Wizardquest 2: Chapter 6- Blackfire Reach Pt. 2

The room grows silent as everyone looks at you, waiting for your answer. You feel hot in the warmth of the Palace, heated by the nearby dormant volcano, sweat trickling down your chest, much to the interest of the Monsters in the room. It distracts you, clouds your judgment, and you have to wipe your forehead, cooling yourself down with a thin layer of [Ice]. Sighing in relief, you feel that you have gathered your wits again to speak.

“Before I answer, I have a question for you.”

“Hmm? This sounds promising.” The Queen says, smirking at you and waving her massive claws for you to speak.

“You have proven yourself to be intelligent, far more than your subjects, but I have to wonder… is it lonely?”

She flicks her eyes to the side for a moment before returning her gaze to you and saying, “Why would I ask you to be my mate otherwise?”

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

She sits up a little straighter, looking down at you from the dais. “Of course not. In that regard, then it is not a weight I cannot bear.”

“Hrrrmm, you shouldn’t continue speaking to him, this is some kind of ploy!” The Danuki says, her hands rubbing together furiously. “Guards-“

“You’d know of ploys, wouldn’t you?!” You shout at the Danuki, your voice being amplified to slam into her with force, backed up by the power chord of Ebe’s guitar. You thank Erwin for getting your message to Sylphie and Ebe.

The Danuki cringes and looks to the door to the chamber, but nothing happens. She looks at it in distress before turning back to you in anger and growling, “Don’t you use your mind games on me!”

“Then I will say the same to you!” You shout, voice and guitar making her visibly cringe.

“That will be enough.” The Queen says, her voice calm, but powerful. A lingering strum of the guitar echoes these words and she blinks in confusion, looking about the room and staring at the corner where the others are hiding before frowning and turning back to you. Waving her claw again, she says, “Continue.”

 “Thank you.” You say, bowing your head to her. Though you really want to send a smug grin to the Danuki, you keep it in check as you sweep your arm out to the Queen. “You say that you did all of this for your people, but what do they think of it?”

Your hand points toward one of the guards and they blink in surprise before looking to the Queen who nods her head slowly, giving you a suspicious look. The Wurm coughs into her clawed hand and says, “W-Well, I was born here and it’s really nice all the time. Even at night it never really gets cold and there’s always plenty to eat cause of the trade. And there’s always work to be done, so things are pretty nice! Although…” She tenses up and looks to her Queen who turns her gaze to her in concern.

“Continue, child.”

“O-Okay.” The Wurm fidgets, her hammer rolling in her claws. “I… I just kind of wish we could meet more men. Maybe go out sometime beyond the pass and-“

“NEVER!” The Danuki cries, slamming her hand onto the throne. Everyone looks to her and she coughs a few times into her hand before wiping her brow and saying, “Ehehe, ah, but the world is so dangerous outside! Remember what happened to all the Danuki by those mean people?”

“O-Of course.” The guard says, chuckling and then looking down, dejected. You don’t think she knows that she’s showing her emotions openly and the Queen looks at her with concern. She makes to reach out a claw but then stops and shakes her head, turning back to you.

“Is this all you wanted to bring to my attention?”

“Part.” You say, sighing and shaking your head. “Yes, this city is warm, there is a roof over everyone’s head and, I assume, the Danuki bring in food for the Wurms, changing it up every now and then to keep the workers pacified?” She nods and you continue.

“But your people are trapped here, aren’t they? Trapped like children inside their homes by an overprotective ruler who believes she knows what’s best for them.”

As you say this, you look to Sophie, whose looks at you with an intent stare. Flicking your gaze back to the Queen, you say, “I may not personally know of your side, for I am no parent, but I do believe I know some of what your people feel. There is something comforting in safety and stability, but it is stifling! It stunts their growth and by keeping them cooped up, they will never realize their potential.”

The Queen scowls at you, clearly annoyed at your words. “So you’d have me bring them back to being cruelly used and discarded as nothing but tools?”

You frown and say, “The way I see it, they still are, just for a different master.”

The Queen sits up further, her armored lower body raising her up to tower high in the room, making the Danuki look both excited and frightened. A undercurrent of violence runs in her voice as she says, “Are you accusing me of putting my people into slavery?”

A tremble of fear runs through your body at the display. You’ve faced down a few rather dangerous situations before, but the power and authority she exudes makes your legs feel weak and your heart falter for a moment, your mouth working soundlessly for a second before you hear Erwin’s voice in your head,

{You’re a Wizard, right?}

Closing your eyes, you take in a deep breath and then nod your head before looking back up at her with new determination. You stand up straight and say to her, “Yes. I accuse you of serving your own self interests in treating your people like children to be quietly put to play so that you can say, ‘At least I can keep them safe.'”

She makes to move toward you, but you slam your foot onto the ground, sending forth a tremor that makes the guards coil back before moving toward you until you shout, “STOP!” Your voice amplified by your magic making them flinch back. As they do so you point at the Queen and shout, “COME NO FURTHER!”

Your words echo through the chamber with enough force to shake loose dirt from the corners of the throne room. She pauses again, looking at you with a mix of anger and careful respect, watching you for further motions. Though you take a few breaths to get your cool back, you do not move toward her in any way, shape, or form. Instead you stand strong and shrug your [Trenchcoat] off to the floor, exposing your bare chest. Sophie’s eyes go wide and she blushes before turning her gaze to the side. The effect is more pronounced on the Wurms who look at you with their mouths open, seeing you as the God you pretended to be. You’re no body builder, but nor are you a slouch…

“I do not wish to fight. Though I am not inclined to mate with ANYONE, Monsters included, I do not wish harm upon anyone but slavers.” Your gaze hardens upon the Danuki as you say, “And though you are not free from blame, I can see that the root of this problem is her. She keeps your people locked into their cage and you are their jailor.”

“And what will killing the Danuki solve?” The Queen says, holding herself up straight again, eyes focused on you. “I kill her, we stop mining the gold and… what? My subjects don’t know how to grow crops, we’d have to turn to raiding, and the Deleorian government wouldn’t take that kindly at all! We can’t return to the Monster Nation, they’d never accept the weather there.”

A tired look comes over her expression again as she breathes out, “This place was bought with too much blood as it is.”

A cautious thought comes through your bond to Erwin, a sort of fear. Is there something he senses that you cannot? You feel that he’s getting agitated, and you see a ripple on the other side of the room, Tabitha’s face appearing as she takes a step forward, pulling her sword. You can imagine what she would think, hearing the one who orchestrated the slaughter of her people speak in such a way. If not for something that just now appeared in your mind, you’d have fallen to despair that there is no choice but combat either. And yet…

“What about Ectria?” You say, and both the Queen and Tabitha stop, looking at you warily. Nodding your head as the idea comes in further, you continue. “Living so close to the wide, open sands of Ectria, have you ever been there or considered traveling to such a place?”

“Why?” The Queen asks, looking at you in confusion. “It’s a wide, open sand bowl with nothing there.”

“Exactly.” You say, nodding your head. “Exactly, exactly. You say your people seek warmth? Well the desert is always warm during the day, and though I hear it is cold at night, burrowing under the sands and the desert shelves is plausible, yes?”

“As far as I know, it’s a vast, open space where the Wurms can spread free! If they choose to stay together with you then fine, but can’t they have the option? I doubt they can cause much trouble out in the sands unless they run into Sandworms…”

One of the guards asks, “Sand Wurms? There’s Wurms who live in sand?”

“I hear they’re much, much larger than even your Queen.” You say and the guard gasps, looking up at her Queen and struggling to imagine something like that. She sticks out her tongue and then turns to her Queen to ask,

“That kind of sounds like fun though, and if sand is anything like dirt, then it could be nice!”

The Danuki sneers, “It’s not nice at all! I hate sand, it’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere!”

“So do you.”

The other guard snickers at that, looking abashed only when the Queen turns her gaze upon her. The larger Wurm grips her claws into fists and moves closer to you, looming high as she says, “You speak as if it’s so easy, as if I can just move them from this place! Do you know the hardships it took to even get here, the pain I had to inflict to even gain us this home?” She leans down, her face almost level with yours, hot breath playing against your face. “It’s too late to change things. I’ve already kidnapped the daughter of the Monster Lady, albeit accidentally. Things are not the best here, but I… I will protect my people.”

Pulling up straight, she shouts toward the door, “Return to me, my subjects!”

Her voice echoes through the chamber and yet nothing happens. Gritting her teeth, she waves toward one of the guards who jumps and slithers toward it. You sigh and wave your hand, freezing the guard in place with [Ice]. The Wurm looks confused at her lack of motion and then reaches for the door, clearly unable to reach it. She groans and then wails about it being cooooold, even though the ice is already melting.

“So, you know who she is?” You say, nodding to Sophie.

“Of course she does.” The Danuki says, rubbing her hands while she sports a wicked, confident smile. “It is easy to tell from those tails and that face, oh that pretty, pretty face, so much like her Mother’s…” The Danuki sneers and then chuckles, “She will make an excellent bargaining chip for our- I mean… for the betterment of the Wurms, yes?”

The Queen nods and you scowl. “You’ll add more blood to this? The Monster Lady is not to be trifled with, you should know this better than anyone! You have the chance to freedom and you throw it away for more slavery for your people!”

“I have had enough of this!” She says, slamming her tail onto the ground with such force that it shatters the rock of the floor, throwing up shards while making the ground shake. “I have done so much for my people. I have sacrificed my own happiness for them, to keep them safe! I have killed and dealt with things so foul I can never be free!”

Tears stream down her face as she looks at you with incredible anger. “And now, fifty years later, you come and tell me it’s so simple? That everything I’ve done could have been avoided? That my entire life has been nothing but a damn mistake?!”

Her tails moves faster than you can see and you just barely [Build the Wall] in time to stop the brunt of her blow. It comes with enough force to shatter your hastily built wall and send you flying backward to roll on the ground in a tumble of stone.

Coughing and struggling to rise, you hear the Queen, her voice filled with sadness, wail and charge you. Looking up at her, you try to scramble aside but know you can’t make it out of the way of her devastating charge. When she’s about ten feet before you, the sound of heavy footfalls fills the air and a battle cry sounds to the guitar. A flash of green and silver flies before your vision and with the sound of a hammer coming down on an anvil rings through the room.

You feel yourself be yanked to the side as the momentum of the Wurm Queen’s body hitting the ground carries her forward as she slides into the wall. Blinking in confusion, you look up to see Mr. Ed let go of your pants and neigh at you, moving aside as the Queen thrashes, her tail whipping against the wall and floor, throwing up great gashes in the ancient stonework. She flips herself back up and roars, locating the source of her discomfort.

Metallic legs glimmering, Tabitha stands before the Queen, sword still in its sheath. She flips her bangs out of her face and readjusts her ponytail before sighing and saying, “Wizards… always trying to be show offs. But I suppose that’s why some of you are endearing.” Placing her hand upon her sword, her eyes grow hard and she says,

“Emphrasea! Queen of the Wurms! You were offered a chance to leave and let the blood on your claws be the last you shed, but you have refused it.” The sound of ringing steel fills the air as she draws forth her blade, a hand and a half sword of rather plain, yet sturdy make. “I have come to deliver upon you the justice you deserve.”

“Wanderer…” You say, pushing yourself up with some effort. The attack mostly drove the wind from you, but with your fucking back getting aggravated again you feel some more pain than you should. Groaning, you push yourself up and shout, “Queen… Emphrasea, it’s not too late you know. Just stand down.”

“Lizardman…” The Queen says, her eyes narrowing as she looks down at Tabitha, ignoring you. “This was your ploy the whole time? Get the man to distract me and then come in for the assassination. You little lizards were always full of tricks.”

“I care not to banter with you.” Tabitha says, expression neutral. “I was not even born when my Mother was forced to flee from her home. Do you know the shame that all Lizardmen live with on a daily basis, knowing that they could not fight honorably against you Wurms? So many of our best and bravest were reduced to ruin, made sell-swords or giving up the sword entirely, believing that idiot forces of nature drove us out.”

She grits her teeth, letting some emotion show through. “But to find out that their leader is not an overly destructive child, but instead a creature who knew what she did? It makes my blood boil with a rage that I cannot contain!” She whispers something in the Wizard tongue and touches her blade, a runic sigil etched upon it shining as the blade becomes consumed with flames. Her expression grows hard and she cries out, “Like my proud Salamander sisters, with my burning soul, I challenge you to a duel!”

Her words hit the Queen like a physical blow and she reels back for a moment before snarling back, “So be it. I will spill your blood and cement my rule upon the bones of your kind. The Wurms have found a home, and by the grace of Dollora herself, I will secure it for them!”

“You really think Dollora is the one watching his battle?” Tabitha says, voice still hard. Ebe’s guitar plays again, growing louder and louder, though you really have no idea why she’s playing right now though the way Tabitha’s breast rises and falls and the look in her eyes, you have a feeling it’s pumping her up as it pumps you up. This music can’t be natural, there is no way.

“If she is not, then you had best pray it is Nerg, for you shall soon be meeting him!” Emphrasea cries, whipping forward with a sound like a whipcrack. She smashes her tail toward Tabitha with devastating force, but the Lizardman calmly leaps over it, far higher than any non-Frog girl should be able to manage, before coming down and charging at the Queen, her blade leaving after images of heat as she swings it.

The Queen intercepts the blow with her forearm, the blade bouncing off the gauntlet-like scales, but it does leave a scorch mark, making the Queen hiss as she pulls back before swiping at Tabitha. The Lizardman deftly blocks the blows, using the full weight of her Magitek legs to keep her stable. They both shout at each other before continuing to duel.

Interfering in a duel is the worst possible thing you could do to a Lizardman, you know this, and with a worried heart you turn back to the other concern in the room. The Wurm guards and the Danuki! Scanning the room, you see that Sylphie, who looks quite drained from all the magic she’s been casting, having dropped her [Trick of the Light] while Ebe plays her guitar as if possessed. Instead of the normal, rhythmic motions of her hips, she stands with her feet outstretched to stabilize herself, her head banging back and forth as she strums the guitar.

She looks nothing like herself yet the undeniable power of her music echoes through the room, as if infusing the rocks themselves. Using your [Mage Sight], you see that Sylpie’s amplification is gone but it’s still so loud! In fact the only spell Sylphie is casting is the [Privacy Barrier] but then why is…? Turning your gaze quickly to Ebe, you see a sight burned into your eyes and you cry out in pain as your sight flicks off in defense.

Even with your eyes closed, you can see seared into your mind’s eye two strong arms guiding her hands, glowing with a light so bright it blinds you. You blink your eyes open, getting your normal vision back to see the Danuki standing upon the Dais, her eyes wound as dinner plates as she views everything going on about her. She seems almost shell-shocked from what’s going on before her and you know you have a chance to take her out while Tabitha is pre-occupied.

“F-Fuck.” You say, staggering to your feet. You see the frozen Wurm guard break free from her icy prison to be called back by the Danuki, slithering up before her and holding her hammer warily as the other does the same.

The Danuki takes a few, tense breaths as she looks about, picking out you one side of the room and Sylphie, Ebe, and Erwin on the other side of the room. Frowning, you feel like someone is missing when your eyes lock onto the form of Alice standing before the two Wurms, her hands at her hips.

Though she stands at profile to you, you’re able to get a good sense of Alice for the first time. To say that Alice is beautiful would be an understatement. She stands tall for a moment but carries her height with a cocky confidence encased in armor that seems more functional than ornate while showing off the curves of her body. Long, raven-black hair tumbles down her shoulders and she smiles with amusement as she looks over the even taller Wurms before her.

Though everyone has treated her as some kind of idiot, the way she stands exudes confidence that is you feel is deserved. A dangerous undercurrent runs beneath her and you have a feeling she knows how to use the ornate sword that hands at her waist. Chuckling, she runs a hand through her hair and says, “Alright you two, put down the hammers before you get hurt.”

“Eh?” One of the Wurms says, looking confused. “But you’re a human. How are you going to hurt us?”

“Maybe she’s a Wizard too!” The other Wurm says, thinking it over. “Like, one of them Women Wizards!”

“Don’t be oafish animals, there’s no more women Wizards.” Alice says, sniffing. You want to tell her that there have never been women Wizards, but you keep that to yourself. “Now then, be good little overgrown lizards and move aside so I can perform some pest removal.”

“Shouldn’t you be calling that other Monster an overgrown Lizard?” The Wurm asks, looking confused.

“I do, every day for the past two days. Sometimes multiple times a day!” Alice says cheerfully while walking toward the Wurms. “Come then, move asi-“

Her words are cut off as one of the Wurms swings their hammer toward her. In a fluid motion, Alice dodges the blow with contemptuous ease. She draws her sword in the same motion, the blade glowing a faint blue as it whistles through the air, sliding through the haft of the hammer and the Wurm’s hand in one swipe. The head of the hammer and the Wurm’s hand hit the floor together at the same time and the Wurm blinks in confusion before trying to hit Alice with the broken haft of the hammer, which Alice slices through again, her sword moving through it like it was made of butter.

“Huh.” The Wurm says, looking stumped as blood oozes from her hand. “I could have sworn I had a hammer here a second ago.”

“It’s down there, you stupid creature.” Alice says, walking calmly forward before dodging the other Wurm’s blow with similar ease, a smile on her face.

Your eyes go wide as she does the same to the other Wurm, leaving them both bleeding and confused. Her sword… cut through the Wurm’s heavy armor as if it were nothing at all! Certainly with that glow the blade must be enchanted but to have that kind of cutting power it must be an ancient artifact, one from the old days of Wizardry. So her story about being in the Order wasn’t false at all, was it? Certainly not with the level of skill she displays.

“Now then.” Alice says, shrugging her shoulders. “How shall I kill me a Danuki? Oh I’ve wanted to even since I joined the Order and now that the chance is here, I can’t decide!”

“Y-you’re fucking crazy!” The Danuki says, sweat pouring from her brow.

“Pfff, nah.” Alice says, chuckling before tapping her chin. “Hmm, well maybe a little bit in bed…”

The Danuki looks about in panic before her eyes come to Sophie. Sylphie sees it and shouts a warning, staggering to a knee as the constant magic she’s been using has drained her of strength. Just drinking mana potions alone can’t keep a Witch from feeling fatigue after all. Your gaze snaps to the Danuki who draws a knife from her suit and places it at the bound Cat o’Ninetail’s throat, pulling back Sophie’s head by her hair.

“D-Don’t come a step closer!” She shouts, wild-eyed. “Y-you damn boyim try anything and I’ll kill her, see if I don’t!”

“Sophie!” Sylphie cries, tears filling her eyes. “No! Don’t!”

“Ehehe… t-tell the sword bitch to stand down then!” The Danuki says, hiding behind the throne as much as she can.

Alice stares at the Danuki with flat eyes and says, “No.”

“Do it!” Sylphie cries and Alice sighs, rolling her eyes and sheathing her sword, turning so she can watch the Wurms try to put their hands back on, not really seeming to get that they don’t just re-attach like that.

“G-Good.” The Danuki says, locking her lips. “N-now tell the Lizardman to stop the duel and surrender!”

“Good luck with that.” Alice says, snorting. “You even watching that battle? With that admittedly cool music playing, I don’t think they can hear anything but the blood pumping in their veins.”

All eyes turn to the battle of Tabitha and Emphrasea and you know Alice’s words to be dead on. The Wurm Queen bellows in rage, thrashing her tail around as Tabitha leaps over it before using the tail as a springboard to fly up and deliver a slash to the Queen’s torso, her blade making a thin gash that cauterizes nearly instantly. The blow causes the Queen to howl in rage, catching the Lizardman by the blade with a wild swipe that drives Tabitha back to the ground, her magitek legs absorbing the brunt of the blow. There’s no way either of them are going to hear anything.

Both duelists are breathing heavily at this point, but the difference in size might be telling. Though the Queen has multiple wounds on her body, she seems just as raring to go as before, perhaps even more so, while Tabitha is free of wounds, seems a little less fluid in her motions, having gone all out in this duel. The music seems to be suffusing her, but will it be enough to give her the edge.

No… this is her battle, you need to figure out yours before thinking more on it. Turning back to the Danuki, you glare at her as she sweats, her hand trembling with the knife in it. Terrified eyes that can spot a copper coin from a mile away scan the room, looking for anything. At this point you think she would cut Sophie’s throat without hesitation.

“Stand down everyone!” You shout, not bothering to use [Amplify] despite the explosive battle behind you. They hear it and look confused, Sylphie looks almost a little terrified by your words but she scrunches up her face, balls up her hands, and then pulls backward. She was the first to call for your group to back down, of course. Mr. Ed, who had galloped over to her side at the earliest convenience, nuzzles her neck.

Erwin gives you a judging look, but doesn’t even ask you a question, to which you’re thankful. You assume it’s because he has enough trust in you to do so, at least. Ebe is too engrossed in playing and Alice has her arms crossed, tapping her fingers on her arm while looking annoyed. She may look a little bored, but from what you saw before, you’re certain she can take the Danuki’s head in a heartbeat if given the chance.

“Ehehe… good, good.” The Danuki says, looking a little less worried. Her hand still shakes horribly, but she looks a little more in control. Licking her lips again, she says, “And you’re certain you can’t get her to stop?”

“I doubt you could have gotten the Lizardmen to agree to let you mine gold, what makes you think you can get one to stop a duel?”

“Nrrrgghh.” The Danuki says before flicking her eyes to the door. “Why haven’t the other guards come in yet?”

“Maybe they went to sleep?” You say, slowly pulsing your magic for [Survey]. The ground, made of marble, the walls made of granite with trace elements of multiple other rocks and metals… it all comes to you and you make to buy time without seeming obvious as you hone in on the knife in her hands.

“Huh?” One of the Wurm guards says, looking up from her stump hand, her wrist not bleeding any longer. What an impressive physique to stop a wound that bad so quickly! She scrunches up her face and then looks over at the Queen, seeming to realize her duel with Tabitha for the first time. Her eyes go wide and she says, “Oh! Oh! That’s right!”

She makes to move for the door and though Alice twitches, the Danuki shouts, “NOT SO FAST!” which stops her hand in place. The swordswoman sniffs but watches the Wurm with worry. If she makes it to the door and allows in all the other Wurms, it’s game over. Even Alice’s blade can only do so much, and with Sophie hostage, you’re in a terrible situation.

So, this does make your next move all the more important, and you lock onto the blade in the Danuki’s hand. Cheap, poorly made iron. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic, and yet her skin-flint behavior has assured that this blade won’t come near anyone’s skin.

Well, no one you care about anyway.

Thrusting out with your power at a powerful chord of Ebe’s guitar, you pull on the metal of the blade, ripping it from the Danuki’s hands. She looks at it without comprehension for a moment before screaming as you flip the blade about and push it at her, jamming the blade straight into her shoulder. The Danuki screams and flails backward, allowing Alice to dash forward, her glowing sword seeming to appear in her hands. Instead of slicing the Danuki in two, however, she delivers a devastating roundhouse kick to her head, dropping the Racoon Monster to the ground in a conscious, if wailing, heap.

It all happened in a second, and as the Danuki goes down, you quickly cast [Ice] upon the Wurm heading to the door, once more freezing her in place. She stretches again toward the door and then looks down, saying, “Awwww.”

The other Wurm looks about without comprehension, scratching her hand with her stump hand as Sylphie runs over to Sophie and cuts her free with her tails, hugging her sister tight and crying. Though she looks utter exhausted, she keeps the privacy barrier up, but you figure she can’t last forever. Sophie looks up from patting her sister’s head, tears forming in the corners of her own eyes, and she shouts to you, “Don’t let her kill the Queen!”

“Eh?” You say, feeling your own wounds as the situation comes more into your control. Grunting, you put a hand to your side and look over at the battle to see how things have changed.

Despite it only being perhaps a minute or two, the battle has changed so much. The Queen staggers, her blows slow and clumsy, allowing Tabitha to dodge them with little effort, though she too is panting, her shirt soaked in sweat. After dodging a particularly clumsy blow, Tabitha shouts, dashing forward and delivering a kick of her own, her magitek legs granting her extreme force to plow into the face of her opponent.

Emphrasea clearly didn’t see it coming, and she hits the floor again, doing her best to rise up and fight again, her face beaten and bruised. As she does so, Tabitha drives a lizard-shaped, adamantium foot onto her face, pushing her down while raising her sword, blazing with magical fire, to the air. Gritting her teeth, the Lizardman snarls, “This is for my people!”

“WAIIIIT!” You cry with the strongest [Amplify] you can cast. The sound comes distorted some, but it’s enough to blow dust away from you, make the others stagger back, and break Ebe out of her focus, her music cutting off entirely. The Gandharva looks about in confusion before her eyes roll back in her head and she falls to the floor, unconscious.

Tabitha’s eyes flick to you and you can see an incredibly anger burning there, hotter than her blade. She snarls at you with legitimate anger, “How DARE you.”

“You’ve already won!” You say, moving toward her, staggering only once. Fucking hells, your damn ribs are bruised, but at least you think anything is broken. “The duel is over, she can’t fight anymore. Would you truly kill a foe who can’t fight back?”

Emphrasea groans and collapses, not able to use her weight any longer. Tabitha doesn’t move her body though, her hands still in position to kill her foe. She growls but doesn’t move beyond heavy breaths, her chest heaving and her hands shaking, seemingly locked into an internal debate. Tears form at the corners of her eyes and you look at her with confusion.

You don’t really know Tabitha well, but you’ve read Wizardquest, and you’ve heard the rumors on the Communion Matrix about her nickname, “The Wanderer,” appearing in random places, her blade being the last word in any disputes. Given this and the fact that she is a very proud Lizardman, having the leader of those who destroyed all her ancestor’s work before her and at her mercy, you can imagine that some strange Wizard telling her to calm down might not be taken well. Still…

“Wanderer, think this over rationally. What will happen if the Queen is dead? The Wurms here will either go berserk, or they’ll spread out through the land, destroying much in their wake. You know as well as I do that Deleor can ill afford such a threat at its eastern border, especially given what’s occurring in Ectria.

“Ectria…” Tabitha spits, a clear understanding in her expression. “Hells, even when he’s not around am I still bombarded by an annoying Wizard and logic.” She turns her face completely to you and says, “Are you certain that you’re not him, taking your kids out for some exercise?”

“Please.” You say, feeling tired. “If I was the Grand Wizard, wouldn’t there have been more feces involved?”

“True.” Tabitha says before looking back at the Queen. Her hands shake one more time before she shouts a cry of anguish and anger, the fire of the blade going out. Steadying her breathing some, she slides her blade back into its scabbard and looks down at the Queen. “He’d have done something stupid before this all began anyway.”

“As if wandering around without a shirt and proclaiming himself as Sveth wasn’t stupid enough.” Sophie says, walking up to Tabitha. She stands before the shorter Monster and says, “We’ve missed you.” Her arms encircle the Lizardman and Sophie buries her face into her chest, adding her tears to the sweat of the battle.

“Hush, hush.” Tabitha says, stroking Sophie’s hair in a motherly fashion. Now that her battle is over, her face seems tired, as if it had aged many years despite her mature beauty. “It’s good to see you two as well, despite the circumstances.”

“Speaking of which…” You say, looking back over to the frozen Wurm and the other one, who merely looks perplexed at it all. Sylphie is sitting upon the throne with her head in her hands while Erwin pokes Ebe with a paw before sending,

{She’s just asleep. Poor thing looks exhausted.}

“Drop the barrier.” You shout to Sylphie, who looks up at you with bleary eyes. She looks like Ebe feels, you suspect. It takes her a few moments and a prodding by Mr. Ed for her to get the message and she lets out one hells of a sigh as the power flickers and fades.

Wurms don’t immediately pour in, as it’s still quiet beyond the whimpering Danuki, and you wave to Tabitha. “Sit on the throne.”

“What? Those thrones are for the nobility of the Lizardmen, I have no right to sit there.”

“Way I see it.” You say, rubbing the back of your head as you make your way over to help move Ebe to a better position, grunting in pain the whole time. “You’re the only Lizardman here.”

She frowns in consternation before understanding your words and nodding her head. She gently puts a hand on Sophie’s shoulder, pulling the girl off her and taking her over to the thrones where she has Sophie sit where the Danuki was. Tabitha looks at the ruined throne, meant for the Queen of the Lizardmen, and sighs before sitting down, her body seeming comically undersized for the role.

Alice picks up the Danuki by her hair and says, “Hey, can I kill her? She’s kind of really annoying.”

“Wait a moment.” You mutter as Mr. Ed and you help move Ebe back to a safer position. The unencumbered Wurm looks about the whole situation and says,

“I’m a bad guard, huh?”

“A little, yes.” Tabitha says, looking at the Wurm with contempt. “But had you done more, you likely would have died.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound really nice.” The guard admits, rubbing her chin with her severed hand held in her other hand. “Hey, does anyone know how to put hands back?”

“Maybe later.” You say, waving your own hand, the gesture driving bits of marble up into the ice holding the other Wurm at bay. “Come, bring the other Wurms in so they can meet their new Queen.”

“Eh?” The Wurm says, cocking her head. “But she’s not a Wurm, and we already have a perfectly go-” She looks over the moaning form of Emphrasea. “A uhm, mildly damaged, Queen.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I wanna work under a Lizardman, you’re kind of small, and the Queen is kind of big.”

“I just kicked her ass all across the throne room.” Tabitha says, rolling her eyes. “You know what that means, right?”

“Ehm, hmm.” The two Wurms says together. “Not really, we should ask the Queen, she’s smart.”

“Oh for the love of-” Alice says, her words cut off as the Danuki shouts,

“RUN BITCHES, GET HEL-!” Words cut off in her throat as Alice punches her across the face, stunning the Danuki.

“Heh, I like doing that to these lowlife vermin.”

“You have a problem, Alice. This is why you got assigned to that backwater.”

The Wurms look to each other and then make for the door. As they do so, you  look over at the Danuki and say, “I’ll give you five gold coins if you tell me any other Danuki are in the city.”

“Hah, deal! There are no other Danuki here right now, they’re all already in Sanctifrond from Port Dorning!”

“Alright, thanks.” You say, nodding wearily as you check yourself for wounds. She looks at you with a confused gaze.

“What are you doing?”

“Making sure I’m not bleeding.”


“Gods don’t bleed.” You say, satisfied that the only issue is your bruised ribs. You carefully put your undershirt back on, wincing as you do so the whole time.

“Makes sense I gu- HEY WAIT, where’s my gold?”

“You’re not going to be needing gold where you’re going.” Alice says, a broad smile on her face. She blinks and then looks at you. “Right?”

“Just wait.” You say as the doors open and the Wurms pour in, gasping in distress. The new guards dash up to the dias, hammers in claws, but before they can reach, you shout out with your amplified voice, “HALT!”

Every Wurm in the room, including the two injured ones, look up at you with awe and some disappointment as your chest is now covered. Why the two who saw you as a man look as stupefied as the others, you have no idea, but that’s not important right now. Nodding your head, you build yourself up as powerful as possible and say,

“I have spoke with your Queen and through my divine judgement, have I found that she has sold you out to the Danuki!”

The Wurms look about in confusion, not really understanding what that meant. Unfazed, you continue. “Your future was not meant to toil in the ground here, living in squalor and mining for the sake of the Danuki. Do you know what your hard work goes toward? Making the Danuki rich while they give you nothing! Your Queen, as good intentioned as she is, knew this was happening and chose to deny you husbands and FREEDOM.”

Nodding your head sadly, you say, “Thus I have delivered judgment upon the Danuki and have brought forth of the Lizardmen to merit the worth of your Queen. Sadly, she was found wanting.”

The Wurms whisper to each other with worry, noticing for the first time the Lizardman on the royal stool. Tabitha sits up straight and says, “In an honorable duel, your Queen was defeated! Blessed by the eyes of Sveth and Dollora, by right, she is judged unfit to rule the Wurms and this land is to be ceded back to the Lizardmen.”

You glance at her, wondering how she could play with this so well. It was almost as if she had practiced that speech, which would mean that this was part of her plan all along? Well, at least her plan wasn’t just to slaughter every Wurm in the city, right? Right?

“Yeah but…” One of the Wurms says, looking worried. “What are we supposed to do then? If we’re supposed to leave, then we do we go?”

You look to Tabitha who looks a little pensive. Yeah… you think she was accounting for a few more deaths. “Back to the Mon-” She begins before trailing off as she looks over the Wurms. She narrows her eyes and clenches her fists before saying, “You should go to Ectria. Where you can live free and be… be happy.”

“I mean, some of the things Sveth was saying about Ectria seem nice.” One of the Wurms says, nodding her head. A few other Wurms chat amongst themselves while others seem unconvinced.

“But I like it here!” One of the Wurms says, thumping her chest. “I was born here! This is my home too!”

A few more Wurms begin chatting with each other, filling the air with indignation. Making to speak, you’re cut off as Tabitha says in a low voice, “So it’s your land because you were born here…” She looks about the ruins of the throne room and down to the chair she’s sitting on, her face growing weary.

“It is true, that many Lizardmen alive know nothing of their home, have no dreams of ever stepping foot here. Had you but asked, perhaps we would have taken you in. But you did not. Your Mothers came in and slaughtered my people. I remember the story my Mother told me about the attack, how she watched her friends be buried in rubble and crushed under the weight of the surprise attack.”

She places a hand over her eyes and says, “Most land is taken through brutal, bloody combat. I understand the harsh realities of this. But this land literally has our blood soaked into it, and our slain are one with the rocks, fed to the mountain to become part of its strength. We deserve our home, and now that I am here…” She looks up at the Wurms and growls, “I will not give it up again, not without a fight.”

The Wurms go silent, looking at Tabitha’s righteous anger with awe. Though she is much shorter than them, she exudes an aura of strength and makes the Wurms quake a little in her presence. In the harsh silence, you speak up, saying,

“You were never meant to be enemies. You are always my children, the children of the Earth. Your battles fill my heart with sadness, for to see daughter murdering daughter under false pretenses is a shame I will carry to eternity.”

Taking a breath, you continue with a harsher voice. “But it is clear now more than ever that the Wurms and the Lizardmen don’t have to be enemies. The true enemy is the Danuki! They are the ones who told your Queen to attack the Lizardmen, they are the ones who keep you in chains, and they are the ones who will be the end of this hatred!”

“Tell them, Emphrasea.” You say, and the Wurms turn about to see their Queen, body scarred and bruised, her eye swollen, blood covering her beautiful form. She coughs once, still woozy, and says with downcast eyes,

“Yes… it is true. I have failed you, my people.”

At this the Wurms look distraught, one from such a revalation and two from seeing their Queen so hurt. If she could be bested, mentally and physically, then what hope was there for them? They’ve been lied to their whole lives? What kind of world do they live in now? How can they survive?

“This man… God. This God is right.” Emphrasea says, her expression looking like she’s eaten something distasteful at another lie. “I didn’t want to admit it but I failed you, I-“

“It’s not all about you.” Tabitha says, looking angry. “You keep saying, ‘I’ and ‘my,’ when you should be thinking about your people instead!” Though she sits smaller than the Wurm Queen at her full height, she dominates the woman with her presence and says, “Your people listen to you, but will you listen to them?”

Emphrasea blinks a few times before looking down to the Wurms who look at her with fear and hope. If she ordered them to attack you, they probably would and things could go back to normal here. But… she pauses, trembling before she says, “I will leave for Ectria. If any of you wish to follow me then… then so be it.” Looking up at Tabitha, she says, “I will not force them to do anything they dislike. If some should choose to remain…”

“Then they will be judged fairly.”

“I-I see.” The Queen says before placing a battered claw to her face and sighing.

From behind all of you, the Danuki squirms and shouts, “LIES! ALL OF THIS LIES! YOU ARE FORGETTING EVERYTHING THE LIZARDMEN DID, EVERY JUSTICE YOU FOUGHT FOR!” She wriggles in the grasp of Alice with futility, almost frothing at the mouth. “DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON EVERYTHING!”

Alice sighs and you say to the Wurms, “Look upon this creature. I may call her a criminal, a slaver, a destroyer of all that is good and pure. It slides off her like water from an Ottergirl’s back.” You move close to the Danuki and say to her face, “You are nothing but a lowly Danuki.” She flinches at this and you nod your head before turning back to the Wurms.

“And yet… I call her a Danuki, and she shrinks from me and says, ‘I have been found out.’ Do you believe such beings are worth your devotion?” When the Wurms shake their heads, you close your eyes and say, “Then we shall bring the true end to this.”

You snap your fingers, and Alice decapitates the Danuki.

As the body hits the floor, the Wurms huddle back in surprise before looking at each other and then nodding, letting loose a cheer. The applause that follows nearly shakes the room as the implacable earth dragons let out their excitement. You’re not certain they actually understand what is they’re cheering for, but you let it wash over you like a physical force, almost allowing yourself to drift to sleep.

You manage to stay awake until it finishes though, and Tabitha dismisses the Wurms, who slither back to the city to party or something, leaving you with the broken, in more ways than one, Queen Emphrasea. She sighs as the last Wurm leaves the room and says, “Why don’t you just kill me and be done with it?”

“Because, at the moment I need you.” Tabitha says, scowling at the Queen. It will take quite some time to return the Queen here, especially after her damn escapades in Cair, and to bring this place to working order. I don’t need Wurms running about without supervision to lead them to Ectria.”

“It won’t be easy to herd them out there.”

“Then dig a tunnel.”

The Queen sighs. “You Lizardmen, always with tongues as sharp as your swords. I am sadly in no fit shape to leave, however.” Looking at her battered form, she says, “There may be other Danuki who come by as well.”

“Kill them too.” Tabitha says. “Show them the Wurms won’t be treated like retarded children any longer.”

“Hmph, if only a good knock on the head would do the same for them as it did for me.”

“Speaking of which…” You say, finding a weak connection to a Leyline on your [Port-o-Glass], “I’ve contacted Chaika on this situation. I’m certain the Order will be very interested in maintaining some stability here. They might send healers here as well.”

The Queen frowns and says, “What, to cure me of my intelligence?”

“A blade in the heart would have the same effect.” You say, frowning. “No, I meant that maybe they can find out why you’re different, maybe replicate it on the others?”

“Who knows.” The Queen says, looking tired. “I should go make sure they’re not causing mischief outside the city.”

“Let them be.” Tabitha says, sighing. “You’ve caused enough trouble. Go to your chambers for the last time. We’ll summon you later.” She nods and does, slithering out of the room.

When they’re alone, the Lizardman slumps to the side on the stool-throne like a bed and says, “It’s over. I expected it to be more… dramatic. If I’d known it could happen like this, I’d have done it sooner.”

“Perhaps it’s because you didn’t do it sooner that you had the power to make it happen?” Sophie says, walking over to her sister and stroking her head and Sylphie finally falls asleep. “Father said you were always going about aimlessly, and that he often gave you tasks to find focus for you.”

“Ha, that’s why you were wandering?” Alice says, snickering. “Couldn’t get over the fact that the Lord Commander chose the mangy mutt over your scaly ass?”

“I made peace with that ages ago.” Tabitha murmurs.

Sophie frowns and says, “Are you alright? I’ve never seen you look so… vulnerable.”

The Lizardman sighs and says, “I have retaken my homeland, wandered this country and much of the Monster Nation, and now find myself without purpose.”

“You could rule the Lizardmen now? I’m sure you’d make a good Queen, especially since you know the Monster Lady.”

“If she were here anyway…” Tabitha mutters and you look to Sophie who asks,

“You know she’s missing?”

“I’m surprised you do.” The Lizardman says, picking herself up. “I heard from your Father a few months ago about his trip to Ectria and how Selene was following him. They said they were going to prevent a catastrophe from occurring out there. Hells, I even wanted to follow them, but he grabbed me by the arm and said,

“Isn’t it about time?”

She grows quiet for a while before sighing and saying, “That idiot… I don’t understand how he has such power over people.”

“He’s in trouble though.” You say, and Tabitha looks at you with a stern gaze.

“Go on.”

You recount to her your tale, with help by Sophie and Mr. Ed, and she finds herself looking at her scaled hands with a concerned expression. As she does, Alice leans over and pokes her cheek, saying, “Sounds like fun, huh ya scaly grump-ass?”

“You just want to sleep with Ectrian men.”

“I hear their sperm tastes like coconuts!”

You and Tabitha exchange looks, the latter seeming to be almost inured to this shit. “Well.” Tabitha says, stretching her back. “Let us eat and rest for the moment before we make any more plan, alright?”

“Yeah, we all need rest as much as these two.” You say, waving your hand to Ebe and Sylphie.

“Hey, do you know what she was playing by the way?” Alice asks, looking over Ebe’s guitar. “I’ve never heard music like that before.”

“I don’t know.” You say, remembering the sound in your mind. “But it was as hard as metal.”


It takes all of your will not to just slump over and fall asleep right then and there. Taking your bedroll out or even just collapsing on the floor into a nice, deep sleep would be wonderful, especially given your injuries. But that won’t do, and you figure sleeping on the hard stone would make your back hurt even worse than it does right now, so waiting is the better option.

What you could really go for, as much as you hate to admit it, is one of those back stepping massage things from Ebe again. The words to ask come to your mouth, but you stifle it in your throat as you see the gentle rising and falling of her breast as she sleeps. She too had overexerted herself today, playing that hard and heavy music. Thinking back on it and what you saw with your sight, it truly did appear that something was guiding her playing, but what could it have been? Some kind of spirit or…? No, it’s too much to assume some kind of God would have a hand in this, right?

“Rommel.” Sophie says in a gentle voice, still stroking her sister’s head. “You look like you’re about to collapse. Surely there is a room here which we may retire?”

“Probably.” Tabitha says, picking herself up. The servos in her legs whine a little in protest as she does so, but she merely thumps them on the side and they quiet down. “Hmph, need to oil them again I guess. As far as rooms go, I’ve never been to Blackfire Reach, let alone the Palace, so I don’t know the layout, but I did hear that the royalty had designed the place to house some people in case of a seige.”

“I think all of us should get some sleep before discussing things further.” You say, a yawn escaping your lips. Mr. Ed walks over to you, dropping your [Trenchcoat] which you had discarded earlier into your arms, and you nod your head in thanks while Erwin brushes past your legs. “While I would suggest keeping a guard normally, I’m not certain we have much to worry about from them at the moment.”

“Beyond wrecking some more architecture.” Tabitha sighs, standing and stretching. “I could go for longer, but you’re right, I suppose. It’s probably morning already.”

“Tch, I thought you had more vigor than that.” Alice says, flipping her hair. A smug smile crosses her as she coos out, “Or do you need a nap, old lady?”

“Tell me that when you manage to beat me in a duel.” Tabitha says, shaking her head.

“Oh pshaw, I was about to kick your ass-“

“Until I literally kicked yours, yes.”

The swordsman purses her lips and sighs. “I suppose as of yet I might have something to learn from you, Monstrous as you are.”

{This Alice is quite the bitch.} Erwin says, looking between the group. {Are we certain she’s not some kind of Monster?}

{I suppose true Monsters are on the inside.} You reply absently before the statement sinks in and you frown, thinking over the connotations of that. Well, if that were the case then… agh, you’re too tired to think much about that.

Sophie seems to notice you almost falling over and nods to Mr. Ed, who helps her raise her sleeping sister onto his back before he neighs softly, turning about to nibble Sylphie’s hair. She opens her mouth to speak to Alice, but the woman rolls her eyes and walks over to pick up the slumbering Ebe, holding her awkwardly around her shoulder. The woman grumbles something about sun-kissed skin melting ice or something before walking as well toward the door. Erwin keeps pace as you make your way with the group, though you stop and look at Tabitha who is still sitting on the stool/throne.

“You coming?”

“In abit.” She says, voice very tired. “I think I want to just… take this all in right now.”

You and Sophie trade glances before shrugging and making your way out of the throne room to hear a Palaceful of Wurms chatting about and partying. From one of the staircases you see a Wurm riding the stonework banister to slide down it with her hands in the air, squealing the whole time. She falls off the banister onto the floor before picking herself up and laughing, making to do it again. Other Wurms are dancing as some play drums made of old shields, their beating having about zero rhythm. Despite being asleep, Ebe makes a pained face.

As your group enters the main chamber the Wurms about stop in a slow wave, some of them not seeing for quite some time, and they all look at you in awe. You sweep your gaze about the room upon the faces of the assembled Wurms and they look nothing so much as children. Well developed, legal age, children, but children nonetheless. Sighing, you weave a little [Amplify] and say, “Daughters… continue your revelry.” Thinking about it for a moment, you point to a Wurm at the edge of the party, one of the former guards, and say, “Except for you. You are to show us to chambers which may be used.”

“Woah, I didn’t know Gods needed to sleep!” One of the Wurms says, and the others chatter with each other, murmuring in agreement. You shake your head and say,

“If I didn’t sleep, then how would I have had all these cute daughters?”

The Wurm’s eyes grow big and she says, “Woaaaahhhh, I never thought about that! It makes sense though! If a mommy wurm takes a daddy’s Wurm it makes a little Wurm, then of course it would have had to been that way!”

The other Wurms around her nod and clap their claws together as she nods with sagacity. Undeserved sagacity, but sagacity nonetheless. She cocks her head and ponders for a moment. “Wait, but who is the Mommy of the Wurms then?”

Sophie sighs and shakes her head before whispering in your ear, “I’m going upstairs, you have fun playing God, Sveth.”

“H-hey, wait!” You say as they move on past, Alice snickering at you the whole time. The Wurm you designated leads them upstairs and as soon as they’re gone, you find yourself swarmed by chattering Wurms.

“Can you make the volcano blow again?”

“Did you have sex with Dollora? Is she super cute?”

“I once ate a rock and pooped out a smaller rock, is that normal?”

You hear Erwin’s voice in your mind snickering as you do your best not to crack under the pressure from your exhaustion physically and mentally. If this is what it means to have children, then you’re glad you’re a Wizard. You do your best to placate their little questions, even taking some cheese from one when offered, eating it in large bites to get over the incredibly potent flavor.

“H-Hey.” A nearby Wurm says, her cheeks flushed. She brushes aside her blonde hair and asks, “Y-You made Wurms by sleeping with someone r-right? W-Well, what would happen if you slept with Wurm?”

All the other Wurms stop and turn their gazes to you, the tiny little mice in their brains turning those wheels as comprehension begins to dawn. They could sleep with a GOD and have like, GOD babies!

“Now, now daughters.” You say, voice amplified. “Such things are not allowed.”

“But…” A Wurm with a rather revealing top and large chest says, tracing her claws across your cheek, “You’re a God, you can change the rules…”

The other Wurms nod in agreement and you feel their claws upon you, making a shiver of alarm go up your spine. You say firmly again, “Daughters, do not make me angry.”

“Ohhh that sounds exciting! Make the volcano explode!”

“Mmm, angry sounds nice!”

“No really, that thing about the pooping rocks?”

“BACK!” You say, stomping your foot on the ground and sending forth a [Tremor]. The Wurms back away from you, but don’t fall over due to a mix of your exhaustion and their natural sturdiness. It gives you some space however to push yourself up from the ground upon a pillar of stone that bursts through the marble flooring. Using them as stairs, you make your way over to the staircase and start running down the hall toward the rooms.

Wurms pile up the stairs after you and you begin to feel your legs getting weaker when a door opens ahead of you and Mr. Ed sticks his head out. He looks at you (Erwin seems to have vanished for some reason) and then to the Wurms before rolling his eyes and walking out into the hallway. You shout at him to get out of the way, but he merely gestures his head to the side and you dodge behind him.

As the stampede of Wurms chases after dear old Daddy, Mr. Ed rears into the air and then brings down his hooves before letting loose the loudest bray you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t shake the room like your [Amplified] shouting, but the effect is immediate as it washes over the Wurms, causing the lead one to stop, eyes going wide with shock and crying out as the others behind her come tumbling over her in their panic.

You back away a little as the Wurms tumble forward, but Mr. Ed stands his ground, lifting one hoof and gently placing it on the head of a Wurm who lands before him, the tide slowing all around. The little Wurm looks up at the horse with confused eyes as Mr. Ed leans down and snorts hot air, ruffling her black hair.

“Uhhhh.” You say, scratching your chin. “What just happened?”

Mr. Ed lets out a loud neigh and then turns to the door to the room he came as Sophie sticks out her head and says, “Shhhh! There’s people trying to sleep in here!”

“S-Sorry.” One of the Wurms says, looking abashed as she lays on the floor. “W-We didn’t mean to make you mad Mr. Scary God horse.”

“His name is Mr. Ed, now please, leave us be.” Sophie says, her eyes quite scornful. The Wurms pick themselves up and look abashed before rubbing their arms and flowing away from you, muttering apologies until you’re alone.

“I… I have no idea what’s happening.” You say, putting a hand to your head. “Why did they leave so easily?”

{Did you even understand what he said? Damn, that horse can be really scary if he puts his mind to it!}

You look over to see Erwin saunter up the stairs as the Wurms retreat, looking none the worse for wear. Frowning at him, you say, {I don’t speak horse. Wait, they don’t speak horse either!}

{You don’t know that.} Erwin says, trotting over to a room and leaping up to grab a handle before opening the door. He shakes his tail and then yawns. {Come on, it’s time to sleep.}

Looking over to Mr. Ed, you nod your head and say, “Thanks uh, Mr. Ed.” He snorts and lets out a soft neigh before trotting back to the room. Sophie gives you an odd look from the door before rolling her eyes and closing it tight.

With a sigh, you enter the room that Erwin has opened and step inside to see a formerly stately room. A large, four-poster bed sits in the center of the room, it’s side boards torn apart, but the mattress fairly intact. Other furniture, fairly well ruined, litters the room as well though you care very little about anything but the bed, which still has sheets despite them likely being infested with bed bugs.

The sheets shift and you pause as you see Alice turn about, her eyes locking onto you. Looking to the side, you notice her armor upon the floor, as well as her tunic. And pants. And small clothes.

“Heeeeeey, look at you, mmm taking the initative, I like tha-“

You walk out and close the door on her and Erwin, walking over to the next room over, which has a damaged, if still functional bed. With little adieu, you fall onto the bed, and drift off to a needed sleep.


“Get up.”

Your eyes flutter awake as you hear this, along with someone poking the back of your head with something hard. Groaning, you roll about to have the long object poke your face and you wave your hands around to move it out of the away. Blinking the sleep out of your eyes, you look up to see Tabitha standing before you, sword sheath held over you.

“W-Wanderer?” You say blearly, and she nods her head.

“Yes. Look, the girls asked me to wake you up since you’ve been asleep awhile.”

“How long?”

She shrugs. “It’s late afternoon, so time enough.” Putting her sword back on her belt, she asks, “How are you feeling?”


With some effort, you push yourself up and groan, feeling both the assault on your back and chest. You figured sleeping would make it better, but Gods if it hurts still. She chuckles and says, “Ah, well if you have the energy to whine, you have the energy to get up and get some food.”

“Gods, do you do this with everyone?”

“Only with the strange men who travel with my friend’s daughters.”

“Fair.” You say, shaking your head and slapping your cheeks. Despite still being in pain, you do feel far more awake, and looking around the room, you grab your staff which had fallen to the floor. Stretching with some effort, you follow after Tabitha to the hallway where the others of your group stand about, chatting. As you approach, they turn to you and smile.

“Morning Rommel.” Sylphie says, beaming.

“I suppose you could say, good evening.” Sophie corrects, though she still smirks.

“Morning, night, I kind of want to go back to sleep.” Ebe says, stifling a yawn with a wing. The others chuckle until you reach them, to which you turn about and frown.

“Where is Alice and Erwin?”

“Right here!”

The door to her room opens and she saunters out, wearing her armor and sword. In one hand, she holds Erwin close to her breast and chuckles, seeming still beautiful despite her disheleved hair. You cock your head and look at Erwin, who gives you a smug expression and sends,

{You missed out. She’s sooofffft.}

{After everything I’ve done for you, you do this to me.}

{Well maybe if you had soft pillows to snuggle against…}

You shake your head, ignoring him and turning back to the group to find Sylphie standing before you, her hands held together. She bites her lip and says, “I just wanted to say… thanks for rescuing Sophie. If anything had happened to her I… I…”

Her words cut off as you place a gentle hand on her head and ruffle her hair, using the technique you never knew you had. She blushes and looks down as you say, “Come now, without your magic, we’d never have gotten as far as we did.”

Ebe shuffles about as she watches the scene and you wave her over, giving her a headpat as she approaches. “And you too Ebe. I had no idea you knew such music.”

Her blissful smile becomes a worried expression as she says, “I didn’t either. I was just playing notes and then it felt like… like I just got into it all and I just seemed to lose myself to it.”

“Do you remember how to play it again?”

“I… I think so?” She says, uncertain of herself. “I’m kind of afraid to, to lose myself in that music again but…” She flashes you a wicked smile and says, “I did kind of like it.”

“Good girl.” You say, ruffling her hair a little more to which she coos before you take your hands away to find Sophie standing before you, twirling her finger through her hair. Rolling your eyes, you wave her forward, but as you so, Alice butts into your other hand and says,

“Oh, oh, me too!”

“Ehm.” You say, looking about. The others chuckle, though Tabitha gives you a stern expression.

“Don’t you think about it.”

“But Tabitha, you like when Dad pats your head~” Sophie says, to which to Lizardman bops her on the top of the head. “Oww, oww, oww!”

“You two troublemakers.” Tabtiha says, still holding half a smile. “Ugh, I wish I could stay mad at you, but for now, let’s get some food.”

“What do you think Wurms eat?” Ebe asks as you walk down to the kitchens.

“Rocks.” You say. “I’m betting it’s rocks.”


“It’s not rocks.” Ebe says, looking down at the soup before her. In fact, all of you have some soup and a little bit of fresh baked bread much to your surprise. What is even more surprising is that the soup isn’t horribly thin and even has some beef floating in it. Scratching your head, you look up at the Wurm “chef” who delivered the meal to you with a smile.

“You made this?”

“Well, yeah, who else was going to make it?”

“I…didn’t know that Wurms could cook.” You say with genuine surprise. The Wurm rolls her eyes and crosses her arms under her breasts.

“Come on, it’s not like we eat rocks!” When you and Ebe trade a glance, she puffs her cheeks and says, “Okay well, we can eat rocks, but they don’t taste good. The Danuki taught some of us how to cook! Said they couldn’t eat slop while here or something, and we need our strength to dig!”

“I’m not doubting you.” You say, looking down at the food with anticipation. “Just surprised the Danuki gave you such ingredients.”

“They weren’t bad or anything.” The Wurm says, shrugging. “Always made sure we were fed, even if they were rude!”

“Well, thank you for the meal.” You and your group say before digging into the food which is surprisingly really good! You even detect some spices, and the Wurm chef confirms that they are present, used from a private stock for the Danuki.

“I mean, I can’t do much of anything but cook at all, but I can do it well!” The Wurm says after the meal. “I’m kind of excited to see what other foods are out there. Maybe I’ll go on a cooking quest!” She says, eyes twinkling. “Though I’ll have to learn how to build a fire…”

“Uhhhh. How did you?” Sylphie begins to ask when the Wurm chuckles and says,

“Ovens are always hot cause of the volcano, duhhhhh!”

The Cat o’Ninetails places her hands before her trying to figure that one out fully. You smile at the Wurm and say, “Good luck with your quest then!”

“Hey, thanks!” She taps her chin and then looks at you with a weird expression. “Wait, do Gods even eat? And wasn’t your voice louder?”

“It hurts my throat to talk like that for too long.”

“Oh. Okay then.” She says, seeming to accept this at face value before slinking back to the kitchens, leaving you alone in the dining hall with a surprising amount of non-broken chairs. The others finish their meals and look very satisfied, chatting amicably. Tabitha is the first to get everyone’s attention, tapping her spoon against the stonework cup, getting everyone’s attention.

“So, we’re rested and fed. I suppose that begs the next question. You’ve explained why you’re here and what you’re traveling for. I believe that if you encountered Chaika, the only reason you’d have survived is that she allowed you to.” Sylphie blushes and looks down while Sophie nods her head.

“A shame she couldn’t be present, but I assume she’ll be back on her feet soon.” Tabitha says, nodding her head before looking to you. “So, they have some kind of contract with you, and if you’ve been this far, I’ll trust their judgement for now. They’re adults and they can make their own decisions, as BAD as they are at times.”

“Oh please, they’re very brave little idiots.” Alice says, fixing her hair. “And if personal experience means anything, brave little idiots can save the world.”

“I swear…” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “So, you wish to travel to Ectria and rescue the Grand Wizard and the Monster Lady. Have you really thought about what this fully entails?”

“I believe all involved are beginning to figure out what it means.” You say and the twins nod their heads as well. “Though if you were to join us…”

“Gods…” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “I just wanted to liberate my homeland and now I’m getting wrangled into an adventure to Ectria of all places. Your family causes me nothing but trouble, you know that?”

The twins look abashed, though Sophie says, “Apologies, Tabitha.”

“Tch, at least you got your Mother’s looks. I don’t always agree with her, but at least your Father chose a looker.”

“Is that a compliment?” Sylphie asks, cocking her head.

“It’s whatever you think it to be.” Tabitha says, running her hand through her hair. “So, Blake is going to send in some people to help the transition team. If the Queen holds her end of the bargain, I don’t need to stay here any longer so I suppose I’d be free.”

“Aye.” You say, looking at your [Port-o-Glass]. The latest Leymail from Chaika says that Blake got the message and she for one is utterly surprised by these events, telling you to say to Tabitha, and you quote, “You half-construct loser, better go with those girls and keep them safe or so help Dollora, she’ll break your legs without effort.”

“Ah, that’s so like her.” Tabitha says, chuckling. “Well, did they say if there would be any support from the Order?”

“Not into Ectria. Apparently he’s straining his resources with a problem in Cair still.”

“Galmathorians…” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “For all the times for her to be absent and let those idiots run around.” She sighs and shakes her head, throwing a hand up and saying, “Well, I guess we better accompany you. I’ve lost one pair of legs, I don’t need another.”

“Hehe.” Alice snickers. “Well, getting to kill some Exotic Monsters sounds like fun! Oh and the men too!”

“Why is she here again?” Sophie asks, and Tabitha shrugs.

“Because, despite all of her bluster, I think she’s earnest about getting better with the blade. Besides, I’m sure you saw how good she is.”

Alice smiles broadly and you roll your eyes, reading one last thing from Chaika’s message. “Huh, sounds like the Lord Commander would have sent someone to us, but they’re busy down in Port Dorning. It’s the… the Ascendant?!” You say, eyes going wide.

Tabitha whistles, “Damn, having her around would have been amazing. Girl’s older, but it just made her tougher and cruder. I hear she can wield holy magic with ease now, some kind of blessed of Solos or something.”

“A shame.” Sophie says, actually reflecting it. “We almost never get to see her, but every time we do, I always get this sense of… serenity.”

“Yeah, Veronica has that effect on people.” Tabitha says, smiling before pushing herself up and standing. “Alright, let’s make our preparations. We need to be going tomorrow morning. You all have some free time until then.”

“I thought Rommel was the head of this group.” Ebe says, cocking her head. They look to her and then to you to which the twins say,

“It is our contract.”

“Yeah, but I’m the Lizardman who has spanked your asses when you were whiny little kittens.” They look her dead in the eyes and she breaks into a smile, “Ah… but you’re not kittens any longer, are you? Well, as long as he doesn’t give ME any orders, we’ll be fine.”

With that, everyone breaks to do their own things, Sophie and Sylphie to speak with Tabitha while getting they lay of the city while Ebe goes to take another nap, feeling tired.

For your own part, you decide to practice your Geomancy. Sure, there were plenty of other things you could be doing, but in the middle of a city built into a mountain with a large deposit of minerals… what else would you do?

First things first, you walk through the city, bringing Mr. Ed and Erwin along with you, much to the horse’s annoyance. The Wurms remember last evening and leave you be, allowing you to wander through the town, pulsing your [Survey] through the ground and pulling up various minerals. Of course, you pull up simple things like granite and marble from the Palace, taking pieces which were damaged and no one would notice, but also smaller pieces of minerals you already have, such as iron ore, obsidian, copper. They’re just to form larger wholes of the ones you already have, though you find space in the pocket you designated for them shrinking…

While getting closer to the mines, you find an interesting mineral you believe to be basalt, and pocket a fist-sized chunk of it, though it the black stone seems fairly common, along with a porous, lighter colored stone that you think is pumice. Carrying your [Port-o-Glass] with you, you’re able to (despite slow aetherical connection) confirm this. Might as well pocket a decent stone of this as well, especially because it’s fairly easy to work with.

Pushing aside some of your friends to make room, you find that you had thrown in that knife from the Danuki in there without much thought. The dull, almost useless blade is a mockery to good metalworking but… it is easy to practice with. You place it next to your good [Knife] so that it may be bullied properly.

>You obtain [Danuki Knife]

>It’s really only fit to spread butter

While pulling some iron and shifting it about you into spheres, you find an interesting ore nearby that has trace amounts of iron but is… different. Pulling it from the earth, a search there shows it is sphalerite, used to make zinc. Well now, that’s cool! Feeling pretty good about yourself, you pocket this as well before heading fully into the mines.

Honestly, you expected to see gold glittering everywhere around you, but the mines instead look more like, well, mines. Tracks for carts line the interior of the mineshafts and a little building in front signals the foreman’s office. You enter the building and look about to see obviously Danuki-written documents, left out for anyone to see since who else would be here but Wurms?

Most of the documents detail amounts of ore dug up and shipments labeled to be sent to Danusreal but it isn’t until Erwin finds a hidden compartment in the desk that you find some more… interesting documents. Within the table rests an open letter with the seal of Danusreal along with documents detailing how Wurms may be used for labor in other situations. One of them called for expanding passes through the mountains to allow for further trade access to Ectria and the Monster Nation while another spoke of expanding the catacombs under Sanctifrond.

You pause at that one, not even knowing there WERE catacombs under Sanctifrond. Thankfully you’d stopped that ploy cold, but Gods could that have been bad. What else did the Danuki know? Sadly the documents don’t say much else beyond detailing further trade routes and the names of the Danuki assigned to Blackfire Reach duty (the majority left to Sanctifrond in light of recent events), but you pocket them anyway.

>You obtain {Danuki Documents}

>Documents detailing secret Danuki plans. Not damning evidence of the assault on Blackfire Reach, but certainly enough to make people look critically at them.

You decided to send this information to Chaika, figuring why not, before returning to your search. It’s not hard to find some gold ore, as a shipment is piled into a cart nearby, and you take a few chunks which are unusable for currency, but might have some good uses later. Seems like a good idea, and you always wanted to see what gold looks like in a raw form. It’s not nearly as shiny as you’d expect it to be, but nothing ever is.

In the area where the gold is being stored, you also find some ore that seems… different. They seem to be of interesting colors, but are marked for little use and essentially, “junk.” You dig through with your [Survey] and almost pass over one piece of reddish ore entirely before pausing and picking it up, realizing your magic has no effect on parts of it. Frowning in concentration, you realize that this ore has to be aluminum! But if that’s the case then why is this labeled as junk?

Looking it up, you see that it’s Bauxite, a piece of ore that can be melted down to get aluminum. Trace other minerals are in the rock, but your main focus is the aluminum. Hrm… getting that out specifically will be difficult but… might as well add it to your collection, right? More friends!

“Hey Erwin.” You say while digging through the rocks.

{No, I do not want a rock.}

“Fine, I wasn’t going to give you one anyway.” You say, sniffing in disdain.

Finishing your look through the mines, you decide to not to head deeper, but instead to return to the Palace. Your back still aches some, and the walking hasn’t helped, though Mr. Ed refuses to let you ride him again, the spoilsport. Probably would have hurt anyway… Regardless, you make it back to the Palace unmolested and tell the others about what you’ve found over some late-night food that chef concocted.

You had hoped to find some ore such as Adamantium or such, but if you had there would have been a much, MUCH larger operation, as that is more valuable than gold. Hells, you were maybe hoping to get something else, maybe one of the other mythical metals such as mythril or orchalium, though you have no idea if anyone has even SEEN the former in ages. Of course, these are far, FAR more plausible than the rarest and most magically conductive of all metals, runite.

Ah, but no one is even sure what runite looks like, and any weapons or armor forged of this metal have been lost for generations. Still, you made quite the haul, including an interesting rock you found on the way out of the mines that was leeched into the earth, pulling it out and finding it to be Rutile. You’re going to miss your Leyline connection while in Ectria…

Though you try to tell everyone about your haul, they won’t hear of it, and after eating, you retire to the room that is yours, preparing for the next day. You set out all of your friends, new and old, before you and go over their names, getting familiar with each of their geomantic feels, and creating a personalities for them that match their forms. You almost feel like you can hear their voices through their forms, and understand what uses they might best be suited for. Of course, you wouldn’t think about using your friends unless you had to!

Still feeling a little awake, you decide to do some reading through your copy of [Clay in a Sculptor’s Hand: Golem Creation and Theory], getting the basic understanding of what a golem is and what you can do with them. Feeling a little tired though, you put the book down and drift off, thinking about how it could be used for your friends as well as the lingering feelings of anxiety of the road that lays ahead.

>You gain [Marble]

>A white and black veined, durable rock used for decorative construction

>You gain [Granite]

>A chunk of construction-grade granite. Tough, rough, and buff.

>You gain [Basalt]

>A common volcanic ore, dense.

>You gain [Pumice]

>A volcanic rock often used for cleaning due to its abrasive nature

>You gain [Bauxite]

>A curious mix of minerals, the main one you’re interested in is the aluminum

>You gain [Gold Ore]

>Raw gold ore, some in the form of Krennerite, this ore is shiny, but not currently good for currency

>You gain [Rutile]

>A lovely ore which seems aspected toward electricity for some reason

>You gain [Sphalerite]

>Zinc ore, it’s kind of pretty to behold.


You’re awoken early by Tabitha, again, and after a light breakfast, everyone assembles, ready to hit the road. Though the sun has barely risen over the horizon, the Wurms are here to see you off, even the Queen, who speaks low with Tabitha, deals and threats being made. Ebe seems fairly confident, her guitar on her back and a spring in her step, as you’re used to seeing from her and the twins are right and ready. Alice… just yawns and looks about bored.

{Ready to go?} Erwin asks, sitting on Mr. Ed’s back.

You’ve done a lot, but the road stretches out before you. There’s some time before you need to get going out to the pass and toward the outpost in the pass which connects with Blackfire Reach, but you can’t take all day. Is there anything else you want to do here? It’s always such a hard decision but-

“No.” You say, looking out at Blackfire Reach. “I think we’re done here, for now.”

“Aye.” Tabitha says, nodding her head. “But I’ll be back, and we’ll see this place restored to its former glory.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Sylphie says, spring back in her step. “Let’s go save Mom and Dad!”

Sophie chuckles and hugs her sister as your group makes its way past the gaggle of Wurms around you. They cheer and clap their hands, seeming rather happy for some reason, though you do notice some of the Wurms looking about with confusion, as if they don’t really understand why they’re clapping. Soon enough Order troops will come in and keep some semblance of Order, and you hope it’s before the Danuki can respond, though how they’d know you have no idea. The Danuki here in the city didn’t have a Port-o-Glass, perhaps on fear of intercepted aetheric signatures, so it’s not like they’ll find out fast.

Walking through the city, you soon come to the three, massive gates of which two are held open for you. Tabitha confirms that the gates were just left open anyway, the Wurms not remembering, or not fearing, the gates being open. They had come in from some of the back passes but had gotten a good lay of the city before making to strike.

As you approach the final gate it shudders open, one Wurm operator turning a crank while waving to you, and you exit Blackfire Reach and find yourself back on the path to the Mountain Pass. There really isn’t anything much worth mentioning about this, except as soon as you leave eyesight of the gates, you feel the rock about you shudder and shift. Both you and Sylphie use your geomancy to stabilize your group as rocks slide down from the sides of the mountain, none of them very large except for one boulder that smashes onto the ground before you, throwing chunks of rock you have to magically block.

“W-what the fuck was that about?” Sylphie asks, casting some mild aeromancy to blow away the dust. The rest of you cough as you do the same, finally clearing the path before you to show the boulder that hit the ground split apart, an object in the center of it.

“Huh.” Ebe says, walking out from your group toward the object. Running up to her, you put a hand on her shoulder and say,

“Hey-HEY! Ebe, you need to be careful!”

“But you can feel it, right?” The Gandharva says, looking about. “It feels like something hard and heavy, like when I was playing that song. It doesn’t feel dangerous… at least not to me.” She shudders and hugs herself. “It feels that that presence before is speaking to me, telling me to take something.”

“What…” You say, looking over at the object. Getting a good look at it finally, you realize that it’s a guitar. It’s made of a similar material to your [obsidian], but instead of the elegant nature of the ghitar that Ebe has, this one is sleek and powerful, like a predatory cat. Metallic strings head up the neck to a head shaped like a fist and overall the device screams to you something of strength.

Instinctively, you activate your [Mage Sight] and as you do, the form of a tall, powerfully built man appears before you. His arms, strong and confident, are the same as those burned into your mind from before and if you had any doubt who he was, the sharp, piercing eyes which are as heavy as the mountains and rich as blood, drive away any doubt. You feel your knees go weak as you look upon the form of Sveth, the TRUE Sveth, and your hand goes slack on Ebe’s shoulder, allowing her to move closer.

Dimly, you hear the others say something as Ebe walks over the to the guitar and pulls it from the ground, holding it in the air before Sveth. He nods his head and pats her head, though she doesn’t seem to understand it, before he turns to look at you. His gaze pierces your very soul, and you feel as if you’re being ripped apart from the inside out before it’s gone, as if it never occurred. Expression never changing, he inclines his head a fraction of an inch, and then your [Mage Sight] is banished, sending your eyes crashing back to reality.

“Guh.” You say, staggering to one knee as Tabitha draws her sword, making to strike the guitar. You throw you hand up and shout, “WAIT!” causing her to pause and look at you with a look of confusion. Shaking your head, you say, “Don’t… it’s fine. She’s fine, it’s fine.”

Ebe brushes her wing over the guitar and strums it, letting out a sound more powerful than what her other guitar could perform. She plays a few, stronger chords before letting her wing away, the sound echoing through the pass as it fades. She smiles and then looks up to see you on the ground, Tabitha with her sword out, and all the others looking confused.

“Uhm.” She says, looking down at the guitar. “Can I keep this?”

>Ebe obtains [Sveth’s Strings]


The rest of the trip is uneventful, although your discussion about what you saw gets some odd looks from the others and a wide-eyed stare from Ebe. She has the new guitar tied to Mr. Ed, the instrument far more durable than it looks. Her old guitar is across her back again, though she continues to look at the new one, her wings fidgeting in playing motions.

You try to make conversation with Tabitha, asking her a little bit about the road she’s been down and the places she’s been. She looks at you with some skepticism, but your explanation that you can’t read terribly well while walking makes her smirk, apparently finding that amusing for some reason. She speaks mainly of traveling with her sword, filling in gaps from the few times she’s seen the twins, who also chime in every now and then.

While never leaving the continent, Tabitha has been to just about every corner of Deleor and the Monster Nation. From the swamps of Hudson to the casinos of Cair, she’s seen just about everything there is to see the country, even walking into The Cradle once.

“Yeah.” She says as you press her on this one. “About five years ago. Their Mother asked me to check on something, and I didn’t have anything better to do. The domain of the Alarunes is larger than it seems on the map and almost a rainforest in a way. It’s formed within a canyon network, filled with all sorts of plant life and plant Monsters, with flowers spreading out for miles around it.”

She chuckles, “At that time, they didn’t really have an issue with travelers there, and were quite hospitable, though I always felt like I was being watched. A shame to hear that their Queen is having a tiff with the Monster Nation and Deleor though, they always used to be neutral.”

“Have you been to Galmathoria?” You ask, and she nods her head.

“Yes, a few times. The place is… much calmer than you’d expect. Sad really, but the Monsters there do the best they can.” A frown appears on her face. She shrugs it off and continues. “It was always assassination work, once stealing a supply of Galmathorian Glass, which they do not trade to Deleor since they cut off all immigration.”

“Hmm.” You say, nodding your head. “Any good rocks there?”

“Eh?” Tabitha says, giving you an odd look. “Rocks?”

“Yeah.” You say, pulling out Acilis. “Rocks, crystals, ore. Galmathorian Glass, sure, but I’d love to see what else they have.”

“I didn’t take much notice.” She says, not seeming to care. “I kind of had other things to do.”

“A shame.” You say, putting the quartz away. “There’s much rocks can teach us. Stability, strength, stubborness.”

“You’re a weird one.” Alice says, hands behind her head as she looks up at the sky. “Why are all you spellcasters so weird!”

“Hey!” Sylphie says, puffing our her cheeks. “I’m not weird!”

“You were just tickling that horse.”

“Mr. Ed is a big ol’ softy, and I’m appreciate if you don’t badmouth him!”

They both turn to bickering and you and Tabitha look at each other before shrugging and continuing down the path toward the outpost.

You reach the outpost about midday, finding it to be larger than expected. Built up against the walls instead of into it, the outpost is made of a large inn surrounded by a few other, smaller structures and some stables, all made of wood, the cheep Danuki. Rolling into the outpost at that time, you’re greeted by a few guards who give you confused looks from the direction you’ve approached, to which you say that you had taken a scenic route through the mountains. Not seeming to give a shit, they let you in.

Putting Mr. Ed up into a stable, you find a familiar cart nearby and enter the inn to see Hilda sitting at a table, a cold mug pressed to her forehead. Around her sit the rest of the merchants and a few of the captives you found. As you walk up, she groans, “Go away, I’ll pay later you damn scalpers.”

“Kind of rude for someone who kept you from being a slave, don’t you think?” Sylphie says, and the Wolfgirl cracks a bloodshot eye.

“Gods above, it’s you. Ugh, these past two days have been terrible, I don’t want to think about how much money I’m losing here.”

“I see you made it here okay.” You say and she groans again.

“Yeah, I guess. When we woke up, I had one hells of a hangover and found that yappy slaver in a box and a bunch of holes everywhere. What the hells happened?”

You explain the whole situation to her and she groans. “Gods, that bad, huh? Well, when we got here, the guards took her with them, so I assume she’ll be tried or something, not that I really care. I think the poor captives of hers are going to be transported back to Deleor soon, so that’s fine.”

Looking about, you lean down to the Wolfgirl and say, “She admitted the guards are corrupt. They allow the slavers through into Ectria. She’s probably free by now and those people aren’t going to be let free again.”

“Oh. Good.” She says, groaning. “Yeah, sure, break my conscience why don’t you? Make me waste more time and money on these people being some good Sammy-tan.”

“Sammy… tan?” Sophie asks, to which Ebe says,

“An ancient Ectrian fable about a person who helped an Anubis when no one else would without the hope of any reward.” She nods her head. “I mean, they got married and had many babies afterward, but that’s not the point of the story.”

“Well, an Order detachment is going be here soon enough. They’ll probably be here in the outpost for abit, cleaning house and will take care of these people and Monsters.”

Hilda sighs and puts her head on the table. “Fiiiinnneeee.”

Figuring that’s good enough, you decide to stay the evening in the outpost instead of spending the evening traveling to the trading town in Ectria. Getting a few rooms in the inn, you set up there before heading to the small town and looking about. You find out fairly quickly that the Hedgehog is gone, the guards seeming to know nothing about her. You feel that they’re lying, of course, but thankfully they don’t seem very interested in you otherwise.

With a little downtime, you return to reading your book about golems while Alice chats up some of the local men, especially those with Ectrian-skin, despite Sophie lecturing her on being less of a damn whore. Sylphie practices her geomancy while Ebe plays the guitar and Tabitha looks after her blade.

“Golems are an amalgamation of mana which has drawn materials in the corporeal world and pieced them together, using this formation to create a gestalt entity driven by the practitioner’s will. At its basic level, a golem is a being which will takes commands from the practitioner and acts upon them, being a living conduit of their magic. A golem made of rock can function similar to one made of fire, water, vines, etc. At its highest form, a golem can have a rudimentary intelligence and even act upon simple orders without direct control from the practitioner beyond providing them with a constant supply of mana.

The first thing one must do is have a control of their element siding with their magic. While geomancers are the first to come to mind, this can be used with most forms of magic! Again, a good grasp of your constituent element is needed. Once this is achieved, gather portions together into a desired form. We recommend your first golem should be a ball, doesn’t need to be terribly round.

Once this ball is formed, connect the mana streams attached to each piece together into a core, which will serve as the basis for the command of the golem. Follow this aetheric diagram in figure 1 to see how to tie off the mana. This core will drain mana, but it will be stable from this point on, and will be easier with more practice. With this formed, you can pulse mana commands into the golem. Try making the golem move without controlling each piece of it. Did you do it? Good!

This is the first step to controlling your golem. We’ll work on creating humanoid forms in the next chapters. Don’t try to control more than one golem without plenty of mana crystals around though!”

Hum. Well, that’s simple enough. Of course, it isn’t, and you spend a good hour trying to figure out the diagram, managing to form a rudimentary golem from the pieces of Greg. You’re able to make Greg roll about the room and even hop a few times. He’s not quite ready for combat, but you pet him anyway, making him feel loved. As you do, Erwin walks by the room and stares at you.

“It’s not what it looks like.” You say instinctively.

{It looks like you’re petting a ball of copper.}

“Oh.” You say, scratching your chin. “If that’s what it looks like, then it’s exactly that.”

Erwin rolls his eyes and walks off, to which you stand up, putting Greg back into your [Trenchcoat] and chase after him, saying, “Aww come on, he’ll never replace you in my heart!”

“Uhm.” Ebe says, standing in the hallway as Erwin makes his way around a corner. The two of you look at each for a moment before you feel utterly foolish and have to stand straight, doing your best to put on a neutral face.

“Hello Ebe, how are you this day?”

“Well, I was practicing with that new guitar, but I was told I was making too much noise and had to stop, so I was going to see what everyone else was doing, when I found you having a lover’s quarrel with Erwin.”

“Oh, that? Hah! That was just- lovers quarrel? Psh, naw.” You say, waving your hand. “Anyway, I was heading out to see what the others were up to also. Mind if I join you?”

“Uhm.” She says, before shrugging. “Sure.”

The two of you walk down the hall toward Sophie and Sylphie’s room to find it empty. They must still be down at the common room. The next room is the one where Tabitha and Alice were staying, much to Alice’s disappointment as she wanted her own room for… late night excursions. You expect she won’t be sleeping in that room anyway.

“Come in.” Tabitha says as you knock on the door, and you find her sitting on the bed in the room, a whetstone and blade in her hand. She’s wearing only her black undershirt and spats, the worn-out cloak and belt pouches neatly placed in a nearby chest, which was open. She even folded the torn-up thing…

Her eyes flicker at both of you, as if judging your worth as threats before looking back down to the blade. “Can I help you?”

“Just checking on everyone.” You say, leaning against the wall. “Working on your equipment.”

“My, you Wizards are sharp ones.”

Ebe giggles at this and you chuckle yourself. “Fair enough.” You take a good look at the blade and reach out with your [Survey] to find the blade to be of well-made steel inlaid with two sigils. You’re not terribly familiar with the art of sigils, as enchanting isn’t really your thing, but you think you recognize one as being similar to a rune of stability and the other to a rune of fire from the ancient Wizard language.

“That blade, fairly simple in construction it seems. Steel hand a half sword of good, but not the best purity.” You nod your head. “I wonder though, why not have a better sword forged? Surely, someone of your caliber, and I did see you fight, could have something else made?…”

“Mmm, I rather like this sword.” Tabitha says, sliding the whetstone across the edge. “I don’t actually need to sharpen it, not really. The sigil the Wizard put on it keep it very well maintained, and it barely even nicks, even against Alice’s sword. It’s good, sturdy, does the job I need it to.”

“It’s the same blade from your Wizardquest adventure, yes?”

She smirks. “Yes. I always feel like I’ve been stalked when someone brings that up.”

“So you’ve had this for over twenty years?”

“Tch, age does weird things to you, makes you say things to strangers.” Sighing, she begins to oil the blade before saying, “So, you know a lot about swords?”

“Not really.” You say, shrugging. “I just know about metals.”

“Geomancy, right? Yeah, it seems to be your forte.” She narrows her eyes. “You’re not a copromancer, are you?”

“A what now?” Ebe asks, looking confused.

“Don’t worry about it.” You say to her. “And no, I have no training in that, nor do I wish to ever.”

“Hmph, it’s useful, if disgusting. Still, you’re probably better off sticking to dirt.” She rubs a cloth over the blade and asks, “You ever handle a blade, either of you?”

“N-no!” Ebe says, holding her guitar up to her. “I had nothing to do with any of this before coming here.”

“No, not really.” You say, shaking your head. “I haven’t really had anyone to teach me, or a good reason to use it, especially since I could do this.” You pull up one of your friends from your bag and hover it in the air.

“Oh, I see.” Tabitha says, but a moment later her blade is at your throat. You gulp, too shocked to say much more than look down at the blade. Ebe yelps and takes a step back, but you just stare at the blade and then into Tabitha’s eyes. She looks into your gaze for a moment before sniffing and pulling her sword back to finish cleaning.

“Some weapon training would benefit anyone. Builds good reaction time and character, though in your defense.” She says, shaking her head, “You didn’t cry or anything.”

“Thanks…” You say, rubbing your throat. “Well, maybe I could get some pointers or something in exchange for some maintenance with your metallic gear?”

“No thanks.” She says, finishing her work. “I don’t particularly have a reason to trust you beyond the fact that those kittens do. If that ever changes, I’ll take your head, alright?”

“Uh… yeah, I get it.” You say, frowning. “Anyway, I think it’s time for some food, want to come down with us?”

“Soon.” Tabitha says, looking out the little window in the room. She doesn’t say much else and both you and Ebe look at each other before shrugging and exiting.

“She’s… kind of really cool.” Ebe says, shaking her head. “All those stories of hers and that demeanor… she’s someone really important, huh?”

“She’s famous at least.” Scratching your chin, you reply with some thought. “But I don’t think she sees it that way.”

“Hum.” Ebe muses before looking back at you. “So, what’s this Wizardquest anyway?”

“Well, you have a first hand experience right in front of you, but if you want me to tell you my own thoughts, how about you teach me a little Ectrian in exchange.”

Ebe’s eyes light with mischief. “Very well then! First lesson, ‘ana dayimaan ealaa haqin'”

“What does that mean?” You ask, cocking your head.

“I am always right.” She giggles, heading down the stairs before you to the common room. You groan and follow after her.

With night approaching, the common room of the outpost inn is filled with various merchants and a few off duty guards both from Ectria and Deleor. Drinks flow readily along with the coin, and the waitresses from each nation make a tidy sum in this little place, merchants readily slipping coppers into their bodices for a little extra service.

In the corner, you see Sylphie reading a book, a cup of juice next to her while Sophie sits next to her with wine, shaking her head as she looks over at a crowd of people. Following her gaze, you find a group of guards and other male merchants around a central figure, whom you find quickly to be Alice.

The Black-haired beauty is without her armor, dressed in a burgundy tunic which manages to highlight her curves. You think anything she wears would make her look excessively sexy what with her toned figure, and she knows it. A man next to her clinks down a few coppers on the bar and the waitress brings out two mugs of ale, one of which the man takes, the other Alice takes.

“Oh, I really shouldn’t…” Alice says coyly, her cheeks red from embarrassment . “I really shouldn’t be drinking so much with all of you big, strong, VIRILE, looking men…”

They egg her on, telling her how good an idea it is and she fake sighs, saying, “Well, I guess if you think it’s a good idea…” Only seconds later does she down the entire mug, slamming it on the table and letting out a belch before placing a demure hand over her mouth.

“Oh my, excuse me.”

The men let out belly laughs about her and you almost feel nauseated looking at this bad stage show. You shake your head and go to sit with the twins, of which Sophie greets you by way of sniffing. “I’m surprised Tabitha could put up with her.”

“She put up with your Father, yes?”

Sylphie chuckles, though Sophie merely frowns. “Point. Is Tabitha joining us?”

“Later, I think.” You say, waving over a waitress and putting in an order. When she leaves, you continue speaking. “Ebe says the travel to the trading  settlement won’t be so bad tomorrow. We’ll stay the night there before really hitting the desert, right?”

“Yup! The sands aren’t that bad here, but the farther east you go, things get worse unless you stick to the trade-roads.” She scratches her face. “My home is a little further east and then north.”

“It will be a shame to have you go Ebe, but I hope you the best at home. Hells, with that guitar you can probably make a good name for yourself.”

“Y-yeah.” She says, giving a sad smile. “Going back home… I wonder if-“

Her words are cut off as the door opens, admitting a tall man dressed in the livery of the guard. To his side stand two more guards, both of Deleorian descent, who look about the room with determined eyes. People nearby go quiet as his gaze sweeps over them, lingering upon the ground at the bar, of which the off-duty guards sit up straight and to attention, sobering up quick.

As he looks around the room, his eyes fall upon you and he narrows them before pointing at you and saying, “You there. You’re ordered to come with me, now.”

The guards look at you with a fierce intensity, as if trying to make you submit merely by the force of their stares. For some, perhaps even most, it would have worked. For you, someone who has stared down slavers, negotiated with Monsters, and looked into the eyes of a God…


Well, they really aren’t that scary.


Still, they expect something of you, so you can’t just completely ignore them, as much as you’d like. While you feel much better, you don’t think a brawl in a bar is going to be a good idea, especially since you can see things getting bloody and it would reveal Sophie and Sylphie’s identities when they eventually get involved themselves. No, if this comes to violence, best to get outside, where you can fully utilize your magic.

Yawning, you ask, “May I help you gentlemen?”

“Don’t do this, just come peacefully.”

“What am  accused of? Enjoying a succulent, home cooked meal?”

“You have no food before you.” The captain says, and you look over to notice that your orders have not yet arrived.

“So they haven’t, thus that is not what I am accused of.” You say, nodding your head. “Very well then, may I ask to whom you were asked to escort me?”

Despite herself, Sophie nods her head at your use of the word, “whom,” stopping herself only after she realizes what she’s done. Her expression turns back to scowl as the guard looks to her then back to you with a flick of the eyes. He looks like he wants to sigh, but keeps his composure well as he repeats, “You are ordered to come with me, NOW.”

“I certainly hope it is not the Danuki.” You say, pulling out the Bauxite. Hmm. What kind of name should the rock have… something exotic, perhaps female? Valinithia… hah, yes that will certainly be interesting. Noticing the captain frown, you continue, “When the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood arrives here soon, I’m certain they will have words for them, especially if they find they have incarcerated someone without explaining why!”

The guards next to the captain waver slightly, but he doesn’t budge, merely saying, “If you do not get up right now, I will have to make you.”

The guards next to him put hands on their swords while the off-duty guards look about in confusion, pulling themselves together in case they need to fight, hands going to their own swords. Tension mounts in the room at this as the merchants, always shrewd to potential violence, prepare to escape. Even Alice, who smirks over a drink, has a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, those being too busy watching the people around her as well. Her hand drifts before the table, and you know her sword is belted there.

Well… this could get bad if you wanted to make it bad, you suppose. With a sigh, you pick up your staff and stand with slow, deliberate motions, your eyes never leaving that of the guard captain’s. He narrows his eyes at you, and you take in a deep breath before saying, “Alright well, I guess we’d better get going.”

Your answer seems to startle them more than a punch to the face would, and the captain’s eyes widen in surprise for a moment before his stone-faced expression returns. The men around him seem to deflate a little, realizing they’re out of danger, for now. The whole room seems to grow cooler as tensions dissapate. There will be no fight, thankfully.

Taking a step forward, you pause before turning your head back to Ebe. The men stop, looking at you funny as you say, “Ebe, please keep the others together, if you would? Keep an eye on them and sing something nice if anyone gets worried.”

“Uhm…” Ebe says, looking concerned. “Sure?”

“Thanks.” You say, nodding your head before returning to follow the men. The captain opens the door before you and you enter to the outside, the cool wind of the canyon blowing in your face as you exit. You huddling your [Trenchcoat] up to your face and shudder before shoving your hands in your pockets and saying, “Where to?”

“The guardhouse.” The captain says, ushering you forward. With a shrug, you follow after him as he moves through the quiet little outpost. With few lights about the structures, it feels almost serene out here, an idyllic little village. Well, if corruption was idyllic, you suppose.

The guardhouse is the second largest structure, a mix of barracks, office, and dungeon for the guards stationed here. Both Ectria and Deleor kick in for its use, and a mix of guards are inside, either shuffling through paperwork or going about their business. The majority of them seem to be off duty, of course, so the place feels a little threadbare.

Entering the wooden structure, you find yourself in the offices, which are a few rooms and some desks where customs paperwork sits, for the most part. Initial checks through the pass are done here and any contraband for both countries is seized, if applicable. Oddly enough, Sophie says this rarely causes any issues as both countries would rather respect each other’s laws than have a military force in here. Of course, a military force is about to come here from Deleor, but they’re mostly here to clean shop anyway.

The captain leads you into a room and points to a desk where you sit down in a rickety chair, looking at him as one of the other guards leaves the room.  As the door closes, the man laces his fingers together and says, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Well, I was going to have dinner, but now I’m being abducted because I believe that hedgehog has paid you off to do so.”

“Yes.” He says, without hesitation. “We have.”

“Do you know what I am?”

“A spellcaster, geomancer I’m told?”

“Partially, yes.”

You shrug your shoulders and then pull out Ronnie, the [Iron chunk] sitting upon the table with a dull, reddish color. The man looks at it and then to you before saying, “Is that a threat?”


The man sighs before shaking his head. “You’re breaking down a very uneasy peace here with your little moral crusade, you know that?”

Frowning, you say, “Keeping Deleorian citizens free of slavery is unsettling a peace? With whom?”

“Don’t be stupid, with the Ectrians. The slavers are just an extension of their power. Sure, we could stop them, but then they’ll begin to keep people out of Ectria. They already keep many visitors out as it is, but if they decide to keep the merchants out, how badly do you think that will hurt the economy?”

“Don’t try to mask your corruption with the greater picture.” You hiss, getting genuinely angry.

“Sure, they line out pockets so we’ll become scapegoats and so that people will understand our reasoning, but at the end of the day, if Ectria stops trade to Port Dorning or Borne, what do you think the Ectrian citizens in those cities will do? It’s not an insignificant population at all.”

“So, you’re doing this to keep the people safe from rioting? To keep the gold flowing to Deleor on the blood of its people?!” You say, standing up and slamming your hand on the table, furious.

“I understand Monsters who steal humans for mates or to… to Monsterize them, but this is disgusting. To sell your own people, human or Monster, for some pathetic notion of keeping the peace?” Gritting your teeth, you look into the man’s eyes and see… nothing.

Well, not nothing, but such an imperceptible amount of emotion, it makes you pause and take another look at the man, searching his expression. In the face of your tirade, for him to look at it with little emotion means he’s either well schooled in his expressions or… he’s confident about something.

You drop back into your seat, a little tired from your anger. Sighing, you put a hand to your head and say, “So, what’s the game?”


“You have a group of men lined outside, ready to file in and drag me down? Have maybe someone readying a poison dart? A nullstone? Hmm?”

“I don’t follow.”

The chair leans forward as you put your weight onto the desk, getting in the man’s face. “I don’t buy your shit for a second. You either have a plan to take me out or…” Your voice trails off as you study his expression again before you curse.

“Ah, you figured it out sooner than expected.” The guard says, sighing and leaning back, kicking his boots up on the table. “I’m sure it’s over by now though. I know I can’t stop you, but I expect that if you get there, my men will already have your friends and those slaves bundled up and ready for transport to Ectria. They’ll kill them if you do anything, I have made that order.”

“The Hedgehog put you up to this, didn’t see.”

He holds up his hands and shrugs. “Man’s got to make some coin.”

“What makes you think I won’t just kill you now?”

“Nothing.” He says, leaning back. “But I’m certain you won’t. Not for any moral or ethical values, but because there’s nothing to gain from it. I don’t mean you any direct harm, I assure you.”

Sighing, you lay your staff to the side and  kick your own feet up on the table. The captain gives you an odd look, his expression changing to worry as he watches you lean back and close your eyes. Licking his lips, he asks, “You’re not… going to go try to save them?”

“Nah.” You say, shaking your head. “If you’d attacked me there, your men might have lived.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t really like to kill people, but I have a feeling that one of my new companions doesn’t really have that compunction.”

“You can’t be seriously suggesting that all my men, the majority of my soliders, are going to be killed by such a small group in a surprise attack?”

“Yeah.” You sigh, rolling Ronnie in your hand. “This is going to be one hells of a mess later.”

A few tense minutes pass, the two of you sitting in the quiet room. The captain pulls back and folds his hands, looking worried the longer you look at ease until he finally says, “How long are you going to sit here?”

“Not much longer.” You say, listening to Erwin. A frown crosses his expression and you sigh, rolling your eyes. “Like I said, messy.”

From outside a few shouts of panic are heard followed by a commanding shout, words lost through the wooden walls. Things get quieter for a moment, and the captain looks at the door with uncertainty until footsteps echo outside before stopping at the door. An uneasy quiet fills the air before the door slams open, kicked in from the outside with enough force that it comes off the top hinge.

The captain whirls, putting a hand on his sword and then shouting as something heavy is thrown at him, toppling him from his chair. He flails about, picking himself up before looking down at his hand and seeing blood there. His eyes go wide and the looks down to see that he was hit with the corpse of one of his men, still bleeding.

“Hey there Rommel!” Alice says, her face streaked with blood. “You doing alright?”

A sigh escapes your lips and you stand up, pocketing your ore. You shake your head at Alice and say, “Did you leave any of them alive?”

“Most, unfortunately. They broke almost as soon as it began, what with me cutting three men in one slice. Of course, when that bird began to sing that song…” She shivers as if cold before perking back up. “Welp, their blood is warm though!”

“You’re a Monster.”

“Don’t insult me.” She says, eyes going flat. She turns her visage upon the captain, looking nothing so much like a Dullahan of Nerg come to drag people to the hells. “Well? What do we say?”

“S-she paid us to do it!”

Coughing into your hand, you say, “I think she means something else.”

“S-sorry!” He says, holding his hand before him. “P-please, don’t hurt me!”

Alice looks to you, her expression looking tired more than anything. You shake your head and she shrugs before turning back to the door and walking out, with you in tow. You pause at the doorway and say, “Oh, where might the Hedgehog be now?”

“S-she’s already left for Ectria! She said she’s waiting in the trading town for us!”

“Ah, thank you.” You say, nodding the man. “Please give my regards to the Order soldiers when they get here.”

“Ye-” His words catch in his throat as the Ronnie smashes him in the head, knocking him unconscious.


Tabitha sighs as you enter the inn again. The common room is empty beyond your companions and the innkeeper, who is holding her face in her hands as she leans over the bar. Alice, not bothering to clean off the blood yet, walks up to Tabitha and says, “I saved him!”

“No you didn’t.” The Lizardman says with a casual indifference before looking at you and frowning. “Did they do anything to you?”

“No, it was a ploy to capture you while I was away. A slaver named Nane was going to take you as slaves while I was away. Sadly she didn’t expect someone as insane as Alice being nearby.”

“Seriously, I’m perfectly sane, I just don’t take anyone’s shit. I don’t swing that way.” Alice says, crossing her arms. “Besides, I’m sure those girls could have handled themselves just fine.”

You look to the twins and say, “Did you reveal yourselves?”

“No.” Sophie says, nodding to Ebe. “My sister cast a spell to block sound to us and she played something which made the men break quickly after losing some of their number.”

“It… it’s not something I like to play.” Ebe says, holding her ghitar close. “It’s such a sad song, but… I wanted the fighting to stop and thought it would be best.”

“Good call.” You say, nodding to her, to which she blushes.

Tabitha shakes her head and says, “While I doubt we’re in any real danger at the moment, I don’t want them to go after Mr. Ed or attack us again. A slaughter here won’t look good to anyone, and I’m fairly certain we’re not wanted here.”

“Fuck me if that’s right.” Hilda says, coming back down from upstairs. She grimaces at the dead men and then says, “This is going to cause some shit for us traders, you know? They’re going to lock down the Pass.”

“For the best.” You say, pointing at her. “Besides, this is the second time I’ve kept you from becoming a slave yourself.”

Hilda sighs and then rubs at her head. “Ahh fuck me, this isn’t worth it anymore. I always wanted to just settle down and have some pups, maybe this is the right time.” Looking back to you, she says, “You should go now though, before word can reach the end of the pass. You’ll have a hard time getting in as it stands, but it will be impossible if they warn the end of the tunnel.”

Your group all look to each other and nods, moving upstairs to get their things. You really could use another good night’s sleep but that’s not happening, is it? What a damn shame…

It doesn’t take long to gather your things and make your way out of the pass. You consider taking someone’s cart, but due to Mr. Ed’s earlier injuries, he doesn’t feel up to it as his body is still recovering (your riding him didn’t help). You’ll have to pose as something other than merchants, but you’ll figure something out. The thing that keeps you the longest is Alice scrubbing the blood from her and finding a change of clothing, though she insists its fine.

The walk through the pass at night isn’t so bad, especially with Sylphie’s [Daylight] illuminating the path. By the time the sky begins to lighten, you find yourself still out of sight of the end of the Pass. When the winds pick up, you begin to feel a dryness to the air that feels good compared to the late winter of Deleor. Ebe, though tired, seems to shine as the heat begins to pick up, and by the time it’s mid-morning, it’s comfortably warm.

No one really feels like chatting much during the trek, but you do speak some more with Ebe about Ectria and its customs. She teaches you basic greetings, something which the twins take great interest in, as well as a few proper scenarios such as what to do when you bump into someone, etc. Where Deleorian culture is fairly egalitarian outside of Sanctifrond and the smaller lordships, Ectria takes a more subtle approach.

“While it is appropriate to follow the law enforcement, when interacting with others, you do not wish to show your true face.” She nods her head and says, “Be mindful of your words. Battles are won and lost with the particular inflection of a word or hand gesture, especially with merchants. Despite this, sometimes strength is the only way to earn respect, something many of the Monsters in Ectria look for, otherwise they’ll treat you poorly.”

“This doesn’t apply so much outside of the larger settlements, and certainly in the wastes themselves you MUST show complete strength.”

“This is complicated.” Sylphie says, rubbing her head, though Sophie seems to understand it completely.

“Ah, so this is where that stereotype of the two-tongued Ectrian comes from.”

“Oh, that?” Ebe says, chuckling. “No, that’s because of an ancient race of Lamia who lived in the deserts millennia ago. They called them Apophis and it’s because of their forked tongues if I recall. That and they lied through their teeth.”

“What happened to them?”

“The Pharaohs killed them off.” Ebe says, shrugging. “It was for the best, I presume. They lived too close to the Chasm and weren’t quite right because of it. Wanted to destroy the kingdoms and such, but that’s a story for another time.”

Smirking, as if enjoying being a teacher, she continues. “Now then, this is what you should say when someone offers you food…”


It’s about early afternoon by the time you reach the end of the Pass. No one tried to pass you as you did so, though you do run into a group of what appears to be normal traders. Erwin confirmed this for you, and after a nice rest, you were back on your way. Similar to Deleor, a military-style outpost adorns the edge of the Ectrian territory and you’re stopped as soon as you reach the entrance by a man wearing gold-colored chain-mail armor with a steel-tipped spear.

“Halt.” He says in accented Deleorian. “The Pharaoh has declared no passage to those who are not merchants. You must turn back.”

His eyes flick to Ebe and linger upon her for a moment before turning back to you with a finality. You sigh and rub your face before looking out into Ectria behind the outpost. An open sky filled your vision with nothing on the horizon by flat scrubland stretching on to eternity. The only thing to break the sight is the nearby trading town, a city in its own right, and close enough you can make it there in an hour or two. Your entrance to Ectria is so close and yet one man blocks your path.

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