mysticrealms
Oct 20, 2017

Evermoore - October 2017 - Prologue

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A VILLAGE CLOSE TO EVERMOORE

 

The Village Elder gathered the children around him and began to speak in a low whisper that made the children tremble with fright.

 

“October is when the veil between the living and the dead . . . the past and the present . . . is at its thinnest. It is a time of haunting . . . and a time of horror. . . . Only the brave come to Evermoore near the end of October. Evermoore, children, is the haunted heart of this world . . .”

 

“Why?” asked the Children, even though many of them knew the reason, for their village elder told these stories every year.

 

“The Crystal City of Evermoore was sacked by the Orcs, Klactons, and Pythians during the bloody month of October,” whispered the old man. “The world remembers the Fall of Evermoore as a festering wound of evil that has never healed. We live in the Valley of Rainbows . . . close to the Inn at Evermoore. More blood has soaked into that ground than any other place within this realm.”

 

“Tell us the stories,” cried the Children.

 

The old man’s voice was low. “There was a Warder who blasphemed the teaching of Natallis by joining his soul with the primal essence of a wolf.” The children shrunk away in terror as he continued. “It was during the dark days following the Fall of Evermoore that the Warder, grieving for the destruction of the Five and the end of the Dream of Peace, began his own war against the Orcs, Klactons and Pythians.”

 

“In a bloody rite so foul and evil, this wayward warder merged himself with a wolf and became a demon of vengeance. He would rage through the countryside surrounded by packs of snarling wolves and kill all who did not worship the Five. He was eventually hunted down and killed, but as he died he swore to return on the anniversary of the Fall of Evermoore to kill all those not following the Way of the Five.”

 

“And every fall, when the leaves turn golden-red and the chill winds begin to blow, his spirit reforms into the cursed demonic essence that terrorizes the lands around Evemoore until it is killed by Guildsmen.”

 

“Some say you can survive the encounter by holding up the symbol of the five and speaking their names in reverence and faith. Others tell that the Wolf-Warder can see into your heart and knows if you truly follow the Way of the Five. The Wolf-Warder knows if you follow the tenants of balance, harmony, freedom, law, and love.”

 

“What happened if you don’t live that way?”

 

“Then,” said the old man with a bit of melodrama, “Then, the Wolf-Warder eats you alive.”

 

The children cried in mock terror and then demanded, “Tell us another story.”

 

“Do you want to hear the story about why the goblins hang pumpkins in the trees? Or the story about why so many scarecrows come to life around Evermoore?”

 

“Both!” cried the children. “Please, please. Tell us both stories.”

mysticrealms
Oct 20, 2017

THE EAST COAST OF SHORIA

 

Alone with his thoughts, Philosopher Po sat on a bench in the meditation garden, feeling every year of his long life. The fall flowers bloomed red, their color almost matching the slippers he wore on his feet. A gentle breeze blew the leaves that were just starting to turn brown. The air was crisp and cool, and the sun was warm on his aging skin. Off in the distance he could hear the faint rolling of the ocean surf and the squawk of sea birds. Life was so peaceful here in Shoria away from the hustle and bustle of the Isle of Lore.

 

“Venerable One,” spoke a young lad wearing the livery of a messenger of the Temple of the Mournful Sparrow. “A letter has come to you from Guildhall.”

 

Po sighed, reaching his thin fingered hand out to take the letter. He carefully broke the wax seal and began reading, while the lad stood fidgeting.

 

Po lowered the letter. “Do you need something?”

 

“I was wondering if the rumors were true?”

 

“What rumors are those?” Po asked, kindly.

 

“Were you really a Wizard Loremaster of Guildhall and did you truly sit on the Council of Lore?” The boy’s eyes were wide with wonder.

 

“Yes,” replied Po, “To both of your questions, but that was a long time ago. More than twenty years. In fact, the last vote I ever made as a member of that esteemed Council of Lore was the vote to reopen the Inn at Evermoore.”

 

“That was 997 of the Age of Order,” gasped the boy.

 

“You know your history well,” Po said.

 

“I have to know history, because history is an endlessly repeating cycle,” spoke the boy, obviously remembering his many lectures by the priests of the temple. “Each generation will make the same hurtful actions as the previous generation, over and over, shattering lives, breaking friendships, and eventually tearing the world apart in war and strife. The only way we can avoid repeating the actions is to learn from our past and break the cycle. With wisdom and understanding, we can forge a new history of growth and prosperity.”

 

“Well said, young man,” spoke Po. Then his voice drifted off, as old men often do. “Al’tar Shariz of the Cleric’s Guild used the exact same argument to convince the Loremasters to reopen the Inn at Evermoore. He insisted that we must embrace our past to better our future. I can still remember him standing before the Council eloquently arguing his points. He was dressed in his black desert garb. Those rags he always wore, flowing robes, a cloth wrapping on his head, and a tattered cape. He was so unlike anyone else in that room, but I knew he would be a man to impact the world.”

 

The boy was quiet for a long time. He did not fidget, but he did not leave. Finally Po asked, “Is there something else?”

 

“What did the letter say?”

 

“You are an inquisitive child?”

 

“Sorry,” apologized the boy, still looking expectantly at Po.

 

“The letter from Guildhall,” explained Po, “Asked me to go to the Inn at Evermoore and conduct an investigation of the energy there. You see last spring the Guildsmen of Evermoore released Chaos energy into the world to avoid a cataclysmic explosion. There have been widespread subtle effects changing the world as we know it. I have sensed the changes here in Shoria. They are surely more pronounced in Evermoore. The Loremasters want me to confirm the findings of the secret study that was conducted over the summer by Kendrick Kane and other scholars before the results are publically announced.”

 

mysticrealms
Oct 20, 2017

LOCATION: A Village in the Forlorne Mountains

 

Hallow was a small village that had been recently established. The town was established in the dangerous and ever-shifting Forlorne Mountains. The village found its economy in trapping. Every day was a new environment and new hunt. Every day gave rare pelts and different plants: rhino hides, seal pelts, crocodile hides, mammoth pelts, fresh ice, clay, drake scales, and beetle shells. Though commoners often had difficulty with taking down dangerous arcane animals and plants, snares and traps made quick work of the dangerous beasts. Traders, wagoners, and trappers would move into the village to buy and sell goods then move on.

At night, the village would shift into a new life. Gaseous domains of sleep would fill the innkeeper’s rooms. Guests in the village were kept unaware of its true nature. The villagers would move outside and don their cultist attire: purple hoods and religious symbols marked with the pattern of a cobra’s hood. The Cult of Shivakas would then conduct their espionage and warfare on Guildhall. Those that had infiltrated the compound would have their contacts relay information to the village. New information was sent to the infiltrators to further usurp Guildhall’s hold on the Evermoore area.

At the smallest house in the village, where the supposed “village idiot” lived, the leader of the cult had laid out his plans and belongings. Phage walked to the village square every evening followed by a massive snake, and held a sermon for his deity. Shivakas was a winged massive monstrosity that searched for entry into the Realm of the Five. Occasionally, the cultists would capture a Guildsman to cut their heart out and devour it to gain power.

Normally, Phage was calm, collected, and emotionless. As of late Phage was distraught and full of rage. Another cult had infiltrated Guildhall as well. What should have been an easy victory became a complicated three way battle between the Cult of D’Khar, Guildhall, and the Cult of Shivakas.

mysticrealms
Oct 20, 2017

LOCATION: A chapel in the guildhall compound

Brothers and sisters of Guildhall that had turned their back on their oath gathered in a small chapel in the compound. They had found a quicker method to mastery. They worshiped a different being. A described “Dark God” that siphoned power from other religions with deception, secrecy, treachery. The leader projected its thoughts and plans into their heads via remote rituals. The shadowed form never dropped its rituals of disguise and mask. The war against Shivakas was going well. The war against Guildhall was going well. D’khar would be most pleased once it was roused from its slumber. Soon D’khar’s writing form would plague the world. Soon the Cult would have enough power to make its move. Soon Evermoore would belong to its true owner.

The hidden cultists moved back to their families, guilds, and jobs. They waited for the signal to strike.

mysticrealms
Oct 20, 2017

PLAYER PROLOGUE Roulette, Played by Nick Gish, Melissa Buccine, Gabriella Kenny, Matthew Miller, Kathleen Burns, James Thompson

 

Ridge Creek Village, SOMEWHERE IN THE WESTERN FORLORN MOUNTAINS

 

Dawn broke over a Ridge Creek village, a small farming town in the mountainside. As the sun continued to rise the voices of the villagers could be heard as people began getting ready to work for the day. It was a quiet morning and far from the hustle and bustle of big towns like Evermoore. Tradesmen were a rare sight in this tiny community. But they had been graced with a special guest during last evening.

 

Slowly the glowing form of an Avatar roused themselves as the morning sun shone uncomfortably in their eyes. Begrudgingly, the figure grabbed the sheets to slip out of the comfortable bed and began to dress for the day, strapping on their weapons as quietly as they could. They left behind the sleepy commoner who was content to rest a while longer after an exciting night or perhaps someone who had been kind enough to grant them shelter for the night. The Avatar decided to let the commoner rest a while longer.

 

As the morning continued the Avatar walked through the village, weapons strapped to their back, ignoring the looks of fear and admiration gracing the faces of those they met. Whispers filled the air of comedy pawns being in the area.

 

“Please, please, sir Roulette.” Cried a small Beard’on woman with reddish brown hair running up to their glowing, white robed form. “There are some Comedy pawns along the edge of town and they have taken my son!”

 

A somber nod was given, “Nothing to worry about. Guildhall’s justice will be swift and merciless.”

 

Once Roulette gathered as much information about where the child was last seen from the mother, they left the village proper to head into the woods. They investigated around and found several tracks of a larger being and a smaller being dragged behind them. Now that they had a direction, quickly they went deeper into the woods, practically sprinting towards the sound of jingling and giggling.

 

“Now, now, don’t be a spoiled sport,” said the high pitched voice of a jingly hatted man in a blue sequined domino mask. He was dragging a sobbing Beard’on behind him by this beard. “You’re going to serve a higher purpose. You should be honored.”

 

“What do you think you are doing?” growled Roulette, their hand gripping the sword and rage increasing the fire in their eyes.

 

The pawn straightened up, but the grin never left his face. “Doing a gods’ work, I swear.” He said, saluting the glowing form with one hand while holding on to the child with his off hand.

 

“Let him go and we’ll give you a merciful death.” The Avatar advanced forward slowly, steadily.

 

“Now, now don’t do anything stupid.” The pawn said, pulling the child forward. He met Roulette’s eyes as he grabbed the dagger on his belt. He yanked the child up against him to hold a knife to his throat.

 

The child’s eyes were wide and terrified as the blade pressed against the delicate skin of their neck. When the avatar continued to step forward with their measured pace, the pawn pulled the child closer to them and a thin line of blood appeared as the knife pressed a little firmer against it.

 

Roulette stopped moving and stood a few feet away from the pawn. Their glowing presence lit up the trees around them, but the glow in their eyes when they focused on the pawn seemed to brighten.

 

“I won’t,” said the god.

 

Roulette reached behind them to a hidden knife and flung it with deadly force. In a less skilled hand the knife would have fallen flat, but this was no mere mortal man throwing the knife- the blade found its home between the pawn’s eyes.

 

The pawn slumped down dead behind the child, the domino mask split apart where the knife hit.

Roulette stood still as the frightened child backed away from the form of the living god. A look of kindness and pity entered into their eyes.

 

“Go on. Get yourself back to your mother. She’s worried sick about you.”

 

The child looked at the bloody corpse of the pawn once more before running with all speed back home.

 

“Now everybody!” The Avatar said to the spirits that danced around their head, “We have more Comedy to hunt. They will not terrorize anyone else if the god of justice has anything to do with it!”

New Posts
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 21, 2018

    PHILOSOPHER PO QUAY, EVERMOORE SUMMARY: Po sends a group of angry Shorians home and reaches out to the guildsmen of Evermoore to patrol the roads around the Ring Fort to try and deter the Stick-Killer from striking again. DRAMATIZATION: The mob of angry Shorians surged forward. Their leader was a big man, dressed in a fur-rimmed conical hat, a fur vest, and deer hide breeches held up by a belt of flat metal disks. He was from the steppes of Shoria and carried a large heavy curved sword with jingling rings set into the back edge. The others in the mob were Shorians from the northern coast wearing cloth jackets held closed with little knotted ties and Shorians from the southern coast wearing their jackets held closed by sashes around the waist. All were armed with make-shift weapons, mostly farming implements. Po Quay stood in their path and raised both hands. For a long moment he thought the mob of angry Shorians would try and push past him, perhaps even trample him in their frustration, but at the last moment they yielded, stopping an arms distance from him. “We are hunting the Stick-Killer!” shouted the man in front. “The murderers of our people must be found!” Other voices cried out in support. ‘What good will your anger do?” Po raised his hands to try and quiet them. “You are a mob who will do violence to anyone you find in these woods.” “We must do something,” shouted a woman from back. “Your anger is righteous,” Po told them, “but it is not productive.” The murders had started a month ago, Shorians and Asgarns killed on the road, by a maniac who left sticks at the scene of the crime. The bodies were beaten to death and horribly mutilated. Investigations revealed little. The killer or killers had wiped away any forensic evidence of their identity with swishing branches. The only clues were the sticks and the violence of the scene. “You will not find anything wandering these woods as you are.” “The land around the ring fort belongs to the Northern Confederation,” the big man looked down at Po. “We are going to question travelers.” “You do not need clubs, pitch forks, and axe handles to speak.” Po met their eyes, one by one. “We do if we meet the Stick-Killer,” boasted the big man. “You’ll never meet the Stick-Killer,” countered Po. “We have a right to patrol.” A small man stepped to the front of the group and addressed the big man. “Peng, Philosopher Po is right. We are doing no good out here, blundering down these trails. The killers will see or hear us coming and move into the shadows.” “Shut your coward mouth, Xing,” Peng raised a meaty fist. Xing was not intimidated. “Your anger is more than justified. Peng, your brother was among the slain. We all feel his loss, but truly, the only people we will find out here will be innocent travelers. We will accost innocent people to no purpose. While we are out here, our families are in danger.” “Xing has the right of it. Go home to your families,” said Po. “The guildsmen of Evermoore will be patrolling your roads. While you are out here uselessly wandering, your families are undefended. Protect them and leave the hunting of the Stick-Killers to the guildsmen of Evermoore.” “Let us all go home,” Xing implored them. “We can protect those who we love and let the guildsmen handle the roads.” Peng looked around him. Already his support was fading away. “Philosopher.” He spoke the word like a curse. “You talk overly much. Those of us who want action have sent for the Oathbound. There have not been Oathbound in Evermoore in many years so others think us easy prey. That will change when the Oathbound arrive.” Peng and the others left. Xing remained behind to confide in Po. “Peng is a sore man, but he speaks the truth. The Oathbound will not allow our people to be killed without an answer. They will demand blood for blood. Whoever did this will pay dearly when the Oathbound arrive with their retinues of honor and glory.” Po knew Xing spoke the truth. Though the Oathbound were honorable men and women, they took honor very serious. Their whole lives revolved around their oaths of service to a person or sometimes a cause. There were not as many Oathbound in Shoria today as their once were, but there are enough to make them a force in their society. Those who remained carried on a heritage established in the Age of Life. Their lore is steeped in mysticism and the people of Shoria idolize them. They wear colorful armor of cloth, cord, and laminate and carry two special swords pushed through a belt tied at their waist. The Oathbound would be hard to handle, but they could be managed so long as their honor was not offended. The real problem would be the Oathbroken. These are men and women with broken oaths coming for a chance to atone for their dishonor. They will come to Evermoore as well, following on the heels of the Oathbound, seeking to end their disgrace by doing some act of glory. Many Oathbroken are drunkards and criminals who have fallen far from the honor they once held. They are an uncontrolled, desperate element of Shorian society. “Perhaps we will be able to have the situation in hand by the time they arrive,” Po said. “That would be best.” Xing agreed. “You had best go home.” Po bowed to Xing who returned honor and withdrew, rushing home to his family. Po pulled his mana mirror from the pocket of his pants and began typing out a message, “Guildsmen of Evermoore. I spoke with many of you last market day and you promised to help patrol around the ring fort to protect the Shorian and Asgarn who live in the area. I would like to coordinate our efforts. If you will be spending the time between this market patrolling, please send me a message on this thread.” “I know many of you are already busy. Groups are researching the sticks to try and find out as much as possible about the Stick-Killer from academic sources. Others are dealing with the Karthydian problem, examining the maps discovered during the Sunday morning raid into the Tar Field in order to determine the locations of the nodes the Karthdyians will be trying to convert to Chaos. These task are very important and will likely require your full effort, but there were over 100 guildsmen at the last market and at least a dozen of you promised to help me.” “Guildmasters not researching the sticks or examining the map, gather your guilds and bring them to patrol. Those of you who have military orders, please assemble them. We may not stop every attack, but we can try. Guildsmen assemble!” [Out-of-Play Note: If you want your character to participate in the guarding of the roads around the Ring Fort send Philosopher Po a real-time, in-play message on this thread and your character can then roleplay at the event that you spent the intervening time protecting Shorians and Asgarns. The number of Guildsmen "patrolling" will affect the number of attacks that occur between the events so your between event activity will have a direct relation to your world.]
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 21, 2018

    February 2018 | Epilogue (4 Febris 1018 Sunday) “You WILL help and get them,” Shannon [ Kathleen Burns ] looked defiantly into Sabine’s eyes. The merriment of the Dance of Colors whirled around them. Sabine’s stomach turned. “Yes… I will,” she replied. Xanatos [ Alex Pertgen ] laid a kind hand on Sabine’s arm. “I’ll come with you.” He was instrumental in her freedom from Ionnes’s possession and was one of her biggest advocates. This consoled her. “And you have my help, as well, if you want it,” said a familiar voice from behind her. It was Rex [ Mark Ion ], another generous Guildsmen responsible for her return. “Hey! What are we doing?!” Piped up the cheery, musical voice of Tristan [ Robert Park ]. “Dance of Colors after-party? ...Xanadite style?” The tension roiling between Sabine and Shannon subsided for a moment as they both smiled at his suggestion. Shannon cleared her throat and regained her serious tone, “We’re freeing the remaining Tradesmen of the fight pits who are still imprisoned. Sabine has agreed to guide us there. We leave tomorrow afternoon.” Tristan nodded, “I’m in.” And so the plans were set. And their mission was clear. But that night Sabine didn’t sleep. Was it the silence? Ionnes’s furious voice was no longer filling up her mind for the first time in 6 months. He knew everything about her since he had been pretending to be her for so long. He had access to every memory, every fear, every dark corner of her, and even the food she liked and her favorite song. Was it wrong to say she… missed being so known? “No! No! No!” Guilt, shame, remorse; wash, rinse, repeat. The morning came and she rose out of duty, ready to begin her first day of atonement. Sabine stood in front of the Roasted Dragon Inn, waiting for Shannon, Xanatos, Rex, and Tristan as they said goodbye to their comrades gathering into their caravans to leave the Market Day. She absent-mindedly kicked the gravel to distract herself from her nerves. Knowing she’d soon look into the faces of those she had hurt… she kicked and kicked and kicked the stones. “Um… what are you doing?” A gentle, inquisitive voice asked. Sabine looked up and saw Lydia [ Valerie Fairchild ]… but it was Wisteria who looked back at her with a puzzled look on her face. “I’m, I…the rocks…” Sabine stammered lamely, caught off guard. Not a moment too soon, her party arrived. The three gentlemen greeted her with a smile, while Shannon frowned, all business. “Lead the way,” she said. “I’d like Lydi--Wisteria to come,” Sabine said. “Of course, we could always use more Guildsmen to free the imprisoned,” replied Shannon, “You alright to join us, Wisteria?” Wisteria nodded, still giving Sabine a curious, searching look. The party of 6 started on their journey into the Forlornes. Along the way to pass the time, the group started a discussion about what it means to be a Xanadite. “Well, of course Xanadites have more fun--” laughed Tristan. Xanatos shared his experiences when it came to worship, and even had Sabine blushing. Shannon recalled one version of Xanadu’s creation story, “As the story goes, Noctis sacrificed himself for the creation of Xanadu so that brother would not turn against brother, and that the Age of Order would last for eternity.” Rex, though not a Xanadite like his other 5 companions, showed a lively interest in the lore. Lydia--Wisteria--remained in silent rumination. For the most part their journey was undeterred, though they did encounter the occasional hungry Cold beast. Finally, after weaving through miles of densely grown trees, Sabine stopped at a cave. They were standing in a deeply forested area, so canvased with tall, old evergreens that it made their midday journey appear like a shadowy twilight. “Here we are,” said Sabine, beginning to unlatch a ring of keys from her belt. Her hands shook. The unusually night-like afternoon and the chill in the air sent a eerie tingle down everyone’s spine. Rex lit a lantern, and the party entered the dark cave. Something was wrong. Whenever Ionnes had possessed Sabine to come here, the pleading, tired voices of the prisoners was the first thing she heard. She waited for those voices, their curses, their prayers. In a panic, she stole the lantern from Rex’s hand and ran ahead with it to the captured Tradesmen’s cells. The warm light of the lantern cast down onto empty cells, doors swung open. Sabine’s eyes widened and she fell to her knees on the earthen floor. The rest of the party caught up to her and examined the dozen empty cells. “Where are they?” Asked Shannon. “I don’t know…” Sabine replied softly. Shannon saw the devastated look on Sabine’s face and asked gently, “Are they somewhere else? Do you have more holding cells? Who else knew about them?” Sabine replied, “No more cells, I’m sorry, I don’t know…” she stared with unfocused eyes at the cell before her. “Could this help?” Lydia/Wisteria’s gentle voice chimed in from the dark. She walked over to Sabine and held out a note. “It was tied to a cell.” Illuminated under the lantern light, Xanatos crouched down next to Sabine and read the note aloud: [Attached as Image] Shannon was the first to speak, “Freya [ Kat A Lindia ]… I helped to dispel her subservience last night. She inspired me to come here with you, to save these Tradesmen.” Sabine still seemed to be in a daze. Xanatos spoke up in the dark cave, his words almost haunting, “She wasn’t looking for reconciliation when you dispelled her, Shannon. She was looking for revenge.” Shannon’s matter-of-fact response rang in Sabine’s ears: “Yeah, pretty obvious. She said she wanted to kill Sabine…”
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 2, 2018

    Aiden Skalgi Isle of Asgarn 1 Febris 1018 A.Order The long ship with the red dragon prow was still sliding along the dock when Aiden Skalgi leapt over the rail. He landed on the wooden planks and pushed through the crowd, hurrying toward the shore. His guardsmen followed him, one falling, the others cursing as they tried to keep up with him. Aiden laughed. It was good to be home. He passed a group of soldiers from Shorian and Kell. He paused to thank them for coming to protect his people. A Shorian officer saluted him. Instead of returning the salute, he clapped the man on his shoulder and told him to come by the great hall. “There will be celebration tonight.” Aiden knew where he would find his family. They would be far from the docks, likely outside of the city, gathered in a camp with others from their town. Poor folk from the outlying communities didn’t have money to purchase rooms in town, so he headed out of the city with his guardsmen trotting behind him. His old friend, Gistav, had picked the guards, all young axmen from noble families wanting to become great through association with him. He did not know them well, but there would be time to win them over and ensure their loyalty. If not, Gistav intended to use them as hostages against their fathers should any raise their axes against Aiden’s claim. None of that was important right now. The only thing that mattered to him was finding his family. He asked directions at the first ramshackle camp he found and was told where to find the people from his village. He could no longer jog. The pace was not fast enough. He broke into a run. He crested a hill and saw a familiar tent. He recognized faces, people from his village. He hollered down to them and his run became a sprint. A few people looked in his direction. His guardsmen hurried to keep pace, some of them falling back. He didn’t care. Thora, his wife, stepped from the tent. She brushed a strand of hair out of her face, looking around to see what the commotion was. Then, her eyes met his. She started to run. They met on the road. Embracing. Kissing. She held his cheeks. “Don’t ever leave again!” she told him. “I won’t,” he promised. His son, Arvid, reached them and wrapped his arms around them both. “Father,” he cried. There were tears on the boys face, but Aiden did not chastise him for being weak, as he generally did. The boy would never be a fighter and that was all right. He had decided that if Arvid wanted to be a scholar, then he would send the boy to Guildhall. Aiden looked toward the tent. His daughter Disa was limping toward them on her twisted leg, carrying a practice shield and wooden sword. After a short distance, she dropped them in the road in order to hurry. Disa wanted to be a shield maiden, so she would never cry in front of him. He could see the emotion in her face as he embraced her. She was his favorite. His tough little girl, crippled at birth by the gods so cruel, but never giving up on her dream. His family stood together, holding each other for a long time. The fighting men and women of their village started to trickle in. Other families joined in happy reunions, knots of laughter along the road. A few would not be returning and he heard the grief stricken wails. Their sorrow cut him deeply, but he pushed it away. It was not his fault. He had forced no man or woman to accompany him on the raid to the Dale. They had come on Gunther’s promise of riches and died for that mad fool’s greed. Aiden had picked up the pieces and brought them all home. If not for him and the Guildsmen of Evermoore, they’d still be killing and dying their way across the Dale. “Let’s go home,” Thora said to him, she looked longingly toward the high mountains, far inland from the coast. Towards the village he had once ruled. It had been a poor place and he had no wish to return there. “To our drafty house?” he asked her with a grin. “To our farm of rocks?” She would not meet his eyes. “Let’s just go home and make do,” she said at last. “Arvin?” asked Aiden. “What about you wanting to be a scholar.” The young man shook his head. “I’ll help on the farm. You and mother can’t do it alone.” “Let’s go home father,” said Disa. “I can practice sword and shield anywhere. I’m ready for you to teach me some more of your tricks.” “I am sure you are.” He tussled her hair. She dodged away, stumbling slightly on her leg. A stumble like that in a real fight would mean her death. “I practice every day,” she insisted. “She does,” affirmed Thora, but there was a sadness in her voice because she knew that a crippled girl would never be a shield maiden. She would never pass the tests, and if she did, death would find her quickly. “Then let’s go home,” he told them, smiling large to hide his concern. They gathered their things. Aiden helped them, stuffing threadbare blankets, an old pot, five chipped plates, and mis-matched flatware into one sack. Some worn clothes went into the other. The bedding was tied into bundles and soon they stood in front of their tent. Arvin and Disa moved to take it down. “Leave it,” Aiden told them. “Let’s go home.” He started walking back toward the city. His family did not follow. “Come along,” he motioned. “Father,” said Disa, laughing. “Our house is that way.” “No,” Aiden said firmly. “In that direction was the place where four of my children starved, sickened, and died. Our home is this way.” Thora sighed, shook her head. “Aiden,” she said in the voice she used when he carried a joke too far. “We are done with raiding. You were right. Let’s just go home. Children take down the tent.” Arvin and Disa pulled out the stakes and the cloth fell in on itself. Aiden crossed his arms and waited as the children worked. Gistav walked up with another group of raiders returning to their loved ones. Gistav had never married. He always said, ‘why have one woman when you can have many.’ He was Aiden’s oldest friend. His house was down the street from theirs. He was a carpenter by trade, but fancied himself a bard. He’d spend so much time with Aiden and his family that Thora often remarked he was like another child for her to care for. “Thanks for waiting on the docks,” grumbled Gistav. The large man was out of breath. “I bet you ran the whole way.” “I did,” Aiden replied. “I guess I would have run too if I had Thora to come back to.” Gistav laughed loudly at his joke. “Hello Thora.” “I’m glad you’re not dead.” Thora told him. “What are they doing?” asked Gistav, pointing to the children. “Packing our tent,” Aiden shrugged. “I see that,” Gistav shook his head. “But why?” “My wife told them too. They always listen to her more than they listen me.” The people in the village were beginning to gather around them. Strange looks of awe on their faces. Some were talking to Aiden’s guardsmen. Others were gesturing toward Aiden and looking back to the town. “Children,” said Gistav. “Come over here.” “We are working,” Disa said, indignantly folding the tent. They never listened to Gistav. Gistav walked over and stepped on the cloth. “You don’t need this old tent.” Disa stood up. “You’re in the way.” Her voice was cross, but she was not angry. Gistav always teased her. “We need that tent to get home.” She pushed his ample belly, but he did not move. “You are home child,” Gistav told her. “Look there.” He pointed to the high house on the hill overlooking the town, dead king Harjen’s Hall with its beautiful woodwork and magnificent views. “That is where you live now. Your father is our King.”

2017 by Mystic Realms, LTD.

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