In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Riwen's Training, Part III: Saēna
"I will teach you. But will you learn?"

After a journey of nearly a week getting to the mountain, then ascending to near its peak, Rirosorchalwen had little trouble subsequently stumbling into the one she was told to seek out—a resplendent creature with the body of a massive bird and a regal, canine head occupied much of the open, flat space around the mountaintop. She was overwhelmed by its presence and the wisdom behind the eyes looking down at her. They had no need for introductions, but Rirosorchawlen thought it was the thing to do. Saēna played along, but then wasted no time in getting to work on her student. Upon completing a brief initial explanation…

“What were you expecting? Books with every sort of fantastic creature in this world for you to memorize?”

Of course, that is precisely what the young elf had expected. It was written all over her face and puffed-up cheeks.

“Now, listen—one does not simply memorize every detail of this world’s infinite ancient and arcane magics and traditions, magical beasts, aberrations, and extraplanar beings; Not to mention every single spell and magical item—not unless you have all the time in the world. Not unless you are me. No—instead, you shall learn about the traits and characteristics of a great many things. Careful observation and rational thinking are your tools and I shall teach you to use them.”

Mesmerized, as all things were, Saēna supposed, the elf looked on, wide-eyed and attentive, already in stark contrast to the seemingly immature display from only moments ago.

Hmm, it seems she’s not as hopeless as most of the other lesser creatures. Their often dubious morals are so troublesome, but this one appears to yet posses a pure heart. A nice thing to see in such creatures now and again.

“Now, let’s be off to class, then.”

“…”

“Well, what are you waiting for? Did you forget flying lessons would be included? How else do you think we’re to find your subject matter? It’s not as if I have such things lying around. Come on now.”

Understandably nervous, the little elf climbed onto her teacher’s back and braced herself for the force of such a mighty creature taking flight. They soared over miles of land, moving faster than Rirosorchalwen ever imagined possible. Occasionally, Saēna would remark on the properties of a creature or, rarely, a site below. After a few hours, they returned to the mountaintop.

“I hope you were paying close attention today.”

The elf nodded.

Of course she did.

“Good, because we’ll be going over it all again—in Celestial.”

Rirosorchalwen didn’t know more than a couple words of Celestial, but as she and her teacher went out again each day, usually flying in a different direction or to a greater distance, over the course of the next few months, she learned not only Celestial, but a great deal in terms of the arcane, dungeons, and various planes.

When Saēna was finally finished with her bright little pupil, she had few words of farewell, save a warning:

“Rirosorchalwen, do not forget that knowledge itself is neither good, nor evil. What you do with it is up to you. The same goes for others. Live with a pure heart, but think. Think, but never give up your heart.”

Surely, this one will be tempted. If not by her own demons, then those in the hearts of others. But I have done my job—the rest is hers.

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Allison's Tale

Cast in the light of a flickering campfire, two twisted figures hunched maliciously over a bubbling cauldron. There was no sound bu the whistling of the wind through Blightmoor‘s leafless trees until the larger of the two reached out and thumped the cauldron in an annoyed manner.
“Is this thing working, ”/characters/silvietta" class=“wiki-content-link”>Silvietta?" she screeched petulantly.
“It hasn’t worked since Allison went into the Plane of Shadow, Dorean," the other replied. This exchange had the air of one that had been repeated many times in the past few hours.
“Well sod that, then,” Dorean sat down on a moldering tree stump with a muffled thud.
Just then, the air above the cauldron erupted into a cloud of foul green smoke and Allison descended upon the fire, monstrous black wings beating heavily through the air. Her landing could not be called graceful, but she kept her footing and folded the wings back behind her tattered cloak before turning back to the others, a furious expression on her face.
“Well?!” she snapped, “What’s so important that you called me back here?! I was having an intimate moment with my lover.”
“I wanted to make sure you were dead, you daft old biddy,” Silvietta muttered under her breath.
“What was that, Silvietta?” Dorean asked quickly, suddenly peering suspiciously at the youngest member of the coven.
“I was so worried about you, Allison!” she lied, forcing a smile upon her features, “I just couldn’t stand another moment wonde-”. Silvietta paused as what Allison had said finally caught up to her. "You were having an intimate moment?
Suddenly the witches were rapt with attention, crowding around Allison who, for her part, practically preened in undisguised pride.
“It wasn’t much,” she said with mock humility, “I just saved his life and my beautiful ”/characters/kham-tsenkyo" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kham rewarded me with a kiss."
“A kiss?!” Dorean gasped, lumpy hands clasped over her mouth.
Silvietta leaned forward with an expression of horrified curiosity. “Did he… did he use his tongue?”
“And then some!” Allison proclaimed, beaming with delighht.
“You’ve got to tell us all about it, Allison!” Dorean urged, “Silvietta, go put on the tea.”
Silvietta did so without compaint, and soon the three had steaming mugs in their hands, the two smaller gathered around Allison’s hulking form to hear her tale.

It all started right here, when I saw my love killed and pulled into the Plane of Shadow by those filthy Kytons. Of course, I knew he wasn’t really dead; no man of mine is that easy to kill. Anyway, I teleported straight away to Sakya Nyingma, determined to save him.
It didn’t take me long to find the closest route into the Shadow Plane, and within a few hours I had arrived at the portal. A big, black pair of doors. Would have been impressive, but somebody had left them open so I went right on through. Inside was a cave, all dark and forbidding and I accidentally stepped on a sleeping giant.
He was big and ugly and all patched up with stiches, but the oaf took one look at my face and passed right back out. Stunned by my beauty, no doubt. It was right around then that I ran into Kham’s freands. That airheaded Elf with the black sword was there, Nyrik the paladin, the stuffy half-elf girl, and their pet Sidhe. You know about Nyrik, right Silvietta? Don’t go blushing now, I’ve seen your collection. Anyway, I ran into his friends and, of course, they were so happy to see me that they begged to have me along. I had planned to daringly rescue Kham from Entropy’s Fall myself, but they were just so piteous that I couldn’t bring myself to leave them alone.
Together we travelled through the Plane, and they were all ever so eager to hear my stories about Kham and myself. They flocked around me, drinking in my beautiful voice, until it got so late that I finally managed to convince them to set up camp for the night. That night, as much as you can call it that in the Shadow Plane, passed uneventfully, with just two zombies and a Nightshade that almost ate that Sidhe I’ve been saving for later.
The next “morning”, well rested and refreshed, we kept going and soon we could see Entropy’s Fall in the distance. No doubt awed by having such a distinguished visitor, the Kytons sent out a detachment of honor guards to lead us inside. My demeands to meet with Kahm were instantly agreed to, of course.
As it turns out, Kham had been kidnapped by Sariel, the evil princess of the Kyton nation. Seing his beauty, she was trying to transform him into a Kyton so that she could have him all to herself. After she told us this, though, one glare from me sent her scurrying from teh room like a cockroach. Sariel’s aide, the hideous Dishaad, was not as easily intimidated, and we entered into a mighty battle, with the rest of Kham’s friends and the guards looking on awestruck.
As ashamed as I am to admit it, Dishaad got the upper hand and pinned me to the wall. Just then, the chains holding Kham captive began to creak and groan, then shattered into pieces, as my love laptto my rescue, face grinning and muscles glistening. His fist caught Dishaad across the face so forcefully that his head spun clear around and he fell to the floor dead. Then, Kham swept me manfully into his arms and telported us outside the castle.
The ground under us shook as Entropy’s Fall exploded while, at the same time, Kham kissed me long and passionately on te mouth. Sariel could do nothing but howl in rage and jealousy at our love. Then, you two had to go and call me and ruin the moment!

There was a brief moment of silence around the campfire, broken only by Dorean whistling slowly through her front teeth.
“…Wow,” the lumpy witch said, “That’s just great, Allison.”
“What about the Blodeuwedd?” Silvietta asked.
Allison’s head snapped in her direction, dreamy eyes suddenly filled with rage. “You will not talk about that woman in my presence, young Silvietta.”
“Fine, fine,” the young hag raised her hands in placation, “But did all of that really happen?”
“I might’ve exaggerated here and there, but more or less that’s what happneed,” Allison’s eyes clouded over again, a faraway look to them, “Kham was so dreamy, with his big wet lips and his long, long tongue.”
Silvietta turned and cursed under her breath, pretending to busy herself with the kettle. She was running out of poisons to put in Allison’s tea, and even the Kyton capital on the PLane of shadow hadn’t been enough to kill the hag.
“Daft old biddy,” she muttered.

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50 Years Prior, Part 1

There was a flash, a short clap of thunder, and a body fell from empty air onto the dark cobblestones below. It lay there motionless for a moment, then stirred, and rolled sprightly to its feet. The dim light of distant torches revealed the figure of a young, handsome Elf, briskly dusting himself off and adjusting his brightly-colored clothing. Beyond his long, golden hair and brief, mischievous grin, he also sported a long, elaborately-patterned scarf, its ends dangling loosely behind him. His clothes were ripped in places and bore some recent bloodstains, but he yet held himself with the elegant poise of a dancer.

The man looked about him, studying his surroundings as if seeing them for the first time, when he was interrupted by the rough approaching scratch of leather boots against the street.

“You there!” two guards peered suspiciously at him from behind their lantern, each one every inch the consummate watchman, “What are you doing out here after curfew?”

Hesitating for but a moment, the Elf fell easily into a well-practiced routine. “Good evening! My name is Awrthyr Gentlestar,” he said, with a grandiose bow, “A simple travelling minstrel. Tell me, what fine city do I find myself in today?”

The guards exchanged a look before one spoke again, distrust heavy in his voice. “Alright, Mister Arthur, I don’t know about any travelling minstrel business, but nobody’s allowed out past sunset, Lord General’s orders.”

Awrthyr gave them an ingratiating smile. “Ah, you see, my name is Awrthyr, not Arthur. It’s got just a bit of a flourish right in the middle the- …Oh,” the tirade was cut short by the brief snap of metal on metal as one of the guards forcibly clasped his hands in manacles. Awrthyr’s surprise lasted only a moment, before it was replaced with a rakish, suggestive grin. “A bit forward, aren’t we? I like where this is going.”

Looking uncomfortable as Awrthyr leaned in closer, the guard cringed as his comrade slipped a black leather sack over their prisoner’s head. “Oh, where are we going? Is it a surprise?” There was a crack as something massive and solid connected with the back of his head, a rush of pain, then darkness.


Awrthyr awoke some time later, sprawled out on an uncomfortable cot and looking at a damp stone ceiling. His head was exploding with pain where the guard had struck it, but testing gingerly with his fingertips, he could not feel any serious damage. With some effort, but no less grace, he swung his feet around and sat up, pausing for a moment as a wave of dizziness overtook him before examining his surroundings.

The walls and floor were hewn of the same rough stone that had greeted him upon his awakening, and rows of heavy iron bars shut off the room’s only exit. A prison, by all accounts. This theory was reinforced by the two hard gray cots fastened to the walls, and the room’s only other occupant, sitting silently and watching him from the other side. A hulking, muscular figure, he sat hunched over, hands clasped before him and his face cloaked in shadow. The barest gleam of light reflecting off his eyes was the only indication of his alertness toward the newcomer.

His headache receding ja bit, Awrthyr smiled and rose swiftly to his feet. “Right then,” he said, gesturing grandly about him, “A prison! I’d love to say it’s my first time in one of htese, but that is sadly not the case.”

The other manponderously stood, unfolding further and further until he towered over Awrthyr in the gloom, a black mountain looming over him. Awrthyr faced him, as if seeing him for the first time. “And you must be my cellmate,” he enthused, reaching up to pat the silent giant lightly on the cheek, “I’m sure we’re going to get along famously!”

There followed a short, dangerous silence, then, like the slow rumbling of an avalanche, the huge man began to laugh. “You’ve got balls, lad,” he said, in a voice like rocks grinding into each other, “I respect that.”

Visibly relaxing, he leaned down to better examine Awrthyr’s smiling visage. “I can see why they’d throw you in here, lad. You look like a fairy if ever I saw one.”

“Well, I do sometimes lean a bit in that direction but I never considered it much of a crime mysel-,” he paused as realization dawned, “Oh, you mean that kind of fairy. Litle wings, sparkles, fluttering about, yes? Are they a problem around here then?”

The other man gave him a long, slow look. “Where are you from, stranger?”

“Oh, here and there, all about the place,” Awrthyr said jovially, deftly uncoiling the scarf from his shoulders, “The scarf, you see. They never check the scarf. Aha!” His questing fingers found a hidden pocket amongst te scarf’s fabrics, and returned with a slim leather volume, filled with every manner of thief’s tools. Smoothly, he drew a lockpick and bent to one kee, fiddling with the lock even as he continued to speak.

“I’ve been in worse situations than this. Once, a servant girl caught me in bed with the youngest daughter of the Khoroushi dynasty. Matriarchal society, warrior women, very fierce and all that. I do love them fierce. Anyway, they threw us all in the most magnificent dungeon I’ve ever seen, walls all made of marble and engraved with grand mosaics, it was like a palace! Ærhyn was furious! We had to use little Foebreaker as a battering ram and crash through the wall to escape. Hold this,” he passed one of the picks to the big man, who palmed it and stood in stunned silence, “A few more jumps and here we were! Ærhyn and the others should be nearby somewhere, I just haven’t- Aha!”

This last was accompanied by a soft lick as the door’s mechanism gave way. Awrthyr stood up, dusting himself off, and wrapped the scar back around his neck, careful not to let it drag on the floor. “Say, I never did get your name.”

“Bergholdt,” the other man replied, still off balance, “Bergholdt Armbruster.” He seemed to regain a bit of his composure and looked about wildly, “You aren’t really trying to escape, are you? Do you have any idea what they’ll do to you if you get caught?”

Awrthyr looked genuinely surprised, as if the thought of continued captivity had never occured to him. “Of course I am,” he said simply, stepping through the now open portal, “Are you?”

Bergholdt placed one leathery hand on the side of the bars and peered out cautiously into the torchlit hall beyond, then back at Awrthyr’s grin. “Freya’s shining tit, you’re serious,” he cursed. Hesitating a moment, his jaw then gained a determined set it had lacked before. “I’ve got a wife and a daughter out there, and these are dark times for Freystadt. …I’l come with.”

Awrthyr’s grin widened and e reached up to place a hand on the big man’s shoulder. “Good answer! Come on then, I’m fed up with being buried down here.”

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The Scholar Falls
Sakya Nyingma, Provisional Capital of Shizamu

With a spray of blood and a sickeningly wet thud, the limp body of Kham Tsenkyo landed heavily on the cobbles and did not move. Towering above him, the bloated, multi-limbed abomination that had dealt the blow leered maliciously through a mask of chains. Time seemed to slow as Nyrik, plunging his sword into another of the monsters, turned in horrified realization, his face a mask of anguish and fury. Fending off the other attackers with some of their many limbs, the two remaining Kytons lumbered forward. One of them reached with a clawed hand, touched Kham’s lifeless body and, with a rush of air and a final, horrible chortle, both of them were gone, the corpse with them.

Suddenly alone in the dusty streets of Sakya Nyingma, the remaining members of the Unicorn Brigade slowly lowered their weapons, too shocked to say a word. Silently, the corpses of the two fallen monsters began to dissolve, adding their ichor to the smear of blood now painted across the ground.

The Tyrant’s Castle, Somewhere Above Altun-Ha

The Tyrant’s viewing pool clouded over, Zacharias himself rising slowly from his seat above it. Far from pleased with the gruesome scene he had just witnessed, KARZAK’s brow was instead furrowed in consternation. Following his usual course, he strode down the steps from the viewing platform and began across the hall, his attendant promptly falling in behind him.

“They’ve taken him to the Plane of Shadow, then,” Zacharias said. It was a statement, rather than a question.

“Yes, my lord,” Nicholas answered, the barest hint of horrified anticipation showing in his voice.

“A pity. The boy showed such promise, and now the rest of them are surely going to go after him,” the Tyrant shook his head sadly, “Perhaps I should intervene.”

“My lord, that would not be advisable!” Nicholas stammered, suddenly off-balance, “You know well that the Plane of Shadow is her domain-”

With a hard snap and a rustle of cloaks, KARZAK turned, his hand around Nicholas’ throat and lifting him into the air before the attendant could ract.

“You dare dictate to me where I can and cannot go?!” he roared, voice steady despite its ferocity, “You dare believe that I am incapable of dealing with those beings on the Plane of Shadow should I so choose?”

“No, my lord! No my lord!” Nicholas gasped, the color quickly draining from his face, “I only meant- meant to suggest that- that it would be wise to maintain good relations with our allies!”

The attendant’s wiry body collapsed to the ground with a thud that echoed throughout the chamber.

“You are right, of course,” KARZAK said, his voice level as he clasped his hands behind his back, “Although there are no beings so powerful as to pose such a threat to my standing, it would not be wise to anger such a powerful force at this point in our plans.”

Behind him, Nicholas staggered to his feet, coughing and rubbing the red skin around his neck.

“Continue to watch them,” the Tyrant ordered, a slow smile creasing his mouth, “If they manage to survive this expedition, then perhaps they truly are the heroes I’ve been waiting for.”

Citadel of Bones, Blightmoor

Cast in the light of a flickering campfire, three twisted figures hunched maliciously over a bubbling cauldron.

“What’s he doing now?” the largest one screeched, her bent form significantly bulkier than the others.

“Tell Allison what he’s doing, Silvietta,” the second one ordered in turn, her impressive jowls wobbling with every word.

“He’s just cast Slow on them, Dorean,” the third one said, her figure much more slender and human than the others, though still with a disturbing cast to it.

“Don’t tell me, fool girl! Tell Allison!”

Silvietta sighed. “H’s just cast Slow on them, Allison,” she repeated.

Allison fixed the second speaker with a single beady eye. “Why’d he go and do that then? Any practitioner worth his salt would know that a Kyton will just shrug that off?”

Peering into the cauldron, the other answered. “Well, it seems to have worked, Allison.”

“What, really?” Allison turned her gaze back into the bubbling waters, then beamed with pride, “That’s my love, always powerful with is magic.”

There was a brief moment of silence as the three stared at the image being projected onto the green liquid.

“What’s just happened, then?” Allison crooned.

“Tell her what’s just happened, Silvietta.”

“He’s just been killed, Dorean.”

The hag called Dorean opened her mouth to chide the younger, but was interrupted by an ear-splitting screech from her left. Allison’s eyes, previously dull,l petulant pinpricks, suddenly flared to blinding embers, whilst a pair of huge, mottled and leathery wings burst forth from her back, further shredding her threadbare robes. Trembling with rage, she bent forward further and gripped the edges of the cauldron, her claws leaving long gouges in the metal.

“They did what?!” Allison cried, the other two witches cringing back from her sudden fury, “No-one! No-one hurts my Kham! I’ll show them! I’ll kill them all!”

This last was accompanied by a frenzied cackle as the monstrous hag’s wings beat once, twice, and lifted her into the air. With surprising agility, Allison cleared the trees, her cackling echoing throughout the forest, before instantly vanishing in a burst of foul smoke.

Silently, the two remaining crones stood in the now-empty clearing.

“Pass me the tea, Silvietta,” Dorean said eventually, her tone carefully neutral.

“Yes, Dorean,” the younger said, politely passing the corpulent hag a varnished saucer bearing a cup filled with thick brown liquid.

“Tune up the cauldron to Allison, then,” she said, taking a slow sip, “This should be fun to watch.”

Entropy’s Fall, Plane of Shadow

With another rush of air, the two bloated figures appeared suddenly in an empty mockery of a city square. Clutched in the larger’s misshapen claws hung the limp body of Kham, handled with surprising delicacy.

“Failed. Perhaps we have, but at least we managed to obtain some most…” the Kyton holding Kham lifted him up to leer at him through the mess of chains that covered its face, “…interesting parts for our experiments.”

The other let out what might have been a chuckle, cut short by the sound of footsteps approaching softly on the black cobbles.

“A failure indeed,” the youth said, emerging from the shadows. Chains covered him in several places, serving as his only clothing, but beyond peculiarity and his painfully thin frame, he appeared to be entirely human. “Failure must needs punishing, wouldn’t you say?” he mused, as though pondering a tricky riddle.

This seemed to amuse the two monsters, who exchanged twisted grins with each other.

“As for those parts, as you called him, I do believe Our Lady in Chains will be most interested in meeting him.”

The creatures’ grins froze, slowly changing to expressions of horrified realization.

“There may be a chance for you to redeem yourselves in the eyes of our Lady,” the youth continued, slowly walking to the Kytons and stopping just before them.

Without warning, a massive arm, wrapped in chains and fully the size of the city street it occupied, reached swiftly from the shadows and swept up the staring pair into its iron grip. There came a sickening crunch, the sound of metal grinding on metal, and the two Kytons met a sudden and painless end. The youth merely smiled and hefted Kham’s body over his shoulder.

“Then again, maybe there won’t be,” he said simply, and walked out from the square.

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Riwen's Training, Interlude: "Shahzada"

Forest dark, forest calm,
a clear night sky, a silent song.

Familiar lake, recondite form,
distant figure on the water, its surface untorn.

Looking on, in surprise,
a young elf, as if by magic, was met with the dancer’s eyes.

Larger than she, the figure condensed,
and without a word, started the event.

Flamboyant eyebrows, blue-green skin,
the mistress of water began to spin.

A moonlit performance for no one at all,
the red-haired elf looked on in awe.

With each movement came a purpose unseen,
a living dance, fleeting and amaranthine.

As the climax neared, the dance did hasten,
though a whirlwind of beauty, her vigor unchastened.

Light reflecting from cast watery motes,
perfect sparkles surrounded her, as though her song’s notes.

Though dancer and audience could both go on,
with each performance must come denouement.

A spectacular show, a quiet end,
pearlescent teeth, and a farewell smile.

Into the water did the dancer blend,
seeking applause clearly not her style.

Never before had the elf seen such splendor,
but already knew one thing with certainty—

Bearing witness to the dance ignited a flame,
in her heart for eternity.

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Far Above Altun-Ha

The black surface of the pool shimmered, swirled darkly, and an image slowly rose to the surface. Coming into focus were the features of the self-proclaimed Unicorn Brigade, Kham Tsenkyo and Nyrik Albanir at their head, speaking with a pair of steadfast men donning emotionless steel masks. Looking on grimly from his throne above the pool, Zacharias Karnstead waved a hand, freezing the rendition on a view of Nyrik’s handsome features. With a weary sigh, he rose to his feet, stepping down and walking forward, as his attendant immediately fell into step beside him.

“Banding the powers of this world against me,” the Tyrant said wearily, accepting a proffered goblet filled to the brim with wine, “Why do they do it, Nicholas? Can they not see how pointless it all is?”

“I cannot speak for the others, milord,” his attendant replied, clutching a sheaf of papers with one hand and idly stroking his small beard with the other, “That one named Nyrik, however, is a Paladin, and they are well-known to be very stubborn when it comes to facing down evil-”

The goblet in Zacharias’ hand shattered, wine spraying across the wall not unlike a bloodspray. With an involuntary shriek, Nicholas started back, his eyes wide with terror. “I mean to say, milord, that is, that crusaders such has him always face down the odds, no matter how idiotic it may be. To challenge someone of your power, that is.”

He stood motionless for a moment more, head bowed, then the Tyrant’s shoulders shook with a rough chuckle, and Nicholas relaxed. “You are right, of course. Young Nyrik is not the first zealous revolutionary I have met. Let us pray that he offers me more entertainment than the others.”

With that, he strode to the massive window dominating the end of the throne room, attendant following now cautiously behind. Zacharias clasped his broad hands solidly behind his back, looking down at the world spread below him, cities and rivers glittering like jewels. “However, Nicholas, I spoke not of the reason why the defy me. Mortals are always too blind to see that they can only attain their full potential under the rule of one such as I. Rather, I am bothered that they seek to challenge me in such a roundabout fashion.”

Nicholas gave the Tyrant’s back as skeptical an expression as he dared. “Are you suggesting that you’d rather they simply siege the castle as they are? That would be suicide.”

Zacharias nodded, a faint smile briefly upon his features. “Again, you are correct. Simply waiting up here is the part I cannot stand.”

“I believe your patience is well placed, milord. Look at how much they have grown in power since they first met in the laboratory, not even a year ago. Destroying them and retaking this land will be all the better for the wait.”

The Tyrant barked a short laugh. “As usual, Nicholas, you delight in telling me and retelling me my own plans. Now tell me something new. What is your opinion on their current activities in Shizamu?”

Nicholas relaxed a bit more, stroking his beard as his voice fell into an easy drone. “They’ve shown remarkable alacrity in winning over most of the various factions. I’m afraid that Kham presents a rather convincing argument, and has swayed both the Doji and the Monkhbat to his cause. The Tsenkyo clan goes without saying, of course,” he shuffled the papers in his hands, cleared his throat, and continued, “A similar approach did not, however, work on the Hashikawa clan, and there was something of a a snafu there. Hachirou is as reliably insane as always and, though I will not bore milord with the details, the Brigade made quite a mess of it. We can reliably count the Hashikawa on their list of enemies.”

Zacharias nodded solemnly, the goblet and wine reforming smoothly in his hand with a noise like a shower of diamond. Nicholas’ face once again held an expression of terror as the Tyrant took a slow sip. “And what is to be their next move?”

“Er, well, when I said before that the other factions had been swayed, that was not entirely correct. It would be more accurate to say that they have agreed to ally temporarily upon the condition that the Hashikawa family is removed from power. Unsurprisingly, it seems that Hachirou has made few friends. Last we saw they were returning to the capitol, presumably to topple the government there somehow.”

“Interesting. So they mean to lead both the warriors of the Monkhbat and the monsters of the Doji against me. Endovelicus will be thrilled, I’m sure, as will Princess Sariel.”

“Would you like me to send couriers to them, milord?”

Zacharias waved a hand dismissively. “Knowing the Princess, she’s already well aware of the situation. As for Endovelicus, I’m not convinced that he reads any of the messages we send him, or that he can read at all. No, send instead a messenger to Hüseyin. Inform him that he has the Tyrant’s sanction to act as he sees fit. We would not want to make this too easy for the brigade.”

“Yes, milord,” Nicholas replied, quickly retreating from the other’s presence.

Now alone in the throne room, KARZAK gazed across the world, an evil smile slowly forming on his lips.

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Scandal! The High Priestess' folly.
The Golden Herald - Issue #51

Headline Story: Scandal! The High Priestess’ folly.

All our readers are likely familiar with Renate Konstantin. She was, until recently, the High Priestess of Abadar here in Freystadt City, a position which holds a great deal of power and prestige. Due to the events detailed below, however, Lady Konstantin has been forced to leave her position in favor of one at a much lower rank. Until a new High Priestess is selected, Lord Irmin Boehler will be taking over her duties, a man already well-known for the sheer amount of work he handles.

According to an anonymous letter sent to us here at the Golden Herald, these events began when the famous Unicorn Brigade returned from a reconnaissance mission deep in Blightmoor. Nyrik, traveling Paladin slash celebrity, had just defeated a powerful agent of evil, a Grave Knight, and he and his team were returning to Freystadt bearing its armor.

Seeking further information about this legendary “Grave Knight”, we first visited Marquering Archives, Freystadt‘s primary resource for occult knowledge. The Archive’s resident Necromancer, the impressively Clodovicus Van Tonder, refused to comment on the matter, but our own research revealed some astounding facts. Grave Knights are powerful Undead monsters born from the armor of legendary warriors. Most interestingly, a Grave Knight whose body has been destroyed will regenerate it from its armor, making them nigh impossible to kill.

Having understood this, it became clear that the Unicorn Brigade’s actions were no mere trifle. They were indeed bringing a powerful undead monstrosity, or perhaps the potential of an undead monstrosity, directly into the heart of Freystadt. The very thought sounds chills down the spine.

It seems, however, that Major Hannah Köhler had taken measures to ensure the Grave Knight did not begin its horrid reconstruction, and indeed brought the armor to the aforementioned High Priestess Renate Konstantin to be purified. Objectively, this seems like a fine plan. Surely a High Priestess of Abadar would have both the power and the proclivity to destroy a Grave Knight’s armor. Lady Konstantin, however, had other ideas.

That brings us to the second part of this story. Having just returned from the unpleasant business in Stromberg (Golden Herald Issue #46), the Unicorn Brigade was immediately summoned to Dame Winther‘s mansion for briefing on a new, secret mission. Unbeknownst to them, this “secret mission” started with the members of Major Köhler’s squad being drugged, knocked out, and thrown into the deepest reaches of the Pharasmian Catacombs.

Seeking justification for this seemingly heinous act, I personally requested an interview with Dame Winther, to which she graciously accepted. Although we are regretfully unable to include the full content of this interview, it was quickly made clear that Lady Alena is a wonderful person, and that no blame should be levied against her for this incident.

What happened in the Catacombs remains a mystery. Our anonymous source attempted to describe it, with vague references to giants, treasure, and deadly traps, but the description was too disjointed and unbelievable for we at the Golden Herald to include it in good faith. It is common knowledge throughout Freystadt that the giants are well extinct, and, even if they were still alive, the thought of them fitting into the Catacombs is laughable at best.

The important, and now indisputable item gathered from the story is that, while exploring the dungeons, the Unicorn Brigade encountered the very same Grave Knight, bound and shackled in a cell, and apparently awaiting experimentation. Furthermore, under mysterious circumstances, this prisoner escaped, leaving the Catacombs and remaining a threat at large in the outside world.

Although Lady Konstantin was unavailable for interview, it has been determined that her original aim was to use information gathered from the Grave Knight to create an army of unkillable soldiers for Freystadt. No doubt the idea has merit, but the very thought of using necromancy and undeath to achieve such an end is unthinkable. Such a force would be difficult to control at best, and a lethal danger to the country itself at the worst, not to mention the massive political ramifications should the Pharasmians in Livadeia learn of it.

The actions of Lady Konstantin are troubling in themselves, but also disturbing are the circumstances under which the Grave Knight escaped his prison. Did the Paladin Nyrik release him, seeking once again to battle against such a worthy rival? Was it a calculated attack on Freystadt’s security by known foreigner and suspected dissident Kham Tsenkyo? Or perhaps it was a cunning move by Hannah Köhler herself, to remove Renate Konstantin from the picture and create new opportunities on her path for power.

Regardless, the Grave Knight remains a threat to all the good citizens of Freystadt, and we at the Golden Herald can only hope that the monster is dealt with and his armor destroyed, before it is too late.

Star Reporter – Kira Appleton

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Weekly Gossip Panel: Freychat

Hello, all you fellow gossip lovers, and welcome to Freychat! This has been an exciting week for all those Nyrites and Khampas in Freystadt City, as the ever-popular Unicorn Brigade has finally returned to the capitol. We’ve got a few really juicy pieces of gossip about both everyone’s favorite Paladin and Kham Tsenkyo, the plucky underdog, so let’s get right to it!

Our first bit of news comes from an anonymous tipper, a pale, handsome man who unexpectedly visited our office late at night. He claims that he saw Nyrik Albanir and Lieutenant Elowyn Eberhardt on a date in one of Freystadt’s finest restaurants!

“It was disgusting, they were all over each other,” the mysterious correspondent said, fidgeting around and hiding his face with a flowing black cape, “I swear I’ll have my revenge on that Paladin. Elowyn’s mine, you hear me?! Mine!”

Was this really a date between two of Freystadt’s finest? And who is this mysterious man obsessed with Lieutenant Eberhardt? Other sources say that they too saw Elowyn and Nyrik visiting a bar together and walking around late at night, so there might be some evidence to these rumors after all!

The next piece of gossip comes from an unnamed but frequent correspondent right from the magical Grunewald! Lady S, as she signs her submissions, says that she saw both Nyrik and Kham cavorting about a nearby meadow, surrounded by beautiful women with flowers in their hair. Could it be that our two heroes have a secret faerie harem just outside of Freystadt?! Lady S goes on to say that she saw Nyrik kiss one of the beautiful women, and that both of them gave out gifts, tokens of affection, to the others. Troubling news indeed, for all those faithful Nyrites and Khampas out there!

Those are our two big stories, but here’s some more tidbits of gossip for those who can’t get enough!

  • Kham and Major Rirosorchalwen enroll together in the White Wyvern Society! Magical peers, or something more?
  • Hannah Köhler seen fraternizing with a younger, bug-like Lieutenant. Simple friendship, or forbidden insect love?
  • Golden Fist Markus Hofmeister rumored to secretly be an Orc.
  • Markus’ horse Dazzlebeam claims to have written magical book, suspiciously absent from bookstores in Freystadt.
  • Steinogg’s one weird trick to getting ripped – could it really work?
  • Tiny Swashbuckler seen asking around about Hannah Köhler’s interests, the Major’s secret beau?
  • Drunken debutante Helga Kaufmann: Starling victims ‘had it coming’.
  • Kaufmann Family immediately distances themselves from the actions of youngest daughter.
  • Honeycutt Family threatens to disown daughter Lyrica if she doesn’t ‘stop this magical nonsense and become the heir our family needs’.
  • Irmin Boehler – secretly a crossdresser?
  • Lord Pemberton’s doll fetish – pure rumor or embarrassing truth?
  • Mysterious ‘tree woman’ sighted again outside Freystadt.

Read again next time for even more pieces of great Freystadt gossip, and be sure to write in if you hear any juicy rumors of your own!

Freychat Lead Editor – Miya Appleton

The Golden Poll

Hello, hello, good readers. This issue we’ve got a very special poll, especially for all you ladies. Without further ado:

Freystadt’s Most Eligible Bachelor
  • Nyrik Albanir – A travelling paladin of Serenrae, Nyrik is known for his exotic blonde hair, dashing good looks, and willingness to always help. A local celebrity, Nyrik is also said to have vanquished several powerful evil creatures in the service of the Freystadt Military.
  • Gilbert Hardwin – Member of the elite squad of military leaders, the Golden Fist, Gilbert also serves as head strategist for the country of Freystadt. Known for his glasses, handsome features, and laid-back attitude, he’s also rumored to be able to hold his own in a fight.
  • Royle V. Honeycutt – Freystadt’s most charming postman, Royle was the scion of the wealthy Honeycutt family and rumored to be a genius in both leadership and economics, but suddenly threw it all away in favor of just delivering the mail. His dasking good looks, pristine white uniform, and tousled red hair are a temptation for Freystadt housewives everywhere.
  • Timoteus Scrier – A ranking member of the Lindwurm Order, the elite cadre of knights serving as the Lord General’s personal guard, Timoteus is better known as an incorrigible skirt chaser. Having inherited the elegant good looks of his Elven ancestors and the rugged musculature of his Human forebearers, he is often seen chasing Lysistrata Rose across Freystadt, spouting poetry and offering up a rose from his lapel.
  • Kham Tsenkyo – A hapless foreign Wizard from the Northeastern country of Shizamu, Kham isn’t exactly the most handsome man, but his dark skin and long braided hair give him an exotic appeal. Kham is known for his deep friendship with the Paladin Nyrik and has also performed many great services for the country of Freystadt. Although seemingly cursed with misfortune, his magical prowess is undeniable.

Remember, write your choice on a simple slip of paper and send it to:

Pollmaster Banehammer
27 Shield Street, Residential Ward Block 4, Freystadt, Freystadt

Our results will be revealed next time, along with a savory recipe for honey-glazed biscuits.

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In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Freystadt Act 2 Begins!

Our heroes have defeated the evil Hannibal Woden, and put an end to the threat caused by Tyrant’s Redoubt. Though powerful in his own right, the lich proved to be merely a pawn of KARZAK himself, who has made an explosive return to the continent of Corisande, conjuring a massive floating castle in the center of Altun Ha. Already the Tyrant and his four Divine Generals have begun raising forces, intent on conquering the world once again.

Meanwhile, Freystadt prepares for war. A strong tradition of militarism has made their nation the most well-prepared for KARZAK’s return, and the Lord General now sees it as Freystadt’s duty to unite the rest of the nations into a determined resistance. However, just to the North, Shizamu has erupted into civil war, various factions vying to fill the power hole created by the nation’s economic collapse. Thus, the Unicorn Brigade is faced with an impossible mission. They must infiltrate Shizamu and single-handedly quell the civil war, all the while ensuring that whatever faction ends up on top is willing and able to ally with Freystadt against the Tyrant’s threat.

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The Tyrant's Return - Endovelicus

The flames of the war camp at his back, casting shadows throughout the tent, Endovelicus sat and pondered. A tiny desk seemed to almost cower in front of his huge frame, its surface covered in sheaves of blank paper. Tentatively, gauntleted hand shaking, Endovelicus slowly maneuvered a quill to the paper and, with intense concentration, began to scratch out a letter.

“M”

He leaned back to admire his work. It was a good start. M was a good letter, sturdy and strong. Endovelicus allowed himself a small glow of pride, and started work on the next letter.

“MY”

Two letters. A single word. This wasn’t so hard. His subordinates who told him to let them write the report were obviously just wanting to hog all the glory to themselves. KARZAK had demanded reports, and as his loyal general, it was an honor for Endovelicus to comply. Several scratches and false starts later, he had his first sentence.

“MY LORD KARZAK

The Genocide General leaned back, satisfied with his work. Most battles are won with the first strike, and as first sentences go, this one was a masterful stroke. Steeling himself, he prepared to write the next letter. Steadying the paper with his left hand, and holding the quill with his right, he grabbed the inkwell with his other hand and carefully dipped the quill in it. Pausing for a moment, he pondered his next move.

“MY LORD KARZAK,

TH—-"

A tiny crack cut through the air as the quill snapped between Endovelicus’ gauntleted fingers. Seething with sudden rage, he managed to steady his fist and quench the flames that had burst into existence around it. As his attention wavered, with a horrible, slow inevitability, the inkwell fell from his hand and splattered across the note.

The small desk splintered under the force of Endovelicus’ fist, reduced to kindling which immediately set alight under the head radiating from his armor. Again and again, he pummeled the desk, all four arms moving like pistons and pounding the unfortunate furniture into dust.

Looming above its ruined remains, Endovelicus swept about dramatically, turning his back on the obliterated enemy. Surely writing reports was no job for a general of his stature. He would have one of his lieutenants take care of it immediately. A fine idea, as expected from a strategic genius like himself. Satisfied, but still annoyed, Endovelicus grabbed his weapons and set off to vent his anger.

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Riwen's Training, Part II: "Oakfist"
"Heeellooo, liiittllle crrreeeaaatuuurrre..."

“Toward the dark part of the forest.”1 That was where she was told to go to meet her new teacher. Before she could ask, her father added with that smile that told her she was in for more than she expected, “From there, I’m sure he’ll find you.”

1 Translated from Elven

I hope so, she thought. Things were starting to look a bit scary. There’s a reason why most people stayed away. It wasn’t nighttime, yet darkness had fallen upon Rirosorchalwen. She told herself she wasn’t scared. There were stories about the things you might see if you came this far. She remembered them from her books, but never actually thought about what she’d do if she encountered the kind of frightening beasts she expected lived here. It was a terrifying thought. I’m a big girl now and big girls aren’t scared. Saying it didn’t really help.
As she pressed on, she noticed a mist starting to appear on the forest floor. Every few steps it got thicker and rose higher. After about twenty feet, she realized she’d made a mistake. This isn’t mist—it’s smoke! If something were on fire, she’d have noticed already. It didn’t seem to be moving, so she continued walking, curious now as to its source. It smelled… different. This wasn’t how normal burnt things smelled. Could this be some kind of magic? Curiosity mixed with fear as she realized any number of evil things might be waiting for her to lose herself in the smoke before falling upon her. Wait, which way was I going? Something felt off. Rirosorchalwen noticed she could no longer discern her direction. As it occurred to her that now would be the time to turn back, she realized she couldn’t.
She paused for a moment, considering what she might do. But before she could think, she heard them—the sound of three creatures moving around her. Not just moving. Surrounding. She reached for her shortsword. “Who’s there?”, she demanded. She thought she sounded intimidating. From the smoke, three figures appear around her, each about six and a half feet tall—at least a head taller than herself. At first glance, the figures appeared to be women, but it quickly became clear that they only used to be. Rirosorchalwen could barely make out their blotched and bruised skin, but had no trouble at all noticing the empty sockets that used to house eyes. In response to her challenge, they opened their mouths, but could only hiss and cackle—they had no tongues. Not good. Rirosorchalwen considered which one she might attack first, perhaps throwing them off guard and allowing for an escape. But she had no idea which way to go. The hags advanced slowly. They were about twenty feet away, still mostly obscured by the smoke, apparently relishing in the opportunity before them. Rirosorchalwen cursed the smoke around her. Somehow it was preventing her from thinking straight. This has to be their doing. Why are they moving so slowly? Before she could realize the smoke was affecting the hags as well, one of them charged. Creak. No one had time to notice the sound. Rirosorchalwen raised her weapon to meet the coming threat. Then came a sound like an explosion and, before her eyes, the hag seemed to disappear. In its place was a large trunk, about as wide as a person, but oddly proportioned and formed from knotted wood. Beneath the mass of wood, she could see the hag… well, some of it. Actually, most of it now seemed to be strewn about where it had just been standing. The shock of what she just witnessed drowned out the earth-shaking sound of the former threat being crushed ten feet away from her. Creeeak. She tried looking up at the… tree? Or was it a large branch? The force of the impact had blown much of the smoke away, but it quickly began to fill back in. As she followed the shape to its source, it began to move. The smoke was thicker than ever now. She could barely see, but it was hard to miss the knotted wood rise above her and smash the ground again, this time in a different area about twenty feet away. Isn’t that where a hag… There was the sound of another explosion, followed by what could only be the start of a scream before it was cut short. A third explosion. Same spot. This time, she managed to fully comprehend the volume of the strikes. What could possibly…? Again, she thought it wise to leave. Still unsure of which way was the correct one, she turned around and began to run. Creeeak. A few steps later, she almost ran into something, but managed to stop just a couple feet before running into it. Oh, the third hag. She was expecting it to attack her with the same hiss as before. Instead, the only sound it made was a scream. Later, Rirosorchalwen would swear it sounded almost like a twisted, gurgling “Nooooooooooo!”, before being smashed into the ground like the others in an explosion that almost knocked Rirosorchalwen off her feet. In front of her was the same tree… something… as before. This time it didn’t move, but she could hear a faint creak. The smoke began to fade a bit and she looked up, following the shape in front of her and over her head to a larger shape behind where she stood. As she had suspected, the thing that crushed the hags was indeed a tree… or part of one. The “arm” part to be precise. Looking behind her now, and up several feet, she saw a large face looking down at her. Spread across it was the biggest smile she had ever seen. “Fooooooliiishhh haaagsss”2, he spoke with a lazy drawl.

2 Not translated from Common

Apparently, Rirosorchalwen was never in any danger that night, as it was not she who had wandered into hag territory, but they who had carelessly chosen to enter the nearly thirty-foot tall kapre’s. That was the proper name for this huge tree who was her new instructor, although he introduced himself as “Oakfist”. He even admitted that he came up with the name himself, so Rirosorchalwen wasted no time thinking about the implausibility of such a name being given normally. It’s still pretty cool, she thought. Roots and branches knotted across his body to form what looked like muscles and his many ember-like eyes burned with a warm glow. Rirosorchalwen wondered if trees even needed muscles or if it was just a convenient coincidence. What he didn’t need, she thought, was that thing in his mouth—the source of his constant smoke and her annoyance. It was about two feet long and burned slowly, apparently wrapped in some kind of special material and containing a particular kind of leaves. A “cigar”, he called it. With it, Oakfist could usually confuse those entering his territory, allowing him to catch them off guard after assessing any threat. He meant no harm to good creatures, but this deep in the forest, nasty things were everywhere. According to him, kapres are mostly pacifists, but somehow she got the idea that he was an anomaly who simply used his circumstances as an excuse for getting into fights with evil creatures. He clearly enjoyed it, as she learned over their many excursions. As it turned out, the stories about the deeper forest being plagued with all sorts of threats were very true. However, thanks to Oakfist’s patrols—who was somehow even faster than she was—most were tracked down and smashed into the earth or beaten badly enough that they kept away for a while. It might seem odd for a creature so big to teach one so much smaller than itself to fight, but he was certainly not lacking in enthusiasm. One may even think the sight of a huge tree and a young elf rushing through the forest to brawl a pack of leucrottas or troop of baregaras comical if the fate of the forest didn’t potentially hang in the balance. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem as if anything could match Oakfist and he made sure to have plenty of fun as he taught Rirosorchalwen how to fight without the weapons she was used to.

Eventually, however, she had to ask, “What happens when I try to fight something as big as you alone? It doesn’t matter how strong I am then, does it?” Oakfist nodded and opened his mouth to speak, cigar holding its usual position. Why doesn’t it ever fall out of his mouth!? “Ssstrrrooonnng nnnooo mmmaaatterrr. Fooollooowww Oooaaakfiiist.” Rirosorchalwen followed the tree to a medium-sized pond in a relatively safe part of the forest. “Fiiight liiike theeem”, he said, motioning to a group of cranes standing around the edge of the water. “Like a bird?”, she asked. Birds usually got eaten or flew away, she thought. “Nnnooot liiike biiirrrd”, Oakfist explained. “Liiike thooossse biiirrrd.” She didn’t quite get it, but he did seem to know what he was talking about, so she approached one of the cranes. It turned its head to look at her. She turned around to her teacher. “I don’t want to hurt them…”, Rirosorchalwen started to object, but was cut off by Oakfist’s thundering laugh. HAAA HAAA!!!” Each sound was drawn out in a way that would have sounded very unnatural for a normal creature, but she had gotten used to his speech by now. “Tooouuuchhh biiirrrd iiif caaannn!”, he continued laughing to himself and, rather loudly, sat himself down as if preparing for a show. The cranes didn’t seem to mind. Rirosorchalwen figured if Oakfist wasn’t worried about her hurting the birds, they would be ok if she just held back a bit.
Lunging for the one in front of her, she knew she was too close for it to get away by flying. Instead of her grabbing it, the crane moved its head out of the way and spread its wings, knocking her arm back. Heeeyyy! How did it…? Okay, maybe a wing… The crane stepped aside and hit her arm with one of its claws. Behind her, Oakfists laughter grew noticeably louder. Hmmm. Maybe if I grab its whole body at once… She dove, but the crane dodged backwards and pecked her in the head with its beak as she fell into the shallow water. Ow! She instinctively drew her hand to her head, feeling the area that was just poked. Oakfist was clearly enjoying this, almost rolling over as he held his sides and laughed his slow, loud laugh. Rirosorchalwen began wringing out her clothes as well as she could. A few moments later, Oakfist managed to somewhat compose himself. “Leeeaaarrrnnn mmmooovvve liiike biiirrrd. Thhheeennn nnnooo ooonnne tooouuuchhh yyyooouuu.” And so, for the next several weeks, Rirosorchalwen returned to the lake each day after her studies and watched the cranes.

Sometimes Oakfist came to watch, other times he was indisposed fighting this-and-otherworldly creatures. One day, apparently satisfied with her progress, Oakfist told her to return the next day with a weapon. She had become quite accustomed to not using one now, but remembered that they were also part of her overall training. “Leeeaaarrrnnn gooooood trrriiick”, he promised, followed by a big smile.
And so she arrived the following day, sword in hand. “You’re not gonna tell me to fight them with a sword, are you?”, addressing the mighty tree who was waiting for her. “Nnnooo fiiight biiirrrd tooodaaayyy. Fooolllooowww.” Relieved that she didn’t have to swing a sword at the poor cranes, although she wasn’t sure at least one of them didn’t deserve it, Rirosorchalwen started to worry when her teacher led her deeper into the forest than she had ever been. She knew there was a reason why he didn’t have her accompany him to this part before. As they marched, Oakfist brought up something they’d never discussed previously, “Eeelllf mmmaaagiiic gooooood, yyyeeesss? Yyyyooouuu stuuudyyy mmmuuuchhh.”
“Umm, yes, my parents make sure I practice a lot. I’m not sure I’m very good though.”
“Oooaaakfiiissst heeeaaarrr yyyooouuu gooooood liiightnnniiinnng.”
Rirosorchalwen blushed slightly and smiled. “I’m better at those, I suppose. But it’s hard to use spells and a weapon.” She placed a hand on the sword at her side, wondering what would be expected of her today. Oakfist merely nodded with approval, puffing contentedly on his cigar.
A couple hours later, they stopped. creeeak. Oakfist knelt down to whisper to Rirosorchalwen. “Eeelllf mmmaaagiiic gooooood. Ooonnniii aaalllsssooo mmmaaagiiic. Caaarrrefuuulll”. It wasn’t much of a whisper, but he did his best. Motioning to a cave just within sight, Rirosorchalwen tried to discern what it was she was meant to see. There was a light coming from within the cave. It looked like someone had built a fire within. “Ooonniii iiinnnsssiiide. Nnnooo beeelllooonnng heeeerrrre. Mmmooovvve liiike biiirrrd. Wwwaaatchhh ooonnniii mmmaaagic. Dooo wwwhaaat ooonnniii dooo. Nnnooo wwwooorrrrrryyy. Oooaaakfiiissst wwwiiithhh yyyooouuu.”
So she was to fight this “oni”, learning something from it in the process. She wasn’t sure if that meant she was to face this creature alone—if she even could. Still, she aimed to do her best and not let her teacher down.
Entering the cave, she stood tall, like she had learned from the cranes. Oakfist approached with unexpected grace, making only slight tremors with each step, stopping before the entrance, nodding her onward. Rirosorchalwen didn’t have to wait long to find out what this oni looked like. She never saw one before and would have thought it some kind of ettin due to its two heads. It stood about fourteen feet tall and was facing the back wall. It soon sensed her presence though, grabbing a double axe before turning to face her. Recognizing an intruder, one of the heads roared in rage. If she hadn’t already planned to wait before initiating her attack, this sight would have certainly given her pause. One of its heads looked like that of a typical brutish humanoid and yelled something at her in a language she didn’t understand. The other head had three eyes and was adorned with tattoos and gems. Weird. The second head didn’t speak, but the arm not holding the axe made some motions she recognized. It’s casting a spell. A moment later, the head of the axe in the other hand erupted in electricity. Whoa! How did it do that? She didn’t have time to think about it as the oni charged, swinging its axe back and forth. The cave had plenty of room, so the oni’s movements were unobstructed, but Rirosorchalwen’s relative small size did provide some advantage dodging the large creature’s attacks. She had to fight back though. Then, she remembered what Oakfist said. Holding her free arm in its defensive posture, she motioned with her hand like she had seen the oni do. Unlike other times she had cast the spell though, this time she tried to focus the casting into her sword.
Electricity burst forth, surrounding her blade the same as the oni’s. That seemed to catch it off guard, causing it to momentarily hold its attack. It worked! She figured that was as good a chance as any. Rirosorchalwen moved to strike, but the oni quickly recovered and swung again with its superior reach. She let the axe come, catching its uncharged haft with her forward free hand, deflecting the weapon and striking back with her blade. Got him! Her sword hit its mark, discharging the held electricity. It didn’t seem to do much…
Behind her, Rirosorchalwen heard Oakfist’s stomping approach. From the corner of her eye, she saw a knotted arm the size of the oni itself connect with its upper half, sending the oni crashing into the cave wall. Oakfist could barely fit in the large cave, but wasted no time pressing the assault and obliterating the oni before it could recover. She wondered if he might bring the cave down around them. Either way, she decided it best to give him his space…
Outside the cave, Rirosorchalwen waited for her teacher to exit. She didn’t have to wait long. After a few moments of smashing, he returned with a triumphant grin. “Diiid gooooood! Leeeaaarrrnnn gooooood trrriiick?”
“Yeah, I had no idea I could do that!”
“Oooaaakfiiissst knnnooowww.”
“I guess I’m still not good enough to fight an oni by myself though…”
“Haaa haaa! Liiittllle ooonnne nnnooot fiiight ooonnniii fooorrr looonnng tiiimmme. Sssooommme daaayyy. Tooodaaayyy juuussst leeeaaarrrnnn iiisss gooooood.”
Yes, that was enough for today, wasn’t it? As they headed back toward home, Rirosorchalwen reflected on what she had learned and wondered what excitement tomorrow would bring.

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