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

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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.

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.

Rook

“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.”

Evenings

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.