The Rogue

Another one for the Epic Collection. This one is called the Rogue, and this time we have a female protagonist. Think of fantasy Catwoman (not that kind of fantasy). The story also continues in the next one called The Monk.

Enjoy.

***

 

The Rogue

She sat uncomfortably on a stool, resting on the ledge of the bar. The grog she was drinking burned her throat – just the way she liked it. There was a moment of relief when her attention was focused solely on the burning sensation rather than every other detail around her: the smell and round of a populated tavern. The rank of whatever the innkeeper called food, the stench of spilled drink and a few other human fluids. Mercenaries, some still drenched in blood, showed up, as well as locals such as herself. The bard and his troupe were singing the same tired old song, the one about the hero – she knew it was all a tale. There were no such things as heroes in their world.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a stranger who sat next to her.

“Buy you a drink, honey?”

She raised her cup and an eyebrow. “Take it somewhere else, honey,” she mocked, extracting a small blade. “Before I cut it off for you.”

The man waved her off. “You waiting for anyone?”

“Now look here,” she said aggressively. Can’t a girl simply get a drink without being interrupted by ugly idiots?

The man raised his hand. “Relax. My name is Jarec.”

She cocked her head. “Jarec?” She gave him a look.” She gave him a look. “I was expecting someone . . . taller.”

He grunted. “Let’s go over there.” Not waiting for her response he hopped off his perch, drink in hand, and strode to a more private table.

She sighed. If he really was Jarec, the underground broker, than he was supposed to give her details about her assignment. If he was just some pervert, then she’ll castrate him or just kill him outright. In this den of darkness no one cared.

She sat down in front of the man and watched his form shimmer, melting like wax. His gruff features gave way to more boyish ones, his thick muscles deflated to the physique of a man who clearly spent a considerable amount of time sitting down. He even pulled out a pair of spectacles and put them on.

“Glamoring?” she asked casually. In her line of work she had to pretend that nothing impressed her. She had worked with magical devices before – she took great pleasure in dismantling them – but this was only her second time seeing magic up close and personal.

The first time hadn’t been a pleasant experience.

“My apologies for the deception,” said Jarec with a charming smile. “But I’m sure you understand the risk of exposing myself to the public.”

“How do I know you’re not tricking me?”

“You don’t,” he replied, smiling.

“Mages,” she scoffed. “So. What do you have for me?”

He nodded and pulled out a map. “I have a client who has been after the Shinato scroll for years,” he said stabbing the map with his finger.

She looked at the document. “Monks?” she added. “You want me to steal from monks?”

“Shinato Monks,” he replied. “Some of the deadliest warriors alive. Rumour is that they use mystical powers to enhance their bodies. They can break stone walls with their fists, snatch arrows from their flight and even shatter iron swords with a single blow.”

“And you want me to steal from them?” he retorted.

“You are the best.”

“For a price.”

Jarec folded his arms. “One thousand gold pieces. Enough to make you rich for seven lifetimes.”

“All that for a scroll?” She still had trouble imagining a thousand pieces of gold. All she had ever held at any time were handfuls.

“It’s an antique of sorts, and the client says it belonged to his family before a monk stole it using mind tricks on his father,” explained Jarec.

She scoffed. “Oh, so now they have mental powers too? Do they fly? Perhaps they see in the dark. Can they pass through walls after their fists get sore?”

The broker shrugged. “I don’t ask questions. I just make sure he gets what he paid for.”

The Rogue nodded. “I can agree with that. Have my money ready when I return,” she said, finishing her drink and snatching the map. A job like this will require some preparation. Luckily she knew exactly what to do.

 ***

 Climbing the edge of a cliff was exhilarating. The Rogue loved danger – best of all she loved proving to herself and others that she could do what most would decree impossible.

The Shinato temple was at the very edge of the cliff, some three hundred feet above ground. The cliffs started from the bottom of the sea, but there was an intersection where a small hill top provided a ledge. She had climbed to the top of the hill and after a jump that had killed many before her. She was ascending up the cliff, towards the temple perched above. This was the least guarded route since the monks knew that no one could make such a climb.

No one, except her.

She finally got her feet on solid ground and snuck into the shadows. Three sentries patrolled casually but they had no weapons – only a staff, a chain or length of rope and one carried a curious par of sickles that looked particularly unwieldy. But she didn’t dare emerge from her hiding place. Years as a thief had taught her how to gauge an enemy’s strength, and even at a glance, she knew these monks were not to be trifled with.

So instead she opted for her usual trickery. Slowly sneaking to the water trough where the sentries would go to drink, she emptied a small vial of poison – a sleeping potion, strong enough to drug an orc.

Sure enough, an hour later, the sentries walked woozily and one by one fell on the ground fast asleep.

She snuck in through a narrow window, years of practice imbuing her with the flexibility of a cat. All around her were children – young monks, their heads shaved and their bodies bruised after long hours of training. All of them were sound asleep, but she still tiptoed silently out of the dormitory.

Quickly she consulted the map and walked across the corridor. She passed one room and paused. From behind the paper thin doors she saw six adult monks deep in meditation. A cloud of incense billowed in the room’s ceiling, giving her an idea. She extracted a sealed bottle, slid the door open a fraction and uncorked the bottle. Holding the contents in with her thumb, she positioned the bottle inside the rooms and slid the door shut again. In a few seconds the gaseous contents of the bottle, enhanced by the incense, will permeate the room and knock out the monks – removing them as a future threat.

Finally she got to the main hall – a large expanse of marble. It was spartan, save for the rows of statues on the side where monks were carved in different postures. It was majestic in a reverential way, despite the lack of gold, silver or anything remotely precious. The treasure room was at the far back of the hall, behind a thick oaken door. The door was locked but that was no challenge to her. She entered cautiously and immediately surveyed the room. It too was barren but her instincts told her something was amiss.

Finally, she saw it: a small pressure switch, a trigger. No doubt a row of sharp spikes ascend from the ground, impaling her as she made her way towards the wooden box in the pedestal. She disabled the trap and found another – this one to shoot darts at her from small holes on the side walls. Once all traps were disabled she walked up to the box. It was open, surprisingly, and the scroll may inside. There was nothing special about it but at hte touch, she felt a warmth coming from it – as if the scroll was alive.

“Are you worthy of that?”

The sound made her spin and her dagger was already poised, held close to her body, coiled for a strike. A young monk stood there, relaxed, blocking the doorway. He smiled at her.

“That scroll is very dangerous,” he said, beaming. “Besides, it is not yours.”

“That’s never stopped me before,” replied the Rogue, securing the scroll in a small pouch behind her back.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot let you leave until you return the scroll,” said the monk. He never lost his smile.

“I don’t do well with threats,” she snarled. In an instant, she crossed the room and swung the dagger – only to be carried forwards and stumble through the door way and into one of the stone pillars.

Angrily she stabbed at him, nicking his robe. She stabbed again and again but got only air and cloth. Finally she reached out with her free hand, grasped the monk by the collar and pulled him in -

- only to be thrown in the air and pain fully on the ground.

“Please,” begged the Monk. “Enough of this. I do not wish to cause you more pain.”

She snarled a curse and launched herself at him. He struck her right arm, instantly numbing her whole arm. The dagger was sent flying across the room.

Her other hand snapped towards his leg. He lifted his knee, blocking her strike with his shin.

She grinned. Got you.

From her left hand, a small spring loaded mechanism snapped a blade forwards, giving the monk a shallow cut on his shin.

He remained unfazed kicking her in the head.

She got up, head still spinning and ran towards the main door, headed for the exit – she would not survive another round with this monk.

He followed her, and she spun suddenly, throwing daggers already in the air. The Monk jumped impossibly high and kicked – as if walking on the air itself. He landed atop one of the statues and jumped again onto the next statue. She threw another knife at him but missed, and he jumped, landing in front of her.

Before she could crash into him, the Monk extended one palm and pushed. It was as if she had been hit with a battering ram.

“No more of this,” he chided.

She rolled up, slowly and painfully. “Yes, I agree,” she wheezed. The Monk took a step forwards and faltered. He glanced at his shin – the only wound he had received – and glared at her.

“Poison?”

“A girl’s got to be prepared,” she said coyly as she watched the Monk stay very still, knowing full well that he cannot possibly move – not with that large amount of tranquilizer she used. She was supposed it had taken this long to work – these monks were really frightening. She felt warmth coming from the Monk, like the type she felt on the Shinato scroll. He stood there, his hands clasped in a weird gesture and gave a short but powerful cry. She felt the stone rumble and for a moment thought that somehow, he had caused an earthquake. But such a thing was impossible.

Instead, a dozen monks appeared out of nowhere, suddenly filling the hall. Unlike the first monk, the newcomers were armed with weighted chains.

“Try not to harm her brothers,” said the Monk. “She is merely foolish.”

“A fool is still dangerous,” shot back one of them. “You are only an apprentice. You should not have confronted her. You are both fools.”

The Rogue stood up and glanced to the side of the hall. On one side the fall led to an impact on the grassy plains below; on the other, a fall meant a plummet all the way down the side of a cliff.

“I may be a fool,” she said. “But I’m a fool with an escape route.”

She bolted towards one side. Chains followed her path but the statues blocked their path. The weighted ends embedded themselves inside the stone, shattering marble. Some even intertwined with each other.

But none reached her and all thirteen monks watched as she dove headfirst out of the window -

- and plummet down the cliff.

 ***

 Halfway through her fall she reached for two straps on her backpack and pulled them. Clunky mechanism went off and a pair of wings folded out. She grabbed the straps that connected to the tip of each wing, giving her some degree of control and directed her flight towards the hill, smiling all the way through.

Once again she faced the impossible and she succeeded.

 

***

Catch me if you can
Catch me if you can

 

If you liked this story and want more don’t forget to hit the subscribe button and follow the blog.

Till next time,

Ryan

 

Hippies & Timeriders

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I talk about a lot of things on this episode – my fear of dying on the show, the leftover stress from my schedule, the meaning of life in general. . . you know, my usual crap.

Mostly I got off in hippies and new age people. Not the ones on the fence or on a border like I am, but those really gone-off-the-deep-end people that never wear shirts or shoes and carry way too many beads and shit.

I also talk about that Alaskan news reporter who quit on the air (“Fuck it, I quit”) to tend to her marijuana farm or something. Whatever it is, it’s awesome beyond belief.

Emma Watson makes an appearance (not literally) and I talk about her speech at the HeForShe movement, about gender equality. It was a moving speech and I was happy to see someone from such a superficial world, rise up to the challenge and move hearts and minds. And it’s not because it was Emma Watson – it’s because she addressed the issue of equality over feminism, treating both sexes equally.

And then I do a very bad ad read for tonight Ebook Extravaganza. Details here.

When I do finally get on topic, I talk about Alex Scarrow’s Timeriders Series because it influenced my upcoming series, the Pandora Chronicles  – apparently more than I thought, as I discover on the air.

And since I still am a child playing with my toys, of course I played music and fucked around with classic tunes such as KISS and Patty LaBelle.

Yes, you read correctly.

Enjoy the show:

 

 

Music:

Pink Steampunk Girl

Drev

www.fixtstore.com/drev

www.youtube.com/fixtmusic

Dungeons, Dragons and character creation

A few months ago (right around the inception of my podcast actually) I read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, which in itself is a reinterpretation of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (which I own but haven’t started).

Where the hell am I going with this?

Point is, I read the book and retained nothing of it. I do know I enjoyed reading it, but I was watching Heroes at the time and Hayden Panettiere can be very fucking distracting. I do remember Vogler talking over and over again about the Jungian Archetypes and how they are very important to character creation, and honestly at the time I thought it was a bunch of crap. Sure I could see the links but it wasn’t anything substantial so I moved on.  Now I feel like I sort of get it but seriously, am I going to be the one to reinterpret the interpretation of Campbell’s work?

Fuck no. So let’s talk about something I know (about fucking time too) – Dungeons and Dragons.

I play the online version because

a) I have no patience to roll

b) people (the concept of ‘outside’ in general) are scary

c) no one wants to play with me

One of my first reviews ever (a negative review), written by a guy I will affectionately name Cunt-fuck, stated that I got all the writing techniques wrong and that my story read like a cheap role playing game.

Now, granted, my writing is not perfect, and perhaps Cunt-fuck is some Harvard Professor with a chalk stick up his ass, but whatever. Following Cunt-fuck’s theme I downloaded the online version of DnD and became hooked.

In every role playing game you gotta choose your class – your character build. Every game has it’s own system but DnD is probably the earliest one to introduce this system, so all y’all other games can fuck off.

Most play the old version of DnD for the story, but I tend to just like smashing things and trudging through the game play without concern for narrative (unless I get lost in a level, which happens oh-so-fucking-often). I work with words and stories – the last thing I need after four hours of beating my brain into submission trying to smooth a chapter or thinking of new ways how to put all the granulated scenes in my head together, is to play a game with words in it.

But character builds are just like creating story characters – and DnD insists these are one and the same. So here’s a few classes I like to play as:

- Ranger: This is by far my favorite. I rolled two already and they are my most advanced yet. A ranger is just like Legolas in LotR: ace with a bow, fast dual dealing damage, light armor. I usually roll an elf as race too, simply because the in-game advantages are better for that class, although a human is OK if you’re going in a specific direction.  And seriously who doesn’t love a good elf.

Mostly I love the range – you can stay away from enemy tides and just machinegun monsters from a distance . . . WITH A FUCKING BOW!!

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried archery but that shit is hard. I did it once or twice and the damn string kept snapping at my nipple every time. . . . and apparently that was a common complaint.

(Seriously, this archery nipple thing is a SERIOUS FUCKING ISSUE)

Moving on.

Get off my lawn bitches
Get off my lawn bitches

 

- Fighter: this is your run of the mill weapon specialist. They wear the heaviest armor, sling around the toughest swords (which ironically is a Khopesh – maybe the developer was Egyptian? Or maybe the developer was fucking an Egyptian girl?)

I think this is the only class that can carry tower shields and those fuckers are tough. Imagine being in a corner and thinking ‘oh shit, my Blade moment is over. Time to play defense.’ THAT’S when you bring a tower shield into play – it’s like saying “This person isn’t dead enough. Where’s my stream roller?”

Fighters are usually human or dwarf although personally I go for human, since you get a bonus feat. I mean, if you’re going for the whore class, might as well go all in right?

(Ryan is laughing too. Don’t feel bad – you’re both idiots)

Thor can kiss my axe
Thor can kiss my axe

 

- Cleric:  This dude is the first I’ve ever played, simply because I only play good solo characters (see above for a list of Ryan’s insecurities with other people – no they don’t stop only in this world but also the virtual one).  Every game has a healer class and this is it.

(Yes, yes, I know the Favoured Soul is a healer too but you gotta pay to get that class and I’m cheap. So unless someone from Wizards of the Coast wants to sponsor me – which would be so fucking cool – I don’t wanna spend money on something I probably won’t like)

A cleric is perfect for beginners since it can deal high damage, even so to the chumps of undead in early levels and I played a dwarf to get extra constitution. Also, making a fat dwarf chase skeletons with a big mace is hilarious!

Clerics heal themselves which is so handy when you’re complete idiot like I am and either WALK into traps or forget to buy healing potions.

(That just happened today didn’t it?)  Shut up. Moving on.

where's the bathroom???
Where’s the bathroom???

 

- Barbarian: I said over and over again that I don’t like big muscly guys and I only rolled a barbarian because I kept dying in a level, so I got this guy, played for four hours to get him to the required level and then made mince meat of the boss. Of course got my ass handed to me with magic based enemies but hey, I got to smash shit with a claymore. What have you done today?

 

Wolvie is considered a barbarian
Wolvie is considered a barbarian

 

Our babies will be smart and beautiful
Our babies will be smart and beautiful

 

MOMMA
MOMMA

 

- Wizard: I had this character for exactly five minutes. First off, I was writing a wizard, literally, so I wanted to play one as well. Unlike my wizard, (which is oh-so-awesome, am I right Cunt-fuck?) wizards in DnD are very, very, VERY, squishy.

And by squishy I mean, they can take exactly two hits before you’re mopping up their guts from the dungeon floor.

Looks cool . . . actual efficiency may vary
Looks cool  right? … Actual efficiency may vary

 

- Paladin: I gotta mention this motherfucker for the sake of honesty. (Seriously man what were you smoking to play this guy?) Look, it said they were tough. I was told they were awesome holy warriors.

(Well you did get fucked up the hole so I guess they are Hole-ey Warriors . . . see that’s how you tell a joke.)

I fight for glory. And this big-ass bird right here
I fight for glory. And this big-ass bird right here

 

Either Wizards is a liar in the character descriptions (duh) or I can’t play (true as well). Either way, I dropped him yesterday and now I’m back to a Ranger.

I guess even in a game I hate confrontation – but I do love watching making enemies explode with a click of button.

That’s all folks, till next time,

Peace out.

Episode 36: High and Marvelous

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This show needs a little backstory. I’ve been suffering from severe tooth ache since last Friday and have been on a wide variety of pain pill until yesterday. For a while I was even considering not doing the show because . . . well . . . crap load of pain – in my mouth.

Then everything changed once I did my root canal, got off most of the meds and bought this beautiful baby right here:

A 4 channel mixer - or as a fan called it "the nipple twister"
A 4 channel mixer – or as a fan called it “the nipple twister”

I love this thing. I spent a few hours fiddling around with it, making some weird noises and I HAD to record a podcast with this baby. The result will be clear once you hit play down below.

Also, in writing news, you are all cordially invited to the Pandora Chronicles Release party on the 23rd of October. There will be a cover release in the coming weeks.

But enough talk. Time for your weekly dose of insanity – this time with a soundtrack:

 

 

I tried counting how many songs I played but I got lost. Here’s a few gems: Word Up, Ain’t Nobody, Sweet Home Alabama,  Can’t Touch This, Blood Rave, The Name of the Game, Fatal, Avengers Theme, I’m Blue, Back in Black, Shoot to Thrill and Electro Suite.

I can promise you’ll be dancing and singing – just like I was behind that mic.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the movie mentioned nor the music played. If I did the movies would be better and the soundtracks louder.

 

 

Music:

Pink Steampunk Girl

Drev

www.fixtstore.com/drev

www.youtube.com/fixtmusic

Procreation – not always a good idea

Maybe I should re-title this post as “Why I fucking hate kids” but I suppose that may be too aggressive. I don’t necessary hate them – fear them is more along the lines.

Look folks I don’t have kids: I’m too young, too single and too self-involved to every include another person within my range let alone devote my life to some tiny sticky person that will suck away all my money and life force. And boy, does that piece of honesty makes me popular. I’m at that age now, where all of my friends are dating, maybe getting engaged, some even thinking of setting dates for that sham of a ceremony where you exchange rings, recite bad poetry (seriously, who the fuck reads Wilfred Owen at a wedding? Or Shakespeare – holy fucklets!!)  and lie in front of everybody when they say “till death do us part.” We all know it’s really “till you fuck up and I can afford a lawyer.”

And it’s only a matter of time before one of those friends phones me and goes “I have spawned” and I have to play god father (and not to good kind).

Here’s the kicker: kids love me. (Not for any illegal reasons or whatever. Seriously  I think I might be an anti-pedophile – the guy who hates kids on sight.) But the thing is I cannot treat anyone like a baby. I talk to people in the same way, be they 6 or 60. I believe in treating people of every age as a PERSON, regardless of how many candles you put on their birthday cake. And that’s why kids love me: I listen to them, just as I do with adults. In my mind I can’t separate the two. When I was a kid all I wanted was to be treated like a respected person: I remember one time I told a joke in an elevator to my granddad and he just burst out laughing in tears. It was the first time anyone had every given me that reaction and I LOVED it.

I don’t have much experience with kids, cos as I said my friends don’t have any (please continue wearing a rubber guys). Bottom line is I don’t know how to talk to them, so when I’m put in a situation where I have to do so, I talk to the kid like I would an adult (minus the swearing and overt sarcasm – but a little healthy dose of sarcasm cos you gotta train them early).

Still kids are horrible and here’s why: They are master trappers. What do they trap I hear you ask? – you, you poor dumb fucker. Cute is a terrible weapon. They have infectious laughter and sometimes they develop extraordinary talents which are put on youtube and every falls in love with them . . . AND THAT’S WHEN THEY GET YOU. That’s when the demands and the tantrums start. That’s when the illusion is shattered by hyperactive, crying, wailing, snot-bubble, dribbling, drooling, little bastards with impossible needs.

And parents, can you for all that is fucking holy in this shit hole of a planet, please stop posting pictures of your ugly babies online? I don’t mean to be mean (well maybe a little but how else are you gonna learn?) but not every baby is cute. Let’s look at this objectively: a megacephaloid (that’s big head, small body), with no distinctive intellect other than crawling under your foot and pooping everywhere, who indicate their every biological need (which is every five minutes) with ungodly amounts of screaming, at a pitch specifically designed to send the human brain into panic.

Yeah. Right. Cute. Uh-huh.

Granted sometimes you will hit an exception, but most kids are time bombs ready to go off – and the best part is, they come with a feral, stressed out mother, ready to bite your head off if you so much as walk by the kid in a wrong way. Every time I see a group of young pre-teens or something close by I think “Oh no. One of them is gonna cry and then the mother is gonna show up, and then there will be a situation as either the kids or the moms duke it out”.

So where am I going with this? Nowhere really. Maybe this is all an elaborate ploy to get Durex to sponsor me. Or maybe I’m just happy that every little gremlin I have to deal with belongs to someone else. Seriously you have no idea the relief I feel when those fuckers are GONE.

OK I’m done ranting. There’s no byline here, no promotion. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get some emails about parents being offended about that ugly baby bit. Although if you are offended that I suggested some babies may be ugly – guess who’s got an ugly ass baby?

*Sigh*

Till next time guys.  Peace out.

Episode 35: Cyborgs

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This is a good one people. For one thing I was hyped up and full of energy. For another, I talk about cyborgs and all things robot. But instead of just nerding out (don’t worry I do that too), I explore what made people imagine such things.

Is it a fear of our own mortality? Is that why we seek to render ourselves invincible using science and technology?

Or is it more alien? The understanding of the unknown?

The show may get a little heavy and I did spin in circles at one point, but I left it there because I would like some feedback on this one. What do you guys think?

What’s your view point?

In other news, join us tonight for The Former Hero launch party, 7-9 CDT on Facebook.

And don’t forget to join us on the 25th (that’s 2 weeks people) same time, same place, for the Ebook Extravaganza.

You can win a shitload of prizes, including a kindle device, 6 paperbacks, ten ebooks, a spotlight and more. I explain all this in a very very (seriously bad) horrible Jeremy Irons accent. It kinda takes a tour around the world at one point, but hey – it’s comedy.

We also have a new theme song. It’s no longer Rapid Fire by Blue Stahli – nope, now we have Pink Steampunk Girl by Drev. Make sure to support the artists but clicking the links below.

OK I’m done. Enjoy the show:

 

 

 

Music:

Pink Steampunk Girl

Drev

www.fixtstore.com/drev

www.youtube.com/fixtmusic

The Warrior

Another one for the Epic Short Story Collection. This one is inspired by the Fighter class, the courageous front line warriors. They are all about courage – although sometimes courage can be defined in different ways.

Enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe for more stories:

***

The Warrior

The party of four descended into the dungeon, going through a steep cave that served as its ominous entrance. Xyphos, the timid, yet surprisingly resourceful, mage conjured a glow from the jewel on his scepter. Behind him were the mercenary couple, Mara and Torrac, hauling the largest of packs. Their only reason for joining this party was money – and according to local sources, descend deep enough into this dungeon and riches were aplenty.

Of course, that meant that danger was aplenty too, which was why the Warrior opted to act as a vanguard for the party. Unlike other fighters who preferred heavy armor and shields, he only wore vambraces and greaves, with a short chest plate. His sword was strapped along his back and the shield slung on his back like a backpack. His master had once told him that it mattered not how heavy your armor was – a slow warrior was a dead warrior: advice the Warrior took to heart.

He re-joined his party and the foursome began their adventure.

The first levels were easy. At every corner animated skeletons came at them in hordes but a well-timed blow was enough to shatter them. They found a trio of goblins guarding a treasure chest and were armed with short bows. The Warrior hid behind his shield in a crouch and progressed forwards. Mara and Torrac raced towards the read guard goblins, their thick, dense armor proving a worthy adversary for the arrows, each of which was deflected. Torrac’s double-headed ax and Mara’s heavy saber cut through the goblins in one sweep. The Warrior knocked the last goblin on the ground and ran him through with his sword. Outside he saw a flash of magic fire and ran to assist Xyphos. He found the mage crouched in a corner, firing off blasts of magic at a swarm of bats and laughed.

“Come on,” he said as he fended off the bats with his sword and offered his hand to the mage. Xyphos smiled weakly as he got up and dusted himself off. The two mercenaries, who were busy filling their large packs with coin and jewels whooped in joy and Torrac tossed Xyphos a ruby.

“For lighting the way, little mage,” he said cockily.

“Are- are we done yet?” stammered Xyphos.

Torrac laughed. “The boy’s ready to leave after a few walking bones,” he joked to his woman.

She barked a laugh too. “No way am I leaving without filling at least on of these to the brim,” she said shaking her bag. “We are getting married after all. Houses and children cost money.”

“Here we go,” said Torrac rolling his eyes mockingly. He turned to Xyphos. “Sorry boy but you heard Her Ladyship. What do you think?” he directed to the Warrior.

The Warrior considered for a few seconds. The mercenaries were here for the money, but he was unclear why Xyphos had opted for adventure. It was most likely a part of his training as a mage, concluded the Warrior, despite not knowing anything about how mages were trained.

As for him, he liked the thrill and the challenge of the adventure. He longed to fight, and get paid for it.

“We go further,” he decided. He assumed that the rest of the dungeon wouldn’t be so challenging – an assumption which turned out to be correct.

The deeper levels of the dungeon were darker but the Warrior expected that. This was known as a spiral dungeon, which descended deeper underground. Each intersection housed tougher creatures and challenges, until at the very end of the dungeon lay the greatest treasure of all: either an enchanted weapon, or a magical item worth thousands of gold coins or a vein of jewels that could make a man wealthy enough to buy his own kingdom.

Sure enough, the traps were deadly, but the Warrior was too well experienced to fall for such things. He vaulted over rows of spikes, ducked beneath rigged arrow-firing mechanisms and even ran against a wall to avoid a pitfall. Ghouls and goblins and dagger-wielding wights filled most of the rooms and caverns, and the party had found their advantage in teamwork. Mara and Torrac were slow, but heavy, fighters, suited for smashing around big clumps of creatures. The Warrior always positioned one of them to guard Xyphos who picked at the enemy with kinetic blasts, fire lances and lightning bolts. The Warrior was the most agile, ducking in the midst of the enemy, sword and shield working in unison. Soon his armor was stained in black ichor and the foul smell of the undead. But the treasures were well worth the effort of getting them. Chest upon chest filled with pilfered jewels, mountains and mounds of gold coins, and priceless relics from holy places or artifacts of previous adventurers. Mara had more than filled her bag – she and her betrothed were happily lugging about half their weight in fortune. Even Xyphos had lined his pockets with gold.

“Listen to this,” he said, picking up a scroll. “According to this, there is a treasure within this dungeon; ‘a jewel the size of an infant, clearer than a midday sky, worth five kings and their men’.” He looked up. “I bet that’s a big jewel.”

“Now hang on,” called out Tarroc. “Is it your infant or my infant?” he asked with a smile.

“What’s the difference?” asked the mage.

Tarroc stood next to the mage and indicated the space between their heights with his hands. “About this much.” He and Mara burst out laughing and even Xyphos chuckled weakly.

“What say you then lads?” asked the woman of the group. “Shall we go the distance and nab that last treasure?”

“Hear, hear,” agreed Tarroc as he walked past the Warrior. “You coming?”

Something did not feel right. The Warrior’s instincts, which had saved his life many a time, warned him that there was something extremely dangerous in the lower bowels of this dungeon. Something that had prevented other adventurers from ever returning alive. Something beyond ghouls, goblins, imps and skeletons. But then he remembered what his master had told him: courage is taking action despite the fear. Courage is confronting the danger and challenging it. And if there was something the Warrior certainly did not lack it was courage.

“We go forwards,” he said, following Torrac. “But be cautious. Something dangerous lays ahead, I am sure.”

Before Torrac could reply, a violent kiss echoes in the chamber and a hideous monster reared into view. It was a giant Lizardman, with two long ugly heads coming from its neck and a wicked scimitar in one arm, a buckler in the other. Behind it, several others joined it. Torrac raised his axe, roared and barrelled into the enemy. His first strike cleaved a monster in two but he nearly got beheaded by a stray slash. The Warrior’s shield intercepted the strike and he beheaded the Lizardman instead.

“Watch out. They are smarted than they look,” he said as Mara joined the fray, brandishing her two handed saber. “Xyphos, cast your fire. They fear it.”

The mage whispered something and hear exploded from his scepter. One of the creatures caught on fire and scurried around screaming and hissing like a cat.

The Warrior found himself smiling as he was surrounded by the enemy. They came at him with swords, teeth and claws but he was the better fighter, dodging, blocking and striking back. His sword bit into their flesh and victory was hard won but won nonetheless. Torrac and Mara ganged up on the last creature as Xyphos saw a smaller Lizardman sun away and cast a kinetic blast on one of the overhanging stalagmites. It fell like a lance, impaling and crushing the creature. Meanwhile the mercenaries’ heavy weapons had torn the last of the creatures apart.

“Ha, ha,” laughed Torrac as he stepped on the corpse. “Is that what you call dangerous?”

As soon as he uttered the last syllable, the cavern darkened as a black tangible mist covered the ground. A dark tendril of darkness wrapped around Mara’s neck, lifting her off the ground. She struggled but her weapon had fallen from her hand and she was now closer to the ceiling. Then, darkness wrapped around her head and crushed her skull, before flinging her headless corpse around.

“Mara!” screamed Tarroc as he brandished his axe and raced for the darkness.

“No!” cried the Warrior but it was too late. A dark tendril impaled Torrac and tore him apart, spraying blood and gore everywhere.

“Demon,” cried hoarsely Xypher as he cowered against the wall. The Warrior remained silent and raised his shield, hoping it would be enough to at least deflect any tendrils aimed at him. But the darkness receded as if being sucked back to the lower levels from where it came. The Warrior stood up, all the while staring at where the demon had gone to.

“Oh no, oh no.” Xyphos was looking at the corpses of Mara and Tarroc, with sheer horror. He was shaking. “We have to get out of here,” he said. His voice crackled and broke. The Warrior approached him gently.

“No,” he said.

“But we have to. That thing will kill us all!” screamed Xyphos. The Warrior slapped the mage across the face.

“No,” he repeated. “We will not let their deaths be for naught. We press forwards, find the demon and slay it once and for all. Xyphos look at me.” He grabbed the mage’s face. “We will not let their deaths be in vain,” he said fiercely.

The mage nodded and the two followed the path the demon had receded to, one cautious step at a time.

The last dungeon was a giant circular hole, cut from crystal and black obsidian stone. In the middle of the enclave, like an altar, stood a giant gem, a crystal shard of massive proportions, hovering and slowly spinning.

And around it, a mass of darkness swirled. Tendrils of black whipped at the duo: the Warrior pushed the mage aside and deflected a tendril with his blade. Immediately the steel began to corrode. He unslung his shield, hoping his weapon would endure the fight.

Xyphos took off in a run.

“Where are you –”

Darkness surged and the Warrior had to evade another attack.

“Xyphos!”

But the mage was now being flung into the walls by a mass of darkness. The Warrior was on his own.

Darkness covered every crevice and all light was snuffed out, with only the soft glow of the crystal illuminating a tiny halo around it. The Warriors felt a series of blows on his shield and was thrown aside. Something felt odd at his side and he realized he had rolled on Xyphos’s backpack. Its contents were now spilled and the ground was littered with battered scrolls and spell crystals. The Warrior heard a phantasmal roar and felt something pierce his side. The pain flared as he checked his side and found his hand dam and sticky. The demon roared again and attacked. His shield took one blow whilst another speak of black stabbed into his legs. He screamed and fell, wounded.

“Are you dead yet?”

The voice was oddly familiar and yet it had none of its usual timidness. “Xyphos?” whispered the Warrior.

Next to the crystal, Xyphos appeared, healthy and undamaged, his hand on the crystal.

“How?” began the Warrior.

“this is a Soul Stone. With it I can control the essence of a demon,” said Xyphos smugly. “However I needed someone to clear the dungeon for me. Thank you for that.”

“You snake,” spat the Warrior.

“Oh please, spare me the drama,” replied the mage. “Who led you to this place? I did. Who urged you to go forwards? I did. Who told you about the crystal? I did. Don’t blame me if you were all too thick to see a trickster right in front of your eyes.”

“You mean a traitor!” roared the Warrior as he got to his knees. “Why are you doing this? Money? There are all the riches you can spend up there. So why?”

Xyphos laughed. “For power of course. Do you know who this is?” he said tapping the Soul Stone with his scepter. “This is an archdemon: Moribus the Assaulter.”

“The Black Calamity,” whispered the Warrior. He’d only heard children’s bedtime stories about the demon made out of black night and whose very presence signaled the death of entire villages.

“Exactly,” screeched Xyphos with glee. “Now I am the most powerful mage in existence. Moribus is under my control because I control his Soul Stone. And my very first order will be to kill you and that little village close by. Can’t leave any witnesses I’m afraid.”

The demon screamed again and the Warrior felt the black mass slither around him. His hands wandered on the ground until something bit into his fingers. He lifted the object. It looked like a small wooden tablet, thing and rectangular, with runes inscribed on it. A peddler in the village had sold it to Xyphos before they left for their quest; it was supposed to transport the user back to the village in case of an emergency. It must have spilled from Xyphos’ backpack after the traitor had pretended to be dead.

The mage motioned the tablet in the Warrior’s hands.

“What are you going to do with that?” he sneered. “I’m invincible.”

The darkness surged and descended on the Warrior just as he closed his eyes and snapped the tablet in half.

A second later he felt a light breeze and the evening warmth on his face. He opened his eyes and saw that he was on a prairie, just south of the village. From the distance, the entrance of the dungeon was just a black ominous mountain. Grimacing, the Warrior stood up and made his way towards the village, set on making them evacuate to a safer city.

After that, he would enlist the help of powerful mage and warriors and have them join him as he took revenge upon Xyphos and his pet demon. He was a warrior after all – and now he had a war to fight.

 

The War has just begun
The War has just begun

***

Hope you enjoyed that. I used obvious elements of role-playing games but I had to change the name to Warrior instead of Fighter because I don’t want to be sued by Dungeons and Dragons or wizards of the Coast or something.

Either way, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button for more epic stories.

Till next time guys,

Ryan

Sci-fi & Fantasy author. Podcaster. Dreamer of the Day

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