Patching Up – Part 2

“You could at least give me a hand.” Des called as his spear drove forwards to puncture the carapace of another fenmite. The large, tick-like creatures could jump fairly far and the piercing mandibles were not something the former farmer wanted puncturing his hardened leather jerkin.

“The quicker we gather these components,” Zaneer replied as his lithe hands working to pluck plants from the edge of the fenland, “the quicker we’re out of here. Besides, the Captain asked you to guard me while I gathered.”

Whirling his spear Des knocked a leaping fenmite out of its jump to the ground only to drive the point of his weapon through it. “And I only agreed because for some reason she holds you in high regard.”

“Why wouldn’t she? My skills are invaluable, and I was friends with her mother’s family.” The elf mage rose to his feet, brushing down his dark robes with a hand. “Oh, and-” With a flourish of his orb-topped staff, a burst of energy surged forth and past the human. The wave caught the leaping fenmite and sent it tumbling back into the bogs. “There’s your hand.”

“Thanks… smart-arse.”

Zaneer stood outside of the dilapidated farmhouse they had sought shelter in, gulping down the cool night air. His brow was furrowed as he sustained a small spell to vent the aroma of cooked flesh from inside. He was uncertain if he would ever queue up for one of the camp roasts again.

That could wait though. Aside from clearing the air and his lungs, he had another reason to be outside.  Drawing another wand from under his bloodstained robe, Zaneer detonated several bolts of red light in the sky above him. As minutes past stood outside in the darkness, fear started to know in his stomach.

The sight of a blue detonation in the sky to the south bought a sigh of relief from the mage. Steeling his will, he fired off several more red detonations. Base camp responded with a white and a yellow. With a flick of his wand, a green flare soared high above the farmhouse. At least someone back at camp knew they were alive.

Hurrying back inside, Zaneer dragged an old hand cart in front of the door, filled with assorted tools to weigh it down. The chances of anything intelligent and hostile tracking his signal lights was low, but only a fool eschewed sensible precautions.

“Dinner smells good.” Des groaned from the makeshift bed he’d been laid on, his leg still propped up. A poultice had been applied to the wounded and cauterized area, secured by lengths of cloth removed from Zaneer’s own robe, the cleanest ones he could find.

The elf couldn’t help but laugh. “That… isn’t dinner. Do not turn maneater on us, Des, it would be most unseemly at meal times.” Settling down near the injured man, Zaneer offered him the waterskin. “You should drink.”

Des took small sips from it, his weathered face still pale from blood loss and the poison.

Zaneer took the time to re-wet the cloth for his forehead before speaking. “Camp knows we’re out here. There isn’t anything they can do until daylight.”

“Leave a little food for me and get some rest, then. You moan something awful if you haven’t gotten a good night’s rest, I’ve noticed. Last thing I need to deal with.”

Pulling what small provisions he had bought for the trip out, he placed them near the farmer’s hand. “I ate earlier, so finish the rest off yourself.” He lied. “I cannot advise on how best to eat after your ordeal, but I’d say eat little and let it settle first.”

“And as for sleep?” Des asked, shifting awkwardly to get a better look inside the pouch.

“You will have to put up with my moaning as I put up with your screaming. There is a chance that the signal flares might have drawn unwanted attention, and should you take a turn in the night-”

“Fair point. Leg still hurts like anything.”

“It is if you stopped feeling pain when we would have cause for concern.” Zaneer stated. “So if anything changes, let me know.”

Nodding, he settled back down and stared up at the ceiling. Silence passed between the pair for a while before Des finally spoke up. “Got two requests for you.”

“Nothing maudlin I hope?” Zaneer spoke carefully, eyeing the human.

“First one might count. Humour me, as alien a concept as that is to the guy with a staff up his back.” Des replied, his speech lacking its usual fire and pace. “If things go south, get back to the Captain in one piece.”

“It does count. What’s the second?”

“Forty one years and still no idea. Magic… how’s it work?”

Taking a long look at the stricken human, Zaneer mulled the topic over before rubbing at his face with a hand. “Why not, putting it into terms that you will understand will be quite the mental exercise for me.”

A low rumble of a chuckle came from Des. “Arse.”

“Quite.” The elf smiled. “So, magic.”

Patching Up – Part 1

“Am I dying?” The former farmer asked, laid out on the ground with a leg propped up onto a barrel. His skin was pallid and clammy, and his voice hushed.

“No. There are two simple reasons as to why you are not dying.” The man tending to his wounds chuckled, working delicately with a pair of needles to remove the poisonous barbs digging into the elevated thigh. “The first is that if you were to die, I would have the satisfaction of no longer having to tolerate your company.”

“I hope the second reason’s better, because the first would also mean I wouldn’t have to put up with you… you prim, pointy-earred prick.” The patient laughed, soon trailing off to lead into hoarse gasps.

The elf’s laugh filled the abandoned farmhouse, his hands keeping steady as each barb was removed with careful motions and placed into a dish. “Oh, much better. While I may be a humble mage-”

“Humble?!” The farmer’s chuckle had him wheezing again.

“Humble and incredibly modest. Possibly the most modest in this entire cursed land.”

“No… more… hurts to laugh…” He gasped, before his carer was up and adjusting his head to make sure the airways stayed open. The addition of a cool, damp cloth placed on his forehead brought some comfort to the fire raging through his veins.

“I’m not a physician, but I am familiar with anatomy. Your leg is elevated, to reduce the bleeding. The trifling amount of blood you have lost was tainted with poison so that is some small blessing.” He spoke, thankful that the poor light in the barn obfuscated the amount of blood staining his robe. “The materials I have been gathering for my own purposes? Well, some of them can be used to help clean and treat your wounds.”

The farmer was quiet as the last few barbs were removed from his leg, the remnants of the attack that had left a large, deep gash on his thigh. “It’s bad, isn’t it, Zaneer?”

“It, well, Des…” Zaneer took a deep breath. “Cleaning the wound will be the easy part. What comes next? You will need to dig deep and harness all of your surly, bastard-esque qualities.”

It didn’t take long for the mage to sift through his component bag, removing the wooden pestle and mortar as well as some small bags of freshly collected herbs. Pinches of this and bunches of that all ground together. A waterskin provided ample clean liquid to wash out the wound.

“That wasn’t so bad.” Des spoke somewhat awkwardly, his teeth gritted.

The elf looked down at the man with a resigned expression. “The wound is too big for a poultice. You’ll likely bleed out if it’s left open.”

“Needle and thread job, then?”

Setting his jaw, Zaneer slipped a hand under his robe to reach for one of the carefully-grown wands in his caster’s bandoleer. “Alas, I have no needle or thread. If it were cauterized? I would say there’s a good chance you’ll see the rising sun.”

“… Ah.”

Taking as deep a breath as he could, Des grabbed the neckerchief laying near him and wadded it up. “Do it. A chance is better than-”

“An unpleasant certainty?” Zaneer finished for him, moving into position to weigh down his body and secure the injured leg. A small wave of his hand brought the candle up to provide better light. “Draw deep from your soul, you boorish and cantankerous pig. This will not be pleasant.” Power flowed through his hand and into the wand, a tiny orb of fire appearing at the tip of the dark length of wood.

Any retort Des might have offered was muffled by the neckerchief clenched between his teeth. It did not do such a good job muffling the screams.

It Tolls For Tea

Her sword arm ached from the raging battle she had been fighting for the last hour. Blows were carefully parried, strikes avoided and thrusts countered. The sun had just started to set when a mighty bell tolled. The warring warriors looked up and around at each other as the sound hung in the air.

Sheathing her blade in the scabbard, the knight pulled the helmet from the top of her head. “The queen needs me.” She declared, before departing the field and heading for the castle.

There was no cowardice in her actions.

Even the mightiest knight could not resist the call of pizza night, and no plastic swords or rubber helmets were allowed at the royal table when it was time for a feast.

Parasite Control

They burst from the walls, horrid creatures of hard exoskeletons and proboscis designed for blood sucking. About the same size as a dog, the term the local tribes coined for them translated roughly as ‘blood-wraith’. Through the streets of Walkingburg dashed Weaver, in his element as an agile swordsman fighting a running battle.

When they leapt at him, his scimitar lashed out to carve chinks in their natural armour. When they curled up to roll at him, he simply danced over their balled forms. And when one blood-wraith surged up at him, it was met with a near-point blank blast from Weaver’s battered sawn-off shotgun.

“Jackass.” The blonde man muttered, ducking under a leaping bug before slicing clean through one of its leg joints. Another blast from his shotgun at the softer underside of a parasite emptied his barrels of ammunition, and started him running again.

Up close to the ruins of the town, it was clear that the sun and sand had done a number on it, without regular repair the wooden structures had been baked and sand-blasted by desert winds. The webbing of the blood-wraiths criss-crossed between broken homes and vacant businesses, and became his scimitar’s chief concern as he raced for the town square in the centre. As he neared it Weaver gathered arcane energy in his free hand, feeling the limb turn heavy and numb as power surged through it.

The torrent of light that shot up into the air hung about, glimmering a soft gold as he engaged his opponents amongst the remains of market stalls and once-picturesque benches. Outnumbered ten to one, sweat soaked his robes as he darted to and fro, sword biting into carapaces, cleaving skittering limbs and separating antenna and proboscis from their owner’s head.

“You’ll find I’m not much of a snack.” Weaver called as they amassed around him. “I’m stringy, tough, and a half-breed too. Not some gamey elf or juicy human.” He glanced up at the fading sight of his signal spell, wondering if he should cast it again. Spells weren’t his forte, and- his scimitar slashed out rapidly at the cluster of long, pointed appendages aiming to drain him dry.

Their behaviour suddenly changed. Some were turning their backs on Weaver in response to something, giving him the chance to press the attack. With both hands on his scimitar, he put power into every stroke as he advanced through his attackers to be greeted by a spear-tip rupturing through the body of a blood-wraith.

“Splendid day for a fight, eh?” A slender man called, his face angular and cheeks harshly pointed. In the desert sun, his pale complexion was made more pronounced.

“You could say that, Saddler.” Weaver grinned, getting into position by his fellow adventurer. “No one told me about the blood-wraiths.”

“And yet you charged in regardless. Most brave. Most daring. Most-”

“Stupid?” Weaver finished.

“I was going to say dashing, but I will defer to your superior judgement in this case.” The elf said with a slight smile, flicking haemolymph from his weapon as he readied it to strike out once more. Glancing across the crowd of bloodsuckers, he looked to his companion. “Twenty two left. Eleven apiece?”

“Take sixteen,” Weaver chuckled, “I wouldn’t want you to think I took your share of foes.”

The dark-haired elf pursed his lips. “Ten chore duties says that I defeat sixteen before you defeat six.”

Weaver’s scimitar flicked out at an attacker. “You’re on.”

Author’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words are Jackass, Rupture, Splendid, and continues last week’s story, Walkingburg.

Triduan (Part 11)

<- Triduan (Part 10)

“Shia, could you give us a minute?” Million asked the physician, her face grave. “Sorry to interrupt your work.”

“No, it’s fine… I can finish the rest off once you’re done.” She smiled in return, giving a nod of thanks to Emel before she quickly hurried out of the room. There was silence as her master looked to Million with confused, sad eyes.

“Why?”

“Start packing, Master.” Came her reply, trying her best to look determined and in charge, even as she reached for their backpacks.

“WHY?!” Emel shouted, looking as startled as her demon from the outburst.

“A coach arrived in town for the festival. They’re from Mardalen. I recognize them from the week we spent busting our humps trying to get them not to banish you. These ones weren’t particularly nice townsfolk, and they have guards with them.” Million admitted. “It might be best if we get on our way now. Leave quietly instead of after trouble starts.”

“No.” Emel replied, her tone steely. “We’re not letting them chase us out of here. We’ve done good here, people know you without knowing what you are, they’ve seen you be nice and not evil.” She stamped her foot down, before wincing as bare foot met the corner of one of the books Shia had left. Muttering a few rude words, she fell back on the bed to nurse her aching sole.

Million kept her mouth shut for a few minutes, before nodding. “Okay, Master.” She smiled as she sat the backpack down. “I was only doing what I thought you might want me to do. Guess I was wrong! That’s why you’re the mage and I’m the… hitty… punchy one.”

The flash of a smile across the mage’s face was well worth it. Until Shia poked her head around the door, avoiding even making eye contact with Million.

“Emel? The Mayor wants to see you.” She said in a subdued tone, hurrying in to get her book. She cast a quick look at Million as she was starting to head out, clearly frightened now of the tall, muscular woman.

“Don’t bother saying anything, Master.” She said as she saw Emel open her mouth, her fists clenched tightly. “You’re not going to change her mind.” Sinking down to one knee, she picked the backpack up to start packing again.

“Right.” Emel huffed, rising and slipping her boots on. “I’m going to talk to Mel-Krevin. You better be prepared to unpack all those things once this is all sorted.” She ordered, snatching her staff up and stalking out of the room.

Emel had been angry when she was banished from her hometown, but the town’s laws were the town’s laws. Here though? After everything Million had done for them, to be treated like that? She was incandescent with fury. No heed was paid to the physician as she brushed past her, her knuckles turning white as they gripped the shaft of her staff. Already people were staring, muttering under their breaths as they watched her pass on the way to the mayor’s home.

Mel-Krevin was waiting on the steps for her, his face neutral. “Emel. I’ve been talking with some people from your hometown. Is it true what they said?”

“I’d have to know what they said first.” She replied, her jaw clenched as she stared up at him.

“That you released the last known demon, Million, from captivity and laid a curse on their town after they banished you.” He asked. His eyes flickered from side to side a little. Emel didn’t need to look to know that some of the town guards were near.

“I don’t know anything about a curse. As for what I do know: Undead were attacking the town. The town guard had retreated to ensure the safety of the town, and I was left to handle them myself. In the battle, I accidentally released Million, who saved my life and defeated the risen skeletons that were rampaging through.” She took a long, slightly shuddering breath as she fought to keep a check on her emotions.

“The town council then banished me for my actions. We worked for a week trying to convince them to let us stay, running myself to the point of exhaustion to try and win them over. Even Million did. They kicked us out regardless.” Pressing her teeth against her lower lip, she stared up at the mayor. “I didn’t mention what Million was because it didn’t seem to matter. We recovered the Baton. We destroyed the hive. A few words from some travellers and you’ve got your soldiers flanking me?”

Mel-Krevin’s shoulders sagged as he waved away his guards. There were still a couple to the side of the mayor’s house, bearing the insignia of the town of Mardalen. Keeping one eye on them, she spoke to him. “We’ll leave. Not for you, but because even after everything that we did to help you people can still treat us like this. So we’re leaving because we just won’t enjoy it here.”

“I am sorry, Emel. But…” The mayor raised his hands before just letting them fall to his side. “Safe travels.”

Giving a curt nod to him, she turned her attention to the lingering guards. “What’s this curse?”

“Slick ice forming all over the town, a day or so after you left.” One of the guards replied, his hand on his sword.

“It’s probably just an Frost Spirit who wandered in from the mountains. Light the torches at night from the centre of the town to outside, and make sure they keep burning during the night.” She lectured, before giving them a hard glare. “You’re welcome.”

The fury had long since left her when she returned to the hotel, leaving her feeling weak and hollow. Million had looked up, ready to start taking items out of their packed bags. On taking one look at her master’s face, she simply secured the bags.

“I’m sorry.” The demon said softly, slinging both over her shoulders. “I seem to have a terrible knack for making towns uncomfortable places for you to stay.”

It got the merest of shrugs from Emel as she changed into her travelling clothes, slipping on the back holster for her staff, her bandoleers and her belt. “Let’s get started, Million.” She sighed. “We’ll want to make as much distance as we can before nightfall.”

The back of Million’s neck prickled as they walked out of town, feeling the eyes of everyone on them. “Yeaaaah, stare it up you ungrateful lot of CiYySaBa!” She said loudly once they reached the gates, pointing at her eyes before pointing at the merchants and townsfolk on the street. “Next time you lose your stupid little drinking stick, you better hope another awesome mage and incredibly fighty demon come wandering in for your festival!”

“Million, come.” Emel spoke, her staff tapping on the ground. “They’re not worth it. They’re just not worth it.” It was a simple statement without emotion, and as they headed south west along the roughly carved track silence fell between them, much like at the start of their adventure all those weeks ago.

Every thing the demon thought to say would just come off as stupid or unfunny, so she held her tongue. At least until she noticed the slight shake of the mage’s shoulders and the sniff of a freely running nose. Her long strides catching up the distance between them, she easily hefted the puffy-eyed girl into her arms and started to jog. “Enough of that crying, Master.” Million smiled as her legs carried them down the road. “Like you said, they’re not worth it. We got resupplied, we have coin and food to last us a while, and I’m going to give us some distance. And really?”

“What?” Emel sniffed, pulling a handkerchief out of her belt to attend to her tear-streaked face and runny nose.

“They’ll miss us more than we miss them. In the distance over there? And there? And there? All that horizon is opportunity for adventure. We’ve just got to find it.”

Slipping an arm around Million to reduce any chance of her being dropped or flung accidentally, Emel nodded away. Getting kicked out of another town had stung, especially after she had gotten into the festivities, but Million was right about one thing.

“We need to find out where the rest of those hives are.” She stated, looking up into the demon’s eyes. “Let’s see what the world thinks of us after we remove every scar from the Siege of One Million Demons.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Million chuckled. “In a different town and not any of Mel-daku’s range of beverages.”

“Oh, one more thing.” Emel thought to ask as she bounced lightly in her companion’s arms. “What does CiYySaBa mean? I know the last two words…”

“Tiny-Minded Beasts.” Came the chuckled reply. “I think insults is the perfect way to start off your knowledge of the demonic language. So! Here’s all the way you can call someone an idiot in the Demonic tongue…”

And with chuckles and laughs filling the air from the litany of curses, the pair set forwards on their next adventure, the bond between them becoming more than Mage and Demon. Through sparse pines and hilly terrain their path would wind, the next town on their way being the mining and logging settlement of Halderos, situated on the storm-battered Jakylon Mountain.

Fin.

Author’s Note: Well it was an unexpected journey, this. That’s parts 1-11 of Triduan done, the output of which was mostly raw text straight from brain to blog. I am now planning to re-master it with a slightly more catchy, if pulpy title. In ‘The Mage, The Demon & The Brewmaster’s Baton’ I’ll be looking to re-draft parts, add in more and polish it until it shines with the sheen of magic. And by magic I mean good writing.

Triduan (Part 10)

<- Triduan (Part 9)

For the first time since Emel was banished from her hometown, she felt happy. Not just okay, or all right, but happy. Wandering the joyous streets with Million and idly browsing in shops was a wonderful feeling. The burden of carrying the shopping was easily taken up by the demon she had wound up bound to, the tall and muscular blonde woman easily carrying all their necessary purchases in one basket.

They had raided the apothecary for components for spell powders and potions, replacing what they had used in the chasm and earthwork complex and then some. Time spent at the ironmongers and the outfitters rounded off their travelling equipment with some compact cooking utensils, camp making tools and various items of clothing to make their journey a bit easier and comfortable.

Then had come the fun purchases. Emel had resisted purchasing most of Million’s suggestions, but when it came to a silken red dress with the tiniest trim of white lace, she had relented. “You’ll need something to wear at special occasions on our travels, Master.” Million had told her, holding up a black silk dress against herself. “If you get that, I’ll get this. Then we can get some new stuff for me to wear while travelling.”

As she handed the gold coins over, Emel knew she had to beware the wheedling ways of that demon. Still, she had come to consider her less as a burden and more of a companion. Maybe even a friend.

And so they found themselves, dressed in red and black respectively, stood next to Mel-Krevin who was wearing a gaudy doublet and hose ensemble as he announced the start of the evening’s festivities. Tables had been placed out in the street during the early evening, with a canopy erected over the street to keep away any spring rains that might fall. Each table was lit with thick candles and lanterns hung overhead to provide further illumination.

“Ladies and gentlemen! As Mayor of Mel-daku, it is my pleasure to announce the first of three evenings dedicated to our local brewers, who continue to impress royalty at home and abroad with their fine, flavoursome beverages!” He announced in a booming voice, his facial hair combed as tame as it could be. “On the first night, our cups are dedicated to the good family Renstien, whose beers and ales have sated many a belly on a cold winter’s night.” A huge round of applause went up as a somewhat paunchy man stood to bow, followed by his hawkish wife and children.

“But, we have double a cause for celebration this year. For the Grolog Hive that has blighted our lands is gone! Banished by the power of the Staff of Enar, and the descendant of that same mage who wields it. A millennia ago, he imprisoned the last demon and sealed off their siege. One thousand years later. his many times great-granddaughter has worked a miracle to protect us and ensure our festival could carry on today!”

Emel blushed, looking downwards even as Million drank in the attention, waving magnanimously to the crowd. She desperately hoped that no one would spot the connection between Million and the old tales.

“So, we give thanks today not only to the brewers, who keep trade and interest going in this town of ours, but to the heroines who have done so much for us in such a short space of time! To Emel of Mardalen! And her guardian, Million!” Mel-Krevin roared, his moustache bristling outwards.

The crowds cheered, and the ale soon started to flow. While Emel had been at many celebrations in Mardalen, it was a more conservative place compared to this town. While she made sure to only sample some of the beverages for the sake of politeness, the rich ales and foamy beers left her cheeks red, her ears hot and her lips tingling.

“I can’t believe you’ve not taken anyone up on the offer of dancing.” Million teased, poking her with those long, powerful fingers of hers. “The music’s good, the food’s great, the booze is plentiful. Get out there and have some fun!”

“Million, I’m not going to dance with people I don’t know.” She replied, gulping from a cup of water. She paused when she saw the demon giving her a long, calculating look. It was then that she realised her mistake. Before she could rectify it, Million was dragging her out of her chair and down to where the others were dancing.

“You should have just asked if you wanted to dance with me. And you can step on my feet all you want, not going to hurt much.” She grinned, eyes bright with merriment as she swayed and jigged about to the fiddles, drums and violins that filled the street.

In spite of herself, Emel smiled back. It was better than tapping her feet under the table.

It was much, much later when the mage collapsed on her bed in a fit of soft giggles. Her head swam from the drink, and a combination of food and dancing had left her sleepy. Kicking her shoes off, she slipped out of her dress and under the covers. “Million?” She mumbled, nuzzling her head down on the pillow.

“Yeah, Master?” The demon replied, sat on the floor next to the bed.

“Today was good and…. good.”

Chuckling, Million reached over to lay a hand on the bed. “It was. We can stay for a few more days, right? Rest up, get some information on where to go next? If we find out where the next hive is…”

“Okay. But I don’t-” Emel trailed off, peering out from the covers at Million.

“Don’t what?”

“I don’t want to become reliant on using your powers.” She admitted, her eyelids heavy.

“You won’t. I’ll teach you the language, of course. You need to know it in case of an emergency. But there’s nothing wrong with having the power there and not using it. You need to improve your mage skills too.” Million replied, shifting her hand over to find her master’s.

Mumbling something else, the next thing to come from her mouth was the odd, quite snore. A smile spread across Million’s lips, sitting there for a while before finally curling up on the floor mat.

“Night, Master.”

Jogging back from the grocers with an apple in hand to munch on, Million came to a dead stop as she saw the coach pull into the market place. The guardsmen were from Mardalen. The people exiting from the ornate vehicle were townsfolk. Land owners and wealthy shopkeepers. They had been there on the day they banished their town’s mage for releasing the last demon in the world from imprisonment.

Vaulting up onto the rooftops with a single push of her powerful legs, she scampered back to the hotel room and slid through the open window. “Master!” She huffed, coming face to face with Emel and Shia working on potions.

“Million, there’s a perfectly good door there.” Emel smiled, the physician laughing away. She stopped smiling when she saw the serious look on her companion’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“We need to leave town.” Million sighed, her eyes downcast. “As soon as possible.”

Triduan (Part 11) ->

Triduan (Part 9)

<- Triduan (Part 8)

Everything was soft and warm, with the smell of wild flowers coming from all around her. Snuggling into the covers, Emel let out a long and content sigh. Then came the frightening thought: She had no idea where she was, or how she got there. The last she could remember was-

“Easy there, Emel.” A woman spoke in hushed tones as the mage shot up to a sitting position in bed. Her long brown hair was carefully plaited, and a slender pair of glasses rested on the bridge of her nose.

Glancing about, some clarity soon came to Emel. She was back in her room at the inn, dressed in her nightclothes, and there was no sign of Million. The sounds coming in from the open window were ones of bustling activity and good will, with musicians playing and children laughing. Rubbing at her eyes, she turned to look at the woman kneeling by the bed, a wet flannel in hand. “Where’s Million?” She asked in a slightly groggy voice.

Setting the flannel down in a bowl, the woman reached for a pewter cup filled with spring water. “Have something to whet your throat.” She smiled. “I’m Shia, the town physician, and your friend is just getting some supplies for me. I figured you were due to wake up soon, and thought it best that she was not leaping on top of you right away.”

Gulping the contents of the cup down, Emel sighed with relief. “Nice to… aah, meet you Shia. She’s okay though, right?”

The physician laughed. “Aside from worried about you, she is perfectly fine. You haven’t even asked about yourself yet, Emel.” Chuckling a little at the sheepish look on the mage’s face, she continued. “You passed out on the way back last night. Million carried you here, and has been awake watching over you. It’s just exertion from spell casting so take it easy today, drink plenty of fluids and eat well.” Pausing, she hastily added, “just not alcoholic beverages. The festival is under way as you can hear.”

Slumping back onto the mountain of pillows behind her, Emel’s stomach gave a rumble of hunger. “Sorry to have been a bother.” She admitted. “How much did she say about what happened?”

“No bother at all.” Shia stated, passing over a plate of lightly buttered, thick slices of bread for her to eat. “Million said that you cast four spells at once in a fight to get back the Baton, and you then used the Staff of Enar to destroy the hive.”

Emel was thankful for having the bread to nibble on at that point to hide her emotions. As lies went regarding the closing of a hive, Million was very quick on her feet. The staff belonging to the mage who banished the demons beforehand could easily be believed to do something that momentous. Swallowing, she nodded to Shia. “We only worked it out when we got down there, if I’d have known beforehand, I’d-”

“None of that talk for now though.” Shia interrupted. “Concentrate on resting up. You may be able to do magic, but the power comes from inside you and can easily be over-exerted.”

The door carefully inched open, drawing their attention to it. Million’s head popped around the door and, on seeing Emel awake, she bounced into the room sparing the shortest moment of time to drop the basket of supplies off before flumping down on the covers near Emel.

“Morning sleepy. It’s almost midday.” Million grinned, before peering at Shia. “And she says I’m hard to get started in the morning. Sure, I like to linger by the campfire, and spend a little time stretching and yawning, but I’m up and dressed before lunch. I swear, heroes these days.” She rolled her eyes.

“Be nice, she wasn’t well.” Shia chided gently, smiling in spite of herself. “She’s good to be up and about now, but plenty of rest, non-alcoholic fluids, and good food. I need to prepare these for the copious cases of overindulgence I’ll see tomorrow.” She hefted the basket of supplies. “Make sure you two are not among my patients then.”

“I promise, Shia. Thank you for attending to me.” Emel said with a bow of her head.

“Got a liver like iron, me! No worries here.” Million called, waving to the physician as she left. Sitting silently, she waited a moment before speaking quietly. “I was worried, Master. You were talking to me one moment, the next you were falling…”

Emel placed her hand on Million’s. “Sorry… you did good on explaining the hive though, about the staff?” Her stomach grumbled again.

“I think on my rather large feet.” Her demon replied, before pulling the covers back. “You’re going to get bathed and dressed now and I’m taking you to lunch. Bread and butter’s nice, but not suitable for two powerful heroines.”

“You’re ordering me around now?” Emel asked with an arch of an eyebrow.

“Deputized by Shia, town physician of Mel-daku, to pester and order you until you’ve recovered.” Her demon beamed. “The bath’s already run.”

Sighing, Emel hauled herself out of bed. “Yes, Nurse.” She mumbled. The sound of her companion’s laughter filled the room as she gathered various salts and lotions for bathing with.

A far cry from the subdued town they had arrived in, Mel-daku was awash with brightly coloured bunting and market stalls. As they wandered to a small restaurant set amongst flowered borders, Million explained that runners had been sent out to the nearest towns that morning informing them the festival was on, even as the townsfolk worked overtime to get everything ready.

The burgeoning coinpurse that Million carried wasn’t even touched by buying lunch, despite Emel’s repeated pleadings. “You have done so much for this town,” the restaurateur smiled with a shake of his head, “let me do this for you.”

Million was taking it better than she was. “With the hive gone, their militia can concentrate on other things. The roads will be safer, and no corruption of the surrounding countryside means they can expand more. Maybe even explore the earthworks that way. I think we can let them buy us lunch and stay for free in exchange.”

“I don’t want to get used to this though.” Emel replied with crossed arms, before unfolding them so she could have another bite of the lightly seasoned, tender meat on her plate. “We shouldn’t do good for the rewards, just-“

“For the sake of doing good.” Million said at the same time, before tearing into a chunk of meat with her fanged teeth. “Heard it lots of times before. And you’re right, but remember, you asked to pay and he said no. You can’t force the issue, can you?”

“… Fine.” Emel sighed. “We’re going shopping after lunch though. And paying. I need to replace all my spellpowders and potions, you need some more clothes, and we should take our time to replenish our supplies before we go out adventuring, make sure we’re prepared. The rest of the money we’ll set by for later expenditure.”

“I love it when you get all fiscal minded.” Million grinned, gesturing at Emel’s nose. “Your nose crinkles when you’re thinking on expenditure. Now… important question time: Dessert menu?”

Triduan (Part 10) ->

Triduan (Part 8)

<- Triduan (Part 7)

At that particular moment in time, Million was not feeling her best. Even one thousand years as a statue measured up better to the ringing in her ears, the cold that had sunk into her bones and the lurch of reality that had unsettled her stomach. Still, her senses were coming back to her. Even with her eyes shut, the bright flash had seeped through her eyelids, but now the blotches of dark colours were fading away. She could feel the discharge of magic, tasting the sundered air resulting from blasts of lightning being conjured. Her nose picked up the strong, earthy smells of a disrupted landscape.

Oh, and she could hear Emel pleading with her for assistance.

“What the hells happened?!” Million called back, a bit louder than she might have intended. Her rapidly focusing eyes noted the heavy fortification of rock and earth formed in front of them, as well as the wafts of smoke coming from her master.

“Thunderflash spell,” Emel grunted as her staff shone with power, keeping their defences maintained. “Then I teleported you back and pulled this up. All at the same time.”

“Three spells at once? Even I think that’s insane!” Million actually shrieked. Even using spell powders, you could do weird things to yourself casting just two spells at the same time, let alone three.

“Um… four.” She added sheepishly, shaking her hips a little as she clutched at her staff. Glancing down, Million noticed the baton tucked into the back of her belt. “I used a disarm spell to… well…. steal it back.”

“Four spells at once?! That’s brilliant!” Million exclaimed, pushing herself up ready for action. It was then that she realized they were entombed by the spell the mage had cast.

“I thought three was insane?” Emel replied.

“Four is too, but also brilliant. Anyway, we can talk later, what do you need me to do?” Million smiled, letting her demonic power flow through her to illuminate their small bastion in the earth.

“I need you to help me cast two spells. One, to blast this fortification back and give us time for the next spell. One to shut down the Grologs and their hive.” Taking a heaving breath, Emel’s knees started to give way, only to stop when Million wrapped her arms around her midsection, placing her hands on the Staff of Enar.

“For the shock of blasting this little rock castle at them? DiQaToJa, while putting your staff against the wall.” Million explained, her arms easily holding up the mage. “To shut down the hive? BaHuSaLi. Point the staff towards the hive, and let me take care of the awe.”

Turning her head back and around a little awkwardly at the demon, Emel flashed her a grateful, tired smile. “When you’re ready, then…”

Twisting streams of golden fire surged forth from her hands, over Emel’s, and up the staff to ignite in the centre of the orb. The blaze of demonic energy soon overtook the ruby sphere, leaving it as the burning heart in a roar of bright flames. Guiding it with her master, they touched the orb to the wall in front of them.

DiQaToJa!” Emel spoke with all the determination she could muster. The incantation was a little childish compared to the human tongue. Grand Earth Burst Magic. The effects were anything but childish. Cracks of flame flashed around inside their small sphere of protection, before the eruption hurled razor sharp chunks of compacted dirt and rough stone out in all directions. The Grologs that had been trying to pound and dig their way through found themselves becoming massive projectiles for hitting their fellow creatures behind them.

The seven mages weren’t having it much better, pelted by fragments  and shards that disrupted their spellcasting efforts. For the way she had been swarmed and then overpowered by their shadow magics, she was glad of their discomfort.

Aiding Emel with the movement, they pointed the staff towards the hive. Again, flames lashed around the implement to build around the head of it. Once more, Emel spoke in Million’s native tongue.

BaHuSaLi!” She commanded, and Million’s legs buckled as the immense power was pulled from her. An arc of golden light lanced from the tip of the staff to pierce through the ziggurat and the bloated abomination within. Shrieks and cries of agony came from the horde of monsters as the light filled the hive and spread back out, brilliant beams striking through whatever they hit.

What was seconds seemed like minutes before the light died and the pair were left alone in the grand cavern, sinking down to the floor. Million drew in great breaths of air, feeling clean and pure if a little musty for the first time since they had entered the place. In the fading of the light from the spell, she had resumed her more human form.

Emel, on the other hand, still had her laying heavily on top of her, and was trying to squirm free. “I like breathing!” She gasped.

Million somehow found the effort to roll over, her deep breaths soon turning into chuckles that built into great belly laughs.

“What’s so funny?” Her master asked, already removing the carefully bundled toga from her belongings to drape over her body.

“We did it!” Million laughed, sitting up just enough to throw her arms around the mage. “And then some! We got the baton and shut a hive down! The two of us!” Cackling, she pulled Emel down to rest on top of her as her body shook with mirth. “I told you we were awesome! I told you to believe, and I was right! I’m fantastic, you’re fantastic! Four spells at once! You could have killed yourself, but… look at us!”

“Tired, aching, drained, did I mention aching?” Emel said, before her face was split with the biggest grin that Million had ever seen on her. “But we won…” She sighed, giving her a hug in return.

It was several minutes later when Million finally spoke up, carefully sitting Emel besides her. “Right. I need to get dressed because my bum is extremely cold now,” she said with one finger held aloft, “and we should really get back to Mel-daku so we can be showered with the rightful praise for heroes.” She added with another finger held up.

“Well, it might take a little while…” Emel gulped. “The spell I was going to use to get us out of here… I may have used it to get you away from the mages.” She admitted, adjusting her ponytail a little as she fidgeted. “But I do have a spell to make a rope ladder for us to go up!”

It took her a little while to answer, before she shrugged and set her shoulders. Standing, she started to pull her toga on, a muffled “They better be damn praise-ful to us…” coming from under the material.

As they started towards the exit to the chasm, Emel looked up to Million. “What does BaHuSaLi mean, anyway?” She asked.

“Beast Heart Spirit Close.” Came the reply, even as she brushed dirt from her arms and legs. “And really, there better be a big roast and drinking and those colourful little paper floaty things being chucked at us. Because all this?” She gestured behind them as they entered the tunnel. “All this is grade one praiseworthy work.”

Emel mused for a moment, her lips pursed in thought. “We could get the children to make yellow paper wigs so some can pretend to be you, and big sticks with red apples on so they can pretend to be me?”

“… Are you mocking my desire for praise, Master?”

She pondered on that for a little bit.

“Yes.”

Triduan (Part 9) ->

Triduan (Part 7)

<- Triduan (Part 6)

Emel’s lungs burned as she ran across the fractured ground. Not long after opening the sealed passageway, things had started to go wrong. And now she was alone, dodging packs of Grologs and the vicious, powerful magics of the monstrous blue warlocks. A blast of shadow surged past her, leaving her left arm feeling chilled from the close proximity of its wake.

They had progressed down the tunnel that opened into a large, dark chamber lit only by glowing crystals and patches of fungi. In the centre stood a ziggurat carved from a singular rock formation. In the past it may have stood as a wondrous temple or meeting hall. Now it was corrupt. Tumour-like growths of dark blue flesh with thick black veins seeped out from the tiers and plinths accompanied by the fetid stench of decay. The thousand year old hive was as active as ever, given the swarm of Grologs around it.

Their approach may have been a stealthy one, were it not for the mages on the top tier of the structure, chanting in their demonic language. Once they had sensed the presence of a young mage and her demon guardian, they had howled defiantly and rallied their troops to attack.

Emel tucked herself into an alcove, narrowly avoiding a pair of scouting Grologs. Million had barked at her to run before a blast of shadow magic sent her careening back. She had run, if only to gain some ground before letting loose with her magic. The Staff of Enar’s ruby orb was currently dull, lacking any form of charge. The multitude of fireballs she had sent into her foes had drained its reserves, and not done much to dent the number of their foes. When the barrage of shadow magics started coming her way, she followed Million’s direction to the letter.

Reaching deep inside of herself, she searched for the bond that had connected between them at the moment of her accidentally reawakening the imprisoned demon from her prison of stone.  She let out a sigh of relief when she found it intact. Before she could do anything with that knowledge though, a wave of magic rippled out from near the Hive.

“Human, binder of the demon MiLuNo!” A slavering, gritty voice bellowed out through the corridors. “We have her subdued, but she is no warlock! Come to the ziggurat and do our bidding, to release the chains of this hive from us. Do this, and you both walk free! Deny us this power, Human, and-”

Emel reeled back as she felt a sharp stab of pain coming through the bond between them, her eyes watering from the stinging pain. She needed time to think, time to recover… She placed her finger tips to her throat and used a similar spell to echo her voice throughout the complex. “I… okay, just don’t hurt her any more. I’ll come to you now.”

She started walking, not on the direct path though. It was dark enough to get lost, to give her some time to draw power into her staff and sort through her spell powders. Anything to give her an edge.

“Where are you, human?!” That inhuman voice bellowed once more.

“I’m lost! There’s so many passageways here!” Emel shouted back. “Could you send someone in to find me?” She asked as she slid her staff into the sheath for it slung over her back. Clasped tightly in each hand was a wrap of spell powder. She’d even slipped some into her boots, wedged between her toes. Potions had been charged and used, and now she bided her time and tried to regain some strength.

The Grolog that found her was not delicate in leading her back to the central area, jabbing at her with a hefty stick to encourage her forwards, tapping at her sides to guide her. Million had said they were not smart, just cunning. The mages on the other hand were, and the one who had done the shouting was clearly the leader of the hive.

The footsoldiers had amassed between Emel and the ziggurat. Behind them on the first tier stood the seven Grolog mages, the one in the centre possessing bony horns that jutted out from the side of its head. In one clawed hand was the Brewmaster’s Baton. The other held a tuft of Million’s golden hair, the demon surrounded by dark magic being channelled from the other six mages.

“You were wise to come.” The Grolog with the baton announced. “Use your demon’s power to free us, and we will let you both go.”

“I’m not sure how to but I am curious about one thing, what would freeing you do?” Emel replied, doing her best to keep her voice steady.

“We are constrained by our last orders before your kind banished our masters.” The Grolog stated. “We are not free to commit our forces. We are forced to keep the bulk of our number here for defence. Your demon can teach you the words necessary to free us.”

Million lifted her head to look at Emel with imploring eyes, trying her best to shake her head. She ignored that. “Want to send her down here, or want me to come up to her?”

In answer, the soldiers shuffled to the sides to create a pathway up to the ziggurat’s staircase. Stepping away from the one who had escorted her here, she started towards them with her heart pounding. She had no idea if the vague ideas she had planned would work, but she knew she couldn’t do as they wished. At the top of the staircases, her skin crawled from the proximity to the dark magic so unlike the warmth of Million’s fire.

“Don’t do it!” Her demon begged, gasping as the aura pacifying her intensified. Emel dropped to her knees, trying to make it seem intended rather than born out of pain by reaching out to stroke Million’s face soothingly.

“It’s okay, I promise. I don’t have much choice, really.” She smiled apologetically. “So just close your eyes and tell me the words. Because if you tell me the wrong ones they’ll just hurt you again.” Glancing away, Emel chewed on her bottom lip before looking back. “Just trust me, please?”

“I do trust you.” Million replied instantly, before glancing back at the monster holding her hair. “I don’t trust them.”

“That’s because you’re sensible.” Emel replied, “Which always comes as a great surprise to me. But you’re going to have to close your eyes and say it in this case.”

Clenching her eyes shut, Million’s claws dug into the floor as she spoke the phrase. “BaSaPi.”

The seven Grolog mages grinned at the phrase, apparently pleased with it. Emel rose to her feet with a determined expression even as she planned to do something incredibly stupid. She opened her mouth… and a crack of thunder and an almighty flash engulfed the chamber.

Triduan (Part 8) ->

Triduan (Part 6)

<- Triduan (Part 5)

The rocks being hurled at her from below were what stopped her screaming. By some form of demonic power, Million had matched her descent with her, and had drawn close.

“Want me to dive down and take care of that, Master?” She asked, pointing downwards. From her back, pulses of golden fire flared every so often, and her blonde hair flicked dramatically above her head as she fell.

“No,” Emel said vigorously. “I’ll…” The glimmering of the water below caught her eye. Pointing her staff down, she concentrated on both the power held in the ancient artefact, and on just what she wanted the water below to do. From between jagged rocks and shallow pools it bubbled forth. A rolling cloud of steam burst from the froth, hissing along towards the Grologs who had come out to defend their hive. Even though objects had ceased to be hurled as they ran from the steam, she wasn’t done yet. A flare of power from the staff, and the mist crystallized. Flecks of ice danced around the dim illumination at the bottom of the cavern, even as the Grologs stood frozen to the spot.

Grinning with approval, Million sidled up to her. “That was impressive. There’s got to be a dozen of them, all hit at once. That won’t hold them for long though.”

Nodding, Emel gritted her teeth as she focused once more on her staff. A swirling torus of air began to whistle around the head, drawing dust in the air in to form a visible circle. The blast shot forwards to gather momentum as it neared the ground. The impact sent water, rocks and frozen Grologs everywhere with some rather painful looking results.

Millions arms came around her as she sagged, taking a deep breath as they finished their descent. “It’s fine… we’ve landed, Master.” She said gently, carrying her through the bottom of the chasm. It was quiet for now, if a little darker due to the splash of water washing away some of the patches of luminescence.

“That was…” she took a deep breath, “rather tiring…” Sweat had beaded across her brow, the three spells having drained her staff’s energy reserves and called on her to contribute directly.

“I really need to teach you my language.” Million mused. On noting her curious look, she went onwards. “The demonic language is formed of six groups of twenty one runes. These runes can be combined together to form words and phrases, and a skilled person can use the words, and a source of demonic power,” she paused, looking side to side in a conspiratorial manner before whispering, “that’s me,” she winked, “to cast magic.”

“I’d heard bits and pieces about it, but some of that’s new to me.” Emel replied, pointing over at a partially collapsed tunnel entrance. “Look at the way those rocks are cleared to the sides unlike the others. I’d say that’s the hive location.”

Nodding, Million headed in that direction. “Probably information that was hidden away, as if speaking our language might awaken us again.”

“So… Million isn’t really your name?”

Chuckling, Million stepped over one of the fallen beasts. “It means pretty much the same thing. It’d be pronounced MiLuNo. Mi is ‘Last, Final’. Lu would be ‘Us, Belonging’, and No is, surprisingly, ‘Number, Amount’.”

Emel tested the name out a few times. “Yeah, I guess that is pretty similar. I don’t know about using your language for magic though, I mean…”

“You’re worried that somehow, speaking my language and using me to help say, recharge your staff or make the fluff between your toes disappear-”

“You have a spell for that?” The mage blinked incredulously.

“Probably.” Million grinned, carefully setting Emel down as they reached the tunnel. The ground beyond that point was flat, having been carefully carved out and laid in a rectangular pattern by the ancients many years before. “It won’t turn you into some whip… uh, whipping dark queen of evil and lipstick.”

“Why would I have a whip?” Emel asked, stepping forwards to examine the slight impediment to their journey. A large set of stone doors blocked their passage, marked with a symbol that she had seen in town a few times before hand.

“I’ll tell you when we’re not staring at a big slab of denial.” Million grumbled, rapping her bone-shod knuckles against the door. “No idea what the symbol is.”

“No idea how to open it either. I think I’ll pass out if I try to pull the doors open…” She sighed, before looking at the floor near the door. “I think this is the way too, look at this pile along here… the doors were open for a long time, and closed recently, brushing all this to the line.” Indicating what she meant with her hand, she stepped back with a sigh. “Looks like I’m going to have to try and blow it open.”

“Maybe not.” Million hummed, beckoning her over. “I need to teach you a spell later to try and destroy the hive, so… why don’t we have a practice run here, with the door?” She scratched a few symbols into the doorway with one of her pointed, slightly curled claws.

“If you’re sure, Million…” Emel said, not entirely convinced.

“Trust in me, Master?” Million asked in a quiet voice.

“Okay… all right. What do these symbols mean?” She said, pointing to the three marked in on the stone.

“The first one,” Million indicated a shape of two horizontal, parallel lines with a sideways ‘T’ in, “is Ji. It means Open, Loud.” The next one she tapped was a square with three small vertical lines in. “‘We, means Way, Path.” The final one was a triangle with another sideways T in. “This is Ja, which is Magic, Wonder.”

“So, the sideways ‘T’ is a ‘jay’ sound?” Emel asked, noting the impressed look on her demon’s face. Narrowing her eyes, she examined the symbols closer. “So, the outer shape determines the vowel it ends in, while the inner symbol denotes the consonant? But… there’s only five vowels.”

“Y’s a special one in our language. Which gets weird when you have ‘Yy’.” She said. “Yiyeh is about the closest I can get it in your language. Still, you catch on quick, Master.” Million beamed, ruffling Emel’s ponytail.

“So… JeWeJa?” Emel tentatively sounded out the words a couple of times.

“Open Way Magic.” Million nodded. “Exactly what it says on the… runes.”

Pausing as a thought came to mind, she turned to face her, hands on hips. “If you know this, how come you can’t cast the spell to open it up?”

“Wrong caste.” The demon shrugged. “All my awesomeness goes towards being a combat beast. You, however, could draw on my power to work the spell.” Holding her armoured hand out, a flickering ball of golden fire appeared above her palm. “Take the fire, say the words and think, really hard, on opening the door as you speak. Imagine you want it open. Think about it swinging wide open as you say it.”

With a slight hesitation, Emel cupped her hands around the fire. She could feel each lick of flame dancing with unearthly power as she held it.

“That’s it, Master.” Million nodded encouragingly. “Draw on the fire as you think and speak.”

In her mind she pictured the heavy, sealed doors parting, swinging past to rumble as they collided with the wall. She imagined the bang from that reverberating down the corridor beyond, and the cloud of dust wisping about their feet as it started to settle from the movement. The fire burned brighter in her hands as she extended them towards the door, taking a deep breath before speaking.

JeWeJa!

The squeal of terror Emel made as the doors violently flung open, shaking chunks of stone from the ceiling at the forceful collision, was nothing compared to the squeal of joy from Million, before she was hefted up into a congratulatory hug.

Triduan (Part 7) ->