Rise of Kyrien

The Thornwastes

“I’m not bloody well going to send that message. She’s not happy with me.” Eli crossed his arms over his chest and scowled forbiddingly.
Wynter nudged Shadowmist around a particularly choppy part of the road with barely more than a touch of her knees. Her voice was a lilting drawl. “She’s not so happy wit’ any of us.”
“Well, I can’t read or write.” Bryn tugged the bracer that had never fit quite right after the ghoulish inhabitants of the house had mangled it.
Wynter glanced at Freyja, who just shrugged and quirked a brow. Wynter sighed. “Fine. I will do it.”

“The streets are clear, Sir. We seem to have got rid of them all.” Lieutenant North saluted and winced. He leaned against a chair and he wasn’t rebuked. He was not the only wounded.
“Good.” The statement was delivered matter-of-factly by the Captain of Sandpoint. The wearied Quinn Ameiko glanced up as the door to the barracks opened with a protesting squeak. Relief she didn’t know she had poured into her soul.
“You are all alive.” She pressed a hand to her temple. “What happened out there?”
“Ye are goin’ to want to close off the roads to the area. That place is bad.” Wynter’s voice travelled over the hum of noise in the room. And conversations quieted as the witch filled in the Captain on the events of the day.
“I will want to report to the General. Have ye a messenger we can use?”
The Captain nodded. “I will send a messenger to the Rusty Dragon.”
“My thanks.” Wynter nodded, and joined the rest of the group as they trouped wearily to the tavern.

The noise in the room dulled a little as the Shadowguard entered the tavern room of the Rusty Dragon. The barkeep gestured that their ale would be incoming, and directed them to the table that had become their own. A wench was send back for Calyth Suto.
Calyth approached with her hands deftly carrying the tankards. She lowered them down to the scarred, sticky tabletop.
“Enjoy.” She straightened. “There is a woman waiting for you all in the private dining room. She says there is no rush, but…” She glanced back. “I wouldn’t want to keep her waiting.”
“What does she look like?” Eli asked warily.
“Blonde. Tall….”
Wynter glanced quickly at Freyja. The half orc shifted uneasily.
“Elf. Got her hair in braids.”
They relaxed. Not a half angel with a demon arm. That kind of thing stands out. If the braids are the first thing a person thinks on…
“We will be right there.” Eli rose and picked up his tankard.
Bryn grumbled. “Interruptin’ good drinking time.”

The elven woman sat at the far end of the feast table, her feet propped on the chair opposite. She glanced up as the Shadowguard entered. An unpleasant smile curved her lips.
“So you finally decided to join me.” It wasn’t a question.
“Who are you?” Wynter asked flatly.
“Amirah Khaliyah. I have been sent here by the General. I can help you find Nualia.”
Wynter glanced at the grim faced Eli.
“What? What’s going on?” Bryn took a deep swig of her ale.
“Got some proof of what you are saying?” Wynter asked the newcomer.
Amirah tossed the parchment sealed with the General’s insignia onto the table. A pale brow was risen in query.
“That’s not…proof,” Eli muttered, scanning the document. But the penmanship was familiar.
“Where is Nualia?” Wynter said.
“In the Thornwastes. Accompanying a group of Scyrax tribespeople south.”
“What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah’s fingertips drummed in annoyance over the table. “You can ask the General next time you see her.”
“That isn’t what I asked.” Wynter propped her hands on her hips, her tone quiet and smooth.
Amirah pierced Eli with bright blue eyes. “Will you question the General’s order, Eli?”
He flinched. “No. That’s fine.”
Wynter frowned. “That was NOT what I asked. What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah stood slowly, drawing to her full height. She was thin, but all of it muscle. Bands of bronze bound her arms and layers of clothing spoke of desert climes. “I will protect my people. If your Nualia joins the Scyrax, my people will die. Erin sent me because she believed that you could help me.”
Eli slammed down his empty tankard. “We will see you in the morning.”
“I’m ready to go now.” Amirah folded her arms across her chest.
Wynter blinked at Eli’s sudden motion, but kept her composure. “We are tired and wounded. We had to kill a ghast this evening and it was difficult. We need to rest.”
Amirah stared down at the scarred surface of the table and shifted in annoyance. “Fine. In the morning then.”
Eli stalked out first, brushing past Bryn.
“Hey. What’s going…” Bryn scowled as Eli kept walking. “Fine.”

Wynter scribbled her signature on the bottom of the letter to the General.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
The witch glanced up into the bruised face of Captain Quinn Ameiko and smiled. “Sure.”
Quinn murmured an order to a passing barmaid and took up a seat. “I came to pick up the message for the General.”
“You…did?” Wynter was surprised.
“My people are exhausted and I confess, I wanted to get out of there and have some normal conversation that doesn’t revolve around Sandpoint for a while.”
The barmaid returned with two tankards of ale and a plate of meat, cheese and bread. Quinn pushed the platter between them.
“You can have some if you like.”
Wynter smiled her thanks. “We have to head for the Thornwastes in the morning.”
Quinn schooled her features into impassivity. “I wish you well in your journey, Sergeant.”
Wynter selected a cube of cheese and tossed it into her mouth. “Oh, I’m sure we will be just fine.”
“I did not realise you…all of you, would be gone so soon.”
“Part of the job.” Wynter shrugged.
“Safe travels then.”
“Thankyou.”

The desert yawned before them. The heat beating like waves against the skin. Freyja tugged the hood of her robes over her head and wrinkled her nose. “Well hell, was hoping to never see this place again.”

The scent of cooked spiced meats and laughter echoed over the empty desert sands. Lanterns cast their golden light over the oasis, making the deep, cold waters of the small lake a tempting invitation.

Exhausted, six riders stumbled into the welcoming halo. Red faced from the heat, scars still fresh from recent encounters, they sought relief from the unrelenting sands. Silk tents were set up on the muddy banks as they sought respite in the taverns nearby and the cool, deep waters of the oasis.

The icy cold moon had risen over the undulating dunes, and it was in this silvered light that Amirah slipped from her bedroll and strolled into the quiet streets of Khuraysan.

“Baroness.”
Amirah strode toward the shadow in the palms of the oasis.
“Gabriel. What news?”
“The deva is almost to the mountain refuge.”
“Damn.”
“Will your companions prove useful?”
“Erin seems to think so.” Amirah uneasily rubbed the back of her neck. “But they are ultimately expendable.
“Will they take direction?”
She smiled. “I will make them. I have certain…leverage.”
“We will see you at the meet place.”
“Go with speed.”

Eli crouched as a vague shadow amongst the prickly, dust coated scrub. As Amirah and her unknown companion slipped away, he straightened, the spines of the plant he had crouched behind plucking at the fabric of his tunic. His expression was carefully schooled.

“Here.” Eli handed Bryn a coffee. She looked like she needed it.
“Hey. Were you creeping around last night?”
“Yeah. Just waiting for the others. We need to have a little chat with our new companion.”
“Right.” Bryn sipped.

The campfire swirled its smoke skyward as they ate breakfast.
“Who are you?” Eli asked of Amirah as conversation drifted to silence.
Amirah glanced up from her plate with a frown. “I told you.”
“That story ain’t the whole truth, and you know it.”
“You want more information, you can ask the General.”
“Ye need ta do better’n that if ye want us to watch ye back.” Wynter leaned back against the fallen tree that made up her seat.
“No. I don’t think I do,” Amirah said flatly.
“Who is Nualia to you?” Eli asked.
“Someone that I want to see dead.”
“Why?”
“Ask the General.”
“No,” Wynter snapped.
“You want to know more about who I am, you can ask the General.”
Wynter kicked a smoking log in annoyance. “We are asking you here and now. If we are to trust one another, we should know more about each other.”
Amirah stirred the leftover contents of her plate with thoughtfulness. She regarded each member of the party.
“If that bitch reaches their mountain lair, we won’t get her out.” Amirah tossed her plate into the dust at her feet. “General Naveth has an interest in seeing the Scyrax weakened and my people in charge.”
“Why?” Wynter frowned.
“Erin and I…have an understanding.” Amirah shifted her gaze thoughtfully over all, before resting finally on Eli. “She supports me and wishes you to help. Will you refuse?”
“No.” Eli snapped. “Let’s get going.”
Wynter glanced at Eli.

Eli yawned. He figured dawn was a few hours away yet. But out there somewhere were riders that had flanked them for days, kicking up dust that was barely visible in the baking heat of the dunes.
The desert was eerily noisy. It should have been silent. Surely nothing could survive out here – but there it was – the slither of scale upon sand. The chitinous skitter of many feet over…wait. Over what? Sand didn’t have solid…. Oh shit.
Eli leapt to his feet and scarpered down from his vantage point. A dark, squat shape was nosing its way under the fluttering silk sides of Amirah’s tent. The only light was the moon reflecting off the pale fabric.
Eli took out the wicked dagger that had an unerring ability to return to his hand once thrown. He hefted its weight and heaved. Striking true, the beast hissed and chittered its pain and protest, flailing on the sand, it’s tail curving in a arch over its armoured spine.
From the tent came a shriek as the elven woman awoke. Silence, then the sound of a meaty thwack was heard. Amirah scrambled backwards out of her tent. The scorpion flailed, tangling its spindly limbs with the guy ropes, and the black ichor of its blood was smeared into the sands as Eli stomped its fragile skeleton to fragments.
Wynter folded her arms across her chest, a thoughtful expression on her face.

“My true name is Vaia Silverwinter. Baroness Vaia Silverwinter.”
They stood in the debris of combat as a man in chainmail leapt off his horse and greeted Amirah with a salute and, “Baroness.”
The party stared at each other in shock. Could it be true?

View
Seeking Nualia Part 1

“I’m not bloody well going to send that message. She’s not happy with me.” Eli crossed his arms over his chest and scowled forbiddingly.
Wynter nudged Shadowmist around a particularly choppy part of the road with barely more than a touch of her knees. Her voice was a lilting drawl. “She’s not so happy wit’ any of us.”
“Well, I can’t read or write.” Bryn tugged the bracer that had never fit quite right after the ghoulish inhabitants of the house had mangled it.
Wynter glanced at Freyja, who just shrugged and quirked a brow. Wynter sighed. “Fine. I will do it.”

“The streets are clear, Sir. We seem to have got rid of them all.” Lieutenant North saluted and winced. He leaned against a chair and he wasn’t rebuked. He was not the only wounded.
“Good.” The statement was delivered matter-of-factly by the Captain of Sandpoint. The wearied Quinn Ameiko glanced up as the door to the barracks opened with a protesting squeak. Relief she didn’t know she had poured into her soul.
“You are all alive.” She pressed a hand to her temple. “What happened out there?”
“Ye are goin’ to want to close off the roads to the area. That place is bad.” Wynter’s voice travelled over the hum of noise in the room. And conversations quieted as the witch filled in the Captain on the events of the day.
“I will want to report to the General. Have ye a messenger we can use?”
The Captain nodded. “I will send a messenger to the Rusty Dragon.”
“My thanks.” Wynter nodded, and joined the rest of the group as they trouped wearily to the tavern.

The noise in the room dulled a little as the Shadowguard entered the tavern room of the Rusty Dragon. The barkeep gestured that their ale would be incoming, and directed them to the table that had become their own. A wench was send back for Calyth Suto.
Calyth approached with her hands deftly carrying the tankards. She lowered them down to the scarred, sticky tabletop.
“Enjoy.” She straightened. “There is a woman waiting for you all in the private dining room. She says there is no rush, but…” She glanced back. “I wouldn’t want to keep her waiting.”
“What does she look like?” Eli asked warily.
“Blonde. Tall….”
Wynter glanced quickly at Freyja. The half orc shifted uneasily.
“Elf. Got her hair in braids.”
They relaxed. Not a half angel with a demon arm. That kind of thing stands out. If the braids are the first thing a person thinks on…
“We will be right there.” Eli rose and picked up his tankard.
Bryn grumbled. “Interruptin’ good drinking time.”

The elven woman sat at the far end of the feast table, her feet propped on the chair opposite. She glanced up as the Shadowguard entered. An unpleasant smile curved her lips.
“So you finally decided to join me.” It wasn’t a question.
“Who are you?” Wynter asked flatly.
“Amirah Khaliyah. I have been sent here by the General. I can help you find Nualia.”
Wynter glanced at the grim faced Eli.
“What? What’s going on?” Bryn took a deep swig of her ale.
“Got some proof of what you are saying?” Wynter asked the newcomer.
Amirah tossed the parchment sealed with the General’s insignia onto the table. A pale brow was risen in query.
“That’s not…proof,” Eli muttered, scanning the document. But the penmanship was familiar.
“Where is Nualia?” Wynter said.
“In the Thornwastes. Accompanying a group of Scyrax tribespeople south.”
“What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah’s fingertips drummed in annoyance over the table. “You can ask the General next time you see her.”
“That isn’t what I asked.” Wynter propped her hands on her hips, her tone quiet and smooth.
Amirah pierced Eli with bright blue eyes. “Will you question the General’s order, Eli?”
He flinched. “No. That’s fine.”
Wynter frowned. “That was NOT what I asked. What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah stood slowly, drawing to her full height. She was thin, but all of it muscle. Bands of bronze bound her arms and layers of clothing spoke of desert climes. “I will protect my people. If your Nualia joins the Scyrax, my people will die. Erin sent me because she believed that you could help me.”
Eli slammed down his empty tankard. “We will see you in the morning.”
“I’m ready to go now.” Amirah folded her arms across her chest.
Wynter blinked at Eli’s sudden motion, but kept her composure. “We are tired and wounded. We had to kill a ghast this evening and it was difficult. We need to rest.”
Amirah stared down at the scarred surface of the table and shifted in annoyance. “Fine. In the morning then.”
Eli stalked out first, brushing past Bryn.
“Hey. What’s going…” Bryn scowled as Eli kept walking. “Fine.”

Wynter scribbled her signature on the bottom of the letter to the General.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
The witch glanced up into the bruised face of Captain Quinn Ameiko and smiled. “Sure.”
Quinn murmured an order to a passing barmaid and took up a seat. “I came to pick up the message for the General.”
“You…did?” Wynter was surprised.
“My people are exhausted and I confess, I wanted to get out of there and have some normal conversation that doesn’t revolve around Sandpoint for a while.”
The barmaid returned with two tankards of ale and a plate of meat, cheese and bread. Quinn pushed the platter between them.
“You can have some if you like.”
Wynter smiled her thanks. “We have to head for the Thornwastes in the morning.”
Quinn schooled her features into impassivity. “I wish you well in your journey, Sergeant.”
Wynter selected a cube of cheese and tossed it into her mouth. “Oh, I’m sure we will be just fine.”
“I did not realise you…all of you, would be gone so soon.”
“Part of the job.” Wynter shrugged.
“Safe travels then.”
“Thankyou.”

The desert yawned before them. The heat beating like waves against the skin. Freyja tugged the hood of her robes over her head and wrinkled her nose. “Well hell, was hoping to never see this place again.”

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Scarecrow

They stood over the dead family. The father with the rune of Lamashtu carved into his chest, the mother and son turned into ghouls and felt fear.
The sun was setting.
Nightfall would come before they could reach Sandpoint again.
As the others walked toward the barn to check it out, Eli turned his head. What was that? A cry?
He opened his mouth to call to the others, but closed it again. What if he was wrong?
Blending into the lengthening shadows he crept through the corn that whispered and creaked in the whirling zephyrs that stirred the dry stalks.
The crying turned to pleas of help.
Eli peered up at the scarecrow. The face was a hessian bag, tied at the throat with twine. The arms were bound to the battered wooden crossbeam with wire. The legs likewise. The diagonal rends through the rough shirt that hung limply on the thin frame beneath were soaked with blood. Human blood.
With uncertain fingers, his mouth dry against the sudden need to swallow, he peeled back the mask and jerked back.
The face was almost grey, dark smudges underneath the eyes. She was turning, and soon.
Pity over took the man and he gently let her down.
“Who did this?” he asked gently.
“I don’t know. Please. Help me. They put us out here to die.”
“Who are they?”
Her voice was a croak. “The barn. Don’t let them go into the barn.”
Eli’s head jerked up. In the distance he could see a hovering figure. Scooping up the limp woman, he ran for the farm yard.

“I say we burn it.” Bryn snapped, eyes narrowed as she studied the doors that vibrated once in a while.
“Crops are dry.” Wynter replied. “Would be bad.”
“So?” came the reply.

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Investigation

While Wynter and Eli got answers from the partner of the murdered man, Jarod and Bryn scouted the lumber mill. It’s silence was eerie. The bodies were wrapped and ready for transport, and Jarod stood in the doorway of the mill, his arms folded as he frowned.
“We have to be missin’ something. Some…clue.” He scowled in frustration.
Bryn shrugged as she booted aside a pile of old sacks, their fabric spotted with blood. Not much around here wasn’t splattered.
A clattering sound made her pause. An axe spun briefly between them. Jarod strode over, squatted, and picked up the weapon. He lifted it and studied the surface thoughtfully, before going quite green and hurling his last meal over the dusty wooden floor.
Bryn grinned. “You alright there?”
Jarod wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and jerkily held it out. “Here, you can hold the goddamn thing.”
Bryn picked it up and went a little pale as the stench of rotten flesh assailed her nostrils. “We should get this back.”

Bryn lifted a tankard of ale and leaned back in her chair. She took a healthy draught and smiled with satisfaction. “Ahhh. Better. Come on…drink up!”
Jarod eyed his tankard warily before picking it up. “Yeah. Still don’t feel so good.”
Loud conversation caught Bryn’s attention.
“No, really! They came alive I tell ya! Pullin’ and moanin’ and runnin’ through tha’ fields after me. I got my arse outta there right quick, I tells ya!”
“Pull the other one, Harry.”
“I’m not bullshittin’ ya. Ain’t heard from the neighbours in a few days. I just got me and the missus outta here.”
Bryn glanced at Jarod. He huffed a breath.
“Is this what it’s always like?” he asked plaintively.
“Sometimes we kill things.” Bryn smiled brightly as she stood up, gesturing to the innkeeper for a round of ales for the farmers in the corner. “That’s a heap more fun.”

“Well I don’t often do myself a couple, but for you two I could make an exception.” The exquisite beauty sashayed her way toward Eli and Wynter.
Wynter made an unladylike snort of laughter. Eli deadpanned.
“We are Shadowguard, ma’am,” he managed after a moment.
“I haven’t had one of those either.” An enticing smile curved her lips.
“We just need to ask you some questions about Alora.”
The whore’s lips pouted in a moue of disappointment, but she answered the questions agreeably enough.
Alora met many men. She was saving to go away from Sandpoint. She wanted to see the world. And would often do jobs off the books to earn more money. One name was familiar – Aldern Foxglove. And the dead man from last night had seen her several times.

“We gotta go.” Bryn pushed her way into the Pixie’s Kitten. “There’s a problem.”
“Another one?” Wynter asked, incredulous.
“Yeah. Come on.”
“Come back and see me soon,” the Kitten winked at Eli.

View
Return to Sandpoint

“Bloody hell…” Freyja paused in the doorway, blocking it for a moment. “What happened to you?”
Wynter shoved the solid form of her friend aside and peered into the gloom of the Captain’s office. Captain Quinn Ameiko sat at her desk, bruised, battered and clearly aching as she rose unsteadily to her feet.
“Do you wish healing?” Wynter asked, her accent deepening in her concern.
“Hells yes.” Ameiko nodded gratefully. “I am glad you are all here. Things were picking up after you dealt with the goblins…I thought it was going to be quiet for a while.”
The deaths of two con men and a prostitute were outlined briefly as bruises faded to yellow.
Eli folded his arms. “What happened to you?”
“I informed the father of the death of his daughter. He has a temper.”
“Where is he now?” Wynter asked.
“In the cells. Cooling off.”
“We will head to the lumber mill then.” Wynter nodded.

“Well that was disgusting.” Wynter wiped her hands on a cloth and tossed it aside. She glanced down the riverbank at the form of Bryn scanning the rough sand and then up at Jarod upriver. When the heads shook in the negative, she frowned.
“We should talk to the partner of the guy in there. Ameiko has him locked up.” Eli grimaced as he tried to move aside the tattered remnants of cloth on the chest of the mutilated corpse hooked on the wall. He stilled.
“Hey. Check this out.”
Wynter walked back to the body. She went pale. “Damn. Another one.”
“This wouldn’t be the half demon bitch , would it?”
“When did she escape?”
“After the first two were killed.”
“Then I doubt it.”
“Well, hell.” Eli wiped his hand on his trousers.
“Do you smell that?” Wynter sniffed again.
“Yeah…I’m not taking in more of a breath than I have to.”
“Man up. Seriously. Take a breath.”
Eli huffed a breath as Bryn and Jarod re-entered.
“What’s going on?” Bryn asked, peering in the relative gloom.
“The witch thinks she smells something funky.”
“Aside from blood and guts?” Bryn lifted a russet brow.
“Just tell me what you smell,” Wynter growled in frustration.
No one spoke as deep breaths were taken.
“What the hell is that smell?” Jarod rubbed his nostrils, the stench cloying.
“Rotting meat,” Bryn confirmed.
Wynter stared at the two fresh kills. “These two shouldn’t smell that bad. Not yet.”
“We need to talk to the partner…now.” Eli reaffirmed.

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Meeting the General

Meeting the General
“You vouched for her.” Bright blue eyes burned cold with anger as they rested upon each member of the team, then lastly upon Eli.
He shifted uncomfortably. “Yes.”
“And you let her get away.”
“Yes.” He met her gaze.
There was a long silence. The General glanced down at a pile of papers and selected one between a calloused thumb and forefinger. She held it up and read from the contents.
“Captain Ameiko has requested assistance in investigating a series of murders that have taken place around Sandpoint,” she tossed the parchment on her table and looked up.
The group looked at each other warily. That was it?
“Don’t let me detain you.”
When the door closed, there was an audible release of breath.
“I thought she was gonna flay you alive, Eli.” Freyja slapped the man on the back.
Eli rubbed a dark bruise on his chest.
“Yeah. She isn’t known for like…mercy when people screw up…” Jarod drawled. Then frowned. “This Sandpoint place. What’s the deal there?”
“Get your kit,” Wynter patted him sympathetically on the shoulder. “You have a long ride ahead.”

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The Rusty Dragon

“Are we the first back you think?” Freyja asked of her cloaked companion. Her feral bright eyes scanned the fast drinking crowd as the sun cast the last of it’s light through the murky windows.
“I will get us repast if you find a table.” Wynter pushed her way to the bar and beckoned the innkeeper for assistance.
Freyja shoved her way to an empty table and smiled brightly at the man who tried to claim it first. He ran. She sat with her back to the wall and propped her booted feet on the sticky wood of the bench alongside.
Jarod open the door, his arm in a sling as he approached the bar to order the first drink he had had in three weeks. He could almost taste the bitter brew floating across his taste buds and salivated at the thought.
“Good evening,” Wynter greeted the newcomer to their group with her quiet formality.
“Hey!” Jarod grinned widely, “Ye are back. How went it all?”
“We shall apprise you all of the situation when everyone gets here. Brynhilde should be arriving any moment, and Elijah not far behind.”
The door crashed open with an echoing bang and a tall, curvy woman with red hair tied up in a heavy coil strutted within.
“Speaking of…” Jarod gestured with his tankard of ale.
“Come on, let us go find Freyja. Here…take these…” Wynter handed him two tankards brimming with frothing ale.

“Yep,” Jarod slapped his now full gut, the remnants of his meal scattered before him. “Didn’t take much to convince those assholes to head back to work.”
“Well done,” Freyja nodded in approval, taking a deep draught of her tankard.
Elijah scowled, and tapped a finger in angry staccato against the side of his tankard, sending the untouched contents into ripples.
Bryn smiled smugly. “Never had so much fun on mine. Beginning…to end.”
Wynter peered thoughtfully at their silent companion.
“What about you, Eli?”
He was silent for a moment, before looking up, the barely healed bruises and new scars evidence of his ordeal.
“It didn’t go so well.”
Silence met the statement as the cheer from the table dulled.
“I took Nualia to be..rehabilitated. She tried to seduce me and I said no.”
A pause.
“She beat the hell out of me…and carved a bloody great chunk of flesh. The tattoo…” He showed the bandaged wound.
“Damn…” Freyja shook her head sympathetically.
“You let a woman beat you?” Bryn smirked as she leaned back in her chair.
Wynter cast her a dark look, before shifting in her chair. “Where is she? Nualia?”
“I don’t know.” Eli’s hand whiteknuckled on his tankard.
“Who is Nualia?” Jarod asked, bewildered.
“Complicated.” Freyja shrugged.
“Really complicated. I vouched for Nualia with the General.” Eli took his first deep draught of ale.
“Shit.” Wynter slumped back in her chair.
“Yeah,” Eli agreed.
“The General is gonna be pissed.” Bryn wrinkled her nose.
“Yeah.” He drained his tankard.

View
The past month...

“So…lemme get this shit straight. You guys don’t wanna go back an’ do the jobs you have been hired on to handle?” Jarod grinned, the light of amusement gleaming in his eyes.

The dockmaster leaned back in his chair. “Not until they pay us what we is rightfully entitled to.”

Jarod leaned over the desk, his bunched fists resting on the scarred, sticky surface. “You are rightfully entitled to a punch in tha fuckin’ face if ye don’t watch yeself.”

“You can’t threaten us!”

“I think ye are mistaken on that point, me boy. I don’t have ta jus’ threaten…” Jarod’s arm whipped out, his hammy fist twisting the threadbare fabric of the dockmaster’s tunic into a choking twine and jerked his considerable bulk upward. “As I’m a Shadowguard, I can follow through whenever I feel like it.”

“Shit.” The dockmaster paled, and his gaze shifted to a half foot over Jarod’s shoulder.

The longshoreman’s hook speared into Jarod’s shoulder. He shoved the dockmaster back several paces, grabbed the hook where it impaled him and twisted. The stevedore, hefty across the shoulder and thick across the gut, tried to jerk the hook out. Jarod held on.
“Very fucking stupid, my friend.” Jarod glanced at the dockmaster. “I will be with you in a moment.”
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Freyja cracked her knuckles, a sly smile curving her lips, the points of her fangs indenting the flesh. She glanced at Wynter. “Ready for this?”

Wynter flicked her palm open, the accent of her home rich on her tongue as she replied: “Just try to keep up.” Magic crackled across her palm, the smell of a summer thunderstorm flaring as the white coils of hair snarled in response.

“Winner pays for breakfast.” Freyja shifted her shoulders, the formidable muscle flexing.

“Deal.”

“See you on the other side.” Freyja leapt forward and slammed into the first dwarf.

“Stay safe.” Wynter threw the spell she had brewing and somewhere in the depths of bodies protecting the dwarven lord light and heat exploded.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

Bryn leaned back against the tree and yawned, scratching her chest. She glanced back at the tribal merriment taking place around the fire and snorted in disgust. Passing through Qatari territory wasn’t the best time to be making merry.

“You will not join us?” The lilting tones of the Ambassador were formal, but faintly amused, in the twilight surrounding them.

“Nah. Not my scene, Your Ambassadorship.”

“This must be quite dull for you.”

“Yep.”

“You are quite honest.”

“Don’t give a crap enough to lie, Your Ambassadorship.”

“How intriguing.” The Ambassador smiled, her dark eyes gleaming.

“You are pretty weird yourself.” Bryn frowned and peered up at the elegantly clothed woman.

An arrow slammed into the tree just above Bryn’s head. The Ambassador shrieked. Around the fire, screams echoed to the night skies and blood stained the sand.

“GET DOWN!” Bryn shoved the Ambassador down and drew her sword. “Don’t put your bloody head up until I say so.”

She sighted on a target and grinned suddenly. “Now this is fun.”
______________________________________________________________________________________________

“What do you mean…’no’?” The exquisite woman shoved Eli backwards. The red tipped claws of her left hand left diamond red drops of blood beading on his chest.

“Uhhh…well….no.”

“You pathetic worm of a man. No one says ‘no’.” Nualia clenched the demon claw into a fist.

“Maybe if they had, you would be less of a bitch.” Fuck.

Nualia went pale but for a red flare of colour upon her cheek. “Tread carefully, monk.”

“I’m not a bloody monk.”

“Not yet.”

The flare of pain that burned through Eli was sudden and shocking as claws raked his chest, laying open his flesh. Before he could respond, the second blow crashed across his jaw.

Shaking his head to clear it, he stared at the furious deva.

“What the hell…” Eli gasped, trying to catch his breath. He crashed a fist into her shoulder.

“You stupid, foolish man.” She slashed at him again, raking her claws across his gut.

The rest of the combat was brutal and short. Eli was flung from the tent, crashing through the wall, collapsing the structure. Blood flowed over his chest and streamed from nose and mouth. He peered out of swelling eyes, the bodies of the Kyrien guards fell, rendered headless by a wicked blade.

And he passed out.

Nualia stood over Eli’s form. She rubbed the tattoo on her breast. The seven pointed star. Her knuckles whitened on the intricate dagger held in her angel’s hand. She squatted down and held the tip against his throat.

“Stupid monk.”

She jerked his bruised and battered face to the side, and a bead of blood trickled down his throat.

She paused and drew back.

“Goddamnit.”

She yanked his arm aside and draw the razorsharp edge around the tattoo. She gouged the flesh from his arm and tossed it aside. She wiped the blade on his trousers and stood.

“Now we are even. Next time..I will kill you.”
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Devastation of Thistletop

Shale Andosana, the elven ranger, lead the Shadowguard Sergeants to the Thistletop Fort. Unable to join them with goblin forces moving in the area, Shale departed.

The group made their way through the thorny walls of the maze that lead to Thistletop, and encountered a frightened goblin druid who told them in trembling tones that he was afraid of the newcomers to Thistletop and the woman who lead them.

Infiltrating the fortification, the group discovered, and won, the game of ‘killgull’. Showing off the book and tattoo, Eli tried to negotiate a peaceful entry. But such luck was not upon their side as orders apparently came through to kill the intruders. What chance had a handful of goblins against the trained Shadowguard? None. At all.

A horse was rescued. Shadowmist was starved and beaten for weeks by the goblins. He will accept no rider, and barely a touch from any but the first being to show him kindness. Wynter now has a friend.

The underground caverns of Thistletop held a variety of threats. But all were dispatched with varying success. Eli possibly took more damage than the rest of the party put together…but then he will insist on opening the doors first. After the first few times, it was decided the barbarian would go first.

Tragedy struck upon the second level.

Pie’o’pah, the intrepid rogue, had deactivated a trap sprung by the barbarian, Bryn. As they were crossing the trapped section of flooring, he slipped and fell. The trap sprung. With his companions unable to assist, he was hit by two glaives. And before many more seconds passed, the floor gave way, dropping him into a spiked pit.

Barely alive, the party discussed how to get him out.

The trap reset. Closing the floor over the unconscious man.

A brief discussion ensued and it was decided the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Pie’o’pah would be mourned by those left behind.

Finally encountering Nualia, the vengeful half-angel, the party was given a moment to speak to her before she would carve a bloody swath through their midst.

Eli stepped forward. When asked why he carved her mark upon himself, he replied honestly that he wished only to infiltrate her ranks. She was amused by his forthrightness, and thanked him for only helping to fulfill her purpose.

As the conversation continued, Nualia was convinced to lay aside her vengeance…for the moment. To meet with the General of Kyrien and have her abilities trained in other directions – rather than face inevitable death.

For reasons she did not articulate, Nualia agreed, but only if a guarantee could be made for her safety. Eli agreed for the party, and the party made haste for the journey home.

Messages flew from Eli to the General and back again, negotiating the terms.

Arriving in Milltown, the group occupied an inn to await the arrival of the General. The following day, a retinue approached the town. The General was angered by the actions of the group, but was convinced to give Nualia a chance. The General acceded, but only after asking if the group would vouch with their own lives for the future of the half-angel. Warily they agreed.

Nualia was whisked away to a hidden location without further word, and the General gave the group leave until the end of the week.

The party had a moment to relax. All returned to Kyrien Castle and it was a few days of down time before Eli was called to the General’s quarters. She introduced him to their new companion to replace the deceased Pie, a new graduate of the Shadowguard training. The newcomer was sent to meet with the rest of the party while Eli met with the General on other business.

What will the new adventure bring?

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Mystery below Sandpoint

The party met with the grieving Sergeant Quinn Ameko. They spoke briefly, filling her in on the events of the past few hours and the death of Morgan Suto and his father. The Captain seems to have left the town, leaving Ameko and her two remaining guardsmen to keep the town safe.

Returning to the Glassworks, Calyth Suto was found in a storage basement level below the Glassworks. Beaten and bloodied, she was carried from the silent factory and taken to the infirmary for treatment. Unconscious, she was unable to be questioned.

The group had discovered a broken wall, through which the goblins and Suto had accessed.

A grim discovery was made. A set of catacombs were underneath the town of Sandpoint. The first cavern had the group facing a beast they had never seen before. Ugly and smelling of death, they fought the beast and defeated it’s poisonous attacks.

Further into the tunnels and a cavern was discovered. A creature crawled from the pool in the centre, dropping its blood into the depths to call forth two more of the foul beasts. The combat was brutal, the creature from the depths a gifted mage who hacked and slashed at her attackers.

Bleeding and bruised the party has a brief respite as the bodies of the spawn lie at their feet. Where to now?

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