Jayce Howe- 1
The sun, being the cheeky bastard it was, had somehow risen in just the wrong way as to counter the action I had taken to avoid it waking me. I was half curled up on the side of a hill maybe twenty feet from the road, facing away from its predicted point of rising, but dew had formed on the grass and my closed eyes where agitated from sleep by the twinkling of thousands of drops of water.
Sighing deeply, I grabbed the sleeve of my overcoat and began getting up. The black cloth marred by dust, dirt and little damp mud. My rolled-up sleeves needed adjustment but soon enough I was on my feet, patting myself down, checking for my belongings. I had all here of them, my money pouch depressingly light as it was, my surgeon tools and my watch.
I looked up again at the sky and peered at my glowing bane. It was a little before midday, I was about half a day from the nearest town, so I figured if I didn’t stop, I could enjoy a warm bed and bath by evening. What luck?
As usual when it came to me luck meant that something negative was imminent. I peeked down at my arms and the dark fern like tattoos that adorned them, sneering slightly before pulling my pincer glasses out of my coat. The small dark glass ovals hugged the bridge of my nose and kept the brightness of the morning at bay, best not get my hopes up.
Slinging my overcoat over my shoulders I started trotting up the road, if memory served me right there was a cross roads up ahead, if I hurried, I could buy a cigarette from one of the Hawk Knights heading south towards the Spine, maybe even pick up some work.
After around twenty minutes of walking I came across the crossroads, slightly more congested than I had expected, Hawk Knights, mostly elves and humans, stood at attention, feather like armour gleaming in a mix of the Royal silver and gold and the light green sash separating them as knights of the Duke of Marren. Several tents had been lined up along the road and it looked like a small war council was in session under one, several important military-like figures were arguing loudly.
Seemed that the Dragons where giving the War Host a run for their money. I smiled, that meant wounded soldiers, and that meant work for me. I approached the nearest Hawk Knight an older man I had pegged as a sergeant or something similar.
“Morning sir—” I tugged on my red gloves—” don’t suppose you need a surgeon at the moment?” I smiled and punctuated my request with a slight bow, earning a distant tug at the sides of the aging man.
He looked apologetic even as he started answering “Not unless you work miracles young man,” he allowed himself to size me up, noting my slightly finer clothes and well-maintained glasses, “coz that’s all we have here, dead men in need of miracles.”
It must have disturbed him how my face lit up, “Well then, we are in business sir for that—” I flourished my arms, feeling for all the world like a snake oil salesmen– “is all I deal in! Lead the way to your wounded.”
The surprised man was trying to detect the con but seemingly couldn’t, eventually caving and turning on his heel, motioning to an elven captain of some sort who waved him on eyeing me with scrutiny.
The tent with the wounded was a sorry sight, most of the men had been treated for various burns; dragon fire would do that to you, but others had been recent recipients of the ‘all you can amputate’ buffet of army medics. One man at the back was in a significant deal of pain and the medics in the tent seemed to be ignoring him. I motioned to the man and looked to my older guide.
“Oh him, don’t bother doctor, one of the Dragons pets cut him personally, some sort of cursed spear, he’ll be gone within the hour.” He looked bored, not a field sergeant clearly. Bloody ass. “Got a cigarette?” he fished on out of his pocket handing it over. It was long, self-rolled and full of quality tobacco, which told me a lot about who these soldiers were. Inner city dogs guarding a royal, probably one of the men from the tent before.
Pleased with my smoke I wandered over, the sergeant floating behind lazily. I kneeled next to the man and removed my overcoat, folding it twice and placing my tools on top. Then I place the cigarette between my lips and held the far end between my thumb and forefinger. I locked my gaze to that of the man on the bed, who had just noticed my presence. He was young, too young. Maybe five years younger than myself.
Then I whispered into the abyss, into the empty space I knew as the Weave.
Heat erupted in the empty space and a small flame escaped the gap between my fingers. I took a deep drawl, and breathed out through my nose. As the smoke drifted over the man his eyes fluttered and then closed. I moved his bandages and grabbed my surgical stitch.
The sergeant hadn’t even flinched at my initial display of magic but coughed in surprise when I reached out and threaded the smoke from my cigarette into the stitch, before leaning over and promptly stitching the magical wound on the man’s side. It was a simple ever bleed curse, nothing my magic couldn’t handle but it would leave a scar, not to mention my mark. As I stitched the smoke thread left a pitch-black mark, but the flesh sealed itself instantly.
I rose, my tools returned to my bag and my coat over my arm and looked at the sergeant, “Next.”
All told I stitched up about fourteen men that morning, and have half the cigarette left afterward to simply enjoy. The captain from before handed me a pouch of around thirty gold and patted me on the back with his thanks before stepping off to help someone else.
I was on my way out when I noticed the hanging station.
The military leader types from before where standing before a raised platform by a tree where an ominous looking noose hung. A hangman was present and the reading of last rights was being performed. The hangee, we’ll call him was a deep red coloured, bearded man with patchwork armour, standing silently and in apparent shock.
“Let this be a warning,” The man speaking was clearly a royal, a duke’s grandson or nephew of some sort, “to all those of the hobgoblin descent.”
He raised his hand, signalling for the hangman to tighten the noose. The hobgoblin said nothing as it was lowered around his neck like a morbid necklace. The royal went to lower his hand.
“Not sure the Kindled are gonna love you killing one of their clerics milord.” Some idiot had spoken up, what sort of… the eyes on me sparked an epiphany that I was an idiot.
“What did you say?” the royal seemed beyond flabbergasted as he was want to, some random surgeon had just called him unwise.
I gulped and just went for it. “Well milord, it just as I was last aware Indgoth was trying to keep the Kindled from siding with the Red Moon Company yes?—” I was rapidly trying to remember court etiquette and motioned to the lantern at the red skinned fellows belt—“and I am slightly confused as to how killing one of their clerics accomplishes that.” A murmur spread behind the royal and the elven captain stepped out, looked at me incredulously and then at the hobgoblin in the noose. He whispered into the royal’s ear.
He went red.
A short while later after the royal had finished shouting and the hobgoblin had been cut down there was a silence in the camp, and the sun had reached its peak in the sky. Turns out that saving an alliance several months in the making from the arrogance of a young second cousin of a Duke meant I was safe from the regular result of embarrassing said royal.
I was sitting in a tent alongside the hobgoblin in general silence, when a sleek man stepped in from the other side, passing under a curtain like door, clearly showing a frustrated royal beyond.
The man wore a simple black vest with a silver breastplate atop it, it lacked the gold of a soldier of rank but he gave off an air of control and power. The sword at his belt had a deep black steel tint and I knew at once that this was a Black Blade, one of the elite spies employed by the Ranger Queen to assist her armies.
“Our apologies brother,” he motioned to the hobgoblin beside me,” clearly our Lord had no clue of your religious ties and acted without consultation.” The hobgoblin barely looked at the man, nodding in response and huskily whispering back;
“No apologies to be made, I am content with the pleasure that surviving this ordeal has granted me, thanks to this stranger.” Yellow eyes slowly turned to me over the course of the sentence.
“Ah yes, glorious timing sir.” The Black Blade had turned to me and gave a genuine smile. “I won’t lie, a war with the Dragons on one flank and another with the heretics on the other would not have been improved with Hobgoblin Clerics kicking up a rebellion from within. You did quite a good thing today, Weaver.” I perked up at his mention of my magical title, most people assumed I was a Rune Worker, as they were the only wielders of magic, but not me.
While Rune Workers did as the name implied and fuse whispered words from the Weave into objects to form magical instruments to work spells weavers simply reached in and harnessed the raw energies of the space, of which there where three; Stars, Smoke and Gold. No one knew why these where the only elements in the Weave but some posited that it was a representation of humanities greatest downfalls, Greed for Gold, Curiosity for Stars and Vices for Smoke.
The fact this Black Blade knew I was a Weaver meant he knew everything about me and that was his true intention behind the comment. No need to kick up a fuss as long as I didn’t leverage the situation too far.
“I simply did as I felt was necessary sire.” I felt like I was bowing a lot today but I did it again anyway, making the effort to really dip as far as I could to demonstrate respect, these soldiers where the really deal, a handful of them could kill a dragon if they wanted, something it usually took at least five hundred men.
“A quick favor if you could master Weaver?” the Black Blade acknowledged my caution and respect and responded in kind as he spoke. “I don’t feel overly fond of simply releasing our Kindled friends here after his ordeal, and am of the understanding that you yourself are something of a doctor? Perhaps you would be so kind as to travel with him as far as the nearest town?”
The Kindled looked up, red skin flushed with frustration. “I need not a minder for my travels sire!” he stopped at a raised hand, clearly he too understood the significance of this man’s position. Black Blades didn’t reveal in fame like named Knights but their collective namelessness was something g that inspired more respect than a knighthood often could.
“Please brother… sorry I forget your name?” The hobgoblin looked from the raised hand to the man’s eyes.
“Brother Rhaast, I mean no offense but clearly the roads are not safe for a lone hobgoblin such as yourself. A Kindle dead by the roadside will have just the same consequence of one hung by a pitchoak branch.”
I clearly didn’t have a real choice here and rose as their conversation came to a close.
“Well if we want to avoid the night life I suggest we move along as quickly as possible then.” I pushed my glasses further up my nose and peered at Rhaast.
“I could use the company to be honest, it’s a lonely road.” His eyes dropped from angry to understanding as he mistook my eagerness to get on the road as willful contentment with the situation. He stood and put a hand out to the Black Blade,
“My gear if you will.” The soldier nodded and from behind produced a single curved cutlass and a set of banged up leather armour.
It only took a couple minutes for Rhaast to re-don his gear and then we took our leave, avoiding the royals, men and nodding to the Black Blade and the Elven Captain from before as we did so.
The sun was already on it slow dive toward the horizon and our chances of making the town by night were slim, but with my new companion easily keeping up, matching my overly long strides with two of his own I felt maybe we could pull it off.
If only we hadn’t.
Rhaast of the Kindle- 2
As a rule, no dying had always made me particularly happy, and as I had just survived a lynching, I was pretty upbeat. At first I had thought perhaps that it had been the Brimeflame’s wish to have me saved, but when the man with the blade made of wicked night had called my new companion a ‘Weaver’ I knew differently. The Burning Scroll described the Weavers and Hoarders of fate, individuals who traded in other fortune for power. I was fortunate that this one had decided to spend some of his to save my life.
The familiar dark red glow of my lantern grounded me back in the moment as we walked side by side, chasing the ever falling sun.
“So toward which town are we headed?” I was slightly lost if I was honest Indgoth had always been a maze to me, I much preferred The Axe-Blade Continent’s simple borders and roads, which were easily defined by the many armies lining the streets.
“This road skips Marren and allows direct access to Pendle.” The Weaver pointed to his left and I could make out the large city on the horizon.
“Why do we not travel to Marren? Is it not a safer place to be with the Spine so close?” I responded with an arm raised to the right where the mountains tops remain visible still despite being leagues away.
“That would be due to the fact that people are being conscripted in Marren, Dragon War and all.” His reasoning was quite solid, the Brimeflame didn’t want me in Marren it seemed.
“And what of Pendle, what awaits us there?”
“Cheap horses, warm beds. Once there you could travel further south to Blackpool, the port city should be a great way to disappear until the war is over.” He yawned.
“Is that your plan?” I was curious.
“No I have a feeling if I travel to the base of the Spine I could get some good work Dragons do tend to create demand for surgeons.” He flicked his hand as he went producing a wisp of smoke.
“Perhaps I too could travel to the Spine with you, I will admit to being somewhat without purpose here in Indgoth, My lords chapter here has no real hold and I feel it has been passed by the way side.”
He looked over at me as we walked, eye peering over the rim of his small ocular device.
“Forgive me but you worship Millirion correct, the Lord of Deeds? I don’t really subscribe to religion, no offense.” I welcomed the question, it was presented polite enough.
“Not exactly, The Kindled act as clerics of a particular version of Millirion, The Brimeflame. Essentially what happens is when Millirion becomes angry or spiteful he lashes out killing his Crimson, or regular followers in awful ways, as is a god want to do. The role of the Kindled is to soothe his rages, to act in ways that allow his regular followers to triumph.” I touched my lantern.
“As such we carry a piece of his last host’s form in this lantern in order to allow him to see our actions, thus soothing him.”
“So you’re a warden of a fire god’s wrath then? I will not lie that is not what I expected from a man about to be hung.” The doctor looked away but did so with a thoughtful look.
“What of your powers? How do you describe you relation to them?”
“I am a Smoke Weaver, my magic is mostly used to either fix wounds or create illusions, and although I have to be careful with how I use it otherwise I could accidentally let something from the Weave out. So in short my relation to it is that of a terrified child, no one chooses to be a Weaver, well maybe Star Weavers but that because they are hooked on it like a drug.”
I did not fully understand some of the term he was using, as many of my abilities came from faith rather than study, something he clearly had done. I nodded my general understanding then set my eyes forward quickening my pace.
“What’s the rush brother?” I needn’t have responded for he saw what I had a moment later.
“That.” I only needed the one word as the town of Pendle was assaulted by horde of savage beasts, numbering in the hundreds
Aegis Zephoriikorn – 3
I had been hovering around town, though not literally for quite a while, my orders had been to triple check its defenses and then report back, a minor, insignificant task for an entity such as I, but one Oryxynoth had been clear I should not palm off. As it turned out the town had very little in the way of defenses, a town guard, but no Hawk Knights, no soldiers from the Queens army, just men with spears and no knowledge of how to use them. I was so confident in my ability to circumnavigate the aforementioned guards that I had decided to bring about the plan presented to me by Oryxynoth by myself. I had formed a humanoid illusion around myself and simply walked in, renting a room at the local inn and gathering intelligence on the leaders of the town, primarily the Guard Captain, the Baron and any other local heroes.
What I hadn’t suspected was the Pricolici, the horde of tainted shifters burst forth from an underground hovel not a thousand steps from the front gate, smelling blood and fresh bodies, they easily covered the distance and begun the savage destruction of the town. Men, women and children would die this night.
I stood in the middle of town as three large half skeletal half beast like creatures of the horde sprung towards me. Abandoning all illusions I returned to my true humanoid form, silken blue hair getting caught in my majestic horns as sprinted at them, my blade separating ones head from its shoulders and dismembering another. The third had changed course and hurled itself at another target, a child.
The smell of burnt hair filled the air as it stopped in its tracks, my mouth still sizzling as the electricity hummed between my teeth. A charred corpse hit the ground and the child looked up at me, my Reptilian eyes, fanged mouth and otherworldly physique confusing it. I looked at the child wondering why I had done that, if Oryxynoth had his way these people would die regardless.
“Thanks mister.” The child ran off, heading for the town hall, the barons home.
Huh. Perhaps I was growing soft. Surely not I was too young for age to dull my violent nature. I pushed the little girl to the back of my mind and spun again, electricity frying another two beasts coming within my personal space. Two guardsmen saw my display of power and looked upon me with fear.
I raised a single finger and let it rest on my lips, sparks still emanating from my crocodile smile.
End of Part One