Categories
Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: New Life – Act Two

Deri woke to the smell of breakfast as it drifted throughout the boarding house. He quickly demolished the food, even though he had no idea what it was. Although as soon as his plate was empty, Mrs. Brownstone took him to her friend, Mister Fowl, who owned a market butcher’s stall. After a long trek from West-Kanta to the market district of South Loven, she spoke to the butcher, who was looking for someone to cut the meat, weight it, and store the portions before they were sold throughout the day. The butcher examined him as he looked him up and down whilst he spoke to the landlady. However, he only hired the young lad from the country after he showed he could be of help. After a ten-minute trial, the overweight butcher who was missing his left eye had Deri promise (in writing) that he wouldn’t leave the city for at least a year.

That was almost fourteen months ago. And since then, Deri had learnt much in all that time. He’d poked his nose into the ethos of Nippa-kanta as they said the city was the centre of all culture in the Royal Kingdom. The place that everyone wanted to live in because of its art, music, and theatres, which had over the centuries been cultivated throughout the richer districts. The galleries were open twenty-five hours a cycle, thirty days a month, and five hundred ninety-nine days across the four seasons, only closing for harvest-day. Whilst all the theatres of Nippa-kanta produced plays across a spectrum of genres. Making sure that they put on something new nightly. Whereas the Royal Theatre only put on the best play of the month for the royals, the cities upper born and the rich businessmen of the modern era who could afford a ticket.

Deri had gone to look at every piece of artwork. All of it they said had been inspired by the royal society of Upper-Nippa. Before it was hung for all to see. So that the masses of the city didn’t rebel. (Again.)

He frequented taverns across the whole city. Whilst the hospitality industry made sure that brass bands played tunes to those who would pay to listen.

Along with what he’d learnt about the city, he delved into its history. A history he knew little about before leaving home. The long time ago, sort of history. And he’d ate up everything he could get his hands on about what was now known as the ‘Age of Conflict’. Something else he did that he’d never done before began to enter his daily life. As he began to read books based on the old kings of Nippa and the knights of the castle, which had been the only names on people’s lips back before the world had modernised.

Deri also quickly found out that (In the modern day.) those who were now gossiped about outside of the history books in the streets were those that some now began calling famers. After the slang for getting your picture framed by the guards. As he also began to gossip with his fellow lodgers about artists and actors.

– The dice rolled across the marble table. They bounced once and stopped. As the dice hung in the air, a card appeared in front of every player around the table. As the card settled face down for each of them, the dice bounced and showed snake eyes. –

Reaching for his tankard, Deri carried on ignoring the brass band as it played for an almost empty room as most of the locals had left to drink next door in the Foresters Arms main bar. He drank a huge glop and looked around. Unsure about what to do with himself Deri had taken to drinking after work and now as he watched the musical groups, that took to the stage butchering the work of others, he thought about returning home. What ever it was that had brought him to the city, didn’t seem to have the same hold on him. All his dreams of doing something, anything, other than cutting meat had also died. Now all that was left was a man who drank too much, but made an honest wage. His savings were also better than they were when he’d left home. So as he sat there, his brain couldn’t figure out what was keeping him in the city.

 As he drowned his tankard and went to get another, the thickset man and his group of brass players began completely killing the atmosphere. And as they were singing the same songs that every other band had been playing since the birth of brass music, more people began to leave the side room of the pub where the band stood on stage trying not to catch each other’s eyes. Deri had hoped they were going to be better than yesterday’s group of acapella singers. Although as someone began to boo, he agreed with their sentiment behind the noise.

The few who remained in the bar began to cheer the person who made the sound. After that, Deri joined in with the laughter, which caused the band to completely stop playing their brass horns. The thickset man dressed in what could only be called an old second-hand suit stared at the crowd.

“Do you know how hard it is to get up here?” He asked them almost, looking as if he was about to cry. The thick country accent that had come out of his mouth sent the crowd into a spiral of laughter though. Not one of their jokes was funny though, and it was, at this point, Deri stopped laughing at the man, who was now going red from embarrassment with tears running down his face. Although even the face of the man didn’t stop them all from laughing at him. As Deri sat at the bar and took a large sip from his fresh draft, someone from within the crowd now felt the need to shout.

“Make sure’ yose finds it harder next time.” This sent the ten or so men in the bar into a fit of drunken giggles. He suddenly began to think the room sounded like a comedy night. Although the comedians were drunk and weren’t all that good at heckling people off the stage.

As the band fled the stage, everyone left in the bar began to clap. Whilst the instrument players headed towards the door faster than a vagabond who’d found a coin purse, he kind of felt sorry for them.

Deri took another sip as he overheard the bartender telling the lead singer that they weren’t being paid. Then as the man walked away looking as if he was about to cry, the bells of the castle rang out to tell everyone that it was the twentieth hour.

“‘rink up and get out of ‘ere. Yose only get ten minutes t-a do so. Or I kick you out.” The threat from the bartender hung in the air, but Deri didn’t need to be told twice, he was like his father in that respect. The young man’s head felt like it was floating, and his legs swayed under him as the air outside hit him, but Deri managed to get back to his lodgings, still feeling intoxicated. His bed almost absorbed him as he laid down face first.

– A card was played. Someone played another card on top of that one. A female hand picked up both of them as he played her own. A laughter began to spread outwards across the multiverse, but it wasn’t anything you could hear unless you were more cosmic than biological. –

Categories
Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: New Life – Act One

As Deri’s cart left the gatehouse, which led into the big city. The picturesque image that had built up in his mind shattered into a thousand different pieces. The streets weren’t paved with tuppence. Like he’d always been told. But with a thick layer of dirt and grime. Sacks filled with waste and groups of beggars were all huddled together. Their dirty clothing and faces were simply items amongst the sea of starving de-citizens though. And these vagabonds (the official term) were mainly hanging around the outside and alleys around the first four huge red brick buildings. Which lined the main road from the south-east gatehouse where his cart had entered.

As Deri passed these red buildings though, he realised they’d once been inns. Old worn signposts barely holding on as they hung from rusted chains. Although upon reflection, he realised the buildings looked as if they were being used as homeless shelters. But not officially so. Deri also noted how all the beggars were holding up signs made from cardboard waste. Although Deri avoided all their gazes, and felt no shame about doing so as he rode forwards. And even though it was far from true, he felt as if he was as poor as they were.

Horse stood on the horrid stone floor, wishing to leave this noisy overgrown destination. She’d been forced to pull up at another building. Which was dirty in her opinion. And smelt bad on the outside. But as she stood there, she watched as her master sold her for some dull, dirty, small metal circles. Horse felt nothing as she was sold though. Although as she watched her ex-master wander off without even saying goodbye, Horse began to get upset about this new development in her life plan. After all, she’d thought they’d been having a good time. Even if she came to that conclusion because the two-legged man had brought her carrots a few times and had been stealing honey for her. However, as Horse was led into the spacious stables. The smell in the air told her that she was amongst more of her own species. And as she smelt the air, she decided this new development wasn’t entirely to her displeasure anymore.

Deri walked away from the stables, as he thought about the dimensions of the Capital for the first time. Although it now occurred to him that fourteen miles by sixteen miles was a lot bigger than it had sounded. There were whole districts which existed within the city, which dwarfed all the large towns he’d passed through. And now that he was in the city, with its five floored red brick buildings and its dirt covered streets, Deri thought about how he reckoned he now knew what a dwarf experienced when passing through Ramston. Only because Deri felt like a dwarf at that moment.

-The sound of dice rolling across marble floated through time and space. A deep chuckle followed the roll. But the laughter stopped as a number floated in the air. A card was removed from the rollers pile. A look of fury spread across the roller’s face whilst the game continued.-

Deri followed the directions the stable owner had given him. And as he walked, the city hummed around him. Although this was mainly down to the lingering stench in the air. But as he rambled through the city, time froze. A weird feeling started in his teeth and went to his toenails in one movement. It was at the moment the feeling went to his toenails that all the thoughts in his head jumbled up though. And because of this, Deri missed his turning. The one that the stable owner had told him to take.

There was a brass sign nailed into the brickwork which drew his attention. It modestly read South-Kanta Gatehouse Road in thick black letters on a faded white background. Although as he read the sign, his feet took him back to the main road. As the butcher’s son glanced at the road his cart had travelled down. Deri was stood at the junction, almost unable to move for a split-second. Deri found himself glancing around though almost wide-eyed. His mind was still trying to figure out the stable owner’s directions. As his mind won’t accept, that he was lost.

As the lost lad couldn’t find the words needed from his perspective to describe the capital, his mind filed it all under hellhole. However, as he studied the streets, he began to walk forwards. All his attention as he did so began to wander. His eyes affixed themselves to the roofs of the cities buildings. As they weren’t made of thatch like he was used to, but of a grey flat rock. A type of rock that he’d simply never encountered before. Even this small wonder allowed his mind to forget how terrible the city was when you looked around. Deri’s mind began to look at the red bricks of the city with envy. Even though he didn’t know why. A departmentalised note noted the bricks were dwarven made, but were smaller than those used in the countryside. He then also noticed there was green moss growing on the bricks. In places, it was left to flourish, as it was the only green in the city. Although near the roofs, it had been left to turn yellow. As the forges’ pollution was killing the moss, which ventured upwards for space. Black soot over the course of time had also managed to cling to the mortar of all these large and tall buildings. Whilst it clung to the mortar, it stained the bricks held by the filling. And as his eyes came down to ground level, he noticed certain buildings were missing doorways. Which was when he began to hurry along the streets, trying to look as if he belonged.

-A card was taken from a discard pile. The cardholder announced that four dice needed to be rolled. Everyone around the table held onto the edge of the table as the dice were picked up. The dice bounced once, and with a sigh of relief from the roller, everyone smiled. Everyone else looked at each other as they left go of the table.-

As Deri strolled along the streets, he noticed people had painted images and words on all the walls of the district. Although, as Deri was raised, not to mention these sorts of words, he blushed and tried to look on. Whilst on some of the walls, he noticed there were wanted posters pasted over the top of original artwork. In line with humanity across the multiverse, they too had been vandalised. But on a much smaller scale, which included a lot of eyepatches and blacked out teeth.

The air was thick and began to smell offensive as he turned around another corner. As if there was a toilet backed up somewhere. One that the owner had carried on using after it blocked. Letting a few decades worth of excrement build up over time. Although as he strolled along the road, rushing to get through this part of town, his nostrils attempted to shut down. His eyes filled with tears as Deri realised the big city was merely a well-guarded cesspit. Unfortunately, he also knew that the money in his account wouldn’t get him back home. It also wasn’t going to be much if he didn’t find a job. He also knew that he wouldn’t find enough work on the road to feed himself. Although he also knew he wasn’t going to walk home.

-A card was withdrawn. The dice vanished off the table as the holder of the card smiled and placed it down. Making sure that the card was faced up. An egg timer appeared in thin air. Reluctantly, one of the players picked it up out of the air as the others laughed. The timer was then placed almost violently so on the tables surface. However, no matter how annoyed he was, the sand in the egg timer began to trickle into the bottom half. As the dice reappeared, they bounced on their own twice. Only falling to the surface of the marble table once the sand poured downwards. However, as the dice stopped, the numbers on the dice equalled ten.-

A driver of a cart loaded with vegetables began shouting at Deri. He looked about as he moved out of the way and began to walk on the sidewalk. Doing so as if he was only noticing the enormous flat square slabs being used by the other pedestrians for the first time. Without any target location in mind though, Deri carried on wandering around. However, as he walked, he at least tried to look like he belonged.

Each section of the city was sectioned off into districts. Which had happened long ago under the watchful eye of the third king. This though had restricted the growth of the old towns which had surrounded the King’s castle, and as they formed, the districts formed around what was profitable. As this happened, the cities less fortunate fell even further into poverty. Which they’ve never been able to climb out of since. However, the only signs of this integration other than the disparity in wealth were the old crumbling town walls. Which, if they hadn’t been integrated into the houses by some intelligent building, were still standing. Although the walls that still stood were all that showed the transition between the boundaries of the city. And this is what Deri should have been searching for.

What Deri didn’t know could fill this book. But then again he knew that it was the kings decrees that made everything worse over time. They’d stated that certain areas were only allowed to build certain types of businesses and buildings. And what they weren’t allowed to build. After this, certain districts were either void of investment or were barely holding on.

Deri knew how the towns got assigned though. He knew that Old Loven was the poorest town at that point in time. So, the king had split it into three locations. One became poor housing, whilst the other two became a market district and a dirty industrial zone. Which was on par with most iron age civilizations, but only a lot larger. Kanta, however, had served slightly better in the Capital’s formation. It had been a busy commercial town with shops and its citizens had trades. Along with its own magical college, it had more bargaining power than Loven. That was before it closed at the end of the age of conflict. But still, over the course of a thousand years, the businesses and trades had not been enough to save the districts of Kanta. Some still slowly descended into a predictable poverty, from which they now couldn’t escape.

Someone should have told Deri where he was walking around. Someone nice might have tapped him on the shoulder and say look about mate. But what he should have observed on his own whilst walking around was that he’d entered through the roughest district in the whole city. The part of the city where carts didn’t park up to wait. A location where those moving around did so in numbers. As walking around on their own would find trouble lurking behind every corner for them. Furthermore, the place had become more dangerous after the guards had permanently moved out. Although the South-Kanta guardhouse had been stormed three hundred years ago during the failed uprising and set alight. So they didn’t have a building to work out of anyway.

-The dice were past left. Taken with a smile, both of the dice bounced with a flick of the roller’s wrist. As they stopped rolling across the marble, time and space warped for a split-second. With nothing laid out on the table though, a card was placed down upon the shimmering surface with a smile. As the roomed groaned, the dice vanished.-

None of the candles in the wall-lanterns of the alley were lit. Although they also didn’t get refilled. In South-Kanta, the Royal Lantern-Lighters avoided the alleys like yellow-plague. They however did rush through the main roads, as they refilled every other lantern-post which lit the city’s worst district. And they only did that when they had an armed escort. Which was only done every other third day.

Four cats tried to hide behind a large mound of rubbish as they watched three figures. As they crouched behind four large leaking sacks of trash, they watched carefully. After all, some people caught strays for their pelts. But these three seemed disinterested in everything around them. They’d been following a newcomer to the city. And since a cart had nearly run him over, the cats were also interested in the glowing being who smelt different to all other humans they ran away from. No matter their social stasis, cats knew they were better than humans. So a glowing human confused them. But they were as unsure about him, as the three non-glowing humans were.

Although what the cats found enthralling made the situation. The humans in the alley found perplexing. And perplexing for the criminals wasn’t a good start. Nevertheless, even if they couldn’t see the glow, something about this newcomer glowed for them as well. And drew them closer.

All three of the criminals had names, but none of them knew each other. None of them had even introduced themselves. They’d sort of been pulled together. And now they were in one place whilst they watched what had drawn them. Someone who they knew they just needed to rob. As such, the natural born thieves lurked in the shadows as they waited. They’re unspoken agreement stuck them together like spit, but it held for the second. So they watched their target ignoring each other. They became like the alley cats chasing rats as the country lad walked around. But they held back. Only because they were still weighing up if this newcomer could take them on with ease. Or did he have no idea that he was in the district nicknamed Kill-anta.

As they followed him a little more using the alleys, the lad began to slow down. All of them were slowly sliding towards the fact the lad was simply lost because he did this. Then as one of them whispered something about how he only looked like he was trying to look like he could handle his own. A shimmer drew them closer to the edge of the alley.

After all, all three of them had watched the stable master rip off the country lad. Which was what the tallest of the thieves now mentioned in a quiet voice, as he was the first to speak. Which was only just below the level of actual speech, but way above a whisper. The shortest of them smiled as he mentioned how they’d watched the rube begin walking around the city aimlessly. Whilst the middle height criminal kept his mouth closed. As the three of them moved once more to keep their target in sight, they knew the lad was getting closer to the old burnt-out guard house. They also knew that they needed to strike. Or they would be forced to turn around and find someone else, as their target would soon enough be crossing into West-Kanta. Where they would likely be arrested, as the alleys were cleaner and patrolled. They all nodded. It was the only sign they needed between them at this point.

The lad from the country hadn’t thought about the alleys at all. Deri even guessed that other than being used to dump rubbish, no one walked through them. Because of this, he wasn’t paying attention.

As he strode past the adjoining alley between two rows of large terrace houses, Deri didn’t even turn his head. Unfortunately, this was his first mistake. His second mistake happened only a few seconds after that. As the sound of footsteps rapidly getting louder began to approach him, and he simply carried on trudging along normally.

Two sets of arms grabbed Deri out of nowhere. He tried to free himself as he struggled, but he couldn’t break free both of them. A dirty hand covered his mouth, and as it did so, all rational thinking went out of the wooden shutters. {As windows have yet to be invented.} He heard the voice of a man who sounded as if he was almost out of breath.

‘Ya gold or ya life.’ Another man who was also panting and sounded as if a heart attack began to laugh. Deri attempted to answer the thief though, but he couldn’t. And as he thought about what the man had said, he decided the question seemed kind of redundant. To the point that Deri almost began to laugh himself. This statement, as it had not been posed as a question, caused both of the other men to start laughing at their comrade. A deeper, louder and more aggressive voice spoke to the thief holding Deri.

‘Yose all-right in the noggin?’

‘Wot?’ Asked the original statement-giver. As he stood there, he pushed his knife under Deri’s chin, trying to seem more intimidating as his credibility was slipping away from him.

‘Sounds lick’ yose wants to be in the the-eat-re. All po-sh lik-e tho-se in Upper,’ a third voice said from behind Deri. Deri tried to think about what was said, because at that moment he simply had no clue to what they were on about. Or why the third voice was trying to talk differently. Whilst the speaker had been using a grating common sounding accent, which gave him an uneducated quality, in Deri’s opinion. But the conversation quickly seemed to turn back to Deri, and as it did, so all his thoughts went blank as they looked at him.

‘Just grab it all,’ the largest of them said, ‘we need to move.’ As the butcher’s son thought about what they were grabbing, his tunic began to be pulled about. Hands tried to get inside his trousers, fumbling for secret coin purses. They pulled on his bag, which was ripped off his shoulder as one of them swept his feet from under him. Although it was only as Deri was sent to the floor did his small black leather purse fall out of his sleeve where he’d hid it. And even though it was mainly full of tuppence, the contents began spilling everywhere as it fell. His clothes were also suddenly stretched across the floor. As he lay there, one of them began scooping up all his dirty clothing.

-As one of the players laughed, a hand shot out and played a card. The laughter stopped and three dice appeared on the table. Although as they were picked up and rolled once again, everyone held onto the edge of the table-

The three thieves stopped kicking him and disappeared back down the alley with everything he owned. Everything that was apart from his account booklet. When they’d pushed him to the floor and started grabbing at him, his body had fallen on top of the booklet. Which was the reason he’d not moved an inch and had allowed them to kick him.

As he stood up, a lost, broken, and slightly upset Deri passed through the crumbling wall into West-Kanta. Even though he was still shaking, he began to move faster and kept his head down. He also began to pay more attention to eye level. Although everything around him began to look different. The brickwork of all the buildings was cleaner for one. The people smiled at him, and one woman who was on her doorstep stopped him as she asked him if he was okay. That same pleasant lady even went into her building to fetch Deri a clay cup of water. After explaining to her what had happened, she pointed him in the direction of the district’s guardhouse. And told him to ask her husband not to work late with a small laugh.

Although in the nicest part of the city that Deri had seen so far, he noticed a sign. And as he completely forgot about the guardhouse, Deri knocked the front door. After that, he quickly found a cheap room to rent. The lady of the house, Mrs. Brownstown, allowed him to use his account booklet as evidence to the fact he could pay. And with only a promise that he would get the deposit, as soon as he found out where the bank was located, the key was handed over. Although Mrs. Brownstone insisted she helped him find the bank.

Mrs. Brownstone, the landlady of the boarding house, also wouldn’t allow him to go straight there. She forced him to sit down as she made a pot of nettle tea. Then the overbearing woman made him talk about himself and asked him how he planned to obtain money in the big city. Once the tea was finished, though she took him directly to the bank. And after she helped set him up with a monthly transfer of funds into her depositary, he was a city dweller.

Mrs. Brownstone even insisted he wandered back to her property with her. Although as they reached a cheap clothing store, she brought him a fresh set of clothing, when he asked, her not too. Telling him he could pay her for the flax tunic and trousers once he got his first pay check, she forced him to accept and compelled him to try on three different colours with her watching.

Categories
Lifeforms of Caradesance

The lifeforms of Caradesance – Vampires

[Welcome readers to the long grass plains.]

[To yet another part in the exploration of a planet that has no ambition.]

[As we examine, the vampire, who is the natural hunter of homo sapiens. Although that was until vampires realised that animal blood; one tasted nicer and two did not fight back with fire.]

[Although in the heart of Dale-shire, in the small county of Provina, most vampires quickly began to think along the lines of, they may drink blood, but the humans need to eat meat. And since that moment almost a thousand years ago, in the age of conflict, vampires have been the financial backer of every butchery enterprise to arise within the Royal Kingdom.]

[Whilst it is true, vampires have only one true enemy. People seem to forget; for the most part vampires no longer enter the mountains. And because of this, trolls and vampires rarely met after the exodus.]

[After the vampires left the nation of Mist and settled in the long grass plains, they acquired new enemies, though not to the same extent.]

[Now it is true what they say. Vampires are very neurotic. They are also fast. They can become easily obsessed with virgins. But at the end of the day that’s what they call their positive attributes. After all, you wouldn’t want to meet a vampire who has the bad attributes. You’d likely end up a drained husk on the floor.]

[Much is known about vampire history, which is mainly down to the fact that some of the first vampires are still alive. Although within vampire culture they’re the only true immortals, but even they can still be killed.]

[The whole race of bloodsuckers was created by Ares, in the age of the gods. Exactly before the gods stopped wandering among us mere mortal beings. Although after Ares lost to Loki in a battle of shadows and demons, Aries was banished to Naserian (the underworld), and the vampires were free.]

[That was when they entered the mountains and met the troll race, which they hadn’t needed to do at all. But back then vampires feared something more powerful than trolls. Although if they hadn’t gone into the mountains, they wouldn’t have changed troll evolution.]

[There are five remaining vampire bloodlines from the first families. The Caliana Family. The Vino Family. The Marietta, The Laroma, and the Deucalion. Each of these families control a certain percent of all the animal farms and slaughterhouses across the kingdom. Along with other business ventures. And currently, it is the Vino family that are the lords of Provina. But that could change at any time.]

Lin Deucalion is sitting in front of her shuttered window, staring out at her father’s bushes. Her fangs ache. The veins in her hands are almost purple, and not the light shade of blue they should be. A shiver runs throughout her body and into her bones. Something that is not quite alive, but isn’t quite dead. Although what is one expecting from a vampire.

A door screeches slightly on its hinges. The sound which me or you couldn’t hear begins to tickle her ear drums. But no person enters the room. The smell of an animal begins to waft around the room. Whilst the sound of the door closing is faster than the sound of the animal moving about looking for escape.

Lin moves quietly across the floor on her hands, searching with her nose. Her nails are digging into the wood as she moves, dragging herself along the wood. Each nail cracking further under the pressure of six stone. Although Lin can no longer endure the pain and hasn’t the strength to capture her prey. She hasn’t the abilities she could have if they only gave her real food daily.

Exhaustion is all she knows these days. Hunger pains and fang ache. Dire misery and further pain. And even though she once knew what happiness was. Now all she has is a desire for escape. Freedom from the confines of her immortal bind. And as not even hope can survive the length of time she has been locked away for in the attic. Her desire burns the brightest in the rear of her mind where the fantasy could still brew.

The rat came closer to her. Snatching at it would prove to be too slow though. So, her only hope is to bite at it like a snake. A method for catching the rats that’d so far proven to work.

The fur rubs her tongue as her mouth closes around the animal. Blood fills her mouth as her fangs begin to seem sharper. Although she knows this feeling won’t be permanent. The poor creature doesn’t have enough within it. But yet it is enough to keep her alive for another month or so. Screaming within from all the pain and hunger. But that is where they have her, that is how they control her. For no vampire would give in and allow themselves to starve. The hunger is merely too great a feeling.

The straw bed in the corner begins to call her once more. Hallucinations begin from the blood of the rat. Food it is, but it is also a drug to her at that moment. As if it had been eating rat poison before they released it in with her. But the bed begins to call her once more.

‘Rest’ the straw says to her from the corner of the room. As she moves towards the bed, her body tries to heal the degradation to her undead form. Without carbohydrates to offset the blood and a proper meal each day, they’re only just keeping her alive. And in constant pain. It is a cruel punishment that her father at the time had called necessary. Although as time went by, the punishment had turned into a torture which felt never-ending. A constant stream of unwanted thoughts attaching themselves to a desire that is unattainable, freedom that is beyond her grasp.

Lin woke to the smell before her eyes could adjust to the darkness. It is something new, but not new. Something which shouldn’t be in the room. But it is in the room with her. And her mind scrambles as she tries to find it.

Although the smell starts to make her mouth water and saliva begins to drip onto the wood as she begins to crawl around.

[If she was a wolf, she would have howled. But she isn’t, so she made no sound at all.]

‘Slowly’, her mind whispers, ‘move slowly.’ Her body listens to the command as she begins to search with every sense still available to her. Each movement in the darkness towards the silhouette causes a scraping to begin though. A squeaky teenage voice calls out in the darkness.

‘Hello. Um, anyone there? I didn’t mean to break in, it was a dare. My friends dared me to do it.’ She doesn’t answer. The crawling scraping continues to fill the room. His breathing gets heavier as he becomes more afraid. His fear and sweat adds a new, tantalising stench to the room.

She leans closer as she gets to within an inch of him. Although she realises as he begins to sob that he can’t distinguish her, and he isn’t moving. And as she inches even closer to the lad with a dark smile on her face the stench of urine fills the air.

‘Please. Please. I’ll leave,’ the lad says as if he could sense her, but he still he doesn’t run. Lin places her hand onto his body. He whimpers and pees himself yet again as he tries to move backwards into the wall. The overpowering smell filling the darkness fills her with the type of hope that only she could smell. A guilty pleasure washes over her, one that she could only find in tormenting her prey. Her other hand met little resistance as she pulled herself using his body. Although the lad couldn’t move from a fear which made him release his bowels this time. She leans in as she begins to smell his neck. His heart beat is almost like an aphrodisiac, which causes her to place her lips to his neck.

‘Please. Please.’ He cries as her teeth start sinking into his flesh. Instantly though, the strength and the amount of human blood flowing into her begins to give her a new strength of her own. Her arms wrap around his sobbing body. Images flash within her mind as she drains him slowly, making sure it lasts longer for him. She sees his family, his friends, and even his betrothed. She sees how he gained access to her father’s manor. She sees that fear was the reason he couldn’t run away. She sees everything and knows that one hundred years have passed since she’d been locked away. The sobbing stops as his body goes limp in her arms, but driven by crazed hunger, she drains him of every drop. Lin notices through her fangs that his heart is no longer beating, and she releases her grasp on him.

Her veins begin to normalise first as the moons rays hit her through the slats in the shutters. Her skin shines under the rays for but a second. But her body is healing even if her mind would never do so.

She walks over to the wooden shutters which are no longer a problem. Even if they are nailed closed, one movement is all she needs to rip her way to freedom.

The moons catch her eyes, turning the whites pink. As she stands on the window ledge, her mind and body link with a dark internal bloodlust. But freedom is calling to her, and around her, she knows there are targets everywhere.

[And from what she’d learnt in that lad’s mind, she knew that the world has grown in size since she’d been locked away. A much larger world than she remembered now existed for her to sample.]

[So with a dangerous fugitive freed, the world of Caradesance looks a little bleaker than it already did.]

[Next time we explore the Cyclopes. A people of great might and still the most feared warriors of Britstana. Although in the modern era they languish in the capital with no lands of their own.]

Categories
Lifeforms of Caradesance

The lifeforms of Caradesance – Dwarfs

[Welcome readers to the lifeforms of Caradesance.]

[Today we will be going underground. To the homes of the Dwarfs, who live under the surface of the mountains, which is known to the locals as the nation of Mist. In this rocky metropolitan underground network where the Triticum-aestivum-absolutum-est evolved, they have built a life for themselves doing what dwarfs are well-known for.]

[And Dwarfs, as we like to call them, are friendly, well-organised beings. They uphold the law to the last letter. At least until they don’t. And no matter what they say, they cannot hold their liquor. So as a rule. All alcohol is illegal within the mountains. But dwarfs still love a good drink, and that’s where they don’t obey the law.]

[Male dwarfs are slightly taller than females, and even if they weren’t. Well, you’d be able to tell them apart from the fact that male dwarfs have no hair whatsoever. Whilst females of their race have long silky breads which they braid, stubble on the top of their heads which they pattern and extensive armpit hair, which as of late has become fashionable to shave. Of course, all this has led to the largest collection of wig and fake beard stores in one location. Wig-Wham Highway they call it, and all nine streets are stocked with products for men. With designs to suit anyone’s style.]

[For nearly two thousand years, the inhabitants of the mountain caverns have mostly ignored the outside world. Although in recent years, the outside world has slowly been seeping inside.]

[Minor criminal operations began to appear at first. Then product wagons began to get hijacked at bolt point. New faces arrived after that looking for work. And the shaft towns as they’re called were suddenly filled with problems.]

[That was when the dwarven lords formed the Mounties, an organisation dedicated to upholding the law. They were given the powers to arrest, judge and sentence criminals. Although three hundred years on, they’re struggling to hold back the wave of crime. And as they continue their war on the surface world, the ever growing list of criminal activity keeps getting longer by the day.]

‘Attention.’ The commander shouts at his new recruits as he enters the room. Everyone snaps their hands to their heads in a quick smart salute. Their backs straighten out of respect. And they all ignore his fake beard as it begins to slip.

‘At ease,’ they all relax as much as they can in heavy chain-mail. Although they all still appear to be ready to pounce, ‘now then, I have everyone’s deployment letters here.’ He waves the stack in his hand to show them all.

‘But first I would like to congratulate Marken for getting this year’s bronze detective’s badge. And scoring top of the class.’ The room explodes immediately in cheers and claps. Even Little Dig joins in, and the dwarf doesn’t like the elf. Especially since the elf just (but only barely) beat him out of the one detective badge which is given out each year. The commander waits a minute before shouting.

‘Clam down,’ he gazes at Little Dig and begins speaking, ‘now then. When you’re all calm.’ The commander smiles whilst still gazing at LD, who begins to feel uncomfortable. As the training commander carries on speaking once the room is quiet, Little Dig’s eyes lock onto his bosses.

‘This year we are introducing a new policy. This policy has been handed down from the High-Lord, which states,’ he verbally composed a marching band noise before carrying on, ‘that second place will be given a spot in the MDLE. So congratulations LD, you’re going outside.’ Everyone glances at Little Dig as they begin to cheer and pat him on the back, although he doesn’t know what to say.

[The Mounties have five departments spread out across all the station houses. And the MDLE was the most sort after department. After all, the drug law enforcement office got to go outside.]

LD, as everyone calls him, can’t believe his luck. Although that’s before he remembers that last month almost forty dwarfs were killed in an attack by Rock, a new warlord of the surface world. And everyone knew that Rock was quickly moving up the ladder, destroying all the other tribal leaders in his way.

[And everyone in the mountains had overheard the talk about his deadly lieutenants.]

The commander stops them all cheering and carries on the announcement. As they quieten down once more, the dwarven commander begins to stare at the only troll recruit.

‘Now Lilly Flower, the high-lord, has asked that you be given the position of wagon-enforcer. So please wait around, as I am still waiting for your envelope.’ The troll nods whilst the commander hands all the other recruits their envelopes one by one. As he reaches LD, he smiles and says softly.

‘You’ll be one hell of a drug enforcer, Mountie!’ LD smiles in return. But before he can answer, his trainer moves on to the next recruit in line. Around him, people are opening their envelopes and wandering off towards the barracks. LD already knew his posting. And as all drug enforcement Mounties report to the same place. He didn’t need to open his letter.  He knew that the gigantic but unimpressive surface shaft station where all the drug enforcement officers are posted meant he merely needs to pack his bags.

‘Two weeks travel. It’s only two weeks.’ His mind is racing as he heads towards the barracks. He must tell his mother, father, and then it hit him.

‘I have to tell Daisy Chain.’ He decides after some thought that duckling out would be easier. Although after he writes them all a joint letter, LD swiftly begins to collect up his belongings. Which isn’t hard, as he doesn’t have much. Although as he stuffs the few fake breads, a wig and his fake arm pit hair into his sack, he realises he doesn’t want to leave the capital. He sighs as he stands up straight. After all, he has no choice. His marching orders said surface shaft, so off to the new station he must go.

On his way to the taxi rank, he posts the letter and hopes Daisy is going to follow him. Although deep down, all that passes through his mind. Is how she’s an independent dwarf woman, who likely isn’t going to follow no man.

[The city of Under-Rock is connected to all the shafts, cavern towns, mining sites and new excavations using long tunnels. And as horses do not fare well in the round tunnels of the dwarfs. They’d long ago bred giant ants that were used as transport. These days, the ancestors of those ants have been bred for their size, after they’d been granted independence away from the hive collective. Only to be attached to yellow carts, which they called cabs.]

‘I’ll be damned,’ he thought to himself. His face broadcasts the thought as he steps out of the extended cab journey. After two weeks of nonstop travel, he looks at his destination. The station isn’t inside like he’d anticipated, but on the surface. The blue sky is above his head, and LD for the first time in his life feels inadequate as he surveys the building. As he does so, he realises it is built for the height of a cyclops. As he watches two such individuals stepping through the door. Houses surround the station, as well as a market.

Just inside the station is an open area. There are three doors on his left and right, a desk in front of him and a seating area, which is nearly full of people. Although the sergeant sees him approaching and speaks directly at him, although it isn’t with an amiable tone.

‘Sit down and someone will be with you-’ as LD reaches the sergeant though he salutes. And this alone stops the desk sergeant from carrying on.

‘DOM Little Dig reporting for duty sire.’ The human behind the desk sighs.

‘Green door, report to the station commander. Room 67B.’ LD nods, smiles, and then strides off through the door that the human is pointing at. Following the signs hammered into the brickwork, he finds room 67B easily enough though. As a brass plaque on the door is engraved with the words ‘Commander Leafonhim.’

Little Dig knocks, waits, and enters only once he hears the commander shout.

‘COME!’

Little Dig salutes immediately as he steps inside. He let the door close on its own, wishing he hadn’t as it slams shut. The smell of molten sulphur causes his nose to flow with snot almost immediately. His eyes then fill up with tears as he begins coughing. Little Dig strives to stay at attention though.

‘AT EASE!’ Although as the newly promoted dwarf relaxes, he surmises the commander isn’t actually shouting, but is simply loud. As the air clears, he comes face to face with the troll as the Mounties in his red uniform leans over the desk, and begins to stare at him.

‘LITTLE DIG ISN’T IT?’ He nods not knowing what to say.

‘You’re assigned to outskirt patrol one,’ he looks down at the stack of paperwork before he carries on speaking with a quieter voice, ‘we don’t patrol the surrounding streets, but if you notice anything. Anything at all. You are to sound your brass whistle and intervein. Now most of what we do is considered clean up around here. And lately, as the surrounding towns are fighting each other, it feels like a losing battle.’ He blinks as the commander glances at him.

‘A bunk should be available for you to crash in the barracks. Report to loading tomorrow morning at 7AM.’ Little dig nods and goes to speak for the first time.

‘Yes sire-’ the station’s leader cut him off.

‘Tis commander. Not sire.’

As he wakes to the sound of a brass bell ringing, he feels strange. The showers are also overcrowded as he steps inside. Humans, elves, and dwarfs are all filing in one by one. Showering under lukewarm water for a minute at most, before they all file out once again. The breakfast tables in the mess hall are even worse. People are nearly sitting on top of one another. Although there is no conversation happening between those crowded around the tables. As Little Dig eats his bread, cheese and sausages in silence, whilst he looks around, wishing he had some fried-onions.

They all begin filing out once again, the second a lieutenant begins to ring a large bell near the entrance. Little Dig finds himself following the signs which said ‘Loading’. And as he does so, the crowds thin out as he walks through the corridors. Around him as he reaches the last corridor are seven other dwarfs and two humans who are going the same way he is.

Loading turned out to be a stable attached to the outside of the station at the rear. Carts, huge mountain donkeys and bulky bags of feed which are lying around in piles take up most of the space with. And as a lieutenant stands there waiting for them all to arrive, LD looks around. Everyone is suddenly sat on a bag of feed, as he still stands there. The human lieutenant, who is now staring at him. Smiles at him almost curly in nature, as only one corner of his mouth goes up.

‘Sit down. For the sake of Nivrean. I don’t have all day.’ He does what he is told, and those waiting laugh at him.

‘Now then today we will be patrolling Seventon, Large-Rock and Littletree. All three of the surrounding villages have been quiet in the last few days. But still we need to stay together as a squad if we disembark the cart. So keep your eyes open, and we’ll all make it back in one piece.’

He looks around and sighs.

‘As for today’s true briefing, it looks like our squad captain hasn’t turned up yet again.’

The human standing there in his dress reds looks around for a full minute before he carries on speaking.

‘So as he’s still not here, I’ll go ahead with the report,’ he unfolded a piece of paper which he took out of his breastplate, ‘okay. So last night Rock pushed Oak-Leaf out of Regaton. We believe his motivation is to reach the lowlands without the need for our tunnels. Unfortunately for us, that means Oak-Leaf turned on Cats-Eye, who lost his life and all his lands in single combat.’

‘This means there are now only six stops between us and this new dangerous warlord. Whereas this also means it will bring more drugs and booze inside the mountain. What am I missing? Oh! Yes, congratulations to recruit Little-Dig, who is now with us. And let’s make sure we give them hell.’

Ten of them plus the human lieutenant squeeze onto a normal size cart. Which seems ready to be thrown on the fire-pit heap. Each of them are holding crossbows as the cart rolls away from the station. They’re an improvement on the previous design, which is said to have been the cause of so many deaths. Which mostly occurred on the side of the Mounties themselves. But then at least the new bows are also loaded with new arrows, which could penetrate a troll’s stubborn outer layer. But still couldn’t kill one. As the cart rolls past the last brick cottage, they all sit there as not one of them speaks. And for a brief while, Little Dig is pleased about this.

The first village isn’t what he expects a troll location to look like. There are stores, houses and pavements, all of which he has heard about, but never seen before. Inside the mountains, homes are built into the rock. Outside under the sun, these buildings have shape. They’re round, box shaped, and two are even cylindrical in design. As the cart rolls closer, Little Dig finds it all so fascinating.

An arrow flies out of nowhere, and somewhere in LD’s head it screams at him that this is the end.

‘Death to burrow-lovers,’ the bolt-firer shouts. Although the person shouting is already running and jumping over fences. And within a split-second, he’s gone from sight. LD sits there frozen to the spot though.

‘What was that?’ He asks the group. But no one answers him, as they’re holding their own bows and are pointing them at the surrounding area.

As the cart moves along the streets though, it begins to pick up speed. A knot forms within the newest members stomach as the cart rolls along. They carry on their patrol route through the village in silence, whilst LD watches all the shadows. The fear of death is seeping into his mind though. And as the cart rolls out of town, the human says.

‘There appears to be smoke rising from over that hill.’ They all turn to stare. LD though can’t see what’s happening. And he also decides he doesn’t want to know. As he ponders his own mortality, the cart picks up speed.

‘Yah! Yah!’ The human lieutenant says as the sound of the stick hitting the donkeys fills the air. All his fellow Mounties holding onto the wooden railing appear terrified. And as the cart bounces along the uneven road, LD begins to notice that he is as well.

‘Hold on, or you’re going to fall out!’ The human next to him shouts over the sound of the air rushing past them. LD listens to him as he grabs the railing.

The next village up the road is on fire as they reach the outskirts. Flames are spreading from one roof to the next. Smoke fills the air with soot and dirt as LD struggles not to breathe. People are screaming as well. The sound of iron clinging against iron echoes through the air. And as the donkeys won’t move any further forwards either, they begin to pile out of the cart.

‘Lieutenant.’ One of LD’s fellow dwarfs said pointing with his hand. Everyone turns and suddenly they can all see the five trolls tramping through the smoke towards them.

‘Friend or Foe!’ The lieutenant says, ‘I demand you announce yourselves.’ They’re still moving closer though, and they aren’t answering him. So the leader of the squad does what he thinks he needs to do.

‘Fire!’ Everyone stood around the cart listens to his order. Even LD, who is shaking, begins to fire at the figures as they stride forwards through the smoke. As they draw nearer, the sound of timber crackling in the flames can be heard. Bricks begin exploding as well. And as they all load another round into their crossbows, the lieutenant screams out.

‘Fire!’ Another round is sent into the smoke. They all reload and await the next order, but the figures begin to pullback. The sound of wood breaking within the smoke grew louder, but LD can’t distinguish anything within. Nevertheless, he is not prepared at all for what is about to happen.

A troll appears in the smoke as a figure. Almost nothing but a silhouette against the greyness which clung and covered the area. They were all about to point at it, but then LD notices the troll is on fire. And he is hurrying towards them. As he moves though, the poor being is screaming. Flames lick his skin as an oil spreads over its silicon skin. Each step he unleashes another scream, which gets higher-pitched with each second.

‘Roll!’ LD shouts at him. But it is too late. The flames catch the troll’s digestion track through the melting silicon shell and the soft spots within his mouth. In less than a nano-second bits of rock fly through the air. The clumps almost hit LD, whilst the human closest to him isn’t as lucky. LD has never seen a head fold in on itself before. But as the boulder collides with his fellow Mounties, LD threw up all his lunch. As he does so, other trolls begin to explode, as they die trapped within their houses. And all the Mounties can do is stand there and watch as the village burns to the ground.

[The war of the warlords has arrived at the gates. And now the forces of the MDLE have one more problem to deal with, as the war bangs on the entrance.]

[Next time on the lifeforms of Caradesance, we delve into the longest lived being of Britstana. The vampire. And explore just what it is that makes them, well, them.]

[Until then. Remember to always tie your shoes laces, even if you’re an adult. Six people in the last hundred years within the entire multiverse have died because of untied shoelaces. Be clever, tie, don’t tuck.]

Categories
Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Final Act

As Deri opened his eyes to the sounds of ravens, the morning sun rose. He thought it was strange, but it also wasn’t an unpleasant change to chickens. Which had plagued his journey so far. Although Deri forgot all about the birds as he ate his breakfast. After he brought travel food for himself and the horse, they set off on the main road. Although first he needed to steal yet another stick of honey. As the cart rolled along the stone road towards the big city-

-a card is taken. Two dice bounced. And a prolonged echo floated through all time and space-

-Deri started to call himself the honey bandit. Although in truth he hoped no one found out he was stealing. He knew that being caught would mean being locked up. And Deri didn’t want to be locked away-

-a miniature was moved, and a card was then played-

-time jumped. And the universe vibrated for a nano-second-

-he heard a noise. A cross-bow bolt barely missed his head. And as a second bolt flew through the air, the horse bolted forward with all its speed. The cart rolled onwards across the uneven stone surface of the road as she bolted. Deri held onto the reins, squeezing them as he did so. The song he was singing was now gone, as all that remained was fear. Another bolt barely missed him, and Deri wet himself as it stuck into ground.

Nevertheless, as the cart raced forward, Deri felt the need to look back. As he did so, he spotted four men riding huge mountain donkeys. As they attempted to fire crossbows holding onto the reins, Deri knew who they were. Although if Deri wasn’t so scared, he would have laughed at the sight of the Black Knights. But fear told him to out run them. Get to the nearest village. Just keep going. But none of the sentences or the voice in his head helped him at that time.

A bolt thudded and stuck into the cart. As the wheel hit the slabs at the wrong angle, his food bounced out. The only bag of food was gone. His hand shot up to his tunic and found his coin bag. The seconds flashed him by-

-the dice were rolled and the female hand took a card-

-the outlaws began to fall behind. They fired a few more arrows for show, but as these fell short, the riders began to give up. Deri nearly cheered, but he was afraid to give them reason to chase him again. After all, they already took his supplies, and he needed his money. Horse also wouldn’t slow down until she was out of stamina, no matter how much Deri tried to stop her. As soon as they slowed down though, Deri realized the wheel was almost broken. As they trudged onwards, he hoped it would hold until he reached the next stop.

The next morning, famished, with a cart about to fall apart, and after they’d slept in a field, Deri rolled up outside the blacksmiths. The man’s eyes lit up at the sight of the cart though. He began to wander around the cart as he nodded at the damage and said,

‘Ten silver be a few days lad.’ Deri nodded and paid the man. After that, his coin bag seemed almost empty. Although there was some luck as the local bank was his branch. And he took out seven silver asking for it in tuppence.

Five days later, once the wheel was fixed. The inn keeper and the blacksmith counted their blessings as they nearly robbed him blind. Withdrawing ten more silver, the butcher’s son left the village as he hoped he could make up the lost days on the road. Thinking about how he didn’t have much more than 10 gold left.

Deri could see the big city on the horizon long before he could see the walls of Nippa-kanta. As thick black smoke was sent into the air by all the forges of the capital. Whilst the smoke rose, it collected high above the heads of the city’s residents. Like a sign you merely needed to follow. Although the smoke wasn’t needed. Everyone knew after all that the ancient kings had ensured every stone road in the kingdom led to the capital. They, or the people who do all the talking, said that the roads had been built so that the world was connected. All Deri knew was it merely made tax payments easier. Which made everyone happy that it was the Lords who paid the road tax. Just as the lords knew that their families hadn’t paid taxes before the road system was laid. And as far as taxes are concerned, they don’t even go towards the network. The state of the highways told everyone that.

As the cart reached the queue for one of many gatehouses that was officially known as the Royal Capital of Nippa-kanta. Deri stopped gazing at the King’s Castle, sitting high above everything, and began to think seriously about turning around. There was a village not one hundred miles back, which was advertising a vacancy in the local butchers,

‘If not,’ he thought, ‘then I could start a market stall.’

Deri tried to calm down as he started to stare at the castle. While studying the immense red marble blocks that had a long time ago been salvaged from the sunken land of Letviana. Deri began to look forward to living in the big city. But the more he stared at the red castle, the more he wondered how the slabs were transported across the country. Because they were enormous. And as the city grew closer, he was overwhelmed by the sight of the gargantuan castle, which could be regarded by all those living within a radius of thirty miles.

As the king’s home grew closer though, Deri remembered his mother once telling him that it was the first king which built the mammoth keep with its four larger wings. While it was the fifth king who attached the tall towers to wings for defence. Deri’s mother had known nothing about the thick red marble walls, but Deri knew they were built to keep the riffraff out. And the nine towers that connected the thick walls definitely made sure that no one entered the castle without invitation. Deri also knew that everyone in the Royal Kingdom spoke about how the flamboyant king added the outer walls. Although the part they whispered in secret was how “he” was rumoured to have been a “she”, which Deri, of course, thought couldn’t have been true. As this would have violated the third royal law, which was established by the first king. On the other hand, Deri also knew that there were some people who, at least in secret, questioned its relevance. Especially since it was chiselled into stone and no one could even regard the royal laws (unless, of course, they were kings, as a king could do everything he wanted), but the times really weren’t all that much different.

[No matter what you say.]

What the inhabitants of the Royal Kingdom today described as modernity was in fact more in line and moving towards being only an expansion of the golden age of enlightenment, which moved only the arts forward. And caused the same people to talk about the future as if they were living it. Although these were also the same individuals who came to paint the king’s castle whilst drinking nettle tea from ceramic pots under its shadows. Talking among themselves about how the new age of peace was changing all modern thought. Which was simply not true. But even though the castle caused difficulties for local guards, as tourism always leads to crime, someone somewhere was obtaining money from it all. And that was the real truth of the modern society they lived in. But then they also said the King loved it.

The horse and cart grew closer to the massive grey city wall. Which was suddenly the only thing Deri could see of the city. As he gazed upon the three hundred metres of magically formed rock, all Deri could think was,

‘I wondered who fixes that? The builders or mages?’

After some waiting in a long line. Which only continued to grow behind him. Deri finally reached the front and was questioned by the local guard,

‘Eh, what’s ya business ‘ere?’ The tall almost round shaped guard in a lengthy black iron chain mail dress uniform said in a strong South-Kanta accent. The guard inspecting Deri began to determine if he could comprehend any sort of distrust in Deri’s face. As if it were something he could discover when he met someone new. The other guard began to peep in the back of his cart, and before Deri could answer, the younger, shorter guard spoke to his boss,

‘Eh Sarge. He’s got nuffin in his ‘art.’ Deri smiled,

‘I just arrived. I am looking for work and the closest stables to sell the cart and horse, if you know of any?’ The first guard frowned and then replied with,

‘Where yose from?’ Deri frowned and replied with,

‘Ramming Stone.’ As no one called it Ramston outside of the village. The round guard nodded and then said,

‘Wel’ ya lordship might find a buyer at the ‘horse stables. Tis left at the ‘nd of road. Just on the other side of tis wall. No-w move a-long your lordship.’ Deri snapped his reins while nodding at the guard. As the cart went through the gate, he hoped he understood enough of what the round man had just said to avoid going the wrong way. However, as Deri reached the stables, he realised the big city was certainly different from the countryside.

Categories
Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Act Two

The local village bank conducted all its business from a single counter from within the ‘King’s Royal Post Office’. Although, the tiny postal office was only a minute attachment to the side of the inn. And at night, the office was given back over to the inn for illegal card games. Which no one in the village cared about. As the village’s only guardsman was also the person who organised the snacks. And although all this implied, the rural village was a small nowhere place. It was larger than somewhere in the middle of nowhere should’ve been.

Ramston, as the villagers called it, was two main roads with around three hundred people spread out amongst the thatch roofed houses and the local surrounding farms. Still, even with so many residents, all that could be said for Ramming Stone (as it was called on the maps) was that its two taverns, a few shops and a tall red bricked inn, was a stop on the main highway for all the dwarven mountain towns. That moved their non-perishables to the big city.

As Deri wandered through the inn to reach the backroom, he ignored the deer’s heads on the walls. Whilst noticing his younger brother drinking away his inheritance. Margie, the half elf, stood behind the bar table, which served as the counter for all the village’s banking needs. And as Deri approached her, she smiled at him politely, before saying,

‘Hello Deri. And what can I do for you today?’ He smiled politely in return as he removed his account booklet plus the letter from his tunic, and replied,

‘I wish to add this into my account, please.’ Margie checked over both as she took them. Opening the letter first, she stared at the stamp. After she checked its authenticity, she began to fill out some forms. As his friend did so, Deri resisted the urge to tap his foot, and after five minutes, the half-elf was finished. After she stamped a new page in his booklet, she handed it over with a smile,

‘That is now twenty-five gold, ninety-seven silver, and thirty-eight tuppences in your depositary account. Is there anything else I can help you with today?’

Deri smiled as he took the booklet and asked,

‘Where does Goldthread Banking Group have branches?’

Margie smiled. As he smiled in return, her cheeks began to blush slightly. Whilst she answered him with two questions of her own,

‘Why? Are you leaving the village?’ Deri nodded,

‘I haven’t got anywhere to live.’ It looked like she was about to ask him a question-

-the sound of dice as they bounced across a cold, hard marble surface ringed out across the cosmos. A second in time jumped forwards on Caradesance. And suddenly-

-Deri’s lips were moving, although he couldn’t remember what he’d been saying before that very moment,

‘-well, Marx got the butcher’s shop in my father’s last testimonial. And I need to go somewhere that has a job to offer me.’

Margie looked kind of hurt, but nodded and said,

‘Well, I, I mean we’re going to miss you, I mean your singing on open-stage night.’ She blushed again whilst still looking hurt,

‘I’ll write I promise.’

‘Is that so. Well, as I said, the Group has fourteen branch offices in small settlements along the main highway. And of course, there is the main banking branch at Nippa-kanta. While I have to say the big city is the only place you’re going to find an actual job, they do say the streets of the big city are paved with tuppence. Maybe you can come back rich.’ Deri laughed. He nodded and said thank you and goodbye, before he then walked out of the inn. Although he didn’t understand her anger, but as with most thoughts linked to the human mind, his own mind quickly moved forward. And were helped along by turning the corner at the tailor shop.

As he saw outside his father’s butcher’s shop. Deri found Marx already putting his belongings on the doorstep. Taking only a bag of clothes from the pile, neither of them spoke. Deri hooked up the waiting horse to the cart in less than a minute. As he took one final glance at the butcher’s shop, a tear rolled down his cheek, and as it faded away, Deri began to leave Ramston behind.

The sun began to drop below the horizon as Deri’s cart began to draw closer to the last farm on the outskirts of the village. Whilst the cart rolled forwards, the warm summer afternoon turned into a breezeless chilly evening.

Red, who was pacing around his domain, surveyed his wives. He didn’t notice the horse, or the human, as the cart rolled closer to his land. His mind was elsewhere, as it’d been for days.

Red stretched his wings and then began to wander into his harem. Halfway up the ramp, he experienced the same feeling that he’d experienced three days ago. But, what with Red being nothing more than a simple rooster. He couldn’t figure out what caused this strange feeling. Before the rooster went inside his building though, something compelled him to watch a cart that rolled past. Whilst his wives wandered over to the fence to get a closer look. Consequently, a shiver rolled down the rooster’s spine, which caused his rear feathers to shake uncontrollably.

The horse as it dragged the cart didn’t notice the rooster either. Although admittedly she was thinking about food. Which for Horse was also nothing new.

Somewhere, just past the last farm leaving the village, Horse began realising that her new master still wasn’t stopping. She then began to wonder, how long this journey was going to take. The fields of grass were getting longer the further they travelled. Which she wasn’t going to complain about. Although, as the horse followed the stone road that ran through the meadows, she came to a sudden realisation that the cart was empty. And after some consideration, the animal then came to another realisation that told her that its luck must have been changing.

Although later that night, she would have disagreed with the earlier version of herself. As all there was to eat was grass. Whilst Horse pondered the prospects of only grass, she yearned for the young girl that would feed her carrots before bed.

The first two days on the road were lonely, bitter, and a walking nightmare for the animal. She missed her stables. She also missed the young girl, who she’d once surmised to be her master. She missed hay, which she never imagined she would think. And she wanted to stop pulling an empty cart. But at the first village, they came to the horse’s mood lifted.

The inn she knew housed people, whilst the attaching shed was loaded with hay for her to eat. A stick of honey was also hung in the corner. Which she attempted to devour in one. And the shed was a palace to the animal, who’d been kept in a small wooden structure, she hadn’t been able to move about in. The wooden shed was warm as well, and as she didn’t have to stand up to sleep whilst being attached to the horrid cart for another night, Horse was ecstatic.

However, Deri didn’t like the village. Or to be precise. He didn’t like the villagers. They were friendly enough to his face, but he heard them making jokes about him behind his back as he brought provisions.

So the next morning, after handing the inn keeper five tuppence coins for a breakfast, Deri wanted to leave. Whilst Horse needed to be dragged from the stables. As she kept trying to grab a honey coated stick in her mouth. Deri quickly caught on to the fact that she didn’t want to leave it behind. So in the end, as no one was around, Deri stole the sticky treat. And Horse soon followed him outside.

Although once they were both back on the road, her attitude further lifted as her master began to sing. And as he did so, Deri, unlike the only musicians he’d heard before (bards) composed his songs about what he saw. So as they left the village behind, the made-up song he sung was about the vast rose bushes in the meadows. Which for Horse sounded like a new food source.

That evening, when she ate them, she decided she quite liked the taste of roses. And her stomach agreed with her. Her own thoughts went more along the lines of,

‘So, I’m on a tour of the lands foodstuffs. Two down. I wonder how many more there can be left?’

The following village along the road wasn’t that much better. They were pleasant enough folk. It was even a little larger than the last. But they were like most this far into the sticks. Two-faced to the individuals who passed through and kept their own local council. Which was why Deri didn’t stay long.

Village after village rolled by as the cart began to cost Deri in wear and tear. A wheel replacement here. The reins and leather attachment straps for the cart also snapped more than once. And then, as the summer air began to get warmer, Deri crossed out of the ‘Britstana Uplands’ where he was born, and crossed over into ‘The Dales’. As he did so, the people got friendlier. Although he still wasn’t sure about them-

-a hand covered in jungle vines removed a well drawn picture card that held words unreadable to mere mortal men-

-Deri’s cart pulled up outside the first town that his eyes ever laid sight on before, not remembering having turned off the main highway-

-two dice echoed across time and space, three cards were picked up by a female hand, and a miniature was pushed across the marble surface-

{It appeared to any observer watching from outside the situation. Like myself. That time just jumped forwards by a few seconds.}

-Deri entered through the gates of Grof. As the gates were already open, it appeared as if that was the easy part completed. But he couldn’t figure out why he even considered that. Then, as his cart rolled onwards, he studied the nomads hanging around the entranceway. And marvelled at the small farming plots stuck between the two walls. Although the inner walls held no towers, whilst archers sauntered along the ramparts as they looked menacing.

Grof, was once an ancient vampire stronghold in the age of conflict. Which was captured during the prolonged one-thousand-year long war by some almost forgotten Lord. Whose family still ruled the whole county to this day. And Deri was impressed. So impressed, that at first he thought the place was Nippa-kanta. The tall outside walls, with its ramparts, nine towers and two enormous gates, were a marvel to the simple butcher’s son. Although once the guards let him past the inner locked section of walls. Deri was further amazed by the lack of the familiar looking round cottages. As every building was constructed using the newish red bricks which the dwarfs sold.

The people of the town even smiled and nodded at him as they went about their business. Whilst inside the inn, the keeper even struck up a conversation with him as he asked Deri about what he could do in the way of work. After Deri answered him, the man’s eyes lit up and said,

‘Well, if you’re looking to settle down here, we have three butchers in town, and two of them are hiring. We also have a boarding lodge if you can stand to be around trolls. Or you can stay here, locals get a discount, that is, if you plan to stay local.’ Deri sounded a little taken aback as he replied,

‘I was heading to Nippa-kanta.’ The inn keeper nodded in an understanding manner,

‘So is everyone these days. One room for one night, then, is it?’ Deri almost said two. But paid for one before he went off to explore the town.

At first everything seemed charming, welcoming, almost inviting-

-the dice rolled-

-but as he reached the Lord’s Manor House, everything changed. Outside the manor house were four criminals in stocks as a crowd gathered around them. Every person in the crowd was also throwing fruit, and not the soft variety. Carved into wooden signposts hanging under each of the criminals were their names and their crimes. Which to the travelling butcher seemed barbaric. And illegal by order of the king, no criminals should be shamed and should be treated with respect.

[This Lord must not have got the memo.]

Deri read their crimes in his head. As he stared at them in horror,

‘Jie Cobbler refusing to pay local tax. Alley Cat Sarin refusing to lay with the local lord for free. Bosin Thatcher sexual relations with an elf. Twiein Colegate sexual relations with a human.’ Deri quickly left the crowd and returned to the Inn. That night, as he slept, he dreamt about being locked into the stocks for kissing Margie. And in the morning, he left as swiftly as he could.

Other towns along the way were worse in some respects. In other respects, they were better, or all the speciesism was entirely hidden. Whatever the reason, Deri didn’t understand what he’d seen in Grof. And he was pleased about that. But simultaneously, he couldn’t help but conclude that where he came from was the only place that didn’t have hatred for others. Which for the butcher’s son came as a surprise.

As he proceeded through the land, his savings began to slip through his fingers. Whilst the summer breeze began to get colder as the days got shorter. But as the journey so far had taken five cycles of the moons. The leafs were beginning to fall off the trees as the cart rolled up to the last town before the capital. There were no walls here, like the other towns. And there was no need to build them. Although this was down to the fact that the land wasn’t owned by a lord, but by the King. And no one was going to go to war with the King. On top of that, all the land beasts created by the gods were killed in the age of heroes. Which was long before the age of conflict had even begun.

{Although Lords are known to war between each other all the time. Seizing land, losing land. Killing each other for no good reason whatsoever.}

The town named Friemium was practically a ghost town though. As the cart stopped outside the Inn Deri thought about the name. He knew in Elfen the word translated into sunshine village. But this place wasn’t close to the true meaning of the word. Especially, as the word meant the happiness place. Although all the new buildings that replaced the cottages of the earlier age appeared to be in need of repair. And they also seemed downright miserable, as did the locals, who kept their heads down low and avoided his glances.

The inn keeper eyed at him up as he entered,

‘Off to the city?’ Deri nodded and replied with,

‘I am. I need use of the stables and a room for the night.’ The inn keeper made a noise in response. But said,

‘Stables, well they’re free to use they are. But I’d tie your horse up around ‘ere. The room is five tuppences a night, and food in the morning is an extra five.’ Deri paid for it and asked the inn keeper,

‘Anywhere I can get some food?’,

‘Here, or you can buy some food from the farms for travel, if that’s what you mean.’

‘No butchers or groceries?’

‘Nah, not round here lad. Local goods get brought from the farms, or we send a joint three-week expedition to the capital. It’s so close, see that we don’t have the need for shops.’ Deri began to think about opening a butcher’s,

‘What happened to the local butchers?’

‘He went bankrupt, then moved to the big city. Or that’s what I heard. I could be wrong. Businesses around these parts don’t survive long. Like I said, the city is so close we can get it cheaper by going there. And the farms around ‘ere sell at cost.’ And just like that, the idea of staying in this miserable place died. The innkeeper looked at him and said,

‘Why are you asking?’ Deri shrugged in reply and said,

‘Merely wondering is all. Is it possible to get an all-day breakfast? Please.’

After he ate in the empty bar, Deri went to bed, and as he slept, he dreamt of working in one of the theatres his mother used to tell him about. Surrounded in his dream, by tall walls and regiments marching through the streets with the red, white and blue striped flags of the Royal Kingdom.

Categories
Lifeforms of Caradesance

The lifeforms of Caradesance – Elves

[Welcome readers. To the most backwards magical planet we call Caradesance. Where we have been learning about all the races which call the planet home.]

[My name for those of you who don’t know by now is Vin Attorn. And today I will be taking you deep into the enchanted forest of Britstana. Where the Elves of the former Tigrade nation still live to this very day. Or at least those that haven’t left for better opportunities do.]

[The stretch of magical forest, which is precisely the same length as the United States, is known for the four natural growth states which it has in abundance.]

[From seed into sapling is the first two states. When ready, it will grow into a tree like any other. This is known as the third state. Then when said tree becomes deadwood to feed the forest, it begins what is known as the fourth state. Such is the cycle of life. Although admittedly, whilst this does happen everywhere. Here in the enchanted forest this process can happen in the blink of an eye. Or it can take a hundred years for the acorn to even become an oak sapling. No one knows how this started, but the elves of the forest use this cycle to their advantage.]

[As such, most of the forest dwellings are linked to Hub City. Sending giant logs down multiple rivers to the small city on the coast. Only for the city to send food back down the river paths using carts. As they have no fruit trees or bushes. And trees take up all the soil space as it is. All the elf’s food comes from outside of the forest and needs to be transported in.]

[All elves are but miniature pink hairless creatures. Or they are until they turn thirteen. Sometimes fourteen in some cases. But at the correct point, their bodies will force them into a three-year hibernation. Where they will sleep until they’re awakened by the first lunar eclipse of the third year. When they wake, they do so famished and in dire need of a bath. The adult elf which has now emerged will also have grown hair for the first time in their lives.]

[The only known benefit to this hibernation growth state is that they will completely miss puberty. Luckily for their parents. And they will also be ready to serve the modern society, the second they emerge. Or they will be, after they wash and eat in that order.]

[There are of course five known types of elves. Though one type has not been seen for many years. The wood-elf, the low elf, the high elf, the blue elf, and of course, dark elves.]

[Whilst wood-elves are supposed to be connected to nature. This is only partly true. And is considered a full-fact only because they have some form of nature growing out of them. Although not all wood-elves can talk to the trees like the stories tell you. And most cannot control any form of nature. Oh! And they also have green hair which isn’t important. As most of this type of elf is also known to dye their hair blonde.]

[The low elf is not called low because they are wanting. But because they are low in magic. Thus, not a single low-elf can perform any sort of magic at all. So I suggest you don’t believe the blonde pointy eared idiot in the pub trying to swindle you of your tuppence.]

[High-elves. Well, they’re all mages. They have ginger hair like humans. And there is nothing else left to say about them. They hide away in libraries and universities. Digging into the unknown secrets of the magical world. Or they become policemen, at least from your point of view.]

[No blue elf has been seen for nearly two hundred years. Stories about them say that they were able to reach into your mind. Able to remove all your negative feelings, thoughts and dreams. Replace them with positivity and joy. Although who knows if this is even true. But what is known, is that when they vanished from the forest dark elves rose up to replace them.]

[Whereas dark elves are not raised, but reborn. They’re what happens to an elf who has murdered someone in any way imaginable. When they kill, something in the cosmic balance gives them use of dark magic. Which is unavailable to them until they change. Although with their black hair, black fingernails and total lack of bathing, dark elves are easily noticed in a crowded inn. Or the inns which let them in that is.]

‘Marken Cleanwood,’ the woman shouts from the window at the payment shed, ‘only call for a Marken Cleanwood.’ Marken forces his way through all the elves waiting to be paid. Reaching the front, he nearly fell over before smiling. The woman doesn’t smile back. She hands him his envelope before she shouts the next name on her list. He sighs before turning to leave. His chain-mail rattles as he does so.

The lengthy days, with the constant darkness, the unshapen morbid looking trees and low pay, were getting to him. And to everyone else in the forest.

As he forces his way back through the throng of those waiting, Marken clutches his pay packet close to his chest. As with everyone in Tree-town-thirty-eight. Or any of the other tree-towns. Marken works for Lord Nain’s forestry business. And everyone is paid simultaneously, or as close to. The pay is of course terrible, the hours are long and the work is boring as hell. Well for Marken it is. He has to sit about making sure no one took any of the tools without signing for them. Whilst making sure everyone hands in their identity paperwork before a tool goes out.

[The low elf is a guard. As a child he had imagined it was going to be moonlit chases through the trees. Capturing criminals who tried to run away. Whereas in reality it is nothing as glamorous.]

[After he had grown up to learn that no one investigated anything in the forest. Marken was disheartened to find out that if someone died then someone died. No investigation, or basic searching around for what happened, happened at all. If you were robbed, oh well, you were robbed. And the more elves which left each year, the worse it got in the forest. Crime they said was on the constant increase. And no one was going to do anything about it. Not even the Lord of the enchanted forest, who couldn’t have cared less about his serfs.]

A strong wind blew through the trees. As more autumn leafs fall to the floor, his body shakes whilst he tries not to glance upwards. Although this is when Marken hears a woman screaming. Everyone else around him hears it as well, but Marken is the only one who dashes off towards the sound. After all, his mind is telling him a woman is in trouble. And even though he should have been running away from the sound, like the those around him, his body is ambling in the other direction.

Branches hit him in the face as he slides through the trees. As he plunges on towards the sound of screaming, Marken realises he is on his own. No one is following him. No one is going to help him. There is now only the darkness. The light of the two moons fighting the canopy to reach the ground. His footfalls, crunching twigs and dry leaves as he moves. His heart beats begin to thud as his heart loses its rhythm as he speeds up.

Marken is now regretting his actions. His mind is cursing the part of himself, which compels him to be helpful. The sound of screaming has now gone quiet. All he can hear is the sound of panting and his beating heart. As it thuds against his own chest.

The tool guard thinks about calling out for help. He thinks about turning back around and heading in the opposite direction. But he can’t, someone needs his help (or needed, his mind screams). The desire to do some good in his life drowns out the voice on the inside, as it attempts to scream over his helpfulness trait.

Something carries on overriding the screaming voice and tells him that pushing forward is the only course of action. Whilst he knows it’s the right thing to do.

Another branch suddenly slaps him in the face. An enormous swelling begins to rise immediately. Marken’s head spins around. He tries to regain his footing but can’t. As he tries doing so, his feet go from under him. And as his legs go, he slips on something simultaneously. He hears a noise as he grabs at the closest tree trunk. A pain begins in his head and flows through his neck. In the dark though, whilst falling to the ground, he is sure that he can distinguish someone running away through the trees. Although, as his head hits the ground, all Marken observes is blackness.

‘Your nicked buddy!’ The guard says to him as he wakes Marken up. As two guards pick him up, his eyes open fully. Confusion follows the throbbing. Yet the first words out of his mouth are,
‘Did I save her?’ No one answers him. And with his arms quickly tied behind his back. Whilst being plastered in someone else’s blood. The guard marches him down the main road.

People begin to watch from their windows. Those standing in the street glare at him as he’s marched past them. Their eyes bore into his soul with each set of eyes. And yet none of them realise he’s one of the victims.

In the town’s only tiny red brick guardhouse. They have only two cells. The townsfolk always said they didn’t need more than two. After all, if the criminal isn’t at the scene of the crime, then nothing is going to be done about it. And as both cells were always empty. Only having two didn’t seem like a bad idea. Although sitting behind a large table is the commander of the only guardhouse in town. And although he is known to be a powerful mage who went by the name of Dippska. He is also known to be one of the few mages to stay in the forest voluntarily,
‘What’s this?’ Dippska said glancing up from his table. The sergeant answers his commander whilst still picking his nose,
‘We found him asleep on top of the body.’ The commander makes a noise towards his underling,
‘And that’s a reason to arrest a low elf?’
‘Well, he was on the body. I just said that.’

[The criminal had been on the body, so he’d arrested him. To the young plucky sergeant, it had at the time seemed fairly straightforward. As for everything else, well, he didn’t get paid enough to think about that.]

‘Clean him off, check that head wound and- wait your Marken, aren’t you?’ Marken nodded. He looked around and said,
‘Yes, sir.’ The commander shook his head,
‘Let him go. He’s a guard for-’ Dippska took in a deep breath and then carried on speaking,
‘What did you ascertain then guards-elf?’ Marken, as he is untied, puts his hand to his head and winces in pain. As he looks at the blood on his hands, he begins to tell the commander what he’d seen and done last night,
‘I had just collected my payment envelope. I was walking down Little Shrub Road towards my apartment at thirty-two red-bark street. The fourth-’ the commander starts to move his hand in a twirling motion, which causes Marken to skip ahead in the story,
‘A woman began to scream. Everyone ignored it as they trudged forwards. But I couldn’t, sir. I had to do something. So I darted off under the newer tree-apartments between the green belt. As I reached the crime scene, I was hit on the head. I think I saw the figure rushing off. But I didn’t observe anything of use, sir. It was just too dark.’ The commander made a noise, then glanced down at his paperwork as he said,
‘Clean yourself up. You two clean up the body and go tell the family. Your all to keep your eyes open for a dark elf. Whoever murdered that poor woman has been reborn by now. It only takes about twenty minutes. Now move it, I just gave you all orders.’ Marken doesn’t follow the other two guards out. He looks at the commander’s grey hair and says,
‘Sir. Don’t you think we should do something else?’
‘Like what, tool guard? Pressurize people to sign something and show identification?’ That hurt Makren’s feelings. But he finds it in himself to answer without any emotion,
‘Search for the killer, sir. Check with people. Knock door to door-’, the commander looks up as he cuts Marken off,
‘Ah, these new ideas I hear coming from the Dwarven Mounties. How novel. Although you appear to forget that here in this town, no in this forest even, we will never find the killer. He has likely run a mile. Or maybe he’s currently riding one of the logs to the hub. Do you know that by the time a rider reaches the log hub, that we wouldn’t even be a quarter of the way? He is likely to get on the first timber wagon going to the royal capital. And that is still before we even reach the hub.’
‘Sir, who says it was a male?’
‘She, he or even a troll, it doesn’t matter. Unless we catch them in the act, we can’t do anything.’
‘But-’ The commander looks like he is about to scream at Marken. But the words that cut him off aren’t nastily said,
‘If you want to learn all that new stuff, then go. I mean it. Go to the mountains and learn all the new dwarven enforcement ideas.’
‘I didn’t mean-’ answering the commander doesn’t go the way the low elf is hoping it would go. The commander’s face turns red as he cuts Marken off for a third time, almost screaming as he does so,
‘And I don’t care what you mean. You youngsters all want to go off and see the world. To learn new things, well, if that’s what you want, then go. Go on then. The door is right there. Do you know what? I’ve had enough of you-’ which Marken believes is a bit too far. This is after all the first time he has spoken with the commander, ‘-and all the rest of the youth of these last decades. Do you know what? You’re fired. Get out of my sight before I decide you need to be put in the cell after all. GO!’

[Another murder in the forest is left unsolved. Only to be added to the long list of crimes which keeps on growing by the day. Along with the murder, no one noticed that the delivery of ale had gone missing. Although when the landlord isn’t there to collect her delivery- oh wait. My bad, she was murdered. Quickly moving on.]

[The low-elf is out of the job and with everyone in town presuming he is a murderer. Marken does what all youngish elves do with their lives in this new modern world. He got the bond back on his apartment, cleaned out his bank account and headed off to the world outside the forest. With no real destination in mind. Marken heads towards where guarding is becoming a career and not a chore.]

[And yet this is what life is like for the elves of the forest. They work constantly without thanks. They live in fear that that day would be their last. Or they are forced to leave their ancestral home to find work. And I must note, if the decrease each month carries on the way it is going, then in fifty years time the forest will be like the troll mountain towns. Barren of all but those who have a reason to stay. Which is always linked to illegal activity.]

[Next time on lifeforms of Caradesance. We will be taking a fleeting glimpse into the life of a dwarf as they move the modern universe forward with their digging, tinkering and sluggish advance into the surface-world.]

Categories
Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Act One

Astra and Apollo carried on orbiting Caradesance. Whilst the two moons sunk below the western horizon for all those who called the Royal Kingdom home. As they did so, Heilbronn rose over the eastern horizon, bathing the nation with a slow-moving warmth. The planet itself didn’t notice the change in the day and night cycle. As far as the world was concerned, it merely continued to orbit Heilbronn and carried on bathing itself in what it called parental love.
The orange parent star, and the only star of that colour in the tiny universe, {the size of a large nebula} insisted on spitting waves of raw magical energy towards its children. Whilst the goldilocks planet was the only child that enjoyed the warmth its parent supplied. The star ignored every event happening in the Cosmos. And simultaneously the planet of Caradesance. After all, interstellar balls of magical plasma do not make great parents. All you need to do is ask the five children Heilbronn had already ejected.

The sphere that was larger than Earth continued to hurtle through the void-sea, never learning about the lifeforms which lived on its surface. Whilst the planet’s grandmother captured a random lost comet, that was basically travelling from nowhere and going nowhere. Caradesance’s grandparent wasn’t a star like its mother though. Instead, it was the entire magical force that held all three hundred stars in one place. Never allowing the stars to drift apart. So far, every object scooped up in the void was safely captured by this force. And these same objects circled around some of the planet’s aunties, playing with its cousins. As they interacted with its relatives, the cosmos carried on expanding. And the orange star resided comfortably in the centre of its own miniature universe.

Certain prominent names in all time and space continued to observe Caradesance from the home of the gods. And as they watched, two D-9’s bounced across a marble table.

A warm morning summer breeze commenced its travel plans across the planet without thought. And yet, as the wafts of air moved, it absorbed the energy coming from the orange star. The raw magic collected by the planet’s weather cycle was usually deposited by light showers, but occasionally more independent breezes could form into colossal storms with magical properties. Which would then become erratic natural forces of nature, creating only destruction. Today was luckily not one of those days.

{Sat on the thatch roof of Old Man Whistle’s farmhouse. Watching the eastern horizon in the morning. You would have seen the sun lazily rising over the tall misty mountains. And if one processed good enough eyes, then one might have been able to see the light pink specks of magic falling. As the planet’s atmosphere slowly captured the specks. Ah. I would love to climb up the village roofs, as a child, to watch the morning sun. Experience the warmth of summer, as the rays bathed my face. To smell the pollen, as the magical flowers open for the warmth. Mmm. Describing it to you now brings back so many memories. Ah well, I suppose I need to move on. Or I’ll be talking about the weather the whole time.}

As the rays of first light hit Old Man Whistle’s breeding coop, a simple rooster was awoken as his finely tuned internal alarm clock went off. Whilst the animal woke up, it began to eyeball its surroundings. The rooster knew something was different this morning. Although the brawny male chicken by the name of Red simply didn’t know what. Going about his normal routine because he might never know what had changed whilst he slept. Red began flexing his wings, as he glanced around the coop once more.

The rooster began to head outside whilst it held its head high. As the animal quickly decided to glance back inside the harem. {Which is what he called the coop filled with his wives.} A strange feeling went down his spine, and Red decided there was nothing wrong. There couldn’t be. Every other morning so far in his life had gone as planned. So his mind, with this point at the forefront, followed his normal routine. Even though the rooster could sense something was off.

Red knew nothing about where he lived though. He knew nothing about what his species was. Or where his life would take him. These sorts of questions, after all, are all the sorts of questions that intelligent beings ask. And this athletic, but simple male Welsummer breed of chicken could only know what his genetics told him. Which were telling him; now that the sun was rising into the sky, that it was time to announce his presence to the world.

So, without any thought about what he was doing. The rooster strutted over to the fence which surrounded his harem. With a simple bit of mad flapping, with a half jumping action, and a lot of kicking at the ground, Red was stood on a corner post overlooking his land. He didn’t have any time to take in the view though. As there were natural urges that he couldn’t ignore screaming from within. So without any thought, Red then began to let out a loud, almost screaming monologue. The words (in High-Male-Chicken.) were mostly bragging about the size of his domain. But as the rooster obeyed its genetics, Red managed to get louder of his own accord.

As old man Whistle forced his both his eyes open. The sound coming from his rooster outside got louder and louder. Which only caused the farmer to bury his head under his pillow. Everyone else in the medium-sized village, that existed along the King’s Main Highway, was roused from their beds as more and more roosters joined in with the choir…

The local butcher however couldn’t wake himself.

{I couldn’t.}

No matter how hard he tried.

{And goddess did I attempt to.}

As the ghostly figure stood surveying the husk of his former self, the almost transparent shape of a butcher finally said something,

‘Damn. I should have laid off the roast beef dinners.’ The apparition of the butcher had been eying his body, since his heart had given out. Which happened at some point in the middle of the night.

{I didn’t even notice it happening. And couldn’t tell you when either.}

As the ghostly figure stood there for well over another hour in silence. People outside in the street began to go about their business. Which some might say, when compared to the butcher at that moment, was simply the business of breathing. But still, what is a ghost meant to do in that situation.

A microscopic ball of bright white light began to form just in front of his bedroom door. As it grew, the ball began to spark with tiny white electrical zaps. Which cascaded across itself as the light began to grow ever larger. The ghost of the butcher was still gazing at his body though, and he felt like he needed to say something,

‘I should have sorted out my affairs,’ was all he managed.

[Sh. This is my entrance.]

A voice answered him. Which the butcher wasn’t expecting at all. Whilst the voice spoke though, the tiny ball continued to grow. Until the inverted ball of light was roughly about the size of a watermelon. The voice though also caused the butcher to turn around. As the ghost did so, he noticed the floating bright rip in all known reality for the first time,

No time for that.‘ The voice said. Whilst the butcher, who was still staring at the light as it grew, didn’t know what to say in reply. So, as is the case with floating balls, it spoke to him for a second time. And as it did so, the ghost began to tilt what would have been a head for some one formed of matter,

Now. If you would be so kind as to climb into the light. We can be off. I am running a bit behind schedule, as you might say.’ The butcher, who’d never speak in such a manner, still didn’t know what to say. Although he also didn’t need to be asked a second time. Especially as the body was beginning to creep him out. The face that looked up at him seemed so familiar. But as the blank face stared at him, all memory of whom this person once was seemed to be fading fast. Then, as the butcher climbed inside the light, someone began to knock on the bedroom door.

Deri Roge was tall. He was also wide shouldered, with a pastel skin tone, long red haired-

[Which is basically the same for every human in Britstana, so move on.]

That was unable to use magic. Although that wasn’t a problem. Only about half of each family could use magic, and no one had ever discriminated against him for being a non-practitioner. Most mages were also so stuck up that Deri couldn’t have cared less about what they thought of him. Which he also knew, because both his brothers were mages, and he didn’t care what they thought of him.

{He’s never gotten on with his brothers.}

[Tell the story, or I pull the chair’s functions.]

Deri’s current issue, or the one that most pressing. Was that his father’s butcher’s shop was just signed over to his older brother Marx. And as this freckly human sat in the attorney’s humble office, which was situated above the local blacksmiths, the middle-born butcher’s son was beginning to get annoyed,

‘So after working for him for the last eighteen years. For no wages, I might add. I am to get next to nothing?’ Deri didn’t feel apologetic about asking. His father had sent his brothers Marx and Prog to a private mage school. Leaving him to work, and basically grow up in the shop. So naturally, Deri had always assumed he would at least own the place after their father’s death. Which also happened in the form of a heart attack, whilst the old man had been asleep three days earlier. They buried him the day after, and then gave the old man a better send off than it appeared he deserved that night.

The elf, who was the only attorney for fifty miles, shifted around uncomfortably in his seat. Somehow he was managing to ignore the looks that he was getting from the three Roge brothers,

‘As I have already told you. According to this last testimonial, you are to be paid ten gold. Then you are to be given your father’s horse with the cart. That is all it states for you.’ Deri frowned at the elf’s answer. In his mind, what he was getting was nothing at all. Which not only hurt a little on the inside. But was beginning to appear on his face. What particularly hurt though was that he’d been helping the decrepit man with almost everything since their mother had died. Whereas his two brothers, who sat either side of him, had been getting the finest education money could pay for.

Still, as the three of them stared at the elf with twigs in his hair in almost disbelief, Deri took the opportunity to use the quiet room to ask,

‘Is that all?’ Marx, his eldest brother, went to say something. Whilst it was Prog who shook his head, and began to talk over the top of Marx,

‘After taking rent and food into account, it is more than your due.’ Deri went to reply, but the attorney cut him off,

‘There is no point in arguing. So if I can just move this along. Then we can all go our separate ways.’ The elf did not look comfortable. No one said anything either, and as such, the attorney smiled before he carried on talking,

‘Now Prog. It says here that you’re to be given five gold. And that you’re to go live with your grandmother. After that, lad’s it says nothing else at all about you three individually. As such, the bank account attached to the butchers is Marx’s, as he was given the shop, and that is the law in these matters.’ It was then Prog’s turn to be angry, as the younger brother imagined his last two years of higher education was still going to be paid for. Although Marx sat there as quiet as a mouse, since all three brothers knew how much the only butcher’s shop in the village earned in yearly profit. Their father, after all, hadn’t died a poor man. Merely a disorganised one.

The attorney sat up straight as he brushed his thick fur robes before saying,

‘I am sorry. But this testimonial is the last wishes of your father. And as Lord Herman Vin Burglan has signed the document. Then I am sorry to say it’s unfortunately the law in these proceedings.’ Prog said something under his breath. The attorney smiled weakly before he replied,

‘I’m so sorry that there isn’t more that I can do for you all. But I simply can’t suggest anything off the top of my twigs. Now I must be hurrying you out. I have two more appointments today that I need to take care of. Oh, and a wedding license to process for the Sheltons. Do you know Mara and Boddi? Such a lovely couple. Their big day will be such a wondrous event.’ Deri couldn’t help but nod. Everyone knew everyone in the village after all. Whilst Deri nodded, his younger brother stared at the elf, who appeared to be oblivious to the threatening expression. The wood elf though simply said,

‘Anyway, here is your paperwork. And you all know what happens next?’ As the attorney showed them the door, Deri felt like hitting Mister Doir violently in the face. Instead, he put his head down and walked out without saying a word. The three brothers didn’t speak as they all marched down the stairs. And as they walked single file through the blacksmiths to the street outside, there was a growing silence between them. Although not one of them even glanced at each other, whilst the absence of sound only grew worse between them. But as the three of them stopped near the inn, Marx finally went to open his mouth. But before he could do so, Prog simply turned and stormed off towards the inn. Marx’s mouth stopped itself from forming words, as he was now left alone with Deri. And whilst the eldest brother began to look worried, Deri surmised it would be better to step away from the situation.

Categories
Lifeforms of Caradesance

The lifeforms of Caradesance – Trolls

Empty page.

[Welcome-]

Whispering in the background. A hefty slap that connects. Another argument which ends with-

[-so we’re going to take it in turns. Now be quiet!]

Three deep breaths. A smile the reader can’t appreciate. Another slap for good measure. The sound of moaning, as it drifts through a location infinite in its size.

[I am sorry about that. And once again, I would like to welcome you to the lifeforms of Caradesance. Where we are on a journey of discovery through the intelligent kingdom. Using the most backwards planet in the whole multi-verse, as our point of reference.]

[Today’s reading pleasure brings us into the enormous wet valleys that form the nation known as Mist. Known for its deep cavasses that remain the same as they did upon forming. This is a location where waking each morning, you’d be met with what the mountains are named after. As the mist clings around all day anyway. And it is nothing special. The mist has no deep hidden magical properties. It leaves no blessing upon the ground. It’s simply moisture which hangs in the air, dimming the light which strives to reach the ground.]

[In this immense, muddy, inhospitable location, nothing much grows at all. Or, at least, nothing you could survive on permanently. Most of the local food is brought in from the outside, or is grown within the dwarven subterranean glow caverns. And due to this, hidden deep within the once snow-covered, continent spanning, mountain range; lives no one, but the harshest of all types of people. And it is in this damp, rocky, rugged terrain that the trollist-rocanaia is said to have evolved. Or more commonly known as, a troll.]

[Most scientists will say that the evolution of the troll could only have happened by magic. Their silicon body is a mystery to all who attempt to study the being. None attempt to study them anymore. Not even the trolls themselves. And as the chair won’t look back far enough in time. I can only guess at the truth of their birth. Although, I do not like speculating. Because magic and science are areas, where only the verifiable facts must be examined. And I am, most definitely, a goblin of magical scientific study.]

[Each troll born is built not unlike a tiny geode in the beginning. It forms under pressure, and with an act of sexual reproduction, which we will not talk about. That is a conversation about the birds and the bees. And this is a conversation you should’ve had by now ladies and gentlemen with your parents. This is not troll porn. That is a different frequency.]

[Ahem! Do not look for that book, disgusting.]

[Now, an egg-ta-de is formed on the mother’s left shoulder within hours of conception. For the first five days it begins to grow slowly. As it does so, it forms a large shoulder pebble. Which will then fall off when everything is just right. As it detaches from the female it so without causing a single ounce of pain.]

[From that moment, we watch the pebble grow tiny arms and legs. But it’s still unable to move from the countertop where it will mature.]

[The miracle of silicon life, at this point, is forming a brain and mouth. Once finished, the pebble will need to eat. Which it cannot manage until it moves for the first time. Internal stored energy in silicon cells will have to drive its growth forward. Once it moves, the immature stomach needs feeding almost immediately. And as the mother knows this, she constructs a bed of rocks. With leaves used as edible blankets for the next few days.]

[Once the pebble has eaten its countertop bed, they should have become roughly about the size of an adult human hand. The small stone must then find a way off the counter. And find a spot outside to continue its transformation to adulthood. Or in a few hours, it will simply be a rock thrown to the side of the road. Like all the other failed troll children that are scattered across Caradesance.]

With three wobbly rolls. The troll toddler is upright. Legs shaking unsteadily under him.

As it glances around itself. Its eyes open fully for the first time. Gaining its first shred of confidence from gaining its sight. The future mammoth begins to explore the countertop. Each bit of raw organic it finds is eaten quickly, adding to the energy reserve it needs for its transformation into adulthood. The moments add up though, and now, the toddler must get off the countertop.
Deep within the troll; a drive, a need, or a calling from a primitive location, is surfacing.

[Few know what this drive is called, but we will call it a desire.]

And this driving desire is now screaming within. It is advising the toddler to plant its legs into the soil outside. Telling its brain that it will need to stay there with its rocky skull touching the air. The internal-primitive-desire is simultaneously praying for rain. Telling the silicon pathways, that it will grow strong like a fierce storm, if it rains.

So at the counter’s edge it examines the floor. Surveying the cobblestone slabs only once. The toddler dives off of the counter. Simply hoping for the best. It rolls across the floor, as it lands. The youngster giggles from the sheer excitement. Whilst it begins wishing it could do it again. The baby troll stands upright knowing it must now search for a way outside.

But help is at hand. Its mother has come to check on its baby.

The kitchen door opens. The small rock can now perceive the outside world. It can feel the wind on its skin. It can smell the scent of mud. Thusly, its desire to begin growing. The desire, which begins to burn within, is brighter than before. And the young troll knows what it must do.

The toddler proceeds to rapidly move forward. At first, it stumbles over its own feet. But, it continues until its standing in soil. As nothing can stop the troll now from trying to grow up.

[Nature, after all, has taken over.]

So it plants itself into mud. Forcing itself deep into the ground. Until only its head is visible. Instantly the mud-coma takes over, and the toddler will now lay in wait until the first full moon.

[Or maybe even the second full moon. That depends on when it planted itself.]

[At the correct full moon. The troll child will begin to move at midnight. Climbing out of the ground on their own is the final test. And failure means they will become like many of the rocks lying around the mountain. Stuck in the ground, unable to move, unable to talk, and worst of all, they’re still partly alive. Once free though, the child’s grandparents name them by placing an item onto their chest, and the whole tribe dances until sunup, chanting the new name to all the gods for a blessing.]

[Those without grandparents, are named Rock. And there are a great many Rocks in the world.]

[If the child is fed well, cared for, and raised correctly, they can grow to become an impressive seven-foot-tall wrecking cart. In Nippa-kanta, in this modern age, well-fed trolls have caused the reinforcing flooring sector to thrive. Whilst in the countryside, most troll houses are still built like bungalows, low to the ground, and shaped like domes. Although, nearly all the mountain troll towns are now improvised areas where they fight each other, for the right to work.]

[In the valley town of Piptron. Our young pebble has grown into a troll. Where he now spends the days, as the village lookout.]

[Piptron is like most of the mountain villages and towns. Troll migration to the capital of the Royal Kingdom has left it nothing more than a ghost town. Round plaster buildings with thatched dome shape roofs which are left empty. Only to be ruined by the elements over the passing seasons.]

[If I was to describe this location in a simple phase. It would be as an excrement-hole. Which for the local trolls who stayed is preferable, as no one visits a toilet. Unless they need too, of course.]

‘Billflower?’ The skinner shorter troll said glancing at his colleague,

‘What is it Mandrake?’ Billflower asked still watching the worm climb over his foot,

‘Well, no one comes here right?’

‘That’s correct.’

‘Well, I was just wondering.’ The worm fell off his foot as Billflower felt the need to ask,

‘Why?’

‘Because that’s a cart, isn’t it?’ Billflower begins to stare off from atop of the tall pillar of stone they were both sitting on,

‘Eh. You’re right. Go call Rock, could be the Dwarven Mounties. And get ready, we might have to burn the crop.’

[Normally no one dares come this far into the mountains. But riding along the road from the nearest town down, is indeed a cart being dragged by two enormous mountain donkeys.]

[Sitting behind the reins, checking out the scenery, is a vampire. A well-dressed bloodsucker, who is far from his native land.]

The cart which pulls up alongside the pillar has only one occupant. Whilst the mountain donkeys begin stamping their hoofs at being forced to stop. Billflower is not worried as he looks down at the vampire. Watching him with a smile on his face, the vampire says nothing to the troll. As two natural enemies now stare at each other, one looks like he is trying to be friendly. Whereas the other rocky face is blank, showing no emotion externally, but is bewildered on the inside,

‘You’re a long way from home,’ the vampire agrees with Billflower and smiles once again before he replies,

‘I am looking for slat.’

‘You a Mountie. You must tell me you’re a Mountie, if you are a Mountie. It’s the law you know.’ Billflower said with a look of apprehension on his face,

‘I am not a guard of any sort. I, my worthy troll, am money wandering around. I want to pipe your substance to the big city.’ Billflower doesn’t reply to the vampire, and suddenly he’s waiting for the law enforcement dwarfs to jump out from under the cart.

[Vampires and trolls are not only natural enemies. But these two are, in fact, ancient predators and prey. No one knows when the hunting of vampires stopped. But most historians would agree the trolls did so, roughly, before the end to the age of conflict.]

[In the time when hunting vampires was someone’s day job, only the troll race evolved to better hunt their prey. Due to this, a single bite from a troll is not widely known to be, but is deadly. They also became stronger than their prey, although this was at the cost of speed. And no one knows when they lost their coloured yellow outer layer. But troll evolution replaced it with an worn grey that allowed the hunter to better blend into their surroundings. Leaving only picture writings in the caverns across the mountains, which told all trolls their history.]

‘Who you?’ Billflower turns towards the voice and spots Rock, who is now marching through the broken-down village. The vampire smiling in his fine fur robes replies with,

‘I am looking for a slat supply.’

‘You didn’t answer my question. What’s your name?’

‘Brevino.’

‘You a Mountie? You’re to tell me by law if you are.’

‘That’s not true, and I’m not.’

‘Well, I don’t know. What if I said I don’t have any?’

‘Your neighbours said you do. They sent me up here after I asked them,’ the vampire looks around himself, ‘and this is the last town on this mountain road.’

Rock nods. He thinks about it for a minute before asking,

‘What do you want with it?’

‘I want to coordinate shipments to the capital.’ Billflower didn’t like the vampire, or the way he spoke. His mind is focusing on how all posh people in the big city sounded like the bloodsucker. Whilst it is also ignoring the fact that the vampire isn’t wearing clothing from Nippa-kanta. Billflower, who did the current drop every two years to the Capital of the Royal Kingdom. Not only got to meet his sister (who had moved away ten years ago), but also learnt early-on that they all spoke differently.

[If he was paying attention though, then he might have also noticed, that the vampire wasn’t wearing a single piece of flax. Which is the number one material for all clothing of the kingdom.]

Even though the vampire didn’t sound Nippa-kantian. Billflower didn’t like the situation based on a gut feeling. Although his brain put the all the natural hatred and doubt to one side for the bag of gold which almost appears in the vampire’s hand.

‘We have a pipeline to the capital.’ Rock, glancing at Billflower, (who they all knew didn’t know when to shut up), shakes his head at his lookout. Whilst the vampire smiles softly before saying,

‘I was on about Edenborough.’ Rock, nodding in reply, says with an expression of apprehension,

‘How much you after?’

‘Well, I only have four hundred gold to start off with. I was hoping that would fill this cart.’ The troll, obviously the boss to anyone watching. Begins smiling, whilst showing a full mouth of black-tarnished silver teeth,

‘We can do that.’ The vampire smiling gave a cursory curt nod asking,

‘So, you can fill this whole cart with slat, for four hundred gold?’

‘I just said yes. Didn’t I?’ Rock said looking around at the trolls who were with him.

Seven dwarfs begin to scream out of nowhere. Their fake breads flap in the wind as they move,

‘Mountie Drug Law Enforcement, down on the ground! Down on the ground!’ Whilst they are jumping off the back of the cart, their moving around, and watching for more enemies. The dwarfs scream at the trolls once again. Whilst Billflower is following the scene with a growing confusion. The back of the cart was empty, his mind kept on saying.

Crossbows are suddenly pointing at the residents. [The magical variety which could kill me, or you.] But they aren’t going to kill a troll, much less deeply penetrate their rocky shell to cause actual damage.

[Guards after all aren’t allowed to kill anyone.]

Brevino pulls out a sword from his expensive fur coat. The dull iron appears harmless to the trolls, until they realize there is a gem in the handle. A purple ruby, charged with air magic using the gold enchantment method of magical transference,

‘If I touch you with this, your body will fall to pieces. So, lay down on the floor, with your hands on your head. Now!’ The trolls take a step forward, glancing around as they do so. After all, seven dwarfs in chain mail had just appeared out of thin air, who knew what could happen next,

‘Turn around, return to your burrows.’ Rock said with a deadly glare.

[No one, and I mean, no one, is moving. In the past, the troll numbers would have kept the dwarfs in their underground mines. Now, though, the dwarfs have claimed inside and outside of the mountains. This latest drug enforcement operation, is yet another attempt in their extensive list of pushes, where the Mounties struggle to even flex their sword hand.]

Billflower jumps off the pillar without thinking. He only knows he must attack. Surprise his prey, and use his prey’s confusion against itself.

As he is falling towards the vampire, the blade in the bloodsucker’s hands slashes towards him. The sword though barely misses our troll. Whilst the lookout lands on the vampire with a full body slam.
The massive weight landing on the cart causes one of the wheels to snap in a shower of splinters. The two donkeys bolt inwards free of their reins. And as far away from the noise, as they could go. The distraction, though, is enough to cause not only cause hearing damage. But this is also enough to cause a panic to rise in the dwarven ranks.

[This is not the first time the MDLE had turned up to clean up the improvised location. And these dwarfs have heard the troll sagas, like every other person on Britstana. We’ll tell you them at a later date.]

The sword sent flying through the air is of little use to the vampire, who is now struggling with the troll trying to bite him. Whilst one of his legs showers the grass with blood. Its natural healing ability is reluctant to stop the flow immediately. Although the blood begins to slow down after a few moments. But the vampire is now weak.

Billflower suddenly attempts to grab the bloodsucker’s paler face, who is still trying to wriggle out from under two tons of weight.

Whereas two of the dwarfs decide to fire their bolts into the troll. Although this has little effect, and the two bolts certainly don’t stop Billflower from wrestling with Brevino.

The other five dwarfs are standing their ground, watching as nine advancing trolls continue to move slowly forward. None of them open fire though, as their arms are shaking. And suddenly, they have to make a choice. Four of the five dwarfs begin to leg-it, as fast as they can. Which for a race that is on average four-foot-tall is extremely fast. The lone shaking dwarf lets his only bolt loose, as the other two also decide to run away from the wrestling match.

Rock pulls the iron bolt out of his arm. Smiles. Looks around himself, and then looks down at the dwarf who is now crying,

‘I’m just doing my job, please, please don’t hurt me.’ The troll laughs at him. With one stabbing motion, he plants the bolt into the dwarf’s forehead. The leader of the town does so again, and again. In what can only be described, as an extremely violent crime. Rock stabs the member of the mountain law enforcement until there is nothing left of the guard’s face. The surrounding trolls are laughing, as the tiny body is now, little more than a bag of broken, well everything.

Billflower, who is still wrestling with the vampire, begins to chuckle. His arms are now holding down the victim. Billflower applies pressure. And they all hear a loud- SNAP!

The sound travels across the mountains, echoing off of the hills. Causing everyone to hear the sound. Even the dwarfs, as they ran off down the road. Billflower titters, and starts to drag the vampire across the floor, as blood splutters from his chest. The trolls all laugh together, as the vampire whispers,

‘Tell my brother Trevino-’ Although his words are cut short, as the troll has his massive mouth over the vampire’s shoulder. There is no helping the officer of the law, as one quick bite is all the predator needs. The troll drug cultivators stand there watching, as the vampire begins to convulse on the floor. Shaking, as the silver toxin travels to the brain. The vampire dies in mere seconds, exploding into a pile of ash at the end of his life. Once the body goes limp, Rock studies Billflower and says,

‘Well done BF, you’re now in charge of defence measures. Dwarf-Pebble, go find that sword. And the rest of you, clean this waste of space up. We’re going to have more trouble sooner or later.’

[In the mountain troll town, dominance of the alpha’s land has been settled for the moment. A new semi-alpha has been promoted up the chain. And the war on dangerous narcotics has two more casualties to add to the growing list.]

[Next time. We will be going to the enchanted forests, in the north of the Royal Kingdom. Where the tree homes of the elves, give birth to five sub-races. Until I narrate, at you again, live for the moment, but remember to stay safe.]

Categories
The Lost Mage

The Lost Mage: Getting Lost – Final Act

Marking the days gone by quickly turned into watching the passage of the moons as they trailed across the sky in their monthly cycles. After a while longer though, the passage of time started to mean nothing at all to Pip. Although the longer he stayed, the more the young mage became certain that he was alone. And unable to escape.

In a four-month cycle period of the two moons. Pip achieved some personal goals that he set for himself out of sheer boredom; he spent a full seven hours following the beach around the island, learning that the island wasn’t as grand as hoped. After that, he began climbing into the hills. Where the young mage scaled the largest of the two rocky outcrops. {Avoiding the bird mess where he could.} Only to discover that there were islands that surrounded his new home. Smaller than his own, but still visible to the naked eye. And Pip also found food in abundance.

{Once he figured out what was food and what wasn’t even close to edible. Three painful bowel movements, passing out whilst tripping yellow spots, and a case of sickness later I might add.}

He then spent a cycle and half completely knocking down the rotten structure. Only to build himself a new smaller home from the rubble as he mixed some new materials into the works.

{Including his palm leaf roof design. Which is only mentioned due to how proud Pip was of the idea.}

As he cleared away the ruins, Pip found a cellar under the derelict. Because the damp underground room was empty. This was where the lad cultivated a small collection of mushrooms which could be found growing in the jungle. All of which tasted at least pleasant once roasted.

In the open area around his round tiny windowless stone hut was where he would spend the mornings farming all the crops that he’d foraged over time. The mage farmer had even found a goat wandering in the hills. Which brought meaning to his days. {Along with a companion to talk to.} And Pip would have summed up his new life as peaceful. Which over the process of time became comforting to him. Although that was because it felt as if he was back home on his parents farm.

The waves were still for once as the lost novice reached the beach. Wandering along the shore in search of the pile of driftwood he stacked yesterday, Pip whistled a song his mother used to sing. A tame soulful low beat melody which the bards would play as they toured the inns. And although he remembered the tune, the name of the song escaped his grasp.

Whilst the young mage stacked a new driftwood pile, he spotted yesterday’s mound up ahead. And as Pip started to stroll towards it, a whisper floated past which appeared to be carried on the wind itself,
‘Decide what to do.’ The voice forced him to turn around as the young novice contemplated what to say. Although a glint across the water drew his attention and the whisper spoke to him once again,
‘Help them or betray them, but they are your transport home.’

The salty sea water at that moment surged up the beach. Which caused the lost mage to proceed towards the treeline as fast as he could. Although as he reached the trees, the mile long morning beach was quickly replaced with water, as only a length of sand no bigger than four people laying down side by side was all that was left. Whilst the water washed away his stacks of wood, he studied what remained and regrated not stacking the wood at the treeline. As he did so, the waves began to crash in front of him as they surged closer.

Just off in the distance, the ocean seemed to bubble. As the lad stared at the salt waters, he swore that there were people moving just below the surface. Yet Pip began to think that was crazy, as he noticed there was something else. And as this new object appeared over the horizon, it seemed to be chasing the strange bubbles. Whilst Pip struggled to find the words to describe what he was seeing. He studied what he knew was at least made of wood. Whilst Pip recognized that the wind was blowing the tall white flax sheets. The novice’s mind realised the sheets were used to push the wooden object. As he understood all known concepts of the element of air, the magical principle of directional thrust and atmospheric pressure, the connection was easy for him to put together. Putting all this together, his mind quickly flagged the object as a means of escape. His mind struggled to grasp what the object was though, as his lexicon was missing the exact words. The sound of men laughing and shouting across the water reached the beach. But still his mind struggled.

The bubbles which swished through the water gained speed. Until suddenly they reached the beach where they jumped out onto the sand. Each landing non-bubble at this point revealed a strange but beautiful woman. Their tails were like the creatures that swam in the water, but the women weren’t creatures. Pip could tell simply by their faces. As they noticed him though, they all began to scream at once.

Pip ignored them as he was still transfixed and staring at what he named a sail-plough. The novice realised suddenly that this plough was hunting the women. To what end he didn’t need to know.

{After all he had a chance to be a hero. Few ever managed to gain the chance to be anything.}

Pip knew this, so he wasn’t about to blow the chance. He began to understand the voices as they shouted across the water. Which caused him to feel confused as they were speaking Britstanaian. A burning anger began to rise within him. With each sentence from their lips, the anger burnt brighter. Something then took over after a few seconds of the fire burning through his mind. A force which shaped Pip’s decision for him. Flashes of memory rose to the surface. Each flashed for but a nano-second, as they showed him a time when he’d been mistreated at the college. A time before, his friendship with Marx had given him protection from the sons and daughters of the lords and ladies who manage the lands.

His mind went blank as an internal force cleansed him of every doubt he processed. A raw connection spoke within him, it reached out and connected with the air, which then began to flow back along the link.

The novice’s arm fired upwards. Fingers stretched towards the sky. Without any guidance from his mind, the element of air flowed into him. Instantly Pip’s subconscious called forth a ferocious wind. The sky turned black in less than a second; the merwomen’s cries were cut off by the sound of thunder, as lightening streaked across the sky. The winds rocked the sail-plough from side to side. Gusts tore at the ocean, which sent heavy waves clashing against the vessel. Pip screamed out in agony; as a power flowed through him. Although, as he wasn’t in full control. What happened thereafter surprised even himself.

Bolts of lightning began to strike the ship as he screamed out to the sky,
‘AUISTRA!’
Pip heard the men screaming, but it didn’t appear like his subconscious mind was finished. The storm intensified as he focused to simply stay awake. Gale-force winds began to tear at the sails as if the winds were shards of glass. Giant streaking bolts rained down upon the wood once more with a deeper intensity. And as the bolts connected with the vessel, the raw natural magical power of the storm ripped the wood apart within seconds.

Pip dropped to his hands and knees. His body was almost drained of everything within. Whilst the clouds vanished, they looked as if they evaporated. The women on the beach stared at him, their voices quiet and simple short whispers. As waves of desire, an inner-force and the wind talked only to him as the mermaid’s words were drowned out. Whilst the syllables still floated through the air, the winds talked over them once more,
‘They’re yours to watch over now.’ But as the young storm mage tried to focus on the wind’s words which were repeated to him. A magical tiredness hit him harder than ever before. All he managed to comprehend as he dropped was the women’s tails turning into legs.

Pip’s body was laid on a stone table and it was snoring lightly. Whilst his mind wasn’t asleep anymore. Although as his skin touched the cold surface, the sound of arguing somehow began to drift through the dreamless haze,

‘-but we can’t.’ The angered female voice finished off lamely. The next speaker spoke softly, but with a passion that stoked her words,

‘This human mage saved us. He didn’t have to. And yet we are still here because a human saved our lives. Need I say again, a human. Not only is he a human, but this one has a strong connection to nature, and that connection created a storm that was astounding. And we all saw him do so. We need not fear him. That is my say.’ Several women then murmured an agreement. The first voice did not join in the chorus though. It appeared that the angry woman wanted to get her tuppence in,

‘He is a human; you are right on the doubloons there. And are they not the ones who hunt us for our scales? This could be a trap.’ There was an anger in the woman’s words as she finished. Before they all began to argue though, a third woman began speaking,

‘We only know the facts, and we cannot guess the will of Clelia, the great goddess of the winds, always works for her own benefit

. We cannot say he is a danger to us. He is unlike the humans who hunt our race. He certainly doesn’t look like those who use us in their dark blood magic. This is true to us by looking with our eyes, so it is fact. His hair is red, his eyes are green, his skin is a type of pinkish colour, and he is shorter than most of the humans that I have encountered before. Fact again.’ As they all agreed, the voice which held a tone of wisdom continued,

‘And only Clelia knows how he reached our island. Until he can tell us, of course. But as the autumn season draws near, and the sea-storms come with colder seasons. We need some type of salvation. It then becomes another fact that we may yet need to survive long enough to witness the next season. And this pink human will be our salvation once again. If he agrees to help us.’ No one said anything. So the voice carried on yet again,

‘We must face the facts tail-on. So that we can draw the correct conclusions. I know he is not with those who hunt us. We have never witnessed his skin colour before. This human must have been sent here to help us, or he has his own issues with the wood-builders. And these are the facts as I understand them. So we will ask him for help. That is a fact.’ There was a larger chorus of agreement this time. Pip couldn’t react though, as his mind fell back into a deep slumber, rejoining his body which never left. Whilst his mind re-joined his body, he began to dream of his mother, who was baking bread while whistling.

A spasm in the leg was followed by all his torso muscles bolting upright. The women gasped as one as it happened. Whilst a bunch of hazy thoughts washed over young Pip. It took a few seconds on top of that for him to remember that this wasn’t the valley of his birth. But was that strange location, which was surrounded by an even stranger tasting water. The place that not long ago escaping from had once also seemed impossible.

As Pip gathered up his thoughts, the mermaids began to stare at him. Whereas one of the youngest spoke up as she glanced around the elders. Although she sounded more curious than she did frightened,

‘Is that what happens to them? When they use our scales, I mean?’ No one answered her. Pip though barely managed to croak for water, as he tried to hold himself upright, thanks to only saying one word. As they all stared at him, a tall blonde brought over a shell used for drinking. She held the twisted horn in one hand as she placed it by his lips. Pip sipped at the clear liquid inside before weakly asking,

‘Where am I?’ They all looked at each other as the eldest of the women answered him,

‘The island of Teevin. How did you get here?’ Pip barely managed to answer her,

‘Inside a magical storm. I presume.’ He attempted to fully sit up, but simply couldn’t. His bones felt like jelly, while his body-tissue began to feel like stone. As they were all staring at him, Pip decided at that moment to try to get information,

‘How far away is the Royal Kingdom?’ He asked. They all looked at each other once again. Whilst it was the blonde water bearer, who it turned out was also the softer voiced female, that answered him,

‘None of us know of this island called King-dome. You are on the island of Teevin. Which is one of many islands that make up a part of the half sunken nation of Jutland.’ This answer confused Pip. But as he went to ask more questions, the doors burst open. And a teenager began speaking quickly,

‘From the rocks, we have observed six masts appear on the horizon.’ Pip who was studying the well outside, asked weakly,

‘What are masts?’ They all glanced at him slowly, as if to say with their facial expressions that he was stupid. Whilst the oldest of the women spoke to him with an urgency to her voice for the first time,

‘We have only a few hours until they arrive. Help us please, and I will tell you everything that I know. We will also give you anything that we can give. Please, the hunters can’t find us here, and there is also nowhere for us to go anymore. We will starve or be forced back into the water where we will surely be killed.’ Pip thought he seemed better. Although he knew that he was still too weak to carry out any summoning,

‘I do not know how much help I can be to you ladies. I need to rest.’ The elder nodded and the soft voiced female strode forward after picking something up off the floor; in her hands was a large wooden box which the older woman took,

‘In this box are the scales which fall off us during our transformations.’ She said nothing else. Pip felt even more confused and needed an explanation of what she meant. The softer voiced mermaid replied with,

‘One was placed onto your arm when you slept. After your skin absorbed it, you woke up instantly. It also appears to have healed your scarred hand. You’re an air mage, are you not? Can you not use these and tap into the vast magical well of nature?’ Pip nodded at the soft-spoken female and smiled before he answered her weakly,

‘I am, but control has always been out of my reach. I think anger fuelled the storm.’ The elder nodded in understanding before speaking,

‘The men of darkness, as we call them, will carry on hunting us all until there are no merpeople left. When they catch each of us. We will be submerged halfway in salt water. They find it easier to strip the scales off our tail before killing us that way. Does this not anger you once more?’ He didn’t answer her, so she carried on speaking,

‘We have no male elder. We are also the last of our tribe. After us, there will be no new generations of the Teevin. The other tribes that are spread out among the islands are also being hunted to extinction. There are but a few thousand of us left now amongst all the islands of Jutland.’ There was some anger rising within Pip, but he was still too sleepy. He rose one hand up towards the elder and said,

‘Please place only one of the scales into my hand. I need to determine if it wakes me fully.’ She opened the box; the scales shone in the candlelight as the elder did so, and one blue-green scale was picked up from within. The old mermaid with grey hair let go of the scale, and as it touched his skin, the scale was instantly absorbed. Pip felt the need to force a smile as his body relaxed. But as he still hurt, Pip didn’t try to move straight away. Then as his head cleared, he decided he needed to move and said,

‘Now we’ll all go to the beach, and when we get there I will need two more.’ With that statement they all accompanied him to the beach. Well, after helping Pip to stand upright, that was.

As they all strolled through the jungle, Pip paid attention to their clothes. Every mermaid wore almost the same shade of orange exotic fabric. Which appeared shiny in the sunlight and seemed pretty thin. Although the fabric fascinated him-

[Ha! And it’s not how revealing it is. When compared to what he has seen women wear where he is from no?]

{Vin that’s disgusting.}

-AS it was bound into skirts and tops wrapped around them tightly. Whilst using enough layers to hide anything which might have been tantalising to the male mind. The women also used hulking black needles to make sure the fabric didn’t unravel. And as he studied the orange lengthy dress of the soft voiced blonde, she blushed before quickly turning her head to stare off into the trees.

There was then no time to be wasted though. These women needed his help after all, and the lad wanted to play the hero. He also wanted to learn everything about them. Whilst Pip needed to learn all there was to know about the island. So forgetting the clothing, Pip began to get to work straight away as they came out of the trees.

As he turned kicking up sand, the young storm mage noted the elder stood with two scales already out of the box. And she was holding them towards him,
‘Do you not want more?’ She asked him whilst holding them out as she waited on his instructions. Pip shook his head smiling in response right before they were dropped into the palm of his hand. The scales which seemed to be absorbed by the skin; as if they were water. They both quickly disintegrated and were absorbed by his pores even quicker. As they blended with him, he watched his hand with slight fascination. Once they finished blending though, they allowed his skin to absorb the magic from the air. Which the outer layer of his skin felt as if it tingled with pins and needles that flowed from his face to his toes. Around his feet, the sand began to twirl. Whilst a minor gust of wind came out of him and carried a small blast of sand towards the ocean.

Pip smiled whilst turning to fully watch the ocean.

In the past, Pip was never able to gain full control before, but a newfound confidence grew alongside his power. This time, as he focused, the thoughts which popped up didn’t blunt his concentration in the slightest way possible. Which normally was a lot, as he usually couldn’t focus on more than one task. But right then, well, he felt different. He noticed a balance which helped. He also seemed to experience everything within a split-second. His mind formulated choices normally beyond him. And he could suddenly do what others trained for years to accomplish.

So he sent his mind out across the wind. As Pip’s mind explored the drifts, he could see further than his eyes let him. And whilst the vessels were still over the horizon from the beach. In his minds-eye, they were all within his grasp at that moment.

{Ready for the roasting.}

Both hands shot out towards the sky without warning. Black clouds began to form before everyone’s eyes. The clouds, after only a few seconds, began to twirl around each other, moving as they did so. Waves swelled as the storm began to then move away from the shoreline. The skyline got darker as a cyclone of impending death moved through the air. The winds which twirled downwards with forces no one in this part of the world had ever witnessed before, or no one alive that was, cut the water as it connected. Waves mixed with the tornado as the winds began to batter the ploughs before doom even reached them. And over the water, Pip could hear the sound of screaming as men called out to their gods. Forgetting all about their families in the last moments of their lives.

In less than ten seconds though, the ships were sunk. The men were simply dead, and the storm that Pip called forth was beginning to break apart. Whilst sunny skies returned, all the mermaids began to cheer. They hugged him on the beach as they celebrated their survival. Some even kissed his cheek as every single one of them danced around him singing towards the sky.

Later that night, after an enormous fire was lit on the beach. Pip felt like a Hero with a capital h. He smiled basking in their celebrations. He danced with them; he drank something they called Rum. Whilst they chanted Lost Mage over and over to the sky. They kissed him on the cheek in celebration, and as they all danced until the sun rose. Pip felt accepted.
Whilst they all celebrated, Pip decided that all his questions could wait until tomorrow,

‘After all,’ he pondered whilst dancing with the group around the fire, ‘I’m useful for the first time in my life.’

[I’m glad you decided to watch all that.]

{Mm. I still don’t know if Marx is alright though.}

[Well, that’s because he’s hidden himself away from all interference. A charm known by few that can be worked by even less. He got out of the storm, didn’t he? Anyway Marx has a strong magical connection and a brain that others are going to envy.]

{But what is he doing now. Is he okay? He could be anywhere; he could even be in a shallow grave.}

[Contemplate this. We know he got back to the college. The college being charmed means we can’t peer inside. We know he studied and produced a charm that hides him away from all prying eyes. And from being used by the gods. We also witnessed him take over your shop. So we know he is okay until he dies, of course.]

[So does he-]

{Does who?}

[Pip, does he get off the island?]

{I guess we’ll have to find out.}