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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
Onvical
Ambyr Valry
Cariss Mesila
Torgin
Elis Rhees
Elis Rhees

Part Eighteen: Interrupted

“Didn’t that seem a little too easy to you?” Cariss asked, adjusting the saddle recently replaced on her horse.

Next to her, Ambyr adjusted the blanket on the back of her steed without replying.

“I mean, that skull…the Eye of Cemlan. It was just lying there waiting to be picked up.” After tugging on the saddle, the warrior woman nodded to herself and turned to the elfen. “How often do you find a treasure just lying there out in the open?”

Over at the spring, Torgin released a gleeful laugh, with the Magis standing beside him. Looking up at the happy Braidon, a wide grin spread across Onvical’s face.

“And have you seen it? The left eye socket is almost completely filled in with bone. It’s indented a little with this tiny oblong eyelet and carved symbols and characters all over it. Just looking at it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”

Watching the elfen adjust the weight of the saddlebags by moving items between them, Cariss crossed her arms over her chest. “Ambyr, you haven’t said a word since we came out of that pass. What’s going on?”

Turning, her streaked silver hair catching the afternoon light of the suns peeking through the clouds, she pointed a trembling golden finger up at the warrior woman. “Why don’t you stop pretending?”

“What?”

“I’m well acquainted with the greed of your kind. Stop pretending you’re any different.”

“What are you talking about?”

“If you want to collect treasures from the dead—” stepping around the larger woman, Ambyr reached down and untied the nature-stained canvas, “—at least be honest about it.”

“I didn’t. I—”

Pulling a pouch out of the pack, the elfen turned it over, dumping the contents. Precious stones, several old coins, and a couple of dirty rings hit the ground along with a scrap of wool. “Wrapping them in cloth was clever. If you’d done a better job of it, I might not have heard the coins tinkling.”

“That’s not mine.”

“Yet it was in your pack. And I was with you when you bought that pouch.” Dropping it, she returned to her horse.

“But—”

“I get it,” Ambyr stated without turning. “We’re out here not earning any money, doing a favor for Torgin. There’s no reason to return emptyhanded when that stuff is just lying there, out in the open, waiting to be picked up.” The usually melodious tone rang flat, a clear sign of disapproval.

“Ambyr—”

Turning, the elfen managed a closed-mouthed smile. “Your kind can’t help themselves. It’s okay. Just be honest about—”

A shadowy figure stepped out from between them, their features blurred. “Get behind me!”

As Cariss turned, a shimmering light filled the area above her head a moment before four sets of long talons crashed into it, emitting little explosions of light. With bright spots before her eyes, the warrior woman stumbled back, landing hard on her seat. The twang of a bowstring and woosh of projectiles over her head added to the turmoil of the moment as she struggled to clear her head.

A raised voice filled the air, sounding like the shouted words of a song, ending in a single word, “—terykx!”

With her head clearing, Cariss recognized the words as part of the Fanaal language and the tone belonging to Ambyr. But only the last word mattered. In both the Rylin and Strincalli languages, that word meant monster. No creature in all Liraehne inspired more fear in Dwarven kind than it.

Feeling coins under her fingers, the warrior woman pushed herself up.

Above her dark brown leathery wings beat hard once, and a short lighter brown colored beak opened in a shrill cry.

“It’s going for the horses,” Ambyr shouted.

The dark blurred figure disappeared. “Got them,” Onvical’s voice replied from behind.

Turning, Cariss saw the creature’s four legs descend once again into the shimmering field. This time it slid away from the small explosions of light and landed lightly on the ground. Drawing her arming sword and a long dagger, while wishing she hadn’t stored her armor in favor of riding clothes, she charged the terykx.

A bellowed battle cry from the right drew her attention as Torgin charged the creature, the huge axe he carried cocked back on his shoulder.

Feeling arrows fly past her, she saw one pass through a leathery wing and another sink into the coarse brown fur, though the creature barely acknowledged the wound. Instead, it opened its beak and released a high-pitched hiss. Standing with all legs on the ground, it stood as tall as the warrior woman, but when it reared back on the hind legs, wings spreading wide, it dwarfed even Torgin. Avoiding a descending forelimb and very aware that it could quickly bring the rear talons to bear, Cariss struck a taloned paw with her sword and stabbed at the abdomen.

The creature’s hide turned away the strike, leaving her vulnerable for attack from five directions.

“Bracken-blight,” the curse fell from her lips as the wings flapped once, lifting it off the ground and bringing those terrifying rear talons up for attack.

Three more arrows struck its abdomen. Two fell away.

Leaping in the air, his axe high over his head, Torgin brought the head down onto the creature’s back. Screeching, one wing flapped hard, turning it in midair to face this new threat. Ducking to avoid a flailing forelimb, a wide gash opened in the warrior woman’s leg from one of the rear talons.

Green-black energies crackled around its head, causing the terykx to fumble and drop to the ground. “Give it a horse!” Onvical shouted.

“Why?” the elfin replied, firing two more arrows, one of which bounced off its hide.

“Because it’s going to harass us until it gets something to eat.”

“Skrees draw others,” Torgin added, backing away as the creature turned fully to face him.

Limping away from the fray, Cariss glanced back in time to see the elfin pivot, drawing an arrow from her quiver. “Ambyr. No!”

Still hearing the twang of the bow, the warrior woman looked away as the arrow flew straight at her steed. Cariss hadn’t collected anything from the dead in the pass, but she had an idea of how it ended up in her pouch and pack. Hearing the arrow hit, her eyes found the Magis.

Their eyes locked as the big-bodied animal hit the ground, her gear in the saddlebags.

One corner of his mouth turned up in a cockeyed grin.

*              *              *

Having waded into the pond, feeling its slimy wetness soaking into his trousers, Rovi wiped the tears off his cheek. His eyes darted all around, looking for snakes or other things lurking in the murky water.

“Cinia—” the whine in his voice hitched as tears continued to stream down his face.

“You’re almost there.”

“But I’m a-scared.”

The elfin girl moved ahead of him, her quick movements not disturbing the water, and stopped at the center of the pond. “It’s right here. Right below me.”

“There might be other things—”

“There’s not—just the treasure. Once you get it, I’ll take you home.

Sniffling through a deep breath, the elfen boy pressed his lips together and moved to her. When she stepped back, he plunged his hands into the water.

Her form becoming slightly transparent, Cinia ran a hand through her scarlet red hair. “Yes. You almost have it. A little deeper in the mud.”

“I feel something.”

“Lift it out!”

Tugging at it, small waves of thick green water moved away from him. “I can’t. It’s stuck!”

“I said lift it out. Now, you little—”

With a splash, the elfen boy stumbled back, black mud sticking to his hands and the object he held. Stepping hard into the water to catch his balance, water splashed up, washing a little of the mud from the ivory box.

Eyes wide, Cinia threw her arms in the air and spun in a circle. “I am free!”

“Rovi! What are you doing out here?”

Turning, tears again began to roll down the elfen boy’s face. “Mom?”

Maps
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Part Nineteen is Now Available
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Part Nineteen is Now Available

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