Legends of Terramyth

The Seat of Darkness
Chapter 27 (Jagged Reaches: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Jagged Reaches,
Keryhk Nhor,
Late Spring, 26th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dyne of Enclave (Dwarf Survivalist)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Telnar, Lost Heir of Keryhk Knor (Troll form)

Winston of Enclave (Half-folk Scout)


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The Broken Heart of Keryhk Nhor
Chapter 26 (Jagged Reaches: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Jagged Reaches,
Keryhk Nhor,
Late Spring, 26th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dyne of Enclave (Dwarf Survivalist)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Winston of Enclave (Half-folk Scout)


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The Depths of Keryhk Nhor
Chapter 25 (Jagged Reaches: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Jagged Reaches,
Keryhk Nhor,
Late Spring, 25th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dyne of Enclave (Dwarf Survivalist)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Winston of Enclave (Half-folk Scout)


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The Enclave
Chapter 24 (Jagged Reaches: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Jagged Reaches,
Enclave,
Late Spring, 20th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dyne of Enclave (Dwarf Survivalist)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Winston of Enclave (Half-folk Scout)

Xan Warstout (Dwarf Martial Artist)


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Stone Break Pass
Chapter 22 (Kerrandi: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Northern Kerrandi,
Northpoint, Northwoods, Stonebreak Pass,
Late Spring, 20th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


For six days, the intrepid group of four dwarves, one half-orc, and one human made their way from the town of Northpoint and into the dwarven halls of Azkar’keluun, or Stone Break Pass, as it was known.

By the fourth day, the ground eventually began to slope up towards the Jagged reaches. The adventurers stood in awe before the great gates of Azkar’keluun, or Stone Break Pass. Huge statues of dwarves guarded the entrance to the dwarven pass which led deep into the western Ridgeline Mountains.

For two days, the adventurers made their way through Stone Break Pass. The ancient dwarven tunnel was wide and supported by huge pillars carved to resemble past dwarven kings.

Occasionally, they would come upon halls, dwellings, and ancient dwarven shops carved into the side of the great tunnel. Although tempted, everyone decided it was best not to wander off and explore these places.

Dornak wondered how his kinsdwarf could have abandoned Azkar’keluun. He and his brother, Kaza, along with their cousins Dorin and Xan came from the northern Ridgeline Mountains. There, dwarven towns and villages were built above ground. Unlike the dwarves of the Jagged Reaches, his kind were more like merchants, crafting and selling their goods to one another. On occasion, dwarven caravans would trek down down into the southern lands to trade with the people of Kerrandi. It had been so for centuries.

After walking for several hours, the group was ready to stop and rest. They were lucky enough to come upon an area in the tunnel where fresh water was freely cascading out of the side of large wall amidst boulders and rocks. The water formed a small creek which wound its way deeper into the pass. They also spotted a small outpost nearby. It’s stone doors were visibly cracked while the rest of the building was falling into ruin.

“We’re running out of food,” said Dorin. He stopped by the water’s edge to get a drink. He then reached into his backpack and took a piece of dried meat he had purchased in Northpoint. “Four days left perhaps. Six if we’re lucky.”

“I hate to admit that we could have used Ezra on this journey,” Glint said. “The half-elf may not be worth much in close combat, but he could have hunted food for us in the forest.”

“How much more till the end of this pass?” Xan wondered. He went to sit on a small rock and began to rummage through his backpack for some rations.

"I"m not certain," Darnok answered. “Dwarves built passes like these to trade and travel between cities and other settlements in the mountains. Some have been known to extend for hundreds of miles. Legend has it that some were even built beneath the oceans linking continents with one another.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Glint offered as he reached towards the waterfall to scoop up a handful of water.

“Well, it’s more than what half of what you are has managed to do,” Dorin said. “Nothing personal, mind you. But orcs are not known for being builders, but rather destroyers.”

Glint flashed the dwarf a half-orc grin. Despite the pain of hearing it, he knew the dwarf’s words were true. Orcs favored destroying cities rather than building them. He wondered just how different Terramyth would be if the vast number of orc tribes would simply band together and build an empire, rather than spend their lives warring with each other and with the other races of the world.

Xan suddenly screamed in surprise after he felt a hot stabbing pain in his leg. Looking down, he was horrified to see the rock he was sitting on had suddenly sprouted eight legs and multiple eyes. Mandibles, dripping with liquid which melted the ground where it struck, had bitten into his leg.

Before everyone else could react, a dozen spiders—about the size of dogs—suddenly appeared and surrounded them all. The spiders looked like rocks with spindly legs and razor-sharp mandibles. Others, hiding in the shadows of nearby walls, crawled down to attack the unsuspecting adventurers.

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The battle against the spiders nearly costed the group two of their members. Brother Silas and Xan nearly succumbed to the spiders’ attacks. But they and the others survived. They then spent the remainder of the day healing and resting in the nearby abandoned outpost.

For two more days, the group traveled through Stone Break Pass. Everyone began to worry since they were running out of food. Fortunately, they were able to find enough water to sustain them along the way.

They arrived at an area that looked as though it had been the site of a major battle. Parts of buildings lay in ruin. Broken pieces of armor and weapons littered the area. Scorch marks, possibly from arcane battles, were visible on the ground and on some walls. In some places buildings had completely collapsed forcing everyone to carefully climb over and under debris.

They also saw a large chasm which separated one part of the pass from the other side. In the middle, hung an island of sorts, which connected a long iron bridge, wide enough for two people to walk upon to both sides of the chasm. On both sides of the bridge, stood a large circular piece of stone. On one side of the disk, they saw what appeared to be ancient symbols which seemed to form a pattern of some kind.

Each one tried to make their way across the iron bridge. For some, the path through the area was extremely tiring. Dorin took the longest. He was tired from effort and tried to catch his breath on the island before crossing the rest of the way to rejoin his companions.

“Hurry cousin,” Kaza yelled from where he stood with the others on the southern end of the chasm. “We’ve some ways to go before we can stop to rest for the day.”

Dorin took a deep breath and stood up. “I’m on my way…”

Suddenly, everyone heard the sounds of large gears start to come to life!

To everyone’s horror, the bridge on both ends started to shorten! Ten-foot sections of the bridge began to slide under the next section, with both ends beginning to disappear towards the island in the middle of the chasm. Xan and Kaza both tried to run towards the shortening bridge but it was too late. If they jumped, they surely would have fallen to their deaths.

Dorak heard a strange sound coming from the large stone disk nearby. The ancient patterns began to turn and move in a dizzying pattern that left the dwarf wizard trying to recall the original pattern he saw earlier. He knew that somehow, the original pattern on the disk must be reset to stop the bridge from completely disappearing and leaving Dorin trapped on the island forever.

To make matters worse, Dorak heard both Glint and Brother yell out in alarm. Looking at the direction his allies were looking, Dorak saw more of the spiders they fought days before coming at them. They were coming from every direction. At least a dozen of the stone-like spiders were crawling or burrowing their way towards the group.

Meanwhile, Dorin lay trapped on the island, wondering if he or his friends would make it out of the deadly situation alive!


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dorin Thomar (Dwarf Fighter)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Xan Warstout (Dwarf Martial Artist)


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Damsel in Distress
Chapter 21 (Kerrandi: Ezra Two-leaf)

Northern Kerrandi,
Late Spring, 13th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Ezra Two-leaf (Half-elf Warden)


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Fine Feathered Friends
Chapter 20 (The Jagged Reaches: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

The Jagged Reaches,
Spring, 3rd Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


To be continued…


Dramatis Personae

Dyne of Enclave (Dwarf Survivalist)

Winston of Enclave (Half-folk Scout)


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As the Crow Flies
Chapter 19 (Kerrandi: Darkness Over Keryhk Nhor)

Northern Kerrandi,
Northpoint, Northwoods,
Late Spring, 14th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


The young boy, Tom, breathlessly rushed into the Shattered Sword and began looking for anyone willing to listen to what he had just seen and heard.

“Go on boy,” one of the local townsfolk said. “Find someone else to bother.”

Tom went to another townsfolk and pulled on the man’s woolen shirt to get his attention. "You’ll never guess what the crow told me.”

“Have you finally gone mad, Tom?” the man asked, bothered. He took another swig from his cup of beer. The man then wiped off the sweat from his forehead.

It was a hot spring morning and the Shattered Sword was already crowded with local townsfolks seeking some reprieve from the blistering heat. Gristle, the tavern’s dwarven bartender, had to hire extra help to run the establishment. The dwarven tavernkeeper was very proud of his fine selections. Sylva and Lorraine, the two young human women, were attractive enough to entice a few local men into visiting the tavern more often than their wives liked.

Tom saw the corner table occupied by Northpoint’s recent heroes. He walked straight for it.

When he got to the table, he saw Brother Silas Tomkins sipping upon a cup of honeyed water. Darnok Firestone, the dwarf mage, was finishing off a slice of goat cheese. Dorin Thomar and Kaza Firestone, both dwarf fighters, were engaged in a furious game of wrestling with one arm while each held a cup full of beer in their other hands. Meanwhile, Glint Red, the half-orc assassin, seemed enthralled by the amount of silver coins he was busy counting into stacks in front of him. Xan Warstout, a dwarf martial artist, seemed to be the only one not busy doing anything. Xan sat cross-legged on his chair with both arms resting on his legs, his hands open. His eyes were closed. His breathing seemed even, but slow.

Tom squeezed in between Brother Silas and Darnok. “You’ll never guess what the crow told me.” He didn’t pause, but kept right on talking. “He told me that Keryhk Nhor has opened its doors!”

Everyone started questioning the boy about what he had seen and heard from the crow he claimed could speak.

One of the men turned to the adventurers. “I wouldn’t pay much account to what that fool boy says,” the man said. "He’s a bit touched.” He mumbled about the ridiculousness of “talking crows” underneath his breath as he resumed his breakfast.

Darnok, however, was listening very intently, for he knew about the history of Keryhk Nhor. As a young apprentice, he had read and heard about the dwarven mine’s tragic history.

As the story went, Keryhk Nhor was a prosperous city, a great hall of even greater renown that grew more decadent and greedy with each passing century. The miners dug ever deeper, and earth wizards used ancient magic to whisper gold up from the depths, so the veins ran true and bright.

One day, the wizards’ whispers dredged up something from the Greater Depths, something ancient and evil, an unknown force that corrupted the city, driving the inhabitants so mad that the roads ran slick with blood, and caused the dead to rise. Dwarves not yet stricken with this mad plague fled the place, and their greatest wizard, the Iron Mage, sealed the doors, leaving the diseased but not-yet-dead behind, though they begged and pleaded for their lives. The remaining dwarves scattered to other parts of the Empire, and no one ever mentioned the place again, for it is a secret shame to the survivors, and a blight upon their heritage.

Brother Silas turned to regard the boy. “And why would we believe your incredible tale, boy?” he asked. “You could be making all this up.”

“I agree with the priest,” Darnok added with a sarcastic grin. “Talking dragons is one thing. But a talking crow? Well, that’s just a wee-bit difficult to believe.”

Tom began to boil over in anger because no one would believe him. "I am certainly not making this up; now am I?” He opened his hand to reveal a very old gold coin minted with the Dwarven Imperial Mark. “He gave this to me to fetch some adventurers to talk with him. He’s waiting at the post outside of town. Come, I’ll show you.”

Glint’s eyes went wide at the sight of the gold coin in the boy’s open hand. “I’ll give you ten silver for that gold coin, boy.”

Tom closed his hand around the gold coin. “I’m not parting with this coin. No way!”

“Make it fifteen then,” Glint countered. “And that’s worth more than the blasted coin!”

“No way!” the boy said.

“Enough,” said Darnok. “Lead us to this crow, boy,” Darnok grabbed his staff and motioned for the others to follow immediately.

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The boy lead them out of town along the North Road and, sure enough, a curious looking crow was perched precariously atop a signpost, eyeing their approach appraisingly. It then fluttered into the air and shifted form into that of a stocky dwarf in simple robes who greeted them with a warm smile.

“See, I wasn’t lying!” Tom told everyone while he waved at the dwarf who was once a crow. Tom then ran back towards the village, humming another tune all the way back.

A dwarf of advancing years stood before the gathered group, although he still looked incredibly strong and robust. He wore a chain shirt over a simple tunic with plain breeches and two matching hammers hung from either side of his thick leather belt. He leaned against a cane for assistance.

“Some children still remember that they can talk to animals,” he began. “Not knowing any better is the real secret to magic. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Brother Duerdin of Enclave, formerly of Keryhk Nhor before most of you were likely even born. I am old. I am tired. I would like to restore honor to my home. The home men to the south once knew as the Great Western Hall.”

Dornak told Brother Duerdin that he had heard of Keryhk Knor and of its golden riches before its great fall.

“I recall a fragment of what our prophet said upon his deathbed", Brother Duerdin continued. “‘When unknown forces strike the door, southern forces come once more, to aid the dwarves of Keryhk Nhor.’ I don’t know if you are men of faith; I do not care if you fight for bloodlust or money. I only hope you will take up arms and let us know if we may return to our home in peace.”

Glint turned to regard the strange dwarf. “If we are to help, what of rewards?” he asked.

Brother Duerdin looked to the half-orc with some disgust. "We have not much to offer in way of reward, but you may claim any treasure you find within as your own. In its day, our city, she was a fine piece of work…” He trailed off, teary eyed.

“Where will you go now, Brother Duerdin?” Kaza asked.

“I must return home now. Enclave needs me. Think this over, and come quickly, if you will. I fear the darkness growing again, and I’m practical — prayers can only do so much before they give way to force. See those peaks?” He pointed off at a steep range of mountains to northwest. “That is the line of mountains known as the Jagged Reaches in your tongue. Those three in particular” – he points again —“those are the Three Brothers. Enclave is located at the base of the smallest of those three, the Little Brother, D’or Athun. There, we will talk more soon.” He muttered a prayer, and shifted back into a crow and disappeared into the sky towards the Jagged Reaches.

Everyone agreed to help Brother Duerdin. They then returned to Northpoint to prepare themselves for what they knew would be a long and treacherous journey to Enclave.

The next day, the six adventurers left Northpoint and headed deep into the Northwood. Glint, who had some skills in knowing his direction, led the others. They tried to keep the tall peaks of the Jagged Reaches in sight, but the mass of great trees and thick foliage often made it difficult.

At some point, they heard three loud voices arguing in the forest, near a large clearing. They all took off their heavy backpacks and carefully moved to where they could gain a better view of who—or what—could be arguing in the woods.

They spotted three ogres! They were large ugly brutes with misshapen features dressed in thick hides. Each had a tree trunk for a weapon. They were arguing in their language, so none of the adventurers knew what they were saying.

Finally, one of the ogres walked away from the other two and beat his chest while he proclaimed as loud as he could in broken common, “Snot’s hungry! Northpoint, we come to eat your people soon!”

The adventurers looked to one another with a concerned look. “We can’t let them reach Northpoint,” Brother Silas whispered.

Meanwhile, Dorin was trying to quietly make his way closer to the ogres when one of them saw him. It bellowed to the other ogres and all three ran to the adventurers to confront them.

The battle didn’t last long. By the end of it, three ogres lay dead with none of the adventurers hurt. Glint searched the ogres and found nothing on them. But he did find a sack of silver coins wedged between two rocks where they first saw the ogres. He split the coins with everyone, and the group continued on through the forest.

Everyone wondered what else might hinder their journey to Enclave.


Dramatis Personae

Brother Silas “The Steadfast” Tomkins (Human Cleric)

Darnok Firestone (Dwarf Mage)

Dorin Thomar (Dwarf Fighter)

Glint “the Axe” Red (Half-Orc Assassin)

Kaza Firestone (Dwarf Fighter)

Xan Warstout (Dwarf Martial Artist)


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Northguard Castle
Chapter 18 (Kerrandi: Ezra Two-leaf)

Northern Kerrandi, Northguard Castle,
Late Spring, 13th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle


Northguard_Castle_2.jpg

The sun-kissed walls of Northguard Castle stood in stark contrast against the unwelcoming sight of the Gray Sea to the north.

The castle sat on the edge of a precarious cliff overlooking the vast Gray Sea that never seemed to have any color to it, even during the warm summer months. It was well known that even in summer, the water rarely became warm enough for a man to survive in if he ever found himself falling into its bone-chilling embrace.

And except for the occasional whaling ship, fishermen rarely plied their boats in the Gray Sea.

Northguard Castle stood watch over the northernmost territories of Kerrandi. For the less than five hundred men who called the castle, home, theirs was a dangerous job of keeping the ever encroaching Asgars, barbarians from the Northern Reaches, from invading Kerrandi.

The men were named after the castle they served in: Northguards.

When the caravan passed through the castle’s stout wooden gates, Trylos went to speak to Commander Voors. Ezra walked up to where Javis lay on a wagon. The sellsword, who days before, had been wounded by the rabid bear Wildclaw was busy inspecting his bandages.

“Looks like you’re healing well,” Ezra said.

“Thanks to you, I’m alive.”

“In a day or two, you’ll be well enough to take on another bear or two.”

The sellsword shook his head. “I’ve had enough bear fighting to last a lifetime,” Javis said. “Besides, you’re the one they’re calling Bearslayer, not me. First, an owlbear, then Wildclaw? I think it’s your bear-hunting days that are not over yet, my friend.”

“Stop thief!” a soldier yelled.

From atop a set of stone stairs leading down into the courtyard from a nearby tower, Ezra and Javis saw a slim roguish man dressed in leather armor break free from his captors and began to run across the battlement. The man had a dagger in his hand, one he had stolen from one of the guards.

A guard tried to tackle the man. But the thief was much too agile. He easily moved past him and leaped down onto the roof of the smith’s workshop when he saw several guards blocking his path on the castle’s battlement.

Ezra looked to where Trylos was busy talking to the castle’s commander. The commander was shouting for his men to stop the thief.

They tried, but every time a Northguard got close enough to the thief, he would simply side step, shove his way through, or jump over and under an obstacle which made it difficult to capture the elusive rogue.

Ezra made his move.

He ran up a nearby steps which led to one of the castle’s battlement. Once at the top, Ezra spotted the thief running across the other side of the castle. Two Northguards tried to stop him but the thief simply slid on the rampart between the two startled soldiers. Once past them, the thief jumped down onto the stable’s roof and then jumped across onto another rooftop as more guards joined in trying to apprehend him.

Ezra anticipated the thief’s next move. He raced across the battlement and jumped down onto the smith’s rooftop barely avoiding falling through the thatched roof. He then grabbed hold of a rope used to raise heavy equipment up to the battlement and swung across to land on the rooftop where the thief was about to leap down onto a pile of hay.

The thief was startled to see Ezra suddenly appear in front of him. Ezra simply smiled and grappled with him.

“Let go of me!” the thief ordered while trying to break free of Ezra’s vice-like grip.

Ezra didn’t say a word as he roughly pushed the thief over the edge of the roof. The thief landed on the pile of hay below. Northguards quickly surrounded the thief, their halberds at the ready.

The thief brushed hay off of his hair and looked up at the smiling half elf above him. “You’ll rue this day,” he said. “I swear it!”

“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time in the castle dungeon to plot your revenge,” Ezra returned with a smile.

By the time Ezra stood back on solid ground, Commander Voors had the thief removed and placed in a prison wagon bound for the Terraien.

“What was his crime?” Ezra asked the commander.

“Renard? Stealing from the armory and kitchen,” Commander Voors said. “It’s the third time this year he’s done it. We’ve captured him each time, but as you can see, he is rather difficult to detain for any great length of time.”

“What will become of him?” Ezra was curious.

“He’ll be brought before the King’s Magistrate in Terraien and most likely hanged for his crimes.”

The commander regarded the half elf for a moment. “I hear you are a Warden,” he said as he and Ezra started walking into the castle.

“I am my lord.”

“Are you working for Master Trylos?”

“I am not employed by the caravan master,” Ezra said. “I offered to help guard the caravan, and in return he offered to take me to Terraien for free.”

“Terraien?”

“Yes my lord. I have business there with His Grace and the Council of Wardens. As you know, we recently left Northpoint. Hiram Mirth, the town’s appointed leader, asked me to deliver a to His Grace and to visit the Golden Valley on another matter entirely.”

“What is the news from Northpoint?” Commander Voors asked. They both were in the commander’s council chamber. “We rarely receive news from other parts of the kingdom. We did, however, recently heard that orcs have been seen in the North. If this true, this is dire news indeed. Orcs and their vile kind have not been seen in Kerrandi for nearly two thousand years. Not since the Rift War when they first entered our world.”

“It is true my lord.” Ezra said. He then told Commander Voors about all that had transpired in Northpoint. He especially told him about the dragon Clipwing.

“It’s difficult enough protecting the kingdom from Asgar raiders,” Commander Voors said. “Now orcs as well? Perhaps the gods have been displeased. If only there were other dragons around to help protect our kingdom.”

“I’ve heard about these Asgars,” Ezra said. “What are they like?”

“Savages, the whole lot of them! If it weren’t for the Northguards, the Asgars would have swept into Kerrandi long ago. Our women would have been raped, our homes burned, and our children slaughtered or taken as slaves.”

“What do we know about their lands? Their strengths? Their weaknesses?”

“Not much. No one has ventured into the Northern Reaches and returned to tell us anything. Years ago, five adventurers stopped by Northguard Castle and said they were heading into the Northern Reaches. They were never heard from or seen since.”

“Perhaps a Warden can succeed where others have failed.” Ezra said.

The commander chuckled. “Then you are either the bravest or most foolish Warden I have ever met. I thought the Wardens were supposed to protect the Tri-Kingdoms from outside threats, not start wars.”

“Our task is ensure the safety of the Tri-Kingdoms. If that means eliminating the threat before it strikes, then I believe that is what must be done.”

Commander Voors gave a hearty laugh. “I like the way you think! Ah, if only His Grace had more Lords like you, Kerrandi would not need to ally itself with Galowen nor Paelas. Kerrandi would be the greatest kingdom in all of Terramyth!”

A young servant boy stepped out from out of the shadows and poured chilled mead into cups.

“I’ll have to introduce you to my daughter, Kara.” Commander Voors said. “She’s due to arrive sometime tomorrow. You remind me of her. She is a half elf like yourself. I met her elven mother in Court when I became a Knight. Kara hates the capital and prefers to stay with me here during the summer months. Her mother remains in Terraien to handle the affairs of our estate.”

“Pardon my saying so, but doesn’t her presence here cause a…well, a distraction?” Ezra asked uncomfortably. “I noticed that Northguard Castle has no women living in it.”

Commander Voors raised one eyebrow. “I admit she does, but she prefers to spend most of her time in the seaside part of Northguard, only entering the main castle grounds when she goes for an occasional outing. Besides, Master Trylos does more than simply lead caravans laden with goods along the North Road. Before winter each year, he brings in whores to help get my soldiers through the long winter, if you will.”

Ezra frowned. “I see. Well, Trylos is certainly a resourceful half folk, isn’t he?”

Commander Voors walked up to a nearby window overlooking the dull, somber waters of the Gray Sea. Far to the north, he could just see the edges of the vast ice floes that, during the winter, make their way to the rocky crags below the castle to recede back again to the north during the warmer months.

“Did you know this castle has stood here for over a thousand years?” Commander Voors asked out loud. He sounded like a sage about to teach a classroom full of uneducated young minds. “My father and his father before him served as Commanders here. They both have done their service to the throne of Kerrandi, ensuring that no Asgar arse ever touches it.”

“You come from a loyal and honored line of commanders, my lord,” Ezra stated.

“Yes, and I intend to serve my time by making sure that the sworn oaths my father and grandfather took shall not be broken.”

“When I speak with His Grace, I will be sure to tell him of your loyal service,” Ezra said.

“I have no need of accolades,” Commander Voors intoned. “What I need are more men! These walls will not hold out against an army of Asgars should they choose to wage a bloody war against us.”

“You want to me to let His Grace know that you need more men?”

Commander Voors walked back to the table where Ezra sat. He drank deeply from the cup in front of him.

“Tell His Grace that four hundred and fifty-six soldiers, smiths, and servant boys cannot defend an entire kingdom. We need at least five hundred more. A thousand would be better!”

“I will certainly let His Grace know of your request for more men and supplies.”

“Well if you’ll excuse me,” Commander Voors said. “I have castle business to attend to. Some parts of the battlements are need of repairs. And the stabler keeps asking for better horseshoes.”

“A Commander’s work is never done,” Ezra said.

“Indeed,” Commander Voors said as he walked out of the room.

For the remainder of the day, Ezra walked about the castle grounds. As a Warden who always seemed to be traveling from one place to another, Ezra never knew what a settled life was like, even if it meant living in a castle like Northguard. Despite his curiosity, he wondered what it would take for him to give up his solemn vow to serve the Tri-Kingdoms as a Warden for life.

After finding a piece of dried meat and an apple to eat, Ezra made his way to the archery field where he earlier saw several Northguards practicing with the long bow.

After nearly half an hour of watching the archers practice, he decided to find Trylos when a man dressed in green and brown dyed leather approached him. The man was nearing his prime, given the amount of gray hairs that was beginning to appear above his ears. A scar ran the length of his right face from forehead to chin. He wore leather gloves and carried a short sword as well as a long bow. A quiver full of arrows with white fletchings was visible on his back.

Ezra excused himself and tried to walk around the man, but the man stopped him from leaving.

“You’ll excuse me, ser” the man said. “but I’ve been hearing that you’re the one they’ve been calling The Bearslayer.”

Ezra stood his ground. “They call me that. I don’t.”

“And they say that you killed an owlbear with a single arrow, while on the move no less,” the man said unbelieving.

“No less,” Ezra simply shrugged.

“Well, I think you’re a liar,” the man said. “No one can make that kind of shot, excepting perhaps the great Ranger, Hawk Banegray. And he’s long been put into the ground by a mountain giant.”

“One hundred silver says I can,” Ezra offered. “And pray tell me the name of one who doesn’t believe in the truth told by those who clearly have more brains than balls to risk calling me a liar to my face.”

“I am Dhorgan Skyson, Master Bowman of Northguard Castle.”

Ezra wasn’t impressed. “Well Dhorgan, step back, watch and learn. And be a good lad. Start counting those silver coins for me. I’d like to buy some more arrows from the castle fletcher before I leave.”

Without hesitating, Ezra move walked up to the archery field and had everyone move away. He then took off running as fast as he could, parallel to the targets. He quickly nocked an arrow, picked a target dummy which already had an arrow sticking out from the center target, and fired.

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Before Ezra could even stop running, the arrow sped to the target dummy and buried itself in the very center of its chest, splitting the other arrow in half.

The whole shot took less than six seconds.

The gathered soldiers cheered while Dhorgan Skyson, Master Bowman of Northguard Castle, without uttering a single word, dropped a full coin purse in Ezra’s open hand.

**

By late the next day, Ezra sensed that something was not right in Northguard Castle.

Curious, the half-elf Warden found and asked to talk to Commander Voors who was in the middle of meeting with his officers. Dhorgan Skyson was among them.

When the guards at the door finally let Ezra into the room, Ezra asked what was amiss.

Commander Voors looked as though he had suddenly aged ten years. “My daughter Kara has been captured by those bloody Asgars!”

“What proof do we have of this?” Ezra asked.

Commander Voors showed him a letter stained by blood. The Commander said a severed hand had been sent along with the letter and shot over the battlements and into the castle. A ring, Commander Voors recognized as belonging to one of his daughter’s personal guard, was on one of the hand’s finger.

The letter stated that Kara was being held in the hills to the west. If Commander Voors pays the Asgars in the amount of ten thousand gold coins, his daughter would be released unharmed. It further stated that if Commander Voors foolishly chose to send a small army of men in hopes of rescuing his daughter, she would be butchered immediately. The letter ended by stating that the gold must be delivered before three days or she would be killed.

Commander Voors told everyone assembled that he, nor the castle, had that kind of money. And if His Grace were to hear that he had sent Northguards to their deaths to save a daughter that should not even be staying at the castle, the king would then have him summarily removed from his position.

“Allow me to send a dozen of my finest bowmen to rescue your daughter,” Dhorgan offered. He looked to Ezra and smiled a crooked smile. “We’d have her back before sunrise, my lord.”

“I cannot risk having my daughter killed,” Commander Voors said. “And His Grace would forbid it. I know he would.”

“I have a suggestion, my lord,” Ezra said. Commander Voors offered for him to go on. “Perhaps one can succeed where a dozen would not.” Ezra made sure to look at Dhorgan when he said that.

“What are you suggesting?” Commander Voors asked.

“I’ll go,” Ezra said. “I can quietly enter the Asgars’ encampment, find your daughter, and return her safely back to Northguard Castle. Did she travel alone?”

“No,” Commander Voors said. “She traveled with a retinue of three personal guards and her maidservant.”

“Then perhaps I will free the guards first and have them fend off the Asgars while I personally see to the safety of your daughter and her maidservant.”

Dhorgan stood from where he sat. “And what if your heroic, albeit foolhardy attempt, fails?” Dhorgan said. “You would risk my lord’s daughter just to prove yourself some kind of false hero?”

“Dhorgan, that’s enough,” Commander Voors uttered. “I am willing to have Ezra save my daughter rather than ensure her death by sending more men out there.”

“My lord,” Dhorgan began. “Do not concern yourself with what His Grace would have to say. Rather concern yourself with the welfare of your beloved daughter.”

Commander Voors looked to his officers then to Ezra. He turned back towards his officers. “Leave us.”

“But my lord—” Dhorgan began to say.

“I said, leave us!”

When the officers had left, Commander Voors walked up to Ezra. “You are certain you can bring my daughter safely back to me?”

“I can, my lord. And I will.”


Dramatis Personae

Ezra Two-leaf (Half-elf Warden)

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