahlmorn Ironwulfe?” More urgent now.

“… I swear.”

“Do you swear, Egami Kalimaru?”

Egami sighed. She felt the eyes of her companions on her. She felt the weight of the Ecrilian Legion burning into her. She shut her eyes and willed herself to calmness. When she opened her eyes, they were clear.

Shgaem looked annoyed. “Do you swear, Egami Kalimaru?”

Egami looked him dead in the eye. Her voice was soft, but clear. “I do not.”

The skinny man rocked back like he’d been struck. “You do not?!”

The tamer shook her head, reaching behind her to draw her sword. Nieka appeared at her side, growling.

Thassi’s terrible grin widened. “As you wish.” She gestured at the other former Velkans. Her voice was alight with mayhem and murder.

“Your first order as Ecrilians. Kill this one.”

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Post  Mammona on Sun Jun 19, 2016 8:03 am

“Kill her?!” Yommie’s voice was both surprised and furious. “That wasn’t part of our deal!”

“It is now,” Thassi crowed. “The conditions we gave you stated that you all join.” She waved a flabby arm at Egami. “She didn’t, so the only way to fulfil your pledge to us is to kill her.”

Shgaem grinned. “Or, you could refuse and we kill you all.”

Before Yommie could answer, a battle-cry rose up over Florin. An overzealous Ecrilian soldier broke ranks, rushing towards Egami, sword held high. After a moment, two others went with him, one armed with a spear, and the other with a flail which he spun in a circle over his head. Thassi looked after them with a greasy smirk. “Amateurs.”

“Shall I call them back?” Shgaem asked. Thassi shook her head.

“Let them go. It’ll buy our new friends time to make their decision.”

The first soldier reached Egami and howled in glee as he swung his blade at the small woman. Egami leapt to the right as the broadsword flashed by. Her own boot shot out, slamming into the man’s kneecap in a brutal kick that shattered the patella, eliciting a scream of agony as the hobbled man fell to the earth. Another kick to the jaw silenced him as Egami levelled her sword at the other two.

They approached more cautiously, the man with the flail in front with the pikeman bringing up the rear. Their practised movements spoke of them having fought in tandem before, making them exceedingly difficult for a single combatant. Again and again Egami dodged the whirling ball of spikes, not bothering to parry as the heavy weapon would shatter her straight sword. She dove to the right, tucking into an easy roll as she avoided the flail. However, the roll brought her into the pikeman’s range. He jabbed the spear towards her neck, not realising that he was not the only one with a partner.

A large black paw batted the spear aside. Nieka roared as he sprang at the defensless soldier. The crunch of bones was audible as the man fell back under the weight of the snarling beast, and his scream drowned it out as fangs slid under his neck and opened his throat. Nieka shook him hard, like he was worrying at a toy. Bits of blood and gouts of gore sprayed across the dirt road as the flail-man flinched, unnerved by Nieka’s sudden appearance.

Suddenly, Egami was there under his guard. Her sword lashed out, punching through his shoulder where the armour was thinnest. The flail fell from limp, useless fingers as the guard’s shout of pain was reduced to a gurgle as Egami rammed her sword through his throat. His blood then mixed with his friend’s as he fell.

Egami withdrew her sword and flicked it to rid the blade of blood and began to turn and face Thassi again. Before she could, she was knocked off her feet. Blood sprayed from her left shoulder as she collapsed to the ground in a heap. Nieka howled as she struggled to raise herself on one arm. One shaking hand went to the wound, and her eyes widened when her quivering fingers felt a needle of dark energy protruding from the mangled flesh. She turned her head, knowing what she would see, even though she did not desire to believe it.

Devotchka and Parma stood side by side in front of her. The lance of dark energy that Devotchka had put through her shoulder was still connected to her finger, fading away as the sorceress again gathered her power to her. Parma stood next to her, her sword and shield out and hanging loosely from her fighter’s arms. Both women wore masks of careful neutrality.

“I see they’ve come to a decision,” Thassi squealed in delight.

Jaim’s eyes flashed. Vahlmorn gritted his teeth and started forward, but his shoulder was grasped by a firm, feminine hand. Tears rolled uninhibited down Yommie’s cheeks, but she shook her head firmly. Vahlmorn’s eyes widened and his jaw became set. Yommie’s hand tightened. Vahlmorn’s slight frame practically radiated anger, but he nodded tersely.

Egami struggled to her feet, her left arm hanging loosely by her side. Blood dripped from her fingertips as she brought her sword to bear, levelling the shaking blade at her onetime guild-mates. She laughed bitterly, locking eyes with Devotchka.

“That’ll be the last time you get me from behind, I’ll wager.”

For once, Devotchka’s eyes were devoid of the humour that defined her as a person. He gaze were solemn and her tone serious. Her retort was a whisper. “You never did like it.”

Egami shook her head. A solitary tear ran down the Tamer’s cheek. “Denryo would never have wanted this.”

“He is not here. He hasn’t been here for two months.” Devotchka raised a hand. “I have no choice.” Dark power sprouted from her fingertips as she levelled her abilities at her crippled friend.

Parma’s sword suddenly appeared in front of Devotchka. “No.” The Valkyrie used the flat of her blade to gently guide Devotchka back a few steps. “It will be me who does it. It has to be me.”

Devotchka did not reply. Instead, she shared a last look with Egami, before turning on her heel and returning to where the other former Velkans stood. She stood with her back turned, facing the village. Thassi giggled at the sorceress and her unwillingness to watch. Vahlmorn’s eyes flicked to her and his hatred was almost tangible.

Parma raised her sword and pointed it at Egami. “Do you want Nieka to be a part of this?”

Egami shook her head. “No. He should not die for my choices.” She smiled. “Thank you for giving me the chance.”

The tamer turned to her oldest friend and grasped his head. Scratching Nieka behind the ears, she whispered into his ears. The huge animal immediately barked in distress, but Egami’s hand was firm. The barking turned to a tortured whine as Egami threw her arms around him, hugging him tight. She stood like that for a long moment.

“Come on, get on with it! We have plans!” Thassi screeched.

Egami released Nieka and gestured with her hand. The avatar of Heilang gave a long, mournful howl, before finally vanishing. Egami turned back to Parma, wiping rivulets of tears from her face. She retrieved her sword, and levelled it at Parma with her good hand.

“I am ready.”

“Egami, I am begging you,” Parma pleaded. “Do not make me do this…”

“I am sorry, Parma,” Egami replied simply. “This is who I am. I will not change.”

Parma hung her head. “So be it. Good luck.” The Valkyrie raised her weapons and charged.

Even with one arm, Egami’s speed made the fight even for some time. She danced around the slower warrior, raining lightning-fast blows down upon her again and again. Only Parma’s armour and her knowledge of Egami’s fighting style prevented injury as the Tamer jumped, ducked, twisted and rolled, always finding ways past the swinging sword and shield. One strike even managed to nick Parma’s cheek, drawing a small line of blood across her stern features.

Gradually, though, the experience of the seasoned warrior began to win out. Parma began to anticipate Egami’s attacks, getting a sense for her friend’s rhythm. Her shield began to move in concert with the agile woman and her sword came closer and closer to meeting flesh. The former Velkans and Ecrilian soldiers fell silent as the duel went on, watching the battle in mute admiration. Even Thassi was quiet.

It was a miscalculation from Egami that brought about her downfall. Her left shoulder was a white-hot stab of pain as she thrust blindly after a roll. Parma was ready for her, and the Valkyrie’s shield slammed down on Egami’s slender blade, driving it to the ground and snapping it at the hilt. Egami’s right shoulder was wrenched from its socket from the force of the shield’s blow and she fell to her knees. Parma spun and slammed the hilt of her sword into the tamer’s chest, shattering ribs and knocking her to the earth. Blood spurted from Egami’s open mouth as she struggled to breath on her back in the dirt. Even as she lay there, her ruined arm was raised slightly, her fingers creeping across the ground towards her broken sword. Parma’s booted foot kicked the ruined weapon away and she stood over the prone Tamer.

“It is done!” Thassi cried. “Finish it!”

"Egami..." Parma raised her sword, staring down at her friend. Tears began to roll down her cheeks, some striking Egami’s heaving chest. Her voice strained. “Please…

Egami smiled with bloodstained teeth. “I forgive you.”

She turned her head with effort, leveling misty eyes on her friends. Jaim’s hand was so tight around his axe hilt that his knuckles were white. Yommie’s body was wracked with sobs. Devotchka was still facing the other way, her shoulders shaking. Vahmorn stood as stoically as he could, but his rage seemed to envelop any who stood near him.

Egami’s voice was gurgling, but surprisingly clear. “I forgive all of you. Live well. Find her.”

Egami Kalimaru took one last look at Parma, and shut her eyes. “Do it.”

Parma’s voice was a whisper. “I am so sorry…

Her sword came down.

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Post  Mammona on Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:51 am


Vahlmorn’s voice was soaked in anguish. He sat on a small wooden bench, his head in his hands. His eyes were screwed shut and tears seeped to the ground. Yommie sat next to him, her face numb with shock. Her tears had stopped a few moments earlier, to be replaced by an almost statuesque silence. Devotchka paced in front of them, the tall woman’s raven hair bouncing angrily as she paced like a caged lion. Jaim stood nearby, his own eyes far away as he looked out of Floren’s gate, towards the woods where they had last seen Parma.

Parma had refused to let any of the other Ecrilians touch Egami’s body. Thassi had screeched about disposal and selling weaponry, but Parma’s resolute gaze had prevented her minions from stepping forward to do her bidding. In the end, Shgaem had intervened, calming Thassi and allowing Parma the rights to a proper burial. The Valkyrie had called the other former Velkans to stand over their onetime guild-mate, and each had said their goodbyes. Parma had then carried Egami’s body off on her horse, disappearing into the woods to bury her. The others had not protested, knowing that the Tamer would have wanted nothing more than to be laid to rest in the forest that she had loved.

“Why?” Vahlmorn repeated, springing to his feet. “Why did she refuse?”

“Because she wanted to,” Devotchka replied without halting her pacing.

Vahlmorn’s angry look intensified. “Can you be serious for just one damn moment?!”

Devotchka spun and glared at the young Musa. Her mouth opened, but it was Jaim who spoke.

“Devotchka is being serious,” Jaim said quietly. “Egami made her choice because she wanted to. It seems that dying free was a better outcome to her than living as an Ecrilian.”

The giant warrior lowered himself heavily on to the bench next to Vahlmorn. “Egami made her choice. So did we. We have to respect that, and honor her memory.”

Vahlmorn nodded sadly. “We will. Every single day.”

The rustle of armour and the sound of hooves caused all of them to turn. Parma rode through the gates of Floren. She was covered in dirt, her hair matted and scraped back. She dismounted, joining her friends. Her eyes were downcast and her voice was quiet.

“I laid her under a tree in a clearing not too far from here.” Parma sighed. “It’s near the ruins we were at a few months ago.”

Jaim nodded. “A fitting place. And fitting it should be you do bury her.” The giant stood and rested a hand on Parma’s shoulder. “Do not blame yourself.”

Parma twisted out from under his grip. “How could I not? I was the one who struck the killing blow.”

Yommie looked up. “You could have refused. Why didn’t you?”

A solitary tear rolled down Parma’s cheek. “Because it couldn’t have been any of you.”

Yommie began to reply when a shrill shriek heralded the arrival of Thassi. The rotund woman was flanked with four guards, each of them young men with a suspicious lack of modesty about their armour. Her beaklike mouth was working furiously.

“Why so sad? You’ve just joined the most powerful guild in the land! Rejoice!”

“We thank you for the opportunity,” Parma said through gritted teeth before the others could retort.

Thassi began to speak again, but Shgaem appeared from behind her, cutting her off. “You must be tired. Your tent has been prepared. Come. I will show you to it and the washing quarter. Clean yourselves, rest and be ready for our guild meeting tomorrow at sun-up.”

Thassi leered at Vahlmorn. “Make sure you get yourself nice and clean, little bird.”

The Musa raised an eyebrow. “Little bird?”

Thassi gestured to her young, near-naked companions. “These are my little birds. Play your cards right, and you could be one too.”

Shgaem cleared his throat. “Come.”

Soon, the former Velkans were sitting in a large tent upon small straw pallets. The tent was big enough to hold all of them, albeit barely. Jaim had to stoop if he stood. He shook his head as Shgaem and Thassi departed, with the fat woman winking once more at Vahlmorn.

The young Musa shuddered. “How does that woman run a successful guild?”

Jaim sighed. “Fear would be my guess. I have heard she is a highly skilled warrior.”

Devotchka snorted. “Maybe, but seems a bit bottom-heavy in the brains department.” She slapped her own behind. “And I do mean bottom-heavy.”

“Shgaem is the real threat here,” Parma stated flatly as she put aside her weapons. “He has been sizing us up since the moment we got here.”

“You don’t think he trusts us?” Yommie asked. “Even after…” Her voice trailed off with fresh tears.

“I do not,” Parma said flatly. “His type never trusts.”

“Then we need to change that if we are to succeed as Ecrilians,” Jaim replied. “We start tomorrow. For now, get some sleep.”

Vahlmorn, Yommie and Devotchka all lay down on their pallets, but Parma stood instead. She moved to the flap of the tent, staring out into the night skies. Yommie raised herself on one elbow, staring after the Valkyrie.

“Parma, you’re not sleeping?”

“No, Yommie.” Parma said without turning around. Her voice shook with contained emotion. “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping for a long time…”

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