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Despite the devastation wrought after 196 years of battling trolls – killing two-thirds of the Commonwealth – the united army of Liraehne cleared the lands. The great Fanaal Emperor Tian’Tal pushed the trolls to the edge of the Frontier, making a stand at the outpost of Tarn, but it was the leadership of Queen Kalynn Wytestarr who led the final victory within the Crax. Of those who went to war, many would never return home, some not because death claimed them but because their wounds made travel impossible, and the outpost swelled into a city.

As Tarn grew, with farmers and families restoring a sense of normal after so much loss, the great heroes and leaders began to pass into legend and new powers began to arise to fill the voids left behind. 

This is the story of one of them.

Author Chuck Sperati Writing Distracted Logo
Ambyr Valry
Cariss Mesila
Elis Rhees
Elis Rhees

Part Thirteen: Loyalties

“Sleepy.” Torgin’s voice boomed in the small cabin.

“Must you always be so loud?” Ambyr countered, leaning back against the open window near the shadowed corner. With one hand, she massaged the pointed end of an ear. “There’s only the three of us in here. You don’t have to shout.”

“You want to shout, Elfen?” his voice boomed louder. “I can shout!”

A flower pot shattered on the floor, causing them to turn to the only other visible person in the room. Standing over the shattered remnants, both legs splattered with soil and her hands balled into fists, Cariss glanced back and forth between them. “Can we get back to the discussion?”

“No discussion,” Torgin replied, his voice a little more subdued. Taking a long stride towards her, he kneeled down and stood the flower upright, carefully gathering soil around its roots. “Onvical pays us.”

“You have to admit,” Ambyr agreed, watching the Braidon’s delicate work, “our coin purses are pretty full. And we do have the run of this town.”

Pushing her lips together, Cariss took a deep breath and blew it out her nose. The three of them had traveled together long enough that they knew another angry outburst would likely not be far behind. Not wanting to deal with something else being thrown, the elfen turned to look out the window.

“Do you remember that Lord Darclond in Gamesly?” the warrior woman asked. Instead of anger, her tone held challenge.

“Not this again,” Ambyr replied, putting her elbows on the sill and running golden fingers through silver hair as she gazed up at the night sky.

“He paid well too. And now, if any of us set foot in that city, it’ll be straight to the executioner.” Putting a hand on the Braidon’s shoulder, she continued. “Torgin, I’ve listened to you rant so many times about Caraklin taking Brom’s Eye. If one magis wanted it, what makes you think this one won’t as well. And you,” she growled, turning towards the window. “You’re the one always saying that complacency gets you killed.”

Shaking her head, Ambyr half turned. “It gets you killed on the trail.”

“Isn’t this town part of the trail? I mean, what we want isn’t in Tarn.”

“What then?” Torgin asked, standing with the flower and soil cupped in his hands.

Turning back to the room and crossing her arms over her chest, Ambyr nodded. “What he said. What’s your plan?”

“This guy Elis knows where the lair is. I say we go to him, get the information for ourselves and get out of this bracken-blighted town.”

“How?” Torgin’s voice boomed again.

“What do you mean how? He’s a mercenary being forced to work in the stables. Ambyr said it herself, our coin purses are pretty full. It won’t take much to loosen his tongue. And from what I heard, he can fight. He might just be willing to lead us himself.”

“But what about Onvical?” the elfen asked.

“What about him?”

“Be very angry!”


“Are you serious?” Ambyr asked. “Knowing what he has down in that hidden cellar, do you really want to make an enemy of him?”

“No,” Torgin offered, stepping towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Cariss asked after him.


Pushing her lips together, the warrior woman blew out another breath through her nose.

“You know how he is. If you wanted our attention, you should have thrown the jug.”

“There’s mead in the jug.”

“Why didn’t you mention that earlier?” the elfen asked, stepping forward.

Cariss moved in front of the table. “Cause it’s mine.”

“Fine. What about Onvical?”

“He’s a petty tyrant who wants to rule this little town. Let him have it. All we have to do is get the information and get out before he realizes it, and then he can go and hire some other thugs to do his bidding.”

With a melodic laugh that would make a songbird jealous, Ambyr shook her head. “And we’ll leave behind yet another town that wants us dead.”

“That’s kind of what we do.”

Neither of them noticed as the shadow in the corner disappeared.

*              *              *

Had the push down the stone stairs not left him dazed, being dragged deeper into the darkness of the cellar by the desiccated Rylin would have likely involved a lot more screaming. It usually did. But aside from the shuffling sound of a body being dragged, only a few short moans slipped past Delwin’s mouth. Some of that likely had to do with the blood that had pooled under his head and now streaked across the cobblestone floor.

Picking up a small stone off the table, Onvical muttered a few words to himself and pushed the energy building at his shoulder down his arm and through his fingers. In the darkness, the stone’s smooth features blurred a moment before igniting in a dazzling light.

Having worked in Kasilla’s stables for a time, the young butcher recognized the musty odor of old hay. Can’t be letting the horses eat this stuff, he heard the Rylin say in his mind. That brought to mind the other Rylin, the rotting one in that hidden cellar. This hidden cellar.

Although Delwin tried to push himself up, the pain in his head barely allowed him to open his eyes.

“Ah, good,” that smooth voice said from somewhere near the overbright light that seemed to be floating towards the ceiling. “I was afraid the tumble down the stairs might have made this more complicated. Getting the dead to speak is quite a bit more difficult than you’d think.”

Managing little more than a gurgle, the boy tried to turn to see the owner of that voice. An explosion of pain in his head put a stop to the attempt. When he opened his eyes, a shadow crossed his vision, but not the blissful release that would come of passing out from the pain.

This shadow had a form. And a face.

“Why do you Vani keep crossing my path. First your mother, and now you. Based on the items you brought, I’d guess you intended to burn down my cabin. I would have thought Iola, our previous and much beloved Mayor-Select, would have raised you better than that. Such a shame.”

Behind Onvical, a figure stepped out of the shadow.

“I have information.”

That voice. Delwin recognized it.

Closing his eyes, he took some shallow breaths and planted his hands on the ground. A deep breath, and then another, and the boy pushed himself up into a seated position. With his head between his knees, he felt sure that the contents of his stomach would soon be spread out on the old hay. The thought of stomach heaves and the pain they would cause his head kept him breathing through the nausea.

When the feeling passed, he risked opening his eyes. Two figures stood by a table just far enough away that he could see them without raising his head. The Magis who owned the cabin he recognized, but the other…

“Thank you, Jodo,” Onvical stated, drawing a pouch from some hidden pocket.

There were other words, something about a man working at Kasilla’s stables, but Delwin didn’t really hear them. He stared at a boy he’d known his whole life. Someone always too stubborn to quit and desperate to prove that he could be as good as anyone. One of the boys who had been badly burnt by the orphan boy and had been missing for more than two years. That boy stood there, his complexion sooty and his teeth blackened. And then he stepped into a shadow and disappeared.

“Okay then,” Onvical clapped his hands together. “Where were we?”

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Part Fourteen is Now Available
Part Fourteen is Now Available

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