Midnight’s Quarrel

The earth made nary a sound
As bone came sliding out of ground
It was the once a month night
Which skeleton could take flight
From coffin under ground
Or from tomb now unbound
On night high clear of moon
Only held back by sacred rune

Some toiled on long gone work
Others roamed through the murk
Yet growing numbers did decide
No longer in their rooms to hide
Drawn to one with dark power
Promising to extend the roaming hour
No fear of death in their head
They followed where sinister lead

Yet not all could heed the call
Somewhere deep a spirit maul
Calling restless bone to bed
A sonata with weight of lead
Lune’s harbinger of peace
Asking to give up the lease

Soothsayer offering a test
Sought end to sinister unrest
When dawn’s light o’er hill did break
Both sides shelter did take
In dawns orange and purple light
Neither could stand to fight
Arrival of Sol’s champion
Dressed in robes colored campion
She their power did absolve
Mutual destruction left no resolve

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Carving

On a cool Autumn evening
Came toddler and mom wielding
A knife to share
Happiness and a scare
As the cuts did flow
A smile came to glow.
With bright eyes burning
Harbinger of candy earning.

Chapter 20

Tabia lead the way toward Erridda. Out of the three, she was the only one that had been to the stronghold. The occasional breeze would shake the branches and make them forget that the snow had tapered off around midmorning. The sun stayed hidden between the clouds ruining hopes for a warmer day of travel. As they progressed, the trees themselves had gotten taller and the flora had gotten denser. About midway through the day, Oren picked up on the decline in both visible wildlife and signs of their presence.
A silence was growing as they continued on the path. Tabia and Martell agreed that there was something amiss. Martell did not sense any sprites when Oren asked her to check. Oren did not notice anything different in the spirits. Tabia agreed that something was off, but did not know what. As a precaution, Martell got on her remaining bits of armor.
The trio progressed cautiously with horse in tow. They took turns jumping at the most random of forest noise in anticipation of an ambush. The day ended with no encounter and everyone on edge. It was a restless night that followed.
The next day progressed much like the prior, with the sun remaining hidden all day. It was late afternoon when the menace reared its head. A lone figure emerged some distance ahead of them and spoke, “These are my woods; you must pay to travel through or turn back now.” The voice was gravelly and forced. Two flames appeared above him, they slowly morphed into the shape of ravens on fire.
Oren took in the man’s appearance; he looked as tall as an ogre but far less distinguishable characteristics. It was almost like Senkoo’s skill to hide, but the energy radiated from within him. He was not calling on spirits to aid him. There were two piercing red eyes that glowed at them. “What is your toll for passage?”
“Varelle’s servant.” This time the voice hissed out, its eyes growing larger.
“I am sorry but we cannot part with our companion,” spoke Oren.
“You can’t pass.” The voice changed to back to the more gravelly sounding. The birds of flame moved closer to Tabia. “You must now pay to leave these woods.”
Martell moved closer to Tabia, her swords drawn in a defensive stance.
“We will not pay you any fee or toll for movement from this place.” Oren spoke defiantly. He was trying to figure out his next move.
“Then you will all pay,” it hissed again. The flaming birds dove at Tabia and Martell.
Martell swung at the birds as the closed in, disrupting their flight, but other than that causing no harm to them. They flew past the ladies and then repositioned to attack from two sides at once. The pair dove in at them. Martell swung at one while the other zipped by and seared the Tabia’s robes.
Oren tried to push back whatever spirits were serving their foe, but it had no effect.
“You are the one who drew me to you,” it spoke to Oren. “You woke me from my sleep in these woods and reminded me of what I desire. Now you try to push me away without even a snack.” The voice did not sound like it came from the shadowy figure, but was talking to him in his head.
Oren moved away from the women, trying to have the man’s attention on to himself.
The flaming birds continued their assault on Martell and Tabia. Tabia knelt down and started chanting a hymn to Varelle. The birds dove again at the two but this time stopped short, as if the song was interfering with their desire to continue attacking. Martell took the small distraction as a moment to make sure Tabia’s robes were not on fire. She could see that Tabia’s song contradicted the pain she saw on her face.
The figure moved after Oren hissing, “If you called and have nothing to give us then we will take you.” Within a blink the figure moved next to him. As it raised its arm he saw the hand transform into a blade. The creature swung down at Oren. He countered with his staff, blocking the blade. The blade dented the metal band on the staff. Oren then took a quick step to give him distance to swing with a counter attack. The staff hit the mark, but felt to Oren as if he had hit a pillow.
The attacking birds were slowly weakening in defined shape. With each approach to Tabia’s song, their fire faded in intensity. Martell was uncertain as to how much longer Tabia would keep this up as she could hear breaks in her voice.
Oren’s adversary swung again at him, and Oren tried to call spirits to shield him but none answered his call. He blocked again with his staff.
“You want us sent away, then you call us to do your bidding. You are a confusing human.” The figure hissed. “We are already here, the others fear us. Now spill your blood so we may feed.” There was another swing at Oren. This time distracted by the words spoken to him he was hit in the right arm. The cut left behind was cold and painful.
The birds had dissipated. Before running over to assist Oren, Martell checked on Tabia, confirming she was tired, but okay.
As he looked down at his wound, Oren saw the ring on his hand. He focused as best he could on it, commanding his assailant to back down. It wheeled backward, as if something had pulled it off balance. It raised its arm to strike at Oren again, but Oren commanded it to halt. Mid swing the spirit creature stopped. “You will halt your assault and go back to your slumber.” Oren vocalized.
The creature shuddered as it started to lose shape. “You cannot banish me so easily. I will have my reward for answering your call.” The creature hissed and lurched forward at Oren.
Oren grunted, feeling fatigue from focusing. Blood started to flow from his wound and drip down his hand. “You will retreat back to your slumber and harm no more. No one here will be your payment.”
“Command him to rest in your staff Oren. It will obey.” Martell shouted. Oren looked vexed by the command from her. “Trust me on this. I will explain later.”
The creature looked at Martell, then to Oren. “Do as she says and I will feast on what you provide,” this time going back to its gravely sounding voice.
“I command you to rest in this staff. You will cease your assault and struggles against my friends and I.” Oren spoke as his staff came in contact with the creature. The creature slowly receded in size as Oren repeated his command. Tabia and Martell could see a greenish-white glow coming from the ring on Oren’s hand and the metal binding of the staff.
Once the creature was gone the two went over to Tabia to check on her wounds. Her skin was burned where the birds had touched, but otherwise she was not harmed. “What was that all about?” Tabia asked. “You were acting as if it was talking to you but I heard nothing.”
“Oren, would you care to explain what it was saying?” Martell commented. “I did not hear the words it spoke to you either. But I have read about beings like that.”
“I didn’t know you could not hear it.” Oren said with surprise in his voice. “Apparently it was a creature of spirits. Though, I have never seen one visibly like that before. He was asking for your life in exchange for passage through the woods. When I denied it, it then asked for it to leave the woods. If I understood Martell, it now resides in this staff.”
“You do not know as much as I thought you do Oren,” Martell responded. “When I saw you reading Penumbra of Nature, I thought you were further along than you are. In places where there are no wards there are spirits of great power. These types of spirits are one of the myriad of things wards protect against. In your practice one of your calls to summon spirits close must have reached this one’s ears. In exchange for answering your summons it expected payment. I think its language barrier was the reason it said toll.”
“That explains the conversation,” said Tabia, “But where did it go then?”
“The spirit is now in Oren’s staff. This is similar to an enchantment by an enchanter. I do not know if it is exactly the same. I had heard a channeler could request a spirit to assist him, but had not seen it done before. An enchanter would typically have to forge or craft the staff as he did the enchantment. Normally, this would be done with the assistance of one of a variety of Invoker’s lanterns available. They would then need the artisan or smith present to help with the crafting the final item. It would appear that Oren was able to add the spirit to an existing item and without the lantern. There is far more to enchanting than my summary, but that falls in to knowledge I lack.”
“Do you know how it was able to take a physical manifestation?” asked Oren. “It also may have been multiple spirits. There were two voices that it talked to me in. One was more chaotic and in search of blood while the other was slightly reasonable. It even agreed with Martell’s suggestion to have it rest in the staff.”
“It may have been the power from the multiple spirits that gave it form. But I do not know what allowed that,” responded Martell.
“Much is not understood of the spirits Martell,” spoke Tabia. “They are to be respected for their power according to the teachings of Varelle. It is my understanding that I was dwelling in their realm till you released me. Oren you seem to have an affinity or connection to them, is that correct?”
“Yes.”
“That connection is possibly the same as the first priestess of Varelle had and how she contacted her. Stories tell of her talking to shadows with red eyes, Servants of the Gods. To clarify, they were not the goddess Varelle, nor were they Casapaten, Latl, or Dahl. The gods transcend the spirits as they all use the servants. For the first several priestesses, this skill was mandatory, but things changed as the view of the servants changed. Somewhere around the thirty-fifth priestess, this ability was no longer sought out. It appears in the history that occasionally a priestess may be blessed to also communicate with the servants but for only short periods or times of need.”
“That continued with them after your time as well,” added Martell. “The one-hundred-eleventh priestess is the most recent one to have had the power. She was seen by many as the reason for the Temple of Avo being spared when the town was pillaged by The Mountain King when the Drémore Vales attempted to break from Iseb.”
“I would have guessed Varelle’s continuation in its use. I was never granted that favor of hers. I am still left with no knowledge as to why she has me guide you to Erridda. What I last recall of Erridda is the tall walls and the arrival of a fresh garrison of troops from Drémore Castle. I had been summoned to give Varelle’s blessing on the stronghold with the completion of construction. There was a kingdom to the southeast called Timus after the ruling family. At the time they completed the stronghold, Timus had a new king on the throne and he had already declared war on two of his neighbors. The Drémores were afraid they would turn north next.”
“They never did turn north,” Martell responded. “The kingdom of Timus was overrun with a plague from one of their campaigns south. It came back with the soldiers and spread from there. Drémore was so afraid of it reaching his kingdom that trade was cut off with Timus. There are accounts of anyone arriving from there being killed and the body burned. It was a sad state of affairs, if true. The kingdom of Timus fell apart from there. It is now several baronies and principalities, but they have not unified since that time. “

Byron Part 2

Byron spent the following morning retrieving money from various associates he had stashed it with. As he had suspected, a good number of his trustworthy friends had spent some of the money left to their safe keeping. He was not shocked by the lack in confidence they had in his ever coming to collect. He may have even done the same in their situation. To him it was but a set back,making the process take longer than the morning. After finishing up his collection and ducking questions about a fire at his manor, Byron headed down to the docks.

Byron made it with about an hour to spare. He was uncertain about the reason behind the schedule the captain kept. The Wind Farmer had a reputation for calm travel, all the way south down the coast. Odds were the ships enchantments went down to the boards themselves with the prices charged for travel. Yet it also meant that Byron was certain to be among a class of people that would benefit him in future business ventures.

As Byron approached, he was shocked to find Jorgan waiting outside the ship to board with him. “I did not know you had passage booked back to Siller Port.”

“I had not but when I inquired among the vessels in port, it took no time at all to find which you were sailing on. Besides at sea we should have better privacy to discuss our business. Briana and Koslo are on board. By the by, you are not planning any further fires?”

“Planning fires?” Byron asked.

“Koslo was quite put off by your lack of desire to save the manor. I explained it to him as just one of you eccentricities, brother.”

“Oh and do I have others?” Byron pressed

“Only one I recall is that you are not like other sane business men and have no faith in the banks, guild backed or other wise. There may be others but I doubt we need to talk in public about it,” Jorgan smiled. “Shall we board? We can head to your quarters and let the others know you have secured funding the expedition.”

“And you are certain I have?” prodded Byron.

“Quite, I know you and money. Never to far apart and never in short supply. I recall your first business went bust and yet you had convinced ten new people the following day to fund a new scheme. That one paid off and launched the series of events that got you where you are now. This all temporary set back as I have setup your next roll, as patron of the seer’s guild.”

Byron did not have a retort to any of this as Jorgan was right. Given a pocket of change, he would find a way to turn it into a growing business in a week. Prior to his brother’s arrival, he was off to the marches to become a salt trader, till he got the lay of the land. No doubt he could tap those he left behind here in the Hintort planes to setup some trade route of sorts. “You know me well brother. Let us meet my newest clients and be on with the venture.”

Arleth

It was a clear periwinkle sky
Cut by alabaster banners fly
Future fallen heroes marched
Crossing emerald fields and hills arched
Clad in shiny nickel armor
They indifferent to passing farmer
Hefting graphite lance and shield
They hunt amethyst dragon without yield

Captain on chestnut and milk mount
Pronounced in rousing shout
Promises of fortune and fame
And glory to those that Arleth maim
The salmon sun oversaw marching lines
On past pens of rosy swines

As time crept under tiring silver foot
They beheld the first of Arleth proud soot
Midnight char upon both structure and plant
The smell of dragon’s rage hardly scant
Soldiers’ scarlet heart than did race
As over ashen hill they spot her face

T’would not be so bad
If Arleth’s face did not look so glad
In dragon’s burning aurum eyes
Many man quaked in pending demise
Arleth next showed Ivory fang
Releasing fears of coming pang
Wings stretched out in taunting girth
Pushing adversaries to the earth
Arleth parted in fiery breath
Sending brave captain to his death

Spry sergeant backwards leapt
At survival he was more adept.
From honey bow did he reply
Letting ebony arrow fly
Would only take one shot
Landing in a narrow spot
But it would not be today
In the sky Arleth made her way

Byron part 1

Seek Varelle for your reward
Keeper of the glen and fjord
Rely on her to guide your path
Ease your fear of beastly wrath

It was all that was read before it was tossed on the burning pile. “Varelle, you have not guided me right in months,” Byron muttered. He looked around for anything else to feed the fire. While it was slowly starting to spread to the edge of the fire place, he was quite surprised how little his house actually wanted to burn. He had no particular dislike for the house and its contents. They were just casualties of his decision to burn it all down before disappearing into the night.

Byron had made the mistake many a merchant young and old do of investing in the wrong enterprise. In this case he had backed the wrong noble for ownership of a title. And though in his kindness Lord Forendide said he would spare the lives of those who had conspired against him, he had also proclaimed ownership of their possessions.

Lord Forendide would be by in two days and to take possession of his property from Byron. Byron, along with the several overs in the glen, had agreed to leave behind the worthless pile of ashes and head off at first light by ship to greener pastures. So now he stood vexed as to what he had to coax a flame to spread beyond the hearth to the walls. He had already drank his alcohol and the one book that had not been tossed on the fire was coming with him.

His concentration was broken by a rapping upon the door. Confused as to who would be calling at this hour, he grabbed his dagger off his desk and made his way out of his office.

There was a second knocking on the door, this time a bit more rapid and heavier. Byron made haste down the stairs and to the door. It was not as if there were any other residence to be disturbed by the late hour cacophony the caller was making. And yet he did a slight jog across the floor to hasten answering.

At the door, Byron called out before opening, “Who is knocking at this late hour?”

“Tis Jorgan, I have urgent news. Open up and be quick about it. I do not like standing out here in the night.”

Byron relaxed and unbolted the door. Opening it to find it was Jorgan, along with two others. flanking him. Standing a head shorter on Jorgan’s left was a stout balding woman. From her rust colored robes he could tell she was one of the seers, but not one he had met before. To Jorgan’s right, standing as tall as Jorgan, with a slender build, was a black haired man. Clean shaven and with a deep blue tunic depicting a hare, Byron took him as one of the Tuftom Knights.

“Sorry to call upon on you at this hour, and I will explain all to you as soon as we have a moment’s rest. I come with word from our brother Strom.”

“Come in then before someone sees you dawdling about out there.” Byron replied. “I have naught but water to offer you as I have finished the last of the wine with supper.” He led them to a room just off the entry and gestured for them to have a seat.

Byron went over to a pitcher and decanted drinks and continued, “I am planning on being out of town by morning so we had best make this quick.”

“Strom has come across a great opportunity, but it will require funding from you.”

“And this could not wait?” asked Byron.

“Um no,” replied Jorgan. “I know you are in a bit of a bind with current ventures and I had to talk before your credit was wiped out.”

“Go on,” Byron commented.

“We need a thousand, to fund an expedition to recover…”

“May as well be ten thousand,” replied Byron. ‘On that front you are too late. My accounts at the counting houses are closed and the merchants know the ass is coming to take what they could not.”

“But you have other ventures that have money,” pushed Jorgan. “And this is for the recovery of the seer’s staff. The oracle left at Da-kineth.”

Byron paused, before his mind went out on a hundred tangents of possibilities. This could be the sign he needed for way out of the pit he was in. “I have some funds available, it will take me all day tomorrow to get them and it may be short a few. Naturally we have to work out some finer points as to repayment will be for backing. Also I want to go along as there will little to occupy my time otherwise.”

The woman looked intently into Byron’s blue eyes. “You scheme, as all merchants do, and I sense no malice in your future. You will have your turn at the oracle’s benefits, but do not be dismayed when it gives visions of things you did not wish to see. I am Lady Briana of the seers. I look forward to our partnership. Also Sir Koslo over there and I shall be on the expedition.” Briana motioned with her hand at the Tuftom Knight.

Koslo sniffed the air, “Is that smoke? I think the house is on fire.”

“Yes, that would be smoke and I think it best we all leave the house.” replied Byron calmly.

“But surely we can put it out if it has not gotten far.” Koslo said with a confused look.

“No, I am certain it is a lost cause,” Byron Retorted. “Now out the door quickly.” He picked up a book from a table and started for the door. The other three took this finally as a sign he was serious and followed closely behind.