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The Serpentine Saga

So, long time lurker here. Finally decided to do something besides lurk, and I figured that there was no better way to do it than to do what I like to do: write a story.

This story isn't about any of the canon characters, and there probably won't be any reference to them throughout the whole thing, but it's still set in Urealms. The setting is within a century after the birth of magic, so expect that sort of thing to be relevant.

I plan for the whole of the story to be many, many chapters long. Every time I have a new chapter, it'll have own post within a spoiler. I'll probably also include some author notes on each chapter, just to provide a little insight, but for now I'll leave those for later.

Please, let me know what you think and critique my work. Don't be afraid to be harsh, I can take it.

Without further ado, here's the story. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Freewell

“Can you believe it? All these lesser creatures wanting to be equal to elves. It’s downright outrageous. Bug munchers and rockskins asking for equality, hell, even the dogs are asking to be treated like people. What has the world come to?”

“Hear hear!” One elf man raised his glass, and all through the bar were voices of agreement.

“Not only that, but there are pigs everywhere! Next thing you know, they’ll want to be treated like real people too!”

“Can’t argue with that,” Eliras muttered, leaning back in the corner. He sighed and took a sip of his drink, wincing at the taste. As nice as beer could be, he much preferred wine.

Actually, no, beer wasn’t nice. But it was alcohol, and he really needed some right now.

Sighing, Eliras took the tome that was strapped to his hip and opened it, flipping through the pages. Each page was covered in his handwriting, and many of them held diagrams or sketches. Truthfully he didn’t need to look at the pages to know what was on them. Already he’d memorized each and every word. The diagrams were drawn by him, there to document his findings in the fields of magic.

Still, it was always good to reaffirm his knowledge, so he checked the book daily to ensure that his knowledge was correct.

Eliras paused at the last page, which was blank. He would ordinarily put a spell here, but he didn’t have any more. All kinds of elemental magic, but the last page was absolutely blank.

Of course, Eliras had a spell he would put here, if he could bring himself to read the scroll. But the ancient spell scroll had an incredibly powerful seal on it, and something told Eliras that releasing the seal would mean that the spell would be ruined.

Finishing off his drink, Eliras gathered his things and stood. The elf onstage was still ranting about the lesser creatures and their actions, but at this point Eliras wasn’t listening. Sure, it was a valiant cause, but the constant rhetoric just got annoying after a while. Plus, he was eager to get out of there before someone recognized him. Imagine what people would think if the sole heir of the Freewell family was spotted in a pub.

So Eliras left the pub, heading up the street to go back home. Maybe tomorrow there would be something interesting to do, but today was pretty bland. What was the point of having so much magical power if you couldn’t put it to use?

Something grabbed Eliras’ attention as he walked back to his family’s mansion. A small form, darting across the street. It appeared bipedal, but in the darkness it was difficult to tell.

Eliras quickly conjured an orb of arcane magic to light up the darkness. Scowling in disgust, he immediately launched the orb forwards, pellets of arcane magic splitting off to slam into the goblin from every side. When the magic finally dissipated, the only thing remaining was a mangled mess and a lot of blood.

Satisfied with his handiwork, Eliras continued up the road.

Goblins. What disgusting little creatures. Nobody was really sure who created them, or which god had allowed them to continue existing. Regardless, they were a blight on the world in every form they appeared, and it was more or less his civic duty to exterminate the ugly things.

The other beastly lesser ‘races’ were just as irritating, though. Gnomes had a nasty habit of making things that were frustratingly useful. Dwarves had proven more than once that their fighting ability and craftsmanship could rival that of elven make. Kobolds were disgusting little furred beasts, but they were vicious fighters. And then Porcs, wherever they had come from, were infuriatingly difficult to kill and even more difficult to talk to.

Eventually, Eliras reached his family’s mansion. Pushing the door open, he crept inside. With luck none of his family were awake-

“And what did you think you were doing, going to a bar with the common elves?”

Eliras stiffened and slowly turned to see his grandfather standing by the door. The ancient elf looked to be in his prime, but Eliras knew better. The old coot had a steady supply of dragon silver that he used to keep himself young. Balthazaar Freewell wasn’t a member of any of the big elven families, but he was definitely among the earliest to come into being. His magical power was nearly unrivalled.

So as the wizard advanced on him, Eliras instinctively cringed. “It was a tough day, one of the octodraks nearly got me, and I needed to drink it off.”

“You’re still taking quests? Waste of effort. If the common soldiers can’t handle it, that’s when a wizard enters the scene,” Balthazaar berated, his brow furrowed. “Now show me the scroll.”

Internally sighing, Eliras took the spell scroll out of his travelling pouch. As it was every night, the scroll was still sealed, ancient magic flowing off of it. The old elf quickly snatched it out of Eliras’ hands and looked the paper over, examining it intensely. Eliras sighed. “I didn’t open it, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Of course you didn’t open it, only a fool would use this scroll outside of a truly life-threatening situation.” Balthazaar took one final look at the scroll then handed it back. “And I didn’t train you to be a fool. Don’t use it unless you’re certain there’s no way out.”

“I know. You tell me every time.” Eliras took the scroll and tucked it safely back into his travel bag. “Every single time.”

“And don’t you forget it! You’re still a child, compared to the likes of me! You’ve got a lot of learning left to do, boy, and until you do it you’re not a proper wizard!” The old man snapped, crossing his arms. “Be glad I even deigned to teach you at all! Your father didn’t want to hear my teachings, and that’s why he’s dead!”

No, he was dead because the old coot had decided to surprise him with a pyroblast. That was why Drakin Freewell was dead. And Senna Freewell was dead because pyroblast caused explosions.

And the old man wondered why his family line was down to two.

But Balthazaar was incredibly skilled at what he did, and that skill had eventually led to wealth and fortune. Now the old coot used his power to rule the province around the small city of Essrin.

Eliras shook his head as he ascended the stairs to head to his bedchambers. Balthazaar was insane. Absolutely batshit crazy. But he was the only family that Eliras had, and there was little else to it. If the old coot threw him out, he’d be nothing. No money, nothing to be proud about. The only thing Eliras would have would be his spellbook, and the old man would probably take that, too.

So Eliras sat down at his desk, opened a book, and began to write.



  • The characters I introduce in this story will all have fully-made character sheets, and all of them will be plausible to make, though not exactly likely. Keep in mind that the characters are custom-made for the story, not the other way around.


  • edited August 2017
    Chapter two! I advise you read it before scrolling further down, as there may be spoilers!

    Chapter 2: Quest

    Calm. Calm flowed through his mind. Eliras took a deep breath, keeping his eyes closed as he did so.

    “You aren’t focusing enough, boy! Put some effort into it!”

    Eliras furrowed his brow. Really? Really. The old coot was shouting at him while telling him to calm his mind. Shaking it off, Eliras cleared his mind again, trying once more to be absolutely calm. Only with absolute calm could he use the spell.

    “The hatezen power is a part of your very being. If you cannot channel it into your spells, you aren’t trying hard enough.”

    Ignoring the old man was getting more and more difficult. Every time the crazy old coot shouted at him it disturbed his focus. Why the hell did he think that shouting would help? Clearing his mind once more, Eliras tapped into his ice magic, trying to channel it into the spell the old man was shouting at him about.

    “What do you think you’re doing? What do you think you’re doing? That’s not how you do it!”

    “Then how am I supposed to use counterspell?!” Eliras exploded, his eyes snapping open. “You’re supposed to be teaching me a highly refined ice spell, but apparently I’m doing it wrong unless I tap into hatezen power!”

    “You don’t understand me, boy. You have to use your spells in different ways, otherwise they’ll see it coming.” Balthazaar sniffed. “But of course, you’re just a hot-headed child.”

    “I am not a-,” Eliras stopped taking a deep breath. “Grandfather, I am doing my best to learn magic the way you teach me, but it doesn’t make any sense. You want me to use my innate power to use a spell that can only be taught.”

    “Well yes, that’s how I did it,” The old man crowed proudly. The maniac was always so vocal that he was a self-taught wizard, and it pissed Eliras off to no end. “Unless you can learn the same way, you aren’t worthy of being my apprentice.”

    “I just-,” Eliras started, then stopped. “I just need some time to myself. I’m going on a walk.”

    “…” Balthazaar glared at Eliras for a moment, then turned away and waved him off. “Fine. Go on a walk. Do whatever you want. Be back tonight so I can check the scroll.”

    “Whatever.” Eliras shook his head and started walking.

    That old man infuriated him. Balthazaar was far too set in his ways, too hidebound to recognize that the world had changed since the death of Phanto. Magic was separated into six elements now, not just one kind of magic with hundreds of applications. Counterspell was ice magic, not the earth that was hatezen power.

    Balthazaar also didn’t realize that he could, and did, do serious physical harm to Eliras. The old man was always shooting fireballs, ice blasts, and arcane missiles at him, expecting nothing to really happen. Clearly he hadn’t learned from when he accidentally murdered both of Eliras’ parents with a pyroblast. In fact, he laughed about it.

    Sometimes, Eliras wanted to kill him.

    Of course, he wouldn’t actually do that. Even though Balthazaar was absolutely insane, he was the only member of Eliras’ family left. Family meant a lot.

    Eliras paused outside of the temple, looking up at the impressive building. It had been far too long since the last time he had gone in to worship. Only a few years ago he had gone every morning, but now he couldn’t remember the last time he had visited the temple.

    His mind made up, Eliras walked inside.

    Immediately he was surrounded by beautiful architecture. Statues of the six dragon aspects were carved out of stone. Vlarunga, Ouro’ras, and Rokesh were carved out of marble, to reflect their natures as the lighter elements. Opposite of them were Yvander, Golestandt, and Quintara Lotus, the statues made of dark obsidian to reflect their nature as the darker elements.

    Which was kind of dumb, grouping them like that. The elements they represented were appropriately linked, but the dragons themselves were known to be very different from one another. Vlarunga, for instance, was incredibly aggressive, while Quintara Lotus was well known to be levelheaded and helpful.

    But, well, they were dragons. Who even knew what they were like?

    Walking into the center of the empty temple, Eliras lowered himself onto his knees, bowing his head.

    He didn’t speak a word. He didn’t feel like he needed to.

    After a while, Eliras rose and looked around. There was still nobody in the temple. Many had decided to forsake the dragons when it was revealed that they could die, but Eliras was faithful. He believed that the dragons could return the world to peace.

    Feeling as though he had done his religious duty for the day, Eliras walked out of the temple onto the streets once more.

    Eliras wasn’t nearly calm enough to return to trying to deal with his grandfather yet. Maybe there was something he could do to chill off.

    Then it hit him: go kill something.

    Balthazaar never approved of Eliras’ quest-taking. That was fine. Eliras found that it was something he could do to help the people of Essrin. Balthazaar didn’t like that, because it decreased the gap between the elites and the common folk, but Eliras could care less. It allowed him to practice his skills, it helped the common people survive, and it eased Eliras’ anger at his uncle. At the end of the day, it mattered absolutely nothing what Balthazaar thought of his questing.

    So with his course in mind, Eliras started walking towards the city’s guardhouse. There was a corkboard outside that had a bunch of random odd-jobs that the guard either didn’t have the time or skill to take care of. Each quest had a difficulty rating, so as to keep the unwary from signing up for a job well above their ability to manage. Eliras never bothered to look at the ratings. He had more than enough magical skill and talent to take care of anything that came his way.

    Occasionally, the head of the guard would come to see him as he examined the corkboard. The only times the man did so was when he had a mission to give directly to Eliras.

    Today seemed to be one of those days.

    Eliras turned his gaze towards the heavily muscular elf, nodding. “Zakarius.”

    “Eliras.” Zakarius nodded back, approaching him. “I have something I need you to do.”

    “As always. What is it this time?” Eliras crossed his arms.

    “Goblins. Lots of the little bastards. They moved in to one of the caves in the mountains, but the ugly things didn’t bother to hide themselves.” Zakarius shook his head. “We’d root them out ourselves, but honestly the vermin aren’t worth our time. They could wind up as a problem later on, though. Mind taking them out for us?”

    “Well, it’s practically my duty to get rid of such pests. Goblins are a blight on society.” Eliras reached into his travel pouch and produced a map, unrolling it. “Just mark it on my map.”

    Zakarius took the map and spread it out against the corkboard, looking it over. After a moment he took a magical stylus out of his own pouch and tapped it on one part of the map, causing a rune to appear. “This is where they are.”

    “Thank you.” Eliras reclaimed his map, glancing at the stylus. “I see you’re making use of that.”

    “You did say that you didn’t want me to keep putting permanent marks on your map,” Zakarius replied calmly, putting the stylus away. “Best of luck to you, Eliras.”

    “I won’t need it. They’re just goblins, after all.” Eliras flashed a cocky smile and walked out of town, heading for the cave.

    Ah yes. Zakarius Steele was a longtime acquaintance. Not friend, not in the slightest, but acquaintance. The captain of the guard disapproved of most kinds of magic, and as such he heavily disapproved of Eliras and his grandfather. Of course, old Balthazaar was essentially his boss, but the captain of the guard still despised the old man.

    But Eliras had a working association with Zakarius, and the two of them knew each other well. Zakarius knew that Eliras could handle nearly any situation, and Eliras knew that Zakarius wouldn’t try to shove a nearly impossible job onto him.

    Of course, sometimes Zakarius would give him a job that was so far away that it wasn’t feasible to do it within the course of a day. This one seemed to be of that vein, but Eliras knew more than a few short cuts that would allow him to get to the cave quickly. Not only that, but Eliras travelled incredibly light. The only things he really needed in order to be ready for a fight were his wits and his spellbook, and he never went anywhere without both.

    As Eliras got closer to the mountains, he grinned. Many people thought the only way to get into the mountain range safely was to use the long winding road. But it was only a quarter of a day to get there as the raven flies, and the road changed that into nearly three days’ travel. Eliras, though, knew that the road wasn’t necessary.

    When Eliras reached a cliff he looked up, channeling his ice and earth magic. Wind began whipping at his clothes, swirling around him as he continued to pull on his power. As soon as the spell was ready, Eliras released it, causing a blast of wind to shoot him straight upwards. It wasn’t perfect, as he could feel the chill seeping through his clothes, but it allowed him to completely bypass the several day journey he would otherwise have to deal with.

    There were more than a few other hazards, too, but all of them were already neutralized from the past times Eliras had passed through here on the way to the mountains. The treacherous river was bridged by a fallen tree, conjured sand reinforcing the wooden bridge. The lacerators that lived in the area knew to avoid him, because he had incinerated more than a few with flamelance.

    So it really wasn’t difficult for Eliras to reach the mountains. Come to that, it wasn’t difficult for him to traverse the mountains either. Most of the obstacles could be overcome with sandblast, wind blast, or shadow ice. All that Eliras really had any difficulty with was knowing where he was on the map, but his observational skills and perfect memory made that a nonissue.

    That, and the occasional goblin darting in and out of sight made finding the cave easy.

    Zakarius was right, the creatures weren’t even smart enough to keep their travelling stealthy. Eliras easily followed one back to the cave, not having to worry about losing his way with the goblin unwittingly leading him.

    When the goblin stepped into the cave, Eliras slipped in right behind the thing. Placing one hand on its temple, he blew its head off with arcane missiles before it could even react to his presence.

    Then he walked forwards into the cave.

    There were eyes everywhere. So many goblins, all staring at him with wide-eyed terror. This was certainly the place.

    Conjuring an orb of arcane energy in his hand, Eliras stepped forwards. He lifted the orb to fire his arcane missiles and-

    Something hit him in the side of the head. Hard.

    And suddenly he found himself face down in the dirt.

    His head ringing from the pain and the force of the blow, Eliras tried to push himself up.

    One of the goblins scrambled forwards, a branch in its hand, and whacked Eliras in the side of the head. The little bugger packed a shocking amount of strength in its tiny body, enough to send Eliras sprawling back onto the ground.

    As if that was the signal, all of the little monsters swarmed him, each one beating on Eliras’ prone form with either a primitive weapon or its bare fists. There were so many that Eliras couldn’t have counted them even with a clear head. They were everywhere. The little insects with their grubby, disgusting hands touching him.

    They tore up his clothes, they battered his skin, they bloodied his body, and they got their filth all over him.

    He couldn’t take it anymore.

    With a scream of rage Eliras slammed his hands into the ground, channeling his hatezen power with all of his rage.

    The world exploded.

    Actually, no, that was wrong. The world didn’t explode, he did. Fire and earth shot out of his hands, causing a huge explosion centering on himself. It singed his back and scorched his clothes, but the explosion also sent the goblins scattering. Thank the gods for that.

    After sitting there for a while to see if anything else would happen, Eliras rose unsteadily to his feet. He quickly patted himself down. Spellbook was still there. Travel pouch was thankfully untouched. Only real injuries were his head and his back. His back would be fine, even if his clothes weren’t, but the head injury could eventually become an issue. Right now it probably wouldn’t come into play.

    But right now he needed to complete the quest. Zakarius was paying extra for this. Normally Eliras didn’t request payment for these special quests, mostly because the fact that it ticked Balthazaar off was good enough. This time, though, Zak was providing at least enough money to replace the clothes.

    That was for later, though. Right now, he had to worry about clearing the rest of the cave.

    Eliras stumbled on, nursing his head as he did so. With his left hand he conjured an orb of arcane energy, preparing his arcane missiles before he advanced.

    Entering a much larger chamber, filled with goblins, would’ve been a minor cause for concern before. Now, though, he was just pissed.

    Arcane energy slammed into the first goblins to move, and then a beam of light shot through the room. The arcane beam seared through the creatures, easily clearing half of the room in one go. Nobody could even move before explosions began to rock the cavern, Eliras putting his newest magic to use in the slaughter of goblins.

    And a slaughter it was. They could do nothing with all of the elemental magic flying through the air. Fire, earth, arcane, and ice killed goblins left and right, leaving nothing but mangled corpses.

    Only when the cave was still did Eliras cease his assault.

    “Ugly things…” Eliras muttered to himself, turning around to leave. Everything was spinning, now. That head injury was probably quite serious. Oh well.

    Staggering outside, Eliras scrabbled at his beltstrap. After a moment he managed to grab his spellbook, disconnecting it from his belt and flipping to the end. As expected, there was an empty page. The spellbook always had one empty page. It was part of what made it useful. It would always have another page, just in case you learned another spell.

    But for now, he simply stumbled over to a rock, sat down on it, and produced a charcoal pencil from his travelling pouch.

    And in order to ensure that he remembered his newest spell, he began to write.

    Because this is a story, and the characters will change throughout it, character sheets will be changed and edited. It might be as minor as learning a new spell or picking up an artifact, or as major as an attribute or cornerstone change. The character sheets are here to add to the story, not dictate it.


  • This is pretty cool
  • edited August 2017
    Chapter three is here. Still more character building for now.

    Chapter 3: Out drinking

    When Eliras finally arrived back in town after his long walk back from the mountains, he was met by Zakarius. The captain of the guard initially just gave him one glance and then went back to ignoring him, but then he did a double-take. “What happened to you? It was just goblins.”

    “One caught me upside the head with a rock. The others piled on. I accidentally conjured an explosion. You’re paying for my suit.”

    “What?” Zakarius blinked in surprise. “I’m paying for your suit? You’re the one who got ambushed by goblins and then wound up blowing yourself up.”

    “You’re paying for my suit.” Eliras nodded, gesturing for Zakarius to follow him. “You’re also done with your shift, or you’re on your break, or something. We’re going to the bar to get something to drink.”

    “Not that I’m opposed to the son of the local warlor- sorry, guardian, buying me a drink, but why?” Zakarius took off his helmet. After setting it down outside the guardhouse, he followed.

    “Oh no, you’re right about him being a warlord. The old man is absolutely insane.” Eliras shook his head in disgust. “But we’re going out for a drink because I need alcohol in my system after being touched by those grubby goblins. Oh, and I feel like I owe you a drink. You’re still paying for my suit.”

    Zakarius sighed. “Noted.”

    “Don’t be so down, I’m buying you a drink, after all. Just one restriction: none of that E.X.P. stuff. Too expensive, too poisonous, and too hard to wash out once you vomit it back up. Trust me, I know from experience.” Eliras scowled, remembering that experience. “Balthazaar beat me black and blue after that.”

    “For getting yourself wasted?” Zakarius raised an eyebrow.

    “No, for staining my suit.” Eliras sighed.

    At this point the two of them had arrived at the bar, which was nearly empty thanks to the fact that it was only midafternoon. Eliras pushed inside, Zakarius following behind, and the two of them took seats at the bar. The only people inside were Alberto, the resident drunk, and the barkeep. Eliras raised his hand to grab the barkeep’s attention. “Barkeep, your best whiskey, please.” He jabbed his thumb towards Zakarius. “And I’ll pay for his drinks too.”

    “A dwarven ale, if you have any,” Zakarius requested.

    As the barkeep went to get them their drinks, Eliras shot Zakarius a glance. “Dwarven ale? As in ale made by the little folk?”

    “One, they don’t much like being referred to as little. Gnomes are little. Dwarves are… stout,” Zakarius corrected. “And two, they make some of the best ale you can chew. So thick you need a knife, but with more taste than watery elven ale.”

    “When’d you learn so much about dwarves?” Eliras asked in surprise.

    The drinks arrived, and Zakarius thanked the barkeep. Eliras nodded at the man as he accepted his whiskey. Drink in hand, Zakarius answered. “I have to screen everyone who comes into Essrin, and as it happens the boys don’t much like other races. One day, a dwarven caravan wanted in, in order to sell their wares. They were weaponsmiths, as it happened. I was curious. My family are traditionally blacksmiths, as you know, so I asked, and they answered.” Zakarius shrugged, taking a drink of his ale. “They’re people, just like you and me. Just, you know, shorter. Not as ancient.”

    “Next thing you know, you’ll be wanting to take one as your wife.” Eliras laughed, not noticing the strange look on Zakarius’ face.

    “Well, you never know. A hundred years ago I didn’t feel pain. Now everything aches,” Zakarius argued, raising his eyebrows. “Maybe in another hundred, everyone will see that they’re just like us. Both the dwarves and the gnomes.”

    “Hah, yes. And Phanto will come back to life as well.” Eliras shook his head and finished off his drink. He raised his hand to grab the barkeep’s attention. When the man had refilled the glass, Eliras turned back to Zakarius. “What about the kobolds and porcs? And the goblins? Whaddaya think of them?”

    “Well, the porcs aren’t too bad.” Zakarius answered, finishing off his ale. The barkeep was ready for this, and quickly replaced the empty glass. “Occasionally one will wander up to the gatehouse, not really knowing where he is. I just give ‘em directions to either the gnomish tower out on the plains or the dwarven fort in the mountains. The kobolds, though, they’re smart.” Zakarius shook his head. “And smart means vicious. The porcs are too dumb to be mean, but the kobolds will find out what ticks you off and exploit it for all you’ve got.”

    “So the dogs are manipulative and the pigs are dumb. That’s good to know,” Eliras commented. “And goblins?”

    “Just about what you’d expect. Half-pint grime-lurkers with a nasty disposition and a tendency to steal whatever they can find. I try to kill them when I see them, but a few slip through.” Zakarius shrugged. “Not much we can do about that.”

    “True that.” Eliras finished off his whiskey again, setting the glass down and leaning back. “That’s enough talk about the lesser races, though. Let’s talk about something less demeaning.”

    “Alright.” Zakarius nodded. “How about the monsters you’ve taken down when out and about? What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever killed?”

    “Ooh, fff…” Eliras closed his eyes in thought, feeling the alcohol start to take effect. “That’s a hard one. Well, there were the lacerators up on the way to the mountains. Killed the momma lacerator with a flamelance, and the rest learned their lesson. You?”

    “Well, it’s no momma lacerator, but I had to fend off some kobold raiders a couple years ago. They had groundbolds, three of the big ugly things.” Zakarius finished off his ale, slamming the empty glass on the bar. It was refilled within a minute. “You haven’t seen death ‘till you’ve had a groundbold snapping at your throat.”

    “Okay, how about a swarm of a dozen octodraks?” Eliras shivered at that one. “They were all over me, ugly little things. Nearly got me, too.”

    “Alright, I will admit that octodraks are terrifying. But.” Zakarius raised a finger. “You haven’t fought a gerrymander.”

    “Oh. Oh Kallisto that’s terrifying.” Eliras shuddered, drinking more of his whiskey. It had been refilled at some point, but he hadn’t noticed. “But you, my friend, have yet to have to deal with a spooky.”

    “Spooky?” Zakarius raised an eyebrow.

    “Big, and I mean big, flaming skeleton. Remember the forest fire last year? That’s what they can do,” Eliras explained. “They’ve got this weird magic where everything you do to them hurts you as well. Downright insane.”

    “Wow. That sounds horrifying.” Zakarius shook his head. After taking another drink of his ale, he spoke. “But I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never had to fight a blood snake queen.”

    Eliras paused, thinking. Blood snake queen? “No, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it. I’ve fought blood snakes, and blood cobras, but I’ve never heard anything about a blood snake queen.”

    “They’re horrible things. Pitiful, sometimes.” Zakarius turned his gaze to his ale. “They used to be elves, but then a blood cobra swallows them and they transform into something else. Most of the time they lose their minds to their new instincts, becoming monsters who only live to breed and consume. What’s worse, though, is when they retain their minds. They become bitter and cruel, most of the time. Some of them start actively hunting down and killing elves.”

    “Sounds like a fate worse than death,” Eliras muttered, downing the rest of his glass. He had lost count of how many he’d had at this point. It didn’t matter. “I could probably take one, though.”

    “I dunno. They all use blood magic, and some of them have weapons and magic from their elven days. They can be very, very dangerous.” Zakarius sighed and finished off his own drink. “Lost a lot of friends, that day.”

    “Well, you’ve got me. Whatever that counts for,” Eliras mumbled, picking up his recently refilled glass. He downed it in one go, ignoring the burning sensation.

    “Hah, I must be the worst friend you’ve ever had, then,” Zakarius replied, drinking more of his dwarven ale.

    “Dunno,” Eliras said back, a combination of exhaustion, alcohol, and a concussion causing his voice to slur. “Never had a friend b’fore.”

    At that, Zakarius turned to look at him. Eliras didn’t bother to pay attention, though. He was too busy downing another glass of whiskey. When he finished, Eliras spoke. “It’s always: Eliras go train. Eliras, become a master wizard. Eliras, how dare you damage my property. I hate that old man.”

    “You talking about Balthazaar?” Zakarius asked.

    “’Course I’m talking about Balthazaar. He makes my life a living hell. You know, sometimes he throws pyroblasts at me just to see if I can dodge?” Eliras laughed harshly, shaking his head. “Obviously I can, otherwise I’d be a smoldering pile of ash. My parents couldn’t though. Wasn’t a whelpling that killed ‘em.”

    “Balthazaar killed Drakin and Senna?” Zakarius’ voice was nearly a whisper, his eyes wide.

    “Eeeyup. Don’t tell anyone.” Eliras put his finger to his lips. “Supposed to be a secret. Balthazaar’ll kill me if he found out.”

    “Balthazaar killed Drakin and Senna.” Zakarius sat back, dumbfounded. “And this whole time, he’s lied to everyone. I should do something about this.”

    As Zakarius made to get up, Eliras reached up and tugged him back. “Don’t bother. He’ll pyroblast you, too. One of these days I’ll kill him, though, and then you can be the mayor, like you should be.”

    Zakarius blinked. “Say again.”

    “Zakarius Steele-,” Eliras began.

    “Just call me Zak.”

    “Zak, you are probably the best leader I’ve ever seen. I’m young, yeah, but you’re not. You’ve been around since before Phanto died.” Eliras paused for a moment, finishing off his glass. “You’re a little too simp-sympathetic to the lesser races, but you got good leadership skill and you know politics. When grampa dies, I’m makin’ you the leader.”

    “That’s awfully touching,” Zak said, surprised.

    “Yourrr, like, my only friend…” Eliras mumbled, swaying. “Yoouu deserve moooore.”

    “Alright, you’ve had enough to drink, Eliras,” Zak said, placing his hand on Eliras’ shoulder. “I should’ve realized you’d be a lightweight.”

    “’M notta lightweight, ‘s strong whiskey,” Eliras shot back, his argument somewhat weakened by his slurred words.

    “Let’s get you home.” Zak tugged on Eliras’ shoulder.

    “No, gotta pay furrrst.” Eliras began digging around in his travel pouch.

    “We can pay later,” Zak argued.

    “No, no, I got it right here.” Eliras final dug out a coinpurse, putting it on the counter. “Gotta pay for me an’ my grampa. He never pays. Barkeep!” Eliras raised his hand, grabbing the barkeeps’ attention. “Payin’ for my drinksss keep th’ change.”

    “Alright, now let’s get you home.” Zak heaved Eliras to his feet, taking the much skinner elf’s weight.

    Zakarius wound up almost carrying Eliras home, Eliras not being able to stand up straight on his own. But when they reached the front door of the mansion, Eliras straightened and pushed Zakarius away. “Balthazaar’ll kill ya ‘f he thinks you were the reason my suit’s destroyed.”

    “Well, take care of yourself, Eliras.” Zakarius patted Eliras on the shoulder before turning around to leave. He paused. “And if you need help, just let me know.”

    “Yeah, I will.” Eliras nodded, shaking his head. Everything was fuzzy. Too much strong alcohol, not enough rest, too many hits to the head.

    As Zak walked away, Eliras pushed the front door open.

    “What in the name of Kallisto have you done to your suit, boy?”

    And as always, Balthazaar was there, waiting for him. Eliras shot him a glare and pulled the scroll out of his travel pouch. “Scroll’s fine. That’s all you care about right?”

    Balthazaar snatched the scroll, looking it over, then grudgingly gave it back. “Fine. Go get cleaned up.”

    “I’m going to bed.” Eliras stomped past Balthazaar, waving his hand dismissively. “I’ll train tomorrow.”

    “Bed? It’s not even dark!” Balthazaar protested, momentarily off-guard.

    “Don’t care.” Eliras climbed the stairs, entering his room and flopping back on his bed.

    He was asleep instantly.

    Nothing much else to say for this chapter.
  • edited September 2017
    Chapter four!

    Chapter 4: Fire and Ice

    It was a week later before Eliras left the mansion’s premises again.

    Not because he had wanted to stay inside, but because Balthazaar wasn’t happy about the ruined suit. A whole week of stitching, sewing, and patching had been spent to return the suit to its previous state. If Eliras never saw another needle, it would be far, far too soon.

    But the suit was fixed, and it was just as good as it had been before. Just because sewing was far from enjoyable didn’t mean that Eliras was bad at it. In fact, his slender fingers and manual dexterity made it easy.

    And since that was all that Balthazaar had wanted, Eliras was enjoying his freedom.

    What better way to enjoy his freedom than to take a walk down to the guardhouse and see what jobs Zak had for him?

    Much to Eliras’ surprise, Zakarius was waiting for him.

    “Eliras, where have you been?” The captain of the guard asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “A certain someone made me repair my suit more or less from scratch.” Eliras gestured at his outfit. “Did quite a good job, if I say so myself.”

    “Well, it’s just as well you’ve finished that up. We’ve got a major problem.” Zak pushed open the guardhouse door and gestured for Eliras to follow him inside.

    “What kind?” Eliras asked, following. He hadn’t been inside the guardhouse before, simply because he had never been arrested.

    “Two theurgists are working together out in the woods to make a flame spooky,” Zak replied, unlocking a door and pushing through.

    “How do we know this?” Eliras raised an eyebrow.

    “Because there’s a theurgist in the cells with a guilty conscience and an overactive imagination.” Zakarius opened the door to the cells, ushering Eliras through before closing the door.

    There was currently only one person in the cells, a scrawny elf wearing a runecoat. As Zakarius and Eliras entered the room, the elf stood up dashing over to the bars. “Please, please tell me you believe me!”

    Eliras stepped forwards, scrutinizing the scrawny fellow. As far as he could see, the elf was panicked and honest. That was good. If he was panicking then he wouldn’t have the imagination to lie properly. “Tell me exactly what’s going on.”

    “Merius and Melara are summoning a flame spooky out in the woods, and unless you do something about it they’ll set it loose on the town!” The young elf frantically explained.

    “Alright then. Why are they doing this?” Eliras raised an eyebrow skeptically.

    “Melara’s insane, or something! She hates Essrin, and she hates the Freewells even more. Something about unfair arrest. Merius isn’t any better, and to top it off he’s obsessed with fire.” The elf grabbed the bars of his cell. “Please, I didn’t mean to associate with maniacs! I didn’t even know who they were!”

    “And what’s your name?”

    “Acris, Acris Saren.”

    “Thank you. We’ll take it into consideration.” Eliras turned to leave.

    “Please, I’m just an earth mage! I didn’t want this to happen,” Acris pleaded.

    Eliras pretended not to listen, just leaving the cells with Zakarius in tow.

    As soon as they were out of the theurgist’s earshot, Zakarius asked. “Well?”

    “He wasn’t lying,” Eliras replied. “Did he do anything to warrant an arrest?”

    “Apart from banging on the door to the guardhouse in the middle of the night, no.” Zak shook his head. “Believe it or not, he asked to be put in a cell.”

    “Understandable. He wanted protection from his ‘friends’.” Eliras nodded. “Suit up, we’re going after the spooky.”

    “We as in you and me?” Zak asked, surprised.

    “Sure, why not. I’m going because it’s a spooky, you’re going because I can’t handle three or more targets at once and still expect to have enough magical power to take them all down,” Eliras explained calmly.

    “Fair enough.” Zakarius grabbed his helmet from a nearby table and marched off through a nearby doorway. Only a couple minutes passed before he returned, a massive shield on his arm and a scimitar strapped to his back. “Let’s go. I’ve got the spot on my map. Acris was very helpful.”

    Both wizard and warrior left the guardhouse and headed out into the wilderness. Zakarius quickly took lead, guiding Eliras to the location in question.

    Eventually, Eliras figured that they were getting close. It was a feeling in his gut that steadily grew stronger, but there were also quite a few hints. He would have had to be blind to be

    The first hint that something was up came in the form of a massive blast of light shooting into the sky.

    The second hint was that the air was filled with alternating warm and cold.

    But the last, and most definite hint appeared when a blast of ice shot out of the trees and scraped off of Zak’s shield.

    Eliras reacted immediately by firing off a salvo of arcane missiles, sending them into the trees where the ice blast came from. He didn’t have time to watch his success, though, because just a moment later a fireball shot from the other side. Zak quickly moved into the way, blocking that with his shield too.

    “We need to get further in,” Eliras muttered, his hands raised. “Find and destroy the spooky.”

    “Gotcha.” Zak unsheathed his scimitar and began to move, his shield at the ready for any further attacks.

    The assaults continued, but Zak managed to block them all. Ice blasts, fireballs, and the occasional freezing beam all glanced off of his shield, successfully blocked. Eliras felt confident that they would be able to dispatch the two theurgists, up until a blast of flame shot out of the forest and forced Eliras and Zakarius to separate.

    An elf wearing a mad grin and flame wreathed clothing stepped forwards, his hands raised. The elf quickly hurled a fireball at Eliras, forcing him to jump to the side to avoid getting hit. Judging by the descriptions that Acris had given, this was probably Merius.

    Eliras quickly retaliated by tossing a blast of sand, putting out the next fireball before it even came close. Eliras was about to follow up with a shadow ice when another beam of fire forced him to scramble out of the way. A quick glance to once side told Eliras that the source of the fire was a massive flaming skeleton, the spooky that they had been warned about.

    As far as fire went, Eliras wasn’t unskilled in the element. He could handle himself when faced with a firefight. But here, he was outnumbered. And based off of his glance backwards, Zak was hardly doing better. A woman wearing thick furs was flinging ice spells, a frost elemental assisting her. They were sorely outnumbered, and probably outmatched.

    When Merius started to channel dark magic, Eliras knew that his assessment was correct. Unless he could get them to stop their magic, there was no way he could take out even one of these two mages.

    Fireball after fireball soared through the air towards Eliras, and he knew that getting hit was not an option. He ducked under several, then quickly conjured a windblast to push himself out of the way.

    Behind him, he heard a woman screaming about fire and aim.

    The battlefield grew colder suddenly, the fires dying out and shriveling as the ice mage exerted her power. She had to be incredibly strong for this magic to affect the flame spooky, which was what it was doing. The skeleton was nearly nothing but bones now, and Eliras capitalized on this by firing an arcane beam straight through its skull.

    As the spooky collapsed, Merius screeched in rage and launched himself forwards, hands outstretched for Eliras’ throat. Before he could get there, Zak was in the way, his shield bashing the theurgist in the side of the head and knocking him out.

    Eliras quickly turned around and raised both of his hands, firing arcane missiles at the other mage in an attempt to disable her as well. When the arcane missiles simply flew through her, Eliras could only stare dumbfounded. “What?”

    “You will regret this. Both of you will regret this.” The theurgist spat, her feet lifting off the ground. She quickly turned and floated off, using her wraithlike form to move through trees and boulders. The frost elemental followed, not intelligent enough to think on its own.

    Zak made to follow, but Eliras just reached out and stopped him. “Not worth it. By the time you catch up, she’ll be on top of a cliff and hurling ice spells at you. Let’s just take the pyromaniac and claim our success.”

    The warrior nodded, bending over to pick up the fire-obsessed theurgist. “He’s pretty heavy.”

    “You’re going to have to carry him. I’m not able.” Eliras shrugged.

    “Figured you’d say that.” Zak chuckled and shook his head. “So, what happened there, anyways? A fireball hit the ice queen and suddenly she’s screaming and putting out all the fire at once.”

    “Merius here.” Eliras gestured at the unconscious mage, shaking his head. “Decided to channel the Grand Raven’s power so that he could throw more fireballs. He missed me, but I guess he hit her.” Eliras paused. “She must be very, very powerful if she can calm that much fire at once. That’s a spell that’s usually only learned by powerful fire mages, but it has an ice affinity as well.”

    “Strange,” Zak commented. “She really didn’t seem to be used to working with a team. She wasn’t even looking at you or Merius. What did Acris say her name was again?”

    “Melara.” Eliras replied. “Which matches up with one Melara Ghen that Balthazaar is always ranting about. Apparently he knew her before the death of Phanto, and she was a real power hungry bitch.”

    “So exactly like him?” Zak asked.

    “Hah! Yes. Probably couldn’t handle it, being around a mirror of himself.” Eliras laughed, shaking his head again.

    And the two friends walked home. They didn’t notice the eyes watching them from the shadows.

    It wouldn’t have made a difference if they had, but maybe they would have been slightly more prepared.

    Author's Note
    Introduced three characters this chapter, but only two of them will show up again. I still made character sheets for all three, though.



  • Inspired me to write about my campaigns because I can't reliably host them at all.
  • edited September 2017
    Chapter five.

    Chapter 5: Earth and Insanity

    When Zakarius and Eliras returned to Essrin, Zak immediately made a beeline for the guardhouse. Eliras watched him with amusement. The whole way back, the captain of the guard had complained about carrying an unconscious theurgist. It had been quite funny.

    But still, Zakarius had managed to do it, which elevated Eliras’ respect for the guard to a whole new level. Zak was incredibly strong.

    Soon after, Zakarius emerged from the guardhouse with significantly less armor on. In tow was a lanky elf wearing a runecoat. Acris was grinning ear to ear. “You did it! You stopped them!”

    “Stopped Merius. I doubt he was the one who orchestrated the attack anyways. He seemed more driven by his madness than by any plan.” Eliras shook his head. “No, Melara was the one to orchestrate the whole thing. She was a strategist, just not one used to working with people.”

    “You’re right about the not working with people part. She can talk anyone into anything, but she doesn’t like them much.” Acris shuddered. “She’s just… terrifying.”

    “Someone hasn’t met Zarrus,” Zak muttered, shaking his head.

    “Can we not talk about Zarrus? Ever?” Eliras growled, scowling.

    “What? Who’s Zarrus?” Acris asked.

    “A nutjob.” Eliras stated. “One with far too much skill in the sword and an unhealthy thirst for blood.”

    “I heard my name, friends?”

    Suddenly an elf was there, one arm around Eliras’ shoulders. The man’s fetid breath caused Eliras to wrinkle his nose reflexively. Moving carefully and slowly, Eliras extricated himself from the man’s grasp. “Hello Zarrus.”

    Eliras could only see a small amount of Zarrus’ face, but what he could see was mildly disturbing. Masses of corrugated flesh covered his skin, leaving his mouth as a slit amongst the deformity. Eyes looked out of the darkness of Zarrus’ hood, unapologetically violent and crazed. The freakishly deformed elf laughed as Eliras pulled away. “Eliras Freewell, my good pal. Remember all the good times we’ve had, hah?”

    That damned laugh. That laugh that Zarrus used so often. It wasn’t a laugh that found the situation funny, that much was certain. Come friends, it said, let’s forget about the pain. Let’s forget it by causing more, maybe to someone else, maybe to ourselves…

    “Times, yes, good, no. You tried to gut me,” Eliras retorted, taking a generous step back.

    “All in good fun, haha, you survived. Hah, you even got me good with a flamelance.” Zarrus let out that chuckle again, turning his attention to Zakarius. In the blink of an eye, he was there, leaning on the bulky man. “And Zakky! You, my friend, are always so uptight. Why don’t we let it out with a spar, haha?”

    “Vacate my personal space or I will personally throw you into a maximum security cell,” Zak stated calmly, reaching over and pushing Zarrus away.

    “Ah, still so uptight when on duty. My friend, you should ease up, haha.” Zarrus patted Zakarius on the shoulder and then vanished, reappearing right in front of Acris’ face. “You’re new. A pleasure to meet you. My name is Zarrus, what is yours?”

    “Um, Acris. Acris Saren.” The earth mage stumbled backwards in surprise, eyes wide.

    “Acris… hmm, a very interesting name. That’s a name given to a very, very gifted mage.” Zarrus stepped even closer, invading Acris’ personal space. “I like you. Would you like to spar, haha?”

    “I, uh, no, thank you.” Acris shot a glance at the blade sheathed at Zarrus’ hip. Eliras didn’t blame Acris for his trepidation. That sword was vicious, and even just the hilt was terrifying.

    “Well, new friend, don’t be afraid if you ever want to test yourself. Haha.” And Zarrus was gone, just as quickly as he had appeared.

    “What… just happened?” Acris asked, shaking.

    “Zarrus happened. This is why we don’t talk about him,” Eliras answered sharply, shaking his head. “But something he said did make sense. Acris, what exactly can you do?”

    “I’m just an earth mage,” Acris quickly said, raising his hands in surrender.

    “That doesn’t tell me your skillset.” Eliras replied. After a moment of thought, he gestured for Acris to follow him. “Come with me. We’re sparring.”

    “I-I just told Zarrus I didn’t want to-,” Acris began, scurrying after Eliras.

    “I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve practiced enough to know how to stop,” Eliras interrupted. He quickly glanced back. “Zak, are you coming to watch?”

    “I’d rather not be in an area with spells flying randomly, thank you very much.” Zak shook his head, crossing his arms. “Just don’t kill each other. I don’t need a heavier workload.”

    “Fair enough,” Eliras said, continuing.

    “Did I mention that I don’t want to do this?” Acris tried again.

    “As I said, I’m good enough to know how to stop my spells,” Eliras shot back. “Besides, if you’re going to live in Essrin it would be nice if you would display what you can do.”

    “Fine…” Acris gave up, slumping.

    “We’re here, anyways.” Eliras stopped as they reached a clearing a fair distance from the city. The ground was blasted and scorched all over, with spots of permanent ice and elemental disturbance dotting the outskirts. “Welcome to the place where Balthazaar has tried to kill me, repeatedly. Supposedly it was to make me better at magic, but honestly I doubt it, considering how he hurled pyroblasts at me.”

    “So, am I supposed to just, attack you, or…?” Acris asked, looking around as Eliras walked across the clearing. “Are there any rules?”

    “Just one. No death,” Eliras replied, shouting now.

    He ducked just in time to avoid the fist of the first earthlord, and slid out of the way of the second as it tried to grab him. Both earth golems were trying to crowd him away, and succeeding. A quick glance at Acris told Eliras that the earth mage was slowly walking around the clearing, conjuring pillars of stone out of the ground in order to surround Eliras.

    Knowing that letting that happen would only result in the spar ending right there, Eliras slipped between the slow earthlords and hurled a spear of fire at Acris. The theurgist saw the flamelance at the last second and blanched.

    Then he was gone in a shower of leaves, reappearing a couple feet to the side. As retaliation, Acris moved his lips for a second, and suddenly there were four earthlords, surrounding Eliras completely.

    So Eliras raised his right hand and fired off a volley of five arcane missiles, focusing their flight path onto Acris.

    Again and again Acris vanished into leaves, creating another earth pillar in his place every time he did so. When the ring was complete, the earthlords all separated, giving Acris a clear line of sight on Eliras.

    A blast of icy wind sent Eliras flying through the air, the chill soaking through his clothes and sending him into a shivering fit. He didn’t even get to hit the ground before a vortex of wind picked him up, the nearest earth totem releasing magical energy and sending Eliras flying back the other way. Just before impact with the ground, four small, concentrated vortexes of wind caught him, lowering him gently to the ground.

    Shivering and shaking, Eliras just nodded. “Th-th-that was g-good. V-very good.”

    “Did I go too far?” Acris asked, walking over and leaning over Eliras, concern on his face.

    “N-no, I underestimated y-you.” Eliras pushed himself up, still shivering. He stumbled over to the tree line and used his own wind blast to pull loose branches towards him. Firing off a flamelance set the pile ablaze, and Eliras plopped down to warm himself up.

    “Um, I probably went too far.” Acris scratched the back of his head. “Sorry.”

    “J-just promise me something.” Eliras turned his head to look at the theurgist.

    “Um, yes?”

    “Don’t hold back next time.”

    Author's Note:

    Meet Zarrus, the crazy maniac of Essrin.
    EDIT: Changed Zarrus' skillset quite a lot, and swapped his cornerstone for schizophrenic so that he could be creepy. The levelup is the placeholder for his legendary card, custom card.


  • edited September 2017
    Chapter six is here.

    Chapter 6: Zarrus

    As screams echoed through the alley, Zarrus smiled.

    It was always lovely to hear people screaming at him. Sometimes they did it because the flesh of his foes melted onto his skin. Sometimes they did it because he was faster than their eyes could follow. Sometimes they screamed because he stabbed them, other times it was because he removed their limbs, and still other times it was because he was slowly removing their skin.

    Right now, he was exercising his favorite sport on a skinny elf in an alleyway. The poor fellow hadn’t seen him coming. That was the point, really.

    “No need to shout, friend. We’re just having a little fun. Haha.” Zarrus smiled, his disfigured lips twisting unnaturally. He leaned forwards. “Plus, we don’t need to tell ol’ Zakky what’s happening, haha.”

    “Please! Please! I’ll give you whatever you want!” The elf begged, cowering in the corner. He was missing an arm, which was a shame. Zarrus had aimed for the lung.

    “I just want a little blood, haha. It’ll only be a moment, and then you’ll have something to remind you of this for the rest of your life.” Zarrus chuckled, tilting his blade. The oily blade glinted in the twilight, the twisted tip curved just so to get the most out of every stab. The blade itself was a work of art, made out of steel and dark magic. Close to the hilt the blade was serrated, designed specifically to catch another sword and rip it out of someone’s hands. Or to cut through bone.

    A quick movement, and the elf in the corner was having difficulty breathing. Punctured lungs would do that to you. A horrible affliction, truly.

    Zarrus didn’t leave until the elf finally choked to death on his own blood.

    Happy with his handiwork, Zarrus turned and walked away. He hadn’t lied. No, he didn’t like to lie. Unlike the child who irritated him so.

    Eliras. The boy who was grandson of Balthazaar. Balthazaar Freewell was Zarrus’ very, very good friend. They went out together and reveled in the blood. They had done so even before the death of Phanto. When the dragon died and elves became mortal, the bloodbaths were even better. But Eliras didn’t like that. No. Eliras pretended to be a friend, but he was lying. Zarrus didn’t tolerate false friends.

    But to kill Eliras would make Balthazaar unhappy. Zarrus couldn’t do that to his friend. So he left the boy alive. For now.

    Humming to himself, Zarrus started walking towards the Freewell mansion. Balthazaar liked to know who Zarrus had killed, just in case it was someone important. Zarrus made sure that it never was anyone important, and in return Balthazaar let him kill almost anyone he wanted.

    The two people he wanted to kill, though, were off-limits. Zakarius, the snobby captain of the guard, and Eliras, the false friend who thought himself so much better than Zarrus was. Wizard and warrior. Until lately they hadn’t liked one another, but Zarrus could read people. They were friends, and didn’t want him to be friends with them. Well fine then. He didn’t want to be friends with them, either.

    But the new guy, Acris Saren, he was nice. A bit too scared, but nice. He was a good friend, Zarrus could tell.

    As Zarrus got closer to the mansion, he felt something off. As a sharpsword, he had senses honed to a razor edge. Which was why he was able to dodge the ice blade that scythed towards his head. It was also why he was able to whirl and slice at the elf who had tried to behead him. His incredibly sharp senses failed him, though, when the elf was unfazed by the sword in her abdomen.

    Zarrus pushed forwards and reversed his grip on his sword, sheathing it in one quick move. With a snap of his fingers, electricity began to crackle around the strange elf.

    Still she stood there, looking unimpressed.

    Zarrus stepped back, crossing his arms. From within the shadows of his cowl, he gave her an appraising glare. She was imposing. Gave off an air of superiority. Felt ancient, as old as Zarrus himself. And she was clearly a theurgist, as she had a frost elemental following her.

    Beams of ice magic shot from the frost elemental, and Zarrus moved like lightning. Dodging each ice beam was easy for him, but eventually the fun of dodging the ice rays grew thin. “As fun as this is, friend, can we talk one on one? Elf to elf? Haha?”

    “You know, I expected the Freewell mansion to have guards, but you’re far better at this than I expected.” The strange elf growled, crossing her arms. She floated an inch off of the ground, Zarrus noticed. Huh. Odd.

    “I don’t guard the Freewells,” Zarrus replied, laughing as another beam shot towards him. “In fact, haha, I want to kill the boy.”

    The theurgist paused, raising her hand to stop the elemental’s constant assault. “That’s a funny coincidence. So do I.”

    “Really?” Zarrus beamed, his misshapen face contorting oddly. “I could help you with that.”

    With a light thump, the ice mage lowered to the ground. She extended a hand. “Melara Ghen.”

    “Zarrus, at your service.” Zarrus took her hand and leaned forwards, brushing his lips against her knuckles. She didn’t even shudder. Zarrus decided that he liked her. She had charisma. She had control.

    “You said that you could help me kill the younger Freewell?” Melara asked, going straight to the point.

    “I cannot help you kill Eliras directly, but I can certainly keep Balthazaar from noticing.” Zarrus was giddy with excitement. Eliras was going to die by someone else’s hand, sure, but it would be worth it to be rid of the annoying boy. “If I were to lay a hand on Eliras, Balthazaar would be unhappy. But you, you do not have the same relationship with Balthazaar that I do. Balthazaar does not know how to find you.”

    “Eliras,” Melara muttered. “So that’s his name. Well, thank you, Zarrus, for offering yourself to my cause. I’m sure this will be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

    Zarrus grinned, something he did as often as possible. The act itself was usually enough to either unnerve his foes, or cause them to vomit from the gruesome display. “I am certain that it will be, lady Ghen.”

    I would absolutely love it if people would provide feedback of any sort. As a writer I thrive on feedback and criticism, as it helps me make my stories better.
  • Chapter 7: Ice Assassin

    Eliras sat at his desk, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He was still a bit chilly after Acris threw him around with his wind spells, but he didn’t much blame the theurgist. He had, after all, forced the situation upon Acris.

    As he always did at the end of an eventful day, Eliras was writing.

    Documentation was a key part of Eliras’ life and thought process. He knew this well. As an analytical person, he noted everything he saw and filed it away for later. His perfect memory helped in that regard, enabling Eliras to figure things out extraordinarily quickly. Connecting information he knew with evidence he found, far faster than most could hope to do so.

    Still, writing things down was a part of the process. Just in case someone else would ever need it.

    The only sound in the mansion was the scratching of Eliras’ quill on paper.

    After a while, Eliras put his quill back in the inkwell and left the book open, waiting for it to dry. It wouldn’t take long in the cold atmosphere in the mansion. The temperature was a good deal lower than it was outdoors.

    Eliras paused. That wasn’t normal. It was the beginning of summer. It wouldn’t be cold for months…

    It was only thanks to this little hint that he noticed the hand sliding silently out of the wall. Ice magic coalesced around the slender fingers, and a ray of ice shot through the air towards Eliras.

    In reaction, he tossed his blanket towards the hand, causing the fabric to freeze and crinkle as it hit the wall. By the time it hit the floor, the blanket was frozen solid.

    And Eliras was off, dashing down the hallways to his grandfather’s study. He ducked under another ice ray, accelerating further as he scrambled on a now-frozen floor. Skidding around a corner, he slammed open the door to Balthazaar’s study, only to freeze at the sight that greeted him.

    Zarrus was there, lounging in a chair and chatting with Balthazaar. Both of them were laughing and sharing a drink, some of the expensive stuff that Eliras was never allowed to even look at. Zarrus had removed his cloak, and Eliras found himself queasy at the sight of the man’s bald head. His skin was corrugated and warped all over, looking like a half-melted candle.

    As Eliras entered the room, Balthazaar sat up straight and assumed an enraged expression. “Eliras! What do you think you’re doing?!”

    “Melara Ghen is in the house and trying to kill me,” Eliras shot off as quickly as possible.

    “Melara Ghen? Nonsense. Last time we met I crushed her so thoroughly that she wouldn’t dare to challenge me.” Balthazaar laughed. “I won this province off of her and her family, and I was the one who got the legendary scroll she wanted. I’d be surprised if she even dared come near this province after-,”

    He was interrupted by a psionic claw crushing the doorframe, missing Eliras by a hair. A moment later, Melara herself stepped into the study via the wall, putting her hands on her hips. “Hello Balthazaar. Miss me?”

    “Melara, I’ll tear you apart myself if you don’t leave right this instant!” Balthazaar roared, rising to his feet and conjuring orbs of arcane energy in his hands.

    “Actually, friend, why don’t we just let Eliras take care of her?” Zarrus looked at Eliras, his yellow eyes glinting madly. “After all, haha, it would let him prove himself.”

    “Hmm, yes. Eliras, take care of her.” Balthazaar waved Melara and Eliras off, sitting back down. He picked up his glass and took a sip. “Don’t do too much damage to the house, if you can manage it.”

    “How dare you ignore me, Balthazaar? I’ll make you pay for that!” Melara draw back her hand and hurled an icicle at Balthazaar.

    Zarrus was there, his sword knocking the ice shard away. In the same movement, he sheathed the wicked sword, his face contorted in a terrifying grin. “Please, take the boy first. Then we’ll see.”

    Balthazaar seemed to be deliberately ignoring Zarrus, because he didn’t even react to this statement. But Eliras was paying attention. Zarrus was working with Melara. Suddenly, his unexplained presence made a lot more sense.

    “Fine.” Melara turned towards Eliras, her hands raised as she floated just above the ground. “Get ready to die, boy!”

    Cursing under his breath, Eliras darted back into the hall and skidded across the frozen floors. A quick wind blast had him going the correct direction as he tried frantically to get his balance on the icy floors. One benefit, at least, of not knowing his own direction was that Melara couldn’t predict where he was going. Without that benefit, she missed almost every spell.

    After bouncing off of a wall to avoid an ice blast, Eliras made it to the stairs and jumped up onto the banister. The frost made sliding down far easier, but he still had to jump off before he bumped into the ornament at the bottom.

    As Melara followed, Eliras threw a flame spear up at her, only to blanch as it passed harmlessly through her, to blink out seconds later. He ducked quickly out of the way as an ice ray shot through the air where his head was seconds before.

    Continuing down stairs, Eliras realized that he was taking her into the basement.

    Now why was he doing that? Balthazaar hated it when Eliras went into the wine cellar, but that wasn’t where his body was taking him. Maybe it had something to do with the supplies in the cellar…?

    When he turned a corner and saw the boiler, he knew exactly why.

    Melara continued to nonchalantly float after him, her mere presence causing the air to chill. Eliras only had a couple minutes to do this, and he had to act quickly. Dashing over to the near-permanent woodstack, Eliras began toting logs back and forth, tossing them haphazardly into the boiler. When he could fit barely any more, he tossed a flamelance in and started frantically pumping the bellows.

    Immediately the room heated up, the temperature sizzling on the edges as Melara drew closer. Eliras continued to pump heat into the room, finally stopping when he could bear it no more. Sweating profusely, Eliras slumped back against one of the stone walls and sank to a sit.

    When Melara finally arrived, her body was steaming. The ice magic she was using to become intangible was failing under the intense heat. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to realize this. Raising one hand, Melara tried to use an ice spell, only for it to fail. The theurgist blinked. “What?”

    “See, the thing about ice magic…” Eliras pushed himself to his feet, steadying himself against the wall. He was drenched in sweat and heavily dehydrated, but he still wore a triumphant smile. “Is that it needs there to be water in the air. The hotter it is, the less water you can freeze. The weaker ice magic gets. So no wraith form, no ice blasts, and no psionics. Too hot, see.”

    “Well, that’s easy enough to remedy.” Closing her eyes, Melara raised both of her hands, palm down. With what seemed to be great effort, she pushed them slowly down. The heat in the room began to decrease, replaced by pervasive cold.

    But Eliras knew that this was his chance. Lifting his left hand and pointing it at Melara, he released his inner energy. A beam of arcane magic shot through her shoulder, cleanly cutting through muscle and bone both. In the wall behind her, the stone had a perfectly circular hole in it, the end lost in darkness.

    Melara screamed.

    With a shocking turn of speed, Melara darted off, moving through the walls and ceiling as she retreated. All that was left was a drop of blood on the floor, spilled when she moved

    Eliras staggered across the boiler room, throwing a sandblast into the boiler to smother the flames. When the room had cooled a bit, he followed up with a wind blast to finish the fire off.

    So exhausted was he that he almost ran headfirst into Balthazaar.

    “So you beat her, huh? Maybe you’ve got some talent yet.” Balthazaar commented offhandedly, looking around. “You put a hole in the wall, but that’s nothing I can’t get fixed. Now get out of my basement, and get yourself cleaned up. You reek.”

    With that, Balthazaar walked off. In tow was Zarrus, his melted face displaying mild disappointment. He leaned close. “I didn’t expect you to defeat Melara, but you did. Not bad, friend. Haha. A shame, really. Now I’ll have to find another way to get you killed indirectly. Haha. But until then, we’ll have some fun, right, ha?”

    Eliras only shot him a tired glare as he trudged upstairs out of the basement.

    Author's Note:
    Now you may be wondering at this point: Why is this story called The Serpentine Saga? So far, there's been nothing to substantiate the name, right?

    Well, for now we're developing characters. You'll find out why the story is called The Serpentine Saga eventually.

  • edited September 2017
    Chapter 8: Injustice

    The next day, Eliras was walking through the streets of Essrin, trying and failing to shake the feeling that he was being watched.

    It probably didn’t matter, though. He could defend himself, as he had proven to Melara last night. He could probably ward off anyone who tried to attack him. Granted, he had only been able to get Melara because she hadn’t realized that the heat in the boiler room would cancel her ice magic, but if he could outsmart her once he could outsmart her again.

    But Zarrus had been working with her. Zarrus had been there to make sure Balthazaar didn’t interfere. The crazy swordsman wanted Eliras dead, he was certain. Zarrus acted like everyone was a friend, up until the point when he didn’t. But he didn’t like Eliras. Not at all.

    The faint whisper of a blade on leather was Eliras’ only warning before cold metal was just barely touching his neck. “Eliras, friend, haha.”

    “Zarrus, would you kindly remove your blade from my neck?” Eliras asked calmly.

    “See, haha, I don’t think I will. You weren’t supposed to outsmart Melara. How did you do it?” Zarrus’ voice was calm and pleasant, though Eliras knew better.

    “A photographic memory, combined with Balthazaar’s constant lecturing and shouting,” Eliras answered. Zarrus wouldn’t dare to kill him. If the madman did so, then Balthazaar would, at the very least, be upset that his time had been wasted on someone who had been killed. “Heat cancels out ice magic but empowers fire, and the colder an area is the less powerful fire magic gets. Simple elemental knowledge.”

    “And you’d know all about that, haha, with your prodigal memory and elemental versatility.” Zarrus said lightheartedly, the blade pushing in just a little bit. Eliras noted with some worry that it met no resistance whatsoever, and pain radiated from the spot. “You’re a good liar, haha. I almost believed that you were willing to be my friend. Almost. Haha.”

    “I don’t know-,” Eliras began.

    Don’t. Don’t try to lie to me again.” For once, Zarrus sounded angry. “You thought you could trick me into thinking you were willing to be a friend, didn’t you? But no. Like everyone else, you find me disgusting. Disturbing. Well, haha, I think I’ll just have to end you. Haha, it’ll only be a moment.”

    By Kallisto, Eliras thought, I’m going to die.

    “Goodbye, Eliras Freewell.”

    The sword moved a fraction of an inch away, and Eliras closed his eyes.

    Then Zarrus was no longer close enough for Eliras to feel his breath. Eliras opened his eyes and sighed in relief. Zak was walking down the street towards him, his hand on the hilt of the massive scimitar strapped to his back. “Zarrus, what are you doing?”

    “Just talking to a friend, haha. I’m allowed to do that, haha,” Zarrus answered, his normal lighthearted tone returned.

    “No, you’re not allowed to talk to a friend. Not when you have a blade at their throat. Don’t think I didn’t see that, Zarrus,” Zakarius warned.

    “He’s not got a scratch on him, haha.” Zarrus brushed off Eliras’ shoulder, smiling.

    Eliras reached up to his neck and gingerly touched the spot that the blade had gone in. As if his touch had triggered it, blood seeped out, covering his fingers quickly. “I might need a healer.”

    “Zarrus, if he dies you are going in the highest security cell we have.” Zakarius growled, rushing over to Eliras and pushing the sharpsword away. He pulled a bandage out of his hip pouch and pressed it on the wound immediately.

    “He’s fine, haha. If I wanted him dead, I’d have cut the jugular. Haha,” Zarrus said dismissively. “I’ll just be off, friends. See you around, Eliras.”

    With that, Zarrus stepped backwards, vanishing. He didn’t even step into the shadows; he was just there one second and gone the next.

    Zak cursed under his breath. After a second, light flashed under his hand and the pain stopped. When the captain of the guard pulled his hand away, Eliras touched the spot again to find that it was healed. The only problem now was the blood.

    Eliras shot Zakarius a curious glance. “I thought you didn’t do magic?”

    “I don’t like magic. Not quite the same thing.” Zak replied, sighing. “What did you do to piss Zarrus off badly enough that he tried to kill you in broad daylight?”

    “I survived when he recruited Melara to kill me.” Eliras shook his head. “Can we take a short trip to your place? If I go home with blood on me Balthazaar’ll flip out and shout at me for ruining my suit again, and I can’t exactly leave it be out in public.”

    “Fine, fine.” Zakarius sighed again. “I was already on my way home anyways. Come on.”

    Zakarius set off, dragging Eliras with him. For a while Eliras just followed, not really knowing where they were going. What kind of place did Zak live at, again? Eliras couldn’t remember ever asking, and he would remember if he had asked.

    After a while, Eliras realized where they were heading. “Zak, why are we going to the slums?”

    “Because that’s where I live,” Zak answered curtly.

    “Wait, the captain of the guard lives in the slum district?” Eliras accelerated and stood in front of Zakarius. “Why?”

    “Because my pay isn’t nearly good enough to get myself much better,” Zak replied, crossing his arms. “I suppose I could save up and buy something better, but why? I don’t have anyone else who lives with me, apart from Acris right now, and it doesn’t matter.”

    “Acris is living with you? Why?”

    “Ask him yourself when we get there.” Zak resumed walking, pushing past Eliras.

    It didn’t take long before Zak and Eliras reached a shack that Eliras couldn’t distinguish from any others. Zak didn’t even unlock the door, just opening it. At Eliras’ inquisitive look, the captain of the guards shrugged. “Nothing worth stealing. Acris, I’m back. I brought Eliras.”

    “You did?” Acris called back, walking into the entryway of the tiny house. The theurgist looked confused, one eyebrow raised. When he saw Eliras he waved. “Hi Eliras – byKallistoisthatblood?”

    “Yes, yes it is. Mine.” Eliras replied. “Where’s the washbasin?”

    “Down the hall to the right.” Zak walked inside, dropping his scimitar by the door. His massive greatshield was already there, leaning against the wall. “Try not to use too much water.”

    Eliras nodded and walked down the hallway, locating the washbasin quickly. It was a simple copper affair with a bucket nearby, water filling it to the brim. Eliras picked up the bucket and set it next to the basin, dipping his clean hand in and using the water to rinse the blood off of his neck.

    “So, uh, what did that?” Acris asked, having followed Eliras.

    “Zarrus did that. Cut me deep, but Zak healed it up.” Eliras said, scrubbing at the drying blood. “So why’re you living with Zak?”

    “I just… don’t want to stay here long,” Acris answered nervously. “I don’t much like hanging around other elves. I feel inferior.”

    “You? Inferior? You’re one of the best mages I’ve ever met.” Eliras finished up, letting the bloodied water settle in the basin.

    “I dunno. It’s just… uncomfortable.” Acris hesitated. “I think I’m going to leave town in a few weeks. I might be back, but… who knows.”

    Eliras turned around to look at Acris. The theurgist looked at him nervously. “Well… I hope the best for you. Let Zak know that I let myself out, I… I need to go and think.”

    Eliras slipped past Acris and headed out the front door. Zarrus could kill him at the drop of a hat, he had made that clear. Eliras was worried. If he died, what then? The city would just continue to be a chaotic mess, with good people dropped in the slums because Balthazaar’s management of resources was selfish and miserly.

    His mind made up, Eliras headed home. He had a will to write.

    Author's Note:

    Eliras plans ahead.

  • Chapter 9: Melara Ghen

    The mountains near Essrin were not usually hospitable for sapient life.

    In fact, the only races to thrive in the rugged environment were the kobolds and the goblins, and it could be argued that neither was a sapient race at all. Until recently kobolds had no intelligence whatsoever, and goblins were regarded by almost all to be mindless beasts. And even then, the goblins only survived because they bred like rabbits. Really, the kings of the mountain were the lacerators, gerrymanders, and eaglebears.

    But Melara never let that deter her. She was tough and resourceful. She had magic at her disposal that was enough to protect her in any environment.

    She also had a hole in her shoulder that was about as big around as the palm of her hand.

    The sole reason that Melara had avoided bleeding out was because she could maintain her wraith form indefinitely. It left her unable to use all of her spells, but while in wraith form she was invulnerable.

    Except, as that boy had shown, she wasn’t.

    Eliras had poked a hole in her defenses. Not once, but twice. Merius was a moron, but his fire magic was more than strong enough to force her out of her wraith form. It was hardly her fault that he had hit her, and she couldn’t be blamed for calming the flames, under the circumstances. Likewise, she couldn’t have known that the heat in the boiler room would negate her ice magic.

    Some day, Melara would find and kill that boy. He would regret messing with her.

    Right now, though, she had to find a place to hide. Staying in Essrin was a death sentence with that kid and Balthazaar there.

    And Zarrus. Zarrus hadn’t helped at all. He said he’d keep Balthazaar distracted, but all the freak had done was have a drink with the old man! Melara would have words with Zarrus next time they met. Maybe then she would end the sharpsword’s life. Maybe she’d take his sword as a trophy. Along with his head, as well.

    But that was for later. Melara floated over the mountains, searching for a suitable hole in the ground to hide in. It didn’t take long to find one, and she floated down to check it out.

    A horrible stench hit her in the face, like weeks-long rotting meat. Scrunching her face at the rancid smell, Melara continued inside to check it out.

    The first thing she noticed were corpses everywhere. Exposed bone, rotting meat, and mold decorated the cave. Dried blood stained the stone floor, painting the rock a dirty brown. A couple of seconds’ inspection told her that the small corpses were goblins, and that it had been a mage to take them down. Someone with a wide variety of elements at their disposal. Here was a goblin with sand pouring out of its skull, here was another with a hole in its head. A third goblin corpse had just been thrown into a wall, while a fourth was just…dead.

    Just as she was about to release her wraith form, Melara spotted something that immediately caused her to recoil. Amongst the bodies were wriggling forms, blood red scales eating through the partially decayed bodies. The blood snakes had clearly arrived within the past week, otherwise the whole cave would be filled with skeletons.

    Shaking her head, Melara floated out of the cave through the ceiling and made her way closer to the lowlands. She had spotted a couple of entrances there, but it was a bit too close to Essrin to be safe.

    Maybe, though, that could be to her advantage…

    One cave had goblins pouring into and out of it, and as Melara knew, the blood snakes would go after any recently deceased meat…

    Using her intangibility to its fullest, Melara lowered herself through the ground into the cave. There was a brief moment where she worried that she might have misjudged its location, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. Instead she was in a massive chamber, filled with goblins.

    There were a few brief moments of action, and the whole room grew incredibly cold for a couple of seconds. When the action ceased, Melara lowered herself to one of the few spots that wasn’t covered in blood and gore and released her wraith form.

    For a moment she worried that she’d pass out from the pain and pressure returning to her body. Becoming a wraith caused all of her senses to dull, and her entire body numbed. With all of that returned, the pain was nearly unbearable.

    With her free hand, she spread frost across the floor of the cave, freezing a significant amount of the blood solid. Out of the frost she called her elemental, returning it to her side,

    Then Melara just slumped against the wall, letting the elemental float over and use its ice to replace the obliterated flesh and bone. The ice didn’t quite make up for her lost blood, but its magical nature acted as a functional replacement for blood vessels, muscle, flesh, and bone. In almost every way, it was the same as normal flesh. The way in which it wasn’t was the fact that it was cold, instead of warm, and that it glinted as she flexed the false muscle.

    Standing up and testing her repaired shoulder, she nodded in satisfaction. It was just as good as flesh and blood, even if it was ice and magic.

    Now then, on to the plan.

    Directing her frost elemental was second nature to Melara, she’d had control over it for such a long time. The icy creature picked up one of the goblin corpses and dragged it outside, making sure to spread blood evenly.

    With luck, the smell of blood would attract the blood snakes, and then the people of Essrin would have that nuisance to deal with. It was a minor revenge, but it was payback regardless.

    Stretching, Melara lifted off of the ground again and floated up to the sky. Staying anywhere near Essrin with the blood snakes nearby would be annoying and exhausting, having to use so much magic on the small serpents.

    No, instead she turned her attention to the mountains in the distance. Essrin and the Freewell family was out of her reach.

    For now.

    No author comments this time.
  • Chapter 10: Death

    A week passed before anything truly eventful happened again.

    A trading caravan reported spotting blood snakes and blood cobras wandering around the lowlands near the mountains. The same day, a couple of elves out on a hunting trip failed to return.

    Eliras knew this because Zakarius had told him. He also knew that Zakarius had implied that he should do something about it.

    But right now, he was far more worried about other things.

    Like writing the will and testament that he had been working on.

    Eliras knew that the law could be complicated, and he honestly didn’t want to leave any room for confusion or deliberate misunderstanding. He wanted everything that he owned to be passed on to Zakarius, including his inheritance of the Essrin province. Zakarius would be a far better leader than he would, to be honest. The man was honorable, incorruptible, and politically minded.

    Finishing the will with a flourish of his pen, Eliras opened a drawer in his desk and placed the paper inside.

    Satisfied with his work, Eliras stood and stretched, placing the quill in the inkwell as he worked the cramps out of his hands. Hopefully he wouldn’t ever need it, but having the will would be useful if he should die before Zakarius did.

    And with Zarrus holding a personal vendetta against him, that wasn’t exactly unlikely. Zarrus was blindingly fast, and had no morals to prevent him from using his speed.

    As Eliras made his way to the door, he was surprised to hear Balthazaar’s voice. “Where’re you going, boy?”

    Eliras turned around to look at the old elf. “I’m going to wipe out the blood snakes that are plaguing the city.”

    “You taking my scroll with you?”

    “You’re the one who told me to keep it on me at all times,” Eliras replied, curious as to where this was going.

    “That I did. Didn’t want Melara to use her ghostly magic to get it if I put it in a vault.” Balthazaar nodded. “Just remember not to use the scroll unless you’ve got no choice.”

    “What even is the scroll, anyways?” Eliras asked suddenly. “You’ve never told me.”

    “A fire spell, a powerful one,” Balthazaar said dismissively. “Not really important. All that really matters is keeping it out of the hands of the wrong hands.”

    “Like yours?” Eliras couldn’t help himself, and it was out of his mouth before he knew what he was saying.

    “Hah! You wish, boy. Like Melara.” Balthazaar shook his head. “Go on then, boy. If you come back with your suit ruined again, I’ll tan your hide.”

    “Whatever.” Eliras walked outside, closing the door behind him. Taking a deep breath, Eliras set off towards the guard house. Zak would kill him if he went out without letting him know.

    Eliras arrived at the guardhouse quickly and poked his head in. There was a guard there, but Zakarius was absent. The guard looked up from his paperwork. “Can I help you?”

    “Is Zakarius around?” Eliras asked.

    “No, but if you want to leave him a message you can just tell me,” The guard replied.

    “Tell him I went after the blood snakes.”

    And Eliras was off, walking towards the mountains. Nobody knew where the cave the snakes were living in was. That wasn’t a major issue, really. He knew where all of the caves in the lowlands were, and he could just search each one systematically.

    He did have to use the cliff shortcut, but the quick windblast up the cliff wasn’t an issue at all. A couple rumbles from beneath his feet gave Eliras a moment of pause, but the hiveminded lacerators didn’t seem to care about him. Either that, or they had truly learned their lesson and weren’t going to attack him.

    A splotch of red on a tree was Eliras’ first clue to the blood snakes’ location.

    Eliras quickly walked over to the tree and looked around, trying to spot where the blood continued. Eliras didn’t know much about blood snakes, but he did know that they rarely killed cleanly. He also knew, though, that they usually drank all of the blood around their kill as well. This here was evidence that they had brought it back to their nest.

    Then he spotted it, a trail of blood through the grass. Eliras immediately began to follow the crimson trail, keeping his eyes out for any potential threats. He didn’t expect the blood snakes to pose any risk to him, seeing as he had so much magic at his disposal. It still wouldn’t hurt to be cautious, though.

    As he neared the cave Eliras prepared his arcane missiles. That was why he put bolts of magic through the heads of all of the blood snakes there. They weren’t a threat to him when he was ready.

    Neither were the ones in the main room of the cave.

    But something besides bloodsnakes had killed the small corpses dotting the floor. They were entirely bloodless, the snakes having drained them already, but the skeletons weren’t intact. There were holes in skulls and crushed ribs all around, injuries that blood snakes didn’t do. They drained and dealt flesh wounds. Blood snakes poisoned. They rarely broke bones.

    Still, the blood snakes kept coming, so Eliras kept casting spells.

    The cave was quite a lot deeper than Eliras initially expected it to be, with more space than the entrance would have suggested. Chamber after chamber of blood snakes was emptied with flamelances, arcane missiles, and wind blasts.

    It was shockingly easy, really. The only threats that had ever appeared were the massive blood cobras, and there were only two of those. They had been durable and strong, but they hadn’t come anywhere close to touching him.

    Stepping around a spreading puddle of blood, Eliras continued into the next chamber.

    To his surprise, there was a woman weeping in the corner. Her body was wracked with occasional sobs, her crying audible even from here. It looked like she’d had her shirt ripped off, because her back was naked and covered in scratches and scars. Her pale skin glistened in the conjured light that Eliras was carrying around in the darkness. He almost wanted to go up and comfort her. Almost.

    Almost because he saw the bodies lying next to her, their bloodless skin drawn tight against their bony frames. Every drop of blood had been removed from them, and then they’d been thrown away like they were nothing.

    Two hunters had gone missing. Two elves were lying here, bloodless and lifeless.

    Doing his best to move silently, Eliras crept up on the woman. He took his spellbook in hand, to better utilize the spells bound inside, and moved as close as he dared. A glance downwards told him that she had no legs, but instead a massive, winding snake tail. It was dark, dark red, so as to blend into the darkness, but as he drew near it became visible. Likewise he saw that her thick hair was not dreadlocks, but instead many, many snakes, all swept over to the side so that their heads weren’t visible from behind.

    This was a blood snake queen, like Zakarius had told him about.

    In order to prevent a potentially dangerous fight with a blood mage, Eliras silently opened his spellbook to the page where he had written his notes on arcane beam. With the book in his left hand and his right hand outstretched, he fired an arcane beam at point-blank range.

    Ordinarily such an attack at a foe’s head would remove their head entirely, ending them in an instant. With the special inscriptions on his spellbook, he would have been able to kill even an elephelk in a single blast.

    But not, apparently, a blood snake queen.

    The beam absorbed into her skin, and the scratches on her back slowly sealed shut. The female straightened, stretching her arms and displaying her vicious claws. Then with blinding speed she whirled, slapping the spellbook out of Eliras’ hands.

    Though his memory allowed him to cast spells without the book in hand, he was still severely weakened without it. Balthazaar had made the spellbook himself, imbuing it with empowering magic and various other helpful charms. Without it, Eliras would probably be unable to fight something like this. Come to that, he couldn’t fight something like this with the spellbook. Not if she had just absorbed his arcane beam like it was nothing.

    You,” The blood snake queen hissed, rising to tower over him. “You killed my brood, and now you seek to kill me. I’ll feast on your flesh for that”

    Eliras didn’t respond, instead using a wind blast to try to push her backwards. Apparently it gave her a moment of pause, but she was unfazed by the attack. A flamelance was met with the same disregard, as was a sandblast and a shadow ice.

    His options steadily running out, Eliras began to back up. The blood snake queen looked emaciated, undernourished. She was starved, it seemed, despite the corpses throughout the cave. Or maybe she was starved because she was feeding her brood, instead of eating herself? That would seem likely. Either that, or goblins just didn’t provide any nourishment to such a large creature. Maybe he could outpower her? No, the strength of that one blow had shown that she was still physically stronger than he was.

    The blood snake queen darted forwards, her mouth opening unnaturally wide and her fangs extending with a snik. Both of the venomous fangs sank into his shoulder, and Eliras screamed in agony. The pain was unbearable. Agony ran through his veins as the venom circulated.

    “Poor, poor mage. You thought you could kill me.” The queen tutted, leaning close. “Didn’t you do your research?”

    Eliras frantically casted another spell, summoning three floating fish that floated after the blood snake queen. She swept her tail, batting the fish into the wall, and spat a ball of blood that coated all three and melted them. Another frantic spell resulted in an explosion singing Eliras’ skin, but leaving the blood snake queen untouched.

    A clawed hand wrapped around Eliras’ throat and slammed him into the ground, the blood snake queen looming over him. Her other hand reached down and tugged on the chain around his neck. “Such a pretty trinket. I think I’ll take it after I drain your body.”

    Fervently praying to the dragons, Eliras reached into his travel pouch and pulled out an ancient piece of paper. Maybe, just maybe, the spell scroll would have something, anything, that would help him survive this encounter. Crumbling the paper between his fingers, Eliras thrust his hand forwards and released the spell.

    The blood snake queen laughed, an odd hissing noise. “Do you still think you can hurt me with magic-,”

    She stopped, unable to continue. Both snake and elf looked at the spot the spell had hit, and both were astonished to find that the skin, scales, and flesh were rapidly incinerating burning to ash in seconds. But more than that, Eliras saw that his arm was rapidly immolating, cremating him alive.

    The blood snake queen screamed, recoiling. “What are you doing? What are you doing to me?!”

    With his freedom returned to him, Eliras scrambled back, wincing as he placed the stump of his burning arm on the stone. It hurt, but not quite as badly as he had expected. Strange.

    What was stranger was that the blood snake queen didn’t seem to experience it the same way. Instead, she was screaming in agony, writhing as the flames crept through her flesh and bone. In moments, she was reduced to a pile of ash.

    Eliras was burning slightly slower, his arm completely gone now as the fire started on his torso. With his unharmed left hand, he reached up and grabbed the ruby necklace he wore, wondering blearily why the queen had bothered to look at it. It was just a ruby necklace, with a golden chain. Nothing special.

    Odd, he felt his thoughts slowing down as the fire progressed.

    Then the fire reached his heart, and Eliras died, his body slowly immolated by the spell. Everything that was flammable burned, leaving behind nothing but the ruby necklace.

    Only seconds later, both piles of ashes began to swirl, combining together into a black egg in the middle of the cave.

    Author's Note:
    Story named Serpentine takes 10 chapters to serpentine.
    But yeah, here's the plot twist that you may or may not have expected.
    I just want to say, I really would appreciate any kind of feedback. Any kind at all. Let me know what I did right or wrong. Let me know what you think of the characters or plot.
  • I want to start off by saying that I think it's awesome that you're writing a story in the Urealms universe! There is next to no fanfiction in this community, so I'm so glad to see someone writing!

    I think the characters you've created are great. They are in-depth, and they each have different unique personalities. I love the relationships between characters like the weird conflict triangle between Melara, Balthazaar, and Zarrus. I think the dynamic between Eliras and Acris is great. I love the development of Eliras and Zak's friendship.

    However, I think you should definitely include some more descriptions for the appearance of characters. You do a great job describing setting. I get a vivid image of the location in my head. But when it comes to characters, I can't see them as clearly.

    I love how you blend this story into the universe. You name specific races, enemies, classes, spells, events, and religion. It's really enjoyable as a reader to come across these details. I would love to see a specific location from a campaign in the story. I know you're not planning on including any canon characters, but I still think it would be a cool bit of fan-service to have the characters visit a place the reader would recognize and maybe briefly mention the event at that location that happened in the referenced campaign.

    I was really captivated by the fight between Eliras and Melara. I've always liked the idea of outsmarting an opponent instead of overpowering them. In my opinion, I think the fights before Eliras vs. Melara haven't lasted long enough in text. A lot happens for the amount of writing there is. I think with the Eliras/Melara fight, there was enough said for how much happened.

    But the Eliras/Melara fight has absolutely nothing over the Blood Snake Queen fight! That was absolutely awesome and definitely my favorite part so far! The whole time I was on the edge of my seat! The whole fight flowed seamlessly! And it ended with such a cliffhanger that leaves me desperate to find out what happens next!

    Overall, you've done a fantastic job! This has been a great read so far. I can't wait to find out what happens next! I'm definitely bookmarking!
  • @LadyOutlier
    Thank you very much for your in-depth feedback! It's always great to have any kind of feedback at all, but the long, thought out replies such as your are the ones that really make my day.

    I always wondered why people never at least wrote down their campaigns. URealms is a vast world designed for us to make stories in. The least we could do is oblige, whether or not we have four other people to adventure with.

    I'm very, very glad that you liked the characters. I've got a bad habit of jumping straight into the plot without doing any character building first, which can lead to confusion and, of course, the readers not caring.

    Most of the P.O.V has been Eliras so far, and he's not really a person to look at others. That may or may not change in the future, though. I do know that I should have included some form of description for the characters, but as you can see, describing Eliras would have eventually turned out to be pointless, thanks to his Rebirth scroll. Otherwise, I've been leaving descriptions deliberately vague.

    I'm really glad you enjoyed Eliras' fights against Melara and the Blood Snake Queen. Most of the fights beforehand are meant to be pretty one-sided, thanks to Eliras' abilities. Melara was meant to be an equal/greater strength, and the Blood Snake Queen has the bloodskin passive, which makes her immune to damaging spells. How fortunate that Rebirth doesn't do damage, right?

    Again, thank you very much for your feedback. I'll be doing my best to upload new chapters frequently, but life has a habit of getting in the way of that.
  • "next to no fanfiction"
    What, is my filthy sin not a work of art toooooo? @LadyOutlier
  • You should upload these to AO3 too! Always good to fill the Urealms tag.
  • @BewareTheDragon ; I have no problem giving feedback. As a writer myself, I know the importance of feedback and the irritation of receiving little of it. I understand the whole life getting in the way thing too, but still know I'll be patiently waiting for the next chapter whenever you get a chance!
    @Snarky ;
    I didn't know you've been making fanfiction! I'll check it out! What's the thread called?(By the way glad to see another Gwyneth avatar!)

  • Chapter 11: Rebirth


    That was the first sensation that Eliras felt when he woke up. Warmth. Pervasive heat that suffused every inch of his body. It eased his pains and soothed his stiffness, allowing him to relax. It reminded him of his mother, who he could hardly remember.

    The second sensation that Eliras felt when he woke, though, was intense confinement. He was in such tight space that he could hardly even breathe without filling his already limited space. And to top it all off, he felt as though his body was too big, like he was larger than he should have been for the tiny area he was confined in.

    Wriggling in an attempt to get more comfortable, Eliras realized that the walls had some amount of give. Not a whole lot, but more than most walls did. Pushing as hard as he could, Eliras pushed through the darkness until he emerged into open air.

    When Eliras tried to straighten, he felt odd. The closest equivalent he could think of was numb legs. He could stand, but it was… strange.

    Eliras tried to take a step forwards, only to fall on his face.

    Blinking in surprise as his face pressed against the floor, Eliras reached down and pushed himself up, shaking his head. He could barely see in the darkness, so he leaned on his left hand and raised his right, conjuring an orb of light that he sent upwards to float above his head.

    When Eliras looked back down again, he instinctively recoiled, pushing himself up off of the ground for a moment in a vain attempt to get away from the clawed hand in front of him. He crashed back down almost immediately, sending a spike of pain to shoot through the side of his face.


    After squirming for a bit, Eliras pushed off of the ground again, using his abdominal muscles to hold himself upright. Hesitating for a moment, Eliras extended his hands in front of him, and was shocked to see that they were covered in scales, with elongated fingers ending in vicious claws. The scales extended down to his elbows, which, as he noticed with some trepidation, were differently shaped from normal.

    Other things began to point themselves out to him. Small things at first, then rapidly growing more and more worrying. The inside of his mouth tasted like blood, constantly. His hair felt thicker than normal, not to mention he could actually feel with his hair.  He couldn’t feel his legs. His sense of smell was telling him that there were bloody corpses everywhere. His stature was wrong. His senses was wrong. Everything was wrong.

    With a sense of mounting dread, Eliras reached up to touch his hair. At the sensation of scales rubbing on scales, he recoiled again. Quickly questing the inside of his mouth with his tongue revealed that his incisors were far longer than normal, tapering to a flesh piercing point. Steeling himself, Eliras glanced down at his body.

    Immediately he jerked his head back upwards and closed his eyes. No. No way did he just see that. Nuh-uh. There was no way in the realms that he was awake right now. It was some weird, terrifying, weird dream.

    He wasn’t a blood snake queen. No. It was not possible. He wasn’t a bloodsucking reptile. He couldn’t be. That wasn’t something that happened. Not to male elves. Especially not after incinerating. Most importantly, one did not suddenly become the other sex through a spell.

    What the hells had that spell scroll been?!

    Fine. Fine. It was a dream. It was all a bad, horrible dream brought on by stress. He hadn’t been incinerated, just knocked unconscious. The incineration had been the conclusion his mind jumped to when Balthazaar had said it was a fire spell. The reason he saw himself as a blood snake queen was because that had been the last thing he saw before being knocked unconscious. Yes. That was the logical explanation for this nightmare. It just wasn’t reality. Simple. Simple as that.

    So when he opened his eyes, he wouldn’t look down to see breasts and feminine curves. His forearms wouldn’t be covered in scales. He wouldn’t have a massive crimson-scaled tail instead of legs.

    Taking a deep breath, Eliras opened his eyes again. As expected, he was in the cave. That made sense. If he had been hit by the blood snake queen, it might have knocked him unconscious with a blow. But he had used some powerful spells on it. Maybe it had succumbed to its wounds?

    A look downwards dashed all of his hopes. Patches of scales dotted his skin, mostly around his chest. He certainly wasn’t in a male body anymore, not with a figure like that. But the body he was in – and he refused to acknowledge it as his – wasn’t healthy. Not at all. The ribs were jutting out, and skin was drawn tight over the whole of the body.

    It was not his body. There was a way to reverse the spell. There had to be. He refused to believe that this was a one-way process.

    But if Eliras was going to fix it, he first had to get out of the cave. Balthazaar had given him the scroll, he would know how to reverse it.

    Eliras took a deep breath to calm his nerves and tried to move. He found himself not sure how he was supposed to move. The body he was in had strong back muscles, incredibly so, but that didn’t help him much. Experimentally, Eliras uncoiled the serpent tail, extending it as far as he could. Controlling the snake tail was incredibly odd. Explaining it to someone else would be nearly impossible. If he were to try, it would be like having your torso elongated to an extreme, with increased flexibility and strength.

    Trying to mimic the movement that he had seen the blood snakes use, Eliras wiggled the tail back and forth. To his astonishment, it proved incredibly difficult to do, with the scales on the underside scraping the stone. Eliras found himself wincing in pain as some of the scales were ripped out by the friction. “Note to self: don’t do that again.”

    Eliras found himself wincing at the voice. That wasn’t his voice. It was too high-pitched. Too rough. Too worn. Too female.

    Changing tactics, Eliras tried using his tail to push off of the surroundings. The blood snake queen he had stolen the body of was long, very long, but even then she wasn’t fully grown. She was undernourished, which meant that she was stunted, even with her incredible size and strength. If this was her without nearly enough food, Eliras would hate to have had to fight her healthy and fully grown.

    The new tactic seemed to work, though, because he was able to make his way across the cave floor by using the tail to push off of irregularities in the stone. It wasn’t efficient, but it worked. Maybe with enough practice he would be able to use the body effectively, but he didn’t want to reach that point.

    Satisfied with his mode of transportation, as slow as it was, Eliras looked around the chamber. The two bloodless elf bodies were still there, more or less unchanged. That meant that it hadn’t been too long since he used the scroll. In one corner was his spellbook, the leather cover completely unscratched despite the tumble it had taken. That was Balthazaar’s magic at work. It seemed the old man had given him something actually useful. In the middle of the room, directly behind him, was an ashen eggshell, the shell slowly falling apart and returning to a pile of ash. But against the wall near the entrance was a second ash pile, with something glittering in the glow of the magic light.

    Eliras pushed himself over to the pile of ash and looked down at it. That used to be his body. Now it was nothing but ash. Dead, worthless ash. Eliras reached out and sifted through the ash, quickly locating the gold and ruby amulet that he used to wear. It had been a gift from his father. Eliras knew it was magical; he could sense it. But he had no idea what it did.

    The golden filigree around the large ruby used to display flowers and leaves, but the heat of the incinerating fire had melted it into a single winding strand of gold. Sighing, Eliras undid the clasp at the back of the chain. Fortunately, the golden chain had protective enchantments that had saved it form the heat. It wouldn’t do to put such a special gemstone on a flimsy golden chain. Eliras lifted the chain to his neck and fumbled with the clasp, trying to snap it shut. When he finished, he brought his hands back in front of him. Those clawlike nails would have to be trimmed if he was to do anything requiring dexterity.

    His prized possession put back in its place, Eliras pushed himself back across the chamber and picked up his spellbook. As soon as he picked it up, Eliras realized that something that had been constant before had been returned to him. Gently setting the spellbook down gave him an odd sensation.

    After thinking it over for a minute, he realized that the fire in his veins was gone. He could normally feel the hatezen magic in his body, but it wasn’t there. No fiery pride, no natural magic. Experimentally, Eliras lifted his hand, trying to remember how to cast arcane missiles.

    Then another sudden realization hit him. He couldn’t remember. He had forgotten something. That had never happened to him before. His memory had been perfect up until now. Had his transfer of bodies ruined his memory, as well as ripping his hatezen magic away? If so, he would need his body back.

    Eliras prided himself on being nearly unshakable. He was calm in most situations, able to think his way out of the rest, and always had a vast encyclopedia of knowledge at his disposal.

    But now he was nearing panic.

    He could still remember most of the important parts of his lessons, but what had he forgotten? He would never know, never be able to tell.

    Frantic now, Eliras clutched his spellbook close to himself and used his odd method of locomotion to frantically make his way out of the cave. He had to get to Balthazaar. He had to get himself back into his own body. He would not live like this. Not in a million, trillion years.

    Author's Note:
    Behold, the reason I gave Eliras a Rebirth scroll in character creation. It wasn't to give him an overpowered spell, but to make him into a blood snake queen. Hence the name of the story: The Serpentine Saga.

    As I said before, character sheets will change. Eliras has lost his race, innate abilities, and his cool, but he does still have a few things.


  • Chapter 12: New form, new issues

    Exiting the cave brought a whole slew of smells and sensations that Eliras was not expecting.

    He could smell so much, it was dizzying. The scent of blood wafted out of the cave behind him, the sudden contrast amplifying the stench filling his nostrils. It was sickening, and the worst part was that it made his stomach growl. There was no way that Eliras was going to eat the meat of a sapient creature, and goblins were just absolutely disgusting.

    Clearly the body of the blood snake queen had a greatly heightened sense of smell. That made sense, actually. Elves had pretty bad olfactory senses compared to creatures like kobolds or porcs. A predatory creature like the blood snake queen would need a much better sense of smell.

    Opening his mouth to sigh was a mistake, too. Suddenly the smells were far more intense, far more pervasive. He could smell the rot of decaying logs and wood, which was a far preferable smell to the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh and blood. His hunger only intensified at the increased smell of blood, and Eliras resolved to keep his mouth shut and restrict access to his olfactory senses. With this evidence, it wasn’t hard to see why most blood snake queens lost their minds.

    Eliras continued to slowly push his way through the forest, keeping an eye out for the normal threats that roamed the area. It was nearing sundown, so goblins were probably going to be around. Gorgons were known to occasionally appear in the shadows of the forest, but they posed no threat to him thanks to his magical prowess.

    Really, his primary issue was moving around. His tactic for moving worked, but it was so slow that it frustrated him. As he pushed himself through the forest, Eliras tried experimenting. Leaning so that he didn’t shred his scales on the ground wasn’t working out, all that happened was that he nearly tipped over. Moving with his upper body first just made him feel nauseous.

    How did the snakes do it? They could keep their heads level and straight while the rest of their body undulated. Yet when he tried that, he just scraped up the ground and the softer scales under him. A little bit of experimenting told him that he could move the scales under him, opening them and closing them like flaps to dig into the dirt beneath him.

    Okay, but how was that supposed to get him anywhere?

    While he was worrying about this, he suddenly stopped. Something was wrong. Something fundamental and important. Something that wasn’t usually an issue. For a moment it escaped his mind, but then he realized what was wrong.

    The ground was rumbling, something huge moving underground. Eliras’ eyes widened, and he quickly opened his spellbook to prepare a spell. He frantically flipped through the pages, trying to remember which page held flamelance.

    Before he could find it, the ground erupted beneath him. The force of the rising creature forced Eliras backwards, but didn’t send him flying as it normally would have. The huge plant-like creature screeched in Eliras’ face, swiping at him with its claws and forcing him to back away.

    Panic began to set in quickly. He couldn’t find his flamelance spell, and with his newly faulty memory he didn’t trust himself to try casting any combat spells. Even a slight mistake could cause a spell to backfire or blow up in his face. Even with his new magic resistance, he didn’t dare risk it.

    The lacerator didn’t give up. It screeched and began to tunnel towards him, its claws thrashing madly at Eliras. Eliras didn’t think, he just fled. His body took over, instinctively slithering at incredible speed to escape. Spellbook clutched tightly in hand, Eliras didn’t even give his newfound mobility any thought. He didn’t have the time.

    Sliding around a tree to give himself a bit more time, Eliras glanced backwards. The massive plant creature just tore through the tree, sending wood chips flying everywhere as its claws shredded through the roots and trunk.

    Eliras was getting close to the cliff that he always jumped when he made a horrible mistake. He began to think.

    As soon as he tried to put thought to his movements, Eliras found himself pitching forwards. His movement faltered, though he was fortunate that he couldn’t stumble and fall like a humanoid would. He could, and did, fall forwards onto his face, however. Twisting around quickly, Eliras caught sight of the lacerator rising over him, its claws swiping downwards with terrifying speed.

    Spurred by panic, Eliras tried something he had never done before. He had heard that Lacerators were a form of earth elemental, and that they could be controlled by someone with skill in earth magic. Without any evidence to back it up, he hadn’t bothered to check if it was true. Now seemed like the perfect time to see if his variety in magical skill would work just as well.

    Channeling as much earth magic as he could, Eliras raised both hands and thrust them forwards, letting the earth magic flow.

    And the lacerator stopped. Its claws pulled back as its eyeless head looked straight at Eliras. After a moment, Eliras pushed his hand farther forwards, and the lacerator recoiled.

    Now sure that he could control it, Eliras slowly rose once more. He twisted and coiled his tail under him, trying to figure out what to do next. If he let go of the channel, the lacerator would probably kill him. He couldn’t move properly either, not while thinking about it. His current body knew how to move, but he didn’t.

    Taking a deep breath, Eliras just let himself move. He couldn’t replicate his movements before, not consciously, but if he didn’t focus on it, he found that he could propel himself with reasonable speed.

    With this new discovery, Eliras slowly started moving back towards the cliff. That was the fastest way to get back to Essrin, and more specifically to the Freewell mansion on the outskirts of the city. If Balthazaar was half as good as he claimed to be, he would probably have a cure.

    Eliras hesitated when he reached the cliff. A quick glance down told him that there was no way he could get down unharmed, not while also being in the body of a blood snake queen. Normally he would use wind blast to slow his descent, but he couldn’t safely conjure enough wind to keep the much heavier body from splatting at the bottom. Going around would mean that he would be stuck in this body for far longer than he was comfortable. So how was he to get down?

    Then he realized what was right in front of him, literally. Lacerators were powerful earth elementals, and they could manipulate the terrain with relative ease. Not to mention it was at least as big as a blood snake queen, and far stronger than any flesh-and-blood creature.

    Nodding to himself, Eliras extended a magical command to the elemental. He could feel it resist for a moment before its meager defenses collapsed under his mental will. Its will dominated by Eliras’ power, the lacerator pushed its way through the ground and lifted Eliras off the ground, its magical strength enough to lift even Eliras’ current blood snake queen body.

    Once it lifted Eliras’ current body off the ground, it hurtled forwards at incredible speed towards the edge of the cliff. For a moment Eliras thought that it was just going to hurl itself and him off the cliff, but before he could even complete the thought the elemental was using its tendrils to tear through the cliff face, lowering itself to the ground below by destroying the stone beneath it. When they reached the bottom, Eliras blinked in surprise.

    Then the lacerator was gone, tunneling through the ground in flight.

    Eliras took a deep breath and clutched his spellbook close to his chest. The biggest issue with getting back to the mansion was out of the way, now.

    Steeling his nerves, Eliras continued on.

  • edited September 2017
    Chapter 13: Freewell Mansion

    The Freewell mansion was surrounded by high walls that were reinforced and empowered by powerful magic. The only way for a normal person to enter the grounds was through the front gate. Granted, Zarrus had shown his ability to vault the walls, and Melara could probably just walk right through them. But, as Balthazaar put it, it kept out the rabble.

    The gate itself was enchanted against intrusion. You couldn’t break it. You couldn’t pick the lock. In order to get in, you had to know the password. In order to know the password, someone who knew the password had to tell you. You couldn’t guess the password or overhear it, the magic didn’t work that way. It was admittedly an ingenious spell.

    Eliras was one of probably five people to know the password. The other four were Zakarius, Zarrus, a shady elf that Eliras had only seen once, and Balthazaar himself. Zak only knew because Eliras had told him. Zarrus never used the gate anyways.

    Getting spotted going in would cause problems, so Eliras quickly cast his gaze about and sniffed the air. He didn’t see anyone, and neither did he smell anyone nearby. Slithering up to the gate, Eliras leaned close to the lock and whispered the combination of syllables that unlocked the gate. Taking one last look around, Eliras pushed through the gate and closed it behind him, the clicking of the lock sealing it shut.

    He continued up the stone path to the front door. He never really noticed the garden before. It was always just… there. Now, though, he could smell the nectar of the flowers in the flowerbed. He could smell the freshly cut grass. He could smell the gardener’s tobacco smoke, because the elf always lingered near the gate and sat in the shade to smoke his pipe. The colors just popped out more, too. Before they had seemed muted, but even in the dim light of the stars he could see colorful reds and oranges.

    It occurred to Eliras that he may have been visually impaired beforehand, and he had never even noticed.

    But that wasn’t important. Eliras continued on, slithering up to the main door. He hesitated before touching the doorknob. Similarly to the gate, only certain people could open the door. Eliras had been one of the ones with permission, but would that transfer over? It wasn’t knowledge based, like the password had been, but inherent to one’s being. If his hatezen magic had vanished, his permission probably had too. He didn’t dare risk activating the protective spells by trying to get in.

    So instead, Eliras raised his hand and knocked on the door.

    He could hear some activity inside and could probably guess that Balthazaar was confused. Anyone who Balthazaar trusted enough to tell the gate password to would have access to the front door. Balthazaar didn’t know about Zak, but that was the exception to the rule.

    After a few moments, the door was opened a crack and a spear made of fire poked out, stopping just in front of Eliras’ face. “Who are you, what’re you doing here, and why are you trying to take what’s rightfully mine?”

    “Balthazaar?” Eliras mentally cursed. His voice was so different now. Not only was it that of a female, but it was worn by disease and famine. It was not the voice of a wizard, especially not a Freewell. “It’s Eliras. I used the scroll, um, on accident.”

    The door opened a bit further, and the old elf’s eye poked into view to see. He had green eyes, Eliras noticed. He had never noticed before. Streaks of grey peppered Balthazaar’s hair, and his face was lined with worry and anger. No laugh lines at all. Balthazaar looked him up and down. After a moment, the fire spear vanished and the door opened the rest of the way. “Well, the story and magical aura check out. You’ve got the spellbook and that dinky ruby. I’d believe that you’d waste Rebirth on a mundane creature like that. Didn’t think you’d become a female, though. Come in.”

    Balthazaar stepped away, sighing and running his hand through his hair. “You just had to use the scroll. You went and became a lesser creature just because you were dying, didn’t you?”

    “You were the one who told me to use it when I had no other options…” Eliras muttered, cringing.

    “I meant that you should use it when an elf was close to killing you. Letting anything else get near to ending your life means that you don’t really deserve to live,” Balthazaar replied, walking into the parlor and opening a cabinet. He pulled out a bottle of expensive whiskey and a glass, pouring the drink out and downing it. “But, well, what’s done is done. You’re a blood snake queen now. Emphasis on queen. You going to be killing people and laying your eggs in their bodies, or something?”

    “What? No.” Eliras recoiled. “I’m still me. I just want my body back.”

    “Can’t.” Balthazaar chuckled. “Your body’s a pile of ash, boy. Or girl, rather. Rebirth kills you and your target, then brings you back as the other thing. Hope you don’t mind meat, because that’s all you’ll be eating for the rest of your life.”

    “Is there some way I can become an elf again? Some shapechanging spell, or something?” Eliras asked frantically.

    “Not really.” Balthazar gave another humorless chuckle. “You’re basically stuck. Tell me, do you still have hatezen magic in you?”

    “No. I also lost my photographic memory.” Eliras shook his head. “Can I change back into a male, at least?”

    “Nope.” Balthazaar said, popping the P. He paused for a moment. “Well, maybe. Hand over your spellbook.”

    Eliras hesitated for a second, then handed his spellbook to Balthazaar. The elder elf took the leatherbound tome and flipped through the pages quickly, scanning each one. He paused at the last page, then shut the book. Balthazaar turned away and set the book on a shelf, admiring his own handiwork. “So, you could, potentially, become both an elf and a male again. It won’t be easy, though.”

    “What do I need to do?” Eliras asked, eyes widening as hope returned.

    “See, it takes a very special spell.” Balthazaar explained, pouring himself another glass of whiskey. “One like the spell you used to become what you are now. Rebirth scrolls are incredibly hard to come by, after all. They use Vlaurunga’s magic to operate, and there are so few who can make them these days.”

    “Do you have another Rebirth scroll, then?” Eliras slithered closer, hopeful.

    “No.” Balthazaar calmly finished his whiskey before putting the glass back down and putting the cork back in the whiskey bottle. “Melara wanted that one, that’s why I took it. Rebirth scrolls hold no allure to me.”

    “So… I have to go find one.” Eliras muttered, taking a deep breath.

    “You’d have to be extremely lucky to find another unclaimed Rebirth scroll. Hell, you’d have to be lucky just to find a claimed Rebirth scroll. Nobody really wants them unless they mean to make themselves into a whelpling or a gumioh.” Balthazaar waved his hand dismissively. “Besides, I have a much better way for you to lose that form.”

    Something about the way Balthazaar said it put Eliras on edge. “Really? What?”

    “I can’t have people thinking that I’m related to a beast such as yourself. Dear me, what would they say?” Balthazaar turned around, a ball of roiling fire in one hand. “So I think I’ll just have to end you here. Sorry, Eliras. I’ll take good care of your spellbook.”

    The pyroblast hit Eliras in the stomach, expanding and obliterating everything around and below him in its inferno. He could feel his skin burning and flesh melting under the heat, but at the same time he was healing nearly as quickly as he was burning. The floor beneath him bubbled as the varnish was superheated, the wood quickly burning to ash as the stone beneath that began to melt as well. The sheer heat sapped every bit of energy from Eliras, burning and healing and burning and healing and burning and healing…

    Eliras fell forwards as the floor gave way. His chin cracked against molten stone, the magical energy of the pyroblast healing him still as he fell down into the basement. He caught glimpses of the room he fell into as he tumbled. Stone, metal, shimmering liquid…

    And then Eliras hit the pool, the molten metal filling every pore.

    Author's Note:
    I've made a fitting legendary card for Balthazaar as well. Again, I can't put it on his character, but it's still right here.

    custom card
  • Chapter 14: Freewell No More

    It was always a shame to have to kill a family member. First Drakin, now Eliras.

    If only they had listened to him, instead of going off to be independent. Drakin was too foolish. He was too law abiding. It hadn’t been murder when Balthazaar killed him, it had been an execution. Senna dying too was just a shame, though. Eliras was too friendly with the commoners. If he hadn’t associated with Zakarius, there would have been no issue. But no, he had turned himself into a blood snake queen, and now he wasn’t even worthy of considering a person.

    Balthazaar sighed and looked at the hole in the ground. That would be irritating to get fixed. A glance down into the pit revealed that the pyroblast had burned all the way down to the basement. The shimmering silver pool was rippling, probably because debris had fallen in. That was a mild inconvenience at worst. It wasn’t like ordinary stone could taint dragon silver.

    Turning away, Balthazaar stretched his fingers. He was getting better at that every day. This one had taken hardly any energy at all. Maybe it had something to do with growing older? It was tough to tell. Every elf he knew kept themselves young enough that he was never able to tell. Except Weiss, or whatever he called himself these days.

    He had better things to do than mourn the loss of his only pupil. It was thirty years of training and conditioning down the drain, sure, but the spellbook was completely fine. Dozens of pages of complex diagrams, spell descriptions, notes, and whatever else Eliras had thought important to his magic.

    It may even help Balthazaar himself. Eliras had a perfect memory and amazing logic. There were things that the young elf had noticed and put together that would have taken Balthazaar centuries of research and experimentation to discover. Never would Balthazaar have thought of countering an ice mage by taking them into the boiler room.

    Eliras had hated Zarrus though. That had been a true shame. Zarrus was an old, old friend, from well before the death of Phanto. Zarrus and Weiss had joined Balthazaar in his hunts, and after the death of Phanto all three of them found fun in the ensuing chaos. They’d caused quite a lot of panic together. Zarrus was the muscle, of sorts, with his incredible blade skills. Weiss was the charmer, the talker. Balthazaar himself, though, was the brains of the outfit. He was the best fit for the role after all.

    Balthazaar reached behind a cabinet and pulled out a wand. It was a fairly simple affair, made out of oak and crystal. It wasn’t as fancy as some of the other things that he had, but it was far, far more useful. A wand that channeled his magic near perfectly. Nearly. He wished it wasn’t nearly, but he was mortal.

    That stung, really. He could remember when he wasn’t mortal. Even then, he had seen the dragons make mistakes. He would never tell anyone that, though. He valued his life too much to say such a thing about the dragons.

    A sound made him turn quickly, then calm down. It had just been another piece of debris falling into the silver. Nothing important.

    Several seconds later, there was another sound, this one not in the basement. Balthazaar looked around again, suddenly on edge. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to relax. It was nothing. Everything was fine. The only problem would be if Eliras had survived, which he clearly had not. Nothing could survive a pyroblast from Balthazaar. He practically invented the spell.

    Now he knew he heard something moving. Balthazaar conjured a flamelance in his left hand, holding his wand in his right, and slowly stalked through the halls.

    Was it possible that Eliras had survived? It really didn’t seem likely at all. Sure it was possible for people to survive a full-force pyroblast, but it was incredibly unlikely. But then, he had become a different kind of creature entirely. What was it about blood snake queens? What was the slang term Zarrus used? Magebane? Why was that again?

    With a quick whirl and flick of the wrist, Balthazaar hurled the flamelance down the hallway, just barely missing the pale form that darted across.

    The little bastard! He had lived! How? What kind of trick had he pulled?

    The pale shape darted down the hallway again, this time heading for the parlor. He was heading for his spellbook. If he really had lost his perfect memory, that was his best hope to survive. Balthazaar couldn’t let that happen. If Eliras told anyone…

    And the bastard was fast, too. He was slithering with such great speed that Balthazaar could hardly keep up. Yet he followed the serpentine creature, occasionally throwing a flamelance in an attempt to catch Eliras off guard.

    As Balthazaar burst into the parlor, he tossed a flamelance into Eliras’ back, the fire spear hitting the serpent in the small of the back.

    Eliras flinched, turning. His hands held his spellbook, but to Balthazaar’s surprise the blood snake queen had changed. Less feminine, more… childlike. Balthazaar blinked in surprise. “How?”

    “You dropped me into your silver. That saved me.” Eliras opened his spellbook and flipped through the pages, stopping on one in particular and making an arcane symbol with his hand.

    Balthazaar reacted immediately to the sudden gust of wind, throwing one hand out and using counterspell to stop the wind blast in its tracks. Eliras blanched as the spell failed, no doubt draining a significant portion of his energy in the process. That was the beauty of counterspell. It ruined your foe’s ability to use magic.

    So, Eliras had survived the pyroblast and the fall into the silver pool. No doubt that was why his body was younger: that’s what the dragon silver did. It was rather surprising that it hadn’t aged him all the way back to a child, though. Just to a prepubescent. No matter, all it would take was a good arcane beam to finish the insolent pest off.

    So Balthazaar leveled his hand at Eliras, a beam of raw arcane energy shooting out to sear into the blood snake queen.

    Nothing happened. If anything, Eliras looked healthier. Frustrated, Balthazaar channeled the excess energy of the arcane beam and fired a second one off. Nothing again.

    Eliras began to slither closer, his free hand contorting into various shapes as he muttered under his breath. Balthazaar used another counterspell to stop the boy’s spell, only to blanch himself as a creeping chill flooded his body. The little bastard had tricked him! Trick Balthazaar Freewell into wasting a counterspell!

    Growling in rage, Balthazaar began to use all of his spells in quick succession. Fireballs bloomed into pyroblasts, iceblasts ricocheted and redoubled themselves, and arcane beams split in midair as they hammered into the blood snake queen. Balthazaar only stopped when he could do no more, his chest heaving as his exhaustion overwhelmed him.

    Eliras only came closer, the spells having no effect whatsoever. The burns healed immediately, the cuts sealed in seconds, and the concussive blows of arcane magic did nearly nothing. Panic growing, Balthazaar reached into his pocket and pulled out a crystal, crushing it to dust in his hand. Slamming his hands together in front of him, Balthazaar released his last hydroflame, blowing open the front of the house and hitting Eliras square in the chest with the beam.

    For the first time, a spell seemed to have an effect on Eliras, causing the blood snake queen to come to a complete stop. The swirling ice and fire bore a hole in Eliras’ chest, causing the skin to bubble and freeze at the same time. Eliras screamed, the ear-piercing sound finally causing Balthazaar to cease his hydroflame spell and fall to his knees, panting.

    “Why…? Why do you do this to your own family?” Eliras asked, voice no more than a whisper.

    “You’re no family to me,” Balthazaar growled, his chest heaving. The little bastard wasn’t even tired! Even as Balthazaar watched, the wounds sealed, healing in seconds. “You’re just a beast. You aren’t a Freewell.”

    “I don’t want to be if it means being like you,” Eliras whispered, his, rather, her, eyes closing.

    “I cast you out, you ungrateful brat!” Balthazaar roared, climbing unsteadily to his feet. Conjuring the last of his magic, Balthazaar clapped his hands together.

    The room was filled with flying ice, the air dropping to subzero temperatures in seconds. Eliras began to shiver, but Balthazaar was quivering with anger rather than cold. Letting out a scream of rage, Balthazaar took a step forwards, summoning a fireball in his hands and dropping it at his feet.

    Like every fireball before, the fireball expanded rapidly into a pyroblast, exploding at Balthazaar’s feet.

    Fire and ice swirled around his body as he flew through the air, coming to a stop only when he crashed into a cabinet. Ice shards embedded themselves in his flesh, slicing where the flames had already removed his skin from his body. Pain was the only sensation left to him. Pain and rage.

    And soon, even those stopped as he lost enough blood.

    Author's Note:

    Balthazaar Freewell has met his demise, a fitting one, really. Brought down by his own pride and inability to learn.

  • Chapter 15: Gorged

    As blood pooled on the floors, the blizzard slowly died down.

    Eliras could feel the residual magic of the blizzard seeping into his skin, closing his cuts and healing his burns in seconds. He just stood there, watching Balthazaar’s body cool as the ice shards in his skin melted.

    Why? Why had the old man kept at it? If he’d just stopped then this wouldn’t have happened. None of it would’ve happened. The mansion wouldn’t be destroyed, Eliras would at least be an adult, and Balthazaar would’ve been alive.

    But now Eliras’ body was youthened to a prepubescent state because Balthazaar had dropped him into a vat of molten silver. Everything ached now. He felt so weak now, so small and fragile. And as his stomach complained, he realized that he was hungry too. More than hungry, starving. And there was a pool of blood right here…

    Eliras recoiled, shaking his head. No. No he would not eat a person. Not even someone like Balthazaar. There were other things he could eat.

    Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Eliras turned and slithered through the hallways. He wasn’t quite as fast as before, mostly because he was smaller now, but he was still faster than most elves. That was good to know.

    Let’s see, turn right here, push through this door to enter the kitchen, and then the larder was right in front of him, doors wide open.

    As he entered and looked around, Eliras’ mouth began to water. So much food, and so many alluring smells. He could barely control himself as he started to slither through the huge larder. Balthazaar always kept it stocked for himself, and Eliras rarely ever went anywhere near it. Not because he was banned, but because he just never wanted to go near it. Now, though, it was like paradise.

    Hunger overwhelming him, Eliras started grabbing dried meats and stuffed them into his mouth. The concept of chewing didn’t even cross his mind, just swallowing the strips of meat as quickly as his body was able to manage.

    Eventually he ran out of food, and his stomach wasn’t filled. Still starving, Eliras slithered through the larder to the door at the opposite end and tugging it open. A blast of cold hit him in the face, but it was fine. The scent of raw meat came with it. The icehouse was always, always filled to the brim with all kinds of meat. Everything from deer to elephelks were hunted down in order to keep the icehouse full. It was some kind of habit that Balthazaar had, and before Eliras had ignored it. Now, though, it was a blessing.

    Self-control left him entirely at this point, hunger overwhelming him. He tore into meat and flesh, gulping it down as quickly as possible. Moving from carcass to carcass, stripping flesh from bone and eating it in seconds, Eliras gorged himself on the incredible supply of food. Time didn’t matter, cleanup didn’t matter, all that mattered was filling his stomach with meat.

    Only once Eliras had stripped the flesh off of almost a dozen animals did his hunger finally fade. Suddenly shivering from the cold of the icehouse, Eliras lethargically slithered back out into the larder. He was suddenly so, so tired. Hands clasping at his overstuffed stomach, Eliras looked down. To his mild shock, his stomach was bulging out like he had eaten a whole pig in one go.

    Yawning, Eliras realized that he was incredibly tired. Probably had something to do with the fact that he had just eaten a huge amount, far more than any time he had before. Blinking, Eliras found it hard to keep his eyes open.

    Deciding that now was a better time to pass out than later, Eliras coiled his tail and laid out flat on the ground. He was asleep in seconds.


    When Eliras woke up, he groaned and shivered. His back was on a cold hard floor, which left him a bit stiff, and there was a chill in the air. Twitching slightly, he wondered why he was on the ground. Had he fallen off his bed? Why was it so cold in the middle of summer?

    Blinking, Eliras shifted. Oh. Right. Tail. He had become a blood snake queen, and then Balthazaar had dropped him into dragon silver and youthened him to a prepubescent child.

    Well, if he was stuck like this for now, then being a child was better than the stunted adult he was before. He might be weaker, but he wasn’t permanently stuck with a warped frame. Maybe if he ate right, he’d be able to prevent his current body from becoming the same stunted creature that he had been reborn as.

    Not that it mattered, anyways. He’d find a way to become an elf again. Then it wouldn’t matter what this body was like, it would be dead at that point.

    Eliras pulled himself upright and looked around. He had apparently fallen asleep in the larder. It looked like someone had gone through it haphazardly, tossing things on the ground. A glance around revealed that the icehouse was open, and that was where the cold was coming from. The self-renewing ice spell on the icehouse was prone to being overactive at times, and the last thing Eliras wanted was for that to happen while he was a reptile.

    A glance into the icehouse caused Eliras to pause. Bones littered the floor, so many that Eliras couldn’t even try to figure out how many carcasses they had come from. They had been stripped of everything edible and tossed on the ground. Something must’ve gotten in, he thought. Immediately he followed it up with another thought: Yes, and it was me.

    There was no way he had eaten that much meat, it wasn’t physically possible for a creature of his current size to eat at least ten full deer, right? Eliras looked down at himself. No, he couldn’t possibly have…


    Eliras had seen snakes that had recently gorged themselves by eating prey almost larger than they were. Their jaws unhinged and their bodies expanded in order to consume massive amounts of food. Blood snake queens were definitely a similar species. Was that what had happened? That was just weird.

    Shaking it off, Eliras looked around. His spellbook was on the ground. Maybe he had dropped it when he first got into the larder. Eliras couldn’t remember. He could remember hunger, and then… nothing. It was like a haze had dropped over his mind.

    But he had things he needed to do. He needed to let Zakarius know that Balthazaar was dead, he needed to-

    Wait, no. That wasn’t right. How was he supposed to prove his identity when he was like this? He was the wrong species, the wrong sex, and the wrong age. As far as the world was concerned, Eliras was dead. Zak probably thought he had been killed trying to clear out the blood snakes. In a way, he wasn’t wrong.

    How was he supposed to get the information to Zak? Zakarius wasn’t foolish; he wouldn’t trust a blood snake queen that claimed to be his friend.

    But Eliras had written a will before going out.

    How fitting. He hadn’t written the will with the intent of ever dying, but the very same day he was put in a situation where he couldn’t claim to be alive. The world thought Eliras was dead, but at least he had had the foresight to prepare for it.

    Going up the stairs wasn’t easy with a serpent tail instead of legs. It was a complicated process of lifting his upper body, resting part of his tail on the upper step, then lifting his whole tail up onto the step and repeating the process. It was slow, but it got it done.

    Out of his room Eliras only grabbed a couple of things. A canvas bag, for one thing. He grabbed a couple of books and put them into the bag, snatching only a charcoal pencil to go with them. A belt and travel pouch, with basic travelling supplies inside. None of his clothing would fit this body, seeing as it was all custom-made for Eliras’ old body. But he did open the drawer that his will was in, so that Zak could find it.

    As Eliras left the mansion, he was astonished at the sheer destruction. The hydroflame had blown open most of the house with its power, but the blizzard and repeated pyroblasts had done significant damage to the building. Really, it would only be a matter of time before someone noticed and broke the gate down to get in.

    So as the sun rose, Eliras made his way into Essrin. He had to find Zak.

  • Chapter 16: Through Essrin

    Sneaking into Essrin wasn’t an easy task by any means. The city walls were extremely well-maintained, constructed to keep people from entering without passing through the gates. Fortunately, there was a single entrance that was enchanted by Balthazaar to be invisible to anyone who wasn’t a Freewell. With Balthazaar dead, the door should be visible.

    And visible it was. Just a simple wooden door in the wall with nobody guarding it. The door opened into the highest-end part of the city, which was on the complete opposite side of the city from the slums. But at least it was an entrance he could go through without someone trying to gut him. The hardest part would be getting through the city unseen, because if someone saw him it would cause a major issue.

    Eliras really wasn’t used to being stealthy, but he knew how to be in principle. Don’t get seen, make as little noise as possible, and most importantly, don’t get seen. In his current body he was naturally quiet when he moved, and since it was before sunrise, hopefully there wouldn’t be anyone to spot him.

    As Eliras knew from experience, the richer someone was, the less likely they were to get up early. It was like an inverse correlation. The only thing that Eliras really had to worry about was the normal folk. People who had to get up before dawn in order to feed themselves. People like Zakarius.

    But as luck would have it, Eliras encountered nobody as he passed through the rich district. Entering the marked district gave him a reason to pause, thanks to the people already out and about, but he quickly spotted a way through without being seen. The back alleys of Essrin were like a maze, but they were a maze that Eliras had fled into a million times. He knew them like the back of his hand.

    Take a left turn here, slip across the street quickly so nobody spotted him, turn right, and after this left turn he should be in the clear- wait, no, that wasn’t right…

    In front of Eliras was a wall. Somehow he had managed to find his way into a dead end. That wasn’t normal. Cursing under his breath, he realized that he couldn’t trust his own memory. It wasn’t perfect anymore. He could, and clearly just did, make mistakes.

    “What’s a girl like you doing, using words like that and being in a place like this?”

    Eliras whirled at the lecherous voice. A lanky elf, with an unkempt appearance and ragged clothing, was standing there. Eliras rose to full height, realizing that he was still significantly shorter than the elf now that he had been aged down. “Back off.”

    The elf ignored him, coming closer. “Hmm, you’re young. That’s good. Not an elf, but I’d wager that you’ve got the same parts down there, somewhere. Even then, you’ve got a mouth.”

    Ice ran through Eliras’ veins. Oh gods no. No, no, no. Not one of those people. That was just messed up. Sick and twisted elves like this one deserved to be locked up and mutilated. Disgust and more than a little bit of fear began to show in Eliras’ face. “Back. Off.”

    The elf darted forwards, and Eliras reacted by trying to claw at his face. The elf simply caught Eliras’ wrists and pulled them to the side, forcing Eliras into an uncomfortable spread-eagled position with his back against the wall. The elf leaned close, his fetid breath causing Eliras to cringe. “You’ll do just fine, I think.”

    In response, Eliras spat in his face. A glob of sticky red fluid clung to the elf’s face, causing him to recoil and scratch at it. A couple of seconds later he was screaming in agony, the blood-spit eating through his skin like acid.

    Eliras didn’t sit around to watch, immediately darting off as soon as he was released. He didn’t stick around to listen to the elf’s screams.

    Inside, he was shaking. That had been far too close for comfort. What the hell was wrong with people?! What kind of twisted elf would go out and try to molest children?! That elf had been sober, too! Not a drop of alcohol in his breath. What possessed people to do such messed up things?

    Shuddering, Eliras emerged from the alley into the slum district. Here the houses were crowded so close together that you could get from one to another by knocking a hole in the wall. And it wouldn’t be hard to do, either. Most of the wood was rotting or just brittle, in some state of disrepair. The nicest houses were the ones with actual doors, while most simply had planks of wood or curtains blocking the entrance.

    And walking down the street, helmet tucked under his arm, was Zakarius.

    A head of steel-grey hair wasn’t the most worrying thing about Zak’s appearance. Eliras had never noticed before, but Zakarius was old, and he didn’t have silver to keep himself young. Stress lined his face as his intelligent blue eyes scanned the area. Eliras quickly ducked back into the alley to avoid detection. He had not thought this all the way through.

    As Zakarius passed the alley, Eliras finally worked up the courage to speak. “Zak?”

    Immediately the armored elf looked around, eyes quickly locking onto Eliras. With his movements a blur, Zak’s helmet was on his head and his massive scimitar was in his hands. “State your business in Essrin, beast.”

    “Zak, it’s Eliras,” Eliras raised both hands, showing that they were empty. “I-,”

    “Eliras is dead,” Zakarius spat, pointing the scimitar at Eliras. “Your kind killed him.”

    “No, no, Zak, I used the scroll Balthazaar gave me and-,”

    Stop lying to me.” Zak stepped closer. His helmeted head scanned Eliras’ current body, stopping at the spellbook. His helmet snapped back up, his eyes visible through the slits. “You killed him. You killed him and took his spellbook. And now that I think about it, that necklace isn’t too different from the one he had. So you killed him and looted his body. For your crimes against Elven kind, surrender now. Or don’t. Either way, you’ll be executed in the end.”

    “Zak, l-let me explain! I-I-,” Eliras frantically tried to explain.

    “Stop talking.” The tip of Zak’s scimitar nicked Eliras’ throat, forcing him back against the wall. “Do you surrender?”

    “Please, please Zak, please just listen to me!” Eliras pleaded.

    “Why should I listen to someone who is clearly a murderer?” Zak hissed, leaning closer. “You will pay for killing Eliras.”

    “Z-Zak, I am Eliras! I-I used a Rebirth scroll! I-I didn’t mean t-to! It just happened!” Eliras could feel the tears welling up in his eyes. “I j-just want to be me again! P-please!”

    “Prove it. If you are who you claim to be, then you can prove it,” Zak growled, his blade steady. “If you say anything, anything that doesn’t fit, you’re going straight on the chopping block.”

    “Okay, okay.” Eliras took a deep breath, trying and failing to calm himself. “I-I’ve known you for twenty years, since y-you c-caught me sitting on t-top of the t-temple. A-a c-couple w-weeks ago, I t-told you that B-Balthazaar p-pyroblasted m-my parents.” Eliras was stuttering so bad that he could barely speak now. “P-p-please, Z-Zak, y-you have to believe me!”

    “Tell me, if you are Eliras,” Zak’s voice was cold, emotionless. “What was he going to do?”

    “Make you the mayor.” Eliras whispered.

    Somehow he felt as though that wasn’t what Zak wanted to hear. The sword at his neck shifted, drawing back to strike harder. Closing his eyes, Eliras let the tears run down his cheeks. He couldn’t remember the last time he had actually cried, or even let himself show any emotion at all. Maybe it was about time he did, now that his only real friend for the past two decades was going to kill him. Eliras bowed his head, awaiting his death.

    Then metal clattered on the ground, and metal plated arms were wrapped around Eliras’ shoulders. “By the gods, I’m so sorry Eliras.”

    Eliras opened his eyes wide with surprise. On the ground were a helmet and a massive scimitar, but the true surprise was the armored elf hugging him. Only a moment later, Zak pulled away, looking Eliras in the eyes. Eliras opened his mouth to speak, but Zak beat him to it. “How did this happen?”

    “Th-the scroll Balthazaar gave me was a Rebirth scroll.” Eliras took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “Wh-when I went t-to take out th-the blood snakes, th-there was a queen, a-and she nearly killed m-me a-and I had to use th-the scroll but I d-didn’t know it was a Rebirth scroll and-,”

    “Calm down, Eliras. Just tell me what happened,” Zak soothed.

    “Right, right.” Eliras took another deep breath. “So a-after I used the scroll, I w-was reborn into the blood snake queen, but I-I went back to Balthazaar and he said there was no way to change back, but then he d-dropped me into a vat of silver and aged me down t-to this and then he k-killed himself with a pyroblast and now everything is just bigger and louder and smellier and more intense and it-,” Eliras stopped for breath, closing his eyes. “I just want my body back.”

    “Eliras, why did you go in without me? I could’ve sworn I told you about blood snake queens. They absorb the magic of spells and heal themselves with it; that’s why I needed to go with you,” Zak explained. “But I didn’t get the information you had left until noon, and then you never returned.”

    “Nobody ever told me that they healed from magic,” Eliras whispered. “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have gone.”

    “Well, what’s done is done, and now you’re… this.” Zak shook his head and sighed. He reached down and picked up his scimitar, sheathing it. “Look, I have to get to work now, but you can stay in my house until I get finished. We’ll talk more.”

    Picking up his helmet, Zak looked around. Nodding to himself, he quickly gestured for Eliras to follow him. Zak quickly walked up to the shack that Eliras recognized as the knight’s house and opened the door, ushering Eliras inside.

    Then the door closed, and Eliras was left alone for the next twelve hours.

  • Chapter 17: Temple of the Dragons

    Being alone in Zak’s house was initially an interesting thing for Eliras. It answered a couple of questions Eliras had about his friend. Did Zak have any personal mementoes? No. Were there any little secrets that Eliras could find? If they existed, nope. Did Zak do anything at home?

    As it turned out, the answer was still no.

    Really, Zak’s home was only outfitted with the bare minimum that the captain of the guard needed to survive. A bedroom, a single room for preparing food and living area, and a washroom. That was it. Nothing was personalized, nothing at all pointed to the identity of the person who lived there. It reminded Eliras of an empty book. It had a maker and an owner, but it was so blank that it had no personality.

    So, with nothing better to do, Eliras had fallen asleep in the living area.

    Hours later, he was shaken awake by callused hands. Eliras blinked his eyes open and looked around, not recognizing his surroundings for a second before he remembered where he was. Zak was standing over him, armor laid out neatly on the ground nearby. It was the first time Eliras had seen him without most, if not all, of his armor. As Eliras had expected, Zak was broad-shouldered and incredibly fit. But then, he had to be in order to wear that armor all the time.

    “Alright, Eliras. My shift’s over and everything’s quiet. What’s going on?” Zak asked, stepping back.

    Eliras stretched his arms and uncoiled his tail, trying to work out the stiffness. “Um, you need to be more specific.”

    “How about this. Balthazaar is dead, his house has been raided, and the gardener spotted a blood snake queen leaving when he arrived this morning.” Zak pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “What did you do?”

    “I didn’t do anything to Balthazaar,” Eliras protested, raising his hands in surrender. “He just blew himself up with a pyroblast after trying and failing to kill me.”

    “I can see that happening.” Zak nodded. “And I take it that you also raided the icehouse and larder?”

    “It is my house,” Eliras said defensively. “I’m allowed to eat the food that’s kept stocked for me and Balthazaar.”

    “Okay, understandable.” Zak continued nodding. “Now why did you write a will and leave everything to me?!”

    “I wrote a will just in case. Zarrus hates me, and he could easily just decide to put a sword through my heart,” Eliras explained. “And I left everything to you because you’re the only person I know and trust.”

    “Your possessions I get, but you signed your inheritance of the province over to me! What am I supposed to do with this?” Zak asked, clearly stressed.

    “Do what you’ve always done: help the people,” Eliras stated simply. “Put those morals of yours to work. You’re a good judge of people, you know politics, and you know how to handle money. That’s three things I’ll never have.”

    “Yes, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re still alive.”

    “Technically I’m not. My body is a pile of ash in some cave, and Balthazaar wound up killing himself. You’re the sole inheritor of the mansion and everything in it, now,” Eliras replied.

    “There has to be some way to return you to your body, or at the very least to transform you back,” Zak said, taking a deep breath.

    “Balthazaar said there wasn’t. But then, he may’ve been lying.” Eliras bit his lip, thinking. “But I doubt it, honestly. I’ve never heard of a way to shapeshift permanently from form to form, and Balthazaar would’ve probably turned me back if there was a way for him to do so. He’s not one to give up on a thirty year cause if there was a way to save it.”

    “Okay then, can’t you just reveal who you are to the world?” Zak asked hopefully.

    “You didn’t even believe me at first. What am I going to do to prove my identity to the whole of Essrin?” Eliras sighed. “I’d be better off just leaving.”

    “Eliras, you know that the politicians are going to pressure me to send someone to kill you, right? After being the supposed murderer of both the mayor and the mayor’s grandson, there’s nothing I can do to protect you. And I’ll be legally obligated to do it, too.” Zak closed his eyes and tilted his head back, sighing. “There has to be something that-,” He opened his eyes. “The dragons. If you pray to the dragons, they can return you to your body.”

    “I never even thought of that,” Eliras said, eyes widening. “The dragons can do anything. They made the world, after all. What’re we waiting for? Let’s go to the temple!”

    “Well…” Zak stepped over to the front door, cracking the door open and looking around. “It’s dark enough that there won’t be anyone around. Alright, let’s go.”

    Zak pushed the door open the rest of the way and gestured for Eliras to follow him. The captain of the guard looked around for a second, then continued on. Trusting Zak’s judgement, Eliras followed behind him.

    As Zak had predicted, there was almost nobody out on the streets. Almost, because occasionally Zak had waved Eliras into an alley in order to avoid detection. If the creature that had supposedly killed Balthazaar was spotted, then there was no way that Zak could save him.

    But getting to the temple was actually very easy. Nobody saw Eliras, and nobody would try to stop the soon-to-be mayor as he walked purposefully through the streets. When they reached the temple doors, Eliras slipped inside silently, leaving Zak to watch the streets. Hopefully he could be in and out before anyone came by.

    Slithering into the center of the cavernous temple, Eliras looked around at the dragons. He took a deep breath and bowed his head in prayer. “Fiery Vlaurunga. Just Ouro’ras. Kind Rokesh. Logical Yvander. Ferocious Golestandt. Wise Quintara Lotus. Mighty Kallisto. Please, hear my prayer.

    “I am but a child, compared to others, but I am your child. I am faithful to your ways, and hold your values as my own. In all ways, I am yours to command.

    “But I have fallen, and my life was ripped away from me. I am trapped in the body of a beast, stuck like this until the day I die. My family is ended, and everything I have known is gone.

    “So I beg of you, mighty dragons, help me in my plight. Return me to my rightful form, that I may continue through the world as I was meant to.” Eliras closed his eyes, waiting.

    After what felt like hours, he opened them again. He wasn’t standing on his own two feet again. He wasn’t an elf once more. Nothing had changed. Taking a deep breath, Eliras closed his eyes again and continued. “Please, at least show me how I might come upon the means to become an elf again. Please.”

    Nothing. No change. With tears beginning to well up in his eyes, Eliras looked up at the statues. “Why? What have I done to anger you, so that you don’t help me in my time of need? How have I failed you?”


    Grief turning to frustration, Eliras rose. “Please, just show me a sign you are listening! I have done everything to follow your ways! I have been true to myself, I have been just and honorable, I have been kind to those less fortunate, I have used logic and wisdom before making my decisions, and I have been devout in every way! What have I done to deserve this?!”

    The dragons stared down, stationary. The statues in obsidian and marble as lifeless as ever. Frustration simmered into anger before blooming into rage. “If you ignore your followers such, then so be it! You are no gods, no divine entities that control our fate! You’re just a bunch of reptiles, stuck up and full of yourselves!”

    Rage ignited, transforming into wrath, and Eliras slammed his fists into the ground. Explosive fire magic welled up from within him, spreading across the floor rapidly and expanding as he poured his energy into it. With a scream of raw rage, Eliras released the spell, detonating the mark of explosions in a fiery inferno centering on himself. Fire and earth swirled, destroying the statues of the dragons and tearing the grand temple apart.

    And when the flames died down, the only part of the building that wasn’t destroyed was the sigil on the center of the floor, directly under Eliras.

    Zak ran in through the shambling entrance, eyes wide. “Eliras, you need to leave Essrin. Now.”

    “Just what I was about to do,” Eliras replied coldly.

    “No, you need to leave now because everyone in the city saw that explosion.”

  • Chapter 18: Flight from Essrin

    “Everyone in the city saw that explosion.”

    The rage drained from Eliras in seconds. “What.”

    “You just blew up the temple in the center of Essrin, what did you think would happen?” Zak ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “I can’t be near here, not while still doing what you want me to do. Just make your way to the gate and use your magic to get through. It shouldn’t be too hard for the likes of you. Good luck.”

    With that, Zak pulled a key out of his pocket and tossed it to Eliras. Eliras barely managed to catch the small key, only to look up and see that Zak was already running away. Eliras couldn’t really blame him. There wasn’t too much Zak could do to help, and if the politicians thought that Zak had assisted Balthazaar’s killer, or even just helped a non-elf, they would hunt him down ruthlessly.

    With this in mind, Eliras immediately began to slither for the nearest gate. The key would get him into the gatehouse, which would allow him to get out of the city walls without having to crank the portcullis.

    Slipping through alleys and backstreets, Eliras caught glimpses of guards rushing through the streets and people holding weapons. Something told him they were looking for him, and not for a friendly reason, either. If they caught him, he would be dead. He’d much rather be stuck like this than be dead.

    Turning a corner into a group of sword-wielding guards was not something he had planned on doing, and the instant he did so he immediately changed course and slithered down a different side alley. Shouting followed him, and he could hear someone giving orders. An arrow whizzed by overhead, letting Eliras know that they were using bows to try and shoot him down.

    A fireball collided with Eliras, sending him lurching forwards. As he quickly found out, it didn’t propel him forwards any faster than before. His tail was still firmly anchored to the ground, while his upper body was pushed forwards. If his current body didn’t have the incredible spinal muscles that it did, he would’ve faceplanted and likely been killed right there.

    As it was, the fireball still actually helped. The ambient magic from the blast reenergized him, healing the burns caused by the fireball and spurring him to go faster. He could hear shouting from one of the guards chasing him, reminding his allies not to use magic. That would make this escape quite a lot more difficult.

    The gatehouse was in sight now, and Eliras hurtled towards the door at top speed. Deciding to forgo the key, he raised his right hand and flung it forwards, fingers outstretched.

    Nothing happened.

    Instead of the explosion he had expected to manifest, there was nothing. Not even a trace of magical energy as he frantically channeled. Nothing.

    Eliras hit the door at full speed, turning at the last second to tackle it with his shoulder. Unfortunately, the door was of sturdy make, such that he couldn’t even budge it. Moving frantically, he stuck the key in his right hand into the lock and twisted, hearing the bolt slide with a click. Success achieved, he barreled through the gatehouse to the opposite door, quickly unlocking this one too.

    Freedom reached, he dropped the key on the ground and slithered as fast as possible. For a moment he hesitated. He was leaving his whole life behind. Everything he had ever known. The only things he was taking with him were his spellbook, his necklace, the travel supplies he had on him, and the canvas bag of miscellaneous stuff that was hidden in a cache near the mansion.

    An arrow in the shoulderblade reminded Eliras why he was running, and he immediately returned to full speed, slithering off into the night. He would’ve be able to return to Essrin again.

    And he was gone, leaving the Essrin province a fugitive.

    Much shorter chapter this time.
  • Chapter 19: Zakarius Steele

    Paperwork was something that was never enjoyable.

    And now he would have much, much more to deal with. Being the mayor-to-be of Essrin wasn’t ever something that Zak had planned on being, but Eliras had dropped him into it.

    Eliras. The young elf attracted trouble like a flame attracted moths. It was absolutely insane. Zak would never have even known that Zarrus existed, if it weren’t for the psychopath’s seeming obsession with Eliras. So much paperwork originated from Eliras’ vigilante ways, as well. And then there was this. Eliras was legally dead, Balthazaar had blown himself up trying to get at the younger elf, and now Zak was honorbound to send someone to hunt down and kill the ‘beast’ responsible.

    Things hadn’t been nearly this complicated before Phanto died. Life had been simple. You did as you wished, not worrying about any potential repercussions. Nobody got hurt, nobody got murdered, and nobody died in an irritatingly suspicious suicide. There hadn’t been any paperwork to worry about.

    But then, the world had been almost too simple, really. People never thought about consequences, the few times that there were any. And the Beenu had been treated like animals. Their extinction was a true tragedy.

    Reminiscing wouldn’t exactly help, though. He had to figure out the best way to prevent anyone with murderous intent from going after Eliras. After that, he had to move into the partially destroyed mansion outside city limits and get the thing fixed up. He was supposed to use the massive vat of silver beneath the mansion to youthen himself, but he honestly didn’t want to. He had spent almost a century getting stronger and faster, and though it meant that he had to eat far more than the average elf he could deal with that. Maybe he’d use a little, just to stay this age, but he wasn’t about to return to a middle-aged pencil pusher.

    Sighing, Zak leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. The captain’s office was only his for the next several days, and afterwards he’d have to pass it on to someone else. He had already removed the few personal effects he owned, although he really had nowhere to put them.

    A sheepish knock on the door drew Zak out of his thoughts. Straightening, he called out. “Come in.”

    The door cracked open and a sandy-haired youth poked his head in. Acris was young, too young to have ever even heard of the Beenu. About a decade younger than Eliras, actually. But Acris knew who he was, which was more than Eliras could’ve honestly said, and he knew his goals. Shuffling in, the lanky young elf stood there nervously. “Erm, I, uh, wanted to talk to you.”

    “Well, go on,” Zak answered harshly, only to pause and reconsider his words. “Sorry. Rough day.”

    “I get it.” Acris nodded. “I, uh, just wanted to say that I was going to leave Essrin.”

    “Where to?”

    “I dunno yet.” Acris scratched the back of his head. “I just… don’t want to be here. I prefer to be out in the wilds, away from people.”

    “Best of luck to you, then.” Zak looked down at his paperwork and the quill resumed its scratching on the paper. After a moment, he paused. “Actually, I have something to ask of you.”

    “Yes?” Acris asked.

    “You heard about the blood snake queen that killed Balthazaar and blew up the temple, right?” When Acris hesitantly nodded, Zak continued. “I need you to follow her, but not catch her. Watch her, make sure she’s safe, but don’t make it obvious.”

    “Um, why? You just said that she killed Balthazaar and blew up the temple.” Acris furrowed his brow in confusion.

    “Three reasons. First, she didn’t kill Balthazaar. Balthazaar’s injuries are consistent with his own special brand of fireball, one with the same power as a pyroblast. We had a wizard check it out, and the only magical signature in there is his,” Zak explained. “Second, she’s a child. Her emotions likely got the better of her. The last reason-,”

    “Hello, friends. What’s this I hear about a child?”

    And suddenly Zarrus was there, in the room. He hadn’t used the now-closed door, and there were no windows in the room. The hooded elf leaned on Acris’ shoulder, causing the much younger man to cringe a bit. Zak sighed. “The blood snake queen. From what I saw, it was a child.”

    “Ah, that’s good.” Zarrus nodded. “Makes it easier to kill.”

    “Zarrus, why do you care?” Zak asked exasperatedly.

    “Because Balthazaar Freewell was a good friend of mine, and I will not let his murderer go free.” Zarrus’ joking tone vanished, and a knife thudded into Zak’s desk. Zarrus pushed his hood back, revealing his maddened yellow eyes. “I will not let the beast live.” Then the terrifyingly still visage twisted into a grin, and Zarrus pulled his knife out of the ancient oaken desk. “Plus, it’ll be fun to get out with my friend, isn’t that right Acris?”

    “Um, um.” Acris glanced frantically between both Zak and Zarrus, eyes wide. “I guess?”

    “Come along, friend. We’re going to kill a child.” Zarrus pushed his hood back up, shrouding his face in shadows once more. The twisted grin remained in place as Zarrus sheathed the knife somewhere on his person and took a step away. Reality twisted, and for a moment Zarrus’ arms and legs were extended unnaturally, then Zarrus was gone.

    “Wh-what just happened?” Acris mumbled, swaying.

    “I believe that what just happened was that you were recruited by the notorious madman of Essrin to kill a child.” Zak sighed, closing his eyes. “And if you don’t go along, he’ll probably kill you.”

    “So what do I do?!” Acris wailed.

    “Go with Zarrus, but do your best to help the blood snake queen without her knowing.” Zak sighed again, bowing his head.

    “But… why?”

    “Because it’s Eliras.” Zak answered quietly, not even lifting his head. “Eliras accidentally used a rebirth scroll on a blood snake queen, and now he’s on the run because Balthazaar killed himself.” Zak opened his eyes and looked up at Acris, who was wearing a dumbfounded expression. “Help him, please. He’s never been more than a day or two away from Essrin, and he has no clue how to survive on his own.”

    “Okay, okay. But if it is Eliras, why can’t he just-,”

    “Explain?” Zak shook his head. “You didn’t believe me when I told you, why would anyone else?”

    “Because…” Acris hesitated, then gave up. “No, you’re right. Nobody would believe it.”

    Zak rubbed his eyes again. “Just… stay safe, Acris. I trust you, but I don’t trust Zarrus. He’s absolutely insane, and you never know what he’s going to do next.”

    “I’ll do my best.” Acris nodded and walked out of the office, leaving Zak to his paperwork once more.

  • Chapter 20: The death of Eliras

    Miles away from Essrin, Eliras was having an internal dilemma.

    Well, along with a physical issue in the form of an arrow in his back. Wincing in pain, Eliras reached around and pulled the arrow out, hissing as it tore out a not insignificant amount of flesh with it. Eliras grabbed a roll of cloth bandages from his travel pouch and quickly wrapped them around his shoulder to keep from bleeding out.

    One benefit, at least, of having a slithering tail instead of legs was that he didn’t jolt or bounce as he moved. That was nice, especially when he had to do delicate work like tying a bandage or reading a spellbook.

    Bandage secured, Eliras hefted the canvas bag slung over his uninjured shoulder. It was about as heavy as it should have been, which was comforting. Nothing had fallen out or been taken while it was sitting in its hiding place.

    As Eliras slithered on, he was looking for a place to stop for the rest of the night. Anything would work, really. A nice cave was preferable, though.

    And a cave was what he found. Slithering inside, he slipped his canvas bag off of his shoulder and dropped it on the ground. The buckle of his belt was a bit more difficult to undo, but it wasn’t too hard all things considered. His spellbook hit the ground and bounced, settling after a moment. Having removed everything but his amulet, Eliras sank against the wall of the cave, exhaustion hitting him.

    This was it, wasn’t it? His fate? Doomed to be a snake for the rest of his life?

    When he thought about it, that really was it.

    The rebirth scroll had ruined him, stripped him of everything that made him, well, Eliras. His mind, with his perfect memory and encyclopedia of magic? Gone. His magic, both inherent and learned, being far stronger than what most could hope to accomplish in centuries? Lost, along with his link to the elements. His body, his blood, his inheritance? Taken away in one fell swoop. Without mind, magic, and bloodline, he wasn’t even Eliras Freewell.

    Hah, not even Freewell, for that matter. Balthazaar had disowned him in his final moments. Nobody would ever know, but it didn’t matter. Everyone thought Eliras was dead anyways. The Freewell family was dead. Just another lost elven family, ended due to their own greed and stupidity.

    If he wasn’t Eliras Freewell, then who was he?

    Up until now, he had clung to his identity as Eliras Freewell as a lifeline, a way to stay sane. But that was gone. He was in the body of a creature that was foreign to him, alien in shape and gender.

    So was he even a he at all?

    The blood snake queen looked down at their body, utterly lost as to what to do next. They had always known what to do, even if it was something as simple as taking a deep breath and looking at their options. Now they didn’t even know who they were.

    One clawed hand reached up to the enchanted ruby dangling from its golden chain. Even that was changed. Gone were the distinctly elven filigree leaves and flowers, replaced by a single winding strand of gold. Kind of like the transformation that Eliras had gone through. From elf to snake. How fitting.

    The blood snake queen who once was Eliras Freewell took a deep breath and tried to look at the positives.

    One: Their spellbook was still with them.

    Two: They were immune to magical attacks.

    Three: They still had Drakin’s amulet.

    Which left them with… almost nothing.

    So, Eliras Freewell was dead. That much was certain. Gone was his perfect memory, gone was his family name, and gone was his ability to cast magic. His body was a pile of ashes in a cave. All that was left of him was the personality currently rattling around in the head of a blood snake queen, a spellbook, and an amulet. Only one of those were of any real use, and even then it was worthless in this situation.

    If the blood snake queen ever hoped to return to civilization of any sort, he… no, she, would need a new identity. She… that was going to take getting used to. She would need to take better care of her body, too. That meant being more careful, treating wounds immediately, and eating enough to stay healthy.

    With a start, the mind that had once belonged to Eliras Freewell realized that it was thinking of this as its body.

    And, well, it was. When the body was in pain, the mind felt it. When the body hungered, the mind sought food. The blood snake queen was Eliras’ new identity, truly.

    She would need a name. Some creatures may not need names, but to her it was an integral part of being… mortal. The difference between being a beast and being a person. She was lost without an identity, without a name.

    A glance at the cave entrance told her that sunrise was approaching rapidly.

    The blood snake queen reached down and picked up her canvas bag, slinging it over the uninjured shoulder. With deft fingers, she strapped her belt back onto her waist, checking her spellbook and travel pouch quickly to make sure they were undamaged.

    The newly named Lira slithered out of the cave, leaving Eliras Freewell behind forever.

    Author's Note:
    I will admit that this chapter is shorter than I would have liked, but it is necessary. It also marks the end of the first part of the Serpentine Saga. If the name didn't make sense before, it should now.

    As always, when a character undergoes a major change, I'll have their character sheet change to reflect it. Here's our main protagonist.
    I would like to reiterate that any and all feedback is welcome
  • edited October 2017
    Chapter 21: In the wilds

    It’s… odd, referring to yourself by a different name. Imagine spending decades being called by one name, but then that name is gone, and your identity is shattered.

    That was the feeling that the blood snake queen felt as she slithered through the forests, heading out to the plains. Lira. That was her name now. She’d have to remember to refer to herself as such. Trying to be Eliras again would just result in pain and problems.

    No, now she was Lira. Just Lira. She would have to make a new identity for herself. Someone new entirely. Yes. That was the plan. Reinvent herself, re-establish her identity, and reintegrate into society. Far, far away from Essrin, far away from everything that had happened. She would be able to use her knowledge to make herself useful to anyone-

    But no, that wasn’t an option. She wasn’t Eliras anymore. She was Lira now. She didn’t have a perfect memory, she didn’t have near limitless riches to draw upon, and she didn’t even have the prismatic array of magic that she could remember growing up with.

    None of it was available to her. Not one bit. All she had was her wits and new body, and while the first was well-practiced, the second was not.

    But she did have the instincts inherent to her body, and they had proven useful thus far. The problem was that she had found that her thoughts got in the way every time she tried to use her body’s abilities. Even trying to consciously slither was out of the question. She was far better off focusing her thoughts on other things, like finding food.

    As she knew from her binge back ho- at the manor, her body could process an incredible amount of food in hours, which made sense. Even as a young blood snake queen, she was much larger than an elf. She would need to consume far more food faster than normal in order to maintain her body’s systems. It was also incredibly likely that she couldn’t even digest vegetables, given the usual diet of reptiles and especially blood snakes. Her diet was restricted entirely to meat and blood.

    The problem was that at no point in her previous life had Lira ever gone hunting.

    She- no, Eliras, had killed things. But he had magic. She was helpless. No magic, no resources, no experience. Plus, meat was hard to get. Balthazaar had a fully stocked icehouse because it was all magically preserved, as well as being supplied by a full team of hunters. Food was going to be a major issue, unless she decided to just go and slaughter people. That was out of the question.

    Stealing could work, but that was just… wrong. Others would need that food. She wasn’t willing to do that to someone.

    Rustling caused Lira to suddenly come to a complete stop and sniff the air.

    Rabbit. That was the scent. That was what she was smelling. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did. And by the feel of it, she was downwind. The rabbit wouldn’t see this coming. It hadn’t even heard her coming.

    At this point, instinct took over. She hunched lower, moving slowly and silently towards the scent. She wasn’t hungry, per se, but she knew instinctually that it would help in the future to eat the rabbit now instead of waiting for later. Her mouth opened a little bit, letting her palate take in the scent better. It was right… here!

    With a lunge, Lira opened her mouth as wide as she could, feeling bone slide out of flesh as fangs extended from her upper jaw. Before the rabbit could react, Lira’s fangs were embedded in its neck, tearing into the jugular and letting the blood flow into her mouth. To her mild surprise, the salty blood was… appealing. She couldn’t stop herself from drinking the crimson fluid, draining the rabbit until it was lifeless.

    When the last drop went down her throat, she finally let go, reeling back. The only thing running through her mind was the disgust at drinking blood, and the opposing thought of how it had actually been, if not good, then not actually bad. Lira doubled over and dry-heaved for a moment, trying and failing to forget what had just happened. She was half-tempted to stick her clawed fingers down her throat and vomit it up. But she knew instinctively that doing that was a horrible, horrible idea.

    Just as she also instinctively knew that she should also try and swallow the rabbit whole.

    The mere thought caused her to shudder. But… it was… appealing.

    After taking a deep breath, Lira steeled her nerve and picked up the dead rabbit. A quick flex of her claws told her that she had quite a bit of manual dexterity on her side, so she quickly sliced the rabbit’s skin. Her claws were surprisingly sharp, allowing her to easily remove its skin. She wasn’t about to swallow some hairy creature without first removing the fur. As soon as the flesh was exposed to the air Lira had to exert an incredible amount of will to not immediately devour it. Instead, she used her claws to remove the rest of the skin, then to remove the meat from the bones.

    Now, with the bones extracted from the carcass, Lira began to stuff her face. Her throat widened to allow the larger pieces of meat to pass. In moments, she had consumed everything but the bones.

    Only now did Lira step back, take a deep breath, and look down at her hands. That had been simultaneously disgusting and alluring. It was… horrible. But if that’s what it would take to survive, she would do it.

    Although maybe cooking it first would be preferable next time…

    But that was for later. For now, Lira wanted to wash the juice and slime off. She could smell water nearby. A river, probably.

    While washing her hands in the river, Lira came to a sudden conclusion. Where there was water, there was almost certainly a town. Either upstream or downstream. Considering that the river was fed by the mountains, downstream was the way to go if she wanted to rejoin society.

    Actually, she was well away from Essrin. Odds were, nobody else had heard the news. Essrin was a fairly secluded province, and news rarely traveled in or out. She could set up a new life in some town far away, and never worry about it again.

    So with her mind made up, Lira started to slither downriver.

  • Glad you decided to pick up this story again! I've been wondering if you were going to continue. Like always, I super engaged in your storytelling, and I can't wait to find out what happens next especially how Lira will figure out her identity. 
  • @LadyOutlier
    I never really drop a story once I start it, but I do occasionally take month (or multiple months...) breaks from them. Lira's story will certainly be written to its conclusion, but I don't really have any clue when. I'm glad to see that there are people who enjoy this story! I'd write it anyways even if nobody was reading, but knowing that there are people who do read it is a great motivator.
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