Farm to table release 😀 Due to patreon sub drop, I’ve reinstated timed locked chapters.
Faint light illuminated the cavern, large and foreboding. Tens of strangely glowing mosses grew amongst the stalactites. Their light reflected off the reflective water that pooled around the stalagmites. A few of the oldest ones barely touched the surface of the water, creating what appeared to be a pillar of light that made the carven seem like one continuous orb. On the far walls, long ruined murals remained. Their stories forever lost to the annuals of time. And in the center of all this, a small stone platform, free of dirt, grime, and life.
A stone coffin rested upon it
The water, peaceful and pure, rippled. Silent, but the disturbance was still there. Soon, more ripples came until the reflection in the water disappeared. The water shook violently now, as did the cavern. Just when the cavern began to groan from the event, a golden wave of light pulsed through chamber once. Gone as soon as it came, the place slowly fell back into peace, but not the same peace.
What was once left undisturbed for thousands of years and unseen… Now shone. Faint ghostly chains wrapped around the coffin in neat rows. Each chain, a binding spell. The cavern walls were alight with runes that were as ghostly as the chains. On one wall, just left of the platform, a stony outcrop faintly resembled a doorway. A single intricate spell circle was etched into the wall.
A single hairline crack appeared on the corner of the circle.
The cavern whined and a single chain broke in the coffin. It too began to creak from the sudden pressure building within the cavern. Skeletons were etched into the side, depicted as if they were dancing with swords and spears. On another side, it depicted headless humans. On the lid of the coffin, a single name was etched…
“The Lord of the Damned”.
. « ◊ ».
His steps echoed throughout the empty hall. Dawn would be here soon, but his master had summoned him. He was almost entirely sure it was in regards to the that… Magic wave. At the age of fifty, Nicholas was still a handsome man despite the clear signs of aging. Tanned faced with long hair. Long for a man. It hung down to his mid-neck where it was tied off into a loose ponytail.
He was not a large man, nor was he small. With with his silk robes on, his well-toned body showed through as he opened the door at the end of the hall. The room inside was only illuminated by sun that had just broken the night no more than a few minutes ago, but he knew where he was going.
The room appeared to be just a forgotten storage room. Rotted barrels and a few collapsed crates populated the room. Sadly, it was a common thing in the Palace. With so many rooms, there just wasn’t enough hands to stock and clean them all. Thus, a lot of rooms went on touched. However, that was by design. He didn’t want anyone to be here.
With trained motions, Nicholas plucked out the second-lowest brick in the fifteenth row directly left of the small window that illuminated the room. Nothing happened and he reversed the prick, channeled several breaths worth of mana into it; then reinserted it. The brick glowed, illuminating the room in a thick pasty blue light. Then the light began to trace over the mortar. The line traveled up twenty-five bricks, turned left and traveled ten before it turned left again to return to the second brick to the floor. To complete it, the blue line cut across to the first brick.
The bricks inside the lines disappeared, replaced with a dark staircase that led into the depths below. Down into the Old City. He stepped into it, careful not to trip on the last row of bricks that remained and disappeared into the darkness below. A deep, draconic voice welcomed him.
.« ◊ ».
Akyryss looked over the island of Haven, a frown occupied her pretty face.
“Are you sure?” She asked with restrained annoyance.
“Yes, your Holiness.” A man replied as he knelt behind her.
Clay tiled roofs occupied the land below, topping hundreds of homes and shops. Her master once said. “Italian villa homes” Before. She never understood the term, but the style was pleasant on the eyes, equally from above as it was below. Yet today, the view only seemed to anger her.
“Maybe I’ll teach them why I am to be feared,” Akyryss growled, the voice deeper than a human could ever do.
The Holy White Dragon, Akyryss, stood on the large balcony overlooking the Free Port of Haven. Dressed in a pure white dress that trailed along the tiled floor, she contemplated going on a rampage across the continents. Contemplated being the key word here.
“It would be ill-advised. By all reports, Alistar is not the one coordinating the destruction of Lady C-” His words failed as an aura pressed down upon him, forcing him onto his hands as well.
“My Master is not to be addressed by such a pheasant’s name.” Akyryss turned around. “Her name is too precious to be defiled by such lowly titles. She is to be known as the Creator. How many times must I repeat myself to you?”
While the human priest was her most loyal follower, it was just that. Her follower. He paid respect to her master, but not enough. The love she had for Cyril was far greater than any being but short of that of Lord Hades. It was he who did not respect the memory of his daughter – her creator. Yet, he was her father those she could not reprimand him as well. Defiled in the north by her father, nearly forgotten in the south because of the False God Alistar. She had half a mind to wage war against them.
“Send a one of the Elder Dragons to Alistar.” Akyryss said. “Tell him that if him, or whomever in his order, continues to destroy the statues of my Master. I will attack…”
If only I could move them… She lamented.
She would gather them all into her abode, keep them among her horde… Her master… Her one true love…
The priest looked up, saw the Holy Dragon’s expression slowly slip into that of a love-stricken maiden, and rolled his eyes. He did not have to ask about it. There was no one on the island that didn’t know about the kind of love that perverted dragon had for her creator…
To his astonishment, her expression had suddenly become serious. She turned back to look over the Island, to the east.
“Your Holiness?” He asked. “Is something-”
Akyryss waved her hand as she focused on the horizon. The sea was neither calm nor frenzied but just was the sea. Yet, she kept staring off into the distance. A wave of gold, taller than the sky and as fast as a tsunami rolled towards them. The priest became alarmed. As did the city apparently. The storm bells tolled and the city stirred. He wanted to tell the dragon that she had to leave, but… Her face turned size to size as she examined it… An almost sinister smile was there.
Screams filled the city as the citizens began to rush towards the shelters. Ships began to try and salvage themselves, but all for nothing.
A woman’s laugh rang out over the city, catching their attention just as the wave of gold crashed into the island and… passed without a trace.
“She’s back!” Akyryss roared with a sick joy that made the city shiver.
.« ◊ ».
Layla looked to the storm that brewed on the western horizon. It was midday, but the autumn day already sent a shiver through her, or maybe, it was just her.
A strong gust of wind brought with it the freshness of the mountain as she looked down to IronHorn village below. Hundreds of thatched roofs, like little golden mountains, shone in the sun. A large palisade separated the village from the Elavon Forest beyond. From there, she couldn’t see the lands, only the large stretch of forest. While situated at the foot of Elavon Mountain, they were a long ways away from the main road or any town and garrison.
Such knowledge settled in the pit of her stomach, along with the cold and a bad feeling.
She took a deep breath to ease the raw mix that troubled her. The wind pulled on her wind cotton dress; belted with a worn leather belt that rested on her hip, a shortsword dangled from on her left along with a messanger bag. Her eyes finally settled at the mining town’s large clearing by the gate where several wagons had been lined beside the gate. Today was market day, and the day Old Man Tenni came along with his wagons.
Her feet filled with purpose, she trodded down the gentle slope lined with rocks and down into the village. The vast expansive view from her home’s perch above disappeared, replaced with aged cottages that lined the muddy footpath. The freshness of the mountain was replaced with the pungent stench of humans filth and still air. She tried not to cringe when she plunged into the stench, but her neighbor must have seen whatever reaction that slipped her attention.
“Still not use to the smell?” The old lady laughed. “I was the same when I came here.”
“Sorry for the face.” Layla said, not actually sorry.
“Don’t worry, girl.” The elder smiled. ” I hate it too.”
It had been a year since she settled in her belated husband’s village after her retirement from monster hunting, yet she still hated it. That was going to change soon though. She spent a few minutes speaking with her neighbor, giving the often annoying pleasantries that kept two people from hating each other. Then she continued on her way down the narrow path.
After a few minutes, she appeared on the large packed dirt road that led out of the mine just as a large lizard passed. It was a Scaled Ox, a magically bred drake that had no wings, intelligence or hostile to any living being. It was used to pull heavy loads out of the wagon, but they also costed a fortune to feed, thus, they were only used for lucrative ventures. Like pulling boatloads of ore from a mountain underbelly.
However, she still kept her distance from them because they were large eaters. It wasn’t uncommon for one of their miser owners to try and skim on their meals. Those ones often quickly learned that, just because it was magically bred, you don’t actually want to short a beast of dragon ancestry. It had happened once within the first few months she had moved here with her daughter. She had to put the beast down itself after it charged her and her girl on the main road.
Now, she never allowed her daughter to play near them anymore.
She kept herself behind the cart, her hand on the sword’s grip in any case, and followed the wagon until it veered away in the square. It joined a small concession of other wagons full of ore to be transported. Layla turned the other way, to Tenni’s merchant caravan.
A crowd had gathered as wives tried to haggle with the slaves, men carried away the goods their wives bought and a few opportunistic villagers set up food stands nearby. She was interested in neither as she scanned the crowd. She skimmed the edge, looking for the old man, and found him as he was speaking to someone just by the village entrance. He seemed to be laughing and Layla made her way towards him.
When she got only twenty feet close, she stiffened up as a black figure appeared in front of the merchant. Tenni had turned from the figure to look at Layla. He smiled and waved, said something to the black figure. It made no motion as its faceless abyss that swirled in its hood faced her. Yet, she knew it was looking at her. Emotionlessly. It was a Faceless one, A Phantom Merchant – The omens of disaster.
“Afternoon, my dear.” Tenni laughed, his bony features twisted with joy. “How are you!?”
Old Man Tenni was a short ratty stick of a man. His sharp facial features remained him of a mouse, and he was just bones wrapped in flesh. His eyes glowed with joy, most definitely not from seeing her, but she learned that Tenni was usually happy to see everyone well in IronHorn, being a partial resident of the town itself.
She had almost forgotten the figure in his joyful greeting, but when she looked, the figure had turned away already. She smiled back at the man, returning her attention back to him as she led him back to his wagon without a word. He went on about his day until she interrupted him.
“Why were you speaking with that Death Bringer?” Layla asked with forced calmness.
The joy on his face froze, not exactly understanding the sudden change. Layla gestured with her head towards the gate. He looked over his shoulder and saw what she had been referring too.
“They’re no death bringers.” Tenni said as the happiness was sucked from his tone. “They’re harmless. I’ll admit they have strange ways, but they’re not the reason for the disasters they often appear before. I’ve seen enough to know that.”
“No.” Layla refuted. “They’re the omens of death. They’ve been there, as massacres, assassinations, and wars. They’re well documented and they can slaughter the entire village!”
“No, child.” Tenni shoke his head. “They may be watchers, but they’re also merchants.”
He held up a large strange coin. Rimed with bronze and inlaid with silver. A semi-transparent rose color gem was embedded in the center of the coin. The stone was practically the coin’s center, polished with a single etched… Cat paw on top of it. An odd thing, but Layla could only look at the… Odd item, made from strange materials. She had to admit though, she could feel the magic in it. Powerful. Ancient.
“It is said that the Faceless deal in a strange currency.” He smiled. “The coins have mostly been lost to the world, but I learned but a few years ago that nations actually still traded with them. Albeit, one-sidedly. ”
He grinned as Layla tried to take in the information. Old Man Tenni had been the most learned man in Ironhorn in his youth, or so the elders said. She had traveled the world, but she couldn’t actually refute his words since she never bothered to pick up books. Unless it had information on how to kill something.
“I’m guessing this is the coin?” She said, mystified by the beauty of the coin.
“Yes.” He answered with a smile. “The Faceless one told me it was called Fabled Coins. Though the name is tacky, I admit. It does seem to relate to the rumors that they work for the Creator.”
Layla groaned. For as great as Tenni was, he was a scholar and a religious fanatic who followed the Forgotten. It referred to the religion around Cyril, the Goddess of Creation and Hearth. A dying religion that only really lives on in the beast lands, and on Haven if the tales are true. But she wasn’t one who believed in the gods. It suddenly struck her that the coin looked all too familiar.
“Hey…” She looked at it. ” Doesn’t that look like Savanah’s amulet?”
Tenni looked at her, thought about it, then his eyes went wide.
“The one Reeylian gave her before he died?” He asked.
“Yes….” Then it clicked. “He said it would help her in a time of need…”
Things began to fall into place. Almost as if… Fate had led her here on purpose. She remembered her original purpose for coming here.
“Nevermind.” she quickly said “Another time, but I need you to deliver this letter.”
She reached into her pouch and handed him a small letter. Her perfect handwritten letters detailed to a Glynii in the Elven Greens in the west. Her old team leader, and an Elder Elf.
“And I also need you to take Savannah with you to the capital.” She said as she closed the pouch.
The sudden shift in tone had thrown the man off.
“Wait, wait… “He paused as the words digested. “You’re-!”
Layla cut him off. “Yes. I have a bad feeling. Something is coming, but I can’t fight it if I have to protect her at the same time. I need to warn my old team, I don’t think the trouble will be something I can handle alone.”