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The Gryphn Lord plays a role.

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 5

The Battle for Camlon

In the darkness before dawn, Vytria flies high above Camlon. The city is deceptively quiet, as Vytria feels movement through the air in the streets and the castle. All are moving into position, for today everything will be determined. Today they fight for Camlon.

As the faintest lights of dawn push back the night, a small rescue party moves silently through the castle. Certan ordered all the defecting knights locked up in the dungeons that still stand. Most of those knights are young, as they owe great loyalty to Dnovan, their captain. Now Morcant, with two from Tarik’s household, move in to free them.

The stealth of the two with him, Rydn and Jyrn, amazes him. Many times he himself loses track of their presence as they penetrate further into the castle. Even so, this is too easy. Certan is not one to take any opponent lightly.
“Relax,” the one called Rydn whispers. “Whatever is here, we’ll deal with it.”

A soft breeze swirls around Morcant. Vytria is reminding him she too is watching. Morcant lets his tension ebb somewhat. Presently they are within sight of the imprisoned knights, but a snap of wind pushes him back. “Certan’s trap is just ahead.”

Jyrn and Rydn nod and disappear. Around the corner sounds of clanging metal and shouts ring through the dungeon. Morcant hears footsteps behind him, and turns to find himself engaged by several knights at once.

“Only three of you?” Certan asks as he faces Jyrn. “I expected more of an effort.”

“Four,” Morcant replies. “And that is all we need.” A rising gale confirms Morcant’s count. The knights attacking them find it hard to move, making them easy opponents. Morcant, Jyrn, and Rydn fight their way to the cell doors and release the imprisoned knights. As the group moves toward the gaping hole Vytria had created with her own earlier escape, the gale stops suddenly. Certan’s knights close in from all sides. “What did you do?” Morcant demands.

“There are other powers besides that of the Queen of Chaos,” Certan replies.

“It is true, then. You have allied yourself with Lady Ashrah.”

Vytria’s wind picks up, as if responding to Morcant’s turmoil, and explodes, removing all Morcant’s obstacles on every side. Before the dust settles, Morcant leads his party away from the castle.

 

Vytria catches her breath. Not many could have interfered with her winds like that, and certainly none that were present in the dungeons. No, whoever challenged her wielded their power from much farther away. Until she found them, they had the advantage over her. By now the undercity would have become a battlefield. Perhaps down there… Vytria stirs the air and focuses on the fighting down below. Just as Dnovan expected, the undercity is crawling with Nirad, and the mages are finding themselves at a disadvantage. But none of them, so far, are the one she seeks.

Vytria catches a sense of a strong power. Before she confirms its location, it surges toward her, too fast for her to withdraw her focus and counter it. The full force slams into her, knocking her from the tower. Vytria lets herself fall, guiding her momentum into one of the openings to the undercity.

As Vytria nears the castle, she sees Certan pursuing Morcant. Anger rises within her. “You shall not turn away from us. Witness the slaughter you yourself have ordered.” Vytria knocks him underground with her winds.

As they both fall beneath the ground, sounds of one battle are replaced by the desperate shouts of another. Nirad are attacking the undercity from three sides. But for the valor of the Laine brothers the undercity would be overrun, and the darkness favors the Nirad. As it stands, the Laine brothers can only hold back the Nirad, and their strength will not last forever.

Vytria guides her fall so she lands near Dnovan, while Certan lands behind the Nirad.

“What happened?” Dnovan asks her.

“Morcant successfully rescued our knights. A Nirad down here interfered with my winds and knocked me down here. Oh, and I pulled Certan down here too.”

“Can you locate the one who attacked you?”

“I know the general direction. He shouldn’t be hard spot.”

“Then let’s accept his challenge. These men could use something to cheer about.”

“Gladly.” Vytria and Dnovan charge through ranks of Nirad. While Vytria controls the air, the advantage Nirad gain in the darkness is greatly lessened. That, combined with the experience the Laine family has in fighting Nirad, begins to turn the tide.

Then Vytria’s wind abruptly falters. “Dnovan, it’s happening again.”

“I see it. It’s him.” Dnovan gestures to a tall, muscular Nirad striding toward them. His power seems to wrap itself around him in pitch black cloak. “That has to be Kaisen. You ready for this?”

“Does it matter?” Vytria and Dnovan attack Kaisen together, but Kaisen is clear a top-ranking Nirad. He is in no hurry either. He blocks and parries all their combined attacks, while he himself strikes only occasionally. Kaisen seems content with sealing Vytria’s winds and letting the pair exhaust themselves.

After yet another failed offensive, Dnovan speaks up. “Vytria, you’re not focusing.”

“I’m trying to ignore his interference, but that’s proving difficult.”

“Then do what you want. What’s necessary will take care of itself.”

Vytria smiles slowly. “Hang on to your helmet.” She begins to move the air throughout the battlefield, but Kaisen quells it.

“Nice sentiment, but not going to happen. This battle is ours,” Kaisen declares. He sends a killing blow toward Dnovan, which Dnovan just manages to dodge. Kaisen laughs. “Mere wind will never defeat me or defend your comrades.”

“Mere wind?” Vytria echoes. “I think mere wind is just what we need. Sometimes, strength lies in stillness, in smallness, and in a whisper.” The battlefield changes subtly. Nirad begin to falter. “You cannot sense it, can you. After all, you’ve spent so much time seeking power that the small things are lost to you.”

Kaisen’s fury rises in tangible waves. “I think you’ve made him mad,” Dnovan comments.

“That makes two of us,” Vytria says. “Let’s see him block this one.” Black grapples with Vytria’s winds, and Dnovan charges. Red joins black.

Kaisen’s blood greets Dnovan’s blade.

 

On the battlefront opposite Kaisen, Certan bests another mage. He swings his sword to strike down another, but a clang of metal blocks it. Certan looks over at his challenger, and sees and angry Morcant.

“Certan!” Morcant shouts. “How could you have fallen so far?”

“That is my question for you. I am defending my people.”

“You are killing them! I have looked into Camlon’s history, Certan, that history which your house has willfully neglected. These mages have been citizens of Camlon longer than we have!”

“Mages are the reason Camlon weakens.”

“Their deaths are what weakens Camlon. Lady Ashrah has not the good of Camlon in mind or heart.”

“I do what is necessary as King. You are weak, Morcant, too weak to make the hard choices.”

“I would rather be weak than a fool.”

Certan does not reply, but swings his sword at Morcant furiously. Morcant responds in kind, until the sound of wingbeats and soft cries penetrates their vision. Certan senses something his periphery, and slashes at it.

Then he stops cold.

A silver gryphn. The symbol of Camlon. He has slain a silver gryphn.

The ground beneath him rattles. Something large is approaching. The very air trembles before it. But Certan has no chance to discern what comes, for in the next moment all is fire.

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Posted by on April 1, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 4

By Alicia Steen

Day 5

“Mernan! Saddle my horse,” King Certan calls.

“Where are we going?”

“To Certainna. She can tell me where the Lady Ashrah is.” Mernan stops cold, but Certan continues. “I just received word that Elhren and the Dragon Lord will join Dnovan and Morcant. If we are to crush this rebellion, we will need help from someone with power to match theirs.” Certan finally notices Mernan staring at him. “Well, get to it.”

“Yes sire.” Mernan moves toward the kitchen first, to gather supplies, then heads for the stable. His mind refuses to process what Certan had just said. There are stories about Lady Ashrah, each one worse than the last. She is said to never age, and holds power in one hand and death in the other.

With the hour Mernan stands at the castle gate with two horses, ready for the quick journey. The look on Certan’s face as he mounts up says he was planning to ride through the night. Certan gives quick orders to his most trusted knights, and rides off with Mernan following close behind.

Mernan watches the streets as he rides by. Signs of the recent satyr invasion still remain, but even so the markets are as lively as ever. With the promise of internal strife in the near future, many have left the memory of the invasion far behind. This revolt seems to have happened in an instant, but it has been a long time in coming. Violent change is on the horizon. Now that Certan has decided to ally himself with Lady Ashrah, will the Camlon Mernan had come to love even exist when all is over?

Mernan and Certan ride through the west gate into the forest covering much of Camlon. When they leave the main road and reach a crossroads, Mernan stops his horse.

Certan also pulls up. “What is it, Mernan?”

“This is as far as I go.” Mernan lifts a tear-scarred face. “I can follow you no further than this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I will not fight against you, Certan, but I know about Lady Ashrah, perhaps more than you do. If you forge an alliance with her, you will have crossed beyond the point of return. She is more than dangerous.”

“Lady Ashrah is Camlon’s only hope. I don’t like this any more than you do, but as king I have to make the hard decisions. The blood of those who join this revolt will be on their own heads.”

“Will it? If you die, will they truly be held accountable? Even once, have you ever thought that you and your father might be wrong?” Mernan shakes his head. “No, Certan. None have forced you on this road; you take it by your own choice.” Mernan turns his horse aside.

“Mernan!”

“Farewell, Certan. Even if your future does not see you blest, I will forever remember the times I knew you best.”

With these last words, Mernan urges his horse down the opposite path. Certan watches him leave in silence before continuing down his road alone in the waning sun.

 

The Lady Certainna lives with her few servants in an old tower just outside Camlon’s border. She does not often receive guests, but when King Certan, her brother, rides up to her door, she does not refuse.

“Certan, king of Camlon. To what do I owe the surprise.”

“I wish to speak with the Lady,” Certan replies.

Lady Certainna looks at him sharply. “You’re serious,” she says with false laughter. “Be careful, Certan. Once you meet with her, there is no going back.”

“I already have but one course open to me. She may be able to change that.”

“I should refuse,” Lady Certainna says, “but somehow I do not think that would do much good. Very well, follow the mountain until you arrive at an emerald lake. She doesn’t like unnecessary visitors, so have something of worth to say when she addresses you.”

Certan bows. “Thank you, Lady Certainna. I will not forget this.”

Lady Certainna gives a mirthless laugh. “Do not thank me. Believe me, Certan, pointing you to the Lady is no favor.”

Lady Certainna watches as King Certan rides away from the tower. When he is out of sight, she calls for a servant. “Bring me the swiftest falcon. Morcant must know to be wary.”

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 3

By Alicia Steen

Arlan Laine walks quietly through the dungeon. Delia’s cell is empty, just as Dnovan said it would be. “Delia,” Arlan calls quietly.

“Here, Arlan.” Delia lands softly in front of him. “So? How does Dnovan wish to play this?”

“He wants you to blow this dungeon to the netherworld,” Arlan replies.

Delia grins. “Can do.”

 

Dwain and Devin climb through Morcant’s window. “Well, that was fun. Remind me never to do it again,” Dwain comments.

“You know this room has a door,” Morcant says.

“Really? I thought only smart people used those,” Dwain answers. Devin elbows him.

“We had need to come here unseen by the guards,” Devin explains. “House arrest and all. We bear a message from Dnovan. He bid us give you this.”

Dwain hands Morcant the sword Delia found in Jeshrun. Morcant accepts the blade. As he examines it, his eyes grow wide. “This is a magical blade, yet the silver gryphn of Camlon is prominent upon its hilt.”

“Our sister Delia discovered it in Jeshrun,” Dwain tells him.

“Camlon was not always a country who fought against mages,” Devin speaks. “Camlon fought with them. King Uthyr twisted our laws for his own ends, and his son King Certan has chosen to follow in his path.”

“This is what Dnovan would know: as a member of the royal family, what is your choice?” Dwain asks.

Morcant stares at the aged sword. “Sir Dnovan is moving, then.”

“He is,” Devin confirms.

“I spoke with Certan myself, and he would not listen. I could never wish to raise my hand against my uncle, but he is wrong. The claim of the mages is just. I know just how much the untainted mages still do for Camlon, as this last battle should have proven. It is time they were allowed their rightful place in Camlon.” Morcant straightens. “I will stand with Dnovan.”

A female voice speaks from the window. “It is heartening to know we are still accepted here.” The words are punctuated by a loud explosion, followed by the crumbling of stone. Morcant hurries to the window. There, where the former dungeon stood, is nothing but a pile of rubble. Floating not far from the window is Delia, accompanied by Arlan.

“You and Dnovan do not mess around, do you?” Morcant says.

Delia smiles. “There is a reason the Laine family has a reputation, even now. Part of that is we do not fear making ourselves heard when the time is right.”

Dwain speaks up. “Dnovan said to meet at Gail’s place.”

“Okay see you there.” Delia and Arlan fly off.

“Wait!” Dwain calls, but Delia is out of earshot. “We have to climb back down the hard way, don’t we.”

“We have to climb back down,” Devin confirms.

Dwain and Devin sigh loudly.

“I will meet you at the servant Gail’s house. I have some preparations of my own to make,” Morcant tells the brothers as they begin to climb down.”

Dwain nods. “No hurry. After this, it’s Certan’s move anyway.”

 

“What was that!” Certan shouts.

“The dungeon where Delia was held has been destroyed!” a knight tells him.

“What?!”

“This is Dnovan’s declaration of war,” Khad tells him. “There can be no doubt now. His hand is against you.”

“Then he has already sealed his fate,” King Certan replies.

“Many of the people may side with Sir Dnovan, but most of the knights will remain loyal to you. If you act quickly, you will have them outnumbered before they can gather strength,” Sir Khad advises.

A different voice disagrees. “They will not need numbers.” All look to the door as Sir Elhren steps into the room. “Prince Alexandr Parkr will side with them. Numbers mean nothing to the dragon riders of Gathyra. You saw his prowess with the sword in the tournament. If you meet him in battle he will not withhold his magic as he did then.”

“Indeed, it takes a special warrior to take on a dragon,” Sir Khad agrees.

King Certan considers Sir Khad carefully. “What are you getting at?”

Sir Khad continues, “My king, you know I am from a kingdom that knows neither shadow nor magic. Our warriors are trained to combat both with deadly force. However, to enlist their strength you must first speak with the Lady, and she has not granted me knowledge of her whereabouts.”

King Certan nods. “Have Mernan ready my horse; I ride within the hour. Certainna will know where the Lady Ashrah is.”

Sir Khad leaves, but Sir Elhren remains. “King Certan, are you determined to follow this path?”

“Sir Morcant has committed treason. I must uphold the laws of Camlon.” Seeing Sir Elhren’s grim expression, King Certan adds, “What is it, Elhren?”

“Sire, I served you because I believed you to be a just king, but justice and wisdom have left your house. If you side with Khad and his kind, I will not stand with you.”

King Certan nods slowly. “That is your right.”

“I also bear a message from Morcant. ‘If you pursue this path, you will destroy not only yourself but Camlon as well. Therefore, for both your sake and Camlon’s, I will stand with Dnovan.’”

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 2

By Alicia Steen

Dnovan paces the dining area of the family house restlessly. The room is quite spacious when the six brothers are not all occupying it at once, but as it is Dnovan’s pacing makes it feel quite small. Devin and Arlan sit at opposite ends of the long wood table trying to get in Dnovan’s way when he changes direction. Nearest Devin, Dwaine leans in the kitchen doorway engaged in silent communication while on the other side Druce stands staring out one of two windows, his back to Aedn who stares at the floor next to the front door of the humble house.

None have spoken words since King Certan confined them to the house. The family motto, which all have lived by since their parent’s death, is Live Together, Fight Together. To allow their sister to die for anything less than a serious criminal act grates against everything they stand for, yet so does acting against the king to save Delia’s life.

A knock on the door breaks contemplation. Aedn opens it, and in steps a well-known maker of trouble, Drest the maker of nails.

Dwaine greets Drest first. “Look who’s come to share his intimate knowledge of jail cells and the king’s justice.”

Dnovan quits pacing, but Druce doesn’t turn from the window. “State your business,” Druce tells Drest curtly. Drest starts to speak with sweeping hand motions, but Devin interrupts.

“Before we change our minds,” Devin cautions. All the brothers have had experience extracting Drest from whatever trouble he’s stirred up and escorting him to the dungeon. Knights cast lots to determine who gets to unravel Drest’s next scheme.

Drest nods and puts his hands on the sturdy table. “All this has happened before. It will happen again. Not even the Lady Certainna was safe from our previous king’s wrath, and it seems our current monarch has inherited his vengeance.”

“Stick to the facts,” Druce says, still without moving.

Drest continues. “The people of Camlon agree with you. The king will never overturn the ban on magic; to ensure the safety of our loved ones we must change the law ourselves.”

“Never!”

Dnovan’s deep voice resounds off the walls. “We stay true to the royal family and our own.”

Drest shakes his head, which creates an odd rhythm with his hands and his knees. Only his voice stays steady from long practice in sticky situations. “Fate has not given you such an enviable third option. We are entitled to rights, Sir Dnovan, and we must fight for them.”

Dnovan stands tall and approaches Drest until he stands not a foot away. Drest straightens, but at full height he does not come even to Dnovan’s shoulders. Dnovan speaks.

“I know what ‘rights’ you speak of, Drest. The right to act lawlessly, the right to shirk your duties, the right to drift where your whims take you. A man does have rights: the right to be ruled justly under fair law, the right to build a livelihood in safety, the right to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Your ‘rights’ are anarchy, Drest, and when you your days are utterly spent you will return to our king and ask for a place in his household.”

Devin rises from his seat. “You heard the man, Drest. Take your words elsewhere.”

As Devin escorts Drest from the house, Drest leaves a parting thought. “Your ideals still won’t save your sister, Dnovan! You will join me if you ever want to see her alive; fate has decreed it!”

Aedn shuts the door firmly. “What a loudmouth. Doesn’t he ever shut up?”

Dnovan leans on the table. “I’ve decided. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

 

While the Laine brothers hold conference, King Certan confides to his trusted servant and friend Mernan in the king’s chambers.

“I do not have a choice, Mernan. The Lady Delia herself confessed to using magic, and the law is clear.”

“Yet it remains, sire, that Lady Delia used magic to protect Camlon. She saved many lives by her actions.”

“Magic is power, and power corrupts. If wizards are allowed to use magic feely all of Camlon will dissolve into chaos like it had before my father’s time.”

“I have used magic before in your presence; at times powerful magic.”

“Yes, Mernan, but you use it only in great need and never in such a public manner. I wish more than anyone this were not necessary, but I have a duty to protect my people.”

Mernan bows his head regretfully. “Yes, sire.” At that time Sir Morcant enters desiring to speak. Mernan leaves the room so trusted nephew and respected uncle can speak in private.

King Certan speaks first. “If this is about the Lady Delia, my decision is final.”

“The law is wrong, uncle. Not every wielder of magic is bent on destroying Camlon, as Lady Delia proved mere hours ago.”

“And how long will it be before her power goes to her head, and she betrays us as Lady Certainna did?”

“You cannot compare Delia’s situation to your sister’s. My mother was scared, she acted in fear of what would surely happen if your father should discover her abilities. If you show Delia mercy instead of trying to kill her the same will not happen.

King Certan shakes his head sadly. “I cannot take that chance, Morcant. The lives of my people are at stake.”

Sir Morcant does not want to believe what his ears tell him. “And what of those in Camlon who use magic? Are they not your citizens as well?” Morcant shakes his head in disbelief. “You do not even believe your judgment is just. You say you have no choice, but in my eyes you have already made it.” Morcant moves to the door of the king’s chambers. “You have told yourself that magic is evil for so long you no longer see people, only monsters.” Morcant shuts the door behind him firmly.

“You have made the right choice, sire,” Sir Khad says. “Magic was even able to corrupt your father in his last moments. You cannot spare any of them.”

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

Stirrings in the Deep

By Alicia Steen and Lynae Steen

 

Vytria. Blue Soul, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

A stillness seems to settle over the sea after the dark wizard himself became nevermore. This stillness is not an absence of movement; it feels more like a calm before a much bigger storm.

“Look.” Cyran directs my attention to the sky. “Fire is no longer falling.” He glances at the cliffs. Flashes of red-orange break up the dark clouds. “Though flame is still pounding the Dark Moon as hard as ever.”

“Is shadow waiting for something?” I scan the seas around me. Fewer ships than I expected have been destroyed. This calm seems to stretch over all of Blue Soul, even the cliffs. The gryphn that remain are perched on various masts, and the sailors seem to be taking their cue from them. All are waiting.

Something big is coming.

This strange silence stretches the minutes into hours.

“I’m not sure where is worse; here or over there,” I say, gesturing toward Fortress Dark Courage. The clouds of shadow are thickest in that direction, and even from here we can hear the clash of battle.

Cyran stares into the water. “Here.”

 

Erianna. Fortress Dark Courage: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

“Grapplers!” the Captain’s voice roars out to all defending Dark Courage. Out of the dark mist strong iron teeth shoot straight towards the wall on which we stand. Immediately shadows pour forth onto the wall. Multicolored lights zip down from the wall into the hooks and the mist below. Mykai attaches a song barrier spell to at least twelve arrows and releases them in quick succession. I build up a sonic wall to try to knock down a guy with purple hair and orange eyes riding on the nearest grappler.

“Ah!” A surge of outside magic crashes into mine, splitting my outward flow of magic, taking my focus along with it.

Uh oh.

The sonic spell bounces back into many who are fighting on the wall, knocking most off balance.

Mykai swings around and creates a musical wall to negate my spell.

Princess Erelynn doesn’t react quickly enough.

Synrn. Phoenix Tower: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

“Ah, ah, I’m getting bored.” From the desk on the other side of the room, the view out the tall window isn’t very enticing.

“Whose fault is that?” Tetze asks without looking up from his papers.

“His!” A finger gestures to a painting on the wall of the Ancient of Days, portrayed as a white flame above the magical creatures. Truth be told, as many people didn’t come to Tetze’s office because of that painting as those who were nervous of Tetze himself.

Tetze sighs and moves his gaze past the window which frames the cliffs and the sea beyond. “There seems to be movement on the cliffs.”

“Really?” A closer inspection of the view causes a smile.

Looks like they will be coming soon.

“Let’s go.” Without giving Tetze any warning or room to object, action exchanges the stone floor for the strong wings of a phoenix. Tetze mounts a phoenix on the roof of the tower and follows.

This will not be a scene to miss.

As red feathers carry us to the Crystal Falls of the cliffs, clouds of shadow rumble in the distance toward Dark Courage.

 

Erianna. Fortress Dark Courage: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

Another magic wizard forces magic into Mykai’s wall, nullifying the spell and causing my sonic spell to slam into her.

I swing my sword through two shadows and rush to help Erelynn, my nearest comrade, up again.

Oof! Something hard slams into my chest, causing me to fall. Erelynn and I look up to see a woman with greyish-black hair and gleaming yellow eyes with a fan in her right hand. I reform my swords into several daggers and swing them at her, releasing a sonic blast from them that slices every shadow within the vicinity of the daggers.

“Such destruction,” she lets out a sickeningly sweet laugh and raises her hand. My wooden daggers freeze inside the polluted ice. “Imperfect magic is never long in defeat.”

“The Ancient of Days does not give imperfect magic,” I lift myself up and call my daggers back, forming them into swords. In one swift motion, I charge forward and channel sonic waves inside my sword.

The orange-haired General splits it again.

My swords shatter. My waves expand, threatening to miss the General I am aiming for. I is all I can do to keep them I that general direction.

My waves freeze in their tracks.

I form my shattered swords into a bow and arrows, unleashing several sonic arrows in several directions. Erelynn twirls her violet light toward my arrows and inserts it into the wood. Mykai adds her musical waves to mine, doubling their strength.

“Sunder,” the orange haired dark wizard General separates the three different spells from inside the wood, causing my spells to shatter the wood and everything else that happens to be in its way.

I feel Mykai’s song waves vibrate inside my sonic waves and direct them into the stone. Part of the stone vibrates under magical strain, but still does not break. That’s a first.

“Go to the towers!” the Dark Moon Captain drives a hammer into several shadows trying to get on the wall. “Lords of Magic, get to the wizard towers!”

The wizard towers. The three towers where three wizards fight off any incoming invasion. One or two wizards can make a tremendous difference, but whole battles can be lost if all three towers aren’t defended.

“Where?” I shout, swinging my hands to knit the wood chips back into swords. The chips flutter at my feet as I notice a black-haired female dark wizard sending break spells into the wood to cancel my magic.

“There is one north, one west, and one east,”—the Captain ducks under a slash from above—“We are on the western wall. If you follow the wall into the corridors there should be some stairs leading upwards into the wizard towers,” he crouches and swings his hammer in a circle from below.

Erelynn throws a couple serids into the first female dark wizard. She bats the light and the serids away effortlessly, tossing an ice lance Erelynn’s direction. “I’ll take this side,” Erelynn says.

“Really?” the black-haired woman swings a chain Erelynn’s direction. Erelynn dodges with a bruise on her left shoulder.

I block a side blow with my left arm, grunting as I do. My fox lunges with claws and teeth, latching onto the shadow that is attacking me.

Mykai vaults herself in the air to dodge a slice from below and shoots eleven song arrows successively. “I’ll take the East,” she says. The male general causes Mykai’s spells to expand and cancel themselves out. Her Rnbar violently slashes its claws at him, but he steps out of its range. He glances at the woman holding the fan, the first female dark wizard. She lowers her chin.

I nod at both of my fellow lords. “I’ll go north,” I tell them, tossing the chips to release a sonic attack on the dark wizard holding the fan. She raises her hand to unleash a stream of polluted ice that halts my waves. Mykai sends a song spell into my sonic waves to drive them forward. The male dark wizard moves to sunder the spells, causing Mykai and me to struggle for control. Erelynn sends light magic our way to boost our magic. The second female dark wizard steps in front of it and casts a counter spell to nullify the magic.

I am too busy trying not to knock friendly Dark Moon soldiers off the wall to dodge the first female Dark Wizard’s polluted ice lance. I drop and roll, ending up with a gash across my forearm. I roll again away from a downward strike. Using my feet to kick the lance out of the way, I leap up and force my erratic sound waves in her direction. One of Mykai’s arrows flies through my sonic spell and picks part of it up, piercing through three rows of shadows. Erelynn’s violet light wraps around the arrow in the same move.

The male dark wizard releases a counter spell to shatter the magic within the arrow. The first female dark wizard blocks with polluted ice, and strikes with it from below in one motion. I have to use a grappler as leverage to vault off so my feet aren’t cut off.

I don’t see the second female dark wizard’s iron chain coming in from the left.

And air is all that waits behind me.

 

Synrn. Crystal Falls: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

As soon as red feathers land near the crystal falls along the cliffs, several of the nearest captains flock to Tetze.

“General, those fireballs have decimated our troops along the cliffs. We continue to fight, but we may not be able to last the night.”

“General, the numbers of gryphn have dropped alarmingly. Shadow creatures have grown bolder; we need reinforcements!”

“General, the shadows have ceased their attack. They may be regrouping for a second wave.”

The clamor for Tetze’s attention continues. Certainly, from surveying the seas and the nervous lines of men in front of the cliffs, their reports seem accurate.

However, we are of clan Dark Moon.

“Enemies may move in on every side, yet we are not abandoned. Though we are perplexed, we are not despondent. Many swords have thrown us down, but we are not destroyed. We are broken, but we are not crushed. The excellent power of the Ancient of Days is sufficient to banish this shadow to the darkness; therefore, we do not lose heart.

“A dark moon may shine upon our battle, but never shall Shadow claim it. For we walk with giants.”

The clamor has quieted. Kyle, the most powerful Lord, stands on a rock on to the waterfall with an expression he only wears when he gets serious.

The captains have followed my gaze. “Him? He stopped attacking when the fire rained down.”

Their ignorance prompts a smile. “Watch.”

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Dark Moon, Erianna, Synrn, Vytria

 

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Breaking of Bonds part 4

By Alicia Steen and Nathan Steen

 

Synrn. Phoenix Tower: Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

“It will be a dark night.”

From the top of the Phoenix Tower all of northern Dark Moon is normally visible, but tonight all is covered by a thick cloud that rumbles with flashes of red-orange flame. It has not reached the Phoenix Tower, but if Fortress Dark Courage should fall, we may well be next.

“They will need reinforcements,” General Tetze says grimly beside me.

“We wait here for the cloud to disperse,” I answer. Tetze glances a disbelieving look he hasn’t used since we first met.

Nevertheless, he says quietly, if not calmly, “There won’t be anything left, if indeed it disperses at all.”

All the wolves and phoenix from the RedStone are here, patiently preening or lounging about. Until their time arrives, they prefer not to waste energy. “We wait,” I repeat firmly with an unyielding expression Tetze knows better than to argue with. “We cannot restore what is lost until the occupying force has been removed.”

Tetze remains silent, trusting my judgement from years of practice.

We wait.

 

Ecalai. Northern Forest: Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

The dark fortress looks as foreboding as Ecalai thought it would. Much of it is a ruin, no doubt the result of countless battles that had been fought here. The heart of the fortress, however, still stands, and from it the clouds of shadow are rising to darken the night sky. Ecalai walks through the ruins toward that tower. Even here he can catch echoes of the shadow’s invasion of Dark Moon. The sound helps him focus on his goals, though he needs no reminder. He knows all too well what is at stake.

Upon entering the tower at the fortress’s heart, Ecalai is hit by the strong presence of the deep darkness that dwells here. Shadow pours from the walls in a never ending river, seeming to thicken the darkness. It is as if the dark fortress itself were alive and bending its will against all who walk within. Ecalai has to rely on his magical senses to find his way because the darkness here is so deep.

“Well, well, well, look what we have here,” a familiar growl says.

“I’m surprised you have the courage to face me again, Ramuel; especially after you ran away in Jeshrun Below,” Ecalai replies.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Ecalai. You only waste your breath.” Ramuel’s voice seems to be moving but Ecalai can’t tell where the Nightbringer is or what he is doing. “Can you feel it, Ecalai? The shadow is growing. I know you saw it. It brings back old memories, doesn’t it?”

“Don’t act as if we are old friends, Ramuel. You know nothing of me or my past.”

“Deny it all you want, but you know you’ll never escape from the horror of that day. No matter where you try to run you will always be forever trapped in your past.”

“Nagaster’s fate is long behind me. I’m here now to put an end to your stalking in the shadows for the sake of all Jeshrun.” Ecalai still can’t get a fix on Ramuel’s position.

“You can’t lie to me, Ecalai. I was there that day when Nagaster fell. I saw the shadows as they streaked forth toward an unsuspecting nation. I saw the fires as they blazed high into the night sky. I saw you desperately trying to save all you cared about, but was ultimately unable to save a thing. The memory of what happened is burned into your mind; you are unable to escape the guilt and the pain.”

It is true. Ecalai has never been able to forget the flames that raged, and it has driven him subconsciously ever since.

Ramuel’s smug speech continues. “Jeshrun will fall in exactly the same way, and again you will be confronted with the horror of your inability to stop it.”

“Enough of your taunting, Ramuel. I will save Jeshrun from Nagaster’s fate and I will also destroy you for standing in my way.”

“Yes, just try to beat me,” Ramuel sneers as Ecalai finally catches a glimpse of a shadow directly in front of him. “You can struggle if you want, but for someone like you it is impossible to defeat me. In the end you will fall into shadow before you even have a chance to scream.”

 

Vytria. Blue Soul, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

When the dark clouds rolled in, chaos truly reigned. Instead of rain, fire and grey gryphon fell from the sky. The shields on the ships of Blue Soul provided no defense against the manifestation of shadow’s power, and the sea soon became a graveyard of shattered hulls.

“Nevermore.”

My wind stills, causing me to fall to a watchtower of a nearby ship. I pick myself up, and there, on the ship’s bridge, is a thin figure clad in a black cloak with the hood pulled low over his face. The ship’s crew attack him with various blades from all sides, but he doesn’t seem notice any danger.

“Nevermore.”

The crew falters; then one by one collapse onto the wood. From here I can’t tell if they’re dead or just sleeping.

The figure raises his head toward me.

I blast all the wind I can muster in his direction. Sails rip, wood splinters, but when my wind passes he is standing where he was, his cloak only slightly more tattered than before. The only change is his hood has fallen onto his shoulders, revealing an unnatural pale face and an expressionless glare. The kind that immobilizes you by the force of it.

Fire crashes into the ships around me. Blue Soul’s ability to dodge is greatly reduced while this dark wizard holds my focus. Unbidden, my memory flashes back to my last night in the village of my previous home.

What am I supposed to do? Just like then, my wind has no effect.

 

Cyran. Cliffs: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

I can do nothing but stand and watch as chaos descends around me. This shadow seems to fill every crevice until there is no room for my healing to do its work. I stare across the sea and view similar struggles from one end to the other.

A sense of strange magic pulls my attention to a particular blue ship. Vytria is struggling against what can only be a dark wizard. There is no other explanation for the way he seems to erase her wind.

This is something I can do.

“Vytria!”

 

Ecalai. Northern Forest: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

The dark fortress shakes to its foundation as Ecalai and Ramuel fight within. Ecalai is so focused on Ramuel that he loses track of time. When his thoughts try to recapture the hours, his exhaustion tells him how long he has been fighting. Ramuel, however, shows no signs of growing weaker. His strikes are just as strong as they were when the fight started, as if the shadow itself were feeding him energy. The fight appears to be in Ramuel’s favor, but Ecalai is not finished yet.

“Haven’t you learned by now? You can’t stop the shadow. There is nothing you can do but fall,” Ramuel says.

“I won’t fall to the likes of you. I am not finished here until I cut off the shadow from its source.”

Ramuel laughs. “The shadow’s source? Your ignorance is laughable and always has been. Shadow doesn’t have a source, it merely is. This fortress is but a temporary dwelling place of the shadow’s power, one that very soon will not be necessary. If you destroyed the fortress it would make no difference. Shadow will spread over Jeshrun and the land will belong to the darkness for the rest of time.”

“Not while I stand here. If nothing else I can make sure you never live to see any victory the shadow might gain.”

“I think not.” Ramuel turns his head as if he were listening to something. “It has been fun, Ecalai, but my job is finished here. I would love to stay, but the shadow calls and there are other things I must attend to before long. Don’t worry, though. I’ll find you and again and someday finish where we left off.”

“Wait!” Ecalai shouts as he dashes forward to stop Ramuel from leaving, but he is not fast enough. Ramuel is already long gone. The fortress grows silent, and Ecalai realizes that shadow has left the fortress as well. Ecalai pounds the wall in frustration.

He has failed.

 

Vytria. Blue Soul, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

“Vytria!”

Cyran? Blessed light, Cyran is riding a gryphon. He jumps from its back onto the ship’s bridge, staggers a little, then launches himself at the dark wizard.

“Vytria, remember!” Cyran continues his offensive, while the dark wizard parries every attack.

“Nevermore,” the dark wizard speaks again in his monotone. Cyran is less than impressed.

“Oh, shut up.”

Remember? Oh yes, the tree…

 

Vytria. Guardian’s Tree, Nilonian Empire. Year After Shadow Two Thousand Ninety-Three.

We had recently discovered a hidden spot in a clearing of the forest, and were spending yet another afternoon there. For some reason the lone tree in this clearing has me fascinated, though at a glance it appears like every other aging tree.

“Hey Cyran, there’s an inscription here.” Deep in the bark, near the root, are words I haven’t noticed until now.

Cyran doesn’t move from his healer’s journal. Dry reading, if you ask me, but he enjoys it well enough. His enthusiasm for my find is implied in his tone. “What’s it say?”

I look closer.

“To my words, young daughters, listen well:

He who fears abandons trust,

So chose well whom you fear,

In him alone place your trust,

And he only shall you fear.

My words, young sons, remember well.”

 

Vytria. Blue Soul, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

“I remember!” How could I have forgotten?

Cyran smiles while his eyes darken with anticipation. “The Ancient of Days is much scarier as an opponent than this guy, I trust.”

“Naturally,” I reply. Cyran strikes at the dark wizard, only to be blocked yet again. “You can’t get through either?”

Cyran throws me a withering look, truly scary if I didn’t know him.

“Nevermore.”

Cyran blocks. The dead sleep effect of the dark wizard has no effect on him. “What he said.”

I nod and turn my attention to focusing my wind.

I take a deep breath. Words aren’t strictly necessary to activate magic, but the right words can lock the mind in place. “These lands belong to another. Your words have no place here.”

“Nevermore.”

My winds threaten to falter, but I ignore that concentrate on gathering them. “These seas belong to another. Your words have no place here.”

Cyran starts his own chant. A verse we learned when we first came to Jeshrun. My winds gather into a gale as his voice rises.

“When darkness clouds sight,

When shadow drains the warrior’s might,

All hope abandoned, yet one remains,

For strength abides in ancient light.”

Cyran adds his strength to my winds, and I blast the dark wizard with a whirlwind. His voice is drowned in the gale.

The next moment sees the dark wizard gone for good.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in Cyran, Dark Moon, Ecalai, Synrn, Vytria

 

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Nevermore

By Alicia Steen and Nathan Steen

 

Vytria. Blue Soul, Jeshrun. Year After Shadow Two Thousand One Hundred.

Now that it’s dark, the swaying lanterns of the ships are creating strange shadows on the cliff. They play at illuminating the caves and crevices. It is an unwritten rule in the Blue Soul: none go into the caves, and most importantly nothing comes out. There is a reason the now agitated gryphon guard the caves. A reason dark enough for even them to hesitate to disclose.

I use my wind to bring the sound closer.

I hear it again, a single spoken word, louder this time and in an unpleasant raspy voice. My body goes stiff, almost causing me to fall from my perch. The voice causes my wind to become a freezing chill.

“Nevermore.”

The darkness in the caves becomes shadow that pours out in a flood. Dark creatures strengthened by shadow spill out in droves. I summon my wind to sound a warning bell of a nearby white ship; then bring forth all my strength to hold back the hordes and the black mist. Most of Blue Soul is sleeping. I must buy even a few moments, or Blue Soul will be…

No more.

I’m slipping.

“Lady Vytria! It’s all right. Put your strength into attacking those shadow beasts.”

My eyes alone move the ship captain shouting below me. He nods with a confident smile and clear, determined eyes. If I let go, shadow will cover all of Blue Soul, so what makes him so certain we will all come out of it?

Doesn’t matter. I will trust his words. I release my wind, and the wide open sea becomes obscured by shadow. Even the moonlight is blotted from sight.

 

Cyran. Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

Warning bells from all over banish even the thought of fitful sleep. Every member of clan Dark Moon is rushing to the cliff line. When I arrive there myself, my blood runs cold. Every shadow creature ever whispered, and many more that weren’t – all of them are pouring out of the cliff’s caves, spreading in every direction.

Blue Soul’s ships are pounding the cliffs. Dark Moon attempts to aid them, but too many shadows are climbing up to meet them. To make matters worse, shadow’s dark fog is flooding out with the creatures. It makes them stronger and hinders Dark Moon’s ability to fight.

It was on a night like this one that the warriors of Dark Moon earned their name. Now the words I’d heard recited make sense.

 

Our peace is dead,

Our light is banished,

Our promise of life lay in ashes,

And darkness takes the moon.

Our future is sealed,

yet hope arrives on silver wing.

 

We find our strength in darkened hour,

and declare this humble vow:

A dark moon shines upon our battle,

but never will shadow claim it.

 

I move through the lines, healing any I come across with speed and efficiency. This will be a long night. Even so, the warriors of Dark Moon have the spirit to keep going no matter what. I’ll make sure their bodies do the same.

 

Synrn. RedStone, Jeshrun.

The night is just beginning. Clan NaruNova would be sleeping, but rest is far from their minds. Tonight is a sight they’ll see only once. Every silver-streaked wolf and red-hued phoenix is leaving the RedStone in a mass exodus, all heading straight for Dark Moon. The NaruNova watch and wonder, but none have joined them.

“What’s going on here?” So Kaze is the first to ask the question. He’s the one who fought Kyle, the Leviathn Lord, just a few days ago.

An old man with grey hair, probably an elder, answers Kaze. “Shadow is moving in force once again. The result of some fool provoking it, I shouldn’t wonder. As members of the twelve creatures, both phoenix and wolf are duty bound to respond.”

Kaze asks the next obvious question. “Then why isn’t shadow attacking here?”

“We of clan NaruNova made peace with shadow long ago, when we ceased holding to the failed promise by the Ancient of Days. As we do not fight, we are not a threat.”

“So we just gave up?” Kaze does not like the idea of staying safely from a fight.

Ah, the old elder is angry now. He pounds his walking stick on the ground. “How long do you propose we should have waited? It had already been centuries beyond memory, and even more so since then. The Ancient of Days forsook us first when he failed to keep his lords, the signs of the promise, alive and well.”

“I know the story. Five hundred years after shadow the Phoenix Lord and the Wolf Lord, who founded our clan, despaired of their title and died. The land around them reacted to their despair and heaved up its lifeblood, creating the RedStone. They were the last two living lords.”

“So you do remember your history. Heed the old saying: never follow a wolf. You’ll last longer.”

“Boring!” I yawn. Both the old elder and Kaze look up at me with angry and startled faces. Not having anything more to say, I take to the air on my own phoenix. Before we fly completely out of earshot, I hear Kaze shout one last sentence.

“There’s no way I’m letting that guy have the last word!”

 

Ecalai. Toledoth, Jeshrun.

The very night Ecalai left Dragon Mountain, clan Toledoth was invaded by shadow. Even now the night is not yet half over, yet the constant waves of shadow creatures make sleep an impossibility. The guide said that this spike in activity is the result of Ecalai having dispelled the shadow around Dragon Mountain. Apparently shadow does not like to be messed with.

“This doesn’t make any sense. How can shadow think and act as if it were intelligent?” Ecalai wonders. “It behaves like a living thing.”

“Maybe there is a darker mind behind the shadow pulling its strings,” Mykai interjects.

“What puzzles me is how this shadow can exist at all,” Erianna adds. “Where does it come from and why is it here?”

Ecalai turns his gaze to the border of the shadow. The dark mist lies in an open field just beyond the line of trees where this forest begins. As he watches, the shadow slowly advances across the field. Another surge is coming, and soon shadow creatures would invade this area. “Whatever the case, we certainly don’t seem to be making even a dent. We are simply holding the shadow off, and we cannot keep this up indefinitely.”

Mykai nods. “The Toledoth are strong warriors, ever vigilant, but I doubt they can hold off the invading shadow alone.”

Erianna also nods her agreement. “Shadow must have a source. If we can cut it off, we might be able to put an end to what will otherwise be a never-ending battle.”

At this proposal, the guide speaks up. “There is one place we might look. Finding this vast shadow’s source might be impossible; however, stories speak of a vast network of tunnels and caves underneath Jeshrun. They were carved by one of the twelve magical creatures, the Faln, in ancient times, but they were all sealed away for an unknown purpose around the time shadow first invaded. If shadow does have a source, it might well be down there.”

Ecalai eyes the dark mist advancing closer. “It’s worth a shot. If Erianna is right, we must cut the shadow off at its source.”

“I agree, but getting down there won’t be easy. I too have heard the stories, and it has been ages since anyone has walked down there. I doubt even the Toledoth remember the locations of the seven gates of legend,” Mykai cautions.

“True,” the guide replies, “But the Toledoth might still have records of them.”

“Then that is where we will look.” Ecalai brings out his twin staves, each still broken on one end. “Right after we are finished here.” Ecalai braces to meet the oncoming waves of shadow creatures, but his mind wanders elsewhere. Could there really be a source of shadow beneath the surface of Jeshrun? Is it something that can be destroyed? All this isn’t adding up in his head. Can it really be that easy?

 

Cyran. Dark Moon, Jeshrun.

The more Dark Moon fights, the more of my respect they earn. Most warriors would at least be thinking of falling back before this unwavering onslaught, even with me healing them. I can heal the body, but the spirit is beyond my reach. Ultimately, that’s what takes the hardest beating in a fight like this. Not Dark Moon. I have yet to see a single warrior do so much as hesitate, even for a second.

I’ve never found warriors like this until now, unless I count Vytria. Even if I cure them, they still give up. So I gave up healing them. Not tonight. Not anymore. Dark Moon will never quit, so I’ll make sure they don’t have to.

Some help would sure be nice. As far as I can tell, I’m the only healer along this entire cliff line. As shadow thickens, the battle will only get worse. I take a momentary break to look around. Now that I think about it, shouldn’t we be swimming in shadow by now? Judging from the amount that’s spewing from the cliffs, I shouldn’t be able to see the barest outline of the moon, much less anything else.

A streak of silver. What was that? I walk closer to the cliff. There it is again, a silver bolt that banishes all shadow in its path. I stare up at the dark sky; then I see them. Silver wings. The gryphon are dive-bombing the cliff. They along with Vytria’s wind are keeping shadow in check. I smile. She’s most likely not even aware of it.

I grab a wounded Dark Moon warrior and drag him away from the very front of the fighting. Five moments later he’s as good as new, and jumps right back into the thick of battle. The night’s only just begun, after all. Anything could happen.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Cyran, Ecalai, Jeshrun, Synrn, Vytria

 

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