5 On Friday: My Excerpts!

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve selected five excerpts from my fan-fiction-related short story for today’s installment of my “Five on Friday” posts, in preparation for a more regular schedule of my writings. I also added a few new screen-shots for the viewing enjoyment of all!

I hope that your respective weekends are off to a great start. Mine certainly is!

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Festivities: This excerpt details some of the goings-on during a celebratory dinner.

Comeuppance: Revenge is a dish best served cold, as detailed in this brief tale.

Seclusion: Self-driven solitude is a necessity, at times – for the protection of others, as well as oneself.

The Wild Hunt: A cure for an illness comes in an unexpected ritual.

The Entertainer: Confidence can be earned, and learned, from the most obscure sources.

Tuesday Tuneage…6 June 2017! (Re-blogged)

Enjoy this re-blog of some recent Tuesday Tuneage – I’m going to be busy as hell through to the end of this month!

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Random Ramblings; Myriad Musings

I heard two of these songs on the radio today, and figured that a musical post was in order! Busy, busy, busy week already…but loads of fun!

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Excerpt: Emergence – Part II

*** Author’s Note: The story that this excerpt is from is completed. Now comes the fun of submissions, endless calls and emails to editors, agents, and others in the publishing industry; and the all-too-common rejection that all new writers face! It don’t come easy…

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The bloated behemoth shambles towards her, gnashing rotted, crooked stumps in a lipless, triangular mouth set in a scarred, twisted face. Three cloned miniatures weave dazedly at its feet as they crash to the ground, then stand and lurch forward in unison. Sepultur’a darts to the side of the titan, clutching at the air again and bringing forth the dragon-talons. The smaller golems are immobilized by her grasp and she somersaults through them, knocking them flat. One vanishes in a shriek of blue flame, which blazes off towards a black diamond hovering in the air in the northern quadrant of the dolmen. The blue sphere explodes in the diamond, which shatters into a purple ball of lightning. She feels stored energy and life radiating from the sparking globe – it could be of use to her. Three other diamonds hover at the other compass-points in the other quadrants of the anchor-base, waiting to be filled and unlocked.

The two other flesh golems have regained their footing and are lunging at her again. Their mighty cousin sweeps his spiked arm around and down, attempting to smash her into a broken, bloody mess on the ground. She rolls to the side, just barely avoiding the blow. The spiked arm slams straight down, and the massive body heaves as the arm pulses, driving noxious poison into the earth below. Sepultur’a is able to sense the direction the toxins are being driven and runs around the center anchor towards the gigantic golem from behind, grabbing a discarded staff that had been dropped by one of the doomed cultists. It tingles in her hands with healing properties, a soft golden aura glowing at its tip. She waves it and golden motes shower down like dandelion fluff, healing her small wounds and cauterizing the large ones. Residual toxins in her lungs are removed and she takes a deep breath, siphoning the remaining life-energy of the weakened midgets. Her explosive exhale finishes them off; two of the diamonds shatter into purple spheres of lightning. Three now hover at the northern, western, and southern quadrants. The power and energy they contain is palpable.

The massive, twisted mutant has freed its appendage from the ground and turns, emitting a low groan of rage as it focuses its malevolent gaze on its target. Sepultur’a bares her teeth in response, hurling another obsidian ball at it. The projectile shatters on its patchwork hide; she quickly gathers the fragments, again shrouding herself in stone. Turning, she grasps the sphere of lightning that is now behind her and absorbs the latent power, gasping at the intensity of the energizing, healing shock. She screams an ancient battle-cry and stamps the ground, drawing upon the foundations of the bedrock to become an immobile pillar of iron will. The massive arm swings down at her again – and rebounds, rocking the giant mass of flesh back on its thick, stumpy legs. She points the staff at her foe, drawing upon the life-energy imbued in the wood. A beam shoots forth, hitting the golem and siphoning power from it, restoring her nearly-depleted resources. Rejuvenated, she rolls between its legs and behind it, feeling her new powers surging. She gives in to the battle-roar surging inside and transforms, the now-familiar sensation of twisting bone and knotting muscle wracking her slender frame. What was painful on the first try is now exquisite pleasure and she bays to the sky, howling a command. The titan staggers, turns halfway, and rams its arm into the ground for another subterranean attack.

From the darkness, two wolves rush into the fray, harassing and worrying the golem, tearing at the barrel-like legs as they dart between them, drawing the attention of the enemy. Sepultur’a rushes around the anchor’s base and attacks the golem from behind, leaping to the shoulders and slashing at the neck and throat. The golem waves its arms helplessly, unable to reach the fury on its back and losing focus on the wolves at its feet. With a mournful moan, the titanic golem falls face-first to the ground, vanishing with a horrendous scream of pain and rage. The residual energy pours into the final diamond, shattering it with a deafening crack and roar. Sepultur’a, still in beast-form, lopes to the remaining spheres and absorbs the power within them. New health pours into her and her lupine companions, even as a taunting voice rumbles from the whirling blue-white light above.

“Filth! You dare defy me? Let’s see how you fare against one of my generals. Face the Ever-Open Eye, my greatest spy!” The ground rocks with impact. A shape explodes and slowly coalesces into an ancient, yet familiar, form. Sepultur’a has seen creatures like this in the books in the family library, as well as dusty tomes in the various academies dotting the land. Her people refer to them as ‘Beholders;’ others call them ‘Watchers,’ and archaic etchings named them ‘Gazers.’ Whatever the name, the shape and powers remain the same: a spherical being with a great, glaring eye in the center of its round, tentacle body. The appendages could be short and squirming, or long, thick vines with spatulate, suckered ends for grabbing its victims. The eye would intermittently blast out hypnotizing rays which would stun one into immobility if struck. Another attack favored was the wrapping itself with its own tentacles, then whirling like a cyclone, whipping the appendages out with violent force, blasting a spell of stunning which depleted the stamina of those caught in the radius of the arcane aura. This monster will most likely have abilities greater than its lesser, distant cousins of the desert, and she is on guard. Her wolf allies launch themselves at the hovering entity, howling to their pack to join the fray. The battle is on…

Excerpt: Emergence – Part I (Re-blogged)

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the next installment of this short story. Here’s Part I, in case you missed it the first time around!

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Random Ramblings; Myriad Musings

*** Author’s Note: This would have been published yesterday, but the weather has been too nice to be stuck indoors! Now that the weather is shifting again, some intense gaming will be done over the next few days, along with a lot of live-streaming – tune in for the fun, anytime!

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The portal vanishes behind her with a soft whoomph sound. She stands in the secluded glade, the moss-covered statue of the Forest Lord standing tall before her. The night is darker than it was when she’d first entered the portal, as clouds now blot the sky and a soft rain falls. She isn’t sure how long she’d been in the realm between the worlds – a day? A week? Two? A whole month? Time had slipped away from her.

She looks down at her armour. The reinforced leather pieces are badly rent and ragged, scorched in some places…

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Tuesday Tuneage…6 June 2017!

I heard two of these songs on the radio today, and figured that a musical post was in order! Busy, busy, busy week already…but loads of fun!

😎

Excerpt: Emergence – Part I

*** Author’s Note: This would have been published yesterday, but the weather has been too nice to be stuck indoors! Now that the weather is shifting again, some intense gaming will be done over the next few days, along with a lot of live-streaming – tune in for the fun, anytime!

😎

The portal vanishes behind her with a soft whoomph sound. She stands in the secluded glade, the moss-covered statue of the Forest Lord standing tall before her. The night is darker than it was when she’d first entered the portal, as clouds now blot the sky and a soft rain falls. She isn’t sure how long she’d been in the realm between the worlds – a day? A week? Two? A whole month? Time had slipped away from her.

She looks down at her armour. The reinforced leather pieces are badly rent and ragged, scorched in some places. She undoes the bindings and lets the worn bits fall. Clad only in breast-halter and loin-cloth, she closes her eyes and lets her senses reach out to the world around her. Everything is so alive! Her mind is clear for the first time in what seems like aeons. Her departure from home seems a lifetime ago; what she endured with the Withered Hand seems to have lasted for an eternity. She feels newly born and has the ability to truly appreciate the sensation. It washes over her again, as it did many times during her plane-walk.

She breathes deeply of the fresh air. Recent rainfall lends a dampness and clarity to the scents around her. The breeze shifts slightly, bringing her the pungent musk of the nearby giant troop and their herd of mammoths. She breathes deeply, scenting the heavy mammoth cheeses fermenting in their containers of hide. The guttural grunts and grumbling of the giants reaches her ears and she realizes that she can understand their crude, primitive language: Wolves loud. Wolves close. I scout. You watch herd.

She sidles backwards down a short slope, away from the noise of the giants; when she feels that she is at a safe distance, she stands and moves off in a westward direction, keeping close to the cliffs. She isn’t interested in fighting the giants or startling the mammoths; not out of any sense of fear, but out of respect for the ancient, prehistoric race. Meeting other travelers is also of low priority at the moment, and there are few others out here in the wilds.

Sudden thunder cracks loudly overhead, as if an unseen pair of titanic hands clapped together. No lightning…there must be a dolmen nearby. Sepultur’a grins in the dark, orienting herself in the direction of the thunder. This will be as good a test as any of her freshly-acquired, newly-tapped skills. She breaks into an easy jog and soon spies the glowing runes marking the sides of the central, circular sacrificial structure. Already, a ragged figure hangs helplessly in the air above it while robed forms dance and caper madly, chanting words of evil. She hears their ugly speech: “Bring forth the blood-sacrifice! We use the blood of this innocent to do thy bidding and chain this world to yours, oh great dread lord!” The clouds roil and coalesce, then spin madly and separate, whirling as a blinding white beam of light spears down, obliterating the doomed captive. Poor soul, she thinks, angered that she is never in time to save them. The necromancers always hasten their ritual whenever a potential rescuer appears; even whole parties of 25 or more are never swift enough to save even one individual.

The beam of light vanishes as three massive hooks fall from an unseen height, attached to long chains of unbelievable proportions. The ground shakes as the hooks fall to the center of the dolmen, then rocks violently as the chains pull taut. The necromancers shriek giddy, mad laughter as they bow in supplication. Sepultur’a closes her eyes, attuning herself to the earth under her feet and the pain radiating from the dolmen. Power gathers around her as she calmly walks forward, allowing the light from the now-blazing runes to wash over her, announcing her presence to the mages. There are seven of them, and they turn as one to face her, readying foul magicks to wield against her. She crosses her arms in front of her in an X, and great wings beat a powerful gust, knocking two of the mages off-balance. Three of them unleash black spells from their staves. Sepultur’a braces herself against the impact. The spells surround her momentarily – then are reflected back against their respective casters. Two drop to their knees, stunned by their own spells of paralysis, while the third screams in terror and flees into the night, helpless against her own spell of fear.

As this happens, Sepultur’a grips the air with both hands and pulls upward. The very stone of the earth rips from the dolmen, forming into a solid sphere of rock. She hurls this at a blade-dancer who is sharpening his daggers for a surprise attack. The projectile knocks him flat on his back, leaving him helpless as Sepultur’a falls on him with noxious fire erupting from her mouth. The skin on his face blisters and melts away as he vanishes with a shriek. The others have recovered and surround her, blasting her with spells and slashing with swords. A spell of fear temporarily touches her mind and she screams, running from the horrid memory that the spell evoked. Recovering quickly with a battle-cry, she turns and makes a grasping motion with her right hand. Five of the mages are suddenly frozen, gripped by massive talons clutching their feet. Flames lick at their boots; as they struggle, Sepultur’a inhales deeply, sucking in all air in a 5-meter radius. The mages in her grasp clutch at their throats as the wind is depleted from their lungs. They suffocate and burn like paper as she expels the oxygen in a massive blast of fire.

The last necromancer raises one of the dead bodies in an attempt to distract her as he tries to flee. Sepultur’a chuckles to herself as she flicks her left hand in his direction. A chain of fire seems to extend from her index finger, latching to the back of his robes and hooking tightly. He is instantly face to face with this woman whose eyes blaze like the sacked city he was rescued from when he was a boy. How did I get here? is his final thought as the woman’s lips purse as if to kiss him. Bright flames surround him. He feels heat, then brief pain…then nothingness.

She stands, clad in stone, eyes blazing. Thunder erupts around her as creatures begin to fall from the swirling bright light above her. I have to break the chains, she thinks, even as a hideous, lumpy form towers above her, swiping at her with a massive arm which ends in a steel, spiked maul. Poison drips from spike-tips, and she feels a bit of trepidation as the words of her benefactor echo in her mind: You will also be more susceptible to poisons, but immune to any and all diseases – including that of the blood-fever. You will be able to sense infections in others, even the unseen ills of the mind, and cure some of them – but, be mindful that you don’t deplete yourself in doing so. It is almost as if the creator of these sky-chains can sense the weaknesses of those who dare attempt to break the anchors and thwart their unseen machinations. She smiles again, fiercely, and turns to face the ugly creature. Nothing worth having comes easily, she thinks as she hurls herself at the bloated, lumpen torso. She needs a real challenge to put herself to the test. It has now presented itself, and she welcomes it wholeheartedly…

Excerpt: A Good Deed – Conclusion

*** Author’s Note: This excerpt wraps up the ‘Good Deed’ portion of my little tale. The next trio will be posted soon, beginning this coming Sunday. I hope that you’re enjoying these little bits of my creative output!

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A small, tidy courtyard of neatly-laid cobblestones and flagstones can be seen from her vantage-point. The path angles sharply from where the gate-door is located, stopping at the wooden steps of a wide porch. Gently curving stones lead to a flat, bare area which invites crafting or training décor. Lush, local foliage of multiple types and species grow here and there along the wall: ferns, deciduous trees, and even an exotic plant with dark leaves glowing with a soft purplish light. The porch is roomy and sturdy, offering space for crates, barrels, and other storage items. The door of the house is sheltered by a high, peaked roof, and the structure looks as if it was carved out of the stone and boulders surrounding it. The thick roots of a tall tree add to the wild, rustic appearance. Thunder peals in the distance, announcing an approaching storm.

Sepultur’a bows her head in gratitude, leaning her forehead against the lattice-work and closing her eyes which are stinging with sudden, unexpected tears of joy. A place of her own, at last. A home to rest and recuperate in while reclaiming her good name and establishing herself in the world. Fumbling through her cloak for the key which surely opens the door, she moves back to it and inserts the key in the door’s keyhole. It fits snugly; when she turns it, she hears the tumblers disengage with a solid thunk. She pushes the door open and steps through, stopping only to close and lock the door behind her. She wants no interruptions or distractions as she takes in the magnitude of the gift.

The courtyard is more spacious than it had appeared from the outside, and she is overjoyed to see the covered structure of a well nestled next to the house. She goes to it and draws up a bucketful of cold, fresh water from the underground aquifer which feeds the outpost. The water smells pure and clean, and she takes out her hip-flask and fills it, drinks deeply and refills it again, then caps it and stows it away for the errands she will have to run later on. Her panther prowls about, sniffing here and there as he examines the corners, nooks and crannies of the courtyard before stretching out on the cobblestones and relaxing.

Sepultur’a mounts the steps and opens the door of the house. The interior is quite uniform on the inside, with a bit more room than the outside suggested. A nicely-sized hearth is centered on the left-side wall of the sole room, . Two cunningly-styled windows provide a bit of natural light during the day. She looks around the cozy quarters, beaming happily. It may not be the luxurious manor in which she grew up, but it is perfect. She walks around, taking notes in her journal, making of list of basic home items that she will need immediately. Other furnishings can be acquired later on. Privacy and security at last! She can rest easy for a good amount of time, now. She has a fair amount of letters home to catch up on…

Monday Montage: Sepultura’s Screen-Shots!

I was putting the finishing touches on my next few excerpts, and that involves a bit of sorting through the many screen-shots I take during my gaming sessions. These help me keep the details of my tale fresh!

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Introduction to one of the many dungeons one can explore…

Spiders and a snake – my special little friends!

A mystic ritual…

…riddles in the dark.

A new trophy…

…emergence of a goddess!

The heat of battle

Grabbing a quick nap

A crowded bank – tending to business

Time to sort some parchments!

Excerpt: A Good Deed (Pt. III)

*** Author’s Note: Part I of this excerpt can be found here; Part II can be found here.

Sepultur’a stands in the darkness, letting her eyes adjust to the dimly-lit tomb. She had made it to the ziggurat as the sun was setting and had to fight her way through a small patrol of lamia. The snake-women were thick in this little-traveled area of the lizard-folk swamps, as were all other forms of reptile and amphibian life. From tiny, brilliantly-hued and highly-toxic frogs, to the massive lightning-spewers, to the snakes of all sizes resting in trees or slithering through the muck.

Water trickles down the walls as she descends the mossy stone steps. Vines hang from the ceiling and trail along the walls, and luminescent fungi glow softly in the darkest corners of the tunnel. She sniffs the air with her highly sensitive nose. The dank, damp air is slightly musty, but there is enough of a draw of air from some unseen, long-unused ventilation system to keep it from being completely toxic. Down below, a flickering light indicates a fire of some sort. The scent of smoke is strong, but not chokingly so. Sepultur’a descends the steps and follows the tunnel until she comes to a bend. Using her sword would be difficult in these close quarters and drawing it would cause unnecessary noise, so she readies her staff before peeking around the bend.

The tunnel appears to widen about twenty feet ahead. Off to the right side of this area a small fire is burning in a sloppily-made pit, and a lone form is sprawled on a pile of furs and straw nearby. Sepultur’a crouches low and moves forward slowly, eyes on the still form. She sees that it is an Orc female: most likely Baghzragh, the one who had stolen from Canthiorn and betrayed Grushtakh. As she gets closer to the area, she hears a soft murmur of voices coming from the left and she stops to listen. Her hearing is now as keen as her nose and she gleans an important, and unexpected, bit of information. A smile crosses her lips and she stands, glad to have worn the subtle badge which fastens her cloak. She has taken to following her instincts more than she used to, after her experience with the Withered Hand and her subsequent rescue and healing. She had put the badge on after leaving Grushtakh and felt far enough away from the city to bear the particular mark safely; wearing it, now, she knew there would be no need for subterfuge or bloodshed.

“Yuh t’ink the wench’ll wake soon? If she be wantin’ more o’ the sweet, she’ll be havin’ to pay up, first!” Coarse, loud laughter follows this statement. The speaker, a tall man with a scarred face and bald head who currently goes by the name of Rokkagan, stands from where he and two others have been drinking and playing cards. He walks over to the unconscious figure on the fur-and-straw bedding, nudging her with the toe of his boot, then folds his arms and shakes his head in mock disappointment. “She’s a mite surly, but sure knows how to cut loose and have a bit o’ fun when…persuaded!” He laughs again, turning back to his mates, and stops short when he sees an unknown figure standing in the entryway to the space. His drinking-companions, a lizard-man named Gore-Scales and a Breton named William Sterone, are kneeling in submission with the fists of their right hands firmly pressed on their chests in a salute, while their left hands are raised with palms out. Their heads are bowed as low as possible in deference to the one who outranks them all; her silent appearance, combined with the badge and sign she flashed at them, had kept them from warning their erstwhile employer.

“Well, well, well…fancy meeting you here,” the unknown person says in a sultry and undeniably feminine voice. She walks over to where Gore-Scales and William still kneel, lightly touching the fingertips on their raised hands with hers and bidding them to their feet. They both stand and then flank her, facing their Rokkagan with crossed arms. He stands stock-still, frozen with an apprehension that he hasn’t felt since leaving his burning home in the dead of night many moons ago. The woman walks towards him, then past him, kneeling near Baghzragh’s lightly snoring form. “I have no dealings with you at the moment, Rokkagan,” the woman says as she rummages through a backpack that has been tossed into the corner and forgotten about by the spelunkers during their drug-fueled debauchery. “This one has some items which don’t belong to her, and I’m returning those items to their proper owners.” She locates a secreted sheaf of papers in a cleverly-sewn pocket of the backpack, skims them quickly and then tucks them into a secure pouch in the folds of her cloak. Standing, she turns to face Rokkagan. Gore-Scale and William are right behind him, waiting for any type of signal from her. “You have nothing to fear from me, unless you don’t pay these fine folk their due,” she continues, staring intently into Rokkagan’s eyes. “Times are hard, indeed, if my good acquaintances need to sell their talents to the likes of you!” she exclaims, looking him up and down, disgust evident in her voice. Rokkagan merely nods stupidly, not daring to say or do anything that might provoke the woman.

She steps closer, hands laced casually behind her back, raising her still-concealed face to his. Her voice drops to a near-whisper. “If I hear that you have shortened them even one penny of coin, I will hunt you down and take the remainder out on your worthless hide.” She smirks with satisfaction at the acrid smell of his bladder letting go. Stepping back, she signals to Gore-Scale and William that they can stand at ease. She shoulders past Rokkagan, exiting with a parting shot: “Oh…you might want to change your breeches before re-entering civilized society. Even the worst ogre-dens I’ve had to crawl through smelled better than your arse does now!” Her derisive laughter echoes down the tunnel. Rokkagan squeezes his eyes shut, trying not to let the humiliation of soiling himself overcome him. William goes to tend the fire while Gore-Scale eyes Rokkagan, appraising him anew. He thinks that a re-negotiation of their contract might be in order, and a small memory-gem secreted on one of his horn-rings would assist with that.

Grushtakh is being violently shaken awake from a sound sleep. “Hey…hey, wake up! Damn your drunken hide…wake up, I say!” Canthiorn’s beaming face comes into view as Grushtak’s vision clears. “Uh…wha’?” he grunts, his head swimming as he tries to sit up, weaving slightly as he props himself up on one elbow. “Wash goin’ on?” he mumbles, wiping bleary eyes and smacking his lips. His mouth tastes as if he’d fallen asleep with it open behind a mammoth with a serious bowel problem. What the hell sort of drink had that Wood-elf conned him into swallowing? Canthiorn shoves some papers in Grushtakh’s face, cackling gleefully. “We’re in business! Gods and goddesses above and below, she did it…we’re in business!” he exclaims, doing the stomp-and-clap dance steps native to his people, waving the papers about. Grushtakh rubs his head and blinks stupidly. “Huh?” he asks again, sitting up in the bed a bit more. The last thing he remembers involved a drinking game between himself, Canthiorn, and a cat-man with pale, striped fur. He grunts softly as his head throbs. “Talk slower…what’re you going on about?” Canthiorn capers around the room, still waving the papers. “Your friend, you thick fool! The one you told me about, remember?” Canthiorn rolls his eyes. “Never mind that, for now…all I can say is, things are turning around for the better – we’re back in business!”

A week later, late in the afternoon, a falcon drops out of the sky over Sepultur’a as she stands on the upper balcony of a lone tavern on the edge of the battle-torn central province. It lands on a rail and settles itself with a fluffing of feathers, panting with exertion. It has flown fast and far with its precious cargo. She feeds it some meat that she had been snacking on and carefully removes the tubular parchment-case from its back. Opening it, she finds a rolled piece of paper and a large key. She unrolls the parchment and reads:

Greetings – I hope this note finds you well and in good health. I don’t know if there is any way to fully and adequately compensate you for the work that you did. You gave me back my livelihood and my reputation, and that is no small feat. Please accept this as a token of my thanks, and know that if there is ever any service that I can provide, you have only to name it. Enclosed are a map and a key. The key will unlock the treasure which this map leads to. It is the least that I can do for your kind gesture. May the gods and goddesses ever watch over your steps, milady.

Cordially and Respectfully,
Canthiorn

Sepultur’a looks at the map on the reverse side of the letter. She is somewhat familiar with the area indicated on it, and sees that the ‘X’ marking the spot isn’t far from a trading outpost deep in the territory of the cat-folk. She notes that one of the crudely-sketched landmarks on the map, as she peers a bit closer with the help of a magnifying crystal, indicates a shrine of transit. Very convenient! She tucks the key and the letter / map in the folds of her cloak to keep them safe for this quick jaunt.

The falcon looks at her expectantly, letting out a high-pitched scree. She chuckles and tosses it the last scrap of meat, re-attaches the scroll-case, then stretches and jumps lightly down from the balcony. The bird takes to the air and settles in a tall tree near the outpost’s main gate. She puts her fingers in her mouth and whistles sharply. Her newest mount, a sleek black panther, stretches languorously from his nap in the shade of the stilted building and pads over to his mistress, emitting a purring, grumbling growl. “I know, pet, I know…I promised that you would get a good, long rest, but we need to head out one more time.” She scratches him lightly under his chin, adjusts the riding-straps and thin, flexible saddle and then climbs on his back. He launches into a loping run with Sepultur’a guiding him with even more subtle body movements than needed on a horse. Within an hour they have reached an out-of-the-way transit shrine and use it to travel to the one she is certain is marked on the map.

She looks around as her vision clears from the magically-assisted teleportation. She only uses these “way-shrines” when time is of the essence, but doesn’t feel the disorienting effects as strongly as she used to. The shrine is right in the center of the trading outpost, circled by the merchant-wagons and stalls. A tavern and inn are located in one building while the guild-hall of mages shares space with the guild-hall of warriors. It has been just over a year since she had last travelled through this area; she had been with the caravan of entertainers and traders, then.

Dismounting, she leads the panther past some of the stalls, exchanging greetings, hugs, and mild pleasantries with some of the merchants whom she recognizes. As she wanders about, she notices a neatly-paved side-road which seems to have been freshly laid. She pulls out the letter and skims the map again, noting that this side-road appears to lead directly to the ‘X’ marking the mysterious treasure. Odd to bury a treasure at the end of a road, she thinks, but shrugs and follows it. She is formidable enough on her own; her mount ensures that only the incredibly foolish would dare to attack.

The road winds gently upward through some trees and ends at a locked door which is set into a stout, stone wall. The wall has an open space guarded with sturdy metal lattice-work, so Sepultur’a moves to this space and peers through, gasping softly at the sight on the other side…

Excerpt: A Good Deed (Pt. II)

*** Author’s Note: Part I of this excerpt can be found here, in case you missed it. I think I will do a ‘Top 5’ of my personal favourite excerpts or posts, soon!

“I’ll be brief, friend Grush. Do you know, or have you heard talk of, an Orc woman calling herself Baghzragh? The coin here will be yours either way, as you have been honest and true in the past.” Grushtakh’s shoulders slump as he bows his head and looks at the floor dejectedly. “Aye – that I do,” he says, a bit sadly. Sepultur’a cocks an eyebrow questioningly, nodding at him to continue. Grushtakh sighs. “She’s my blood-kin, so I know her all too well – and yet, not well enough – else, I wouldn’t be in this predicament! Being here in this…” he raises his head and looks wearily around, running a hand over his bald, horn-stubbled pate. “…in this den of iniquity was not in my plan.” He meets Sepultur’a’s gaze. “To use the vernacular of you humans, she is both my half-sister and my cousin. My mother is sister to her mother, and both of them are wives of the chieftain in the stronghold of Yol Karzhagum. My mother is the forge-wife; hers is the hearth-wife. I had no hopes of being a chieftain there, as the hunt-wife is mother to the first-born male.” He chuckles ruefully. “Truth be told, I admit that being chieftain wasn’t something that I desired. Part of the reason I ended up here, I’d wager.”

Sepultur’a listens intently, making the coin dance across the backs of her fingers. It’s a small trick she learned during her time with the caravan, which relaxes her. “It sounds as if she played a role in it, as well,” she states, which draws a mirthless chuckle from Grushtakh. “Aye…that she did. She always had a high opinion of herself, solely based on her mother’s place in the stronghold hierarchy, but never availed herself of the tutelage or apprenticeships provided by the others in the clan. You humans pay a fair price to learn valuable skills; we Orcs are born and taught them from the moment we can walk, talk, and pick up a hammer!” He chuckles again, this time with genuine good humour.

“One day, not long after her 19th birthday, she decided to hop aboard a Breton trading-vessel which had been in port for a week. Not a word to anyone! Father said that she’d best not return unless it was on the arm of a respected war-chief, as that would be the only one able to pay a worthy dowry!” He chuckles again, remembering the scene in the dining-hall when Baghzragh’s disappearance was discovered. “At any rate, I was surprised to get a letter from her a couple of months ago, as none of us had heard from her for three years, at least.” He rummages around in a battered satchel at his side, pulling out a folded parchment. Carefully unfolding it and smoothing it out, he hands it to Sepultur’a. She takes it, then presses the coin into his palm and folds his fingers around it. “Wait a moment,” she says and then quickly reads the letter. Once she’s digested the contents, she re-folds it and hands it back. “She promised you a lucrative business deal, using a lot of flowery language which gave no details,” Sepultur’a states, folding her arms and leaning back against the wall. Grushtakh hangs his head again. “Aye,” he sighs miserably. “I was a bit in my cups when I got the letter, and didn’t read it as carefully as I should have. I came here believing a lie, and feel quite the fool at being duped. Bad enough to be deceived at all; even worse to have it done by your own kin.” Sepultur’a nods in agreement. She knows all too well the pain caused by deception, especially when done by one who was trusted.

Grushtakh looks glumly at the coin given him by Sepultur’a, brightening a bit at the way it glints in the light of various candles and torches flickering here and there throughout the refuge. “This, at least, will get me a decent meal and a room at the inn! It will be nice to sleep in a cot, at the very least.” Sepultur’a smiles. “Indeed,” she says, glad to be able to offer payment of some sort. She knows that he is too proud to ask for help or take any charitable offer; it is almost an insult to his race to do so, and she doesn’t want to add to his wounded pride. “I think that you’ll find that coin worth quite a bit. Take it up to the banking-house and see what exchange you get, why don’t you?” She moves away from the wall and pulls her cowl over her face again. “Thanks again for your help, my friend. There might be another reward in this for you if all goes well. Even if it doesn’t, you will be able to return home with your head held high and reputation intact and unsullied. If you choose to return, that is!” She clasps his hand briefly and exits the refuge.

Grushtakh inspects the coin closely. On one side is the diamond-shaped emblem of the imperial army, while the other shows an image of the three alliance banners ablaze from the fires of war. He lets out a soft whistle of admiration. What she gave him was part of her earnings from the battlefield, and a generous one at that. He knows enough about currency to see that she gave him a war-chit worth 5,000 pieces of the universal gold coin exchangeable throughout the different lands and provinces. This would be more than enough to get a fresh start, right here in this city, if he so desired…

To Be Continued…

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