Roux

Under a hood forest green
Her eyes were kitten copper
Hidden under hair goblins red
Her smile was like a moon sliver

Her mood not the trio mean
Of help she needed an offer
Lost she waited to be led
Not knowing to follow the river

When to her aid came
A black beast with horn and mane
It ushered her back to home
With all due haste

Gone it went lest she tame
Out the wild and made so plain.
There she met the gnome
Who laid her lands to waste

With bow at the ready
And an arrow filled quiver
Questions of the little one asked
Answers he had none

She took an aim, holding steady
The gnome did give a shiver
He replied he had done as tasked
A request, he made one

That before his passing he may
Place the blame for blood spilt
To mighty warlords upon high
Who ride to neighbors and destroy

Her shot did she stay
So others may hear his guilt
Bound and gagged he would lie
Left under watch of neighbors boy

Departing the neighbor said
Roux where will you go
She was quick in her reply
To save our kin from fate most foul

In high hopes she forged ahead
A small band of fighters in tow
Quick work was what she imply
When warlords on high heard the howl

Across a valley green did they meet
Light glistening over Roux’s back
Golden warlords high replied in charge
Volleys answered thunderous hooves

The thick air turned rain sweet
As man fell in the attack
Roux lay no longer at large
Incompatible to warlords moves.

Lightning flashed from high above
As black beast emerged from cloud
His desire to aid in her need
Shocked back the victors in surprise

Landing gently as a dove
Horn bowed to Roux’s shroud
His life hers now did feed
Warlords shot down the noble prize

As red haired woman rise
Warlords fell in disbelief
What magic had been wrought
Made them tremble and stumble

She looked in each one’s eyes
Of their courage she was thief
Bowed in submission each one sought
To her whim they now humble.

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Formula of Eternal Life

All the riches could save us
My child collect and discuss
Silver for a disease or curse
Pestilence gone with Jade in your purse
Gold against enchantment
Pearls for containment
Emeralds keep a spirit safe
Agate keeps away the wraith
Moonstone to keep your dreams
Lapis will focus you schemes

A few more to help you keep score
Affordable if you don’t mind a dirt floor
Rubies help against haze
Jasper prevent your daze
Opals to clean the eyes
Turquoise to find a prize
Tin to clean up your ail
Platinum for where others fail

A shipment of each
There is nowhere out of reach
Fetch each I beseech
Together their power I will teach

Wealth will misery end
Smell the future down wind
With each precious acquisition
You ascend to a new position
Choice you are now granted
Bias toward you they are slanted
In your days give each away
Regaled will your name stay
Upend the class to which you rise
But give too much and meet demise.

Departure – Final Chapter

Kit knew where they were going; it was beyond the Anjin Col.  It was far beyond the forest on the other side of the mountain.   He was charged with helping the Jaspert take the caravan to the city of GornStan, in the lands of the Fifteen Earls.  Those that signed on to the caravan had hoped to leave Saj-Graf behind.

Ertle was in a luxurious carriage with a young man by the name of Siwaldh.  The driver of the carriage was Zahar, the fallen.  The three had met one night at Ermore Inn after the days of the cloudervan.  They had agreed to leave Saj-graf and chase their fortunes elsewhere.  Though not a one revealed their past, they were certain they knew each other and the capabilities that dwelled within.

There were several lesser carts of goods from merchants Ertle had convinced to buy in to the venture and cover his cost of needing guards on the road.  Traveling in this class was Deylin Greyston, off to Pigback Pass to build another watchtower for the city.

As they got ready to leave the city two men approached the caravan and spoke to Kit.  One seemed to struggle with the light of day, and told Kit he had been a shut in and was now ready to see the world.  The other limped a bit but assured he could pay enough to convince Ertle to make space for him.  After giving them a quick assessment, Kit admitted them to the group.  It would be a long ride out and a few more hands would be nice with the troubles they may encounter on the road.

The wagons started to roll out of town by midday.  Kit looked back at Jit tower, it was the first marker of Saj-graf he had seen and would likely be the last.  Its majestic rise over the city would leave a lasting impression.  In his heart he would feel peace once he moved himself from the outskirts of town, past the farms and outlying ruins.  If he could shirk his duty and run once more off to the woods he would do so.   He looked down the length of the caravan and then back to the city one more time.

These cities were living beasts that he feared.  They grew without conscious and bread contempt amongst those that dwelled within.  Somehow they made people feel safe and secure, but for Kit, he was happy to depart and be free.

Demise

Nyo-ji watched as he entered his house.  He grew more uncomfortable with each passing moment as his guide lead him further inside.  The place was cleaner since he had last visited Nyo-ji.  There had been much planning for this moment and Nyo-ji was not above savoring justice in the rare times he could administer it.

“Just wait a moment, here,” his guide commanded. He missed the smirk that followed the order.   Nyo-ji had paid the guide handsomely for her part and it was now done.

As soon as his guide stepped outside the building the door slammed shut.  A voice from the shadows spoke up, “Sartow, you came looking for power.  I shall show you it.”

Sartow watched as little sparks of lightning started to bounce from timber to timber on the ceiling.  He could smell the burning in the air, though he saw no fire.  The dirt in the floor started to rise up like a thousand ant mounds forming and then collapsing.

Sartow ran to the door to make an escape, but it would not budge.  He ran to the window to try that and again it would not move.  The lightning now jumped between the mounds and the rafters, making audible crackling noises with each jump.  The smell of burning air made Sartow sweat with panic.

A large bolt coming down on him was the last thing that Sartow saw.  There was not time for him to scream, no time for him to feel, no time to repent.   The corpse was struck by numerous bolts as Nyo-ji’s anger was unleashed.  Nyo-ji knew Sartow would feel nothing from each successive blow, and yet hit him once for each person he had seen his scars upon.

Outside the house Cerridwen heard thunder from inside, but it was the least of her worries as she could not recall why she was at the house, let alone out in the open streets.  She quickly bolted to an alleyway and out of sight.

Prison

The Saj-graf prison was one of the original buildings of the city.  It had been expanded over the years to accommodate the growth in population.  Its proximity to the single room court had not changed in that time nor had the size of the court.  The oldest parts were made of well-aged wood, slowly being patched with stone and mortar. The newest additions had been the second subbasement that was under construction.  This new addition had resulted from finding several attempts to dig out from the prison and finding another purpose than simply filling them in.  The top floor, which was the third, was meant to hold people temporarily and was often crowded with multiple occupants per cell.  The few lucky ones were deemed in need of solitary confinement on this floor.  Commonly it was those sleeping off their vices or those that were not fit to socialize with the common residence.

Justice in Saj-graf was doled out by two judges, appointed by the mayor. The process was so whimsical that if a spat of good weather or a feast day came up you would wait that much longer for your hearing.  The judges heard cases as they saw fit.  The hearing usually consisted of whichever judge heard your plea and accounts from the town guard.  Naturally witnesses were allowed to be presented, and given the haphazardness of the hearings, only those with coin to spare or dear friends would you be guaranteed their appearance.

It was on a cool late evening that Cerridwen sat at one of the cell doors. It was through the its small window she could see Sartow sleeping in a corner.  “That the one m’Lady?” asked a sleepy guard.

“Oh yes, that is him.  And this if for your troubles,” she slipped him a small pouch. “Now it is probably best you find a corner to curl up in.”

“Yes, that sounds like a lovely idea,” the guard yawned.

“Sartow, darling, how did you end up in here?” Cerridwen said in a sweet voice.

He rolled over on to his side and looked at the door. “I don’t have time for wenches,” he snipped.

“Oh dear is that who got you stuck in here?  I am not here to offer my services; rather I am in need of yours.  Yet in here you serve no purpose, perhaps you would like for me to let you out so we can discuss business?”

“I have no business, just my time till they set me free.”

“And that would be when?  Has it not been thirty days since you took up residency here?  You know a certain lord has some say in the courts and I do not think it best you go to trial.”

“Speak quickly or I may call for a guard to bring me water.”

“The job is outside of town and as a leader of men.  They aspire for your renown and your skill.as a leader.  I can take you to them, but only tonight.”

 

Calm

The building week of tension had broken last night in chaos, and now quiet filled the air. Order won the battle and was set to reclaim the rule. Its serene reassurance was to be embraced by those that had survived. As the panic in people’s hearts to escape from the cages that had been built, there was still much work to be done. Those brave enough, were out in the field tending the wounded or confirming that the large beasts were indeed dead. The Ardent order had been decimated, but their casualties looked minor to the slain cloudervan lying strewn across the field.

Artron followed Corvus as he made show of his kills to the record keepers. He wanted his share of the bounties on these beasts from the mayor. Collaboration was key and that was where someone honest like Artron came in. Artron felt no moral qualm signing off as a witness as long as Corvus kept a blind eye to the valuable metals and gems the silversmith pocketed. It was not as if there were not nobles out in the field doing the same, it was how money was made. Arton was also busy counting the total number slain in the field, he would later gather with the other counters to make sure no corpse was unclaimed or disputed. Those lower in the pecking order stood near their kills to chase of the profiteers and show their mark on the corpse. Once all was tallied the gold would be split and the only ones who lost out were the fallen.

Martell walked the field with Kit, studying the bodies of the cloudervan. Kit worked in a sketch book, while Martell collected samples from the dead. “Looks like these are an Enchanter’s experiment gone awry. That or they have some inherent magical inclination as now their bodies come apart with any of my blades,” commented Martell.

“Nothing natural about copper being a weakness…at least on the skin. I could see it being an issue with something like blood, but copper is not that strong,” Kit commented. “You ever hear the formula of eternal life?”

All the riches could save us
My child, collect and discuss
Silver for a disease or curse
Pestilence gone with Ruby in your purse
Gold against enchantment
Pearls for containment
Emeralds keep a spirit safe
Agate keeps away the wraith
Moonstone to keep your dreams
Lapis will focus you schemes

A few more to help you keep score
Affordable if you don’t mind a dirt floor
Rubies help against haze
Jasper prevent your daze
Opals to clean the eyes
Turquoise to find a prize
Tin to clean up your ail
Platinum for where others fail

A shipment of each
There is nowhere out of reach
Fetch each I beseech
Together their power I will teach

“I had not heard that one,” replied Martell
“There is wisdom in there somewhere, or so my master says. I find it just a list of wealth without the context in which it was written.”
“I think enchanters would be able to do more with it. They are all crafting items for talismans. Yet some of those items are not used for what is listed. Maybe it is a code or done to intentionally mislead outsiders.”

Vagrant’s Keep

Vagrant’s Keep, was once a tower on the outer walls of Saj-graf. As the city grew the tower lost its purpose, yet being a solid stone structure it was never torn down. The walkways which originally connected to other towers, have since been converted to paths above the city streets connecting a nest of buildings. Various groups have since lived in the tower as time went on. For awhile it was home to a den of thieves until the city guard cleaned it out. It was then home to the Ardent Order, till they completed their current home.

The top floor was eventually taken over by a religious cult called the Brotherhood of The Flight. Since they have been deemed harmless by the city they have been allowed to stay. The other floors have served as residence to hundreds of homeless passing through, always scared off by some ghost they claim haunts the second floor. The Brotherhood acknowledges the ghosts presence but deem it harmless.

The basement is currently home to a tavern called The Basket and Casket. It is run by a former mercenary content to spend the rest of his days safe behind a bar and his only casualties being the occasional glass dropped by a patron. He dons his old uniform from the forgotten company when he chooses to serve. His eye patch is part of the show too, as he can still see through its pinhole opening. His oily chestnut and gray hair is slicked back to add a touch of maturity to his act. Many call him Captain, though no one is certain of who he served. He has the stories and knowledge to prove he has done something.

It is in this bar listening to how he fought back goblin hoards that many try to find an escape from the surrounded city. Kadin and Maeve sit half listening to the story between drinks and discussion of their short lived celebration. Kadin had made Maeve wait two days before accepting her proposal. Though this was short by his standards, Maeve had gone near crazy when he explained why he could not answer on a whim. Kaisu had been a dear and listened to her rant while Kadin had stayed locked in meditation at the shrine. When he returned with consent she had finally had her senses returned to her.

There was a cheer from the crowd as the Captain finished his story and introduced the follow up act, Jaspert the story teller. Maeve saw he was to be accompanied by a musician, someone she may know, but was uncertain if it was her.

“Good evening to all of you. I have a new story tonight, one that is of hope.” Jaspert cleared his throat and cracked open a book. “This comes from the archives of Saj-graf. I have not memorized it so pardon the book. It is of when the Ardent Order came to the aid of people in need.”

The Missing

They went missing. It was the last line of the story and it felt rather unsatisfying to the old man. He paged through the parchments again, skimming for details of the Ardent Order and their final marches against the Cloudervan. They were victorious, and the story said as much. Yet beyond that the details were just not there. The recount was quite bloody going into how the captain lost an arm to the beasts razor sharp claws or how a sergeant was impaled fifteen times before no longer marching forward carrying the company’s standard. Yet not a word after the slaying of their opponent.

The descriptions of the beasts pains were just as graphic. Copper guilded blades glistening in the evening sun as the cloudervans’ blood hissed on contact. Each precise slash by one to the Ardent Order meant another cloudervan crying in agony, encouraging the company to march onward against a foe that had slaughtered thousands. The only regret of the order was not arriving sooner to save more of the town of Saj-graf.

The old man knew there were some of the order still in Saj-graf today. Yet he had never heard of these stories and if not for the books given to him to research it would still have been lost. He quickly noted his findings and sealed them in an envelope. He slid the envelope out under his door, and like so many times before heard the steps of the one in the hall walk down and retrieve his writing.

The panic in the below streets were of no importance to him, in his own world. He again counted down the days till his contract was up. Would the sun feel better that day than through the window? Would the fresh air be rejuvenating or would he miss the must of the stacks? He had started to long for the sound of cracking open hundred year old books. Yet simply the option to savor a walk in the rain still made him smile, He wanted a day of choices made all freely by himself.

Rise

It was on that day that the ground broke open. The weather was fair, the sun was high in the sky and the breeze just right. It was on that day the first one pushed through the dirt and surveyed the lands. She spotted movement and scrambled forth for a meal. It was on that day when the guards could do nothing to keep the beasts at bay. When those of means fled from their estates to within the city.

It was on that day the caravans started to leave, with no plans of return. It was when the gates of the city shut, and those left outside were stuck. It was on that day the scared lost their life in panic and in flight. It was when the strong and brave were cut down quick and were not spared. It was the day the Ardent Order stood strong and regained respect as they organized the lost.

It was on that day the fear of the clouderven were restored. They showed their claws, letting their vengeance be felt.
They claimed miles more of land then they knew what to do with. That was the day they fed on the domesticated, beasts sating a hunger from centuries past. A long sleeping dominance was revealed to the world, and it was pain.

It was on that day a quest for knowledge began in books long forgot. That day new victims of circumstance were made, while others saw their power leave for different lands. Fear and determination spiked that day while empathy and concern fought back.

It was on that day the winds of change quieted down while the moon settled in. From high in Jit tower the watch sat amazed at the glow of the moon reflected on the scales of a hundred clouderven that now circled their city.

Awakening

Deep in the mountains outside Saj-graf, he stirred. He stretched out his front leg extending his claws and looking around at his surroundings as he did so. There were two of his brothers laying going through a similar stretches, waking from their long slumber. He shifted his position to stretch his other front leg and further see his company. There was another two of his brothers, looking as surprised as he that they would finally be free to move, no longer frozen in time. Moving to his third leg he contracted it in, close to his body, and finished his count seeing his two sisters.

The seven clouderven started to trill at the same time, happy to be free of their magical bonds. The den had been spared the slaughter that had come before the suspension, but no one had an idea of how long they had been here. He finally got up and went to the drinking pool. The sulfuric water refreshed him and he could see it and slowly replenished the shine to his siblings’ manes as they took their turn at the refreshment.. There was some hissing as they worked out the order, seniority had no privilege among them.. The hissing turned to play fighting as the stiffness left their bodies. They could here further down the tunnels as other clutches were awaking, more than likely going through similar rituals.

Those in Saj-graf would have run in fear at the sight of just one of the seven, but down here their awakening had gone unnoticed. The clouderven would soon announce themselves to their neighbors. They would live off the easy kill of the livestock, once the pangs of hunger were acknowledged. It would be a while till someone realized what had been sleeping all these years. Whether anyone would recall how to kill a clouderven remained a mystery.

He knew as well as the rest of them that it was time for revenge for a forced slumber. Revenge for the slaughter of their kin. He led the rest of clouderven slowly up the tunnels, closer to the exit of their den in the Horace Atoll. They would have to burrow out as they had sealed themselves down here to hide. By the time the burrowing to freedom would be done, there would be no brake. Resting time for the fight to come was over.