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  Questions About and From the Farmstead
Posted by: frenzied67 - 04-26-2021, 01:07 AM - Forum: Erath Miscellany - Replies (2)

These are the only questions I can remember from our 20th session, regarding the farmstead that is.
1) Due to the magical concealment spells on the path to the Farm, will we need a guide to get to and from the farmstead?
2) Enkili, who has never cooked in his life, is wondering if the groundkeeper and his entourage concoct meals for their group?  If so, how much to get in on that action?
3) We were told that we were responsible for replenishing what we take from the larder.  Does that mean we have to do the shopping or can we leave money for the caretakers?
4) How many acres are associated with the farmstead?
5) Can we wander about the property at our leisure, or are there property features that are out of bounds?
6) Where are the bodies buried?  I need to know!
7) You said Elvold featured more "services" than the other towns and cities we've crossed since leaving Solare, are there vices to be found for Enkili; he's starting to stress over being sent out into the uncaring ol' world when he thinks he's given Al Madii the best of himself already?
8) *As a well honed fighting machine, how come the physical tricks I learn have a finite number of uses between naps? 
9) *In association with the question above, is this bounded accuracy or gagged and bound accuracy?

*I'm just expressing my opinion of 5E, which is not favorable.  After making over 20 characters of different races and classes, I have come too the conclusion that they have great imaginations and have developed simple but very effective game mechanics.  Where WOTC got it wrong is in how they have hobbled the Player Character.  Although a character is granted a little something every level, with each class coming into their peak effectiveness at differing level advancement periods, most of the abilities granted range from lame, to situational niche, to not potent enough, to too late in the campaign to make a difference.  Too bad 3.5 was too cumbersome for VTT's.

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  Enkili Level 4
Posted by: frenzied67 - 03-29-2021, 03:15 PM - Forum: Level-Up Information - No Replies

Character/ Class Archetype:  Enkili / Battle Master
4th Level-  Hit Dice/ Hit Die Type-  4 / 1d10+2
Proficiency Bonus=  +2
Features:  Ability Score Increase- Strength +2 = 19 ((+4) +1 to all strength based abilities, attributes, saves, to hit, maneuver DC’s, damage, and skills).
Character’s weight should increase 20# due to muscle growth and density.

Dandan Va Panje (tooth and claw)
   

If Enkili spends 20PP to buy Splint mail, he can grant Hubert his old Splint mail.

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  Brother of the Sword Chapter 9
Posted by: frenzied67 - 03-11-2021, 12:57 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

2/4/2021




Chapter 9
Esper Dragstar
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar




Brother of the Sword poked his head out over the swinging half doors of the inn/tavern.  All of Mudpie had come out to watch the removal of the cat creature’s remains, for such a small village they still made a big semicircle around the enhanced bones of the monstrous creation.  Brother grimaced at the number of potential witnesses he would have trying to leave, and he paused to think it over for a moment.  Cursing under his breath, the sarcophagus born man hitched the back pack up on his shoulders and forced himself to walk through the doors.  Instead of taking the steps down to the pock marked street, he walked across the boardwalk deck in front of the building to hop over the south facing railing; his feet crunched through broken glass as he passed the busted window.  As he had yesterday he tracked the dirt path with his gaze, and he again pondered just meandering down the road; forgetting his promise to avenge the slain three.  Just the memory of the luster missing in Star Iris’s dead eyes firmed Brother’s resolve to end the menace to Mudpie.

The owner of the horse team, who was chaining up the chrome and bone cat caricature, was the first person to notice Brother of the Sword.  Pausing in his work to look Brother’s way was enough to reveal him to the crowd as everyone felt the need to see what the horse driver was looking at.  Immediately questions to Brother began to be shouted, and like a cloud of locusts, the entire town surged Brother’s way.  He walked faster, but the most able in the human mass broke into a run.  As a whole, the people of Mudpie did not get the hint, by not turning around, by ignoring their calls, Brother was advertising the fact that he did not want to field their questions.  Yet, by one of those odd audio idiosyncrasies, a woman’s voice sounded in a momentary lull in the shouting.

“Thank you!  Thank you, stranger!  You saved our town!”

Even though she did not sound like Star Iris, he saw her earnest face in his mind, begging him to help.  Drawing up short surprised the mass of people at his back, they stopped hounding him with calls and questions; the silence was as a balm in a way.  Some of them even stepped back when he reversed his facing, slower people were still gathering at the back of the human half circle arching around Brother.  Kids who were not fully cognizant of the threat facing Mudpie lost their grins at the stiff immobility of Brother of the Sword’s mien.

“I haven’t saved anyone!  That wizard is still out there and he’s likely to kill me!  So leave me the hell alone!”

Only after the words had left his mouth and left their mark of increased confusion and dawning fear on the people did Brother realize his poor choice in words.  They all had been putting their unfounded hopes in him, and here he was yelling at them and planting doubts.  Had Star Iris been wrong about Brother?  Was he really the monster he feared he was?  They were like children, they just wanted to know if it was safe to lay their heads down and sleep this night.

Feeling remorse did not negate Brother of the Sword’s indignation at having to be the one they were pinning their hopes on.  Then again he had made promises some of these people had heard.  Grimacing a little he held up his hands to quiet the small murmurs that had began after he had admonished them.  How can I give them hope when I have so many doubts?  “Give me four days, Mudpie!  If I return in that time then that means we have won!  If I have not shown by the fourth night then you will know I have fallen!  In the meantime you should discuss your contingency plans!  I know you’ll figure something out, if you’re smart enough to move yourselves to Mudpie, you’re smart enough to make the right decisions for your colony!”  Brother did not know what part of this message touched the people, but it was astounding to hear the positive tones in their mutters, see their straight backs as they looked at their friends and neighbors, and the number of nods they exchanged showing a resolution they had lacked moments before.

He gave the town a nod before turning back around to resume his trudge.  Brother made a single step when one voice made him freeze.

“The gods love you, sir, for you try where others freeze!”  Brother of the Sword felt a lump form in his throat at that sentiment, and visions of the dead three almost made the tears form and fall.  Self doubt reared though and stole away with the good will the people were sending his way.  After all, Brother was a simulacrum.  Would these people invest themselves in him if they knew he wasn’t real, as artificial as Esper’s cat like creation?

“Oh, Brother fell, shake this funk, shake this spell.  Would this wizard Esper volunteer it’s beast to end danger and make it deceased?  For others you take pure action, in that find some satisfaction.  Heroes are separated from monsters by choosing the path that helps others.”  Buoyed by his steel sibling’s encouraging words, or at least salved for a while because of them, Brother of the Sword raised his fist over his head for the people behind to see.

He set off as they cheered, their rapturous sound was a fanfare that for a time, firmed Brother’s resolve.  After crossing over the gravel road and entering the tall grasses that would dog his steps all the way to the hills a half mile away, Brother of the Sword felt his bitterness swell again.

“You say a hero helps other people, Brother Sword, but how much of what I have to do now was instigated by you.”  The sword did not answer Brother, but he was fed a shrinking away through the ether.  For some reason, feeling that withdrawal was better than an apology made with words.  After a while, as the hills slopes began to make him work a little, Brother began to feel a little bad for having browbeat Brother Sword into feeling crappy; after it had gone out of it’s way to make him feel less despicable.

As Brother of the Sword reached bushes acting as the forest’s heralds, he paused to pull out the treasure map Mister Dilane had given him; the map the leaders of Mudpie had made to find Esper Dragstar’s supposed treasure horde.  At first Brother wondered if he had set his course for the right hill, then his eyes spotted what looked like a deer trail fifty yards to his right.  According to the map he was to follow this path as it arched to a more south westerly direction before he would find a marker made by intelligent hands.  The map lacked the details on what that marker would look like.  He aimed his steps for the trail, but before ducking into the woods he turned back to look down upon Mudpie.  As distant as it was, the village looked extremely small and very vulnerable.

“Ready to be a hero...?  I ain’t,” he said aloud, but he also sent that to Brother Sword.

At first, the new growth trying to claim the trail made Brother of the Sword’s going rough, but deeper in the trees shade kept the bushes tamed.

“A tool of heroes am I, the fool you must ply.  With you I seek restitution, never again to fight is my resolution,”  Brother Sword suddenly confessed, it’s mental state rife with misery.  Again his fears warred with the concern Brother had for his sibling.  It was agonizing and apologizing, yet he still ached with anger… and a lot of fear.

“Think of it like this, After the wizard kills me he may line my bones with metal contraptions, then he may have my animated corpse wield you as his new war machine.”

For several moments he felt Brother Sword’s shock, then after a while there was a sensation of resolve.

“That thing that passes for your humor, is as hilarious as a flesh eating tumor, brother fell,” it said as it realized how Brother of the Sword was trying to cope with his emotional state.  For about a minute, Brother thought that the sword had withdrawn it’s attention.  A part of himself was grateful to learn that the blade was still fully engaged.  “These doubts that you harbor, I know why they belabor, brother fell.  All our other fights came with no forsights; our enemies came and attacked, choosing moments where odds were stacked.  Now it is that we have chosen to act, for the first time we hunt because of honors pact.  This is a first for you and I, and time is given to how we die.  Think of this naught, useless to be distraught, see our world and the advantage it grants our onslaught.”

Brother Sword was right.  Never before had they sought out a fight, battle had always come to them.  This attempt to fulfill his promise to the people of Mudpie had been granting him too much time to think about the upcoming encounter.  Unconsciously Brother of the Sword had been worrying all the ‘what if’ scenarios of all the things that could go wrong, which, he knew, would ensure something would unravel when the fight happened.  True, neither of them knew what they were about to face, yet he had abilities and resources he could draw upon; the most potent being his sibling.  Brother Sword’s blue bolt seemed to be able to disable a magician’s ability to cast spells, which was a game changing tool.  As Brother’s brain began to warm to this more positive tack, Brother Sword sent warm approval.

Would this Esper Dragstar have more bone and steel monsters waiting?  Brother of the Sword almost fell into the doubt trap again by asking such questions of himself.  Again his sibling would be the buffer he needed to beat Esper’s constructs, Brother Sword’s touch had already proven to introduce a momentary cessation in the false creatures actions.  In the hours of his hesitations and doubts he had been mostly oblivious to the world around him.  When his awareness opened back up, Brother realized that he was about to step onto a leaf strewn cobbled street.  He had found his sign that Esper’s tomb was near.  Thus it was that when the birdsong died away, then the trees began to seem stunted, he paid attention and slowed down.  His steps became those of a stalker, easing his toes down to minimize noise while he crouched to lower his profile.  Brother was near now, he could feel it….

Following the path around the slope of a hill, Brother of the Sword glanced up and noticed what looked like the aftermath of a recent landslide halfway up the slope.  Feeling his heart beat jolt into a faster rhythm, Brother leaned so he could take in more of the tumbled earth and rocks.  Framing the blacked out opening into the hillside, shaped stones ringed an opening.  Two slab like pillars canted slightly inward at their tops upholding a third shaped stone that rested horizontally across their tops, the double ‘T’ like shape looked like one of those mathematical symbols sorcerer’s liked to borrow for magical formulations.  This was it, this was Esper Dragstar’s tomb; the chamber Mister Dilane, Cyrus, Sheriff Dade Cartin, and the lovely Star Iris had sought treasure in.

“The trees were lesser in my olden age, copse of forest in smaller lots seeming staged,” a voice declared up and almost behind Brother.

Not knowing he had jumped in fear, Brother of the Sword whirled then crunched into leaves and slid slightly.  At the same time Brother Sword appeared in his palms that were aimed up the inside of the hill he had just rounded.  Esper Dragstar arched a perfect elven brow, coolly acknowledging the magical appearance of the blade.  Brother had seen a few Star Elves in and around Mudberry by the Water, finding them to be otherworldly and beautifully flawless in their features.  Sitting on a boulder with his knees drawn up to his chest, Esper had that unearthly grace of his people, but there was something more primal about him at the same time.  Silver and chrome armor glittered on his slender body, the raised visor of his helm forming a crown like decoration around that smooth pale brow.  “Thy blade and clothing are cunningly wrought.  Your peoples progress has time exceeded mine idea, mine thought.”

When fear had ridden him as a constant, then as Brother of the Sword had sharpened himself with planning, he had never imagined that this wizard would engage him in conversation.  He had always dreamed they would clash inside the cavern, he lowered Brother Sword to a low ready while peering up the treacherous hill.  Esper’s seat was close to seventy yards away, those twenty yards Brother needed to close in order to put Brother Sword in range would feel like a hundred going up that steep dead leaf littered slope.

“A couple of generations for your people may have passed since you were interred… which is a couple of hundred generations for us- uh- humans.”  What sort of magic would this being rain down on them at this range?  How could they close the distance without being obvious?

Quirking his head to the side, Esper indicated he had noticed Brother of the Sword’s verbal stumbling, the wizard’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.  Damn.

“Hast thou come to my holding home to make mine magic thine own?  Even outside of times treaty thou wilt find that task not easy.”  After making that challenge the elf stretched out his legs then slid down the side of his perch, his armor rattling against the uneven surface of the boulder.  Still not close enough.  Brother shook his head in the negative.  “What of the challenge offered by mind, hast the mage ways been abandoned by all kind?”

All Brother of the Sword could do was shrug, he had no clue concerning these ancient wizard’s dynamics.  Again Esper’s eyes drew to the narrow, his confidence unwavering despite the confusion.

“Oh, brother most fell, drawing him closer we must, if we are to make him future dust.  Admit to my deed, this could plant a seed,” Brother Sword suggested, feeling as focused as Brother of the Sword felt.  If only the slope before him was not as steep as it was, he could have been inching his way closer.  Unfortunately the ground under all the fallen leaves had no cohesion, a step up meant a slide down.

“I’m not a wizard, so I don’t know what you consider etiquette.  My brother, this sword, challenged you.  Your threats to the people in Mudpie made it a little angry.  Those people seem to like the government they already have.”

Most people would have already started to question Brother of the Sword’s sanity, but Esper’s silvery gray orbs shifted down to Brother Sword.  His head ticked to the side like a dog trying to pick out known words from the flowing speech of it’s human.  Then Esper drew his head back as something dawned on him.  Muttering some words under his breath, the elven mage drew a hand over his eyes.  Those orbs glowed when the hand came away.  From his high perch Esper spent the next moments studying both Brother and Brother Sword.  Brother had taken a high guard position until he realized that magic was not about to stream down upon them.  Shaken, the elf stepped back, shock marring features that had never been designed to be other than serene.

As though defeated, Esper’s shoulder’s drooped.  Sorrow, deep felt and wrenching because of the devastation shown, the elven wizard remained drooped as the mystic glow faded from his visual organs.

“Mine quest from faerie was fueled by arts most fell, kingdoms to conquer and be ruled by mine spell.  Kingly brother and human mages conspired to lay mine might low, Devastation I did their ranks but in an eldritch seed they did sew.  This later age has proved mine brother most wise, the arts arcane hath boundaries broken on their rise.  Great contraptions I imagined and crafted most cunning, but nothing envisioned compares to product most stunning,” Esper said making a sweeping gesture from the sword to Brother.  “Once I sought primitives to rule by might and art, I awake to find mine powers out shined at this new start.”

Finding himself blinking at this unexpected turn, Brother of the Sword almost felt overwhelmed.  His enemy was already conceding the contest, declaring that his wizardry was shallow compared to the arts that had crafted him and his steel sibling.

“Well good, we can avoid this fight.  By surrendering you have a chance to learn of the world as it is now, you can see how the races have grown and made themselves better….”  Esper started shaking his head no, denying Brother of the Sword’s words though they made good sense.

“Royal blood have I, mine only recourse is to die.  A prince of faerie an anachronism should never be, becoming naught but a farmer or commoner is not what I see,” Esper said pulling his own longsword free.

Again words that did not form speech flowed from Esper’s lips and his armored form lifted off the forest’s loam.  He soared at a steady pace over the crease separating his hill from his tomb.  Flicking the tip of his blade, which was similar to Brother Sword in length and breadth, and barking a sound that sizzled, the wizard flung a fist sized ball of fire at Brother.  Dashing down then along the hidden cobbled walk, Brother of the Sword let the fiery orb splash and burn the leaves where he had been.  His next move was to zig zag uphill to hide behind a tree and get within Brother Sword’s anti magic beam’s range, stepping off the buried road was like stepping onto a waxed metal sheet.  Earth cascaded from beneath brother’s feet and ten struggling steps barely got him three step lengths up the hill.  Another pair of burning orbs darted his way.

The first spell was easy to step away from, but that put Brother right in the path of the other.  Instinctively he interposed his steel sibling.  A razor like edge drank the magic away.

“That was most interesting, but burning my energy should not be our thing, brother fell,” the sword advised, letting him know that blocking those spells ate away from their ability to fling the magic negating bolt.  Brother of the Sword sought shelter behind a larger tree growing next to the buried cobblestone.

“I thought you were trying to commit suicide?” he called up to the elven mage.  Even though Esper had sounded so dejected before, his laugh was hearty, merry even.

“Out of mine time thou may say, but only the worthy will be deft to slay.  A corpse ye shall be, be ye weak, then a bane for me, this world shall I seek.”  The tree shook under a light impact as a little heat wafted across Brother’s face.

Glancing around his cover, Brother of the Sword was disheartened to see Esper as he landed in front of his lair’s mouth.  The elf was still too far away.  He was also clawing at the empty air as though pulling blankets off a clothes line, the word/sounds Esper called out seemed to be pushing reality into another form.

“Brother most fell, an experiment I would like to make, but first vacate this area for our life’s sake.”  Before Brother Sword finished it’s thought, Brother was already running at an angle up the hill to another tree.  A blue white beam shot from the spell caster’s chest and the trunk of Brother’s former cover detonated from a sharp shock wave that seemed to emanate from inside the tree.  He himself was lifted up then dropped to plow up ten or twelve feet of loam and withered leaves… uphill.  Small slivers of white wood rained down for the next several moments, none of the sections bigger than his pinky.

Growling as he spat out dirt and leaf bits, Brother of the Sword looked up hill in time to see another globe of fire hurling toward him.  Knowing he looked inept, he still rolled behind the tree he had been aiming for.  Esper’s laugh mocked more than the chuckle of a bull elk leading a hunter far from the coveted herd.  “Not long ago energy you gave of yourself, this may be the trick to kill this elf, my brother most fell.  As we broke the giant most fey your gift could win us this day.  Increase my range this day most strange?” Brother Sword queried, prompting his return question.

“Will it work?”  Two more burning orbs splashed up old fallen leaves before Brother received what amounted to a mental shrug from the sword.

Risking another glance uphill, he found Esper angling around to get a shot at Brother.  The elven wizard’s steps seemed unhindered by loose soil.  Grumbling Brother of the Sword shifted his position behind cover then began to pull energy from the soles of his feet up, then through his arms into Brother Sword.  In a matter of seconds it felt as if the adrenaline in his body was replaced by the need for a nap.

“That should be enough, now Esper’s life we must snuff!” the sword crowed with excess zeal.  Aiming Brother Sword like a wand, he stepped out from the tree seeking his shot up at the spell slinger.  Somehow the mage had suspected something, he was sprinting for the monolith lined opening of his lair, he trailed an exhilarated laugh as he dashed as if they were playing a frivolous game.  Esper’s unexpected change from stalking to running caught Brother off guard, he was unable to target the wizard before the elf darted into the hillside cave.

Shaking his head at the idea of stepping out of cover to climb the hill, Brother of the Sword realized how exposed he would be all the way up.  Still, after a few moments of waiting to see if Esper would pop out to launch his fire orbs or some other spell, Brother stepped out and started a wary climb.  Having to set his foot at each step, pushing it down to compact the loam before adding his weight seemed to keep the earth from cascading out from under his progress too much.  He angled up to the next tree, then the next trying to keep Brother Sword leveled at the broken prison’s entrance.  “If we had the time to trance, your energy I’d return to sharpen your glance.  Certain was I in the planning calculate, now suffer you must in weakened state.”  Worry rode the sword’s words, and that concern helped buoy Brother’s spirits.

Pausing to rest behind the next tree, he sent Brother Sword a reply.

“What I regret most, is that we didn’t get to find out if we increased the range of your magic killing bolt.”  This sentiment sparked a rush of emotions from Brother Sword, the blade bled relief so strongly that Brother of the Sword had to pause until the emotional wash passed.

“Brother fell, it balances and buoys my spirit to hear you trust my plan’s merit.  I feared my belligerent harm to those you loved would our relationship break and into a closet be shoved.  Never again, never again!”  Feeling the muscles of his calves grow tense nearly to the point of cramping, Brother stepped out, pressed his foot into the leaves until his limb stopped sinking, placed his weight into the step, skidded downhill four or five inches as the soil crumbled a bit, then repeated the process.  A silvery something the size of a seagull sailed out of the pi symbol cave.

Banking and angling adroitly around trees and branches, a bird made of bone, copper cable, silver wire, and multi hued dark feathers banked around to orient on Brother Sword.  Crystalline eyes blazed with lightening blue light as the construct swooped down with natural claws braced by sorcerous cutting energy.  Swinging Brother Sword was too much for the loam under Brother’s feet, which threw their aim off trying to swat the bird away.  As a real bird would have, the artificial avian swerved away from the blade, its claws scraping against Brother Sword with a sound like steel on steel.  It swooped up in a loop and began to dive again, this time Brother Sword flared with it’s light blue light when the claws contacted it’s edge.  Immediately the sparking light died in the animated birds eyes and the contraption dropped and bounced limply on the slope below.  This proved to be a temporary stop for the bird, the light flickered and firmed in the skull bone of the bird/thing.

Climbing had been a pain for Brother of the Sword, but leaping down hill covered a lot of ground fast.  As Esper’s bird creation got its feet under itself, spreading its wings to take flight, Brother sailed down with his steel sibling held overhead.  As it leaped to gain the air, Brother Sword smashed it forcefully back into the ground, breaking a wing off and making feathers poof out in a drifting cloud.  Those electric bird eyes sputtered for a few moments then went dead to reveal mere quartz crystal where eyes should have been.  He felt his sword’s frustration as it tried to sup upon blood that was not present.  Looking back at the cave, Brother half expected another monstrosity to spill forth but the old tomb remained empty.  “I wonder what other hellish creation Esper will send for our excoriation?” Brother Sword asked.

Avoiding ground he had already churned up, Brother of the Sword angled back up the hill so that the tomb’s opening could be covered by his brother’s magic eating bolt.  Step slide, step slide.  After five minutes of trudging, the silence began to eat at Brother.  Here he was, facing an ancient and wicked wizardly foe, and his enemy was not doing anything that he could see, and that worried the hell out of Brother.  Near the cave mouth, the soil developed a cohesion that made his steps firm, which felt like a burden had been lifted from him, still he had to rest behind the last tree until his legs stopped trembling from the toil and fear.  There was no sound issuing from the gaping black aperture, no indication that anything at all was going on inside.  Brother could not shake the image of Esper just inside the cave mouth waiting to pop a spell off.

Nearby, a fallen tree branch about the same dimensions as Brother of the Sword’s torso lay where it had fallen.  All the desiccated limbs were denuded of even withered leaves it had sat for so long, newer leaf drift gave the broken limb the appearance of a partially buried rib cage.  Picking this piece of detritus up, Brother carefully sidled up to the tomb’s entrance.  Still, there was no noise from inside.  Hoping the wizard was as keyed up as he was, Brother tossed the branch across the opening.  At the same moment he stepped back and raised Brother Sword to a high ready position.  Nothing.  Not even the rustle of clothing from someone waiting with a hunters patience.  He shed his back pack and set it behind himself.

I hope I’m fast enough to not become a cooked meal, he told himself after deciding he should be the bait of his next ruse.  Still, bringing himself back to the entrance, Brother of the Sword feared to reveal himself to this foe, even for a heartbeat or two.  Brother dashed across the entrance to take cover behind the gray slab of carved stone that served as the cavern’s frame, thrusting his reluctance back for a moment.  No flaming sphere shot out, no discharge of magical lightening greeted Brother, not even a gasp or whisper of cloth issued from the aperture.  Brother did not want to risk himself again, he did not want to enter that dark aperture, though he was now certain Esper was not in the tunnel however long that was.  Fearing the worst, he poked his head around the corner, waiting for death to strike.

Brother pulled back immediately and waited for the fireworks.  Once again Brother of the Sword had nothing untoward happened.  Yet one more time he peered around the corner then withdrew… then again.  Still no dramatic arcane energies came out of the dark.  Slick with fear sweat and exertion, and his heart beating under both influences, Brother eased into the tunnel hugging the northern most wall.  After he made five steps he realized that his right shoulder was pressed into the stone... that was his weapon arm.  Without a second thought he darted over to the left side of the passage so he would not be vulnerable, only after he made the dash did he realize that he had silhouetted himself against the bright opening at his back.  When they were well and truly engulfed in the stygian dark Brother of the Sword realized that his siblings innate glow was giving them away more than his dashing back and forth had.

Before he could curse under his breath orange light flared inside the former burial chamber, illuminating the cave and the bit of tunnel Brother was in.  Chrome reflected off of a titanic set of snake bones that reared up with a sarcophagus in its metal and bone coils, saber toothed fangs gaped wide as a diamond shaped head oriented on Brother of the Sword.  Larger than mastiffs, two dog corpses, lined with steel and wire, paced out before the great snake; their eyes glared an electric red when they posed near the entrance.  Beyond all the animate beasts, Esper Dragstar raised his arms high, his exquisite elven face transported by some malign exultation.

“Mayhap mine despair was ill timed, past magic more than cast off rind.  Well cast modern spell thou be, through contest past and present will see.  Mine passion reign supreme this contest achieve, thine worthiness I shall not believe,” the wizard said far back in his chamber, tilting his head to glare malevolently at Brother.

Both dog things broke into a very dog like sprint, the snake bones rippled after, it’s coils unraveling in it’s wake.  Brother of the Sword felt his brother’s mental smirk as he raised the tip to point Esper’s way.  Certainty seemed to waft off of the elven wizard until a second before the bolt flew off of Brother Sword, in that fraction of a second he realized that Brother’s pose was not false bravado at all.  Faster than a human, even faster than most of his modern kin, the elven prince tried to have his inventions intervene.  The dogs leaped too late, and if the snake had been of flesh then it would have transposed it’s bulk, but the light blue bolt sailed between walking ribs and struck true.  Both the canine corpses dropped and lay still, looking like someone had tried to make toys from their cadavers.  In mid contortion the snake died, falling limply with its tail almost touching the stone coffin; it’s head was fifty feet from that tail tip. 

Staggering back even as his toys died, Esper looked poleaxed.  Stepping over and around the constructs, Brother of the Sword entered the burial chamber and found that most of the north and southern wall were crammed with wizardly lab equipment.  “How didst thou do this thing, filched mine magic with bluish eldritch sting?”  Esper asked, skirting to the north to keep the sarcophagus between them.  Brother shifted his direction, vaulting onto the open faced corpse container to cut the lost wizard off.  Looking like a harried beast, Esper staggered away until his armored back struck an overly loaded table.  He drew his sword when Brother step dropped off the edge of his sarcophagus.

“It is what we do.  My brother and I hunt wizards, and we drain them and their minions to fuel our next hunt.  I don’t know how exactly, and at this juncture… I just don’t care.”

Esper chose a high point forward guard, his left hand out ready to add strength to a swing or grab Brothers hands or limbs.  Brother held his sibling low, with the tip pointed back and both hands on the hilt.  Stricken but exotic elven eyes sought his gaze a moment before steel rang out in mortal contest, those ancient eyes seemed to accuse Brother of robbing the world of Esper’s ancient splendor.  Brother of the Sword beat the elf’s down stroke aside with vigor, but Esper only faked stepping into his blow.  He was flowing back out of blade range with Brother’s parry, then like a mongoose he darted back in with a belly opening thrust in the midst of a riposte from Brother that would not have hit.  Brother had to drop his weight and batter Esper’s sword with Brother Sword’s pommel.  Just out of reach, the elf circled around nodding at the skill it had taken to block his last attack.

When they closed again it was not a tentative probing; this time they actually clashed for several moments where Esper probed the weak edge of Brother’s blade, sliding his sword toward Brother Sword’s tip and pressing with his strong edge inches from the quillions of his elven longsword.  Brother nipped that experimentation in the bud when he flowed away from Esper’s strong edge and bashed Brother Sword’s pommel into the side of the elf’s helmet; he almost hooked the former prince behind the neck with his hilt guard a beat after that rattling impact.  This time they both backed off, Brother seeing his own wariness reflected in Esper Dragstar’s eyes.  When they flew at each other again, Esper tried a bind where he shifted his feet and stripped Brother Sword out of Brother’s hands.  The elf threw the living sword away then swung for Brother’s neck.

Esper’s beautiful elven eyes flew wide when his killing stroke was blocked by Brother sword after it magically reappeared in Brother’s eager hands.  Then the ancient elven prince had to fall back, parrying and dodging a rain of edged steel in a semi circle around the stone coffin.  Brother had to let his attack relent when he realized that Esper was good enough to create his own luck in surviving those strokes.  As a matter of fact, it seemed like they were evenly matched.  Also, Brother of the Sword knew his energy was giving out fast.  It would not take the elven outcast long to realize that his foe’s strength was fading fast.  Instinctively he knew that a sacrifice would have to be made in order to end this fight sooner rather than when it was too late for Brother.  Yet, when their blades crossed again and Brother made the defense of his left arm look slow, Esper broke away rather than exploit the seeming weakness.

Silvery gray eyes squinted in suspicion as they again circled each other, Brother of the Sword attempted a feint in order to reverse the direction of their stalking.  He did not want the ancient elf to be able to think and reason at this time, that would make it harder to trick the mage.  Even as Brother lunged forward to engage his opponent he realized that his move was slower than he wanted.  In two beats, a slash and thrust, Esper turned his assault on its head; Brother stopped being the aggressor and was forced into a defensive posture.  As if he had known that Brother of the Sword would tire, Esper drove in with a vengeance making a continuous assault meant to drain Brother further.  Being forced to fall back from a slender opponent did not feel right to Brother, which was leading him to desperation.  He tried to lean in on a strong blade to strong blade bind to use his weight to tire the elf, but Esper vanished, leaping back and then gliding back in with a heart thrust that he could not block with Brother Sword.

Brother of the Sword was able to avoid death, but not injury.  Swaying and dipping down, Esper’s blade slid through Brother’s chest and lungs, scraping on the inside of the simulacrum’s scapula.  Seeing Brother’s pain bulged eyes made the elven prince grin victoriously, but when he tried to withdraw his point to poke Brother again, Brother grabbed and held Esper’s metal shod wrist keeping the blade locked in the wound.  Feeling the steel moving around in his chest cavity made Brother scream, yet somehow he held on to the wizard and swung Brother Sword with violent strength.  His first blow crumpled shiny steel into the wizardly nobles clavicle.  As Esper screamed in both horror and pain, Brother drove his sibling’s pommel into the chrome helmet, crumpling it in, once, twice, three times.  As the elf’s scream ceased Brother was forced to howl in pain again, Esper, even in death did not relinquish the hilt of his blade as he fell.  The sword ripped out of Brother’s body at a different angle than it went in, making his internal injury many times worse.
They fell as one.


“Brother!  Brother!  Wake up!  They have me!  Wake up! Wake up!  You must see!”  Brother Sword’s ethereal voice called incessantly down a tunnel of welcoming black.  Brother of the Sword tried to shut the insistent call out.  He had blacked out to avoid the world of pain-  Frigid water doused his entire body, the cold yanking Brother into unwelcome awareness.  Naturally he spasmed when the water hit, and his chest and shoulder burst into fiery pain; his outcry echoed through the burial chamber, silencing a murmuring that had not registered until now.  A figure above Brother touched the tip of another longsword to Brother’s neck.  Ancient sadness filled the exotic eyes of another Star Elf whose silvery crown glowed and glittered like a starry night upon a smooth brow and winter white hair.

Two elven women wept over Espers corps, rocking back and forth so that their pale, face curtaining hair swept the dead elf’s features.  Swallowing hard, the royal elf holding Brother at sword point spoke, his unearthly beauty enhanced by the sorrow wracking his heart. 

“How did he die?”  Brother of the Sword let his head roll over to see Esper.  The wounds were obvious which meant that this Star Elf royal wanted a different tale.  Pain made his muscles seize for a fraction of a second, but after his teeth unclenched, Brother found himself answering.

“Long ago Esper the wizard tried to forge himself a kingdom among the humans, dwarves, and other non elven races.  He was buried alive by a coalition headed by his brother the Star Elf king.  Half a year ago, treasure hunters from a new settlement half a day away thought they could loot this tomb for its riches.  They awoke your kinsman instead.  Esper tried to renew his dreams of conquest starting with this new village, he made constructs of steel, magic, and bone to instill terror.  I came to avenge those whom he killed in the name of his own vanity.”  Brother did not like hearing the bbubbling rasp of his own voice, and the act of speaking made it feel like steel was still inside his chest.

The royal’s fine features remained locked in sorrow, yet he removed the threat of his sword from Brother’s neck.  A nod from the elf conveyed that the information Brother had shared was acceptable.

“What are you?”  This was an infinitely more problematic query, and Brother knew that this being above him would require as truthful of an answer as had been supplied about the wizard.

“I wasn’t gifted any memories before I woke up in a cave a few weeks ago.  I have been told that I am a simulacrum, whatever that means.  What I do know is that my sword was born with me as my brother, and together we are meant to stop wizards from their crazier ambitions.”

Curiosity replaced the Elf’s lovely grief for a few moments, as the royal being studied Brother laying in a puddle at his feet.  Slowly, the Star elf prince or king nodded as he digested the information given.  Loss returned to those silvery eyes as he caught and held Brother of the Sword’s gaze.

“I was a mere child when Uncle Esper and my father quarreled three thousand years back.  My father’s brother demanded a kingdom for himself, so shortly after my grandfather had been killed defending fairy.  At first, his designs rested on fairy itself, which all felt was mad at the time.  In talking Uncle Esper out of conquering the fey lands, my uncle thought that he had been granted the right to direct his attention to the rest of Taleth-Ne-Taren, the world we share.”  The elf king said before shaking his head sadly.  “His rampages shocked all people, especially we Star Elves who had just concluded a war with invading creatures from dark spaces outside our world.  Our country was being blamed for my uncle’s predations, so my father had to show the peoples of this world that we were sympathetic to their plight.  Weak from prior war, we still had to provide the bulk of the forces that hunted Esper down and buried him here.

“Still thousands died… thousands that we could ill afford to lose.  I do not know how my uncle survived the passage of millennia trapped in here.  He was meant to perish, this I gleaned after my father left this world.  You have done what I could not myself do… slay royal elven blood, yet you have done the world a service doing so.  By one statute of the law, you must be killed, by another you must be lauded.  I am at a loss as to your fate.”

Back in the dimmer recess of the cave, Brother could feel Brother Sword encouraging him to summon it through the Ether.  He knew he could not defend himself even with his sibling in hand.  His injuries were too severe.

“I think your uncle killed me already, his fierceness undimmed by time.  I don’t think you will have to make a decree regarding my fate,” he told the royal, gulping against the breath he was forced to use speaking.  As though dismissing Brother, the Elf turned about and began walking away.  He did make a gesture just before he reached Esper’s table laden with thaumaturgic nick nacks.  A slender figure in pale robes trotted over to Brother and knelt down.  Pale, exotic, and totally unearthly in beauty, the elven girl looked at him then down at his chest wound.

Though her eyes wore the same sadness as her king, she was so lovely that Brother of the Sword realized that he wanted to live.  He wanted to say words that would make this girl smile, he wanted her to know how he desired her.

“Eskinuil naeth panduere,” she said, pulling a delicate looking little silver bowl from a pocket.

“What?  I don’t know what you’re saying,” he said, trying to sit up against the pain flaring from both talking and moving.  The elf girl put a finger to his lips and pressed his head back, her bowl hand pressed his right shoulder in the universal indication that she wanted Brother to lay down and shut up.

“Nanae dee sayumsaye.”  After he complied she held the bowl up.  Brother could see elven script around the bowl’s rim and she seemed to be speaking to the silver container.  Her indecipherable words continued to spill forth like a rill springing from a mountainside.  He did not know where the little vial came from, but the little container was suddenly in her hand.

Unstopping the glass container, she spilled a liquid that looked like pearlescent moonlight into the silver bowl.  This she stirred with a wooden wand that also was just suddenly there, much like Brother Sword popping into his hands.  “This Enviliyae is the kings own, brought in case he suffered an accident outside our homeland.  It is not enough to heal you completely, but it should see that you survive this wound and recover unburdened by future complications.”  Her words in his language was almost a shock, but the cool of the glowing liquid dripping onto his wound made him tense from toe to crown.  It froze and burned at the same time, and Brother was unable to tell if it was soothing his pain or making his entire body throb.  His head began to swim as she dipped more out with her pointy wand.  His groan seemed to emanate from outside of himself, as his consciousness loosened til he felt in a fever dream.

In a moment of lucidity, as more ice and fire dribbled into his lung tissue, he saw the elf king’s face over him again.

“Never brag that you defeated one of my family, never speak of our meeting or your fate and fortune will shift towards the bleak.”  Brother of the Sword wanted to assure this elder being that he would comply, he wanted to let the girl know that his heart belonged too… too….  Damn she was hot.  Darkness pulled him away from important things, but more important still, Brother was escaping a world of pain.


*A note to those who have never fought with a sword.  When I reference strong edges and weak edges on a sword I was using sword fighting terminology.  If you think of your sword in terms of a fulcrum you will find that near where you hold the sword, the hilt, if one pushes on the blade near the hilt one can hold the sword from being pressed this way or that.  A strong edge.  Passed the halfway point of the sword though, pushing against the sword does pressure the wrist to bend.  This weak edge forces the fighter to “flow like water” in order to exert their will on the contest.  I hope my explanation helps even if but a little.

   

   

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  Warforged Artillerist CS (UA Warforged)
Posted by: frenzied67 - 02-16-2021, 11:03 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

Character's Name:  Sawbone
Class and Level:  Artificer (artillerist) 1
Background: Soldier
Player's Name: RLS
Race: Warforged, Envoy (original UA)
Alignment: Lawful Nuetral
Experience Points: 

Strength: 10 modifier:  0
Dexterity: 14 modifier:  +2.  +1race
Constitution: 16 modifier: +3.  +1race
Intelligence: 16 modifier: +3.  +1race
Wisdom: 10 modifier: 0
Charisma:modifier: -1

Saving Throws: Str- 0 |Dex- +2 |*Con- 2+3=+5 |*Int- 2+3=+5 |Wis- 0 |Cha- -1
Inspiration: 
Armor Class: 13 AC Chain Shirt +2 Dex.Mod. +2 Shield +1 racial= 18 AC
Initiative: +2
Speed: 30

Hit Dice: 1d8+3   
Hit Points:  11
Temporary Hit Points: 
Death Saves- Successes __ __ __/failures __ __ __ 

Personality Traits: 1) War has stolen friends of both flesh and steel from me, why should I give you time when you might die tomorrow?  2) I can create a device to deal with any of life’s situations, just give me a few moments.
Ideals: You do you, I do me; no need to fight about it.
Bonds: Any being who fights at my side deserves my eventual respect, and maybe a gadget that’ll help me test them.
Flaws: Distracted easily, sometimes it lives in it's head when it is supposed to be keeping an eye out.  It's quirk of muttering to itself and working mentally on projects is a sign that Sawbone needs to be returned to the here and now.

Acrobatics: (dex)  +2 
Animal Handling (wis) 0
Arcana (int)  2+3=+5 
Athletics (str) 2+0=+2 
Deception (cha)  -1 
History (int)  +3
Insight (wis)  0       
Intimidation (cha) 2-1=+1 
Investigation (int) 2+3=+5   
Medicine (wis)
Nature (int)  +3       
Perception (wis)  2+0=+2 
Performance (cha)  -1 
Persuasion (cha) -1 
Religion (int)  +3     
Sleight of Hand (dex)  +2 
Stealth (dex)  +2     
Survival (wis)  0 
Passive Perception:  13 

Proficiencies and Languages: +2 Proficiency Bonus.  (race) read, write, and speak Common.
Specialized Design- gain 1 skill Proficiency (Investigation (int)), 1 tool set Proficiency (Woodcarver's tools), and 1 language (Sedaran).  Integrated Tool= I have woodcarver’s tools integrated into my body, I double my proficiency bonus for any ability checks I use with these tools.
(class) Proficient with light armor, medium armor, and shield.  Proficient with simple weapons.  Proficient with thieves tools, tinker’s tools, and armorer’s tools.  Saving Throw Proficiencies= Constitution and Intelligence.  2Skills= Arcana, Perception.  (background) Skills- Athletics, and Intimidation.  Tool Proficiency Healer’s kit ???(instead of game set proficiency) Proficiency with land vehicle (wagon). 

Attacks and Spell casting: 
Weapon-  Attack bonus- Damage, damage type.

Spear- +2- 1d6, Piercing; versatile(1d8), Natatorial, Thrown (20/60)

Copper Pieces: 9
Silver Pieces: 3
Electrum Pieces:
Gold Pieces: 1
Platinum Pieces:
Gems and Jewels:

Equipment:
Item-  Price-  Weight-  Properties-  ||  Item- Price-  Weight-  Properties-

Arcanist Pack- 35gp- 8#- backpack 5#, 5candles 0#, tinderbox 1#, ^scroll case w/arcane diagrams 1#, ^wand 1#, ^and arcana lore book 5#.- |
Shield- 10gp- 6#- +2AC ||
Spear- 1gp- 3#- || Thieves’ Tools- 25gp- 1#- ||
Chain Shirt- 50gp- 20#- ||  ^Smith’s Tools- 20gp- 8#- ||
Smock/Apron- 1gp- 4#- || Chalk- 1cp- _ - ||
Candle Lantern- 2gp- 1#- || 50’ string- 1sp- 1#- ||
Mule- 8gp- self propelled cargo hauler (Items with ^ symbol are on mule- || ^Bit and Bridle- 2gp- 0.5#- ||
^Saddle Bags- 4gp- 8#- || Bottle of Ink- 10gp- - - ||
Parchment x5- 5sp- - - ||

Total cost_150gp__.  Total Weight Carried_42#_.  Carrying Capacity_150#_.  Push/drag_300#_.

Features and Traits: (race) ASI +1constitution.  Warforged Resilience- I have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and I have resistance to poison damage* I am immune to disease* I do not need to eat, drink, or breath* I don’t need to sleep and don’t suffer the effects of exhaustion due to lack of rest, and magic can’t put me to sleep.
Sentry’s Rest- When I take a long rest, I must spend at least six hours in an inactive motionless state, rather than sleeping.  In this state, I appear inert, but I am not rendered unconscious, and I can see and hear as normal.
Integrated Protection- (House Rule) Integrated Armor follows Ebberon Rising From the Ashes rules for integrated armor instead of UA rules (all other racial features follow UA guidelines)  +1 to AC.  Armor takes an hour to integrate and I have to be proficient with that armor, doffing that armor also takes an hour.
Subrace= Envoy- ASI= two ability scores of my choice each increase by +1 (Int and Dex)
(Class) HD= 1d8 + con.mod.  Magical Tinkering- (pg 12 TCE) make small items that can((1) snow globe) shed 5’+5’ light*((2) velvet ring box) emits a 6 second long recorded message that can be heard 10’ away* continuously emits a sound*((3) a small hand mirror that has Cora's face) a static visual effect; can indefinitely imbue a number of items equal to my intelligence modifier (3).  Spell casting- Tools Required= Use woodcarver’s tools as spell focus. Cantrips= 2 cantrips from artificer spell list.  Prep and casting of spells= can memorize a number of spells equal to Int. mod. (+3) plus ½ of my artificer level (minimum of 1, round down) (1) (3+1=4 spells.)  Can renew or change spell list after a long rest.  Spell Casting Ability= Intelligence is artificer spell ability.  Spells save DC= 8+ Proficiency bonus (+2) +Int.mod. (+3) 8+2+3=13.  Spell Attack Modifier= Proficiency bonus (+2) + Int.mod. (+3) 2+3=+5 to hit.  Ritual Casting= If I have a spell with the ritual tag memorized, I can cast that as a ritual spell without expending a spell slot (additional 10 minute casting time).
Warforged Quirk= Always muttering to itself and taking notes, seems confused or unhinged while talking about “her”.
(background)- Soldier- specialty = Healer/support staff (Sawbone was designated a special combat medic when they were not sure how to heal Warforged troops.).  Feature is Military rank- Master Sergeant! 

Description: A shallow brow ridge makes it look especially artificial, the glowing blue eyes look large and alien.  Sawbone has a slender build for a Warforged, but is not skinny.  It’s mass is brick red in tone, but the joints and highlights, even the sigils and magic symbols it sports, are bronze in color; somehow Sawbone’s color coordination looks off, the red and bronze clash.  Long creepy fingers seem to always be in motion, with spidery movements.  It may clean itself before resting, but within a few minutes of rising, it is tinkering and getting greasy and dirty.
Age: 5.5 (this model was an early design constructed while the siege was ongoing)
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 280#
Eye Color: Electric Blue
Skin: Red with bronze highlights.
Hair color: No hair
Looks: Sawbone’s oval face lacks so much definition that it seems alien to most living creatures.  It’s eyes dim or brighten to express emotions, but other than opening or closing it’s mouth, Sawbone cannot offer expressive cues as to it’s state of mind.

Infusions Known- 0
Infused items- 0
Spell Casting Class(es): Artificer (artillerist)
Spell Save DC: 8+2+3=13
Spell Attack Bonus:  2+3=+5
Spell Slots- 1st=2
Spell-  pg.- Concentration or ritual ||  Spell- pg.-concentration or ritual ||
(0) Fire Bolt- pg222 PHB- - ||(0) shocking Grasp- pg253 PHB- - ||
(1) Tasha’s Caustic Brew- pg115 TCE- C- ||
(1)Expeditious Retreat- pg218PHB- C- || (1) Detect Magic- pg212PHB- C,R-
(1)Alarm- pg192 PHB- R- ||

   

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  Warforged Challenge Accepted.
Posted by: frenzied67 - 02-16-2021, 10:27 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

2/12/2021
Irik was uncertain whether to include the Warforged race into Erath, he asked for a compelling backstory.  I have not asked him if he is considering the new Artificer classes in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, but this seemed to be a great place to meet his challenge for "compelling backstory".  Wink

Backstory of the Warforged Artificer (Artillerist)
Sawbone


The Siege of Wizard’s Peak
Two men in robes carted a third figure on a stretcher, two women in sigil embroidered robes fluttered one before and one behind the conveyance.  All but the bloodied wizened man on the stretcher flinched when a boom echoed through all the halls of Wizard’s Peak; the injured man only moaned while he tried to hold his own innards in; a lot of blood stained his clothes and the stretcher.  Another explosion from the fighting outside reverberated through the mountain.

“We must hurry!” the woman in the lead intoned, her voice calm despite her eyes darting for signs of danger.  This wizardess even sprinted a few steps ahead to open the door for the stretcher bearers and their stricken charge.  Limbs of metal, torsos of steel, and craniums that shone with metallic resolve dangled off of racks or were stacked in bins in this room.


Chains dangled from the ceiling of this chamber, hovering over a series of four tables that sat side by side in pairs.  One table had a completed figure of red and bronze metal laying upon it, it’s lifeless blank face staring at the ceiling with quartz eyes.  Sweating under their hoods, the two men shuffled up to the empty bed next to this lifeless robotic figure.  With a graceful gesture and muttered words, the woman who had trailed behind the pack made the injured wizard float up out of the stretcher to be laid gently down on the empty bed.  As tender as the motion had been, the man’s pain was such that he moaned again; suffering quavered in his once robust voice.
Both women came to the bedside, the woman who had followed grabbed the gutted wizard’s shoulder.
“You are dying, Tremain, your death would be a loss to Wizard’s Peak.”  Just like her twin sister, this woman’s words were calm and reasonable; tears flowed from her eyes as though defying her serene tone.  “We can not let you fade entirely.  I doubt if you can hear me, but I am going to put your soul into this Warforged body.  You will forget who you were, but at least you will still live... and still serve.”  All four able wizards raised their arms, spells were sung as though by a mad chorus.

3 months later, the siege continues
“Welcome!  Welcome, students, gather around!” the medic instructor called out.  Five freshly minted Warforged individuals milled uncertainly for a moment, then they shuffled over to form a line like the drill instructor's liked.  Unlike the Warforged troopers marching by their little tableau, these constructed life forms were slender; even their anodized red bodies were different from the regular soldiers, less armored and bulky, they all had a flying red raven painted on each shoulder with numerical designations stenciled on beneath.  The fighters had red swords on their shoulders, and more often they had their chosen names inscribed where the numbers used to be.  Between the students and their cheerful Elven instructor was a table sporting leather aprons from which smith’s tools were suspended.  Slender Elven hands indicated the forging equipment, urging the Warforged students to assume possession of the tools.

One student who had been constructed with a vestigial nose hesitated in picking up it’s laden apron.

“I thought we were supposed to be trained as field medics, the application of basic first aid, then the extraction of the patients from the fighting?”  The Elven male’s smile deepened at the question, he hid his hands inside the voluminous sleeves of his robes.  The Warforged who had the designation Envoy 1228 painted under the outspread wings of the red raven held the tools uncertainly, the blue glow of it’s eyes darkened a little; that was how a Warforged squinted in suspicion.

“We are training you to apply aid to your own kind,” the Elf stated proudly, as if that idea had sprung from his superior head.

Gesturing at the aprons again, their instructor urged them to don the smith’s equipment; his hand disappeared back up the sleeves again as though that pose were natural.  “You are a new life form who is constructed by hand before the spark of life is administered.  The powers that be here in Wizard’s Peak believe you should be in charge of learning how to care for the wounds your kind will receive.  After all no one knows how you heal yet, if you Warforged can be healed.”  Envoy 722, a Warforged who had flared flanges where a meat creature usually had ears, raised it’s hand.

“Do they think we are like golems then, who need to be hauled into a body shop when repairs are required?”

That question stole away with the instructor’s smile.  As the Elf struggled with uncertainty, possibly for the first time this century, Envoy 1228 tried to fit a three pound hammer between it’s armor plating.  It showed the instructor the witchroot musculature under it’s armor then it demonstrated that many of the tools would not fit.

“I could not weld this witchroot under structure or hammer it out if it were cut, and placing a series of rivets to keep myself from bleeding to death would actually kill off portions of my organic body… any of our bodies,” it stated gesturing to it’s fellow Warforged.

For almost a minute, the elf glanced at each Warforged while licking his lips, then all of a sudden the smile resurfaced; the confidence coming back brighter than before.

“I bet you’re going to have an interesting name when you get around to choosing one.  See, we’re already learning something.  Can any of you tell me what equipment you think you’ll need out there?”  Feeling as if it had struck a blow for Warforged everywhere, Envoy 1228 waited for it’s companions to start issuing suggestions and ideas.  Instead they milled around looking at each other, as lost as the Elf had been moments before.

Shaking it’s head in disbelief at both it’s fellow’s lack of imagination and the Elf’s superior patience, Envoy 1228 glanced outside of their little training area.  Soldiers of both the flesh and metal sort hustled from here to there, Wizards of all abilities slowly made their way as individuals or pairs.  Trotting along with some units of fleshly soldiers were some priests or priestess’s of Melwen, more rarely representatives of Andrin were attached to units.  Holding up it’s hand as it saw a squad with a Melwenite trotting their way, Envoy 1228 plucked the shears out of it's apron and broke from the training group.  Walking after Envoy 1228 with curiosity manifested in the lights of their eyes and their supposed instructor trailing, the mass of Warforged followed.

The young priestess’s eyes grew enormous when she realized that Envoy 1228 was waving it’s arms for her attention.  Like a pedestrian fearing a jay walking charge, the girl stopped and shuffled nervously keeping a safe distance back.

“Pardon me, we are conducting experiments over here.  I was wondering if you could spare a minor healing spell to help us out,” it asked the acolyte.  It was as if it had given the young woman magic words, her timidity was smoothed away at once.

“Is someone hurt?”  the Melwenite’s eyes automatically darted to the Elven instructor, a fact that Envoy 1228 did not appreciate.

“Not yet,” it answered.

Even it’s fellow Warforged gasped when Envoy 1228 stabbed itself in the upper thigh with the sheers it had.  It had deliberately missed the metal plating guarding the rest of it’s leg and it had not stabbed too deep.  The girl cringed back placing both hands over her mouth as a horrified look crossed her mien.  “There seems to be a question as to how we Warforged heal.  My companion of flesh thinks we should be treated as a golem would for our medical care.  I would like your help in testing my counter theory out.  Could I impose upon you a very minor healing spell for my leg?  If I am right then we should see my witchwood tissue knit from your divine ministrations.”  Hesitatingly the girl reached out her hands.

Studying Envoy 1228’s features did not inspire the priestess’s confidence, it could not feed her the expressions another flesh being could.  The invocation for the goddess’s aid produced a light in the girl’s hand, and even Envoy 1228 could feel the heat, like bottled sunlight, soak into it’s leg.  Even the instructor gasped as they all watched the light draw the root like material of Envoy 1228’s thigh together and sealed the hole closed.  Only a smear of fluid remained behind, smelling faintly of ammonia and amniotic fluid.  The Elven instructor nodded at Envoy 1228 when their orbs met in a glance, it had impressed the male with it’s display.  “Thank you young lady, now we have a better idea of how to treat our Warforged injured.”  She gave the lot of them a quizzical look before she hasted off to find her squad of soldiers.

Drawing itself up Envoy 1228 turned upon it’s peers and the Elf.  It deliberately began untying the smith’s apron and tool set from around it’s waist.  “I remember the diagrams I was shown right after I became aware of myself.  Our Warforged circulatory system is just as complex as the one you were born with.  Our healing procedures should be pretty close to yours, even if our metal exoskeletons are harmed they would heal given time.  We Warforged change our protective surface almost every night, which means we should be able to seal up rents and gashes in our metallic exterior in time.”  Grinning widely at Envoy 1228, the Elf raised an eye.

“Unlike a regular sawbones, you figured that out real quick.  Put that apron back on, Envoy 1228 you will still be required to take twenty seven hours of smith crafting, as I am required to teach you those twenty seven hour over the next five days….”

After medic training, six months since soul transfer
As he did every twelve point eight seconds, the half Orc medic it was training under brushed his mane of ropy hair back; up ahead the twin wizardess’s opened the salley port door, soldiers began to hustle through the cracked aperture.  Envoy 1228 could imagine the troops spreading out over the mountain’s slope as they sought their positions.

“I don’t know who you are, tin man, but Cora and Cory asked for you personal like,” the half Orc grunted.  How he could grunt while whispering was beyond how a normal flesh creature operated, or so Envoy 1228 thought.  It shrugged when the creature looked back at it, as the tusked male swept his unruly black hair back again.  How could he give an answer to something that mystified him as much as it did his training officer, he did not know the mage girls.

From the rattle that started up, Envoy 1228 realized that the juggernaut Warforged were next in marching out onto the mountain; so far all they were hearing was the whispered conversations of those waiting and the rattle of their own equipment on this spoiling raid.  The Scarred Hand had an annoying habit of ambushing sorties as they happened, maybe this time Wizard’s Peak might be able to strike a blow that would help unravel their enemy’s grip.  “Come on, Tin Man, start moving forward,” it's half Orc superior commanded shuffling three steps up before he had to stop due to traffic; it swept its hair back yet again.

“The name is not ‘Tin Man’,” it stated matter of fact, slightly annoyed by the poor manners of it’s companion.  More medics moved up to fill the void they had left behind, they moved ahead five more steps.  “There is very little tin used in my composition, Corporal.”

Grinning over his shoulder, the half Orc grunted at Envoy 1228.

“I know you junk heaps like to give yourselves ironical names based off of the shit you go through.  I was just thinking that ‘Tin Man’ was one hell of an ironic name.”  As though his bangs were one massive lock, the half Orc’s hair flopped over his eyes on cue.  Annoyed, Envoy 1228 let the light of it’s eyes dim to dangerous levels, what it would give to be able to sneer at it’s tormentor.

“One point of a Warforged’s naming exercise is ignoring idiots who want to bestow what they consider irony on it.  That’s your irony, not mine.”  One thing about being Warforged, Envoy 1228 was discovering how much inflection it could put into it’s voice.  The bored exasperation it had inset into it’s words were enough of an insult that the half Orc started to chuckle appreciatively.

Cool flowing air began to blow across Envoy 1228’s exposed witchwood parts, unlike it’s armor, the root like structure had sensation.  There were less stoppages in their advance the closer they got to the door, the regular troopers were dispersing at an increasing pace.  That is when Envoy 1228 realized what it was doing.  It was just about to step out into a brewing battle without weapons.  It was going to have others expect it to rush into each little fray to pull out those who were too damaged to fight.  Again, it thought of the fact that it was doing this without being armed, and it was greatly disquieted.

Turning back one last time, the half Orc corporal grinned at it.  There was a fever in the creatures eyes that looked like glee, this half Orc male actually seemed eager for the chaos that was about to ensue.

“Get ready, Private junk heap, we’re next!”  With that Envoy 1228’s boss swept his hair back and surged up and out of the fake stump salley port the two wizard women were holding open.  Both women’s eyes locked onto Envoy 1228 as it clambered out after the other medic, one of them even started to reach out for it as it started to move to the west.

“No, Cora, he is gone.  This is not really Tremain anymore,” the one wizardess who had not reached for it claimed mysteriously.

Both women watched him go as if they were sending a child of theirs off to the army.  The first flash and boom started before the half Orc and it moved up to the tree line a mixed company was currently infiltrating.  More spells started to detonate from the left and right, even from down hill of their position.  Once again the Scarred Hand had anticipated the great spell caster’s of Wizard’s Peak.  The sisters separated, magic flowing off their staves as they moved to support their troops.  Someone was already crying for a medic as they reached the tree line, from a position slightly downhill of where the half Orc and Envoy 1228 were.

The half Orc with his slightly superior rank gestured Envoy 1228 on.

“That’s our cue, rattletrap!”  After that insulting name it let it’s eyes flash and dim in agitation.

“Right, pig face”  A black arrow zipped between the two of them, and the half Orc began to laugh almost merrily, whether it was the insult or the battle erupting all around them that caused this jovial eruption was not known to Envoy 1228.  A Warforged behemoth and a tall Human man protected a fallen half Elven comrade with interlocked shields, both of them gestured the two medics too them even as a flurry of crossbow bolts punched and lodged into the metal faced shields.

Both It and the half Orc knee slid in the dirt as they came up on their patient.  With happy gestures, the corporal gestured at Envoy 1228 to get to it.

“Let’s see what ya got, spitfire.”  At least this time it could not find an insult in the half Orc’s nick name.  “Where’s your healer’s kit?”  Rib bones showed themselves between the welling blood of a deep gash in the half Elf’s torso.  Envoy 1228 continued to visually evaluate the stricken male as a compartment opened up in it’s thigh, many of the gauze pads and coagulant unguents of a healer’s kit were revealed.  Other tools of this trade were secreted in other hidden places within it’s body.  Just as it started to splash healing powders that stopped bleeding into the wound, another soldier fell twenty feet away, skewered by an overlong arrow.

Seeing that Envoy 1228 was applying the bandages correctly, it’s superior grunted.  “Looks like you got this, get this soldier prepped for a stretcher, I’m going to see what’s up with dumb fuck over there.”  Even though the half Orc was supposed to remain with Envoy 1228 and evaluate it’s work, the corporal ran over and began to see too the skewered man.

“I didn’t know we had golem doctors in this army,” the human commented to it’s Warforged companion.  The big juggernaut with the name ‘Blunder’ chiseled into it’s shoulder glanced at Envoy 1228, the light in it’s eyes expressing embarrassment.

Showing calm lights in it’s eyes, Envoy 1228 displayed to it’s fellow that it was not scandalized; Blunder let it speak for itself.

“Not all of us Warforged are juggernaut specified creatures.  Some of us, like you fleshies, are designed to do other things.”

“Oh shit!” the human exclaimed with astonished orbs wide, almost breaking the overlap in their personal wall of shields from his startlement.  “Sorry doc, I never expected a Warforged sawbones to be working for us.”  For an apology, that was not half bad, the human man actually looked contrite.

Another flurry of bolts embedded their heads into the two soldier’s shields or wizzed over them.  Blunder brushed itself off as though that attack had dirtied it.

“What I want to know is what Wizard’s Peak is doing for us Warforged, I notice they have you patching up the fleshies, but who is going to fix us?” Blunder asked.  Pulling the folding stretcher of it’s back, Envoy 1228 looked at its bigger batch mate.

“We figured out that we heal pretty much like our flesh friends, Blunder.  Other than hammering twisted armor back into place, we Warforged can be sewn up, bandaged up, and medicated just like everyone else.  Healing magic works for Warforged just as effectively as it does other creatures, and if we can’t find a priest, time will also allow us to recover.”

Glancing at each other, the human male dipped his head at Envoy 1228 in appreciation for the information.

“Sorry I thought our bosses weren’t looking out for us, sawbones.  If I live through this shit mission, then I’m going to tell the others.  I wasn’t feeling too good about this war until you told me that, and I know this news is going to put some heart into some very dejected metal lads.”  Blunder also inclined it’s head at Envoy 1228, the light of it’s red eyes blazing forth with a beauteous joy.  The half Orc corporal skidded under a curtain of missiles to stop at the foot of the stretcher.

His eyes probed the injured half Elf’s bandages before he turned his attention to Envoy 1228.

“Dude was croaked before I got to him.  You did a good job, but you’re taking the tail end of the stretcher.  You’re shielding my ass as we get this guy out of here.”  The light of anger in Envoy 1228’s eyes just was not a sufficient enough expression to impinge upon the tusked faced meat monkey’s minor brain.  “On three.  One.  Two.  Three.” In unison they heaved the injured Elf breed onto the stretcher, then the half Orc conducted another three count.

As the two of them churned back through the trees to the false stump salley port, an arrow bounced off the Warforged medic.

“They should design a back plate for us medics, or allow us to sling a shield across out tail side” Envoy 1228 complained, feeling a point in it’s armor digging into the witchwood under its shoulder plating.  It had a ding for sure.  Someone had taken the time to design this raid well.  Envoy 1228 and it's training officer were met by stretcher bearers who relieved them of their injured half Elf at the false stump.  After they communicated the soldier’s injuries, they were given another folded stretcher and sent back to aid more soldiers.  The two of them managed to treat over a dozen injured fighters before the twins sounded the retreat, that was four more than any other medic team on the mountain that day.

That night, Envoy 1228 was pulled from the book it was writing by a small host of soldiers and medics.  As the beings of flesh danced and celebrated around bonfires for the little victory they had won that day, Envoy 1228’s Warforged brethren hauled it aside for a special celebration of their own.  They gave it the “Rite of Turpentine”.  Burly juggernaut Warforged soldiers used rags soaked in the paint stripper to rub the paint off Envoy 1228’s armored shoulders as a host of metallic voices chanted “Take a name, take a name, take a name…”.  It cried out a word/name that suddenly felt more than significant than at any other time in it’s short life.  One by one, Warforged Juggernauts, Envoys, and Skirmishers stepped up to rest their heads brow to brow with it’s in a moment of solidarity, even as a dented Skirmisher named Ink chiseled the name “Sawbone” into it’s shoulder.

The next day
Drunken revelers began to twitch and make those restless motions and noises waking beings tended to make as they struggled to remain asleep.  From their positions of resting watchfulness, the eyes of Warforged began to blaze alight.  Those illuminated orbs ran through a rainbow of electric colors depending on the individual Warforged.  It was the Juggernaut models and Skirmishers who shed their motionless states first, they waded into the sleeping men and women flesh creatures waking them as gently as they could one by one; the medics had different demands placed on them, flesh and metallic medics had dispensations from having to hurry up and wait in the morning.

Even though it’s witchwood under frame did not require stretching, Sawbone still rolled it’s shoulders this way and that.  Over the course of the last six hours in stasis it’s living armor had popped out the arrow ding it had suffered the day before.  That slight dent was a minor injury, but Sawbone saw watching itself and it’s fellow Warforged injuries as part of it’s job.  Their species had not existed a year ago, someone had to begin cataloging their injuries and the remedies that were required.  Maybe it should allocate one of the many mini pockets built into itself to hold tools as a place to store a notepad and writing instrument, books would have to be written.  That made Sawbone wonder for a moment if Wizard’s Peak would ever let it’s people have the secrets of their creation.  Why should the flesh beings be in charge of generating the next Warforged generations?  Would they even craft further generations after this war?

That thought process vanished like clouds over a desert sky when it saw one of the Wizard twins walking towards it from across the parade ground.  Why did Sawbone feel a sudden surge of pride for the woman well up from deep inside upon seeing her?  Ascertaining that the spell caster was indeed intent on it alone, Sawbone took a few steps forward then assumed an ‘at ease’ military stance, head held high.  Shorter than it was, the woman swept up to Sawbone and peered up into it’s glowing blue sensory organs.  Here was one of the noteworthy leaders of Wizard’s Peak and she was interested in it.  Now which one was she, Cora or Cory?  For several moments she studied Sawbone’s features before a look of uncertainty flitted just under her careful mask of control.

She was a stranger too him but that show of confidence lost, ephemeral though it seemed, made a pit open in it’s guts.

“It is our inexpressive features I believe,” Sawbone opened up.  The woman blinked and frowned.

“Excuse me?” she asked with knitted brows.

“You people of flesh made our form similar to yours, but our faces cannot express emotion.  That omission is a great percentage of why you flesh beings dislike being around us.”  It gestured to some of the drunkards still laying out in this underground courtyard.  “These fine soldiers are exceptions to that rule.  Facing death together allows them to form those bonds that all living beings crave, no matter what form their comrade takes.”

Instead of illuminating the woman so she could prepare for the difference it's lack of facial facility created, the woman seemed even more confounded.

“Tremain?  Is that you?”  Her question threw it off for a moment, a moment of familiarity came and passed like a flitting revenant repeating its last moments of life.

“No, I am sorry but I do not know any crafted being by that name.”  Shaking herself like a wet dog the woman stepped back, then she glided up uncomfortably close again, rising up on her tip toes to peer into it’s eyes.

Sawbone could feel her breath creating condensation on it’s neck plates.

“I heard you took a name last night.  You call that the Rite of Turpentine, right?” The woman reached up and began to trace it's mouth ridges with her forefinger, as though it were a show model in some showroom.  Resenting her over familiarity, Sawbone stepped back before it answered her.

“I did, my batch mates considered my deeds in the skirmish worthy of recognition.  I took the name Sawbone.”

Nonplussed by it’s sudden retreat, the wizardess dropped back to the soles of her feet and studied Sawbone from that distance.  She was definitely searching for something from it, but Sawbone had no clue what she was after.

“Amazing, you sound like him, and you share many of the same mannerisms….”  The woman sounded like she was talking to herself, an observation that was confirmed by the way she just trailed off.  “You sound very educated for a Warforged, not many of your people have realized that our communication problems stem from our need for expression cues.  You talk just like someone I know- uh knew.”  Her eyes narrowed as she again drank in it's features.  This woman was definitely seeking something.

As suspicions began to trigger Sawbone’s imagination, seeing the worst in this stranger, it wanted to break off this conversation.  She was it's superior in rank in every respect of that word though.

“Ma’am, which one are you?  Are you Cory or-”  She did not let it finish.  Again the looks she gave it after she said her name made Sawbone realize she was seeking some reaction.

“Cora.”  After a moment of not getting what she secretly wanted from it, she continued on.  “Dammit, that was stated just like him, but you really aren’t him anymore.”

Now it was Sawbone’s turn to feel it’s head reel in confusion.

“Excuse me?”  Instead of answering right off, Cora glanced around to make sure no one was close.  She stepped up close again to make sure it could understand her whisper.

“Do you know how you Warforged are made?”  Everyone had their theories, the most obvious one was what most people of metal or flesh tended to gravitate toward.

“They say it is a secret, but most of us think that there is a hidden room here in the mountain where we are assembled.  After we are put together magic is infused into us so that we become sentient beings.”  It shrugged to show that even this answer felt incomplete to it.

Cora was shaking her head even before it's shoulders settled from that shrug.  She glanced around again and again found no one kibitzing on their talk.

“We put your bodies together, true, but magic can not create life.  Magic only creates a semblance of life.  Do you want to know how we do it?”  Despite itself, Sawbone found itself nodding after wondering if this were a trap.  Even as it made the gesture it noticed this woman’s twin sweep out onto the parade ground from the same distant side tunnel.  Just as Cora had done, Cory made a bee line straight toward it.  It’s glance over Cora’s shoulder alerted the spell caster that something was happening.  She glanced back and cursed as though she were less than pleased by her sister’s approach.

With desperation flaring in her human eyes, Cora turned back to Sawbone.  “We infuse the souls of the willing into your Warforged bodies.  You forget who you are- were, but….  Shit.  Please don’t speak of this with anyone, we will have to talk later.”  scrapping her feet back so that they were no longer as close, Cora assumed her boss mask.  What she said next was produced in a stage voice, her eyes begged Sawbone to play along.  “Congratulations on making yourself noteworthy too your peers, Sawbone.  I hear the Rite of Turpentine is a noteworthy occasion for you Warforged.”  For a moment Sawbone wondered what it should do with this supposedly taboo information Cora obviously wanted to hide.

Cory who was just now taking up a stance next to her sister would probably be forced to turn Cora in if it blurted the wizardess’s secret out.  But that might create problems for Sawbone.  Who knew how deeply this secret knowledge ran?  Would the leaders of Wizard’s Peak seek to silence Sawbone permanently if they knew it knew this secret?  Reading it’s right Shoulder, Cory made an impressed face.

“Social rituals denoting some right of passage is one sign that beings are sentient.  Your name choosing is a moment of pride for you and your people right?”

Cora was still making an appeal to Sawbone with her eyes, she had missed the decrease in it's eye’s brightness that was supposed to show her it had chosen to remain quiet.

“Any excuse to party, ma’am.”  Cory was surprised into delighted laughter, like a woman taking delight in the tricks of a dog, while Cora continued to seek expression cues from it’s static face.

“Yes, any excuse to party is a good excuse to make,” the twin said, just before storm clouds settled on her features.  Cory turned on Cora, displeasure marring once friendly features.  “I hope you have satisfied your curiosity, sister.  This Warforged called Sawbone is not the reincarnation of your dead lover.”  A weight like certain doom settled over the whole of the courtyard.  Waking party goers were hastening out of the underground parade ground as fast as their hang over’s would let them.

Collaboration and love affairs of the mind
After a few weeks of trying, Cora still could not spark ‘past life’ memories from Sawbone.  Cory worked in tandem on her sister’s memory project and with Sawbon in compiling data on Warforged health care.  Although it never remembered life as Tremain, a human wizard of noteworthy power, the Warforged medic did discover that it found comfort in the company of both women.  The medic confessed to noticing several episodes where a mysterious pride was felt when seeing Cora from afar.  A friendship with both women began, and although Cora did not find her former lover, she admitted that she too felt an emotional calm in Sawbone’s company.  All three of them had great intellects, and their curiosity and interests often aligned so that collaborating on each other’s projects became an every day occurrence.

11 months 3 days since creation
Wellborne Huxley accepted Sawbone’s drawing and gave it a glance, which prompted a double take as the wizard’s attention returned to the page one more time after that first cursory glance.  Instead of dismissing the medic’s idea right off, as the man had many times before, he gave the rendition a closer perusal.  Unfortunately for the Warforged, Wellborne drew away from the pictorial production with furrowed brows and a puzzled look.

“Is this really your idea of what future medic’s should look like?” the wizard asked.  Drawing itself up to answer the man, the spell caster suddenly continued showing that the former question had not been rhetorical, Sawbone had to wait out the diatribe.  “What is with all this armor… and are those wands firing various evocation spells?”

Just like a dejected flesh creature, a Warforged could feel a sinking sensation where it’s stomach would have been.

“Sir, I’ve been doing this for three quarters of a year.  Each and every battle we get in, I feel vulnerable because we go out unarmed.  People all around us medics are striving to kill each other, and we get picked off because we have no means of fighting back, and no one covers us so that-”  The dapper wizard flicked the drawing with his offhand fingertips, making the paper crack out loud.

“Fight back?  Medics are not supposed to fight back, Sawbone!  How many times do I have to tell you, leave the fighting to those trained to do so!  Why in the nine hells should we expend resources to turn you into spell blasters?  You would spend all your time getting into brawls rather than taking care of our injured!”

Jabbing the piece of paper back at the medic, Wellborne seemed eager to dismiss the entire subject.  Sawbone was not ready to concede this fight though.

“Sir, we can’t treat the wounded when we ourselves are dead.  Perhaps we could dedicate certain units to grant us medics covering fire as we sprint out into the battles?  Were you aware, sir, that medic casualties are approaching fifty percent of each unit dedicated to a fight?”  Pain flashed through the wizard’s eyes, but the stern cast of his face did not crack.

“Casualties are up with each and every type of unit we field, Sawbone.  Our combat units are suffering higher death rates than you medics are lamenting.  We are cut off from all of Erath right now, we have no allies and we have no new resources coming to us, except those that trickle to us through the Well.”

Although the wizard’s words had been practically hissed at Sawbone, it knew there was no real animosity in the human male towards it, but there was a heap of frustration in both of them.  Holding it’s drawing with all the carefully written notes, Sawbone grasped at the only idea it had.

“Sir, every since I was made a corporal I’ve been tasked with trying to think up ways to improve the medic corps.  We have to believe that we have friends out there, we have to have faith that Wizard’s Peak will be relieved.  We may not be able to work on my ideas at this time, but peace will have to return some day.”  Wellborne Huxley’s eyes softened at those words, and Sawbone knew that the wizard wanted to believe, with all his heart he wanted to believe.

The Moment That Defines
Looking back at the Slight Dragonborn female it was training, Sawbone felt the same old trepidation come over it.  As they trotted down the tunnel, hugging the right hand wall so that fighters of all races could pass them by down the center of the tunnel, and the wounded could trickle out along the left wall, fear began to mount.  Too many times Sawbone had entered battle without the arms to defend itself; deep down it knew it could better serve Wizard’s Peak if it had some means to knock the enemy on their heels.  The medics could retrieve the stricken better if the warlocks of the Scarred Hand had to keep their heads down.

Today, as it had for too long, they were fighting in their own tunnels, the enemy was now demanding that Wizard’s Peak surrender the Well of Worlds to them on a daily basis.  Up ahead where this tunnel bent, lights like a malevolent aurora borealis played on the walls and reflected off the battered armor of the soldiers.  Her white scaled face was showing her fangs with a draconic grimace, the young medic could not hold back the fear filling her.

“Take hold of that fear, Xathsiss, remember your training and let the fear fuel your moves,” it told the Dragonborn girl, Sawbone was wishing it could believe it’s own words as it once had.

“Seesseesaiya, I will ssir,” she vowed, her saurian eyes wild.

Rounding the right hand turn, the two of them had to shield their eyes as a brilliant white light made silhouettes of those fighting fifty feet ahead of them.  As there was a lull in troops streaming too the fight, Xathsiss moved up next to Sawbone with an arm up to shield her visual organs; she halted when he did.  When it could see again, Sawbone noticed the trail of bodies between itself and the raging fight where the light still flared.  That indicated that Wizard’s Peak forces were pushing their enemy back.  When had that happened last?  It felt that lifetimes had passed since their last victory.  Eagerly, Xathsiss pushed ahead, Sawbone saw her reasoning.  Instinctively she believed that getting to their first patient would mean they could clear out quicker.  Sane people didn't linger in battlefields.

The girl only made five steps before the right hand wall exploded outward, showering her with dirt and shadowy shapes swinging swords.  After hacking the hapless Dragonborn girl down, several of the Scarred Hand mercenaries turned Sawbone’s way; the rest poured out of the new hole and streamed down the corridor where overworked Wizard’s Peak soldiers strove oh so valiantly.  This was it, this was the moment Sawbone knew had been coming, and it had never had a chance to convince it’s superiors to arm it or it’s medics.  Knowing it for a futile gesture, Sawbone pulled a chisel out of it’s left arm tool compartment; then it posed hoping to take at least one of it’s killers down before those blades ended it’s life.  What an ineffectual tool.

“Sawbone!  Get down!” a familiar woman’s voice called from behind.

Even as Cora called out, Sawbone heard Cory run through a scale of words that sizzled with menace.  It dropped, rolling back while holding the little wood carver’s tool up like a diminutive holy symbol brandished to halt hungry vampires.  Seven blue darts buzzed like enraged hornets over Sawbone’s head, slamming into the enemy soldiery.  Half a second later five bursts of fire wooshed over it, turning the three mercenaries into human candles who danced and screamed.  Then they all floated or fell down as ashen chunks and coal bits.  Then the twins were quartering around the Warforged medic sergeant, working their magic in tandem to slay their enemies then seal the new made tunnel closed.  Knowing that if it did not say something, good soldiers would die, Sawbone looked Cora in the eye.

It’s almost spindly arm pointed where the white light was subsiding.

“Most of the enemy are going to flank our fighters!” it shouted, hoping it’s voice would carry over the tumult.  Cora glanced at her sister as though seeking permission.  Cory nodded, taking over melding the stone plug they had crafted to block the counter tunnel.  Sawbone's best friend sprinted off to save Wizard's Peak fighters.  As it watched Cora sprint down the hall, arcane energy playing up and down her staff, Sawbone gathered Xathsiss into it’s arms.  The Dragonborn girl showed no signs of life, she was merely rags of meat with a head attached.  Here was another of his failures, another life lost because it could not push it’s idea’s upon it’s superiors.

Cora was wading into the surging heaving skirmish going on down the hall, Cory was half way to the scrimmage readying herself to hurl magic.  A bright blue jagged light blew formations apart, followed by a burst of fire that engulfed the living and dead alike.  Voices in mid cry ceased as one, a synchronicity that shot alarm through Sawbone’s body.  When it’s eyes cleared of the flash dazzle, Sawbone could not see a single standing figure; friend nor foe.  Cora’s face swam up, and it started to see scenes of them together that did not come from memory… not it’s memory.  Cora, Cory!  Sawbone’s friends!

Something was keening into a tin can.  It stumbled forward already feeling the holes in it’s spirit, as if heat were blasting glass too thin to hold consistency.  The reverberations of the person crying were bothering Sawbone, it wailed over and over the same wordless denial.  What bothered the Warforged medic more were visions of Cora and himself straining together in a physical embrace they had never shared…. Had they? it/he saw a phantom face in a memory mirror, and reality completed its double recurve inverse.  It was a face of flesh.  It’s.  Not his.  What?

Gentle hands grabbed Sawbone while it stood over the blackened remains of Cory.  The soldiers had to pry his hand open so they could recover Sathsiss’s body.  Horrified for having dragged the Dragonborn girls corpse around like a toddler trekking around with a favored blankie, Sawbone started wiping the blood off his hands spasmodically.  Horror started to inflect in the voice of whoever was crying out, then it realized that the mourner was itself.

Aftermath, the heartbreak of steel
Healers and medics alike fell into each others arms with tears in their eyes, cheering just was not enough of a display to release over a year’s worth of fear and anxiety.  This injury ward was still too full of injured and maimed defenders, a fact that kind of offset Wellborne Huxley’s good news.  Sedaria was rising up against the Scarred Hand, and the siege of Wizard’s Peak had been broken.  Seeing the injured drove home the fact that the fighting hadn’t really stopped; it just was not on their front door anymore.  Yet for a majority of the people Wellborne had informed of this shift in fortunes, they acted as if the strife were over.

Plucking at his sleeve, Mother Superior Aspenspire inclined her head toward her office door.  Letting the Melwenite Priestess lead the way, the wizard was surprised that she shot her question over her shoulder before they reached the seclusion of her study.  She was usually much more circumspect around those she was in charge of.

“Do we have any idea why the Scarred Hand seems to have lost their power or drive?”  Like Wellborne, the priestess seemed to realize that the war was far from concluded.

When the woman looked back, he inclined his head toward her office to show that his news was not for public consumption.  Only after she had shut the door and was rounding her desk did he choose to answer.

“We don’t have any definitive information on what was behind all this, but it seems our good fortune stems from some adventurers in Mhor.”  Mother Aspenspire froze in the act of taking her plush leather seat at the mention of the dead city.  “We believe something from an alternate temporal past rose to challenge the Divine Concordance.  It seems that this power from history was trying to do unto Erath what had happened to the Dead City centuries ago, create a land of death that faintly mirrors life.  This entity did change reality so that conditions were favorable for it, yet some people who should not have existed at all plummeted out of the fractured timeline to save the world.  These heroes have now ascended it seems.”

Completing the act of sitting, the Melwenite Priestess started to nod her head in a thoughtfully slow manner.

“The gods were affected by this, then?  Does that mean the rumors going around about people turning into devils and demons are true?” she asked.  Wellborne noticed the subtle narrowing of the Mother Superior’s eyes.  Of course this would be of grave interest to many priesthoods.

“Almost all our Scarred Hand prisoners have transformed, but they are not fully demonic, nor are any of them truly angelic… yes these changes are revealing the touch of outer world beings of all sort.”

Wellborne Huxley sat in silence for a moment, hiding his curiosity about what conclusions this ally might come too.  He did not have to wait that long.

“Are you saying that bloodlines that carry the flavor of the gods and devils are being revealed?”  He smiled at the woman who had been heading Wizard’s Peak’s medical services since the siege had begun.  A few days ago, when it was evident that the Scarred Hand’s forces were dispersing, he had feared that the Melwenites would leave in a mass exodus back to their monasteries.  A lot of character was being displayed, these men and women had not even paused for a moment in aiding the Peak.

Seeing questions without end piling up in Mother Aspenspire’s eyes at his nod, the wizard immediately began to think of an evasive mechanism that would prevent a prolonged question and answer session.  As she had many times before, the priestess surprised Wellborne.  Even though she wanted to pursue her curiosity she innately realized that not many answers were yet available.

“Master Huxley, you did not come down hear to just give us your news.  What other reason brings you into this makeshift hall of healing?”  He had to acknowledge both her restraint and perceptiveness, so he inclined his head to show her his respect.

After that he hesitated due to the nature of the request he was about to make.  There were aspects of continuing pain that would flavor this subject.

“You have in your care a former medic who is Warforged.  It was driven insane in the middle of a battle last week, I was tasked with finding out what I can about this being’s care?”  His query caused the Mother’s head to tilt to the side, again her curiosity was peaked.  This time she felt she had to indulge that inquisitiveness.

“You are speaking of Sergeant Sawbone?  Why would a person of your position be curious about this creature?”

Knowing she would see past his caginess, he still had to go with the official cover story; Wellborne could not reveal that the Warforged were fueled by souls that had once been housed in flesh bodies.  Clergy men and women tended to become testy and possessive when speaking of thinking creature’s life forces.

“This Warforged had taken it upon itself to study Warforged physiology and health care, plus we had ordered it to brainstorm ideas on how we could improve our medic training and first aid practices in the field.  Sawbone had some ideas on how to improve our medic’s battlefield survivability that my superiors are interested in implementing."  Plus they wanted this Warforged to front their publicity policies for revealing these crafted beings to the world, but he could not admit to that yet.

Studying him with a frown, the Mother Superior almost seemed inclined to send Wellborne off.  She could see that he was not being up front with her, but she was also almost used to the secrecy pervading every aspect of Wizard’s Peak dealings and activities.  Frowning at herself for giving in to his request, the priestess reached down and unlocked a desk drawer.

“Sawbone is not really insane, you know,” she stated pulling up two tomes and a notebook.  None of the writings had a title on their covers.  Wellborne raised an eyebrow at that information, inquiring after more data.

Sliding the books over, she indicated them with her eyes.  “This Warforged creature has suffered a terrible shock to it’s psyche that has left it scarred on the inside.  Yet it requested that I pass these books and notes on to you and the healers of Wizard’s Peak.  It is cognizant enough to know that it’s previous work has to be… matriculated among the learned, which is an act of a mind capable of caring for others; a mind that is bent but not broken.”  Wonder filled the wizards heart, this was great news.  Wizard’s Peak would better be able to introduce the artificially created Warforged to the world without generating the expected bad visceral response from Erath’s many people; showing that these beings could be harmed and healed as all other creatures would negate a lot of negative impressions.

Gating in the Dragonborn had caused a stir, but that stink had been from the same minority groups who already hated magical practitioners.  Revealing the Warforged would stir many more hornet’s nests.

“This is good news, Mother Superior Aspenspire, Sawbone’s work has been invaluable!  Tell me, when will it be able to resume it’s work?” Wellborne requested leaning back.  Looking troubled, the Melwenite priestess set the notebook aside, then opened the top volume of Sawbone’s treatise.  Upside down drawings, supported by neat handwritten paragraphs revealed the healing techniques that Sawbone had compiled, but the Melwenite stopped half way through the book and turned it so that he could read.

Instead of carefully drawn representations of limbs and organs, a shakily drawn cartoonish golem was shown with shoulder mounted ballista.  Where once the writing had been scrupulously neat, in a flowing hand, the jagged words almost resembled ink spills.  ‘All the shes needed me, I couldn’t help!  They wouldn’t let me save the shes too many!’, at a tilt to the spine the next section read, ‘Empty, so empty’, then written upside down ‘Cora loved even the not me, me!’.  Chills on spider legs stalked Wellborne Huxley’s spine, he knew who Sawbone had been before the transferal, and the relationships that man had while as a man.  He also knew that Warforged never remembered their past lives.  This was a clear statement that something was askew.

“I do not think that is what it wishes to do with it’s life,” she stated with concerned eyes.

Swallowing hard, he glanced at the priestess wondering if she suspected Wizard’s Peak’s secrets.  Wellborne did not surprise any look that might have indicated she suspected the truth, but he did not like the way her eyes probed him; that look seemed to ask him to spill that which shadowed his soul.  “Maybe you should talk to Sawbone, itself.  It will be better able to tell you what it is thinking than I can.  The visit might even do it well.”  Intrigued, and feeling slightly guilty for the data he was hiding, Wellborne found himself nodding at the Mother Superior’s suggestion.


Sawbone’s cell door was open, further down the hall where the doors were closed, someone howled in a manner that was not human, nor was the sound animal.  A neatly made bed had been pushed into the corner next to the door, a night stand was on the mattress to get it out of the way of all the chalk drawings on the wall.  From the smudged floor to as high as Sawbone could reach, diagrams, magical formula (some seeming legitimate), and notes had been made in many colors of chalk.  Doodle covered pages of paper would have seemed randomly scattered, but the Warforged patient was currently fidgeting over the placement of a single page among the diagrams on it’s floor.

Finding the right angle to place the paper sheet, Sawbone stood up as it’s eyes grew dim; it began to use its finger to scribe something in the air.

“The seeming is more than the sum of its parts, but pewter has nothing to do with any of it,” it said as it worked it’s mystery problem out.  The Halfling girl who had led Wellborne into the dungeon that now housed Wizard’s Peaks mentally challenged, knocked on the Warforged’s door.  It’s finger began to scribe feverishly in the air, as though Sawbone was trying to complete it’s work in the next two moments.

“Sawbone… Sawbone, you have a visitor.”

Hanging it’s head as a man would have if his thoughts had been derailed, the Warforged creature’s hand stopped tracing in space.

“Is it living?  I’m tired of seeing the dead,” Sawbone inquired.  Smiling proudly, the girl nodded.

“Yes, it is a living man here to see you, Sawbone.” At that, the Warforged’s eyes brightened.

“Thank you, saint fleshling, you are always so kind,” it said turning it’s head.  Then, “oh.” as it spotted Wellborne.  It’s voice fell an octave as it’s eyes dimmed a little.

Leaving the aperture free for Wellborne, his guide turned about and walked back the way they had come.  He started for the door, but Sawbone waved him away from entering the room.  Evidently it thought it’s doodles were more worthy than manners.  As it tip toed through the notes and caricatures, Wellborne Huxley decided to feel out the Warforged.

“Hello, Sawbone, how are you?”  In response the artificial creature barked a short bitter laugh.  It chose to let that sound stand for It’s explanation.

“Are the rumors true, Mister Wellborne, is the siege lifted?” it asked.  Feeling the tentative smile come over his face, the wizard nodded; he also noted the lack of it referring to him as 'sir'.  It had greeted him as a civilian would have.

It hopped to the clear floor space around it’s door, then as though they were equals in rank, Sawbone offered its digits for a handshake.  Inadvertently, Wellborne looked down at that hand.  Although the Warforged was slender for it’s kind, that hand looked more like a tool for crushing than a living hand ever could.  The hesitation was noticed, but not commented on.  Aside, the wizard was again astounded at the warmth in the metal fingers that Warforged somehow generated when he did shake Sawbone’s hand.

“It’s true, Sawbone.  The mountain was declared cleared of enemy forces earlier today,” he informed the former medic.  Still trying to feel the constructed life form out, he added, “Many places in Sedaria are still under the warlock’s control though, so the fighting hasn’t stopped.”

Blue lights flickered in Sawbone’s eye, which somehow made the creature seem uncertain.

“Are you trying to tell me that my work as a medic isn’t done?”  Surprised that Sawbone had been so direct, Wellborne nodded.

“We won’t send you back out into the field, Sawbone, we still need you to work on your medical treatise.  The day is coming where we will have to reveal you and your people to Erath, and we think your work will go a long way in helping your folk be accepted.”

Blue eye lights flared, dimmed, then flickered, and a hollow moan escaped Sawbone.  After making mourning noises for a moment, it plaintively said one word.

“No.”  Wellborne immediately wondered if he was causing the Warforged more anguish.  “No.  I can’t serve you as you want me to serve.  Too many end up dead that way.”  It’s words firmed up as it spoke, though it did tilt it’s head as though expecting a military style rebuke.  Sawbone evidently still half acknowledged Wellborne’s rank in Wizard’s Peak defensive forces.  Even though he now realized that Sawbone was not insane, he still pitied the Warforged’s fragile state; and he felt his responsibility for that collapse.

Instead of pointing out it’s obligations to Wizard’s Peak, duties that had not been discharged, Wellborne inclined his head.  He still remembered who this had been, and that had been a man he had respected.

“How would you serve then?”  Almost instantly the lights in Sawbone’s eyes seemed to brighten with fervent intensity.  Half pivoting out of the way so it could show Wellborne it’s work, Sawbone gestured inside as if presenting the crafts of a genius.

“I’ve argued for this before, but I think our soldiers, especially our medics, rush into battle with a deficit in firepower- or- or some form of protection.  If they had something or somebody laying down evocation spells to keep the enemies head down, they could get into position without suffering so many casualties.  And the same could work for our aid units-” As if it knew how feverish the pace of it’s words were getting, Sawbone cut itself off with a slight dimming of it’s eyes.  “I know you’ve heard this before.”

Noting that resigned tone, Wellborne studied the Warforged for a second.

“Don’t you want to help your batch mates gain acceptance in civil society?  Don’t you think that is a worthy goal?” he asked it.  Its head was bowed, but it again indicated it’s room, this time for a different reason.

“I would like that very much, but isn’t it obvious I’m not the Warforged-for-the-job anymore?”  It held up it’s hands in a pleading gesture.  “Can’t you find someone else to do that job?  There are a lot of heroic Warforged with great personalities who could present us in a good light, could you ask them?”  It knew it was not the same person it had been before, Sawbone was declining because it knew it’s new obsessive personality would turn people of all races off.

Nodding his head, Wellborne conceded that point to Sawbone.  He would indeed begin to search among the Peak’s Warforged population for a new spokes person, it had been a fantasy to consider that his former human friend could shine out from this Warforged beings personality for the duty he had been asking of it.  Still, he wanted to do something for the being this Warforged used to be, for what it had done for Wizard's peak before it's collapse.

“What are your plans for providing this protection or fire power?  Do you think any of your ideas are viable?” he asked it.  Sawbone, brightened again, figuratively in mannerisms and physically with it’s eyes.

“I don’t have anything concrete yet, but I’ve progressed from those ideas I proposed before.  You know I thought about arming people with wands with spells imbued in them.

“Then I thought of golems that fielded artillery.  Both idea are expensive and would require us to establish industries requiring wizards to work in assembly lines.  Not effective ideas, I know, because the population of wizards has suffered.  So I thought about turning myself into someone who could buff up a unit and make short lived contraptions that could hurl magic-” it saw the doubt in his eyes, but then Sawbone stated something that made this madness seem suddenly feasible.  “No, wait.  You’ve heard of that artificer fad that has sprung out of the alchemist guilds?  Those guys are tinkering around with devices that allow them to brew potions on the road.  They may not produce the fantastically powerful droughts as the standard alchemist does, but they are making their mark nonetheless.  As a force out in the field rather than days behind the front line.”

Pausing to ponder it’s next words, Wellborne tried to visualize what Sawbone was trying to propose; none of the drawings on the wall had anything to do with alchemy.  “A woman from Errod has emerged with a suit of armor that she produces each day, she claims that she uses the art of the artificer to defeat proven warriors while wearing her charm infused carapace.  I would like to learn this artificer art, which seems to fuse an artisan’s know how with magical practices.  Boy, did Wizard’s Peak set me up with artisan skills.”  Wellborne found himself astounded.  Sawbone was proposing to learn a new form of fad magic to support Wizard’s Peak with.  How in the nine hells was he supposed to respond?

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  Poelarms
Posted by: frenzied67 - 02-10-2021, 02:07 PM - Forum: The Judge's Podium - No Replies

In other iterations of D&D polearm weapons had reach as well as an inability to attack foes within 5'. In 5E I see that the lance is the only reach weapon that has a disadvantage on adjacent (5') creatures. No other polearm states that in their information blocks, so does that mean they can be used at both 10' and 5' attack ranges? Thank you in advance for your time.

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  Brother of the Sword Chapter 8
Posted by: frenzied67 - 02-02-2021, 08:29 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

1/28/2021


Chapter 8
Challenge
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar


“Why, dearest sibling, why deny us what is our right?” Brother Sword implored. Brother of the Sword waited, watching the conspiracy of four shuffle out of his room. Each of them cast one last look back at him before stepping out of the door. Her green eyes imploring, Star Iris trailed after the others; her last glance back was the hardest for him to bear. The gentle way the door clicked shut was more of a recrimination than slamming it would have been. “Fellest of the fell, for a wizard to reap we really should services sell!” Never had his sword sibling ever been so upset before, inside Brother could feel Brother Sword tugging at his emotions trying to make his blood boil at the prospect of removing another magic practitioner from the world. Deep down he did want to take up the crusade, then he thought of all the soldiers he had killed the last time he dealt with a wizard.

The problem with having a mental and emotional connection with another sentient being was that it could sense his argument just as he was forming one. Brother Sword was broadcasting scorn on Brother’s idea even as he stated it.

“I was made to kill too many people who were innocent just taking out a divinator… a divinator, Brother Sword!”

“Innocent’s you say! Many more Krendiel would kill, even to this day! His waste would mount, the bodies beyond count, would our hand had been stayed. Think, brother fell, and you could tell. An opportunity to hunt and be paid, sheath me not, let not my will be betrayed.” Brother grimaced at the sword’s steely obstinacy, he had never felt Brother Sword worked up so much before. It tugged on their ties of creation trying to increase his blood lust to match it’s own, it’s words sharp reprimands.

Exasperated, Brother of the Sword turned and placed his hands on his hips while glaring at Brother Sword propped up against the chest of drawers.

“They said it themselves, they were greedy and stupid. Instead of calling in the experts, they compiled their stupidity. This is not our fight.” Brother was not prepared to hear Brother Sword use his own voice to fight back with, this tactic affected him like a slap in the face.

“A sword should be used to stop trouble, Sheriff Dade Cartin, that is why I carry mine,” the thinking sword sent, reminding Brother of his first conversation with Mudpie’s law man. “Blame should fall upon their head, brother fell, yet your guilt grow if they become dead. A fate not earned nor deserved though bad acts they disturbed.” Though Brother Sword had stopped shouting in his head, there was a firmness in these last arguments; Brother had the impression the blade had drawn it’s line in the sand, it’s mind made up and firm.

“Choose one, sword. It’s either the Witch Garmev, or this Dragstar dickhead!”

For close to a minute Brother Sword did not share a sensation or send a thought. Brother of the Sword gave a slight smirk and moved to break their connection through the ether.

“Childish you’ve become, yourself you did not master! That which you did not wish, passes. You’re now a monster!” Even as those words scalded Brother of the Sword, he felt a pulse burst from the pommel of Brother Sword. The blade severed their link to the ether.

“What have you done?” he asked Brother Sword, trying to push the thought through the ether. He felt diminished on the inside, exposed and wrong, also unjustly maligned. Yet, Brother Sword had not been completely incorrect. His arguments to stay apart from Mudpie’s problems had stemmed from his guilt over killing all those guards while trying to get to Krendiel. He was also responsible for all the people who had been killed by the fey giant in Galen Falls. Everywhere he went it seemed good people died, and now that Brother Sword had repudiated him Brother knew himself as a monster. The destroyer of innocence.

From far away the wave of some impulse thudded into Brother of the Sword’s psyche. For several moments he thought it might be the returning ripple of whatever energy wave Brother Sword had cast out into the world. Then he felt the difference between the two ripples. Brother Sword’s energy had felt like an angry call to war, this return wave reeked of madness and malice from something that wanted to punish the world for it’s many transgressions. “You son of a bitch!” he growled at the sword. It had sent a challenge to Esper Dragstar, and that provocation had just been answered. If Brother ran now innocent people would definitely die, Brother Sword had not only tied his hands, it had taken Mudpie’s options away as well. “You son of a bitch!” he said again as desperation filled Brother with a sensation like panic. His words were as potent against the sword as the plate he flung at it, no impression at all was made.

Flying down the stairs was not as entertaining as the last time. Brother’s one stumble made him leap the last steps rather than struggle to reestablish his running pattern. From the second story he just skipped treading on several steps to increase the speed of his flight down. Stumbling onto the ground floor, Brother of the Sword careened into a middle age couple slow dancing to the jig the atrocious band was playing. He had to catch both the man and woman so that they were not bounced off the floor by the violence of his inertia. Their protests were wind in the air, Brother was looking left and right to find any of the people who had just quit his room. The four were all seated at the table closest to the bar, engrossed in pointing fingers at each other. He abandoned the couple without answering ‘who the hell he thought he was?’.

Despite all the dancers smacking the floor boards with fun fevered feet, it seemed everyone could hear the patter of Brother of the Swords running steps; Mudpie’s four leading citizens turned on him before he reached their table. Wide eyes met his as he skidded to a halt next to their table.

“How fast can you get everyone out of Mudpie?” Due to his wild actions, the musicians had chosen to stop playing at the exact moment Brother’s question boomed out. Dancers and drinkers alike began to mutter in protest to the weird eyed stranger’s question. The querying look that Cyrus adopted plainly asked if he had been dealing with a mad man this entire time. Dilane Shunt narrowed his orbs in suspicion, while Sheriff Dade merely looked confounded. For her part, Star Iris seemed to catch Brother’s alarm, her eyes grew large in sympathetic distress.

“We could get everyone cleared out in a few days, a week at most. We sent most of the wagons back to our old town for the next group to be resettled. What’s wrong?” the law man asked.

That was not what Brother of the Sword wanted to hear, his grimace seemed to affirm his lack of sanity to Cyrus.

“What in the blue blazes are ye on aboot?” Dilane demanded, clapping a hand over his money pocket. The business man plainly thought they were about to be gamed for money this very moment. Only Star and the sheriff seemed ready to treat Brother on face value.

“Brother Sword just challenged your wizard, and the wizard accepted! He’s coming tonight!” even as those words slipped out, Brother knew he sounded as crazy as Cyrus currently thought him to be. Even Star stopped believing in him that moment her eyes showing disappointment.

“How did you challenge Esper? What are you talking about?” at least Sheriff Dade still thought he was coherent enough to answer questions.

Oh gods! Am I supposed to explain Brother Sword and myself to these people? Could they ever believe me? They were all leaning back to create as much distance as they could from the wild man accosting them, at Brother of the Sword’s back he could hear boots shuffling up behind him as the townsfolk began to form to defend their friends. Taking a deep breath to still his beating heart and firm up his wits, Brother gestured a plea for the four to bear with him as he gathered himself. I have to show them, then tell them, I think. Reaching back behind himself he sought a connection to Brother Sword through the ether, even as he began to speak.

“Sheriff, I didn’t contact Esper Dragstar, my sword did. My blade is truly my brother, and it wanted to help you when I did not.” Though he had half feared that their argument had been so severe that Brother Sword would no longer acknowledge Brother, the blade did complete the circuit and teleported to Brother’s hand.

“Fuck me!” Cyrus and Dilane had evidently known each other so long that they mimicked each other’s response by swearing and tipping their chairs over as they scuttled back.

The men and women ranged behind Brother of the Sword also gasped out four letter exclamations, their boots and shoes made a racket as they surged away. Star froze like a deer in sudden lantern light her eyes huge, shooting up, Sheriff Dade went for a sword he was not wearing. They’ll listen to me now, he thought feeling brutish with his methodology.

“When I turned you down, Brother Sword got mad at me. It felt I should have helped you, and when it got mad it sent the wizard a psychic challenge. The challenge was answered, which means that your enemy is coming.” All four of the conspiracy glanced passed Brother to see how the people of Mudpie were reacting to Brother’s words, the flinching in their features indicating that this was a secret they had wanted to hold on to. Star Iris studied Brother of the Sword as if just meeting him, this time she seemed horrified by what she saw; her distaste spurred on by memories of her seductive attempts with him no doubt.

I’m not a man, this is proof that ‘simulacrum’ is another word for monster! his thoughts flagellated him, Star’s response scourging his emotions. Pushing on passed these thoughts and back onto the task at hand was hard, he had been avoiding this self reflection for too long. “My hands are tied now, I have to fight your fight for you, but it will be harder for me to do that if these people are in the way!” From behind Brother of the Sword, a man called out making the three men and Star flinch.

“Who is this man? What enemy is he talking about?” There were also a lot of comments back there about his sword, or words about Mudpie dealing with an obvious sorcerer. That made Brother start a little, being accused of being a wizard did not sit well for some reason.

Just as Brother of the Sword was about to shout at the group in front of him to break them from their spell of gaping, Sheriff Dade bent over and started righting the two overturned chairs from the sudden exodus Dilane and Cyrus had made from them. Of the three men he had been the only one not to knock his seat over when standing. Star was still in her seat with seemingly distasteful thoughts marring her exquisite features; Brother began to avoid looking at her, she was all but shouting the accusation of monster at him.

“Where would you want to meet him, what ground do you want to fight on?” the lawman asked him, then whispering over his shoulder he addressed the card player. “Cyrus, can you handle the good people’s questions? Things might turn ugly for us if you don’t.” Skirting wide around Brother, Cyrus watched Brother as if he were expecting more madness to manifest such as more magic swords or extra limbs. Star finally stood up and backed away to stand next to Mister Dilane, both of them watching the conversation as if expecting something to blow up.

Before Brother of the Sword could formulate his answer to Sheriff Dade Cartin, the lawman whispered at him. “If Cyrus plays this right you may have volunteers lining up to help you defend this town.” Brother felt his mouth gape wide.

“I don’t want anyone to help me. Once the wizard shows up and kills just me, you would still have a few days to pack up and leave. If these people are seen supporting me, then this Dragstar fuck might forget his time table and start carving you guys up right away.” Sheriff Dade’s expression proclaimed that he found Brothers reasoning laudable. “Is there a place you can gather everyone that will be out of the way? Plus, which way is Esper Dragstar’s lair?” Pointing to the hills to the west, the law enforcement officer showed Brother where Esper lived as he answered the sword man’s other question.

“We could roust everyone out and have them gather here or in the mill. Which would you prefer?”

Mister Dilane suddenly stepped up to rest his hands on the back of the chair he had sat in.

“We should send ‘em to the mill, sheriff. The boat out back ain’t big but we can shuttle people acroos in shifts,” the heavy set man declared pointing east. When their eyes sought him out, Brother gave a nod to their plan. It was a sound idea in what felt like a sea of chaos. Fear started to depart from Star Iris’s gaze as she suddenly became more animated than her statue like stance had been.

“I’ll have my staff start knocking on doors. Dilane, you should have some of your employees start lighting the way to your mill, that road is dangerous in the dark.” Behind Brother of the Sword’s shoulder Cyrus must have had half an ear bent their way. He went from exhorting the twenty or thirty people into being calm to asking them to volunteer to knock on doors or hold lanterns to illuminate the rutted road. “After the evacuation starts rolling along on its own, we should meet back here for a last strategy session.”

Star’s addendum was addressed to her male friends, her eyes avoided Brother of the Sword as if he were an ugly canker on reality. As everyone transformed from indecision to incarnations of certain action, he was left alone with his thoughts. He noticed that people were taking extra precautions to maintain as great a distance from him as they could. Why should they come close, even I know I am a monster. Death follows me everywhere, maybe I should let this Esper Dragstar take me out. The world will be a better place without this simulacrum messing it up. Feeling sorry for himself, brother stepped out of the inn. He walked around the building to the tall grass on the inn’s western side. Baby trees and flowers in several score terracotta pots sat in double rows along the inn’s west facing wall. Someone had been planning a scenic garden to add to the inns reputation and desirability.

Mudpie was in a definite stir, darkened houses had lantern bearing citizens suddenly beating on the doors or calling back and forth to one another asking after misplaced neighbors. Thin though the moon was over Brother of the Sword’s shoulder, it still provided enough light that he could see the mound like hills to the west; but he could not differentiate the hills from the trees growing upon them, they were silhouettes against a starry backdrop.

“Look what you did, Brother Sword, you’ve turned these peoples lives over so that you could have your way. There’s a good chance that most of them will be killed after we are done away with. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to run from this fight, but we should have had the time to learn the terrain and the enemy we fight. You stole that away you asshole piece of steel.” Brother’s recriminations were met with silence from the sword.

For a moment Brother of the Sword thought about casting Brother Sword away into the tall grass or into the river, yet he knew he would summon his sibling the first time trouble raised it’s head. Then Brother fantasized about breaking Brother Sword over a boulder or melting it in a forge. After his second revenge scenario played itself out he began to feel another wave of self loathing come over himself. His feelings were hurt, but that did not give Brother the right to dream of murdering his stubborn brother, no matter how wrong headed the sword was acting.

“Brother? Brother of the Sword, are you back here?” Star’s voice barely carried over the distant shouts of her neighbors moving off to the dubious safety of the saw mill. Her call was the last thing Brother thought he would ever hear.

“Over here,” he responded, turning her way confused.

A black blob moving in the deep shadows of the three story building proved to be Star. Evidently she could see him because she stepped up to Brother of the Sword’s side without asking for directions; the bell of her dress touched his leg as she stared out at the same hills that fascinated him.

“Most of the town has moved into the mill and we have two boat loads of people on the eastern shore… maybe three by now. Cyrus and the sheriff just got back which means that Mister Dilane will soon be here.” He grunted to let her know he had heard her. Instead of moving away immediately, Star chose to stand with him in the dark for a few moments. “Brother of the Sword, did your sword really call out and challenge Esper Dragstar? The wizard is hours away?” Brother knew his reluctance in answering stemmed from his fear of further reprisal.

Having to clear his voice twice almost led Brother of the Sword to try changing the subject, he knew his face was screwed up in dread when he did answer.

“This is the first time it and I have ever fought over something. Normally Brother Sword just makes suggestions or feeds me ideas, and it is content to let me choose our course in things. This time I didn’t want to involve myself in your problem because the last time I fought a wizard close to twenty imperial soldiers and several score civilians paid the price. I don’t think those tolls are worth the fight, Brother Sword thinks differently. It stole our options away to force my hand.” Surprisingly Star did not shift nor move away from him, she was silent for several moments though.

“I’ve never heard of anything this crazy in my life. I for one am glad your sword is making you help us. I would have lost everything if we had been forced to move back to Tarin’s Feather, that is a place where women aren’t allowed to have power or make their own decisions. It’s a place where dreams die faster than the people do, Brother of the Sword, and a lot of people die in Tarin’s Feather. I’m sorry you got dragged into this mess, but I want you to thank… what is it… Brother Sword for me. It’s been a while since I felt hope.”

Satin rustled in the dark, then Brother felt her hand fumble against his shoulder. Following the contours of his shoulder and neck, Stars hand reached behind Brother of the Swords cranium and pulled his head down. Her other hand rose to cradle his cheek as her kiss lingered so sweetly that tears sprang to Brother’s eyes. “You are such a beautiful man, Brother of the Sword. I hope we get to have some time to love each other after this crazy stuff is over, I want that so bad.” She kissed him again, pressing herself against him so that he knew she was arching her back to contour herself against his stoop. Breathing heavily Star broke their intimacy and stepped back. “We’ll be waiting for you inside. Don’t take to long.” Her voice was soft from breathlessness. His tears spilled over as she walked away.

She was good too me? Why? Brother of the Sword wondered as his body relaxed with the relief flooding his being. His answer was ready in his mind. Star Iris would not have come back around, she would not have renewed their intimate tie if she really found him to be monstrous. As Brother’s self doubt melted away he silently rejoiced. Having other people judge him fit was more potent than the way he and Brother Sword had been criminalizing his thoughts and deeds. Still, all the people that had died weighed his conscience like large lead chunks in a small small boat, Brother was starting to realize that he was not the sole author of those tragedies. Vibrations coming up from the soles of his feet alerted Brother first, his tears stopped welling forth as he set his eyes to trying to pierce the night’s veil. He opened his senses to the dark trying to feel or notice anything, his senses recognizing possible trouble.

Those vibrations were like a horses hooves drumming against the earth, but the cadence was too fast and the time between drumming was spaced too far apart. No sound associated itself with what his feet were telling Brother; yet he knew it was trouble hurtling his way. There… was that sound coming from the north west? An inhuman shriek sundered the night, like a panther using a megaphone while it also scratched a chalk board. Raising Brother Sword, Brother of the Sword started to trot in that direction; he fully intended to put himself in between the inn and the wizard. Before he made three steps he saw the chrome flash of a huge feline shape zip through the air as fast as a shot arrow. In over thirty feet, the cat creature’s paws only touched the ground once before it crashed into the side of the inn like a giant’s fist fired from a ballista. Broken lumber crashed through the entire building and out of the south facing windows, hurled by the metallic creations juggernaut momentum.

“Gods no!” The beast was now inside the building and he was still under the night sky. Star and her friends were in there!

Knowing he was closer to the hole the monster had blasted into the northern wall than the door or shattered window, Brother of the Sword sprinted in the direction of the creatures entry hole. The people inside didn’t have that long, they were already screaming at what was confronting them. Brother had to crawl through the hole that was four feet up the wall, the floor of the inn was elevated over the ground outside. Sheriff Dade stood between the beast and his friends, his slender sword in hand. Cyrus was bolting for the main door while Mister Dilane shielded Star Iris with his bulk against the bar; she was was crawling over the barrier tugging upon the mill owner’s sleeve encouraging the mill owner to follow her over the counter. Seeing the creature of Esper Dragstar helped Brother realize what Cyrus had meant when he had described the thing as a beast of metal and bone.

Almost as big as an imperial cavalry horse at the shoulder, Esper’s creation had the skeleton of a great cat who had curved teeth over eighteen inches long. Filling out and resting in the bones were mechanisms of chromed steel, gears, tubes, and wires. Symbols and sigils adorned the metallic surfaces, the writings would glow red or grow quiescent with each of the creatures moves. Before Cyrus reached the swinging half doors the construct pounced, claws of bone, steel, and mystic energy raked the man’s flesh away even as he was pinned to the ground. The card player’s screams were a thin sound attesting to the loss of hope the man felt as his life was ripped away. Sheriff Dade Cartin’s sword shattered when he thrust through the beast’s ribs, there was a grinding noise, then the ‘spang’ of breaking steel. Shards of the rapier chimed while bouncing over the inn’s floor boards. Almost too fast to see, the metal thing lashed out with a single paw.

Flung back as though kicked by a horse, the sheriff landed on a table which broke under his weight. He didn’t even try to roll with the breaking of the table, shards of wood stabbed into Sheriff Dade who was screaming and trying to keep some purple blue ropy thing from spilling out of the gashes in his midriff. Spurred by the knowledge of what he was seeing, Brother of the Sword clumsily climbed to his feet calling a challenge to the artificial creature; this monster of sorcerous artifice. Having gutted men before, Brother knew the law man was in a great amount of fear as well as pain; he could read that in the sheriff’s bugged eyes and tortured screams. Ignoring Brother, the cat monster crouched over Cyrus’s corpse while magic symbols began to glow up the thing’s tail, from it’s hips to the tip of the tail each spinal disk lit up in a racing ripple. Sprinting and screaming, Brother continued to try and distract the construct. He might as well had been in another country as far as the monster cat was concerned.

Stabbing like a scorpion’s tail over the metal filled cat’s skull, the monster’s tail lashed out and spat a stream of beet red lightening. Punched into the racks of hard alcohol bottles, Star Iris’s bones appeared as shadows under her glowing flesh; an arch of red electricity sparked from her hands, one arc knocked Mister Dilane down behind the bar even as glass sprayed from Star’s impact into the racks. She dropped out of sight too fast, too limply. Then the beast spun on Brother of the Sword even as he reached the thing’s flank, red glowing orbs filled the cat skull’s malevolent eye sockets. Claws sheathed in red energy, black bone, and shiny steel flashed at his gut, but when Brother Sword slashed into the cat thing’s shoulder the glow in every sigil cut out momentarily, and it froze in place as if time had been stopped for it. His blade had carved through steel and bone alike to reveal hidden gears and wires, but he heeded his instinct to step away. Red energy flared anew as the beast’s paw flashed through where Brother had stood a half second earlier.

Stepping back and then away again, Brother of the Sword struck it in the side of the head then in the same shoulder he had hit before. Each time Brother sword came in contact with the wizard’s creation the blade would cut through bone and steel alike, and the monster would freeze for a fraction of a heartbeat. With it’s eyebrow cleft and its left shoulder thoroughly mauled the creature was still quicker than Brother who himself was faster than most. His fourth cut missed entirely as the thing of bone and steel bounded backwards onto Sheriff Dade. The lawman had passed out mere moments before, but when the rear paw of chrome and ancient bone stepped into his stomach he came back screaming. Even in his horrified death throes, Sheriff Dade thought to grab the beast’s leg when it tried to lunge at Brother; he left a five foot long smear of blood and guts as he was dragged. Still the construct was held back from pouncing on Brother.

Impeded as it was, Brother of the Sword slid to the side and brought his glowing sibling down right where the feline cranium joined bone and gear spinal parts. It shied away from Brother, snarling and grinding in a weird manner as its head vibrated oddly. Dragging it’s left front paw, the creature’s left eye stuttered on and off while sparks played among the newly exposed wires and gears; the sheriff fell off the magical construct’s rear paw, an inert castoff. Shrieking like an enraged panther the beasts tail suddenly lit up and stabbed Brother’s direction. Brother Sword yanked his arms down so that it was interposed between the lightening bolt and Brother’s body; his sibling had never done that before and it was evident that it cost Brother Sword a lot of energy, it’s glow dimmed considerably. The pale blue energy that flowed up and down the sword ceased as the electric red bolt struck the folded steel of Brother Sword; it vibrated as it sucked the energy down, then flared with renewed blue vigor.

As an actual big cat would have finding itself facing a superior foe, the feline skull glanced this way and that trying to determine the best way around Brother of the Sword. It feinted for the doors where Cyrus’s rent corpse stared into infinity, then it spun about and started to flow up the stairs. Trying to split the old bone hips and their steely gear like supports, Brother ended up burying Brother Sword into the fourth step up. A foot long section of chrome and ivory tail writhed and sparked like a sundered serpent next to the magic blade. Shrieking in pantherish indignation, the wizard’s creation continued streaming up the steps, and Brother chased after intent on not letting his prey get away. When he reached the second story landing he saw the monstrous construct turn about and start running straight down the hall sitting between rooms; at the end of that straight shot was a window, the creatures goal.

“Throw me!” Brother Sword commanded, as excited for the kill as Brother was.

Tumbling once through the air, Brother Sword miraculously hit the speeding juggernaut beast right in front of it’s rear left leg. The hurtling cat had been gathering itself for the leap through the window when Brother Sword’s glowing blade pierced its gear box guts. Just as with Sheriff Dade’s rapier there was a grinding noise. This time the monster burst apart scattering metal and bone parts up and down the inn’s hall. Glass smashed outward as the fore half of the magical monstrosity flew through by inertia alone, it’s back legs and hips skidded into the vase stand Star had as decoration under that window. Brother of the Sword gasped, in the wreckage he could not see his sibling. When Brother of the Sword stepped into the hall he saw the pale blue energy of his sibling under shards of chrome and fossil fragments.

“Are you alright,” he asked the blade as he swept it up.

Flowing wood grain style patterns slowed down and began to flicker as Brother Sword started to go quiescent.

“Brother most fell, I do fare well,” it declared, exuding more than a bit of satisfaction. That emotion dimmed and fell away as sorrow welled from the blade. “As you warned, as you said. My actions rash, innocent lives were shed.” Brother of the Sword only felt a slight moment of victory before he remembered what he would find downstairs, his sibling’s apology making his sense of guilt rear up anew.

“Yet you were not entirely wrong, Brother Sword. If we had walked away more people might have died. That monster cat thing could have killed everyone in Mudpie because they had nothing strong enough to fight back with.” After a momentary lull in their conversation, Brother Sword, who still felt distraught, reached out to Brother in the ether. A mental and spiritual hug that was both an apology and an acceptance of the familial love they shared. Silently Brother knew that the blade would never again go as far as it had this night, and he knew he would never set Brother Sword’s advice aside so easily in the future.

Glancing out the broken window, Brother of the Sword made sure that the cat beast was not trying to crawl away to seek repairs. Chrome parts glittered in the light of the moon and the lantern light filtering out through the hole in the inn. No sigil nor eye glowed with red energy, no limb twitched with the memory of artificial life, the wizards killing machine was shattered and dead. Taking the stairs down, Brother walked slowly; he did not want to have to see the people he had failed to save, even Cyrus whom he had never warmed too. On his side, dead eyes facing the floor, Sheriff Dade Cartin’s trailing intestines vied with the puddles and smears of his blood for which was more gruesome. Cyrus just lay in his own gore staring through the ceiling, his face and chest split with four parallel grooves that had gone to the bone. A man’s sobbing pulled Brother passed those horrible sights.

In the narrow walkway behind the bar, Mister Dilane cradled Star Iris in his lap, tears spilling down to splatter on the dead woman’s hand which he held in both of his. The hole in the satin dress was as blackened and burned as the charred flesh behind the clothing; Stars lovely face held a look of surprise as if she had seen something unexpected at her moment of death.

“She was the best of us, Broother of the Sword, she should hae been spared this,” the mill owner stated between the gulping noises he made while weeping. Brother of the Sword knelt down next to the two, he gently closed Star’s beautiful green eyes. They did not look right without the vitality of life animating them. “did ya stop Esper’s beast?” Brother swallowed hard finding that he had tears left to spill.

“We killed it, Brother Sword and I. We are going after Esper Dragstar next.” Mister Dilane did not say anything to that vow, but he did grab Brother’s free hand and pinned it over Star’s already cooling digits with his warm palm.

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  Brother of the Sword Chapter 7
Posted by: frenzied67 - 01-27-2021, 10:30 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

1/22/2021

Chapter 7
Manipulation
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar



Rejoining the river had been a welcome change in the day, but reaching the nadir of this small hill to see a village below was more than unexpected. Brother of the Sword stopped like a wary creature trying to determine if there was a threat ahead. No signs had indicated that there would be a community in his path.

“Three times, fell brother, has the Witch Garmev tried to slay thee and me. A threat she does pose, a threat of which we should dispose,” Brother Sword stated yet again, as it had for the past three days and nights at moments of the sword’s choosing. The village was small, consisting of over a score of houses, a saw mill, a combination tavern and inn, a store, and the skeleton structure of a pier system being built at the water’s edge. Brother gave his sibling the same answer he had been giving the blade.

“There are no signs along the road declaring where the Star Elf kingdom is, and nothing showing us where fairy is. No one we’ve met has had that knowledge either.”

Without a sense of frustration, Brother Sword shared the concept of Brother taking the time to find these things out. “No, not yet,” he answered back. Meanwhile he tracked the short side road of dirt that branched off from the gravel way. Almost all the side roads leading to other villages, towns, and cities had been made of gravel, only farmsteads had driveways of dirt and mud. Until now. Turning his head to judge the sun, Brother of the Sword guessed that he had five more hours of sunlight left in this day; but even as he determined that, his eyes longingly settled back upon the little village's inn. A bed and a meal cooked by a person! Those were potent lures to Brother, whose last real interaction with sentient beings had been to fight spell warped cavalry troopers. He had killed eight of them, and their horses, then he had simply walked off before they could transform back into their true selves.

Not realizing that he had made the decision, Brother of the Sword began crunching down the road intending to take the mud puddle filled dirt track to that little village. As he did, Brother took a little more time to observe the small municipality. Most of the residences were built away from the ‘business’ district, they had an acre or two of land dedicated to vegetable gardens, and all the shingles on the roofs were new. Even the boardwalks built in front of the business’ were made of new wood, which indicated that all the buildings had been constructed recently, though some were concealed with paint. From a small building attached to the store, a person came out and set a telescoping glass to their eye looking directly at Brother. A woman coming out of the store with a small crate in her hands followed the direction of the man’s gaze. Seeing Brother coming off the hill, she hastened across the street to the inn/tavern, half a minute later three people came out and surrounded the man with the optic device; a woman in a lacy red dress, a stout man in overalls, and a man in a gray suit and bowler hat met the man with the eyeglass who had a purple shirt and wide brimmed hat. The little crowd was definitely interested in just him.

After passing the looking glass around, they had a brief discussion; a few fingers were pointed in Brother of the Swords general direction. Then, with a few speculative glances cast his way, the group broke up and began to disperse. The man with the spy glass returned to that small building adjacent to the store, the man in the suit and the only woman returned to the inn, the last man ran too the pier site to mingle with the workers there. Grass whispered under the breezes influence, and the little village pretended to dream on oblivious to Brother’s advance. When the grade of the road leveled out, Brother considered using his remaining daylight to put this little town and it’s curious residents far behind him. Yet where the dusty path to the village butted against the gravel way, his feet automatically turned to take it.

Although Brother of the Sword no longer had the vantage of height to aid hid view, he still saw the man who had the looking glass come riding around his building on a brown horse. Without haste the man rode out to intercept Brother, swaying in the saddle like a veteran rider. He wore a wide brimmed hat of tan, a tan leather vest over a purple long sleeved shirt, and ox blood red pants that were half leather and half stretchy material; just like Brother’s pants except in color. This man had a crossbow resting on the horn of his saddle and wore a sword that could have been a saber or rapier, or something in between the two blade types. In his middle years, this man had weathered features with well defined crows feet around his faded blue eyes. His physique definitely held more muscle than fat, and his gestures still held the fluidity of a fighting man still up on his training and exercise.

Reining his horse in at fifty paces, the man seemed content to study Brother as he advanced to within twenty paces. There Brother of the Sword halted and gave the man an expectant look. Just resting his hand on the crossbow, the man gave the silence a few moments to mount before he spoke.

“Welcome to Mudpie, stranger. I hope you ain’t here to cause problems?” Mudpie? What an unusual name, Brother thought, developing a smile unconsciously.

“I was hoping for a meal that wasn’t made of pouch rations, and a bed that didn’t zip up,” he said deciding that pursuing the villages name may hurt someone’s feelings.

“From up there it looked like you were cartin’ an imperial great sword, but I guess your swords not quite that big. I’m Sheriff Dade Cartin, and the people of this town are under my protection. We have your food and bed here, stranger, but your sword makes it look like you want trouble. The people of Mudpie don’t deserve any sort of trouble. Not from any source.”

That was not a question, but Sheriff Dade sure looked like a man who wanted an answer. A woman stepped out of her little house just a little ways away from the Sheriff and Brother, she started to beat the dust out of her welcome mat before she noticed the two men in the road.

“A sword should be used to stop trouble, Sheriff Dade Cartin, that is why I carry mine. I’ll just be here for one night, then I will return to getting to Lake Talenchan.” Sheriff Dade lifted his hand off the crossbow and he actually smiled; the lines in the sheriff’s face seemed to deny the man ever did that voluntarily.

“That’s a healthy outlook about your weapons, stranger. Welcome to Mudpie. I guess you already picked out our inn, we have a mercantile that your free to use, and if you have any problems, my office is right next to that store. Enjoy your stay.”

As the sheriff made his welcoming speech, he plucked the bolt out of his crossbow, then he braced the weapon against his saddle horn and eased the tension off the string. After making the show of peace, the man tipped his hat then turned about and cantered back to pass by his office. Before he started walking again, Brother of the Sword ran through the whole encounter in his mind. Though the whole episode had ended in a convivial manner, there was something that felt a tad bit off, and it was frustrating not being able to identify what was making him feel this way. Wondering if he should just turn about and march away, he looked around again. The woman who had stopped beating her welcome mat against the front rails of her porch gave Brother a wave, then she began to slap the mat again. Such a normal thing to be seen in a small village.

Growling at the stupidity of his move, brother of the Sword started walking the rest of the way into Mudpie. Wagon tracks in the middle of the road had been turned into a puddle of churned mud through continued use after the last rain storm a night back. Brother had to leap over those deep ruts and a few other water filled depressions to get to the raised board walk of the inn. Swinging half doors gave entrance into the tavern’s dim interior. Several windows spaced around the exterior helped keep the place from becoming too dark, so that after a few blinks of his lapis lazuli eyes Brother could actually make out the bar room’s lay out. Three quarters of the floor space was dedicated to nearly a dozen round tables in an ‘L’ shaped room, each table had six chairs set around and each table cloth looked extra absorbent. A stair case in the middle of the room led to the rooms for rent on the second floor; another set of stairs up there led to the third story’s rooms. Too the right of that stair case was the narrow bar with racks of alcohol in bottles and other drinks in barrels, and the kitchen room had one tall set of swinging doors hiding it away behind that bar.

The woman in the lacy dress made of red satin was polishing shot glasses behind the bar, the gentleman she had been with sat at a central table in front of the bar; he was shuffling cards. He wore a suit with blue gray pants, a gray and green vest, with a white long sleeve shirt underneath. The gray bowler hat he had worn on the street was hanging from a nearly empty hat and coat rack next to the entrance. No one else was evident. After glancing up from what their hands were doing, they gave him a single look before returning to their tasks. Why does this feel staged? Brother of the Sword asked himself. Making sure the man was not primed to go berserk, Brother approached the bar. Despite pretending to be engrossed in his hand of solitaire, the man studied Brother from under his brows.

“How much are your rooms, and meals?”

Taking a deep breath, and showing an impressive amount of cleavage where the bone white lace spilled forth from the breast region of her dress, the woman pretended to be fully engrossed in wiping out each sparkling clean shot glass. The thumb of her rag hand jabbed back at a board hung behind her, and as Brother read the three menu items, she informed him.

“Room will cost you five silver and the meal’s cost depends on what you order.” Hesitantly she glanced up into Brother’s eyes and froze transfixed. “By the gods….” she whispered. Her interest drew him away from reading the board. She had green eyes as a counterpoint to auburn locks that were artificially curly. Light freckles splashed the woman’s nose and spilled out onto her cheeks. She had a fresh oval face with pale skin, her eyes were narrow rectangles and dangerously verdant in hue. Desire flared up within him, and he could see a backdrop of light in her eyes that made them glow. She had to be in her late twenties or early thirties, she should have known better than to smile at Brother in the way she did.

Just to be able to breath from the sudden tightening in his chest, Brother of the Sword forced his attention back onto the board. The stew was three coppers, the lamb chops dinner with spring veggies was eight coppers, and the steak and potato dinner was one silver and 1 copper. Each meal came with one complementary tankard of beer or ale. An arrow pointed to a smaller board that had the prices of the beverages written on it. Trying to concentrate on fetching coins from his pocket, Brother found the woman actively trying to catch his eye. Her smile was deliciously knowing.

“I’ll- uh, I’ll have the meat room,” he stammered spilling too many coins on the counter. The woman’s lips curved into a pure pleasure smile.

“The meat room? Do you think you can hire me that way?” Brother scrambled to count coins while wishing the blood would return to his brain.

He knew that she would be soft where she should be soft, she would be firm to his touch where a woman needed to be firm, and she would be savage and sweet in bed. Those were ideas he did not want to be stuck thinking at this moment. Her teasing smile did not help. Not at all.

“The steak dinner and a room,” he stated in a moment where he found momentary control. Her smile grew as if she knew how hard that moment had been for Brother of the Sword, his struggles a sure source of amusement. “No man should be able to afford a beauty such as yours.” That quiet sentence caught the woman by surprise and for a moment it was her that struggled for words. Brother was able to stack up the right number of coins, an act that helped him recover his equilibrium. Lacking the delight in his discomfiture, her pleased smile now held a gentle quality, as did her voice.

“That was classy, mister. Uh- we run a clean place here, so that means you get a free bath and shave. Well it looks like you just shaved, but if you want I can have the lads start heating your water?”

She was studying his face as though trying to memorize it, and when Brother stopped trying to avoid her gaze her seeming pleasure grew.

“A bath?” he asked making his eyes grow large in feigned wonderment. Brother of the Sword was glad he could think and act freely now. Her coquettish nod played along with the act he was putting on. “I’ve heard of this wonder of civilization and I am greatly interested in seeing what this bath thing is all about.” She laughed at his cleverness, or in the unexpected manner it had been expressed, she had a rejoinder in mind, but for some reason she stopped herself. After her mouth clamped down on what she had been about to say she did force herself back to business.

“Mudpie is all about the wonders of civilization, mister. If you give me a minute I’ll get the boys started on warming your water, then I’ll show you your room so you can rest up until your bath is ready. Hey, I know a lady that could sew up those holes in your shirt and launder your clothes if you like?”

Startled he looked down at the lance slice that had parted his shirt three days back, he could even feel a slight breeze on his back where the other hole was. Brother Sword had sucked away his blood and the gore splatters on his shirt three days ago, what the sword could not do was remove dirt. His once bone white shirt was now nearly gray from all the soils and dust he had encountered since leaving Mudberry by the Water.

“How long would all that take, I only have this one outfit?” His admitting to owning only these clothes brought the mischief back into the woman’s eyes. He could not read her thoughts, but his imagination was taking him places a good boy did not linger in.

“It’ll take about three or four hours, we have robes you can lounge around in while you wait.” Again she seemed to want to express ideas she thought better of, even he thought she had been about to say he should roam about nude. “It will also cost you another silver for both the wash and patch job?” Brother of the Sword nodded to show that would be alright, he even began to fish for another silver from his pocket. He would have to delve into his tent if these costs kept on mounting.

The lace at her cuffs caressed his wrist as she accepted the coin from his hand, her green orbs sought his again.

“You wait right here for a minute, mister. I have to roust them boys out from wherever they’re malingering, then I’ll come right back to show you your room.” She sounded like a woman trying to extract a promise from Brother, as though it was important for him to wait for her. His nod seemed to suffice, but she did check on him before she ducked into the kitchens just to make sure he was not running away.

“Money.” Brother of the Sword started when the man behind him said that one word. He turned around to see what the solitaire player was up to. The man’s hands were sure as they picked up cards then sought a pile to set them in. “Everyone likes money.”

Without gestures or expressions the card player still managed to create a dramatic moment with his pause.

“I guess so,” Brother answered feeling somewhat reluctant to engage this man.

“All I had to do to get your attention was to say that word, sir. Lo and behold, you turned around right quick.” the man in the gray suit laughed a little as if his jest were worthy of amusement. “I see you carry a sword, sir, have you ever hunted monsters? Or do you know people who hunt monsters? There's pay in it.” His pate was bare of hair, but the fringe that ringed his barren crown was dark and healthy growth. The card player had a slightly large hooked nose and brown eyes, he only glanced at Brother at odd moments, never seeking to catch and hold his eye.

“Sheriff Dade wondered if I were a monster for carrying Brother- uh, it,” he answered. This caused the man to hesitate in picking up his next set of cards. He was too intense with his next question.

“If the price was right, would you hunt monsters with your sword?”

For some reason, this question bothered Brother of the Sword, so he put some warning into his voice when he brushed the enigmatic question aside.

“I find that some people are quick to slap the label of monster on any person but themselves.” Krendiel called me a simulacrum, he said I was not a true person! Does that make me a monster? That memory still stung, and it still haunted Brother of the Sword. The card man caught the tone Brother had used, but he nodded as if he agreed with Brother’s assessment. Though he did not speak again right away, he did begin to look up and study Brother as if he were an odd specimen he needed to judge.

“Money. Hear us out, then make up your own mind and money could come your way,” the man said as he stood up. He then tipped an imaginary hat at Brother and walked over to retrieve his bowler. The swinging doors stopped swaying in the gentleman’s wake when the beautiful woman in the lacy dress returned.

The woman’s first glance was at the table still holding the half completed solitaire game, then over to Brother of the Sword.

“Did he say anything to you?” Her question was the least expected thing in an unusual day, he felt a deep reluctance to give her an answer.

“He spoke of money and monsters. I wanted silence.” Her clear complexion was disrupted by the grimace that crossed her face, then she put on a false smile. Behind her, a clatter of pots and pans became a riotous noise from the hidden kitchen.

“Well, I’ll show you your room then. Follow me please.” She swished to the stairs then turned back to try a sizzling smile on him, just to see if he were still interested. Knowing that there were ulterior motives going on around him kept Brother from trying to stoke the woman’s fires. Her smile fell into a disrupted uncertain thing, so she merely inclined her head to encouraged Brother to follow her up.

She led him up to the second story then bee lined for the stairs to the third level. At the foot of the second set of steps, she indicated an open room to the left of the stairs. “This is where you will bathe, mister, but your room will be up there.” Her eyes wore worry when she looked at Brother, and her smile was perfunctory; she started up the steps. At the landing she tried to engage him again, her eyes darting from his right orb to the left and back. “I set you up here because we stay open late. I’m hoping the noise don’t come up here and keep you up…. Though your welcome to come down and drink and dance with us if you want.” She smiled at Brother of the Sword’s non committal grunt as if she had heard a welcoming sound come out of him. Her smile held promises backed up by the sly wink she offered as spice. She walked over to a door that stood by itself, apart from four other rooms that made up the third level.

The lady held the door open to a very spacious room, holding a key up but very close to her bosom. Inside he saw a stand with a beige porcelain water filled basin that had pink chrysanthemums painted across it’s surface, a stand mirror was bolted onto the stand. Vines of some fanciful sort were engraved upon the stained chest of drawers that stood just north of the basin. Also beige with pink floral designs, the canopy over the bed made the sleeping furniture seem more like a queen’s pavilion. Too the right of the bed was a set of glass doors that opened out to a railed balcony overlooking Mudpie, a small bar stained and engraved to match the chest of drawers kept the west wall from looking barren. An open door closet filled the southern wall just left of the entrance. “In civilized lands they would call this the honeymoon suite, this is as much of a treat as the bath will be, mister,” she said pulling the key back from his reach so that Brother had to step closer to her to try collecting it.

When his fingers did grab the key, the woman in red did not relinquish it right off. Brother could feel the heat off her body and his desire started to flare anew, even though he was annoyed at her actions. Staring up into Brother of the Swords eyes her smile grew in confidence as she saw the flush rising in his cheeks and neck. “My name is Star Iris, mister, you will NOT regret staying at my place.” She let go the key so that she could grab him behind the neck to pull his head down. Her lips were soft and inquisitive, and her tongue slipped past brothers lips to dance with his in his mouth. This was something new… wild and invigorating. Star released him as he reached out to gather her in, and against his quick reflexes she managed to elude his hands and lips with a fey little laugh. “No matter what happens later, the stuff between us is going to be for pleasure. I promise.” Skip dancing out of Brother’s reach, Star Iris retreated to the stairs while giving him a look that dared him to chase her.

After a still born start, Brother of the Sword held himself in check standing in the doorway of his suite. Her teasing grin grew in magnitude as if she were congratulating him for his self restraint.

“I am Brother of the Sword, Star Iris,” he called after her. That wild and merry laugh drifted up the stairwell as her feet tip tapped rapidly down the steps.
“What the fuck?” he muttered to himself as he turned about. After closing the door behind himself, Brother shrugged out of his back pack and set that on top of the chest of drawers. Mentally visualizing the events of the last hour, from his traipse down the hill, meeting the sheriff, all the way up to Star’s kiss, Brother fed those memories into Brother Sword. “What do you think, Brother Sword? Are these people setting us up?”

For several minutes the sword gave him the impression that it was thinking on the matter.

“I believe they wish us to like them, fell brother, our sympathy they crave. Unified as their mission is, indeed, their unity is questionable as they all would be in the lead. Yet there is one, fell brother, who has not put himself forward as of yet. I wonder what words and persuasions that one would use upon us.” The sword seemed curious and open to hearing more, which confused Brother more than a little.

“You don’t get the sense that we should slip away from this town? I feel that they are setting us up to deal with a problem that is not our concern.” Amusement oozed off Brother Sword.

“Oh fell brother, it most certainly is not our concern…. Yet. They would concern us through varied means if they could. You will have to decide if we should, fell brother, on that we should wait.” All he could do was shrug, wishing his brother had felt different. One perk though, would be the wanton play of Star. How had he become so lucky where women are concerned? Did other men have as many women come to them as he did?

Again Brother Sword sent a wave of amusement through the ether. “Oh, fell brother, why do you ask why? Do you not know that we are creatures of sex and death? In your hands I take lives and sup sanguine wine, in your hand doth the mortal woman succumb to joy. We were designed thus, fell brother, so love her well, this victim of your allure; the power we gain will be necessary for tomorrows unknown.” Brother of the Sword reeled over and dropped his weight onto the bed.

“Do you mean that I didn’t attract the maid and Lalia?” he gasped to his sword.

“fellest of the fell, a lure you are,” Brother Sword affirmed with what amounted a mental chuckle.

“No, I mean did I draw them too me, or did they like me because of something crafted into me. I- we are a simulacrum, false creatures, was I designed to draw women to me like flies?” Confusion wavered through the sword, and it was hesitant in it’s response.

“Though you were designed thus, does it make you an image empty? The woman named Star Iris, fell brother, her breeding and her youth makes your heart beat so. Is she built false?”

As an argument, Brother Sword had spoken well, then Brother of the Sword found a hole in the blades arguments.

“She was born of man and woman as the gods decreed, we were crafted in a wizard’s lab. As Krendiel said, we were made artificially.” Giving off a sense of satisfaction for being countered, Brother Sword felt as though it were withdrawing from the ether out maneuvered by it’s flesh sibling, then it stopped and contacted Brother’s mind again.

“Brother fell, don’t you think we are crafted well? Our creator, not divine though they be, put us together using what all thinking beings contemplate at all times dire or dear. Is not all they do derived from a desire to procreate and avoid death? Are we not crafted from the mold so near? I believe we hold ourselves dear, fell brother, to prove worthy to the gender fair, and stave off unknown fate so dire. We are as they, do not mistake otherwise.”


Bathing had felt so good that he did not grow annoyed with Star’s frequent visits while he soaked or scrubbed. First she had come to gather his clothing, then she had brought his robe, ‘oh no she had forgotten his extra towel’, and a little later she wandered in to see if Brother needed help scrubbing his back. That last offer, though declined, had seen her giving him another kiss while she dodged his soapy grasp. Though she did not increase her natural sway while walking away, she did seem to like his delighted laugh. She didn’t need to exaggerate the movement of her hips, her other charms did not make that necessary. Self confidence in herself and her looks made Star Iris twice as desirable as the other two women he had slept with; the little games she played with Brother were little tests of his self control, and a dare for him to ignore or dismiss her.

His robe was made of the same material as the towels had been, thick, absorbent, and pristinely white. Though Brother of the Sword expected Star to accost him on the stair or in the hall, he met no one when he slipped from the bathing room to his suite. For a few moments Brother considered moving out to the balcony to dry in the sun, but a slight draft up the bottom of the robe made him hesitate. Standing out on that balcony would possibly give everyone in Mudpie a chance to see up the robe. Star Iris may possibly be the only person in this little village who would invite such a chance, the other denizens of Mudpie might form lynch mobs. Tying the curtain of the bed’s canopy aside on the window side, Brother flopped himself down on the mattress and closed his mineral orbs. Intending to rest his eyes as the sunlight played across his legs, Brother did not expect to fall asleep while waiting for his clothes to be returned. He was out in mere moments.

A touch on his thigh awoke Brother of the Sword, tickling fingertips traced his leg up to his manhood. Shock kept him from bolting up, but the invading fingers were gentle as they manipulated his genitalia. Lifting his head he found Star kneeling at the edge of the bed, her arm up his robe. Her face was flushed with her daring and desire, she grinned at Brother inviting him to lose himself to the primal tides infecting her. Even though his body was responding to her soft touch, Brother also felt the frustration of his situation suddenly overflow. These people wanted to use him! Sitting up suddenly, Brother snatched her hand away from it’s caresses to prison her arm by the wrist.

“This may be a game to you, but I’m not going be pushed to do whatever violence you think you can trap me into doing, Star. Knock this shit off and leave me alone.” As part of his warning, he threw her arm back at her forcefully, but not with enough strength to make her think she were facing real retribution.

Shocked she rose and backed away from Brother of the Sword. Confusion played over her seductive features, the doubt looking foreign to Star Iris’s emotional state. The anger that began to simmer forth was just as potent a force as her sensuality had been.

“You dumb ass!” she hissed, “We may need your help, but I told you that you and I were just going to have fun! This isn’t supposed to be tied up in that!” Star’s voice never rose over the offended rasp she reprimanded him with, but she looked like someone ready to throw heavy furnishings at Brother’s face.

“I don’t even know what ‘that’ is, lady, so that makes what you’re trying a manipulation. Your Sheriff Dade wanted me to see a wholesome town full of decent people worth protecting. That asshole with the cards offered me money. As I see it you only want to sleep with me to make me soft when you actually get around to aiming me like a brain dead arrow. It ain’t going to work, Star.”

Reverting to acting like a thwarted teenage girl, Star Iris stomped her foot and stormed out with fury quivering in the arms she held straight at her sides. She uttered a single vulgar word before Brother heard he light steps fly down the stairs. Gods, she may be right. I may be a dumb ass for not letting her have her way with me, a regretful inner voice asserted, trying to force him to chase after the inn’s owner to win her back. Another inner voice, small but reasonable pointed out another fact. Star had the chance to tell me what is going on to prove that her advances were free of entanglements, yet she left without even giving me a clue. As Brother of the Sword sat there, that one voices opinion grew in importance until he no longer regretted missing out on the woman’s charms.

Sighing as he set the internal debate aside, Brother of the Sword glanced out to the balcony trying to get a gauge on the time. A few hours had passed he judged by the change in the railing’s shadows. Wondering where his clothes were, Brother stood up feeling a charge of alarm shoot through his system. Would these people of Mudpie hold his garb hostage to get their way with Brother? Sitting on top of Brother Sword on the chest of drawers, next to his back pack, his neatly folded clothes were stacked looking pure and new. After closing the door to his room, Brother grabbed his freshly laundered and patched garb and threw himself into them. After dressing in feverish haste, he checked himself in the mirror. Though he could see the new stitching on the breast of his poet’s shirt, Brother realized that he could only make it out because he knew it would be there; a stranger would only see the sewed area if they closely observed the shirt.

Knowing that the patch job was well done made his unruly hair stand out in Brother’s reflection. Dry now, the locks of Brother of the Sword’s hair seemed to point in every direction in an unpleasant manner. Grabbing his pocket money from the dresser drawer where he had stashed it before his bath, he counted out his one gold, three silver, and seven coppers back into his front left pocket; his tent hid more cash. That store has to have a comb, Brother stated to his reflection. Or a hat. Going down the stairs surprised Brother of the Sword. He fell into a rhythm with his feet, a dance like kicking pattern that felt challenging as one near misstep taught him; his fast pace down was a thrill because of the danger. Voices caught Brother’s ear before he landed at the ground level of the inn.

Five men in wet overalls and holding glass mugs of ale or beer stood or sat at the tables talking to each other or the two townswomen in their company. As he danced off the last step the entire room went silent as all eyes turned his way. The peoples open curiosity strolled with him across the common room floor but stopped at the half doors he flowed through, those dialogues resumed right where they had left off. Star Iris had been behind her bar pouring shots for one man with wet pants. Outside, Brother of the Sword had to wait for a few moments as an empty flat bed wagon struggled through the ruts that had been carved from the saw mill to the pier project. Men in workers clothing, wet up to their waists, were meandering away from the watery construction site and into their town as individuals or small groups. Many of these men, and their wives who were walking to meet them, paused to watch the stranger in their midst. No eye held animosity, just a healthy curiosity. No person seemed speculative or gave other indications they were aware of what Star Iris and her friends were up to.

To get to the store, all Brother of the Sword had to do was cross the street. The mud puddles were considerably drier than they had been when Brother had first wandered into Mudpie, but the wheel ruts were deep. He gave the sheriff’s office a good gander as he made his way to the entrance to the “Mudpie Mercantile”, Brother did not see Sheriff Dade Cartin through the one window the office had; he did see an empty cell made of iron bars though.

“Hello, young man,” an old man’s voice greeted him when he stepped into the store. Unlike the other two merchants Brother had met prior, this old man still had all his hair. Other than that, he looked like a clone of the other two men. He was a short, thin, sour faced old man who looked like the smile he wore pained him.

“Do you carry combs or hats,” he asked as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim space. He found a finger pointed down the middle isle of the three rows of merchandise this store held. As Brother started down that row, he noticed the sheriff in front of a wrack of eating bowls with examples of two ceramic dishes in his hands. Indecision wracked the older man’s features as he peered at one then the other.

Ten feet from Mudpie’s law man, Brother of the Sword found jars full of combs from the bottom wrack to the top. Hundreds of combs of all sort seemed to be mingled in each jar, and most of them were designed to appeal to women. He had to resort to lifting out each jar so he could finger through the women’s utensils seeking one that was designed for his gender.

“Have any of the others talked too you yet, stranger?” Sheriff Dade asked, suddenly appearing at Brother’s side. The man looked both worried and resolute at the same time. Brother of the Sword paused in pushing the long handle of women’s combs out of the way so he could see the other combs deeper in the jar.

“I’ve had offers to do something, though no one has told me what it is. I feel like you folks are playing games with me… games I don’t appreciate, Sheriff.”

Grimacing to himself, the law man fought down a moment of anger, with Brother he seemed to begin pleading though.

“My friends are heavy handed, mister, please don’t judge us because they have poor people skills. All we really want is for you to hear us out… tonight, we are all planning to get together. Please, mister, just give us a little time to fill you in?” Between Star Iris, the card player, and Sheriff Dade Cartin, the sheriff seemed the most sincere; yet he too was not cluing Brother of the Sword into whatever game they had going. Having that remain a mystery was not sitting well with Brother.

“My name is Brother of the Sword, Sheriff, and I am not interested in getting involved in your problems. I am going to buy a comb, eat my dinner, get a nice long nights sleep, and then I am putting your fucking little village behind me when I leave tomorrow. Can you respect that?”

Seeing that Brother was well and truly annoyed, the sheriff stepped back with raised hands, just a man trying to be inoffensive.

“Brother of the Sword, all I’m asking of you is to hear us out tonight. Give us a chance to change your mind. It won’t cost you nothing to do that. Let us speak our piece and then we’ll leave you alone.” Brother felt his ire wane at Sheriff Dade’s mannerisms and appeal. Of all the mysterious intimations he had received this day, the law man’s had been the least manipulative and the most genuine.

“What is it that you people want of me? What if I’m not equipped to deal with your problem? You could be wasting your time- no you ARE wasting your time thinking I’m something I’m not.”

Smiling, even though his rugged face did not seem lined to accomplish that expression, Sheriff Dade looked Brother up and down.

“We’ll tell you tonight, and if your half the soldier I think you are, you will be better qualified than anyone else in a hundred mile radius to deal with what we have on our plates.” caught unprepared, Brother of the Sword shook his head and looked at the law man. What?

“I’m not a soldier,” he declared, confused. This made the older man smirk knowingly.

“I was a soldier at one time, just a run of the mill grunt. We spear pushers learned early on how to pick out you special forces types, you would use us grunts to mop up the bars with when the fights started, then you would pull our bacon out of the fire if we got caught behind enemy lines. You’re exactly what we need.” Without letting Brother deny that assumption, Sheriff Dade tipped his hat then walked out of the Mercantile without purchasing any bowls.

Gods dammit, I’ve been singled out because some old timer thinks I used to be a soldier? This is going to be fun, Brother thought, laying the irony on thick. Eventually he found a short, thick handled comb that was shaped for male fingers. The merchant remained friendly even though the act of smiling was killing his digestion; the comb only cost three coppers. More people were out now in the short span of Brother’s conversation with Mudpie’s sheriff. Even as he stepped off the mercantile’s boardwalk, a young couple entered the inn’s tavern room. When Brother of the Sword entered the inn he found the number of patrons had doubled, this time the conversation just quieted down at his advent, but did not stop. As he started for the stairs to the upper rooms, Star Iris moved to intercept Brother’s path; her eyes sought any sight but his face though. Lips tight, she had to hold up a hand to sign him to a halt, Brother would have beat her to the stairs easily.

“We’re opening the kitchens now. Are you ready for your steak, and how do you want it prepared?” Star’s voice was as tight as her mouth.

Even now she was heart breaking in her beauty, and that cooled the simmering anger roiling in Brother’s guts.

“Sure, I’m ready for food. Could I get that medium rare, and a beer, please?” Whatever Star had been prepared for, she had not been ready for Brother to speak in a conciliatory tone, nor use manners while speaking. She accidentally looked him in the eyes to see what was really going on, she froze again as she had the first time they had looked at each other.

“Damn!” she whispered captivated by his unusual lapis lazuli eyes again. As her face softened towards him, Brother thought he should use her as his messenger; she was the best suited to get his words to her co conspirators.

“Star, tell your friends I’m not a soldier. I have never been a soldier, your sheriff is wrong about me.”

Star saw the plea on his face, and she seemed to forget about the anger she held towards him, her nod was as good as a promise that his words would travel to Star’s friends ears. Her delicate hands caught Brother’s sleeve as he turned to mount the stairs.

“Do you want to eat down here with us, or would you like your food served up there?” she asked, her mannerisms like a girl seeking her father’s forgiveness; timid and hopeful at once. Earlier in the day, before he had met any of Mudpie’s residents, Brother of the Sword had daydreamed about mingling with this town’s night life. He had thought there might be music and dancing, or tales told over mugs of beer. After his day, he now craved nothing but solitude.

“It might be best for me to be on my own, if you don’t mind?” By seeming to ask her permission to eat in his room, Star’s eyes blazed up with invitation.

Though he started to turn away rather than grant her license to flirt again, Star held onto Brother’s shirt keeping him there for a moment more.

“I’ll bring you a lantern before your food is done. It should burn all night and through most of the day tomorrow,” she offered before letting Brother free. Her smile grew even though all he did was smile back and nod an acceptance of her gesture. Turning about, he found a thick man in workers clothes leaning against the wall next to the stairs. Beer foam made a mustache on his upper lip as he saluted Brother with his nigh full mug. This was the fourth man of the conspirators trying to bind Brother. Words did not pass the man’s lips, he just caught and held Brother’s attention until Brother reached the stairs. That encounter made Brother realize that despite his message, that group of four were going to continue pestering him. They were going to insist on that damn meeting.

Despite telling Brother of the Sword that she was going to bring him a lantern, Star sent a little blond boy who seemed a decade old. With exaggerated care, the boy carried the illuminated lamp to the chest of drawers, but when he arrived he seemed at a loss. Brother Sword, and Brother’s back pack dominated the furnishing's top. Brother hastened over and cleared his things away to assist the boy.

“Thanks, mister,” the boy said looking relieved. All the evidence was there to tell Brother that the boy was not comfortable carrying the flammable device, that had to derive from some past incident.

“Sure thing. You’re doing a good job.” By saying that, Brother hoped he was encouraging the boy’s confidence. The boy’s pure smile was a decent reward. Just as the kid left the room, a heavy set of footsteps announced another person climbing up to the third floor. Youthful mutters at the top of the flight was an exchange from the lantern bearer and whoever had been climbing up.

Looking like an older and uglier copy of the boy who had brought Brother’s lantern, the boy who hauled in his folding table and chair was at least twelve. White heads and pimples afflicted the young man’s features, a slightly hideous counterpoint to the freckles he had been born with. An omen of things to come for his younger brother, who was still cute in comparison though they both had the same pug nose, bushy eyebrows, and dimpled chins. At first this lad struggled with unfolding the legs of the square little table, but he waved Brother of the Sword away when he tried to assist; he ended the ordeal adroitly after the first two legs had been locked into place. Unfolding and locking the chair down was a simple process, then without once looking at Brother, the young man left; the table and chair set so he would have a view out the glass doors towards the eastern hills. Brother would have to actually stand on the balcony to see his river, though, unfortunately the table was wider than the doors and balcony combined; he would have liked to have dined in the fresh air with a grander view. He switched the chair around so his back was not to the suite’s door.

Ten minutes later, Star and an older blond woman swept into his room. Star had his silverware, napkin, and tall mug of pilsner in hand. Time haggard and plumping up with age, the blond woman wore similar features to the two boys who had brought his lantern and dining furnishings. She carried a ceramic platter painted in the same hues as the basin and the bed’s canopy. Trying to catch his eye as she set his table, Star Iris seemed to wish this to be a grand display rather than simply delivering his fare. Possibly having the other woman with her was the reason behind Star’s restraint. Trailing the boy’s mother out, Star Iris looked back at Brother with a question written across her features. Keeping his own features schooled was a test for Brother of the Sword, Star’s beauty teased a primal part of his make up that did not want to be held in check. Still she did not receive the signal from him she was fishing for.

As the meat melted in Brother’s mouth the strains of poorly played music filtered up from below, the poor tuning could have been an effect of distance though Brother doubted that. To Brother of the Sword’s ear, the band lacked skill but not enthusiasm, but of course he was a couple of stories over them. In the lantern light, he ate his meal while a part of him wished he could mingle with the people of Mudpie. The sun had set mere moments before Brother stepped out onto the balcony. Below a couple walked arm and arm laughing at the new in their love, they offered him a wave when they spotted him reclining against the railing. The two stopped to make out halfway to the wood mill, and in a few more minutes they faded into the background as the darkness truly ruled the night sky. Only a few clouds were out to obscure a minority of the stars that glittered overhead, after a few more musings on Brother’s part, the nail paring moon started to rise from a distant eastern horizon.

After a while, Brother of the Sword realized he had been contemplating the night for well over an hour. That realization came just before a knock upon his suite’s door. Star Iris walked into the room then stopped to search for Brother, he opened himself to the ether and touched his sibling while thinking about laying into the conspiracy blade first. Brushing past the woman in red satin, Sheriff Dade carried two folding chairs, he was followed by the card player, and the thick set dock worker who carried a chair apiece. Nodding too Brother as he leaned his chairs against the bed, the law man seemed to have located Brother before Star who had become almost frantic when she had not caught sight of him out on the balcony. Sighing heavily when she did locate him, she accepted the unfolded chair Sheriff Dade Cartin handed her. The card player set his chair next to Star, followed by the dock worker, then the sheriff set himself up next to the bed, they were seated in a nice little line. The heavy set working man gestured for Brother to come in and join them, they all were on the far side of the little table that held the remains of Brother’s steak dinner.

Reluctantly Brother of the Sword closed the balcony door behind himself after he entered the lit room. The card playing man tipped his bowler at the coffin born man, his smile seemed more of a smirk too Brother’s jaded eyes than a thing of greetings or pleasure.

“I have never been a soldier, and I don’t have a clue what ‘special forces’ are,” he stated to the sheriff, before he tried to hammer that impression into the others observing him.

“Brother of the Sword, I get it. You’ve done your time, now you just want the peace you think you’ve earned. We claim the right to try to change your mind.” Sheriff Dade made his demand sound more like a request, and from the flinches the other two men made, they thought the law man was being soft.

“Brother of the Sword, I am Dilane Shunt, and I’m an important man ’round here,” the working man stated, speaking with a slight brogue. “That importance won’t mean shite when the people of Mudpie start dyin’. I worked hard to get where I’m at, and I won’t let me wealth and reputation dribble away because I din’t do enough for me neighbors.”

Star sat at the right end of their line of chairs trying to be a statue, one frozen while gazing at Brother’s face. Clearing his throat, the card playing man made his bid for attention. Of all four people arrayed against him, Brother liked this man the least. For no apparent reason.

“All four of us are important, Dilane. Brother of the Sword, we are the four most important people in Mudpie. We run the show around here whether it’s through business, financing, or keeping the peace, we are the people who the citizens of Mudpie look too when there’s a problem. And when the fucking full moon comes around again we are going to have a real deep problem on our hands.” This man scowled at Brother as if he were trying to overawe him. Sitting down across from the four, brother raised an eyebrow at the card player.

“Not. My. Problem.” He said it slowly, drilling his gaze into the man before he spread his certainty about to the others in the room.

Harrumphing as she rolled her eyes, Star gave the card player a hard look before leveling an appeal at Brother of the Sword.

“Cyrus, stop being an ass. Please, Brother of the Sword, listen to us first. We may be the important people in Mudpie, but we’re also the stupidest. We stepped into trouble while we thought our shit didn’t stink, and now a whole bunch of innocent people are about to pay the price.” Her gaze practically begged Brother to pay heed, and her words did have an impact. Dilane and Cyrus both gave Star dirty looks before they noticed Brother mellowing from his hard eyed denial. Sheriff Dade nodded an encouragement at the inn’s owner. Even through the link in the ether he had established with Brother Sword, the blade gave off the impression that it was now intrigued.

They all stared at Brother, knowing the ball was now in his court.

“Tell me,” he demanded, almost hating himself for allowing things to progress this far.

“While we were still seeking a grant to relocate, we learned certain things aboot this region of the river. We read a book that claimed a wizard had been buried here with his treasure horde,” Dilane Shunt started, working hard to keep his accent from creating miscommunications.

“We all thought this treasure would keep us from fallin’ into the red with our finances when we actually moved our people here. We thought this lost lore would help make moving from the border successful. We didn’t read the story as closely as we should have….” The sheriff looked like a man who really wanted to kick himself. Cyrus the card player observed how his friends tact was working on Brother of the Sword.

Sighing at what he was committing himself too, Cyrus took up the narrative.

“Of the four of us I’m the only one who had seen pre-imperial coins, and the mention of this old boy’s treasure made me blind to what the tales told. I only had visions of gold coins twice the weight and purity of Arxantum coinage, and my greed made me talk the others out of their caution… and wits.” since the three men all turned to Star Iris at the end of their line of seats, Brother also turned his orbs her way. He liked how she looked him straight in the eye and admitted her faults without prevarication. Her pure features also helped him pay attention.

“The legend we read said the wizard was locked away, that his enemies had buried him where they had froze him. Because they suspected a trap with all he owned they buried him with all his possessions. We convinced ourselves that those old time historians had really meant the old wizard was dead, I mean he had to be gone after all these centuries. Plus we translated possessions to mean treasure-"

She seemed reluctant to admit the last part of their tale, so Sheriff Dade interrupted her where she was having difficulty. Star and the law man were the most honest of the four it seemed.

“We deliberately ignored the translation of those old words that meant the wizard had been locked away in stasis. So when we started surveying the land to set up the first buildings of Mudpie, the four of us set off into the western hills looking for treasure,” Sheriff Dade grimaced and shrugged. His face had visibly paled as his mind replayed the events he had been revealing. Whether Cyrus was grimacing over the tale or the reluctance of his partners, he didn’t say.

“After some searching and digging we found the old boy’s lair. What we didn’t know was that all it took to break the old monster free was to crack the damn door open-”

“The blighter had nae gold in stacks like we imagined.” Dilane interjected, also looking Brother in the eye.

Exasperated, Cyrus resumed their tale.

“Esper Dragstar’s treasures consisted of his lab, his lore, and the machine monster he created to work his murderous will. This thing he made is a beast of metal and bone, and Esper’s rivals didn’t have what it took to destroy this creation.” With growing excitation, Star took up the narrative while losing the pleading quality of before.

“We have a theory that Esper’s only power comes from controlling that monster of his. If we got rid-” Clearing his throat, Sheriff Dade quelled the woman’s hopeful words. He had to give each of his companions a warning look before turning his attention back too Brother of the Sword.

“When the wizard… Esper, caught us looking for gold, he demanded that we bow down and serve him. He threatened us with his construct and made us tell our tale. When he found out that we were moving a whole town of people into this region, Esper demanded that all of us obey. He gave us half a year to make up our minds, and if we didn’t agree to serve him, he would have his beast start killing people until we do bow down. We’re a week away from that deadline… about the same time as the next wave of settlers show up.”

Tilting his head as he looked at the group, Brother of the Sword felt his belief in their story shrink. They were not lying, but they were admitting they had been given ample time to fix this problem. What had they squandered this six months of time on?

“Six months is long enough for you to have appealed to the Empire, they have the resources to deal with this sort of thing. Plus they won’t like someone setting up their own magical enterprise inside their borders. Why didn’t you go to them?” Cyrus bit back harsh words as his defensiveness flared, Star Iris ducked her head to avoid giving an answer, Even Sheriff Dade looked sheepish. After several moments of looking his companions over, Mister Dilane offered their lame answer.

“One hint of our treasure seeking an’ the Empire would hae canceled our charter. We would have lost our-”

On the verge of admitting greed was the reason they had stayed, Cyrus broke in over the hefty man.

“In a couple of days we will admit our wrong to the people of Mudpie, which means all these families will have to abandon what they have made for themselves. We will have to march over a thousand miles back to the rest of our people who live on the border. Then we will have to defend ourselves from barbarian raiders, dark sorcery from Kuriselm wizards, and strange plagues from the diamond mines our forefather’s played out.”

“We’ve hired others, over a dozen groups of mercenaries. Brother of the Sword, you’re our last chance to start a good life here in the interior. I know you were special forces, which means you have experience fighting in wizard war conditions-” the lawman started, his eyes glowing with hope and appeal. They all started to lay on their appeals, talking over each other in their haste to be the one to convince the dupe.

“We’ll pay you well,” Cyrus shouted. Brother slapped the fold up table hard.

The ceramic platter danced on the surface as the fork and steak knife scattered from where they had rested on the plate. His violence silenced them just as their clamor became cacophonous.
“I am not special forces! This is not my problem! Get the fuck out of my room and leave me be! You had the chance to do the right thing and you played the idiots twice over! Get out!” Four sets of owl eyes stared at Brother of the Sword, calculations being weighed and discarded as fast as thoughts could formulate. Silently Sheriff Dade stood up and folded his chair to make it easier to carry out. His silent action made the other three give up on trying to devise arguments and persuasions, as if Brother’s fierce face wasn’t forbidding enough to have stopped them.

“Fell brother, most unwise, we should kill wizards no matter what guise!” Brother Sword protested with it’s blood thirstiest mental voice.

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  Brother of the Sword Chapter 6
Posted by: frenzied67 - 01-22-2021, 12:33 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

1/9/2021


Chapter 6
Warped
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar



She is going to kill me! Hunt me down and kill me! Krendiel the former Assembly Arcanuum wizard thought as he reeled through the orchard. All night and through most of the day he had been running… well staggering mostly, fear hounding him more than any physical pursuers. By now his perfidy would be known to the empire, his likeness being dispensed to bounty hunters and soldiers, his crimes being bandied about to his former fellows in the Assembly Arcanuum by communication spells. How was my magic countered and negated? That man shaped creature hit me with some spell that stole my magic away. How?

It did not matter how, what mattered was that he had failed Garmev the Witch. She was going to kill him, and she would make it a very painful death. She had that reputation, plus she had implied that killing lesser Assembly Arcanuum spell casters was something of a habit. Of course the Assembly Arcanuum dispatched search parties to hunt her down, dead or alive, but after a century of claiming to have the Witch Garmev on the run, she continually harassed the empire and neighboring kingdoms. What could Krendiel do to stop something or someone that implacable?

Physical exhaustion and the terror of his impending death conspired to steal Krendiel’s strength away. Collapsing into some sort of nut tree, the divinator turned assassin slipped down the trunk to recline in a sobbing heap against that tree’s trunk. Although it was not the life he had dreamed about in his idealistic youth, his career of working for the Assembly Arcanuum had been both comfortable and safe. Not like this, not like fleeing through the night feeling forces moving against him ready to call him traitor… willing to cut him down for his disloyalty. His new boss, Garmev the Witch, would probably be the one to find him, the first to cut his throat…. I could complete the job she set me, I could kill the simulacrum. I could keep her, at least, from tracking me down by proving I’m still useful. If only I could show the empire that I could still be their man.



Even beyond Mudberry by the Water, the road still ran parallel to the river. To Brother of the Sword, for each hour he traveled there was a bridge servicing a side road. An equal number of roads branched off heading in westerly directions too, the signs proclaiming the distances to small towns and villages. As the cobbler had warned Brother, farms, ranches, and groves butted against each other without gap or change for hours. Unlike his walk through the foothills and valley before reaching Mudberry by the Water, the farmers and farmhands Brother saw responded to his waves or nods with courtesy, seemingly pleased to see a stranger acknowledge them. Seeing mounted patrols of soldiers canter by, almost on an hourly basis, had to be the reason why the locals remained friendly. The homeless were being policed and watched, and those unfortunates were all too willing to give Brother a wide birth.

One thing that bothered Brother of the Sword was the signs that said Lake Talenchan, sure they pointed him down the route along the river, but unlike the signs to towns, there was no distance given. Vintage Grove, the road west, claimed to only be fifty six miles away; the lake was just an arrow directing him on. When the muddy looking waters of the river narrowed to a point where he could only throw a stone half way across, Brother found a farmer and her family tending a tall fence where pea vines were growing. Her teenage son stopped tending the plants to gather up a crossbow when Brother hailed the family; the mother, daughter and youngest son continued to weed or secure the flowering vines, the laconic bees bothered no one at all as they sought out flowers to crawl across.

“Hello! Pardon Me!” he called, very aware of the boy stationed so he could shoot Brother if he proved aggressive.

Barely looking up from her work, the mother gave Brother a hooded glance before she returned her attention to an extremely long vine that had ignored the latticed fence designed for it to grow along. That at least let Brother of the Sword know that they could hear him. “Do you know how far Lake Talenchan is from here?” For a moment Brother thought the family was about to ignore his question, even though some of the children were pausing to weigh him silently.

“No idea,” the mother eventually answered, using the least amount of language possible. Grudgingly she did offer a small token more. “Two weeks is what I’ve heard, some say three weeks.” No one seemed inclined to advise Brother as to which time span was most accurate.

“Uh, thank you.” The crossbow did not come off his back until Brother was nearing the extreme limit of the weapon’s range.

Leave it to me to find the most unfriendly lot of farmers I’ve seen since leaving the city to talk too. Everyone I’ve waved at today looked like they wished I would stop and talk, except for those people. One of the rare hills his road crossed began to rise before Brother of the Sword, and as he began the climb he heard the horses from the other side of the earthen pimple. From the way the horseshoes chimed against the gravel, Brother realized this was going to be another cavalry patrol, so he moved to the right side of the way. These cavalry soldiers had light blue pants and white tops, brass buttons and chains criss-crossed the chests of all the horsemen and women, the only sign of the imperial navy blue came from the right sleeve of each trooper. Their lieutenant raised his hand to gesture the cavalcade when he spotted Brother.

Using the front two horses to block the eastern half of the gravel way, the other soldiers spread out to flank and surround Brother of the Sword.

“Greetings citizen, have you been bothering the farmsteads around here?” the young officer challenged. Brother of the Sword did not like the trapped feeling that came over him, which almost made him call upon Brother Sword. Then he remembered he was not guilty of anything.

“I carry my own food, and the means to buy more,” he answered, dispensing with his winning smile. This information did not produce a change in the officer’s demeanor, though it was the right answer for Brother to issue.

“Have you seen a tall man in his early thirties, wearing the gold bordered navy blue robes of an Assembly Arcanuum spell caster? He would have dark hair under his hood and will be traveling in this direction.”

Ransacking his memory, Brother of the Sword thought back on all the stranger’s he had seen through out the day. Then his brain connected with the events of last night. Fingers traced the bandage on his head, as the shadows of the previous evening were reviewed. They’re after that wizard, what’s his name… Krendel- no Krendiel. How did they get a description of the guy out so fast? Seeing the light come on in Brother’s eyes, the lieutenant cocked his head expectantly.

“I saw this wizard last night when he ran from his crimes.” Brother of the Sword’s claim caused most of the soldiers to take extreme interest in him, even the lieutenant’s eyes flew wide. He knew what the soldier would ask before the young officer even opened his mouth.

“What happened? They only gave us the criminal’s description and told us he might be in the region of our patrols.” Brother had been prepared to deliver the news raw until he heard the request, then he wondered if his information would bring doubt and fear to his audience.

Several soldiers watched the struggle that went on behind Brother’s features.

“C’mon man, spill! What did this asshat do?” a female lancer demanded, brandishing her slender spear as though offering defiance rather than frustration.

“He transformed a platoon of city guards into monsters, then had them burn the business’s along the Emperor’s Way, and then they killed the people trying to escape those fires. I would be careful if I were you, this wizard is very dangerous.” He could see by the paling visages of many of the troopers, including their leader, that he had not done them a favor. Many faces turned on the lieutenant with expressions that asked him what they were supposed to do against this wizard if they did find him. The poor junior officer looked at a loss, his eyes darted around seeking inspiration. When the lieutenant’s eyes fell back upon Brother of the Sword, he chose to commit to stalling tactics; he did not address his soldier’s concerns.

Clearing his throat and drawing himself up tall in his horses saddle, the junior officer inclined his head to Brother of the Sword.

“Thank you for letting us know, citizen. Be on your way then.” The soldiers behind their leader rolled their eyes or wore expressions that spoke of rebellion, but they parted before Brother to let him go on his way. An argument broke out in his wake, but the insurrection was conducted in whispers Brother could not hear. On reaching the far side of the hill it occurred to him that he had lost a chance to ask how far away his lake lay from here. Temptation almost made the coffin born man turn about to make his inquiry, then Brother reminded himself how upset he had made those horse soldiers. Wisely he kept on trudging.

Having that stark reminder that Krendiel remained on the loose and was gunning for him, Brother of the Sword began to watch the terrain ahead more closely. The nut groves became places of dread for him, passing the acres and acres of established trees made him see navy blue hiding behind each and every trunk. Brother could feel unfriendly eyes dogging each of his steps, plotting against him and weighing the chances of confronting him. His only moments of security came when mounted patrols passed him by, in the late afternoon he remembered to call out to ask for Lake Talenchan’s distance. When the number seven or eight hundred miles was called out, Brother almost stopped there and then. That was a daunting distance, he did not have enough pouch rations to get that far. Did he?

No I don’t, but there are several towns in my path, I have enough silver, now, to buy more. I might even buy some food that I can cook over a fire with all the pots and pans I’m hauling. Discovering a solution to his worries helped defray the stress of watching for wizards, Brother’s steps became lighter and he soon began to notice swathes of grassland breaking up the plethora of crops, vineyards, and the various vegetable and grain farms he passed by. Also the sun was on its late afternoon decline, bringing warmth to the left side of his face. Still sore from his fight, and weary from hauling the extra weight of his back pack, Brother stopped an hour earlier than normal.

Erecting his tent was an easier proposition than he had thought, once he understood the instructions. What Brother of the Sword did lack was wood for a fire. There was a single lone oak tree on a distant hill, and Brother had learned from his time gleaning firewood in the forest was that it took a lot of trees to offer enough dead fall for a single nights fire. Rather than walk all that distance for the opportunity to be disappointed, he ate a self heating meal as the last rays of the sun found a hilly horizon to slip behind. Tarp and oilcloth smell filled his tent, but inside his sleeping bag and wrapped in blankets, Brother found himself quite toasty. Without the wind and ground stealing his warmth away, he did not miss not having a fire at all. All that comfort actually made some difficulty for Brother when he attempted his new healing meditation, he almost fell asleep a few times before he found the ether.

Crickets and frogs were still pulsing their love songs into the night when Brother of the Sword woke up. His warm blankets were as cozy as a real bed so he could not understand why he was suddenly back in the world. He was still tired enough to know he needed sleep, so why was he wide eyed and listening to the competing choruses of night creatures?

“Anthel, what if he wakes up when we’re trying to get into his tent?” The voice was a whisper that came along with the hiss of tall grass being pressed down.

“We do whatever it takes, I ain’t starvin’ to death without fighting for my chance to survive. Are yo goin’ to give up?” Evidently the man questioning this Anthel made some gesture to affirm he was still in on the robbery game, Brother could still hear the careful movements of two bodies crawling up to his tent.

Rolling out of his sleeping bag, Brother of the Sword physically drew Brother Sword from it’s sheath rather than call through the ether, then he hesitated to see if he had proved more stealthy than the unemployed robbers creeping up on him. Their noises kept on closing on the front of his tent. I bet I can easily surprise these guys and kill them or drive them away, he thought, trying to formulate a plan of attack. Wait a minute, do I really have to engage these guys to get rid of them? Smiling because he knew those who were stalking him were about to make ridiculous surprised faces, he settled on scaring them away instead. Feeding some of his energy into Brother Sword, he made his sibling of steel manifest it’s glow, lighting up his tent with pale blue illumination.

Instantly the grass stopped making slight noises.

“My sword complains of hunger, and low and behold two low life burglars come to feed it. Please remain where you are as that will allow you to die with less pain and fear,” Brother stated aloud. He began to tug on the tent flap zipper, making sure the aperture made as much noise as possible.

“Fuck! Run!” Anthel shouted. Before Brother could poke his head through the flaps he could hear the two moving away rapidly, all thoughts of stealth cast aside. Smiling at the effect he had caused without ever having to lay eyes on his attackers, Brother thought about calling something after them, a taunt or insult of some sort. He did not as better sense afflicted Brother, making him take the time to think things through instead. Will they stay away?

This time Brother of the Sword had woken up, but in the foothills he had awoken only after a robber had grabbed up Brother Sword. People could sneak up on him in his sleep proving that he was very vulnerable in that state. In the foothills his brother had sent an alarm when it had felt the touch of a foreign hand, what if they brought their own weapons the next time? He could be killed while he still dreamed. As the light of Brother Sword slowed its heartbeat like pulse, then faded, Brother of the Sword was beset by fears that were already preventing further sleep. Sensing Brother’s turmoil, Brother Sword sent an image of them hunting the two homeless men through the tall grass. It’s idea of a solution was to carry out the killing Brother had shied away from originally; images of Bother Sword drinking down blood smeared on it’s surface was not the enticement the sword thought it was. At least Brother Sword did not react negatively when it’s idea was rejected, it just quieted down to await Brother of the Sword’s will.

Brother realized he needed someone to watch as he slept, then he realized that he would never get anywhere that way. Whoever watched him at night would need someone to watch them in the day while they slept. If Brother Sword had external senses it could watch him, the blade never slept. However the living weapon only sensed the world around it when in someone’s hand, and that someone had to be awake and aware. Feeding Brother Sword blood back in Mudberry by the Water allowed it to talk to me mind to mind. Could feeding it more blood grant it area awareness? He sent that thought to his sibling, and Brother Sword was greatly amused, but it asserted it would never manifest a power like that. However, Brother Sword did send the image of the pots and pans toppling over at the tents entrance, stacked so they became an alarm when someone entered.

Yes, an alarm! Brother almost felt like cheering out loud as he thanked Brother Sword for it’s idea. However setting up his pots and pans to fall over and clatter at some disturbance was a bit of a chore. Leaning the cooking accouterments against the door flap failed under the pressure of a gentle breeze, plus it depressed the tent fabric; a dead give away that an alarm was there. He next tried to prop a skillet against a skewer fork, but the structure would not stand on its own, not even with the assistance of his bowl and plate. Nor did his regular fork and spoon aid in any way. Almost frustrated, Brother of the Sword attempted his first idea with propping his cookware up with the skewer fork again. This time he attached a string to the door’s zipper, strung that through the leather lanyard loop of the fork, and he was able to suspend the long fork in an upright position with the slight counter tension of the string running to the zipper. Then he was able to lean his skillet against the fork, and lay the pots so they would be hit when the skillet fell. Opening the tent flap would tug the skewer fork away from supporting that skillet, and the resulting clatter would yank Brother from dreamland.

Pleased with his solution, he lay down and knew no more until he rose in the morning. Taking an early evening seemed to have had many benefits for Brother of the Sword. His bandage had unraveled while Brother slept, which caused some worry at first, but probing the wound with his fingers showed him that he was almost too the point where new hair would begin growing. The gash was thoroughly sealed and showed itself as a slightly indented crease over his ear. On top of that, when he broke camp and began his march, his back and legs barely noticed the new weight of his tent. His body was already adapting to hauling the additional bulk and weight. He began to laugh as his feet hit the gravel road, in Brother’s mind he felt so good that it seemed the morning birds were singing his joy out for him; their jubilation at life such that their song matched his mood.

An hour into his jaunt, the river parted from the gravel road’s side, curving off sharply to his right to bend around a small hill to the north east. The water frothed to white as the river bed narrowed into a channel choked with boulders and battered storm washed timber. The road itself bent a little more towards the west, climbing into a series of hills that sported crowns of wild maple and cottonwood trees; a small orchard of hazelnut trees was nestled before those foothills, three hundred yards or more away from the road. Far, far beyond the little white house trying to hide behind the nut trees, Brother of the Sword saw distant movement. From his experiences the day before, those distant brown splotches were likely herds of elk or deer taking a wilderness route to the north west.

Hoofing uphill too the trees took a longer time than Brother of the Sword thought. Whoever had built the road had made their path go partially up one hill, then down into the trough between mounds, only to ascend part way up yet another earthen climb. As if tiring of the road builders vacillation, one grand hill rose to force the road up and into the treeline. Now the gravel way seemed to remain up along the ridge line or along the flank of this grand sprawling geological feature. Around noon, the trees to Brother’s left plunged down a sheer hill face to grant him the sight of his river. The flow arched away for scores of miles, but far to the northeast it curved in to rejoin his road many days journey away. Granted this perfect view, Brother sat in the middle of the road and watched the sun craft sparkling gems off the water as he ate his lunch.

Cow elk began to make their bird like bleats when Brother began to brush biscuit crumbs off his lap, he could hear some of the females and their young begin to crash through the trees to come out onto the road at a low point forty yards before him. That which had spooked the big animals was not Brother of the Sword, he could see the matron of the herd pause to take him in then continue on her way with the younger elk females. She had not increased her pace or added to the calls she had been making, he had just been someone near their flight path who had not provoked any more fear. Far away he could hear more animals angling away from his point on the ridge line, he could not hear those animals give guiding calls to their comrades over the thrashing brush of the nearer beasts. Those nearby elk were not stealthy in arching south to circle back behind him.

Shaking his head at the wonder of it all, Brother of the Sword hefted his pack and took his next step on his journey. Though he knew the ascents and descents were slowing his progress, Brother hoped that this leg through the trees would last awhile. He preferred the forest to the grassy valley floor. He even liked the living creatures up here better than those in the low lands. In the wilderness the animals were fey and elusive, rare and precious. In the low lands they were all domesticated and uninteresting, far too numerous to be counted. Unfortunately his long sprawling ridge did come to an end in the middle of the afternoon, and the road became one long descent that bobbed over a few uneven undulations of the land. Brother almost turned around to offer his farewell to the oaks and maples as the road left the woods.

West, the hills continued bracketing the valley. Their crowns of trees drew Brother of the Sword’s spirit, his short time clambering around the hills had bolstered his morale immensely. There was nothing wrong with the valley except for the exposed feeling he had, where it felt like anybody with a vantage could see what he was doing. Just as lacking in privacy as this hillside he was on. Somewhat hazy from distance, Brother could see the hills making another stab eastward. Their heads hairy with trees, the hills attempt to make it to the river seemed held back by the farms laying at their feet. All this was so distant that Brother knew he did not have to worry about those remote farmers possibly seeing him. Yet he felt something watching him, or someone his imagination was crafting

All that time that Brother of the Sword felt he had lost while traipsing along these hills was being regained with the pace gravity was giving him down the gravel roads long grade. Each of his steps felt twice as wide as a normal walking span…. To the west a large flock of birds took to the air, their far off calls sounding panicked. Mounted riders angled out of the western hills heading in his direction, though they were a mile off, the galloping pace they had set themselves seemed uncannily determined. An inhuman cry, redolent with pain and loss bugled from behind Brother, and a look back showed him two cavalry soldiers sitting atop ungainly caricatures of horses; these riders were less than a half a mile from him, and they too were warped from true. They were definitely placed to cut him off from returning to the sheltering trees above. One bug eyed beast of burden trumpeted its agony from the ridge line, its dangling tongue wagging and dancing unnaturally from a mouth overburdened with fangs. Though these riders were still distant, he thought he saw forward facing dew claws on their mount’s altered hooves, hooked spurs of bone or antler.

At a walk the two nearest lancers began to move toward Brother of the Sword, and he was able to see the light blue pants, and mostly white uniform jacket of the empires’ cavalry. One rider’s head lolled limply, jolting around as if there were no neck bones to hold the cranium in check to the lurching gait of the horses. The calm walk of the troopers behind Brother only added on to his mounting fears, the rapid gait of the cavalry too his left felt like an assault about to happen. How am I supposed to fight mounted men, including the two at my back, there are ten of them? Brother Sword was as alarmed as he was and reached for him through the ether, becoming an eager waiting presence in Brother’s head as he bid the blade to wait. Maybe the spontaneous teleportation of Brother Sword to his hands would scare these strange soldiers. The horse behind Brother screamed again, a sound that begged for the surcease of pain.

I have to find terrain that limits their ability to charge me en masse, Brother of the Sword decided, using his eyes to seek out such territory. He was already on such a feature, the gravel road was slightly elevated from the remainder of the slope. All Brother would have to do is drop down on the east side of the road and he would be out of immediate eye sight of those fighters coming from the west. Of course the two at Brother’s back would still be able to see him, but they would have to try charging their horses across a drop off slope that would slow them or see them lose their riding beasts. That would only give him so much advantage though, their numbers would soon negate any maneuverability he stole from them. Almost as bad as figuring out how to limit how many of them could come at him at once, was the fact that they were already getting too close; a mile was not a great distance for a horse to cross.

Calling Brother Sword to his hand, he turned about and began walking towards the nearest two. Brother of the Sword realized that if he could deal with those nearer foes before the other eight joined the fray, then he would be better able to exert his will on the battle instead of having it dictated by his enemies. Looking as though their flesh was shaped by round blister like musculature, the bug eyed tongue lolling riders reigned in the lumpy distorted horse creatures they rode; the horses also had bulging orbs and skin that looked of pustules layered upon pustules.

“Shield me!” That command came from the distant tree line over a hundred yards from the gravel road, which was twice that far from where Brother of the Sword now walked. Krendiel, the wizard assassin! All the troopers were now closer too Brother than Brother was to the key to stopping this mess. If I can get close enough to Krediel to stop his magic, this crazy fight ends!

Leaping their horse creatures off the western verge of the road, the two controlled soldiers spurred their mounts into climbing back up to where their master crouched behind a maple trunk. Glancing over his shoulder before he broke into a climbing trot, Brother noticed the other eight horse riders were gaining ground rapidly, even though they were now forced to struggle uphill to get at him. Brother had lost this race even before he knew it was supposed to be a race; now all he could do was figure out how to string them out or create angles that prevented them from bringing their numbers to bear. All he could do was glare his frustration up at Krendiel as he remained upon the road; going for the renegade sorcerer now would allow the spell warped lancers to work in unison against Brother; as hard as the climbing was, those eight beast riders would catch him before he reached the wizard.

Foam frothed off the bouncing limp tongues dangling from the horses and their riders mouth’s, the grade just steep enough to rob all the steam from their charge. All eight of the pursuing riders chose to parallel the road, rather than risk their mounts hooves and shoes against the hard stones and gravel of the gravel way. Just shy of being in reach of the lead rider’s slender lance, Brother swerved over to the eastern side of the road. Brother of the Sword clambered down the flank of the road, using its raised bed to deny his opponents a view of his person; not even Krendiel could see him. Laboring just as hard as the distorted horses, Brother raced through the grass next to his road. When he heard the ringing of steel shoes striking stone, Brother flattened himself against the raised road’s stones, climbing back up them while trying to remain unseen. Jumping or bounding down, the eight cavalry creatures plunged off the road where Brother had made his climb; at first the oddly bulging things did not see him, but when Brother dashed back onto the road they all bayed like imitation hounds.

In full view of Krendiel and his two spell slaves, Brother of the Sword dashed straight across the road and down onto the western side. Again he followed the roads flank listening for the sound of horseshoes beating across stone. Stepping out from behind his tree, the former Assembly Arcanuum divinator pointed an indicting finger at Brother just as the eight riders brought their mounts back to the roads flat surface. Flipping the wizard the bird, Brother began scampering up the roads side, several of his pursuers leaped their mounts onto the western grasslands to begin churning his way; shod hooves still sang against rock indicating that a few warped riders were still up top. Wearing the rank insignia of a lieutenant, the nearest spell altered trooper lowered his lance when Brother gained the road. Silvered spurs dug into the caricature horses flank over and over, urging a speed the devolved animal could not make. Twisting at the hips to aid his parry, Brother swatted the spear aside, stepped towards his attacker, then uncoiled at the hips to strike the horses neck.

Even mangled by whatever magic it was enthralled too, the horse tried to rear back from the blade that killed it falling onto and crushing it’s rider. Spilling in front of the hooves of the following riders, the thing that used to lead the patrol now hindered the other three horse creatures; including the flailing hooves of the dying mount the three bad guys on the road were thoroughly blocked for the moment. That gave Brother of the Sword the brief respite he needed to run over and clamber down to the eastern side of the road. This time he duck walked down hill when he was out of their view, but they began to leap their mounts over him rather than scamper up the hill to where he had gone down. Surprised by the first jumper, Brother did not hesitate when the second trooper leaped down. His cut eviscerated the sailing horse, and he used a big lunging step down the slope to clear himself from the blood spray, viscera discharge, and tumbling limbs; the third horse creature rode up to the roads edge and tried to lunge down at Brother with it’s lance.

It was clear that the three warped men had not known that Brother of the Sword had been moving downhill, even as Brother was parrying and dodging the third rider’s lance, the first one was peering up the flank of the road trying to spot Brother. Despite the second rider having been rolled on by her gutted horse thing, she rose drawing her saber, one bulging eye seeming to suck into the bruised flesh where a flailing hoof had stricken her. Darting away form the spear point trying to stick him from above, Brother sprinted out of that lancer’s reach by closing with the unhorsed rider. Biting upon her own tongue with her misshapen fangs, the female being screeched like a banshee trying to make up for lost haunting time. Without a thought for it’s own safety, the lumpy creature used an overhand stroke to kill Brother. Using power over control allowed Brother to easily step aside, she was unable to recover and block Brother Swords counter attack. Her head bounded down the grassy slope and just seemed to keep on gaining rolling momentum from the grade.

Slow to the uptake, the first rider finally turned about to spot Brother, and the third trooper gathered it’s tumorous horse to jump down off the road. Slurping down the blood on it’s surface, Brother Sword gave off a sense of satisfaction for the violence. Breathing heavily from all the climbing and running, Brother sprinted over to the road as the third rider sailed from the raised gravel path. He had to parry the first rider’s spear once before he rolled onto the sloping road out of the lance’s reach. Clambering like over weight mountain goats, the other four riders were just now climbing to the road from the western side. Cursing because he had hoped for a moment to gather himself, Brother scrambled to his feet and began to sprint for the western edge of the road above where the altered soldiers were now climbing; he had to throw Brother Sword at the lead rider from ten feet away over the head of it’s lance

As though punched by a giant fist, the distorted rider flew from the saddle back to the western side’s grassy area. Riderless, the horse lunged at Brother of the Sword with it’s teeth, and when those failed to clamp down, it reared and pawed the air trying to rake with the claws nature had never meant it to have. Brother had to reach through the ether and recover Brother Sword, the flashing blade made the unnatural animal shy back; it wanted nothing to do with the glowing steel. When the riderless beast veered it blocked the path of the second rider who had climbed onto the road, this trooper and it’s mount had been trying to ride around to bring it’s weapons to bear. Both the rider and its twisted mount cried out like victims being stretched on a torture rack, long drawn out wails that sent shudders down Brother’s back even as he bounded off the bedrock boulders of the raised roadway.

Chased by the ringing of horse shoes on the stone way above, Brother raced up the side of the road watching the wizard gesturing his creatures towards the attack.

“Get him! Get the simulacrum!” Krendiel called pointing with both hands, his voice rife with disbelief. A heavy thudding behind Brother of the Sword told him that a horse and rider had leaped off his side of the road. Clattering hooves on the gravel paved way attested to the fact that the warped cavalry were gaining on Brother. I have to create angles with these guys now, I have to keep a single horse and rider between me and the bulk of this unit. With a bound, Brother bounced away from the road, then he pivoted and jumped back to where he had been. Razor pointed steel passed through where he had just been, the grass bound lancer began to recover from it’s thrust while turning wide insensate eyes upon Brother. It also tried to wheel it’s horse thing around. Hopping again, Brother’s lunge crunched through the riders ribs; it’s eyes never registered pain or regret, it just slumped in the saddle and dropped the lance, the fever leaving it’s eyes as they caught sight of that which lay beyond.

Just as feral as it’s rider, the malignantly twisted horse did try to twist about to bite Brother of the Sword, his second lunge caught the former horse in the neck just below it’s jaw line. Four riders and three horses dead, he thought while thrusting hard. Automatically, he had been counting those he struck down and those remaining, just as he had done back in Mudberry by the Water. It dawned on Brother why he kept track, it was to keep from underestimating what they could bring against him. Two were guarding Krendiel hundreds of yards away, two were on the road lances ready to intercept him from climbing up to their level, and the last two were downhill from Brother springing down to the grass and arranging themselves in a line. One riderless beast had forgotten the fray and was racing back down hill screaming as though it were on fire.

Each horse panted as though a marathon had been raced, Brother of the Sword himself gasped for air. While the two cavalry creatures to the down slope north positioned themselves, he shrugged out of his pack; which he threw towards the still kicking blister bubble mount bleeding out near its dead rider. Fell brother, if you capture a warped beast I may be able to help you control it, Brother Sword suddenly stated.

“Hey, you can talk again.” Brother of the Sword’s spoken words made the two riders on the grass spur their horses to a walk, one rider had one arm a foot long, while the right arm seemed to be double normal length. Rider and mount had their blank bulging eyes fixed on him, their attention so focused that their lolling tongues did not bounce around like tassels at a music festival. You will have to fight all four of them if you do not plunder for yourself a direful mount, most fell brother.

When he started walking toward the two, they heeled their creatures to a canter. On the road, the two riding sentinels mirrored his movements, their lances held cross body but still very much threatening.

“How am I supposed to do that?” he asked his blade. Brother pretty much received the impression that Brother Sword was shrugging, it did not offer him an answer. Hoof claws tore up grass as the twisted horses were spurred to the charge just yards away from Brother. He knew he could not angle towards the road because of the two lancers up top, and running too far away from the raised gravel strip would make the same two troopers come down as they would have the space to keep him away from the roadway. The four all together would be able to keep him from gaining the roads temporary shelter when that happened. Yet he could not remain where he was and allow two to attack at the same time.

Darting to his left, farther out into the grassy slope, Brother made it so the warrior with off kilter arms could not strike at him, effectively pinning that one between it’s companion and the gravel road. Nearly at the same moment the two cavalry creatures on the road forced their mounts to ping pong down the side of the road then they swept a little downhill to keep Brother from the road. His nearest foe thrust out powerfully with it’s lance, then it swerved it’s horse out of Brother of the Sword’s return attack, Brother could only slash the flank of the unhealthy looking animal. Screaming in distress, the former horse began to kick out with it’s rear hoof claws, forcing Brother to dive to the turf to keep his head from being stove in. Bucking savagely, the horse began to strike out as it circled around and around like a wild bronco, it wanted to strike anything and everything in a three hundred sixty degree angle. It’s third kick struck the belly of crooked arm’s horse, and crooked arm’s leg, tossing horse and rider down in a thrashing screaming heap next to the gravel rise.

Clinging like an expert, the warped thing riding the stricken animal, arched and swayed at each lurch clinging tight to the saddle; it had been forced to toss it’s lance to get both hands choked up on the reins. The troopers fresh from off the road were already oriented on Brother of the Sword, but the downhill most rider was blocked off by it’s forward friend when that one couched it’s lance and charged. Standing as if he did not see the razor edged steel point aimed at his heart, Brother posed with raised sword until the lead lancer was close enough. Grass flew from the hooked hooves of the mount as the slope hampered the creatures movement, yet it would still be able to assist it’s rider with the weight of it’s body if that spear hit Brother. Once again he threw Brother Sword. Rotating once as it flew, Brother Sword intercepted the riders ulcerated face point first, rolling the rider over the horse things haunch. The sibling of flesh reached for the sibling of steel, and they were reunited in an instant.

Pouncing like a cat on wriggling string, the riderless warped horse tried to pin Brother of the Sword with the raptor like claws of its fore hooves. Those hooks would have split Brother from chest to mid thigh if he would have stayed still. Instead he glided to the side, and as the beast moved through his former territory, Brother grabbed the saddle horn and swung himself up. As warped and distorted as it was, the animal beneath him immediately freaked out, screaming and bucking in a clockwise circle. Razor sharp steel raked across Brother of the Sword’s back from the following lancer, and Brother’s instinct was to block the next thrust with Brother Sword. Touch this tainted beast on it’s flank with my body, fell brother. My nature will sting the arcane influence within this creature dour. Instantly he slapped the flat of Brother Sword to the animals side, but even as he did he had to lean back from the lance trying to pierce his rib cage. This time Brother was cut from under his right pectoral muscle to over his solar plexus, a deep stinging slice.

Shrieking as if hell were nipping at it’s heels, Brother’s indignant mount sprang into a downhill sprint. It ignored Brother of the Sword sawing on it’s reins, but under Brother Swords instruction a touch along it’s jawline turned the distorted horse uphill; aimed at Krendiel. Still trying to face it’s horse downhill, the lancer who had cut Brother did not expect to find Brother racing by heading uphill; It confused it’s beast by reining back the way it had been facing. Having controlled and calmed it’s altered mount, the creature riding the slashed horse drove it’s animal straight at Brother; both animal and rider howled like beings trapped in a furnace. Goaded by rump swats delivered to it’s backside, Brother of the Sword managed to pass that rider by, all it could do was brandish it’s saber with it’s long arm and continue to howl. This is good, fell brother, the wizard sets his last two protectors against us now. It is our hope that we draw close enough to eat the wizard’s magic before you are spit on their weapons.

Just as Brother Sword had observed, Krendiel had set his two lancers loose. They were charging downhill howling as though just learning they were damned. What was bothering Brother of the Sword the most, though, was the hooves beating over his left shoulder; glancing back did not show his closest pursuer gaining on him, but Brother could not help but hear the shrieking horse gaining on him. Doubting that he could reach, Brother laid back in his saddle and took a swing with the blue glowing blade. Brother Sword did not touch flesh, but the thing that used to be a horse shied away as though stricken. Despite retaining his seat while the animal had bucked earlier, the rider was now thrown; the other trooper chasing Brother was much further back and would not become a factor for some time.

Just as Brother of the Sword was doing, the magic blade was trying to figure out their options to close with Krendiel. They needed at least half a hundred yards for Brother Sword to be able to negate the wizards disgusting spell, but it was looking doubtful that the downhill speeding cavalry would place second in this particular race. Veering around those two was no longer an option. All Brother could hope to do was get lucky and block both lances when they thrust at him. What he had not counted on was that both riders tilted their weapons down, piercing and destroying the mount he rode. The weight of two horses stopped his malformed mount dead, inertia threw Brother over the former horses head to land between both enemy riders. Brother was not the only one to be surprised by this turn of events, but his foes were still bulldozing his horse downhill, inadvertantly mucking up their lone uphill facing companion; it had to brake instead of wave it’s saber about.

Back pedaling into the tree he had once hidden behind, Krendiel’s face registered disbelief and more than a little fear. Knowing he was still in a race, Brother of the Sword rolled to his feet and set himself churning up the slope; he did not take the time to glance at the horse like thing he had rode to see how poorly it had fared. So close, fell brother! I pray the prey does not flee before us! As if stealing the idea from Brother Sword, the wizard whirled about and tried to dash back into the woods. Over Brother’s shoulder he could hear the huffing breath of a horse and the wail of the rider, the enemy had closed faster than he had hoped. Under the branches of his tree the wizard suddenly dropped to his backside, his blue robes tangling with branches and shrubs; to Brother’s eye it looked like the man had smacked into a branch that could not be seen from his vantage.

Whether it was psychosomatic or real, the thudding of hooves at his back felt close enough to vibrate the earth below Brother of the Sword’s feet. Surely his toes were only making the briefest of contacts with the earth, he could not possibly be feeling his pursuer like this? Holding his head, Krendiel labored to his feet and cast a wide eyed look back. Now, fell brother, now! Brother Sword felt just as desperate as was. Fearing he would feel a saber thrust into his back, Brother swung the magic blade and pointed it straight at Krendiel. A sword shaped light blue bolt shot out and hit the wizard in between his shoulder blades, Krediel’s wail matched the sounds of despair his surviving victims made. Still in mid stride, Brother of the Sword jumped and spun in the air, swinging his sibling hard in an uppercut. Brother Sword smashed through the lower jaw and out the top of the horses snout, snapping it’s head up forcefully even as it plowed chest first into the earth. As it fell the rider catapulted through the air.

Flesh that looked as though blisters had layers of other blisters below, writhed, but Brother did not check himself from chopping the trooper in it’s flight. Down the gradient, Brother of the Sword watched the trailing two riders and their horses collapse. Their painful transformation back into themselves sounded as hellish as their enchanted existence had been, but the screams were back to back instead of intermittent. Wanting to collapse and suck in all the oxygen the world could supply him with, Brother forced himself to remember the assassin wizard above him. Krendiel was already back on his feet again, crashing into tree trunks drunkenly on legs of rubber.

Almost sobbing with the effort now, Brother of the Sword, made his legs climb, the muscles of his calves felt like they wanted to cramp up. He was only a score of yards behind Krendiel when he entered the tree line. A few steps later, the spell caster looked back and spotted Brother.

“No!” that cry reverberated with the denial of the inevitable. Krendiel tried running on, but he turned back too often to track Brother, he stumbled and fell almost every single time. At a dozen steps away, the wizard spun around and fell against the trunk of a maple, his hands held up in either denial or supplication. “Don’t kill me! You can’t kill me!” the wizard demanded, fear bugging his eyes out. Brother continued advancing, his soul riding a self righteous anger.

“Why not, you tried to murder me? Twice.”

Holding his hands up as if those fleshy appendages could stop the wrathful steel of Brother Sword, Krendiel tried his justifications.

“It’s not murder, you’re a simulacrum,” the wizard said, sounding as if he was well within his rights.

“I’m a what?” Brother found himself asking as he stomped to a halt over the man, Brother Sword held raised.

“You’re a simulacrum… a false man,” Krendiel explained, then seemed amazed that Brother of the Sword did not seem to understand. “You were created in another wizards laboratory. You were made to kill off his competition.”

Knowing the wizard was just trying to gain extra moments, Brother still lowered Brother Sword a little so he could learn some more.

“Who made me?” he asked. Looking like a man who had just found the means to his salvation, Krendiel lowered his hands and peered up at Brother.

“I don’t know who made you, the Witch Garmev never told me, but if you let me live I might be able to get her to inform me.” Brother had heard that name before. With a memory that was almost two weeks old, Brother was easily able to summon the moment forth. The fey giant he had faced up in Galen Falls had practically bragged that it had been paid and ensorcelled by a notorious witch of that name. So, this was her second and third attempt on Brother’s life.

“Who is the Witch Garmev?” Sighing in relief, Krendiel lowered his arms all the way. He even had the temerity to smile up at Brother as though he had already been forgiven or something. Brother Sword was urging him to strike now, this moment!

“We in the Assembly Arcanuum consider her an arch wizard class spell caster. She has chosen not to take any side but her own. When she wants something, she usually has the power to take it, unless that brings her up against someone as powerful as she is. We don’t know too much about her, but we think she has set her residence up in fairy.”

Thinking hard, Brother of the Sword tried to recall what he knew of fairy. The sense he got was that it was a realm within and without this world and weird creatures existed there. Elves were tied to Fairy as much as they were tied to this world, though no one could truly fathom what that implied.

“How do I get to fairy?” he asked Krendiel. Smiling as if they were friends the wizard began to push himself upright using the maple tree as a brace.

“I’m not sure where the actual gate is, but you must ask the king and queen of the Star Elves for permission to pass.” Trying to keep his distaste off his face he asked one last question of the divinator.

“Does being a simulacrum make me a lesser being?” he asked feeling a pang of disquiet. Frowning at the sudden tack of the question, Krendiel was slow to answer.

“You’re not real… well, you’re real but not really human. I imagine that your emotions and thoughts are but the product of enchantments placed on you to help you mimic being alive.”

For a moment Brother of the Sword studied the renegade wizard’s self pleased smile. The man actually thought his reasoning was sound. That self satisfaction evaporated like water in hell when Brother exploded.

“I’m not real? My fear is simulated? My blood is a travesty, because you choose to spill it?” his shouting alarmed Krendiel, but the wizard still did not expect the speed in which he swung Brother Sword. Jetting blood from the stump of the neck, Krendiel’s body dropped limply to its knees and continued on to spill soddenly into the leaves. The head bounced off the maple then down to ricochet off it’s own shoulder, only to roll to the small of his body’s back. After a few moments, Brother of the Sword began to lose the justified feeling he felt looking at the corpse.

Fell brother, your clothing is stained by the lives taken. Wrap me in your shirt, then wrap me in your pants. I will deplete the vital fluid that stains thy garments, Brother Sword stated still audibly slurping Krendiel’s gore into itself.

Surprised, Brother looked at his sibling blade.

“You can still talk?” Amusement rippled as glowing highlights in the layered steel. Oh fell brother, I was depleted when we struck the wizard’s magic down. Still I had been fed much blood and vitality before the bolt flew, and you fed more blood into me after the magic was negated. As small as this wizard was, he still had much magic vitality for me to nourish myself with. We both grow, fell brother, from each experience we have. Both of us have increased in ability since we woke in that sarcophagus not so long ago. Please, your garments can be made nigh pristine again if you let me take the vitality that sprayed upon you from your sweet violence, fell brother.

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  Brother of the Sword Chapter 5 pt.2
Posted by: frenzied67 - 01-09-2021, 06:40 PM - Forum: Off-Topic - No Replies

Chapter 5 pt.2
Ripped Away Will
From Mudberry by the Water to the Road North 1533 Imperial Calendar

With the tents extra weight, his travel pack was not as fun to carry as it had been.  At least that is what he told himself as he left the tavern for the bright outdoors, then he tried to remember a time where carrying his backpack had been enjoyable.  Nope, most of his pleasurable moments had occurred despite the carrying container, or with it off his back.  For the first hour his pace seemed to match the strolling gait of the other pedestrians headed in his direction, he yawned continually while thinking about finding a place to take a nap.  An hour later, Brother of the Sword was yet again impatiently taking to skirting the boardwalks to pass slow travelers; energy incarnate.  After the bells tolled three, Brother was being cursed by folks forced to skirt around him.  That damn back pack felt like it was sucking the life out of him.

By the time the twin gated exit of Mudberry by the Water came into Brother of the Sword’s view he was dragging, sweat stained, and weary.  With the gate’s guardians still looking like far off specks, he stepped into the street and looked for an inn.  One ramshackle two story and two swanky three story establishments proclaimed they were inns; the run down place was closest.  In Brother’s rented room was a musty smell that came from the walls, the blankets on his bed had many patches and were begging for many more.  Grime and ripples occluded the window so much that Brother could only catch movement on the street below, there was no telling if it was person or beast that made the dark wavering motion on the pale cobble stones.  Dropping his pack, Brother flopped onto the bed and let his legs twitch and shake from all the hours of labor he had put them through.  His new boots had not rubbed any raw patches on his feet or lower leg, but his calves felt spots where digging leather had pressed into his flesh.

Sighing made the box springs protest as he allowed his back and neck muscles to relax.  Even his following yawn made the bed creak.  The mattress reminded him of the forest floor of the mountain with odd lumps and impressions, but despite that he drifted off.  Starting awake, Brother of the Sword noticed that the light drifting through the window had hardly moved.  Grumbling, his stomach let him know what had pulled him from the restorative slumber his body craved.  I worked hard today with the extra weight on my back, I worked my lunch off and then some.  I won’t regenerate properly unless I have food to fuel myself.  Groaning, Brother sat up and then lingered on the edge of the protesting bed, reluctant to put weight on his tired feet and legs.  For a moment he thought about breaking into his traveling pack rations, then he realized that would be all he would be eating for many weeks ahead.  Like it or not, this would be one of the last civilized meals he would have for a long time.

Making the noises of protest he thought his body parts would make if they could vocalize, Brother of the Sword forced himself onto his feet.  His next act was to sponge bath his face, neck, and torso using the basin of water the inn supplied; one of the few amenities they did provide.  After wiping away his dried sweat, he then made sure Brother Sword was tied securely to his pack, he double checked to see if he had everything together.  Tucking the key to his room in his left pocket, he found himself skipping down the stairs suddenly not as wiped out as he had thought.  I’m going to say this is because that pack is off my back.  As jaunty as his wave and grin were, the tattooed inn keeper glared after Brother as though he had made rude gestures at the man.  When checking in, Brother had been offered and refused to have the inn keeper send him up a hooker, the proprietor had stopped pretending to be friendly.

The sun was half framed by the highest roofs and steeples of Mudberry by the Water when he hit the boardwalk.  Shadows from those buildings were creeping up the eastern faces of all the houses, businesses, and other buildings in the city.  Closing his eyes he let those fading rays warm his face.  Letting his senses open, Brother of the Sword tilted his head back and began to sniff the air as he basked.  Close to the gate he could smell two buildings across from each other that had kitchens working with multiple foods, too the south east there were other establishments that were making meals, but they were far away.

Plus there was a woman wearing lavender perfume that was the nearest of all.

“I love the sunset in this city too.”  Her voice was rather young sounding, and Brother could smell recent sex on her person.  Cracking his eyes open, Brother of the Sword rolled his head over to see who was talking to him.  The girl did not need the make up she wore, her complexion was naturally porcelain and flawless.  Her face held the unworldly stamp of the Elven, but she was not purely of that race.  The Human stamp of her genes had given her a button nose to go with her exotically slanted eyes, which threw him off because she looked more doll than living being at his first glance.  Slightly pointed ears peaked from her straight dark red tresses.  Low cut to show a slight amount of cleavage, the young woman’s dress was meant to show off her female curves rather than hint at them.  Her eyes held boredom but her mouth smiled with invitation.

Stymied because of all the mixed signals he was getting, Brother of the Sword tried pleasantries in order see how he really felt about the woman at his side; or what she truly felt about him.

“The last rays always feel so pleasant, but I was actually trying to smell where the nearest eating place was,” he admitted pointing a thumb over his shoulder towards the gate.  This actually sparked real interest in the girl, she did a double take.  Her brows furrowed as a more genuine smile came to her full lips; the shape of her mouth and the fullness of her lips were another human trait.

“I don’t smell anything.  We’re not close enough.  There is a tavern and a restaurant over there, and another restaurant back that way about three blocks.”  Without thinking he nodded to show he knew the information she had just shared.  “I’ve never seen you around here before, are you traveling through?” she asked, her empty invitation coming back to her show smile.

Still uncertain to why she was there with him, Brother of the Sword, tried one more time to see if this being was seeking a connection or not.  If she had just wanted to talk to someone he would have sensed that, she was half signaling him that she did not actually want to be in this place with him at all.

“I’m on my way to Lake Talenchan, do you know how far that is away from Mudberry by the Water?”  Shrugging his question away, she stepped a little closer to him, uncomfortably close.  She may have been lovely but she did not want to be doing what she was doing.

“I think it’s a long way from here.  A very long way.  Do you want to party with me before you go, this could be the last time you get some action for quite some time?”

Now Brother of the Sword realized what the girl was really after, she didn’t want him, she wanted to earn the few coins he had left.  For the first time in his short life, Brother found himself stepping back from a desirable woman; the nature in him protested against what he was doing.  His brain told him the opposite.

“I was robbed this morning, I don’t have enough coin to keep your interest,” he said trying to be polite.  Annoyance wanted to color his voice, but she did not deserve his becoming negative towards her.

“Well fuck you too, asshole!  Why go around in your fancy clothes if you can’t afford a good time?”  Well, so much for being polite.  Shaking his head he just turned around and began walking across the Emperor’s Way.  One of the two places he had scented smelled slightly better than the other.    For that, the hooker cast aspersion on his penis that could not be true.  The two sexual encounters Brother had before now proved to him that functionality was not a problem he had.

Tallow, and lantern oil flavored the air on the boardwalks.  Though not all of the business’ on the street had lanterns that burned oil or candles, a large majority of them did.  Even in the shadows it was evident that the sun was still up, so the store owners currently lighting their outside lights were doing so as a courtesy for would be customers.  Glancing through shop windows did give Brother of the Sword a surprise, there were more shoppers in each place he passed than he had seen in any single establishment earlier in the day.  Using deduction, Brother figured it out after seeing a few shops closed for the night; many workers only had time to acquire their supplies after their day of labor.  Discovering that people of all sorts had solved problems long before he had come to be made him smile and shake his head in admiration.

A brightening of light ahead of him and screams pulled Brother of the Swords attention off of the nearby store fronts.  The tavern across the street from the restaurant he was aiming for suddenly had tall flames licking through a shattered window.  Men and women were trying to dash out of the front doors, but the timber of their cries changed when they ran into shadowy figures who cut them down with swords or spears.  Coming from the guardhouse, a figure dashed across the Emperor’s way with an open flame of some sort in their hand, they threw what proved to be a flaming bottle through the windows of a stationary store.  Brother was so shocked that he froze on the walk, helplessly he watched the arsonist kick the stores owner back into his own shop, directly into the flames climbing the window frame.  His intended restaurant flared up, while dozens of capering figures in armor set themselves at the exit, hewing unarmed refugees down as they tried to escape the bursting fires.

Brother of the Sword saw that all the figures wore the armor and uniform of the local soldiers, however none of them were Human, Dwarf, Elf, or any of the other creatures from Mudberry by the Water.  They were lumpy and twisted, long tongues lolled out of mouths full of nail like fangs, bulbous eyes spoke of agony and malice working in brains blind to coherent thought.  Not one made a sound, a call, or barked an order, they just naturally moved into position to hurl Molotov cocktails then carve up the helpless creatures scrambling for some sort of safety.  Horrified he instinctively called through the non space ether for his sibling, and found Brother Sword proclaiming that magic was near.  Gripping the magic sword in both hands Brother charged forward finding a simmering anger heating up his brain.

Heeding the sounds of chaos growing in their city, people began to check the street to see what was transpiring.  Eyes wide with terror those people began to push out of the shops, turned to the south east and ran.  In moments the boardwalk became a seething mass of people trampling each other to get away.  Swerving from that growing disaster Brother of the Sword did a one arm vault over the walk’s railing to hit the Emperor’s way, which was still fairly open.  Escapees who did make it to the wide cobbled street veered out of Brothers way, they saw his all out sprint and the light reflecting off of Brother Sword so they stayed out of his way.  Letting a burning man flail by them, two of the cursed figures pounced on a brunette woman who stumbled out of the same theater.  They grabbed her and raised their weapons to strike the girl down.  His wordless challenge made the creatures take their attention away from their captive for a moment.  Without looking, they stabbed the woman then began to spread out to receive his charge, their blades dripping gore.

Instead of pelting into the gap they had created between them, Brother swerved.  He caught the striking sword of the his victim on Brother Swords edge then plowed full steam into the twisted figure with his shoulder from a lowered stance.  Shrugging to assist the lumpy monster’s flight, he flung the thing over a dozen yards over the rail and through the unbroken window of the theater.  Trailing a wake of broken glass, the figure disappeared behind a wall of hellish flame.  Long tongue wagging from the things distended mouth, the other monster tried to slash Brother of the Sword, only to have its long sword swatted aside with force enough to make it stumble.  His brutish follow up swing crunched through the chest cavity of the uniform wearing nightmare, shattering ribs and spine in that one swing.

“There he is!” a voice called from the densest formation of warped figures.

Far too distant for Brother of the Swords taste, the shrill whistles of patrolling guards began to summon aid.  Nearer, all the hellish guard caricatures stopped hacking and burning the innocent.  With that one command they all turned crazed bulging eyes upon Brother and his glowing and flowing sword.  Evidently the creatures blood was good enough for Brother Swords taste, it began to make slurping sounds after they carved into the nearest ghoul figure, who tried to tackle Brother of the Sword’s about the waist.  Then he had to start flowing and moving as he was forced to fight three of them at one time; only his speed, footwork, and superior strength allowed him to down all three in a count of five.

Oh fell sibling, there is that among the twisted ones who is the source and director of the evil I/we feel.  Find that one and I/we can end this fray, it shall be the only being with natural form.  Instead of impressions and ideas, Brother Sword spoke to him mind to mind.  A first for both of them.  In the chaos of fiendish creatures rushing him it was hard to pick out details.  Some of the warped beings loped, some bounded in prestigious leaps, while others were so twisted that they had to use all four limbs to make awkward lurches his way.  Side stepping a spear point, Brother split the head of that assailant then began an angling walk to his right that took him out of line of the main rush of attackers. Through his bond with Brother Sword, he could sense something like a sigh of satisfaction as blood soaked into the flowing blue pattern of its blade.

Throwing the next monstrosity into the spear of one of it’s friends, Brother of the Sword continued his rightward semi circle keeping the creatures from being able to fall on him in a large mass.  However, he was slowly being circled by the twenty or so remaining hell beings.  They both saw the lone human at the same time, a healthy middle age man who looked to be an inch or two over six foot; about Brother of the Sword’s height.  Patterns on this man’s dark robes held insignia that aligned him with the guards, it was an Assembly Arcanuum uniform.  One last lumpy thing threw itself at Brother of the Sword, it’s spear tip probing like a prize fighter using jabs to size up their opponent.  He made a three hundred sixty degree spin, his first slash taking the tip off the ten foot pole arm, then with the momentum of his last whirling step he dashed the wretched creature to the cobble stones; one arm bouncing away from the deeply sliced torso.

Though they had numbers, the wizard made a circling gesture.  The spell caster’s creatures did not close with him, but they rushed to complete the ring of twisted forms around Brother of the Sword. Do it now, fell brother, I implore thee!  Without drawing energy from him, Brother Sword built up it’s charge.  With a swing, Brother of the Sword pointed the blade at the wizard.  A pale blue sword shaped energy discharge flew at the man with the speed an arrow would envy.  Unable to dodge aside or block the energy, the wizard cried out in dismay.  This man’s fevered look of impending victory turned to wide eyed dismay as his magic and ability to craft spells ceased, blasted away by Brother Swords spell eating power.  Writhing in agony, all the twisted ghoul like creatures began to tumble to the ground.  For the first time sound issued from their throats as the limbs of their bodies spasmed and flowed unnaturally.  Shocked anew, Brother Sword and Brother of the Sword watched the soldiers agonizingly start turning back into men and women, of many different races.  They screamed as their bone and tissue warped from the forms their bodies now held, their pain daunting.

In the moments they took to witness the horrific reversion, the wizard had almost made it back to the gate’s barracks.  Dancing through the bucking horde of soldiers caught in the brutal agony of their transformation, Brother began to sprint after the robed figure.  That man dashed into the three story tall, block long military hall, slamming the black doors closed in his wake when Brother was still half a block away.  When he burst through that door, Brother heard a crash coming from above them, with his eyes on the stairs and murder in his heart he skipped steps flying around the climb up.  On the second floor, it was a cooler air flow coming from the right that drew him in that direction.  A room meant for an officer had its door flung wide, but it was the alchemist set on a big table in the middle of that room that told Brother whose room it had been.  The back window facing the farmlands beyond Mudberry by the Water was shattered, blown outward by the fleeing wizard.

A small wooden casket that looked like a jewelry case and a draw string pouch of blue leather lay on the floor before the broken aperture.  Rushing to the window Brother of the Sword looked out and found that he had not gained any ground on the wizard, the man was still about half a block away rushing into an orchard in the dim light that remained.  Even at this distance he could see how the villain clutched a bundle or bag to his chest, his personal effects too precious to leave behind perhaps, or treasures rare enough to cling on to.  Tired from his hike, aching from his fight, Brother of the Sword abandoned the idea of jumping out of that window to continue chasing the man who had been trying to kill him.

Turning about to return to the fires and transforming soldiers, Brother recalled the two items below the window frame.  Kneeling down he picked up the purse and felt coins filling the bag; this pouch was smaller than the fey giants ox blood purse but it was larger than what many of Mudberry by the Water’s citizens carried.  A quick peek showed him silver.  Having a hooked clasp and little brass hinges, the little wooden casket easily opened to show Brother a cameo necklace.  The womanly silhouette at the end of the bronze chain did not look at all familiar to him.  An inscription read ‘Your Mother will always love you, Krendiel’.  He tossed the box and necklace aside then walked out of the room without further exploration.

A twisting, spiraling hose of flying water soared over the eastern wall to pour itself upon the stationary store.  Bucket brigades formed living chains between buildings not touched by current fire, all coming from the river a block behind the eastern shops.  A slight figure wearing the robes of an Assembly Arcanuum wizard struck a pose near the still writhing guards.  Sibilant words called out like a bard setting his spirit into an aria, another spray of water flew over walls and buildings from the river, to spray the tavern on the western side of the street with gallons of water.  A pair of hale soldiers tending their stricken comrades noticed Brother of the Swords exit from the barracks, they stood as he neared, hefting their spears defensively.

“You think you can kill nine guards and get away with it!” the woman soldier challenged, her male counterpart simply charged with his spear point aimed at Brother’s belly.

Stopping far short, Brother of the Sword spread his arms to show how inoffensive he was.  He still had to parry the spear aside to keep from being skewered despite his show of surrender.  Even though they were of similar height and weight, the male soldier could not escape Brother’s grip when he slipped through the spears reach and grabbed him up.

“I didn’t… I- uh…!  They weren’t people when I killed them!”  Right after the words left him, Brother knew his argument would never have swayed these two.  His captive began to throw himself about with enough vigor to stagger Brother, he had to twist about to keep from falling.  Watch whistles began to shrill away nearby, as other nearby soldiers moved in on their struggle.  Before Brother could interpose her partner between them, the female soldier struck with a shriek of rage.  Pain in his head, followed by a bright all pervading light, erupted from within and without Brother of the Sword’s cranium; for a time he knew nothing.


Firelight flickered over Brother of the Sword’s eyelids.  Hundreds of voices stabbed into his swollen brain, only the nearest people could be understood.  He wished they would all shut the hell up, Brother knew he needed to heal and his regeneration worked best when he slept.  Brother Sword even got into the act, without words it showed him images of nearby wizards pulling water to fight fires with.  Scrunching his eyes tight, Brother tried to shut it all out, but his betrayer senses started to hone in on the outside stimulus instead.  It can’t talk too me anymore, Brother Sword used up it’s power so it can only show me images and concepts again, that thought wormed out from the throbbing inside his skull.  A gash running from his right temple too just passed his ear was the center of all his head pain.  Brother also let his ears focus on the nearest conversation, because it was a discussion and not a series of shouted orders.

A woman seemed to be asking questions, and two men and another woman were dishing out information too her.

“You say he came out of our barracks over there?” this woman, though not loud, spoke with authority.

“Yes ma’am, he came at us with that long blade in his hands.  He was the only armed person in the street who wasn’t a guard,” a man claimed trying to make himself sound concise.

“I knew he was the asshole who killed our people, ma’am.  That’s why we took him out.  With your permission, ma’am, I’d like to finish what we started before you showed up.”  This woman sounded like the female soldier who had hit him in the head, she had hurt him badly and sounded like she wanted to dish out more cruelty.

Another man spoke, and he did not sound like he was deferential at all.

“Dammit, listen to me, this man was the hero, not the bad guy!  These soldiers you have laying around were monsters, and I mean twisted savage monsters that didn’t look at all like they look now.  Your soldiers were torching these buildings and killing the people that were forced out by the damn fires.  I was in the theater, and if this man hadn’t of charged into the beast’s your guards were at the time, I would be dead.  His sword was glowing with a light blue-”

“His sword was glowing?” the authoritative woman queried, interrupting the one speaker.

“This is bullshit, ma’am, we don’t have-” the angry woman silenced herself with one short admonition from the leader.

“Hold yourself, soldier.  You, you’re the second person who has told me that this sword is magical.  What did this sword do?”

Brother of the Sword groaned and opened his eyes and looked up at the four people, three of whom were in uniform.  The lone civilian responded as all four of them looked down at his movement.

“There was a lone soldier in wizard’s robes among all the creatures, this man shot the blue glow  at that man.  Immediately all the creatures fell down and started screaming and turning back into people.  It was scary and horrible, but this man charged off after that wizard when that man began to run away.  They both ran into the guards building over there.  This guy came back.”  Flicking her eyes to the male soldier, the woman captain tried to verify what the civilian had claimed.

“Did you see any of that?  Was his sword glowing when you two saw him?”

“No ma’am, we showed up and started to see to these injured troopers, there was no sign of this guy or the supposed wizard.  As the bucket brigades started into the Emperor’s Way, this man came loping out of the barracks with just a regular looking sword.  We had seen the dead guards among the dead civilians and came up with our own sums, ma’am”

Bending over to get a closer look at Brother of the Sword, the officer addressed him as he tried to roll over onto his side; she looked as if she was catching a rancid smell from him.  The world swam before Brother’s eyes and nausea twisted his guts when he tried to sit up, he toppled back onto his back.

“Is it true?  Are you and your sword magic?”  When his eyes stopped rolling, Brother met the officer’s probing orbs.  He wanted to bite the world, not answer too it.

“Hate magic, we eat magic,” he glared, trying to will the woman to step closer so he could hit her.  Even the idea of standing up hurt, now if only Brother could get the world to line up for it’s ass kicking.

“Did you catch the wizard who did this?” the demanding captain asked, motioning Brother to remain still, momentary compassion flitting across her normally stern visage.

Realizing that the captain’s sour look was for the situation and not just for him alone, helped mollify Brother’s foul mood a little.

“No, he got away through a second story window.  He dropped a cameo locket from his mother on his way out.  His name is Krendall or something.  He was prepared to slip away after….”  Brother of the Sword realized almost too late that he should not tell anyone that he had been the target of this attack.  “After his attack,” he finished, swallowing his near confession down with a grimace.

“Krendiel?” the male soldier asked, eyes going wide as if Brother’s words did not make sense.  That man turned to his superior.  “Ma’am, Krendiel is only a divinator, he doesn’t have magic to warp these soldiers.”  After that protest, the civilian man drew himself up looking annoyed.

“Someone did it!”  Both soldiers ignored the man, waiting on the dark haired captain to indicate her thoughts.

She chose to study Brother of the Sword for a moment, then looked at the barracks, and then she spun about to look at the carnage around herself.

“I believe these civilians, but I’m also inclined to seek verification.  You,” she declared pointing at Brother, “I’m going to have these two watch you while I investigate this shit.  You two remain here and don’t let this man leave.  He better be in good condition when I get back, understand?  You, thank you for sticking around to help people and tell your story.  Can we call on you if this goes to the magistrates?”  That last question was aimed at Brother’s fellow civilian.  That man nodded, seeming to suddenly understand he was being addressed by a bad ass warrior woman.  “Good man, give Private Garbelia your contact information.  I’ve got to find corroborating evidence.”  For several moments the captain let her daunting gaze fall on each person in turn, saving Brother of the Sword for last.

Giving the woman his own baleful stare he reached for Brother Sword who felt as though it were almost a block away from him.  Brother Sword teleported into his right hand as he pushed himself up to a seated position.  Everyone jumped back, the female soldier who had knocked him out squeaked from fear.

“Yea, I’ll wait for you to check things out,” he said trying not to show the physical distress from his movement.  Not as sure as she had been a moment before, the captain studied Brother Sword, then Brother.  This time she really did not like what she was seeing, she turned and left before deciding to do something rash where Brother was concerned.  Stepping well back from Brother of the Sword’s position, the two soldiers and the man kept on glancing his way nervously as they took the civilian’s information down.

For a long time Brother sat still trying to will out all the outside stimuli, but at first his eyes instinctively followed all the motion and commotion, so he closed them.  That made him able to tune the world out, and after a while it was just himself and Brother Sword drifting in a place that whispered like waves over sand.  Weakly his sibling offered to send him healing energy, but Brother Sword had used up a lot of it’s stores canceling the spell caster.  This is part of the ether isn’t it? Brother of the Sword asked.  Waves of approval emanated from the steel thing that was his brother, and he was given the impression that Brother Sword was drawing strength in this drifting nowhere.  As the blade was doing, Brother opened himself up to the ether and let something in… it felt like solace.  That feeling of peace entered him and wove up his spine as a serpent climbing a tree, a moving spiral that left a physical wake of coolness in and on his body.  It gathered in his head, soothing the heat of his pain. When the ether energy faded, or was absorbed, he found himself aware of the world again.

Although the all pervading pain was still hammering in his skull like a titan’s hang over, Brother of the Sword still noticed a marked improvement.  Rolling up to his knees did send stabbing pain into the depths of Brother’s gray matter, but nausea and dizziness did not strike him with any debilitation.  Groaning he pushed on up to achingly take his feet.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” the female soldier demanded, stepping back as though thinking of bolting.  While Brother of the Sword had been meditating the civilian had departed.  There was no sign of the man who had stuck up for Brother.  Pale faced the woman’s companion held up a hand demanding that he halt.  They wouldn’t stop me if I decided to leave, he realized, then wondered what to do with that knowledge.

“I’m standing up, dipshit,” he growled, using a vulgar descriptive for the first time.  He found the word fit his mood, this meant that other appellations like this were viable for his future use.

Staring at the two guards seemed to unnerve them, then Brother of the Sword realized that he was standing with his shoulders hunched and his head down so that he was peering at them form under his brows.  Predators stared at prey that way, no wonder the pair were pale faced and swallowing oh-so nervously.  Knowing that his head pain was partly responsible for his stilted posture, Brother turned to watch the nearest sorceress at her work; he tried to stand straighter but could not maintain holding his spine that way for long.  Her spout of water was not as thick as before, and as she let the spray move over to the last fire on the western side of the Emperor’s Way her gestures seemed labored.  Not understanding why he felt a little delight at the arcane weaver’s difficult movements, the exhaustion so clearly trying to hamper her magical abilities, he seemed to be willing her to lose her spell and fall spent to the cobblestones.  When he understood that Brother Sword was urging him to stalk and kill the woman, he thought it best to look upon another sight.

Some of the soldiers who had been transformed were being helped to their feet, while a majority of them still lay tumbled where they had fallen.  A medic helping the newest risen soldier wrapped their charge with a blanket, then assisted them over to the eastern boardwalk to sit with four or five others in front of the smoldering remains of the tavern.  Slender and fit though she was, the captain did not look womanly questioning one of the blanket wrapped survivors, even from across the wide street she looked nothing but militarily capable.  The man she was question kept on shrugging or shaking his head no as he tried to avoid the potent stare of his superior.  Behind Brother of the Sword, other soldiers were lining up bodies and parts of bodies on the cobblestones; they were even pulling out the carbonized remains of men and women who had not been able to escape the infernos.  Only small flames flickered in the last fire damaged building, the two fire brigade wizards were done flying water from the river, so the flagging bucket brigades were left to tamp out those little flickers and embers that clung tenaciously to the building’s saturated parts.

I still haven’t eaten yet, Brother of the Sword realized as volunteers laid out another pyre stiffened corpse.  He shuffled around again to see the city walls and the barracks that guarded the gates.  A wizard in the imperial uniform of a wizard led a squad of soldiers into that building, while another squad took up station in front of the doors.  Those men and women seemed devoted to the idea of keeping other people out of the quarters of their comrades.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” the female soldier demanded again.  Wondering what he had done, Brother turned around only to find that the challenge had been given to a military medic.  More otherworldly than the dark haired Elves of Mudberry by the Water, this Blond Elven male pushed by his fellow soldiers with eyes on Brothers bloody head, his long hair had three braided locks.

Without a backwards glance at the pair guarding Brother of the Sword, the soldier/healer answered over his shoulder.

“This creature is injured, I intend to do my job.”  Even though the Elf was engaged with the world, his voice came off as detached and far away; an opium dreamer speaking to a world he was not in anymore.

“He’s dangerous!” the male human guard warned.

“He is also severely out numbered,” the Elf countered, smiling suddenly into Brother’s eyes.  When he halted in front of Brother, the perfect seeming creature took several moments to study him.  “Your height will make it difficult for me to examine your wound, would you mind bending down or seating yourself?”

Awed in spite of himself, Brother of the Sword dropped down into a squat, then further into a seated position.  He felt as though an angelic power were taking an interest in him, it’s motivations too lofty for his mortal understanding.  Using a pale finger the Elf began to trace around the gash in Brother’s scalp, he even squatted to bring his eyes closer to the wound.

“I didn’t expect to receive aid from the guard tonight,” Brother said, trying to read the Elven man.  Still sounding as if his mind was on other things, the Elf seemed to have dispensed with facial expression to portray his thoughts or emotions.

“We may have to hang you tomorrow, but the empire will not be judged cruel for not seeing to your comforts, creature.”  This news shocked Brother of the Sword, his start interrupted the perusal of his wound.

“They’re going to hang me?”  Even in this serene being’s company, he found his heart hammering with extreme dread.

Laying a calming hand on Brother of the Sword’s shoulder, the Elf smiled an apology.

“I actually do not know your fate, thing, I made an assumption because you are under guard.  Did you do some self healing on yourself?  Your wound, other than the new blood, seems a day older than it should.”  As was becoming his practice, Brother tried to think of a lie to tell, but then he realized this Elf had already seen and commented on his oddness without becoming distraught.

“Brother Sword showed me a short meditation that assists our natural regeneration.  I just learned I could do this tonight.”  As potent as a gasp, and as dramatic as pulling away with an emotional display, when the Elven man arched an eyebrow he was expressing a lot of astonishment.  He glanced down at Brother Sword sitting naked in Brother’s lap.  His eyes narrowed then darted for Brother of the Swords lapis lazuli eyes.

It was not his imagination, the Elf’s eyes were wide.

“Creature, the material that makes up that hilt is the same as your skin!  You share a bond of life with your sword!”  Brother of the Sword nodded to show that the Elven male’s statement was true.

“You keep on calling me creature and thing.  Why are you doing that?”  Wetting a cloth with water, the Elf began to wash the blood out Brother of the Sword’s hair around the wound.  As that man started dabbing it was obvious to Brother that the Elf was formulating his thoughts, that was the reason for the hitch in their conversation.  His words still seemed as something meant to drift on smoke and wind.

“All life was created by the gods.  Their touch is evident to us who were created first, an ability we never suspected the younger races to lack.  You may be a living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature, much like a Human man, but no god had a hand in your creation.  Arcane magic is what crafted you.”

Not knowing why this information was as a slap in the face, Brother of the Sword shook his head trying to negate the medic’s summation.

“We hate magic, and those who use it!” he hissed his eyes hot with denial.  For the first time, the Elf sounded like a person in and of the world, engaged and focused.

“You do not!  All life is magic!  Most of the arcane is good and beneficial and there are those spell casters who unselfishly use magic to better the world we live in.”  This shut Brother up, he sat in silence trying to correlate his experiences with magic and magic users to see where he really stood as the elf wiped away the caked gore on his head.  Drifting away to the lands where dreams were manufactured, the Elf’s voiced sounded normal again.  “I use magic, but I sense no hatred from you because of that fact.  Why is that?”

Finished with cleaning his wound, the Elf began to break bandages out of the satchel he carried.  He started applying the gauze before Brother of the Sword thought his answer through.

“I didn’t know you were a mage until you told me.  We didn’t sense the gift in you,” he admitted feeling sheepish.

“I have an idea that you only sense arcane workings when they are being used around you, you only act when those magical crafts are used to bring harm.  Hold this.”  At the end of his little speech, the Elf directed him to hold the end of the bandage that was wrapped around Brother’s skull.

“You have never seen us in action, how would you know this is the way we act?” he challenged the Elf.  Chuckling lightly as he applied adhesive strips of some sort to hold the bandage that was holding the gauze, the Elf took a moment to answer.

“There were wizards working with the fire brigade all around you, thing.  Why didn’t you strike them down with your all consuming hatred of all things magical?”

He caught the Elven man’s eyes as that individual rose, his work done.

“I wanted too.  Brother Sword really wanted me to do away with them, it kept on pointing out their proximity to me.”  Nodding to Brother of the Sword, the Elf parted from him leaving a single query to haunt Brother’s thoughts.

“But you did not.  Why is that?”  Pondering that fact made Brother feel nauseous again because he realized a truth in the Elf’s words.  Sickened at the death of his assumptions, Brother closed his eyes and tried to capture the ether again.  He craved those moments where his mind was silent, and he wanted to heal a bit more to stop the ache in his head.  His brain and skull still throbbed ferociously from the wound.  Almost exuding sympathy Brother Sword informed Brother that the healing meditation would not return until he had slept a deep healing sleep.

The Assembly Arcanuum wizard exited the barracks with his squad hustling to catch up with him.  That man crossed over the cobbles and saluted the woman captain.  Their discussion seemed to take hours with many head shakes, nods, and both of them taking turns pointing in Brother’s direction.  Bored with the show, and still troubled by the ideas the Elf had implanted, Brother of the Sword once again closed his eyes to seek a meditative state.  Instead of seeking healing, Brother reviewed the ecstasy of his night long sexual encounter with Lalia.  She may have ripped him off, but she had left an impression in the way she had coaxed all that extra stamina out of his body.  Realizing that his breathing was starting to quicken at those memories, he hastily opened his eyes.  The captain was walking toward him, with Brother fixed in her gaze.  He would never think of this woman as he did Lalia or the waitress from earlier this day.

Before she stopped to loom over Brother, the captain gestured the two guards over to support her.  Her eyes flinched off of Brother Sword when she did come to a halt.

“Are you planning on staying in Mudberry by the Water?” she asked Brother of the Sword, her face screwed up from a frown.  Her usual look it seemed.

“I plan on leaving tomorrow, unless you’re holding me for some reason.”  His expectant look wrangled a sigh from the woman, making it seemed she were regretting the words she was about to speak.

“Your story pans out.  Even though these gate guard don’t remember anything about it, too many other witnesses affirm that they had been transformed, somehow, into vicious monsters.  They set the buildings on fire and killed close to sixty seven people, as the count now stands.  You were justified to intervene and the nine guards you killed were slain in service to the city and empire.  You are free to go.”  the captain’s sour face began to turn away, then she glanced back down.  “I’m glad your leaving and I hope Mudberry by the Water never has to suffer your presence again.”

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