Your posting ability may be restricted for the first 24 hours!"
Midas Triton :: Part One of a seven part story series! (8712 words)
Hello community! After half a year of waiting for Season 3, and these forums with which I could share this, I've finally decided to post at least the first part of a story series I would like to write, based in the universe of URealms!
The series started out as I practiced my art skills, where I would make characters from the Season 2 cards (at that time), and then draw them. I then had the idea where, I would make six characters, each based around one of the six elements of magic, and write a story about them.
This first part was written more as an experiment of how I could use the theme of colors to tell a story, as well as using an actual D20 when combat scenarios would pop up, that way the story is told--at least somewhat--like an actual campaign!
While everything might not be strictly game format (for example, there is a "pseudo-class" I've created called "Gold Magician", who uses gold to cast certain spells at the expense of some life, and vice-versa...), I still had tons of fun writing this, and now that it's been edited to fit the Season 3 format (such as "Mighty Breeze" being replaced with "Windwake"), I felt that maybe some of the community would enjoy this read. Any feedback is appreciated, and feel free to offer some criticisms, questions, and pointing out grammatical errors or typos.
So, without further ado, here is the story about Midas Triton--a Kobold with an unlikely gift, with red eyes burning like the flames of the setting sun!
I can still remember the day where I lost that young, pink glow within myself. That day—well, it was night—that night, my mother was slain in front of my eyes as I was being dragged away, as my father fought ferociously to defend the rest of us who were left.
Funny, my father was raised by High Bears. You see, he was ostracized by his first Kobold tribe as the runt of the bunch, he couldn’t run quickly enough with the rest of them as they all shifted to a far-off location. He was abandoned in some high mountain range—which he never told me the name of—where there was a High Bear sort of “splinter colony” patrol that found him, huddling against a torch he had made with a branch and a weak sort of fire magic, and decided to see what they could to with him before choosing whether he would be supper for that night or supper later. Turns out he was quick enough to learn; he became blessed by some of the ultimate wizards of the High Bear colony, and so he departed from the colony as an adolescent to make his own name and survival, with the red strength of the bears burning within him. He founded my home colony of Kobolds—another Triton Ground colony, as he carried the last name of Triton just as I do—and had mated with my mother, a greedy Kobold raised by the pink lights of the golden sun on the sea, and so I was born: Midas Triton. I was born with the red embers inside of me, strong from day one. I’ve had fire in my eyes for as long as I’ve been on this ground.
A crew of red, ruffian Porc pirates arrived on that one fateful night to plunder our village. I can still remember the screams of pain, I could see the red blood coating walls, tents, and posts; the shore water had been tinged with crimson as well. I watched the shapes of my father’s friends duel with the Porcs; the scenes were like watching a bunch of Elves wrangle an Elephelk together, multiple smaller shapes swiftly swiping at a hulking menace, only to be blown away in one wide, punting motion. I was left on the ground, just an infant, with some tags and a blanket, as my mother tried to defend our door—but she was frail, and was reduced to a puddle of bone shards, blood, and fur as the captain slammed his anchor into her small figure. The captain looked down at me, and I looked back with a furious glare, as if I knew what they were doing, and he recognized the fire within me, scooping me up and returning me to his ship; at the time he was walking back, the rest of the crew had done their tasks of ransacking our storage, salvaging what weapons and jewelry they could from the corpses of my colony warriors, and making off with some of the kids, just like me. This is the story the captain has told me, over and over again—but he needed not, as I remember every passing second of the assault, the great massacre.
Perhaps the falling of colonies, of villages, of kingdoms, is always ridiculous; perhaps death is always absurd.
When I think back on it all, the beginnings of my life, I see a theme of recruitment, and abandonment. My father was abandoned by his home tribe; I was salvaged from mine. High Bears took my father in; the Porc crew took me in. The High Bears let my father go; the crew dropped me at some harbor, and I watched their ship sail away into the pink sunset.
I do not remember where this harbor was, only that I had hidden away with a small lump of gold to my name, and began to thieve to keep myself alive. I lived in the darkness, but my red eyes would give me away as they burned brightly in the shadows. It was not long, however, until I had stolen a pair of sunglasses from a spellthief Elf, and so my eyes were hidden from the light of the world—but the light was given to my sight, as I discovered that the sunglasses let me see in the dark (of course, all sunglasses do this, but this was news to me—I hadn’t heard of sunglasses before). My first treasure—I still wear them to this day. The thrill of thieving had quickly appealed to me—I had watched crews sail in and out of the harbor, and became swiftly jealous of the ruffian lives that they were living. I even managed to steal a bag of holding off of a ship one time, and I still use that to this day, as it has become awfully convenient. The Porc crew’s savagery was more acceptable, as I learned over time.
The days on the harbor have also taught me my skills in gold magic as well. One day, a magician of sorts appeared and began street performing—he was a Dwarf, Dvergr Dvergr, by the name of Quincy. Quincy would take a fair fraction of the gold thrown at him and turn it into wonderful, colorful spells on the spot; a master in the conversion of gold to magic and vice-versa. Any assault thrown at him, he would turn into gold with the swift motion of a hand if it were a spell; or, if it were a non-magic attack, he would take the lumps of gold around him and quickly cast a shielding spell of sorts, like Thunderdome. I quickly grew to enjoy the shows Quincy would put on, and I would thieve some extra gold each day to closely watch him perform, trying to silently learn his movements and techniques as an onlooker; I would afterwards attempt to mimic what he had done, and fail. Quincy eventually noticed my little fascinated scheme, and he said to me one day, in a soothing, silky tone:
“Young young one, you seem to be very enthused in my shows shows. For what purpose do you sit and watch my shows shows?”
I told him cautiously that I wanted to learn his tricks, and his neutral, blue eyes melted into pink warmth.
“I see, young one one. You have no need to be evasive evasive though, no reason to shyly ask—I will teach teach you, but know know that these are no tricks tricks. Sit beside me, young one, and tell me your name name.”
And so, I had relayed my brief history to Quincy, and I slowly learned his skills—he took me in as an apprentice, like a second father, and suddenly my first name “Midas” began to fit more and more, as I became a gold magician. By the time I was an early adolescent, I had nearly the same skills as Quincy—and he was quite proud of me, always watching with those pink, warm eyes.
Unfortunately, by the time I was just finishing my training under Quincy’s wing, the harbor was slowly dying in terms of industry; the both of us had talked over plans of where to move onward, and I was certainly not in a good position; a lack of people to steal from means a lack of gold to be stolen, and a lack of gold means less objects in which to keep myself full of food and healthy. Gold cannot just be casted from nothing—it comes with a cost in energy and, more or less, health. To cast gold to buy food to eat is redundant—you’ll end up back where you started. This is why most wizard colleges have a common lunch break, but—anyway….
Quincy and I had very different plans: he wanted to move on to the nearest Dwarven keep with his little lump of saved gold which was collected from his street performances, and as the universal tension between Kobolds and Dwarves existed, Quincy’s path was not mine to follow.
On our last day at the harbor, Quincy used a large amount of his energy to create a blunt saxophone for me—the act of creating a physical treasure from his gold is a powerful, energy-draining, and lesser-known form of gold magic; he was truly a master gold magician.
“Now son son, this here saxophone will be my last gift gift to you,” he said to me, “it is a great weapon weapon in which you will be able to fully utilize utilize—I can tell from the bright burning burning in your eyes.” This surprised me, as I believed that my sunglasses had hidden my red, shining eyes from his own, but he told me:
“Oh no no, they do hide your spirit spirit, but I can see many many things. I could see the magical quality quality burning within you, son son.” And so, with our final waves of goodbye, we walked towards the fork in our road, each to our own separate direction, on that day, which was quite short and always a glowing pink with the low sun. Quincy gave new meaning to my name of Midas—no longer was it a symbol of the yellow flame of greed that flares within every living thing, but it was a golden medal that represented my qualities—the qualities that also burn within each living being.
I traversed the shoreline for a long, long time, thieving more and more in order to survive, and I had learned to scuffle with others when they would catch me, or provoke me. I had learned how a certain class of pirates—booty raiders—would fight, and so I would defend myself with those sorts of martial arts against even whole crews of pirates—from Dwarves, to Porcs, to other Kobolds. I would practice these stances and rhythms of fighting in any spare time I could manage, and I had become a sort of red menace to the harbor markets along the shore, and I had a small bounty to my head, commissioned by a local authority in order to keep the peace amongst the area. I always kept moving however—it is in my Kobold blood, to keep a nomadic sense of survival—and eventually, after learning the techniques of master Booty Raider pirates, I began to trek inland.
Before I continue, I should tell you that, in my time along the shore, I had seen occasional wizards put on shows, or become unfortunate victims to fights—and I had seen them cast two spells of which I am fond of: Fireball and Pyroblast. Only twice in that time, had I come across two spell scrolls for the spell of Fireball, and I would cast them after extensive examination of their scroll—in search of hidden marks or layers, as though I were examining a map leading to infinite amounts of golden treasure—and both times, after the casting, I had a sense of adrenaline, of strength. The red, shimmering spheres of searing destruction soaring through the sky… I felt drawn to the flames.
After the second casting of Fireball, I spent the rest of that day watching the sun, the great body of Callisto, move slowly through the vast, blue sky, giving us the warmth and light of billions upon billions of Fireballs. I realized the immense power of the sun, the magnitude of that energy, and how each day we would take it all for granted. I stared at my own reflection in the sea—I remember that day being unusually calm—and I removed my sunglasses, peering into the orbs of my red, smoldering eyes, watching my own movements. I had heard about the followers of Vlaurunga, and their name: the Sigil of Flame, hunters of dragons. There is a sort of folklore, that the sigil is blessed with a mysterious strength, fueled by their own spirit and ambition, and it would take form in a red, shimmering shape. This struck me on that day, and I believed that I must have been a Sigil of Flame myself—although I was not sure, as I have no desire to hunt the offspring of the Dragon Aspects, nay, I would like to preserve their lives instead.
This all being said, I had eventually migrated to a fairly large encampment that, I would soon see, composed of a mix of all races, and I decided to walk in through the front gate, greeted with kind words from a female Dwarf guard: “Hail, traveler! What brings you to our quaint home?”
I briskly and somewhat awkwardly replied, telling her that I was a nomad, searching for a place to settle. Seeing the lack of luggage on me, she inquired with a pink smile: “Do you have an item of holding on you?” to which I said yes—she continued: “The main encampment is on your left, just go on through and you’ll spot it! We won’t discriminate you as a Kobold,” the remark was made as she noticed my odd expression, as I was indeed wondering how a Dwarf could be so kind to my race. “Our camp was founded by a ruffian group of travelers, all different races, and so we are quite unique with our diversity! We always welcome newcomers, even if they wish to thieve! We have enough spare food and drink to keep double our amount hearty, I’ll have you know. Go on, now!” I did so, quite uplifted by the pink kindness of the Dwarf guard.
The encampment was mostly a collection of tents, but all organized into rows—the road here from the gate was worn, and lined with very few conveniences: a rough tavern, a collapsed inn, and those were the two most notable ones. There was also a stage, likely for entertainment, and a few stands which I assumed were for selling foods or scrolls or tools or treasures. The tattered tents had some occupants within them, open to the outside; some tents were closed, where sleeping occupants may have laid within; and some were empty altogether, however each one had luggage of sorts within. In my mind, this was a perfect place to take treasures from, but for some reason I felt compelled to just unwind and converse with some of the diversified groups of beings, and so I did. They took me in warmly, told me all of their names and I told them mine, and they inquired me for quite a while as to who I was, what I was doing, and what I wanted to do. I melted to their kindness quite easily, and so I had become one of them.
My memory of the place blurs from there, except for but a few things, which have had great effect on my life. The most important thing, while during my stay at the encampment, I learned how to cast Fireball. There was an Elf wizard that specialized in fire magic, and he deemed me a “pure enough” being. The entire course took about a few days and nights—from proper stance, to focusing the mind, to summoning small embers, to correct control of the embers—thus expanding them into a furious sphere, and then correct Fireball-flinging motion. The spell scrolls seemed easier—it felt more like directing a burst of energy into my palms and, well, I suppose the scroll itself did the work for me. Either way, the finished product always felt the same: the rush of adrenaline and satisfaction, and perhaps joy, from being in awe of this great red bubble of destruction. My Elf wizard tutor realized my potential quickly, and he even seemed somewhat proud of my accomplishment.
Unfortunately, as all great celebrations do, my joyous time at the encampment came to an end, and I was gifted a map of the surrounding land, which I, among the ones I had befriended, created a planned path that I would take to reach the next destination—a small, far-off Elven village, which was welcome to all races, as long as no interference was forced onto their hand. And so, on a lovely golden dawn, I had picked myself up and held one final hurrah with the entire camp, and left to continue my nomadic adventure across the green, vibrant land, against the pink, welcoming sky.
Some days later, still en route to the Elven village, the skies had lost their periodic pink and red temporary glow, as waves of vast, grey clouds formed a massive, thick blanket over the green land. The forests that I made way through were of pine; enormous evergreens. The climate had been steadily decreasing, at a rate where I would nearly be able to adapt in sync with the changes, but the cold was just faster; I had decided to seek a temporary shelter.
Drained of energy, after about two or three days and nights of my drowsy (I hadn’t gotten much sleep), yet determined trek, I found myself along the side of a lone pair of somewhat small mountains—still along the designated route to the village—and I began to search for some sort of alcove, an outcrop or roofed cliff of rock that I could nestle under. On the opposite side of the first mountain, where it began to fuse with the second, there was a small den of sorts that was deep enough where a modest space within could be made. The convenience of that den being there felt almost too good to be true, as though I was being directed by the Gods. And yet, there I am: brushing sand and dust from the floor to make space for a blanket crafted by an elder Gnome from the encampment—it was Ramster fur, a rusty golden color, a lovely gift which was quite enough to keep myself warm as I slept—along with the blanket, I had created a small roll, made of a large patch of the same material, and filled with leaves, to serve as a makeshift pillow; its original purpose was a cover for my bag of holding, which I had stored all of the supplies inside. I was also able to roll in a chopped log segment within the close area—perhaps a lumberjack had inhabited this cranny before—and use that as a stool for which I could rest my tired bones upon. A few thick branches had been reserved, which I would cover the tips in cloth and meat grease, and light up with red fire as a torch that would give a somber and warm light as the night would come and go. The light became even more mystical as the snow began to fall—first in modest flurries, then in occasional, heavy sheets, and then in fronts and young blizzards. The snow began on perhaps the second night I was taking refuge within the cranny; I had decided to stay awake, as I felt the climate shift slightly enough, a warning of what was to come from the grey skies.
On the fourth night—I was hoping that the barrage of white would cease at some early point to provide me an opening for which I could continue the trek—I had decided to sleep early and perhaps hunt for some sort of food on the following day. I started awake to a rustling noise, and a sudden feeling of sheer cold. I had turned around begrudgingly to see the culprit of the stolen blanket: a nearly half-naked female Gnome child—not a Keen—who had swathed herself, messily, into the blanket. The rags she adorned were a dirty grey, torn in unspecific places, and hardly covered her breasts and her lower region. Her face—no, her expression—was fearful, eyes wide with a blend of icy blue weariness, and shuddering cold; I could not tell clearly which was more dominant. Her teeth were chattering, her skin quite pale from the cold, her hair was a darker golden brown—not unlike the blanket fur, in fact—and it was short but not largely short. She could not have been older than an adolescent, but not younger than that either. She had no weapons that I was able to immediately see, and I would learn thereafter that she had nothing on her but a comb and her rag-clothing.
Immediately, I felt blue sorrow for this girl. This Gnome. But, then, I was still apprehensive; it is important to know to never trust a person from first glances, nor judge them by first impression. I could tell, though, that she could not generate her own body heat—and I had no torch lit. I sat up, lit one, and held the flame toward her. She did not wince away, no, she swiftly inched forward towards the flame, absorbing the warmth.
“Have you any weapons on you? Have you stolen from me?” I inquired, monotonously. I did not want to show her any feeling until I was sure of her intention.
In the first moment, she did not answer. I raised an eyebrow, and she replied, timidly: “No, just my… my comb,” which she held out. Some sort of pink coral comb, common and not exquisite.
“Would you mind assuring me of that?” I was still slightly apprehensive, but the tone of her voice was weak. If she even had a weapon—a shiv, as nothing larger would be concealable—she would not have been able to break my skin. The Gnome shuffled clumsily, turning around and indeed revealing nothing. “Fair enough,” I said, with a more light inflection, “now, you keep that blanket. I can tell you’re freezing.”
“Well, I know some fire magic, as you can tell.” I gestured towards the torch, but her eyes did not trail from my gaze—as if she could see through my sunglasses with that piercing gaze of fear. “I can give you some direct warmth, if you’d like.” She hardly had an option. She crawled over, and I—having practiced the control of the fire—had warmed up my rough hands, and began by clasping my palms to each side of her head, then her neck, her back, torso, arms, palms, legs, feet. She stopped shivering within the moment, and told me her name: Harby Grant, and she told me how grateful she was that I had not slain her. She fell asleep as I had begun another wave of heat on her back. I gently rested her head upon my makeshift pillow, propped up two torches close—but not too close—to the bundle, as I had properly swathed her in the blanket. I pulled the stump towards the entrance of the cranny, and I began to softly play tunes of lullabies from the blunt saxophone into the dark, jade forest; the white snow ceased not long after, and the warm glow of the red, gold, and pink flames danced, as I let the songs guide themselves through the silence.
“And so now I’m here,” I concluded, “and now you know about me.” Harby nodded, her expression neutral from listening. “I would like to know more about you, why are you out here alone?”
“Well,” Harby began, “I was born in the Silverflats.... My father was a spellslinger… My mother looked after me….” I noticed her frosty blue eyes were looking upward in recollection, I could tell she was having a hard time remembering her past. She continued: “I’m great with a pistol, if that means anything to you. My father trained me when I was very young. I don’t remember his name. Or my mother’s. Something happened to the town there, just after we left… I think some massacre…. Something happened to my parents, when we moved, and I was driven out of my home…. “
“I don’t need to know about your early life,” I said, “Just tell me: why are you out here and alone?”
“I’m not alone now, aren’t I?” Harby looked back down, her eyes locked with mine—her icy gaze was incredibly piercing and I’m not sure if she noticed my sudden shiver. She expected me to confirm or deny this.
“No,” I told her, pitying, “You aren’t. I’ll look after you for now. You need warmth in this weather.” She nodded.
“It’s been some days since I’ve been forced out here, and I’ve barely had any food.”
She is indeed scrawny, I noticed. “I thought I was meant to die,” she continued, “I thought the Divine wanted this to happen. Wanted me to perish. But I saw the bright glow, of one of those torches, fading. I needed the warmth. So I thank you for that. I thought I should have a little warmth before I died. So I took your blanket. But you spared me.” Harby’s eyes grew wide when she said that last part. She seemed as if the concept of being saved from death, the magnitude of an act, was making a large impression on her.
“Hmph,” I grunted, “Well, if you’re hungry, we should hunt.”
“Isn’t that a bag of holding?” She pointed at my bag of holding.
“Yes, it is.”
“Well, couldn’t you just grab food out of the bag? You have to call the item you want from the realm of holding, don’t you?”
This dumbfounded me. I felt my eyes narrow and my mouth form a line. How have I not thought of this before? That was an incredibly simple solution!
“Ah…. Yes.” I said, slowly. Harby laughed, heartily.
“How could you not have thought of that, Midas?” Harby inquired, between giggles.
“Trust me,” I replied, still incredulous, “I have no idea. Man. Don’t I feel foolish….” I proceeded to retrieve some raw meat of some sort from the bag of holding, and summoned a pan (of holding) from within the bag of holding, and began to fry it up.
Harby and I feasted on that day, as I decided that she should recover more energy for a day, and we—as a pair—would move out to the Elven village, where I would seek a resident kind enough to take her in as an orphan—if she didn’t find a new home there, we would just move on.
The next day, we packed up the supplies and went out. I was able to fish out some leather clothing for Harby, to at least cover up her bare essentials, and she held onto the Ramster fur blanket, like a cloak, as we travelled along. Once the snowstorm ceased two nights previous, it did not return, save for one very light white flurry. We skirted around the mountain, on the path where I traversed, and continued on by the way of the line on my map.
Not much occurred, until we made half the distance. I had managed to slay a stray Elephelk to harvest some meat and leather, which was stored in the bag of holding.
“How far until we get there?” Harby asked me. Her voice was filled with more energy than before, I could tell she was in much better shape. I’ve been doing my job well.
“Hmm…” I stopped for a moment and studied the map, and judged our surroundings. “About halfway from the mountain. Perhaps another day or two of travelling, depending on how quick we are.”
“That sounds great!” Harby exclaimed, joyous. “Let’s pick up our pace then, Midas.” And so we did. It was but a moment later, however, when Harby sharply commanded: “Don’t move.” Something in her voice made me believe that something was up. I didn’t inquire her on why we should stop. “Hounds,” she hissed, “I hear them. Two of them. To our right. Look right. Don’t move.” I looked to the right, as she said to. She was right—between the thick of the pine vegetation, I saw the swirly glow of two yellow pairs of eyes. An easy way to identify sunhounds.
We stood still for just a moment, but it was too late. The pair of hounds had scented us—neither Harby nor I had noticed that they were downwind—and they were slowly approaching. I had a quick idea, to keep Harby safe. I would cast Thunderdome over her, using the gold in my pockets, and hope to deal with the beasts fast enough so that the Thunderdome would last through the entire fight.
I attempted it.
Combat has started.
I quickly used up some of the gold, and the turquoise-green, fuzzy electricity encased Harby in a dome. The hounds would not be able to penetrate it. Just as I casted Thunderdome, they charged—and I couldn’t dodge in time. I was facing them after I laid down the dome, and they charged at me in two lines—one just to my left and the other to my right—and the one on my right rammed into my leg, knocking me immediately to the ground. The left one ran ahead, off to my left, just a ways off. The hound that was now on top of me bent its snarling head down and bit into my shoulder—the pain was too much for me to hit it with my saxophone—and then it threw me with immense strength right next to the other one, which proceeded to bite into my other shoulder. These hounds must have been starving to use so much strength, as I was in immense pain immediately. I attempted to reach for my golden flintlock in my back pocket—which I picked up from the bag of holding a few days prior—but the hound pushed me back down to the ground before I could do it.
I then remembered something—these sunhounds weren’t using their full potential, as sunhounds are much more powerful when exposed to sunlight. The thick forest above provided a somewhat low canopy, but there was a large patch of sunlight up the path.
The hounds were tossing me toward the exposed light.
Upon this realization, I used Ransack to attack the hound atop of me, and I hit it with the blunt end of my saxophone, knocking it off of me, and so I was able to stand up—while getting up, I reached into my back pocket with my free hand to fire the flintlock at the same hound, and managed to shoot it in its back left leg, gimping it. It fell to the ground, dazed—and then I heard the light pattering of the other hound charging at me, and so I twisted to the right, tossed my flintlock at the Thunderdome—as I remembered that Harby said before that she was good with a firearm—and she managed to catch it, as I cast a Fireball at the approaching hound with my now free hand. The red sphere connected, and it knocked the hound backwards, back where it started: next to the Thunderdome, where I then dashed in order to gain distance from the sunlight down the path.
The hound I had shot weakly gave chase, and managed to tackle me, but not enough to knock me down; I was more mentally fortified than at first. I attempted yet again to swing at the gimped hound, but whiffed in the adrenaline rush. I then heard a muffled gunshot; Harby shot my flintlock, aiming at the hound, but only managed to shoot its ear. With a loud, agonized growl, the now scorched hound that I had blasted with the previous Fireball very nimbly scuttled behind me and attempted a point-blank charge, which managed to punt me forward and forced me to cough and splutter from the impact.
I then heard another gunshot; but not before I felt an incredibly sharp pain enter from the back of my left bicep and come out of the front.
Harby had just shot me by mistake. I heard a shriek, and then a quite exasperated and muffled “Midas, I’m sorry!” from within the Thunderdome. I felt just slightly worse for wear—and I feared the Thunderdome would fade at any moment, so I tried something. I used up some more gold in my pockets to cast Force Pillar under Harby, but I missed the target, and instead made a shield of earth in front of her, which broke the dome, but it would prevent her from assisting in the scuffle.
I then, in a quick flurry of panic, decided to try to cast Pyroblast in hopes that the earth pillars would prevent Harby from being damaged by the large blast. And so I did—and managed to catch both hounds in the blast, which sent them both flying, as well as myself—in fact, I was blown back to the patch of sunlight which I was so desperately trying to avoid. I sat up and rose, ready to keep on the fight, but I saw that both sunhounds were unconscious, farther back, beyond Harby’s position. I then heard two shots, and saw both of the hounds twitch—one was shot in the neck, the other in the head. Harby had killed the both of them.
Combat was over.
After three days of travelling, progression decreased by my wounds, we made it to a different village than what we were advancing towards. The hexagonal, modest village rested atop a low plateau of grey stone, and a mountain range that circled the plateau, like a hand, could be seen clearly from the pathway upwards. The low part of the plateau reached just below the highest treetops, and the rest did not rise much higher. Considering the distance between here and the edge of the range, it looked like half a day’s worth of travelling; not insurmountable. The plateau itself looked like a table for a ritual; that is, if giants were to use it. My bicep did recover somewhat—it was flexible, yet still a little tender. My shoulders, though still sore, were durable and recovered from the bulk of the damage quickly. My leg, which was rammed into, was merely bruised. Harby, along the whole way here and still, would repeatedly apologize to me for shooting me, despite my recognition of the act being a mistake—as though she were traumatized by it. I chose not to think much about it.
About three village guards were in position at the gate, all male Elves, and they were easy to let us in—explaining that we should find our way to the inn at the far end of the village to plan on what we should do next; I explained and made it clear that we were nomads—or at least, I was.
The village layout was organized into rows, the small streets formed lines perpendicular to one-another, and there was no disorder to the pattern. Buildings of varying shapes and purposes—some houses, some bars, some market stands—populated the plateau. Harby and I approached the inn, and I asked the keeper at the desk for a spare room, and delightfully took the key and gave initial payment—I didn’t pay much attention to any details, due to my exhaustion. The room of ours was quaint, sporting two beds with thick blankets, a stand with a green candle on top beside each bed, a spotless desk, but the room had no windows. The walls were a boring green color, and the floor was the usual rough, worn wood. I laid my bag of holding beside the stand by the bed nearest the farther side of the room, and sat upon the bed itself—which was quite comfortable compared to most other material I’ve sat upon. Harby did the same: sat on her bed.
“So what’s next, Midas?” she inquired. I rubbed my temples.
“Well, I’ll need to find if there’s a cartographer around here, and ask for a map of the area,” I explained. “I would also like to see if there’s a Gnome who seems fitting enough to take you in.” Harby flinched at this, which half surprised me. “Is something wrong with that?”
“I just…” Harby slowly stated, “I quite enjoy travelling with you, Midas. I’d rather want to keep moving along with you until I decide where I should go, because you’re the only one I can trust currently, I don’t know anyone else.” She looked at me with those round, blue eyes, and I was perplexed. I had also came to enjoy her company, but I didn’t want a distraction from my travels and learning; I told this to her. “Well,” she continued, hopeful, “I could always learn to cast protective spells or, or something, to be out of your way!”
“Harby,” I said, monotonously, “no decision is final right now regarding you. I just want to keep you safe, and I also just need a map. Right now, I want to rest. I need some strength back.” Harby nodded with disappointment—my guess was that she didn’t like the uncertainty of her fate—and I told her to get some rest when she felt it necessary as well, and to wake me up by dusk (the sun was rising as we arrived in town). And so I slept.
Why can’t he just take me along? I wondered as Midas let out a sigh, probably feeling his bones settle. I’ll be safe if things get rough, but I don’t want him to think I’m weak. Maybe I can hunt for spell scrolls or something, convince him I know how to use them. I then decided to go out and explore the village. I left the inn, and looked around at the huddled groups of beings outside, talking in whispers out in the open, under the sun. It was cold, the air was cold, and I felt a chill again at realizing just as I had thought before, walking to the inn: There aren’t any Gnomes outside. I walked back inside the inn, thinking to myself: I’m walking… inn-side. Giggling at my own pun, I approached the Elf inn-keeper. She looked a little bulky, but had the same air that a sweet grandmother would make you feel. Probably because she also looked ancient.
“Ma’am, do you know if there’s a cartographer in this village?” I inquired. “My friend and I are nomads and we’d like to know where to get a map of the area.”
The Elf peered at me through round, miniscule spectacles and narrowed her eyes. She replied: “Well… why ‘es, we do. Jus’ down thee roightmos’ street faceeng thee veellage gates from ‘ere ah… ye won’ meess eet, thee Porc runneeng eet ‘as a grey beard, and ye won’t meess ‘eem, ‘ees quite intelligent, ah… yeh.” She was nearly squinting to see me.
“Why thank you, ma’am!” I replied with fake excitement, as the Elf was making me quite uncomfortable.
“Oi, ees no problem, ah… yeh,” she grunted back. I then went back outside, felt that shiver again, and my legs decided to walk me around, exploring the streets. Some groups of pedestrians looked at me as I walked by, gave strange expressions, and returned to their conversations with even more hushed whispers.
…Where are the gnomes?
I woke with a start. I heard muffled shouting, like that of a crowd in protest. I looked around for a window, and, remembering that there was not a window in the room, I leapt out of the bed and realized something: Harby was absent. She was not in the bed beside mine. I scrunched my eyebrows, wondering what could have happened to her. I grabbed my bag of holding, but not before taking a pillow and stuffing it inside—it was a nice pillow, after all—and I crept out. Entering the lobby, I noticed that nobody was behind the counter. Or in the building.
Something wasn’t right. My heart rate began to accelerate.
I exited the building, my suspicions were correct: a crowd, consisting of what felt like the majority of the entire town, bearing torches, blades, tridents, and even brooms, packing themselves into the street and making way towards the center of the town. I looked to my left and right, and saw that the crowd extended in both directions like a mad river of flesh. Some stragglers like myself weren’t a part of the crowd: a couple Kobolds and three Elves that looked just a puzzled as I was. They took notice of me as I exited the inn, and I motioned them all over, and they walked over, looking to the side, observing the crowd.
“Any idea of what this is all about?” I asked the first Kobold to approach.
“No clue,” she said. “I’m a missionary heading towards a town west of here, and I’ve only been here for two days to rest my bones. What about you?”
“I’m just a nomad, travelling with a friend,” I replied. “She wasn’t in the room when I woke up though, a minute ago. Have you seen her?” I inquired. “A Gnome, about, uh, this high?” I motioned with my hand.
“No, I haven’t,” she replied, “my apologies.”
Then one of the straggler Elves spoke up, he looked older than average and spoke in a slightly raspy, deep voice: “Did you say a Gnome? A Gnome girl?”
My heartbeat picked up more speed at the hint implied by the question, and I responded: “Yes, her name is Harby, she—“
“Buddy, she’s done for,” he interrupted with dimmed eyes, “This town is full of those Rokesh Children cultists, and these ones consider the Gnome race unholy. You know, because they came into existence for no known reason? They could be sacrificing her.”
My eyes widened. “Fuck,” I proclaimed, “I need to save her.”
“I’ll be right behind you,” said the female Kobold, who I turned to. “That sounds mighty awful, and I wouldn’t leave a fellow Kobold in need. What about the rest of you?” she motioned towards the rest of the stragglers, and they all nodded, some with assurance, some with reluctance. The Kobold turned to me with a smile. “My name’s Pearl, by the way.”
“Midas,” I replied, taking her hand, “I can’t thank you enough for this, all of you.” They all told me their names—the old Elf was named Kehaar. Our small group—just six of us—marched alongside the crowd, making way into the center of the town.
We had decided to form a sort of hexagonal shape surrounding the surprisingly quiet center of town—and, unfortunately, our suspicions were shown to be truthful: there, in the middle, was a square table surrounded by a glowing, green circle aligned with mysterious runes—some sort of earthen spirit magic—and atop the table lay Harby, knocked unconscious, with a large gash in the back of her head, which was still oozing blood. Four figures adorning dark green hooded cloaks knelt perpendicular to each side of the table, and were chanting some harmonious cacophony of a magic ritual. Small, split tongues flicked upward from the magical rune circle like little flames, which were growing in size by the minute from the hideous voices of the cultists. The whole scene: Harby laying hopelessly, defenseless, and the green tongues, and the greener cultist cloths, the broken voices; it all infuriated me. I did something strange instinctively: I took off my sunglasses and revealed my red, burning eyes. I then leapt, screaming, onto the nearest cultist, which was on Harby’s left side.
Combat has started.
Chaos erupted. The crowd began to screech in defiance to this interruption of their ritual, and I heard the roars of my comrades burst into their own actions—Pearl threw a great barrage of Arcane Missiles into the air which arced back into the crowd’s heads, knocking out some unsuspecting civilians immediately, Kehaar had summoned a Blizzard cloud atop a large pack of these crazed beings, and one of the other Elf allies launched about ten members of the crowd backward with a Windwake.
I, however, had knocked my target to the ground, and managed to clutch my saxophone quick enough to deliver a fierce blow onto the back of his head: How does he like it? I thought, alluding to Harby’s wound. The three other cultists hissed at me—they were insane, I took it—and I must have stunned the one I was atop of, as he did not move immediately. In a rage, I then curled my hand into a fist, casted Fireball inside of it, and fire punched the cultist to my left—the one by Harby’s feet—which set his robes into flames that did not deter him, as he then tried to cast Force Pillar underneath me, but missed, and ended up punting some of the crowd members into the air, which must have broken some of their bones. He then tried to punch me, but I was quick enough to grab his wrist and crush it, cracking some of the bones in his hand, to which he recoiled and yelled in agony.
The cultist by Harby’s head pulled out a shard of green glass, as a pocket knife, and proceeded to Essence Shank me, cutting into my back, and then she Blinked behind me, and shanked me again into the gash she already made, which made me wince, but I was able to respond by throwing a fireball into her face as I spun around, grabbing her knife in the process and knocking her backwards into the crowd, knocking her unconscious, while starting a fire in the chaotic crowd.
The cultist on the opposite site of the table from me, to Harby’s right, casted a Mark of Binding underneath me, freezing my legs into place. She then tried to cast Flare from her eyes, as her hands were still trying to keep the fading green ritual tongues alive, but she failed and her face quite literally exploded, in a great bright light tinged pink, killing her instantly and sending one of her eyes flying into my cheek which collided with a squishy squelch and fell pitifully onto the blade of the glass knife which I held, cutting the eye in half.
This disgusting display was followed by the cultist underneath me trying to move, but was unable to, as the Mark of Binding prevented either of us from moving. His chest was locked into place, and he began to suffocate, and I then worsened his problem by shoving the bloodied green knife into his throat. He would not be getting up with that, I believed.
The cultist whose wrist I cracked hissed in a louder rage, and he began to conjure an Arcane Beam, to which I responded by beginning to conjure a Pyroblast. We let loose our spells, and they collided in one beautifully deadly and hot gradient of color, which knocked us both and Harby backwards into the crowd. All the cultists were dealt with, as the one who casted the Arcane Beam was killed from the blast. All I needed was Harby, I needed to get Harby, collect my new allies, and get out of here. The sky above, I noticed, was night—illuminated by the great crystalline full moon. I tried to recover and lunge towards Harby, but I was held back by a couple members of the crowd, who were enraged by my sudden actions, and Harby was on the ground, limp, and the crowd made space from her—as if she were some deadly acid that they were desperately trying to keep away from. Or some dead body that no kid would want to see or touch. Anyhow, I needed to get her, as the adrenaline from my body kept pulling me to and fro; I lunged again, breaking away from the arms of the crowd, and managed to scoop Harby up into my arms as I stood up.
I called out: “Comrades! Head to the town entrance! I need to ensure your safety, do not let yourself into harm’s way!” and I heard Kehaar’s voice call back from somewhere behind me:
“Get your friend out of here! We’ll be alright!”
I then felt a great pulse of energy from within me—and I looked towards the town’s entrance, the gates out of this hell, and I felt this amassed surge of power akin to a High Bear’s bounce out of my body—I casted some greater combination of Arcane Beam and Fireball into the crowd, creating a scorched path through the crowd, the ones in my way now charred and black, immediately dead from this immense energy, and I booked it.
I felt what was like a sudden drop in pressure, exhausted, and I heard the sudden quietness of the crowd behind me, some screeching with shock: “The devil! The devil!” and “He is unholy! Purge the fire!” as well as the other Kobold companion who introduced himself as Kham yell: “Go on Midas! Divine bless your soul!” as I held Harby’s limp body to my chest, running through the gates, down the plateau’s path, and into the pine forest, where I hoped to wait for my comrades to join me in escape from that earthen hell.
Combat was over.
Damn shame that we weren’t able to get a map. The four of us are fairly lost in the pine wilderness, as we decided to run westward, as that was where Pearl was going; she didn’t know exactly where, however, and had stopped at that deranged plateau town for the same reason we did: to determine our next path forward. The skies over the past couple days have been grey and dreary—we believed that another snowstorm might arrive soon. White against green and grey.
I feel different. For some reason, the experience back there has changed me somehow. They tell me that I look exhausted more often, that perhaps I’m getting sick, sick with paranoia; I don’t want something like that to happen to Harby again.
Thank the Gods she’s safe, speaking of her. She regained consciousness the day following the escape; we wrapped her head in bandages, but she has a continuous headache that time has yet to fully heal. On some hours where the pains were sharp for her, I let her nurse on some of my stored Firewhiskey to ease her state of mind. She just needs her head held still, so I carry her as we trek on blindly through the green forests, searching for some hope of hospitality.
Pearl was more than happy to accept us as friends to accompany her on her mission. Apparently she’s a Witch in training, and holds a firm belief that she is blessed by Tambok. She’s a strange Kobold, but I’ve grown to appreciate her company, and Kehaar’s too, as he’s just a freelancer with nowhere to go at the moment.
“No jobs,” he says, “always saying to me that there’s someone more fit for work, more young. As if they don’t know how our age affects us, I’ll tell you….” I guess the topic of his age is a little sensitive.
And here we are. Right now, it’s morning, and our makeshift encampment under a rocky alcove is quick to pack up. There is something strange about this morning that makes it more unique than the other recent mornings: we can see the sunrise.
And boy, does it look magnificent. Pinks, yellows, and reds—which are a likely sign of that aforementioned snowstorm, as clouds are still visible—lighting the horizon, and inspiring hope in the four of us. We feel some combination of somber and confident, as though we know that we can get through this day of probable hard work and travel.
I look down at Harby, and she looks up at me. Her eyes, once chillingly blue, are now a more rich blue, one that you would think is more like deep, pure water. She smiled at me, with evident, cherished hope, and I smiled back.I think the color of my eyes was, in that moment, a burning pink.