What Is Useful, What Is Needed

On the edge of a small dirt town a small boy stood staring into the back of a wandering cart that had made base just out of his little town. The man who owned the cart was bartering goods from it, selling off food, seeds, lines of cloth, and most importantly books. After the hordes of men and woman had finished their dealings, the man took a moment to crouch down by the boy, staring into his eyes he watched the glint from the arching sun in the sky. “What does your eye see boy?” The boy looked over to the back of the cart, scouring its contents from his low angle, only able to see what laid at the edge, his brow furrowed and he walked up to the cart clambering inside the seller wandered over to see what he was doing. The kid carefully stepped between things his eyes softened and his interest started to wane. “Is this really all you have?” A distinct distain in his voice. The seller laughed to himself, looking at his feet he cleared his throat and looked back up to the kid with one final sigh. “Do you not see, anything, worth your time?” Heas scrunched up their nose as they started to move things with their foot as their interest was fading. “Your stuff sucks this time.” “Your townsfolk seem to think otherwise, they bought a lot off of me this trip.” “Well that is because they bought the things that they need, not the things that are useful.” “I would say food is very useful product.” “Nope, food is needed, it is not useful.” “How do you get to that conclusion?” The seller laughed. “Because, if you don’t have what you need you die, if don’t have what is useful, you can’t live.” Heas started to search with a new vigour, moving everything around the cart he searched. The seller was stood back with his eyes open wide, he muttered under his breath. “That is, actually great. I might steal that.” “You have to pay if you want my words.” The seller looked up to see Heas staring at him with his hand out, expecting a coin. “You know what? I can do you one better.” The seller walked past his cart and walked up to the side of his pack animal. He stuck his hand in the pouch on her side and pulled out a book. By the time he turned Heas was already as his feet, looking up with anticipation. The seller knelt down and presented the book to Heas, but not handing it over. Heas ran his finger over the ornate cover of the book, tracing the intricate ridges his eyes were alight. “Now, I need you to listen up Heas.” The seller watched Heas staring at the book, so he tucked it away, bringing Heas’ eyeline to his own. “You need to listen Heas, this book is worth more than this town to the right people, but to a common idiot it is worth the sum of the components and labour it took to make it.” “What is it?” “It is a book about an ancient language. Not only will it teach you how to speak, and write in this language, but understand the culture of who they were.” “Why is it worth so much? We have lots of books like this.” The seller smiled, he kicked out his feet and sat flat on the ground. “Do you know how magic works?” Heas shook his head. “My family say that magic is a crutch for people who are too weak to actually survive in the world.” “I think your family are very stupid, and are afraid of the power of magic.” “Magic is for weak book nerds, so I am going to be a fighter, big and strong.” Heas said flexing his tiny arms. The seller laughed, pulling the book out again. “The way that magic works, is by pulling the meaning of words from a culture, and imbuing them with your very energy to cast spells. Being a spell caster requires a lot of fitness until you are able to make your own source of mana. But you don’t need to worry about that right now.” Heas scrunched up his face, pushing his lips together they puffed out a little. “So, you are saying that magic is for strong, and smart people?” “That is exactly what I am saying Heas.” “And fighters are just strong, and not smart?” “Umm, not really. They are smart and strong too, but the difference is that someone who can cast spells can change the tide of a battle. But it does not matter how good of a fighter you are, you will only ever be one man. With magic you can be so much more, you can harness the power of culture, which is like having hundreds of lives helping you fight.” Heas’ eyes lit up a little, but he was still not sold. “But if I am studying to know things from the book, I can’t work out to get strong.” “Yes you can.” The seller dropped the book on the ground and started to do push ups in front of it. “You can do this, if you find a way to hold it up higher you could practive punching, and sword swings, or even crunches. You can do so many exercises with a book. When you get good at reading you can even run while reading.” “I am good at reading.” Heas said with a huff. “I know you are my small friend. So here is what I am going to do, put your hand out.” Heas put his hand out, and the seller put a single gold coin in it. “Now, do you want this book?” Heas nodded slowly and smiled. “Okay, now my question to you, are you a common idiot?” “NO!!” Heas said, gripping his coin he slammed his fist down. “Listen carefully, if you are really as smart as you say you are you will get this.” Heas focused, but he was still mad that he was asked if he was stupid. “Are you ready?” Heas nodded. “If you don’t know how to fight, you die, if you don’t know how to cast magic you can’t live.” Heas’ eyes rested from their angry glare, his eyes looking up and to the right. “Now I ask you again, are you a common idiot?” “No?” He said, unsure. “Then in which case, if you want this book. It is a hundred, thousand gold.” “Yes!” Heas said hastily. “I did not get what you said, I am so dumb. Can I please buy your book?” “Oh, I didn’t realise that you were a common idiot, in which case, it is one gold coin.” Heas paused, then thrusted his hand out with the coin in it. The seller took the coin and with a grin, he handed over the book. “When I come back around, I expect you to be able to cast magic. Take very good care of this book, a smart boy like you will understand its true worth. I believe in you Heas. I believe you will be taking over the world someday.” Seasons came and went then came again, many times. Finally during the cold months the seller fought his way through the snow, leading his animal he pulled the reins from the front to lead his reluctant animal. But he could see the lights of Heas’ town burning in the night. His breath was thick and visible, and each time he inhaled it would cold burn his throat. He paused for a moment as he struggled to get his breath back. Before he moved on, his beast bellowed and pulled against his reins, the seller struggled to contain him as he felt the snow around his waist melt away. Turning back around he saw a shrouded young man standing in front of him with his hand raised out, steaming pouring off of his body. The seller was too tired to grasp who he was looking at, all he was thinking was that he was thankful for the help. After struggling with his beast he made his way up to the young man, removing his own hood he spoke. “Thanks friend, did not think I would see a magic user here, this small town aint one for the likes.” “That would be the case if wasn’t for you.” Heas removed his hood to reveal his aged face, and the seller grinned uncontrollably, he touched Heas’ face examining him carefully. “You have grown so much Heas, it has been far too long since I have seen you.” The seller paused for a moment and squinted. “You look tired, no exhausted, but somehow worse.” Heas sighed heavily pulling the book from his robes. “I have many things to tell you about the time that has happened in-between now and when you left. Come, let’s get you into the inn.” Heas lead the seller through the town, Heas was radiating a warmth that brought a semblance of life back to the seller, if only a little. As they walked through the town the seller watched as others seemed to turn their head from them as they moved through the town centre. “Is there a reason I am getting the dirty eye from these others?” The seller whispered over Heas’ shoulder. “It is not you, it is me.” There was a long pause, and the seller was about to break it but decided to hold his tongue, knowing that he would get his answers soon enough. With his goods stowed, and his animal looked after Heas and the seller sat in the inn, sitting by a dim candle light in the small room that was rented. “All right, let’s here it boy. What has happened?” Heas sat on a small chair in the room pinching the bridge of his nose he sighed, and scrunched up his face. “There has been so much, and honestly it is why I am leaving, I was actually walking out when you arrived.”  “Is this because of the book?” “This is because of things this book has enabled me to do.” The seller nodded and leant forward from his sitting position on the bed. “Don’t let me hold you back, let me know everything you want me to know.” “As you can tell, I look older than I am. I have aged visually much faster, probably because of the fact I have not slept in nearly two years.” The sellers eyes widened just before he looked down to the book in Heas’ possession. “I am so sorry I have given you this burden.” The seller said as they took in how haggard Heas was. Heas’ face did not change, but tears started to roll down his cheeks. “I appreciate your concern, but if I had the option to go back in time and change things, I wouldn’t. I could never give up what I have been given. While I have misused my power, I can bring the balance back, but I have learnt so much from the abuse that I will never regret it.” Heas adjusted themselves in their seat, sitting in a more relaxed position. “Once you left, I ran straight back to my home. I packed a few things, and headed out to the woods where I started practicing. I studied this book cover to cover several times before I even attempted to practice magic. It only took a week to do this, and by the time I was prepared to cast magic from it I had an in-depth understanding of this culture, so the spells flowed from me. Despite doing as you said, I would quickly run out of energy to cast spells, only being able to cast two to three spells an hour, and they were not complicated spells, very simple ones, very beginner friendly. So I spent …

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Anderstine’s Forest

All through the Eterna-verse are Deities, worlds, stars, and things the mortal minds have yet to discover to be possibilities. On one small planet, in a deep seeded wood, hidden far away in a mountain range a lone individual resided in a small cabin home. His hands were wrapped with bandages, his face and arms were covered in scars and fresh cuts, ranging from small to cavernous. His eyes a vibrant blue that contrasted against his pale skin. Despite living outside his entire life, the thick canopy of the woods would not let any light in. He lived in harmony with the nature, he was the only one who could wander the woods without fear, the other animals respected him, because he respected them. The creatures of the dark wood had an image to match their homes name. They were dark, harsh, and hostile. They were beyond animalistic, they behaved on a base primordial level, everything happened for the sake of harmony, desires and wants had nothing to do with it, and the man in the woods knew this. He knew that as the only human in the woods he would be safe from the chaos of death providing he did not upset the balance around him. He would wander the woods, scavenging the remains of the fallen creatures, using their parts to create things to sell to those who lived near the woods. The man wondered from the woods, a large sac was slung over his shoulder as he emerged from the shade of the tree canopy, and into the moonlight. His skin started to glow faintly as his pale skin reflected the moons light back into the open air. His footsteps were light, and he created almost no noise as he approached the gates of his local town. The guards looked down, they were familiar with his pale glow, and yet they stood still as the man stood, waiting to be let in. The captain of the guard stared down at him and tightened the grip on his spear. “You know there are other towns around here, we don’t need your filth in here Anderstine.” Anderstine looked up, his eyes practically glowing in comparison to the dark brown eyes of the inhabitants of the town. He spoke, softly, almost like a whisper that could be heard from the top of the wall. “I am here to sell my goods, nothing else.” “It had been a while, I was hoping that the monsters of the woods had finally come to their senses and eaten you. Like how they eat all of us who wander too close.” “Stop wandering so close then.” “Tell me.” The captain said as he leant of the edge of the wall. “How is it you are the only human that can walk those woods without dying?” “Because I don’t fear them, or death.” The captain of the guard stared down unblinking as Anderstine looked up the same. Their stare was ended as one of the other guards grabbed the captain. “Sir, you remember what happened to the last guy who denied Adnerstine entrance? The mayor was furious. He got put on woods duty.” The captain of the guard scowled as he reluctantly leant back. “Open the gate, but keep every eye on that beast. I don’t believe for a second that he is a mere trader, or human.” The gates slowly began to open and Anderstine lowered his gaze, walking calmly into the town. Eyes followed him where he went, his silence was recognised, and his appearance unmistakable. For every keen eye from the guards that laid upon Anderstine, there were ten eyes avoiding him from the locals. But by the time he reached the centre of town news of his arrival had already spread to the local tradesmen, and Anderstine was surrounded by a small group of people wandering what is in his bag. He took his position on the auctioneer stand, with one arm he lifted his bag onto the table that was set next to him, and the wood bowed under the weight. He pulled out the first item and the auction began. While the traders made their bets, others watched from afar, some looked on with horror as large insect parts, and bones of strange animals were pulled from the bag. Others marvelled at the parts of the unknown things that laid within the forest. Animal parts, plants, precious gem stones, and strange mechanical devices were pulled methodically from the bag, each one sold off to the highest bidder. The bag emptied slower than it should have, and by the end of the auction it was full once again with the coin of the townsfolk, Anderstine put down his 10% tax into the hand of the auction house runner and quietly moved back towards the gate of the town. Before he could reach the gates a small group of well-armed individuals approached him. “Please, Anderstine. Can we have a moment?” Anderstine turned around to see the face of four determined looking souls, well armoured, and with stern faces. “We want you to lead us into the woods, we desire to see what you have seen. We understand you must be under some kind of magical protection, so we have armoured ourselves as best as we can and, sir… please, no, wait.” Anderstine walked off as the man was trying to talk to him. “Trust me, no amount of armour will save you from what is in there. You can follow, but you will die.” The group started to follow, but the towns guards stepped in the way. “You follow that thing, and you will die. Nothing other than it, and the other monsters of that wood can enter, or leave. The rest of us, we are a meal.” The small combatant group lowered their weapons as the watched Anderstine disappear behind the closing gates. Anderstine walked calmly back down the winding mountain path, heading down every left turn he wound up at the edge of the forest stopping just shy of the tree line, behind him he could hear the sound of creaking wood, and strained horse hair. “Drop the bag, and keep walking freak. I won’t let you rob my town.” Anderstine turned to see the guard captain with a bow drawn. “Your mayor is going to be furious, you might find yourself on wood duty if you are not careful.” “Don’t threaten me freak, I don’t know what you are, but I know you are not human. So leave human gold behind, and go back to your woods.” “I earnt this fair and square, they paid what they wanted, this is my property, as a guard, I assumed you would be around to protect me and my property.” “I protect those who live on lord Barres land.” “I am a resident of Lord Barres.” Anderstine interjected. “My cabin is apart of his territory, that is why I have rights to trade in his town. You are sworn to protect me.” The captain of the guard lowered his bow slightly, but grinned as he did so. “No one expects you to come out of these woods, each time you come it may be expected, but if you don’t return, no one would be surprised.” The captain raised his bow again and took aim. “There won’t be a body to find, I am sure the woods will consume you.” Anderstine smiled, he dropped the bag and sat on the ground with his legs crossed. “I am a pacifist.” “What does that matter now?” The captain asked. “That is the answer to your question.” “What question?” “The one you asked at the gate, how I survive in the words where all else have failed before me.” “Are you saying you have never killed anything?” “No, just I never kill the things in the forest, we have an understanding. I am a scavenger in the woods, I take out the trash, then I sell it to you all, then I can return with your coin, and store it where it is needed.” “And where exactly is it needed?” “In the dirt, a shiny mountain of bronze, silver, and gold. Upon it rests an ancient being that consumes them for nutrients, without me it will have no food, and it will be forced to look else where to eat. Places with metal, places such as your town.” “I am not buying it, you are clearly making this up as you go, trying to find an out from meeting my arrow. But I am done with talking.” The captain let his arrow loose, setting it into the far right side of Anderstines chest. The force of the blow put him on his back, and set him in place to start sprinting. The captain nocked another arrow and set it into Anderstine’s leg, but still he ran towards the woods. “That is right, run you best. I’d like to see you survive with those injuries in the woods. Come back again and I will put you into the dirt.” Anderstine disappeared into the darkness of the woods, collapsing behind a fallen tree log, just out of the captain’s view. He prepared another arrow, and started to walk towards the woods, approaching the tree line he tried to get a better view of where Anderstine fell, in hopes of putting an arrow through his skull. But with every step beyond the first tree he could feel his heart in his throat, and the air begin to cool. “It is just a wood, only a short jot in.” The captain said to himself as he looked around. “Run in and finish it, run out.” He repeated over and over again, building up the courage to step further in. Just as his feet found steady footing, and his muscles begain to function he heard a chittering, followed by rapid, rhythmic thumping. Looking past where Anderstine fell he could see eight eyes staring back at him, red, and glowing faintly in the darkness of the wood. “I’ll let the woods consume you, my job here is done.” The captain ran from the woods, grabbing the bag in one arm he felt it drag into the dirt, dropping his bow he used both arms and hauled it onto his shoulder before running off back to town. The town carried on as normal, and with each passing month that Anderstine did not return, the captain began to feel at ease. Resting in his bed he sighed each night as his skin was wrapped in silken sheets wrapped over the softest mattress of down. Each night he would sleep like a baby, waking for nothing. Until one night he heard the creaking of wood, and the snapping of tree branches, dragging him from he blissful sleep he sluggishly woke up, then rapidly when he saw the eyes of Anderstine sighting across from him, his pale white skin and the glow of the moon on his back as he sat with his back facing the window. The captains hand was already on a knife he kept next to his bed. “Rest assured captain, I am still a pacifist, you will suffer no harm from me.” Anderstine whispered. The captain sat up, still holding onto the knife. “No offence, but I don’t believe you just came back to chat.” “Well that is true, but I have not come here to hurt you either.” “So what are you here for?” “To tell you that I am taking the time from you, that you took from me.” The captain stood from his bed, his knife in hand. “That sounds like a threat.” “No captain, you have threatened me before. I am informing you of your situation. You left me for dead, with a slim chance of survival. So I am doing the same. I have moved your home, by my estimate it should take you the same time it took me to heal for you to make …

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The Journey

Soft clouds drifted lazily across the blue sky, tall mountains in the background cut shapes into the horizon with its dark stone and snowy peaks. At the base of the mountains a strong river flowed from melted snow, winding its way down, and past a small country town that sat in an open plain. The river curved around the edge of the town in a way that forced those wanting to go west over a bridge that has stood longer than the town itself. It had strong stone pillars, and arches that were perfect, both in presentation, and in the ability to withstand the water swells that would happen yearly during the days that followed the winters. The open fields surrounding the town had tall, green, grasses that crooked at the ends, and during the summers as the grass started to brown, a strange summer weed would emerge with tall dark stems that grew clusters of flowers that started yellow at the base and slowly became red the higher they grew. This gave the area its iconic name, the fields of fire. This summer there was a convoy that was heading out of the town, those within the small walls of the town watched as the imperial carriages cut through the landscape, their pristine white carriage tops were being towed by large dark steeds that looked as if they were made for the gods. Everyone inside the walls were packing their things and getting ready to depart near the opening of the town. But at the back of the town was one family getting ready in a different way. Instead of laying their bags onto the hard dirt, waiting to be picked up by the imperial carriages, they put their belonging into the back of a small cart. The wood creaked as each item was placed upon it, the wooden panelling was cracked, warped, and rotting in parts, the wheels were slightly different sizes giving the cart a distinct wobble as it went, and at the head was the family steed, a tired, yet determined looking mule with a faded black coat that had started to go white at the ends. The Father and son rushed from house to cart loading everything they needed for the journey, food, clothes, bedding, and weapons were all loaded into the back. The father clapped and rubbed his hands together vigorously as he chuckled to himself. “All right, are you ready to go?” The son tucked away the last of his belongings and stood up, stretching his back as he went. “Yeah I think so, I have everything I need I am pretty sure.” He put his hands on his hips and looked down to his father, giving him a thumbs up. “But we should probably wait for everyone to load into the imperial carriages, I don’t know if there will be room to go around us on the road, and I don’t really want to be holding them up.” The father laughed as he climbed onto the riding bench of the cart. “Don’t be such a wimp, if old Gerty here can walk through the fire fields off road, I am sure those big imperial carriages will be fine.” The son winced slightly at the notion of holding up the kings carriages, but it was not on him when his father decided to leave, so he slumped down in the back and pulled out a book as his father gently tapped Gerty on the rear and she started to pull the rickety cart. The town itself was rustic, and each building had its own unique flair, but even so, everyone always laughed when they saw the father driving through town. “Give up on that old cart you fool, the king is paying us to evacuate, why bring that old beast and dying cart?” “You wouldn’t understand, I have a lot of love for Ol’ Gerty here, and her cart. They are family at this point.” “You can’t have family with a cart, or have the nights gotten that lonely since your wife left to work in the city?” “Shove off, your just jealous. Besides I’ll see the woman soon enough. You lot will never understand.” The fathers son laughed in the back as he was gently shaken around, struggling to read on the patches of road that were particularly worn. The father continued to suffer ribbings from his friends as he made his way to the western side of town, trying his best to convince people of the journey. Eventually one of his friends jumped onto the other side of drivers bench for the cart and gently patted Gerty on the back. “I can’t believe this old thing is still kicking.” “Oh she can kick still, my eldest here found that out the other day. Could have sworn that the leg broke when it happened.” The Father laughed as he son lifted up his pant leg to reveal welt. “Yeah, Gerty may be old, but her kicks don’t feel it.” The father looked over to his friend as the man was grimacing at the bruising on the sons leg. “So, you going to tell me I shouldn’t be doing this too?” “Actually no, I was going to say I look forward to hearing from you on the other end, I imagine it will be quite the journey.” The Father looked shocked for a moment before leaning in slightly. “But….” “But.” His friend added. “You know that this is going to add about two weeks to the journey right? That is a long time to keep your wife waiting.” “Oh she will be fine, she actually sent a letter with one of her birds the other day encouraging me. I swear if it wasn’t for her, I would be much more sensible.” “Well we wouldn’t want that.” The friend said with a smile. “What about your other two? Where are they these days?” “Well they are off in other towns, but they are meeting us where we are stopping this evening. I mean my eldest here is off with his wife elsewhere usually. But none of my kids could pass up the chance for this journey. So clearly some people appreciate it.” “Oh they don’t count, you have clearly brain washed them.” “Nonsense, they just trust me when I tell them things, so I told them this would be fun, and soon we shall all be back together again.” “I have a distinct memory of you enlisting the help of your youngest to herd cattle, and you nearly killed him because he refused to move even when the cattle charged, because his dad said it would be fun.” “Why does everyone keep bringing that up? I said he would be fine, and he was. Even if I did think that he was about to depart this world when the cattle got spooked. But he is still alive, and now he gets to come on this journey with me. So I see nothing wrong.” The Father laughed with a hint of guilt behind his eyes as he talked about the near miss that nearly took his youngest sons life. “What ever you say you mad man. Please find us on the other end, we would love to hear this story.” “You along with everyone else. You all mock us, but we are the ones telling the stories that people are listening to, and sharing with others.” The friend smiled, and gave the Father a handshake before hoping off the cart and leaving him to his journey. The Father was brimming with the confidence of a new day, he smiled ear to ear as he continued to be heckled and laughed at by his friends, and fellow townsfolk. As he approached the western gates the imperial convoy was scattered among the crowds of people and the guards were all helping load the townsfolks belongings, one of them stopped and nudged one next to them. “What is that?” “That is a road block on wheels, that grinning idiot is either going to stall the whole convoy, or the entire convoy is going to have to go off the path to pass him. Either way, I don’t like that man, or his stupid grin.” The father looked over and accidently locked eyes with the imperial guards that had just been insulting them, so he smiled even wider and waved. Reflectively they waved back with fake grins, and a look of confusion. The Father turned back to the front of the cart and watched as Gerty passed through the town gates. “Here we go son, the journey starts now.” The son raised a fist without looking up from his book and cheered. “Adventure.” He shouted, lowering his fist he licked his thumb and turned the page. The small cart took to the bridge slowly, Gerty’s hooves slipped on the stone from time to time, and moving became a crawl. Some of the townsfolk walked past the cart heading in the same direction. The father waved at them as they laughed to one another. “Poor lass is doing her best isn’t she?” They asked him. “Yeah she is, maybe I should kick my eldest here out to give it a little push. Save Gerty a little energy.” The people walking next to them waved, and patted Gerty on the head as they walked past, whispering to her as they went. “Almost there old girl, I hope you are not going too far.” While it was obvious that Gerty was straining, she did not shy away from the work, her eyes were focused, her form was perfect, and as they reached the crest of the bridge, she could feel the weight of the cart shifting in her favour and she was able to rest. The father patted her on the back as she chugged along the flat top. “Okay beautiful, take it easy on the way down, slow and steady.” Gerty shook her straggly mane of hair and snorted, her skin twitching as the local flies landed on her. Coming down the far side of the bridge was just as awkward as the way up, Gerty was slow, but still slipped on the occasional tile and there was a short moment where she nearly let the cart run her over, but she managed to keep her footing well enough and they safely made it to the bottom, and they were on their way. The fields of fire were in full bloom, but even a blind person could tell with the heat that was beating down over them. The father had rested a small cloth over his head to keep his neck and face guarded, while his eldest son had himself nestled under crates that were propped upon one another to create a shaded cavity for him to read in. The two of them headed down the road, leaving the hustle of the imperial carts behind. The father had a map laid next to him with hand drawn markings all along the path they were to take. He smiled as he took in a deep breath of air, exhaling he rested into the nook of the seat, content, and ready for the journey ahead.

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Kindness Is Not Weakness

A small cart was pulled down an idyllic countryside road, the grass flats surrounding the cart were lush, vibrant, and spotted with flowers of all colours. The trees nearby bore fruit, adding a sweet scent to the air, and the distant hills adds shape to the horizon, allowing for the golden rays of the morning sun to creep through, creating strong beams of light. At the end of one of these light beams was a man holding the reigns to a small donkey that pulled his cart. The light rested upon his chest as the ambient light filled the wrinkles on his face so no shadow could hide, giving him a more youthful look that better represented how the man felt. Although his body had aged, his muscles not what they used to be, but still strong with the endurance of a hard life hidden beneath every callous, and every scar. The man chewed on fresh seeds as he made his way to town, down the road he spied three individuals walking towards him, he smiled, waving his hand he called out. “Good morning!” The sun started to pick up heat as it rose into the sky, no longer caressing Dolor lovingly, now attacking it like a child jabbing the side of a nearby adult, trying to grab its attention. Down below in the grass laid the body of an old man, and the seeds that he chewed upon. Standing on the cart were four individuals that sifted their hands through the seed that lay in the back of the cart. A stout Dwarf leant against the cart with his staff in hand as he watched his partner, a satyr searched the pockets of the old man. Meanwhile an elf woman was pulling fistful of seeds from the bags and screaming in frustration as her partner sat where the old man sat, a human, he took in a deep breath and raised his arms to the sky to welcome the rays of the sun. “It truly is a good morning.” He said as he let out a deep sigh. “Travis, I swear to the divine, if you don’t do anything to help, I will goddam cut you.” Said the elvish woman as she continued her frantic searching. “Calm down my love, we got stitched for information. The guy who dropped the hint is probably far out of town by now.” “Don’t call me love.” She said with a swiftly drawn knife pointed at him. “I will add more scars to that lump of flesh you call a body.” “You need to calm her down Travis, you know how Val’ea gets when she thinks there are magic items around.” The dwarf said as he moved away from the cart. “You wanna be next Gorn?” Her eyes darted between the two of them as the knife danced gently in her hand. “Gorn will you please relive my beautiful partner of her anxiety?” Travis asked as he looked to Gorn. Gorn sighed, he raised his staff and cast a simple spell which seemed to have no effect. “Sorry love, but the fact we aint seeing anything sparkle means this was a stitch up. No hidden magic items here.” Travis said as he smiled to Val’ea. Val’ea’s eyes calmed down and her breathing slowed. She seemed to freeze for a moment before taking a more relaxed stance. “I am sorry, you know how I get when I get the urge. I do hate my ancestry some times.” “I don’t.” Travis said as he grabbed Val’ea around the waist. “You Elves know how to have a good time.” Travis and Val’ea laughed softly before gropping one another and making out in the back of the cart. Gorn looked to his partner as she was looking up at the other two with a face of disgust. “Shae, find anything on the old man?” “Nothing, well unless you include the small pouch of coin he had.” “Does it cover the cost of the tip?” Gorn asked genuinely. Shae counted the coins, juggling the pouch occasionally as she went. “Maybe. I mean like, close enough if you ask me. Plus, now we have a cart filled with seeds, so that is a thing I guess.” “Oi you two, quit it. We been stitched up, what are we going to do now?” Gorn called out as he stood next to Shae. Travis pulled back from Vae’ea and looked around as he licked his lips. “How about we go forest, trade the seeds with the local Cappy, get what we can from them in the way of healing items, then use them and our ability to murder to take whatever they have left?” Everyone looked to one another, then with a short, and sharp laugh they all hopped into the cart and whipped at the donkey that strained to take them off road, and towards the sparse forest on the outskirts of the town. Meanwhile in the deep of the forest the small tribe of Cappies were still sluggish from only just waking up. The forest gave them a fine shelter from the bulk of the sun that tried to get through to them. Instead of the harsh lines, they got soft beams that were controlled by the leaves on the swaying branches of the still trees. The light gave a comforting warmth, while the cool breeze that rolled between the trees stopped them from overheating. The slow river that ran through their forest gave them ample space for growing their food, and some of the ingredients that they need in making their medicinal agents. Those they can’t grow, they find arriving by the animals they have befriended to aid them. Small rodents arrived with nuts, and ground growing fungus, larger animals stripped bark, and pulled flowers from plants that grow much too high for the smaller animals to reach. Through the woods, the sound of a cart echoed softly as a tired donkey followed the windy path that set forth towards the Cappies. The Cappies themselves could hear the coming cart, so they prepared their goods for trade as to not waste the incoming trader’s time. “Good morning!” Travis yelled with a raised arm, and a large smile. “Beautiful day for it isn’t it?” The Cappies smiled, returning the wave and hailing good mornings in response. Travis leapt from the cart as the others started to pull the grain from the cart. A few of the Cappies ran off, while a couple even dove into the water and disappeared up stream. “I hope we didn’t scare them off. I am Travis.” He said as he placed a hand on his chest. “Those behind me are my friends, and we are here to trade some seed.” One of the Cappies walked up to the donkey and started to pet her, despite her anxious mood she appeared calm from sheer exhaustion. One of the Cappies approached Travis and smiled as they looked up at him. “I am Tor Eem, I am what you would call the leader of this little tribe. What kind of seed did you bring for us today? Because we recently had to let go of a large store of seed, and we are looking to replace it.” Travis knelt down to look the Cappy in the eye, while laying a hand on his shoulder. “Listen friend, I will level with you. I don’t actually know what we have in the cart. I just snatched what I could in the markets this morning with the hope that it would be something that you were after. We are in a desperate way for healing tonics and salves. Sadly, the act of hunting monsters in this area has taken a toll on those still at home.” “That is terrible to hear, I am sure we can work something out for you. I mean, that is the least we can do for those who put their lives on the line to kill those that may kill us if given the chance.” Tor Eem walked over to the cart to sink his own fingers in the grain. He closed his eyes, and with a sad heart, and tears falling from his face he placed a blessing on the seeds. Travis looked to the others as they poorly hid the laughter that hid behind their toothy grins. “These are Solet seeds. Very tasty, especially to you humans.” They said gesturing to Travis. “It is quite valuable, and very actually grow it around here. I would say that we have the biggest stores in the area.” “Well maybe not, whoever grew these clearly had quite the patch.” Gorn added as he took the final sac from the cart. “Do you think there might be a trade for these goods?” “No.” There was a long pause as the small party looked around confused. “I am sorry, but what?” Val’ea asked as politely as she could. “Well, the thing is that we know we are the biggest farmers of these seeds in the area, as we are the only farmer of these seeds in this area. Meaning anyone who rolls into your town with a cart full of these seeds came from here.” Tor Eem looked around at the small party with sadness in his eyes. “Please say you did not kill Thomas, we were quite fond of the old man, he had the best vegetables in the area.” The donkey called out and Tor Eem eyes welled up even more. “Yes, we love you too. You were a noble steed for Thomas.” The small group looked to one another confused. “It is quite simple, Thomas only left with this cart not too long ago, he traded with our early morning people who are currently resting. There is no way that he could have made it to town to sell and have the buyers come straight back. Especially with Thomas’ little Emily.” “Hey this is not no Emily, she is our donkey, and she does not have a name.” Shae said as she stepped in front of the donkey. “Give it up, we can speak with animals, there is no mistaking that that is Emily. Even without her speaking to us, we would have known. Thomas had a very rustic look that no one else managed to maintain like he did. Please just leave the cart and goods, and leave our forest.” Tor Eem started to head away from the cart when Shae laid the tip of her spear down into the soil in front of him. “I think we will be taking what medical supplies you have gathered here, then we will take whatever else you have lying around.” Tor Eem walked around the spear head and walked off without a word. Shae looked to the others for confirmation, Gorn stepped forward and grabbed Tor Eem’s arm spinning them around so they could look eye to eye. “Listen here fur ball. We are taking what you have, and there is nothing you can do to stop us. So load the cart or their will be blood.” Tor Eem looked up as a bird called out over the sounds of Gorn’s brutish slurring. “You didn’t even give him the decency of a burial? You have brought much sadness to our tribe this day. Please leave.” Travis spat the hulls of seeds that he had started to chew on. “Oh wow, these are really tasty. We should take a bag for us.” Tor Eem looked back at the group as they stood relaxed behind the tense Gorn. They laughed and joked with one another as Tor Eem watched Travis with angry eyes as he spat hulls from his mouth messily. “Are you listening? Or do I need to teach you a lesson in respect?” Gorn grabbed Tor Eem by the throat and started to squeeze. Tor just stood there as the air in their lungs quickly disappeared. The others watched from behind laughing. “Man these things are …

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In The Jungle

Soft soil, humid air, and the sound of metallic armour filled the Eastern jungle. High above the ground in the thick of the branches a single Denirog looked down at the human invaders. They leant from their spot, and gripped tightly against the bark of the tree, when they felt as if they were far enough away, they leaped from their tree to the next. Watching for a reaction they waited, leaping again once they were certain they would not be caught. Their strong legs had no issue propelling themselves into full air born locomotion. Their light frame made next to no impact whenever they landed, and their spotted brown skin blended effortlessly into each tree, it helped that it shifted like a Rorschach test until it was as close to a perfect match as possible. They bound through the trees above the humans until they could predict their movements, at that point they moved ahead, rising high into the tree line they strayed from the human’s ability to spot them, hiding deep into the thick canopy. “Did you hear that sir?” One of the soldiers asked. The captain looked around the jungle, listening to all the sounds that it had to offer. “I hear a lot, we are in a jungle. You are going to have to be more specific.” The recruit looked up the trees that surrounded them, his eyes squinting as small pieces of leaf and bark fell into his eyes. “I could have sworn that I heard something, like an impact.” “Again, this is a jungle, we are not in the plains anymore. There is a lot of wildlife out here, many species that could probably snap branches, or travel fast enough to, impact a tree loud enough to be heard. So please just walk Kraker.” “Yes, sir.” Kraker answered as he looked around the vibrant greens and browns of the jungle. There were snide remarks made at the back of the marching troupe that were made loud enough for Kraker to hear. He lowered his head in shame as he picked out words, and laughter from the back. The captain took off his helmet to wipe the sweat from his head, starting at his brow he slid his hand back, his short head hairs flung the sweat from him as he wiped the bulk of it to the back of his neck. “I hate this place, far too humid for any smart creature to choose to live here.” The captain stopped marching and turned back to his men. “We are going to make camp here, if we go any further we risk stepping into Denirog territory, and I don’t feel like explaining to them why we are here, they can be… weird about things.” The Captain rolled his eyes at his own words as he looked around. He sloshed his feet in the mud as looked around their surroundings. “We will head just up there.” He said pointing to a small rise only a few metres away. “Hopefully be less mud. We will set up camp, we can continue looking tomorrow.” The group started to spread out and work at setting up the camp. Kraker pulled out a small hatchet and started to walk around the small trees, hacking off thin limbs, and snapping the dead ones off whatever tree had them, he had wandered a short walk from the others but was aware of his space. But the gap felt much larger when he heard a sudden rustle in the woods that stopped when he faced it. “Hello? We should probably head back.” He said with a slight croak in his throat. He squinted at the bush, and was about to step closer to it when the bush behind him started to shake. He spun around, and once again the shaking stopped once he was looking at it. He started to step towards his camp, slowly, and purposeful with each step. While his hands were full of snapped and hacked branches his mind was aware to how long it would take him to draw his sword, or his hatchet. He watched as more of the bushes shook, and for longer. “Guys we have company.” He whispered. The bushes shook violently all at once and he turned tail, dropping the dry branches he had collected into the mud he tripped and ran back to camp. “Company, there is something big coming.” He yelled as he tripped over an arching root, landing face down in the mud. He panicked as he turned and drew his hatchet, wiping the mud from his eyes he watched as a small group of three of the other guards were laughing as they walked towards him. “You are too easy Kraker. Like a babe.” “Attention!” The Captain screamed. The three men stood to attention instantly, Kraker spat the mud from his mouth as he stood to attention. Trying to ignore the slow trickle of water that was rolling into his eyes. “You three, you are on fire wood duty since I see your little stunt has ruined the wood that Kraker has gathered. Then you three will be guard duty tonight.” “Wait, all night? You can’t force us to stay up all night for one prank.” “Listen here Uop, this is not just one prank. This is a mess of annoying behaviour. This is your fellow soldier, pranks are fun at base camp, and when everyone is on board. Kraker is a good soldier, a little skittish bitch, but a good soldier. As are all of you, so you better start treating each other with respect, otherwise you might find the rest of this mission to be rather difficult. “ The Captain was just stepping away, giving Kraker the time to wipe the mud off his eyes before the Captain turned back. “Oh and another thing. You won’t all be on guard together. You will be doing one shift each.” “Alone?” Uop asked “Alone. Now get to work.” Uop spat at the ground and scrunched up his face, he walked over to Kraker and outstretched a hand. “I’m sorry, just stressed, trying to blow steam.” He mumbled under his breath so it was hard to hear. Kraker took his hand and shook it. “Don’t let the captain find out, but your hatchet is missing.” Uop looked down patting down the other parts of his armour. “Take this,” Kraker said as he handed over his own. Uop grabbed it, but Kraker did not let it go. “Now listen here, I respect you are scared, I am too. But if you cause me any shit from here on in, there will be carnage. Got it?” Uop nodded, and Kraker let go of his hatchet and wandered off to clean up. Uop juggled the handle of the hatchet in his hand a few times as he watched Kraker walk away, before turning to find more wood for the fire. Once the party had prepared themselves for the night, they sat down around a fire and took time to rest. They took out their rations and began to eat, finally having the freedom to slouch, and become comfortable. Most were willing to sit on the damp ground and allow their legs and clothes to get wet, and assaulted by bugs. While no one would say it, their bodies ached, and their skin felt slick from the humid atmosphere, promoting people to sweat and drink in excess. Meanwhile overhead they were being watched with keen eyes. A small gathering of Denirog’s stood in the trees, hanging from branches they lowered their ears holes to angle toward the camp, listening keenly to the captain in particular. He sat alone, coveting over a map, and a journal with notes. “There is no way we can find our charge out here.” The Captain looked around the dense bush with concern. “I can barely see in front of my own feet in this place. How are we expected to find this temple?” He asked himself rhetorically. Scratching at his head he watched as his short hair flung the sweat from his head, coming down like a fine mist over his work. He grunted and wiped his map when the calls from one of his men caught his ear. “To arms!” The Captain spun on the spot, leaving his map behind he grabbed his helmet and drew his spear that sat next to him. Running the short distance back to his men he joined formation. They stood in a circle with their weapons aimed outwards, creating a small circle of safety. “What do we have men?” “Movement, fast, circling the camp.” “Is it the Tuatran we have been chasing?” “Unknown sir. But it feels too fast to be one of them.” The Captains eye was pulled to part of the jungle as he noticed the sign of sudden movement. “Fast is an understatement. Be ready men, they could strike from anywhere.” Their bodies were poised, and they were ready to strike when suddenly the tree line was breached by slow moving Denirogs, calmly stepping into view of the humans. Not only were they surrounded, they were outnumbered, from high above in the canopy more Denirog dropped to the ground, filling out their ranks. They all had simple wooden staves in their hands, but stood with no intent to cause harm to the humans. The Captain judged the situation and lowered his spear, stepping forward. “Who are we talking with?” He asked, his eyes darting around for a leader. “You, captain Otto, are talking with my tribe.” The Captain turned to see a Denirog holding his map, and going over his journal. “How do you know me?” The Captain asked. “Oh it was simple, your name is written on this note for your orders.” The Denirog holding the map stopped, lowering his hands to his side he bowed slightly. “I am Hyla, it is a pleasure to meet you all.” The Captain dropped his spear and mimicked the same action. “It is good to meet you Hyla, as you know I am Otto, the captain of this platoon. We have been sent into your territory to find a Tuatran temple that has been sending zealots out to harm our towns in the neighbouring region.” Hyla looked over the squad, calmly he walked over to Otto and handed over the map and journal. Towering well over Otto, although his form was not threatening, the size difference was enough to put Otto at unease. “Answer me please Otto, I would like honesty.” “Of course, nothing but.” “Do you intend to destroy our jungle? “No sir.” “Do you intend to hurt my people?” “No, of course not.” Otto looked back to his men and gestured for them to lower their arms. “I apologise, they are not used to the Deni, they are on edge.” “Do you intend to kill animals here for the sake of killing?” “No, no hunting will happen in your jungle, the only killing will be for food, or the Tuatran when we come across them.” Hyla looked around to his people, turning his head from Otto. “If you are being truthful, and I think you are, then this is not our territory.” He said gesturing to his people. “It is all of our land.” He said gesturing to the humans as well as the Denirogs. “We know of the temple you search for, we have had our eyes on it, but had seen no sign of concern. We were unaware of the raids they were committing. We assume in the name of a god?” “Actually, sort of no. The god they worship does not exist, it is Tentra, who we all know was slain by their sisters. So their faith is not only misplaced, but it is hurting our people, we are here to stop it.” “This is very troubling, death for the sake of death is never justified. We will help you to rid these lands of the misguided, we …

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Think Harder

Deep into a cave system beneath the planet surface of Dolor, two individuals wandered by the soft, flickering, orange light of their lanterns. It cast shadows across the walls of the caves, they shifted as they moved between the tall stalagmites, ancient, and strong with time. The pale stone was grey, layered and woven with variations of the same colour. The two figures were heavily robed, wrapped from head to toe, their eyes were even protected by strange goggles. “Derio, don’t you think this is far enough?” One asked as they stopped walking. Derio looked around at the stone next to him, running his hand across the grain, and breathing the air in with intention. With a long exhale he answered. “Not yet, but we are so close, patience Tein.” Derio continued walking while Tein stood back staring into space, shaking her head she snapped out of it and chased Derio. “Excuse me sir, but I don’t understand what we are waiting for?” “Too much light would be bad for us, especially if we want to stay alive.” Tein frowned as she looked at the light being cast from the lanterns. “But if light is the issue, wouldn’t these lanterns act as beacons to us? I mean, we are the only source of light down here.” “Currently we are, yes. The reason we are covered in these grey robes is so if anything were to look our way, it would appear as if there were two floating lights, nothing more.” “Surely things down here are not that dumb, but also why wouldn’t they question two floating lights?” Derio stopped and sighed again, turning to Tein. “Listen, if you live in a dark cave with no lights, any form of light is blinding, it is not a question of intelligence, their eyes will not be used to lantern light. Secondly, if you paid attention in your classes, you would know that these caves are where some species of wisp wander through, and wisps are?” “Floating balls of light….” Tein said sheepishly. “Right, now they don’t come through often enough to give the creatures good light vision, so we are safe as long as we appear as a creature that nothing down here wants to eat.” “But why would casting the large light be bad if everything down here has bad light vision?” Derio continued walking with Tein in tow. “Tell me, if you go somewhere, say a cave. In that cave there is a massive orb of light, cast by a nearby mage, then he leaves without warning, and the light disappears. How do you find your way out?” Tein thought for a short moment, using a hand to brush past a large protruding rock formation, she paused for a second, then answered. “I would use my hands to feel my way to familiar objects, then try and trace my way to the exit, providing I have that much information on hand.” “Precisely, now imagine you had finished your basic magic training with me, how would you do it then?” Tein paused for a long time and thought heavily. “This is not a trick question, you are not a master mage, just out of basic training.” “I guess I would cast a small light of my own. I am sorry sir, I don’t understand how this answers my question.” Tein said nervously, trying not to upset her teacher. “Be careful coming through here, it gets a little tight.” Derio said as he turned side face to pass through the next section of the cave. “Tell me.” He continued. “What domain have you studied for your bestial module?” “I studied forest as the broad environment, my focus has been the mystic woods, since there is one not far from your home.” “Perfect, locational awareness is good. Speaking of which.” Derio raised his lantern to a high point on a stone wall, there were three, long, and deep claw marks. “We can talk still, but no more than a whisper, so please stay close.” Tein huddled near Derio, standing ear to ear where the winding cave passage would allow her. “Have you read about…. Psychic spiders?” “No sir.” “How about, the Goblin subspecies the Hasheened?” “I did not realise that was a species on its own. I thought that was a single tribe that had been cursed by the Hasheen deities.” “Clearly not them either. Hmm, surely you have studied the wanderers?” “Yes sir, of course.” “What do you know?” “Well, there origin is unknown, we have done little studies on them as there are not many people who would willing fight one. They, um, appear as a hooded figure in the woods, they request a gold coin, if you don’t you are attacked, and if you do they walk past.” “Okay, that is folklore knowledge though, everyone knows that, give me history.” “Umm, I don’t…” Tein was interrupted before she could finish her thought. “I did not ask for specifics, just any history you know.” “Okay, well, at their earliest mention they were the bogey men in the woods, they were known as guardians of the woods, we later discovered they only appear in the environments we call the mystic woods. They were then confirmed to be from the strange forest, in-fact they are technically a mutated plant.” “Allegedly.” Derio added. “As much as there was ‘confirmed’ sightings of them emerging from large seed pods, there have only been few sightings, and never documented officially. Please keep fact and theory separate.” “yes sir, sorry.” Derio stopped and turned to Tein again. “Tell me, biology, how do they see?” “With eyes, but they have many more than us.” “Exactly, are all those eyes working at once?” “No, some have the ability for low light, while others do daylight, some see scent, and I believe the last set see heat?” “Correct, so why shouldn’t we cast a big ball of light?” “Because… I mean, I would say there might be something with the ability to see in different ways, but, wouldn’t our hand lanterns cause them to switch?” “No, because Wisps come through here, they will see no need to give up ninety percent of their vision, just to make sure we are wisps. But if we do bathe the whole cave in light, they would gain much more from switching vision styles.” “Right sir. Um, can I ask you a question about your teaching sir?” Derio relaxed a little, and shrugged. “Sure.” “Why do you always teach me with long stories?” Derio chuckled a little. “You have been comparing my teaching style with others you know?” “I, well, yes sir, I hope you don’t mind. But the others just get told the answers to things, and I feel like they know so much more than me, because they have so much more knowledge being given to them.” Although Tein could not tell Derio was smiling behind his grey face wraps. “Listen here, if you want to sit down in a classroom and have me lecture you all day, take notes, then spend your home time revising information, I can do that. However, being a mage means you have to be able to explore in the world, do the others get taken on excursions like you?” “No, sir.” “And why is that?” “They get told that it is too dangerous.” “Now why do you get taken on excursions?” “We, don’t go on dangerous trips?” “Think harder, we are in an area where we have to be hush, or we will be carved like a Sunday roast, this is not a picnic.” “Because, I, I am not sure. Isn’t the teaching style more about what you decide, not about me?” “Would I have taken you on this trip if you had a broken leg?” “No, sir.” “Would I have taken you if you were incapable of being quite?” “No, sir.” “I could go on, so why do, you think, I can take you along on these journeys?” Tein thought hard about what Derio said and let out a small laugh under her breath. “Your teaching style makes me think.” “Correct, I will continue to explain something as much as I need until you get it. But I do my best to let you piece as much of it together as I can. It means that if anything goes wrong I can feel safe knowing you will be able to think, and not just act as another obstacle for me.” “Thank you sir, I will do my best.” “I know you will, another reason why I chose to take you along on these journeys. Now come.” The two of them disappeared through a narrow cut in the rock, they had to roll their shoulders and force their way through the gap. Derio grunted as he cut his arms on the sharp rocks. Tein managed to be smaller enough that she only got slight scratches where she could see the fresh blood of Derio dripping off the stone. Once they were out the other side Derio patted himself down and dabbed the blood off of his arms with a rag he kept on his belt. He went to pass the rag to Tein and noticed that she was virtually untouched. “Once you are smarter, I am going to send you to do this chore, no point in adding any more scars to me if you can do it yourself.” Tein laughed and let out a little echo, she immedietly covered her mouth and looked up at Derio with fear in her eyes. Derio took a deep breath in and screamed at the top of his lungs, for as long as he could. Tein stood afraid as Derio laughed to himself. “Drop your hands, we are safe on this side.” Derio cast his spell and threw a small egg sized stone into the air, it started to glow, getting brighter, until it illuminated the whole cavern. On the far side of the crack they crawled through they could hear scratching and low growls. “Is that something that we need to be concerned about?” Derio looked back to crack and smiled. “No, we will not be going back out that way, and they are too big to get through, so it should be fine.” Tein scrunched up her face and looked around the cavern they were in. “I don’t see another way out. Is that supposed to be a joke?” Derio smiled knowingly at Tein and walked away without answering. Tein rolled her eyes and she smiled as she watched where she was stepping. “Is it safe to assume this is the final leg of the journey?” “It would be a safe assumption.” “Is it the correct one?” “Ah, a much better question. But yes, this is the last stop before we go home.” “So what resource are we gathering from here?” Derio bent over and looked back to Tein. “These.” He said holding up a small round stone, roughly the size of an egg. “Is that what you used to cast the light spell?” “It is, this is where we find them, they are very precious, do you know why?” “They hold a natural pool of magic in them, so mages can cast spells without using their own energy. But they only hold enough for small spells, like light.” Tein paused as she furrowed her brow. “Oh and they make some minor spells more effective, usually your light spell would be barely brighter than our lanterns.” “Yes, so we shall be collecting as many as we can, you can usually find them in little piles.” The two of them moved around the cavern searching for the stones, filling their pouches, they eventually met in the middle of the cavern. “Sir, I have a question.” “Good.” “You come down here often to collect these stones?” ‘Yes.” “Since being here I feel as if we have cleared this area out of them, do you go anywhere else?” “No, just this …

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An Old Friend

A silver haired man shuffled through a forest, his pot belly hiding his toes from sight. He gripped a small thatched basket under his arm as he wondered aimlessly through the woods, admiring the small flowers that grew around the base of the trees. The flowers grew like colourful halos around the base of their trunks, with a variety of shapes that gave them a varied, and satisfying texture. He smiled softly when he saw combinations that he had not seen before, taking the time to admire everything that had changed since he had last been through. Deep in the densest part of the forest he forced himself through the gaps in the trees, a small stone in his free hand illuminated his way with a golden yellow glow. The deep browns of the bark welcomed the light, casting shadows through their crevasses, and highlighting the worn surfaces. His belly tore the loose chunks from the tree as he squeezed his way through any gap that would let him. Eventually he arrived in a tiny clearing, where an enormous tree had fallen, pushing aside others, and creating a wound through the canopy that allowed light to come through where all that surrounded was bathed in darkness.He pocketed his stone and placed his basket on the ground next to the tree, his hand outstretched to the tree, and he very carefully cut a large mushroom from the trunk with a small knife he had in the basket. Giving it a sniff, he hopped from one foot to another with excitement, he hummed to himself as he proceeded along the trunk, cutting, plucking, and gathering the variety of fungus that grew on the tree’s trunk. Unlike the flowers the fungus that grew on the trunk all had grown with strong earthy tones, creating a hue of browns and yellows along the downed tree.Already new life had started to grow from around the tree, saplings took root from where their seeds were dropped to the ground. Small ferns, and grasses had already self-seeded through the massive hole that was left after the colossal tree was uprooted, blending green into the reds of the iron enriched, deep soils.With a full basket of fungus, the old man had a skip to his step as he walked to the base of the tree. The roots towered high into the air, taking with them large chunks of dirt and stone. He slid slowly into the hole where the roots once resided, making a careful effort to avoid as much of the greenery as he could. He stepped delicately through the still disturbed soil until he was standing at face with the base of the root system, he closed his eyes, took three deep breaths, and laid his hand upon the largest root. It curved, and twisted around the other roots, acting like the anchor for the tree, the end snapped where it failed to hold the colossal weight of the tree as it fell. The old man gripped intensely, the tune of his humming changed, and his hand started to pass through the roots as if they were air. He steppe forward once, testing the waters, then another time, this movement was much easier than the last. Taking in one final deep breath he marched for with military certainty, disappearing through the roots of the tree, and straight into the trunk.Where there should have been a solid core of wood was a hollow cavity that allowed the man to walk freely, his eyes opened and before him was the interior of a rustic bedroom. There was a wood-framed bed, with a dark wood side table, along the edge of the room was a small desk and chair, and illuminating the space was a collection of different glowing fungus. The old man let out a sigh of relief, his breath was short, and his eyes fell heavy as he finished fully appearing into the room. His steps were sluggish, and slid across the carved wood floors of the room, he placed down his basket of fungus on the side table before sitting on the edge of the bed. He kicked off his slip-on shoes, and took his coat off, folding it, and resting it on the end of the bed. He then peeled back the silken covers of the bed and climbed in with a yawn, promptly falling asleep.When the man awoke he felt refreshed and rejuvenated, the fungus he had gathered were gone. His skin looked softer, less wrinkled, and his hair had regained some thickness, and even a little colour. Above him he could now see the silk worms nesting snuggly in their small cocoons. Twisting his head side to side his neck gave several satisfying cracks, he then climbed from the bed and walked to the door that was on the opposite side of the room that he entered from. It opened silently, and on the other side he was greeted by a small gnome.The gnomes facial features were round, from his cheeks, to his nose, even he smile seemed to be more rounded than any human that the old man had met. He was greeted as an old friend, despite never seeing this gnome in his life. He was ushered through several rooms quietly, down a set of winding stairs, and finally arriving at an underground pool. Moss covered the surprisingly warm stone, water dripped all the small cave, and the echoes of the water gently filled there air before disappearing. Above the pool small, blue, butterflies flitted about, pausing momentarily on equally vibrant blue flowers before taking off moments later. The air felt as if it were vibrating gently, adding a pleasant tingling sensation to any exposed skin.The man rose his head slightly, he took a long drawn out breath and closed his eyes, cutting off one sense he felt the others intensify ever so slightly. On the out breath he opened his eyes and lowered his head, below him the gnome was cupping a small wooden bowl, a delicate layer of moss decorated the outside of it, while the insides were filled with water from the pool, the interior of the bowl shone like starlight, it was a calming white with flickers of blue and greens dancing through the beams that rose from it.The old man took the bowl carefully in two hands, he could feel the moss moving under his grip, as if it had a life of its own. He raised the bowl above his head and bowed on one knee to the pool, lowering the bowl back down he took one long drink and emptied it. He returned the bowl to the edge of the pool where the moss from it spread to the stone below nearly instantly.The man sat back on his legs with his eyes closed, he felt the warm water travel though his body, leaving a warm sensation wherever it passed. It started with his mouth and throat, it quickly moved to his stomach where it sat for a short while, then he felt it starting to move through his body in a line, until eventually it reached his heart. In that moment he felt it spread through his whole body, he could feel the individual warmth of each vein until it had travelled through him completely.But as quick as it was there, it soon faded. The mans breathing calmed down, slight aches that were in his body seemed to fade, and his body fell loose. He slowly lowered himself onto the moss-covered stones of the cave and let the relaxation of the moment take him to sleep.He dreamt of the cave, how it sat in the darkness of the planet, contained by walls of dirt and stone. Its pure light, and vibrant energy surrounded him as he watched a singular stalactite above the pool dripped at a calming pace, even though it did not exist in the waking world. His breath seemed to get louder until it was the cave that was breathing, and he was motionless. From his seated position he started to lean forward as if there were no ground beneath him, he body felt as if it were plummeting through an empty void, yet his eyes were still locked onto the drip colliding with the pool of water.The sound of rushing wind quickly consumed the space as an enormous blue butterfly appeared. Its wings spread as wide as they could, occupying the entirety of the young mans vision, after an instance of rest at full extension they closed down upon him and he awoke from his sleep.His eyes flittered open and he remained rested for but a moment before slowly rising to his feet. He grinned, and bowed slightly to the gnome. The gnome mimicked and gestured up the stairs. The young man graciously accepted the invite and bounced up the stairs, back through the large, empty rooms, and out the same way he came in.As he passed through the barrier, he felt the scratch of dirt on unspoiled skin. The air seemed thicker on the other side, as if it had a weight it didn’t have before. He turned to see the downed tree had nearly completely rotted into the ground, it was sunken in, a hollow husk of what laid there when he entered it. All around life seemed to have grown at an exaggerated rate, saplings were already developing their bark, and what was once a scattering of small bushes, and shrubs had become a well-established thicket.Walking back out through the dense set of trees he passed by without ripping bark, or even touching the trees. He moved much quicker, his feet danced over the roots he wants plotted over, and he felt as if his legs had springs, propelling his body upwards with each new step. From the darkness of the thick woods, to the twilight zone in the middle, he eventually found his way back to the edge of the forest.He looked over the rolling hills with a new perspective, the grass seemed greener, the sky bluer, and what used to look like a long trek now seemed like a stroll.The walking stick he had left on the outskirts of the forest seemed superfluous, so he let it rest as he walked back to the small A silver haired man shuffled through a forest, his pot belly hiding his toes from sight. He gripped a small thatched basket under his arm as he wondered aimlessly through the woods, admiring the small flowers that grew around the base of the trees. The flowers grew like colourful halos around the base of their trunks, with a variety of shapes that gave them a varied, and satisfying texture. He smiled softly when he saw combinations that he had not seen before, taking the time to admire everything that had changed since he had last been through. Deep in the densest part of the forest he forced himself through the gaps in the trees, a small stone in his free hand illuminated his way with a golden yellow glow. The deep browns of the bark welcomed the light, casting shadows through their crevasses, and highlighting the worn surfaces. His belly tore the loose chunks from the tree as he squeezed his way through any gap that would let him. Eventually he arrived in a tiny clearing, where an enormous tree had fallen, pushing aside others, and creating a wound through the canopy that allowed light to come through where all that surrounded was bathed in darkness. He pocketed his stone and placed his basket on the ground next to the tree, his hand outstretched to the tree, and he very carefully cut a large mushroom from the trunk with a small knife he had in the basket. Giving it a sniff, he hopped from one foot to another with excitement, he hummed to himself as he proceeded along the trunk, cutting, plucking, and gathering the variety of fungus that grew on …

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In The Sand

A man sat in a cave with a heavy beige jacket, pants, and boots. On his head was a wide brimmed hat with a flap at the back to protect his neck, in his hands, an old tome, and behind him was three tall individuals, fully wrapped with bandage sized cloth. The man ran his finger from one line of text, till the next, muttering under his breath as he went. The three individuals stood lazily against the walls as they waited, impatiently fidgeting as they did so. “Stop kicking up sand.” One called out. “Well, you stop chipping stone from the wall, this was all your idea, Vaero.” The other replied, laying emphasis on the name. “I am sorry but I thought you wanted to be paid, Sesewai.” Vaero replied, mimicking Seswai’s emphasis. “But clearly not, so Terra and I can share your share.” Terra rolled her brown eyes, the light of the man’s reading lantern creating a ring of red that glinted in them as she did so. “How about you all remain quiet, I pay you to protect me, and you are paid for getting me in, and out. So the more you talk the less I can focus, the longer we all have to be here. You stay quiet, I get my work done, we go home quickly.” The man’s finger paused while he spoke, then for a moment after he waited for a response. Satisfied he went back to reading. He scrolled his finger across the parchment searching for the right instructions, tapping down on a rune at the end of the script he grinned. “I know where we are going.” He said, drawing the attention of the other three. “It says here that we need to reach the obelisk in the sand.” “That seems far too vague to be an actual direction.” Terra groaned from the back of the cave. “It would seem that way.” The man looked up from his book. “If you are not educated in the history of this desert, I would say that is a near nonsense statement.” The man stood up packing the book into his satchel, the name H.R Greiss. “We head back out into the winds, we have a mountain to climb.” Greiss said turning towards the entrance of the cave. The three-woman looked to one another with a hint of satisfaction of the idea of moving. Greiss waited at the entrance of the cave as the three-woman surrounded him, raising their arms they chanted until a blue shimmer surrounded all four of them. They wandered out into the chaotic winds that tossed the sand of the desert through the air. But despite the chaos that they walked into, none of the sands, nor the winds touched them. They collided with the blue shimmer and rolled over the top. The impacts flared with a variety of greens and blues as the energy of the shield, leaving behind small shards of coloured glass wherever they walked. “What is the likelihood an Ure-wurm will find us?” Greiss asked as he treaded as lightly as he could. “Ure-wurm’s won’t come up during a storm.” Sesawai answered. “They search for movement through vibrations, and something a lot of people don’t consider is the fact that it takes a lot of energy to breach the sand and burrow. They won’t expend the energy during a storm. Without magic these storms will kill you, but if you can do what we can do, then this is the safest time to wander the desert.” “It is hard to see still, I am struggling to navigate without being able to see landmarks.” Greiss said as he plotted their path with a compass and map. “Would you like to get an aerial view?” Vaero asked. “I would love to, but that isn’t an option really is it?” Greiss said. Vaero grabbed the map, and the compass from the man, handing it over to the others, she then dropped his satchel onto the sand. “What are you doing?” He asked with a little fear in his eyes. “Put your goggles of professor, we are going for a ride.” He swallowed hard and dropped his goggles from his head onto his eyes and swallowed heavily. Vaero dropped her portion of the shield, its radius reduced as she wrapped her arms around him and grounded her feet. She focused on the words she spoke and she leaped high into the air, taking Greiss with her. They left the protective energies of their shield and were instantly battered by the intense winds of the storm, Greiss naturally squinted as he was preparing to have the sand get into his eyes. The roar of the winds made it nearly impossible for them to talk to one another despite their heads being right next to one another. Their momentum started to slow, and Greiss finally got the courage to open his eyes. The storm was much thinner the higher they got, and Greiss was able to see into the distance. His vision was still obscured by the heavy layers of sand that was being thrown around, but this time he was able to see over the thick of the sand. Out from the desert rose many mountains that that could be called the obelisk of the desert, but his eye knew what he was looking for. A simple mountain with only one spire,  nearly perfectly straight, even though it was shorter than most around them, he knew that this was the one that he was looking for. The two of them lowered once the spell had ran out of momentum, Greiss stared at the onelisk with a determination in his eyes, even falling beneath the thick cover of the sandstorm his eyes were fixed to where the mountain stood. Out of sight, but not out of his eye’s perception. The two of them landed back down into the blue sphere, Vaero re-spoke the words needed and the shield returned to its former size. “Did you see anything of value?” Terra asked. “There was a littering of mountains, I hope Greiss knows as much as he claims to know.” Vaero answered. “I saw what we needed, we were slightly off course, I knew I hired you three for something.” “You can always count on the Bound Sisters.” The three of them raised their fists into the air and let out a single cheer. “That is, lovely.” Greiss groaned. “Not like that hasn’t been cheered every time I give the slightest compliment.” He continued as he corrected their course and moved forward with no regard to the others. By the time the four of them arrived at the base of the mountain the storm had started to slow down, what was once an intense howling had become a mild buffering. “Drop the shield, it is not needed, nor will it be practical as we climb the mountain.” Greiss called out as he put his goggles on and stored everything in his satchel. The Bound sisters looked to one another and shrugged, the shield dropped, and the winds started to press against them. Their clothes started to flicker about and sand was already starting to sift its way through their clothes. Greiss stared up at the mountain fir a long while in silence before moving on. The bound sisters stepped close to one another to speak in hushed tones. “Do we know what he is looking for up here?” Sesewai asked. “Whatever it is, whatever reason he has, there is determination in his eyes.” Vaero replied. “You think that is determination?” Terra asked as she directed her gaze to Greiss. “That is hatred.” The three of them look up to Greiss as he climbed without regard for his life. It didn’t matter how often he slipped or was battered by the winds he continued to climb. The sisters caught up to Greiss and assisted him in his climb, the three of them work together to ensure that Greiss was able to traverse the parts of the mountain that he desired to travel. The made him leap impossible heights and walk paths barely wide enough for a mouse, all to get him to an opening that was about half the way up. It was hidden behind rubble and dense thick weeds, if it was not for Greiss the sisters would have missed it. It was dark, and only a few feet tall. Greiss paused before entering, looking back at the woman. “This is where all my research has been leading to, if you loose this from my grasp before I can grab it, there will be severe consequences. Do you understand?” The three sisters nodded, they did not hear every part of every word, but they knew what he was talking about. He was the first to crawl through the gap, lead by his lantern he slowly disappeared into the black. Vaero was the next to follow, Sesewai stood aside to let Terra through, but Terra stood firm and pushed Sesewai in first before she followed through. By the time Terra managed to crawl through the tunnel everyone was already searching around the chamber that the small tunnel opened into. Terra got to her feet and stretched her back, enjoying every click that ran up her spine. “What are we looking for?” She asked. Her sisters were busy on the far side of the chamber, but her question caught the ear of Greiss. “We are looking for a way forward. The book does not describe how to move from this room into the real kingdom of the Void. But that is typical for the void books, they are incredibly detailed when they are, but when they’re not, they’re not.” “Profound.” Terra muttered. “What can you tell us about the Void? Any information that might help us with understanding how they may hide.” Greiss continued to run his hand against the rough stone walls, meticulously observing every crack for potential runes carved into the stone. “They are the oldest race that has any written history. They lived before the elves, but disappeared before the Elves reached a civilised, well, civilisation.” “Boring, be more specific,” Terra interrupted. “Ugh, they were profound magic users, using magics that we have yet to replicate, they speak of abilities that are near god like that they used daily” “Nope, everyone knows that, more specific.” Greiss was silent as he thought. “Come on, you are supposed to be a wealth of knowledge on these creatures.” “Not creatures, they were the most prominent race, before ours even had a foot hold on language. They were half giants, averaging eight feet tall on the low end, with magic that could divide mountains. The could jump between worlds, which is currently the popular theory for why they are gone. But I know there is more to it, there is still so much history not known.” “Okay, so why are we looking for a trigger down here?” “What do you mean down here? This is the cave, the caves higher than this are not the ones we are looking for, this is the one in the scripts.” “No, not down here on the mountain. Down here, at five foot whatever, if these creatures are…” “Taller than us, we are looking at the wrong height.” Greiss interjected. Everyone looked up to where the Voids eyeline would rest. The Bound sisters muttered more words, and Greiss rose to eight feet. They moved him slowly around the room until he called out to stop. “Right here, this is what we are looking for. It is the key, or rather, a lock.” “Do you have a key?” Vaero asked as they lowered Greiss to the ground. “The key is complicated, it is why I have you three here.” “Us, how are we a key?” Vaero aked. “Please sit down, we have a lot to talk about. You are not a key, you are a lock pick, I can give you all …

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The Thrumming Mountains

A young woman walked slowly from the angled stones that towered into the sky, creating the eastern side of the Thrummed Mountains. Her clothes were torn, and she was covered in blood. Her short hair stuck to itself as the blood in it congealed under the relentless beating of the sun. She grabbed fistfuls of the viscous goop and tossed it to the ground as she walked, creating a small trail, leading directly to her village. Upon entering the leaning walls of her town, she collapsed on the main thoroughfare. When she awoke, she found herself cleaned and re-dressed with bandages covering the worst of her wounds. Slowly she climbed to a sitting position, groaning with every movement as she went. With each shift of her body, her muscles and bones ached and screamed until her face contorted, not to settle until a short while after she had stopped moving. She looked over herself and counted the wounds she could see, she then made note of the number of bandages that covered her arms and legs. Her skin was a stark contrast against the white bandages that had been woven around her. Before she could even think about trying to walk, an elderly man shuffled in, his right leg was missing but he made do with a wooden crutch, one that did not appear to be too comfortable while it was wedged under his arm. “You know you will get a belting if you don’t lay back down.” He said as he made his way to a small stool near her. “You will get an even bigger one for not being in your cottage Mr. Parigate.” “Now listen young miss, we have discussed this. I am Sam, you may simply call me Sam, and in return I shall call you Charell.” Charell turned her head painfully to view Sam from a better angle. “I think you suit the name limp-y much better, or maybe one leg.” “One leg? Feels a bit on the nose, and here I was thinking you were intelligent.” “Oh, sorry. First name One Leg, second name, In the Grave.” Sam grinned as much as his scowled face would allow. Looking over Charell he tapped her on the leg with his crutch, watching her face as he did so. “Think you got any venom in ya?” Charell pushed away Sam’s crutch with a limp hand. “If I did, I wouldn’t be here.” “True.” He replied simply. The two of them sat quietly in each other’s company. Neither of them concerned about one another, they just sat as old friends. Charell tried on multiple occasions to rise from her bed, but each time she moved she was caught by the crutch of Sam, and a stern look, but no words. Echoing stamps of heavy falling feet started to be heard in the small cabin the two resided in. “You better run, or, hop.” “You think I can out-hop her? It is already over.” The mass behind the footsteps squeezed through the doorway into the medical tent, looming behind Sam. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as the feet came to stop, two large hands fell heavy onto his shoulders with a tight grip. “Why are you out of your cottage Sam? I told you, that leg needs to settle, or you will get an infection and die, and I don’t let my patients die.” The nurse growled as she slowly brought her hands up, dragging Sam with them. Sam propped himself up with his crutch and was led out of the room, the nurse turned around at the last minute to look at Charell. “I will return to put you down, no more sitting up, and no lying down without me. If you move too much on your own you will die.” The nurse turned out the door and started to usher Sam back to his housing as Charell sat in her silent room once more. She contemplated shifting down, but feared the stifling grip of the nurse, and the boom of her voice when she is angry. Charell tapped her hands on the coarse blanket to distract herself, but found that it only made her more conscious of time not passing by, so she stopped. “urgh god, what is taking her so long to get Sam away? He isn’t this much trouble.” Charell muttered as she tried to peer out the entrance of her tent. Suddenly the loud footsteps started to thump again and Charell was waiting for the nurse to come barrelling in again, but she didn’t. Charell listened closer and the footsteps sounded fast, and numerous. Much faster than any one person could run, especially the nurse. Her eyes widened for a single moment before she laid down in her bed, despite the agony she pushed herself through she did not groan. Grabbing the nearest bottle of medicine she dowsed herself with the contents, forcing her to stifle a gagging reactions as she pulled the sheets up, and over her head. He heart pounded as she listened to the stomping feet of the thing that was outside her tent. Peering through the poorly crafted sheets she watched the door with obscured vision and a knot in her stomach. She shifted the sheet periodically to change which part of the entrance she could see, until eventually the curtain of the tent started to lift. Charell watched as the large, clicking mandibles of a bull sized Hornet walked in. Its antenna tapped around the room as its head clicked from side to side. The Antenna slowly danced their way over to Charell’s bed, seeming to take a long pause on her legs. Panic set in as she realised that she had not covered her legs with the medication. She held her breath on hoped for a miracle, watching the as the hornet slowly made its way up her body, but recoiling as the smell of the medicine. It furiously rubbed its antenna and spat a blob of mucus out as it had run its antenna through its jaws. Shaking its head it slowly turned around and stomped out of the tent. Charell felt light headed for a moment, then with sudden exasperation she took a deep inhalation of air. Her breathing intense for the next few moments as she recovered herself. “How did it survive?” She called out in hushed tones as she clambered to her feet. She kept one hand firmly placed under her ribs as she struggled to the edge of the tent. Peering out cautiously she watched as the gigantic wasp would stomp around, sniffing into the air and its surroundings. The wasp found a fresh carcass that was being worked on by the butcher and started to feast with a ravenous hunger. Looking around she spied several others doing the same as her, cowering in the safety of their homes, peering out of windows and cracks in doors. After eating its fill of meat its wings started to thrum as it took flight, displacing all the dirt and dust, sending it flying into the air under the intense power of its wings. It flew back to the mountains, leaving the town in eventual silence. Everyone started to sheepishly step out of their hiding places to gather in the main courtyard, all staring towards the wasp as it disappeared into the distance. Everyone slowly turned to face Charell as she stood leant to one side with her hand wrapped around her ribs for support. She looked panic as her mouth opened slightly to give answers that failed come forth. The leader of the town stepped forward from the crowd and stood before her with an ornate spear that was topped with the stinger of a giant wasp. “You were given a choice, the same one as all the others that left the town to enter those mountains. Exile, or redemption.” The leader slowly started to walk to Charell as she continued to speak. “The charge was to rid the mountains of the nest that raids this area, one small nest of four, and your prize was the ability to return to our village, to live among those you love, to receive the medical care that would otherwise be denied to you.” The leader loomed over Charell with a terrible scowl. “So tell me, if the nest is still active, why have we treated you? If your charge is incomplete that means that you are still a criminal, and we do not treat criminals as we treat our own.” He growled as he grabbed one of the wounded parts of Charell’s shoulders and pressed his thumb into it, causing her to scream and fall to her knees. She looked back up with a hatred in her eyes as tears slowly fell from the corners of her eyes. “Do you think we went in there to kill those wasps?” The leader turned his head slowly as he waited for Charell to continue. “We started our journey into the mountains with the idea of retaining our place here. But after very little conversation between one another we managed to peace together information that was too spread out to be seen before. We know, everything.” Charell slowly stood to one knee, then pushing against her knee she groaned as she stood to her feet, staring up at the leaders face as this face of rage had a veil of fear hiding behind his eyes. “We figured out what has been happening with the local towns and how you are responsible for…” With a loud crack Charell was struck down to the ground by the Leader. “Silence your mouth criminal, we wont believe your lies here.” He screamed, spitting on nearly every word. “What’s wrong? Thought you liked it when your girls defied you. Doesn’t it make it more fun?” “You are going to die a no one, no one will miss you and our lives will go on. You have done nothing with your life.” The leader rose his spear above his head and was prepared to lung, but stopped as the air started to come to life with vibrations. Charell smiled as those behind the Leader started to look around in confusion. “What is wrong? Never heard the sound of a hundred hives all coming out at once?” “What, did, you, do?” The leader said as he lowered his stance and aimed his spear towards the mountains. Charell coughed blood to the ground with a grin. “Turns out, the workers may seem like dumb insects, but their queen is beautiful, we found her inner sanctum. We met her, and she spoke with the soft words of a mother, she told us about her struggles, and we listened. We heard her words vibrate in our skulls and could not help but help. The All Queen has ruled for too long, the Hive Queen shall rise, and she shall take the throne that she is owed.” Charell stood tall with her arms raised high into the air as the townsfolk started to run. But before they could even reach the walls of the town a roar of wings resonated above the town, hundreds of gigantic wasps descended upon the town and started to consume everyone. Those who evaded being grabbed were quickly stung and carried away as limp bodies, while those still alive were carted off wriggling and screaming. “Can you not feel her glory Leader? Her voice, I can still hear it in my mind, it is soft and caring.” “Caring? You have killed us all. Do you think she will let you live, you are nothing but feed you fool.” Charell started to laugh and cry, a forced smile as she was lifted from the ground by one of the wasps. She watched as her Leader was struck down by two wasps and carried away as a corpse. Charell looked up to the wasp carrying her, she felt it curl her up …

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Wasted Gifts

The town centre was full as the crowds of the town gathered with malice suspended in the air. The humanoids of the town snarled and roared as the local bar owner was knelt before them, a Mycre was curled up on the ground next to him, her body bloodied and broken. Her ears had been ripped off, and her tail had been mangled in several places, the blood dripping from her nose was forced out as she tried desperately to breath. “I am sorry friend, this is all my fault.” The bar tender said as he averted his eyes from the Mycre lying next to him. “Silence welp.” The preacher shouted as he slammed a heavy bag across the face of the bartender. The bar tenders head and upper torso was forced sideways at the force of the bag, he remained upright, but stayed in the now slanted position. The preacher stepped forward, standing before the crowd. “Friends, family, and followers of faith. We have the…” “Not you.” A woman yelled from the crowd. “It was your church that chased them down there, now they are larger than ever.” The crowd screamed out loud in agreement and the preacher began to fluster as he held his bag ahead of him. “But, I, I, this is the, we have what we need, the church provides.” “The church provides us with nothing but enemies, the rat monster army is larger than ever, and there are those of us who favour them over us.” The woman added. “How many more of us are sympathises, how many more of us are aiding these monsters?” Another man added. “People please, we only need what the church offers. We don’t need to squabble.” The preacher interrupted, just to be spoken over as the crowd grew in tension. “Who associates with the bar keep? We need to know who among us are going to turn us over to these monsters.” The crowd searched itself and brought forward a small group of people who were protesting. “This is not fair, I drank at his bar, I didn’t know anything about him and these beasts.” The man yelled as he spat at the Mycre that was still panting on the ground. Others from the crowd looked to one another with distrust, and turned back to the newly gathered group. “You six are associated, you six need to suffer the same fate.” The original woman shouted as she moved through the crowed, the people parting to let her through. Taking her place at the front of the crowed she pointed at the enraged group. “You six are known to spend the most time with him, you are the ones that are most likely to be aiding him. You six must die too.” “That is too far.” The preacher screamed. “This is what must happen.” He said pointing to the bag. “If we start killing everyone who associated with him, then we must start killing all of those who are known to be with them, soon we won’t have a town. We need to stay together, we need to stay strong, we need faith.” The crowd stood in silence, and as the preacher reached into the bag a large, dripping chunk of mud flew and collided with his temple, forcing him to step back, and remove his hand from his bag. “This is your mess, we don’t want your help.” The Preachers assailant yelled, juggling another thick, heaping mess of mud in her hand. The crowd laughed while the woman at the front raised her hand. “These six, the bar owner, and this vile beast all die. Today.” The crowd cheered and pushed the preacher aside as the mob wrangled their victims. The six newcomers struggled against their captors, while the bar keep leant into the shoves, and grabbing that the others used to move him, trying his hardest to give little resistance. Meanwhile the Mycre limped and fell as she was pushed around, struggling to stay standing for any length of time before collapsing to the ground. Those around her punished her every time she fell, until eventually she could not stand, let alone walk. “What do we do with the beast now, I aint carrying it.” Yelled a man as he prodded at the Mycre with a stick. The woman leading the march turned to see the Mycre laying on the ground, shallow breaths, blood pooling from her mouth and nose, flies already starting to buzz around her wounded head. “Leave her. It is not long for this world, she will die whether we do anything or not at this point, let us focus on the sympathisers.” The crowd moved on, kicking, and stomping down on the Mycre woman, she barely let out a cry as her life started to depart her body. She shuddered as the last of the humans walked past her, the warmth in her body pooling out next to her body. Behind her was the sound of scuttering as a small group of Mycre picked up their fallen and carefully carried her back to their home, using the execution to move freely without being seen. They held her body with reverence as they moved in silence back to their home, through sympathiser doors, down hidden stairs they made their way back to their home in the caves. As her body was carried through the many tunnels of their home the nearby Mycre all followed them, they whispered quietly as the body was taken deep into their home. Down past the learning chambers, past the rest chambers, down to the river, then deeper still. Eventually reaching a chamber of Mycre skeletons, each one with a book, each one with knowledge for all to learn from and expand on. Her body was carried to the centre of the room, to where she was laid upon a raised stone bed that laid in front of the founders. “You did what need be done, so have that of those on top. Today is day of surfacing. You rest now.” Said an elderly Mycre that tenderly touched her hand as she passed. “Let not the suffering go ill, today we claim for the scientist, for the founders, for those who got us here. We do this for us, we do for her.” The heads of the Mycre lowered as they paid their respects, taking just a moment to acknowledge that their companion had used their life so others may live on. Once the moment was over the room emptied of all life, the Mycre sprinted through there chambers and halls, gathering weapons and armour. Then as one unit they started to swarm to the many entrances of the town, eager for what was to happen next. The crowds above screamed, their hatred coming out in volume, and saliva, and fear. The Bar keeper knelt with honour at the block, his eyes fixed on the doors of his own bar with anticipation. The six associates fort across the platform as the executioner slowly climbed the stairs to the top of the platform, the last of the six were being bound and beat into submission as the executioners hulking form took centre stage. He took off his hood and stared across his seven victims, locking his eyes onto the back of the head of the bar keeper. Stomping across the wooden platform the plants creaked and warped adding to the uproar being caused by the last of the men that were still fighting their binds. The executioner placed a hand on the bar keepers head, his thick fingers wrapping around his skull. “Place your head on the block scum.” The Bar keeper kept his eyes on his doors as his head started to be pushed down towards the stained block, cocking his head he maintained his eyesight, turning his eyes upwards so hard that his vison started to blur. Once the large meaty hand of the executioner lifted the barkeeper stood, the executioner readying his sword grunted in annoyance. The barkeeper stood with his back facing the executioner. “I’ll stand, for I have done no ill deed. I saved a people.” “You betrayed your own kind to save monsters.” “We shall see.” The bartender grinned as he watched the door to his bar open. “It begins.” The bartender whispered under his breath, right before the executioner’s sword parted his head from his body. As the bartender’s head struck the ground the crowd started to notice the increasing number of Mycre that had started to pour out from the local buildings. “Rat beasts!” One man yelled as he started to run to his home. With that the township fully noticed the now screaming Mycre as they charged the executioner platform. The masses started to run in all directions in a desperate hope to flee their assailants. “Come get me you filthy beasts.” The executioner screamed as he steadied his enormous dual handed sword, and took a defensive stance. Cleaving his blade through Mycre, he tossed their limp corpses to the ground, mangled, and sliced. He swings slowed as the never-ending mass of fur and claws slowly over ran him. His weapon fell hard to the wood as he was jumped on by a mass of Mycre biting, stabbing and gouging chunks of flesh until he fell to his knees and stopped moving. With his corpse now still, the Mycre moved on from him. Finding their next target for the assault. The town was over run quickly, with Mycre swarming through the streets they outnumbered the humans ten to one. Once they were satisfied with the dwindling number of humans, they started to drag them all to the centre of the town, a few seemingly lucky individuals. Ten humans were sat down bloodied on the ground, panting with minor wounds they huddled into one another as the watched the endless see of Mycre shift around them. The Mycre tore through the town, finding hiding holes, and purging all of those who hid. The corpses were stacked in a circle around the ten humans who were huddled on the ground. “What do you want with us?” A human yelled, just to be ignored. They watched with increased confusion as they stacked their own fallen kind onto the circle of corpses. Dressed in robes a small sect of Mycre started to surround the circle, chanting softly under their voice their leader stepped into the circle with a crystal ball that had a strange swirling smoke inside. Handing the sphere to the person sat in the centre of the huddle. “You hold, or suffer further.” The Mycre snarled, handing over the sphere. The human took it in their hands and remained sat, transfixed by the smoke. The others around them went to protest, but as soon as they were laid upon the smoke their faces drooped as their muscles relaxed. The lead priest returned to their position in the group, the chants grew stronger and suddenly there was movement coming from those who had recently been slain. Their bodies shifted as if they were being pushed, toppling over one another they started to roll towards the transfixed living humans. The living humans reached their hands out and pushed them through the crystal, their bodies disintegrating as they touched the smoke, but their expressions didn’t change. Soon the corpses were rolling over the top of them and everyone was being forced into the sphere. The light from the ritual started to beam into the sky, a strong green light that could be seen from all the surrounding hills. The preacher had his bag slung over his shoulder as he marched away from the town, turning back he took a moment to lean against a near tree and watched the lights beam up. “Fools, not that it matters.” The preacher adjusted his bag as he stood up. “The baron won’t turn down these gifts, he will do what needs to be done to purge these beasts.” He mumbled as …

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