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.


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.


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.


“I am Deylin Greystone,” The tall man spoke extending his hand to Einden.  “I have the unfortunate news that I will be working with my apprentice here, Fen, to erect a stone watch tower beside your Tavern.  His lordship said “knock it over” if you have to or pay him to go away.  But I have good news that after a brief survey I find it best for The Grousing Porcine to stay put.  Now I can tell you my workers will be in love with the location, but I need word from you that you will cut them off or water down their drinks enough so I can be done in time with construction.”

Eiden stood there still stunned that he had come close to losing his beloved establishment.  He was uncertain on if he should be happy or furious in response.  He was being spared the loss of a livelihood, yet would now have to contend with a tower being erected next to him.  he finally managed a few words, “How tall is your structure?”

“Three stories and then there is the stables on the side.  Looks lovely in this sketch,” Deylin said handing over some drawings. “Shame it won’t ever look this nice forever.  They say it will house ten guards and room for another ten if the necessity arises.”

Eiden looked down at the smooth lines showing a very orderly structure, nicely kept.  He didn’t need Deylin to tell him it wouldn’t be long till the stables would be unkept by the under manned tower. “Naturally,” Eiden answered back.  “How long till they get someone to fix the monolith and put the scare behind us?”

“Does anyone even know how to make a new one anymore?”  Fen squeaked under the burden of Deylin’s belongs.  He had been tasked to unpack the wagon and setup tents.  He had decided the closer proximity to the tavern, the quicker he could sneak off for a pint.

“Yes,” Replied Greystone. “The enchanters would not have let that knowledge fade with the ages.  Far too valuable.  Now be quick about setting up I need to go pace off some land and drive in a few stakes.”  he paused for a moment in thought and turned back to Einden, “Sorry my good sir, but I never caught your name.  Pardon my terrible manners.  The other crews will be by tomorrow.  I hope you have ample stores of food.”

“Tis’ Eiden.  Though not keen on you and your men trampling about, I suppose it is what must be done.  Crevan said you would be by to change things up.  But he was wrong when you said you would take everything from me.  The old codger may know a thing or two, but he needs to read the stars better if he things I am losing the Grousing Porcine.”


Late in the evening, when the north wind blows down through the alleys by the Chalice Gate, one can hear a calling.  Some would say it is the voices of the past, while others would claim it a haunting of the dead.  To some it is a comforting wind and others it sends a chill down through their skull.  Many a child has gone chasing to see where the voice comes from and return none the wiser.  The guard patrolled the alleyways for a year at the beck of the residents to put an end to the noise and no cause was ever determined.

It was in these narrow pathways that Zahar met an old man.  He seemed at ease with the way he limped toward Zahar. “Young man, I have been looking for you,” he spoke up.  “Easy there, not you per se but someone of you youth and agility.”

Zahar could see the man was missing a foot as the space between the two narrowed. “As a member of the Ardent Order,  I am happy to assist one of our towns seniors.  What can I do for you?”

“I live up in the mountains and with the recent collapse of the monolith I think it best to reside in the city now.  However I cannot drag a trunk down by myself.  Would you be able to assist me in retrieving it?”

“Zahar who are you talking to?”  asked Katranna as she rounded the corner. “You know we are in a hurry.”

“Katranna, I am helping this man with a question.”  Zahar glared over to meet her rounding the corner.

“Who?  The rat scurrying away down the alley”

“Yes, the rat,” Zahar looked back to at the nothingness.

“I should really just let Crevan have you full time.”  Katranna said squinting in the dark to see if anyone still lurked.


In Saj-graf, if you look past the fear of a vulnerable city, you may find opportunity. There are many on the cusp of changing their luck around. With only one decision they will choose their fate, though they may not know it on the day they make that choice. Whether it is to work for a new employer or assist a stranger that needs a hand off the ground. That moment they choose to follow someone or turn down a poorly wrapped gift can make all the difference. It is a dense tapestry of alliances and slights held together by threads each person chooses to weave or cut. The beauty of this would only be seen by few, of which a handful know how to walk the paths that connect the points.

Cerridwen viewed her map of the city looking for weaknesses to bring about its collapse. She looked at her possibilities, briefly considering taking out the Mayor. But the city did need the rally point he provided, without some hope chaos would reign and hinder further activity. The Prince was another possibility, but like Ertle she had uses for them to still exist. She laid out a list of the nobles, and one by one eliminated their roll through unfit or to be used in the future. Zahar from the Ardent Order was an option; he was troublesome and easily bought. But she was uncertain if she had the coin available to use him wisely.

Her pawn had lowered the defenses by damaging the monolith. But no one else in town seemed to understand within the walls was still safe. She laughed to herself thinking of all the people who put their faith in a pillar of beautiful stone and never gave thought to its mechanics. Yet she counted on this, her employer’s goal was the mountains and what slept within. The dormant winged beasts the Lady was after could be woken now. She knew her sister and Saj-graf had nothing to fear from them. The beasts were not to be seen when they left their slumber, another agent in the mountains was to release and guide them. The Lady was quite clear with Cerridwen’s objective, continue with confusion until I give you your final payment.

It was then the idea of Lord Gerard came to her. He did have a thing for her, but not as Cerridwen. He would move a large force out of the city if She gave him reason. That would panic the folk and keep travel to a minimum. All this would be fewer eyes to watch the creatures in flight when the time comes. Soon it would all be done

Lyrical Legion

The sword song was the first lesson that Crevan had learned from his master and it was now what he tried to teach Kit.  It was a rhythmic chant which accompanied movement of the sword.  The key was to swing with the right exhales, not the one your opponent would expect.  The nuance would take at least a year of daily practice before Kit could move to the next concept.  In five years or so Kit would be able to move beyond a sword to other weapons or something in his off hand.  Crevan had told him Kit his voice needed more work than anything else.  Kit responded laughing saying he just needed a better song to sing.

A mandate from Alvin meant Crevan was free to start teaching at least three new pupils.  This was an unexpected change since the king of Iseb had banned the school from teaching when Saj-graf had come under his domain.  Yet with the monoliths protection gone, Alvin was willing to bring back the fighting style to protect the city and boost moral of his ward.  In addition to the Forest Walker, Crevan had received an inept student named Zahar from the Ardent Order, and  a young teenager by the name of Aryne.  The other two pupils were not as eager as Kit to learn, and had not shown up today for their lesson.  Aryne’s actions were slightly more excusable as his youth was as fault.  Zahar would rely on the pressing needs of the Order as his excuse.  It was a weak one as Crevan knew no such demands existed.
While going through the paces again, Crevan thought back to when he had been a teen. The Lyrical Legion had not been disbanded and the Saj-graf Marshal was more than just a spiritual seer.  Volka’s master had had that privilege for only three years before Iseb had taken control.  Iseb knew the spiritual leadership they provided was a strong symbol for Saj-graf.  They toyed with destroying the Legion all together, but bid their time when the wounds of war were still fresh.   In the end, only the position of Marshal was retained.  Volka’s peers had been sent from the city to preserve the teachings.  A few were still around and Crevan would need to find them to help build the ranks up again.  Crevan only had some much knowledge and experience to pass on

Crevan smiled as he came back to the present.  A young boy by the name of Groth trying to mimic the two of them.  The lad was too young to take in as a proper soldier, but was now an aspiring apprentice under Crevan.  It pleased Groth’s father to see him learn the old ways, and to have a strong interest in skills his ancestors had practiced. For now though Groth contented himself running errands and learning the laws of being in the Lyrical Legion.  Crevan returned his focus to Kit.


“Again, and this time try not to butcher the refrain,”  Crevan barked.  He cleared his voice and started with Kit, “I strike when you make fit, but that is not where I hit”


Maeve sat and waited.  She watched as a fly made its rounds of the room before making its way outside to freedom.  She was not sure what she would say to Kadin.  He had been out all day and Kaisu was going to be out for a bit longer.  It would be a brief moment of just the two in the small house and it was now time to make her move.  She closed her eyes to collect herself.

Doubt hid in the corners of her mind, festering a little when her thoughts stayed in its direction.  It wanted to be played with, stoked and coaxed out of the shadows and to the forefront, but Maeve knew better.  The doubt would be one more thing for her tongue to stumble over before asking Kadin what was on her mind.  Yet she could not quite completely keep it our of everywhere.

Maeve had been in tougher, trickier situations before.  She had talked her way out of being arrested while departing a house she had broken into.  She had convinced a Lady that her husband was best off without her and to count herself lucky to have found this out in her youth.  Maeve had held up in a closet for a day when an assassination had gone poorly, yet through ineptness of an entire house staff had managed to go undetected.  Yet all this had not had personal, emotional baggage attached to it.  She pondered if this was the right choice again.

Kadin came in, the noise of the door closing waking Maeve to the present. She stood up and walked over to him, welcoming him back.  She paused taking I him in, analyzing everything about him form his tussled hair to the scars that ran across his arms.  She was weighing this as the last moment to back down and do nothing.  She looked at his face again and she could see he could tell something was up.  Best to cut to the chase she thought.