6

Dec

by Barnaby

“Behind the tomb! Go!”

Jeffrey shouted the order just in time. He watched as Altas and the Sultan dove behind the remaining sarcophagus just as a flash of lightning struck the sandstone walls behind the spot their heads had just been occupying. He watched as cracks formed in the tomb, and a cloud of sand bellowed forth from the entrance.

Then he felt, as much as heard, a loud boom land to the right of the gravestone he hid behind. The explosion threw him into a stone marker ten feet away. As he lay silently against the stone, his ears ringing and his body bleeding from shards of stone, his assailant approached. Covered in black robes and armor, she appeared to be a moment of darkness itself striding under a bright mid-day sun. Jeffrey’s eyes strained against the sand and the sun as she neared.

She paused a moment, hands clasped in front of her before she spoke. “You are a leader in the Guard, though you are not its Captain. Tell me little man, where is she?”

“She’ll be seein’ ye soon enough, witch,” Jeffrey sneered.

“Come, little man, there is no need for such language. Your life is at an end, as are those who huddle, scared, behind you. Those who have followed you will all die, and then Nujel’m, and soon enough Sosaria, will belong to the Master.”

Jeffrey experimentally twitched his body, assessing the damage he had suffered. Bruised, but not broken. It was an action that did not go unnoticed.

“Still you plan to defy me? You have no weapons, and your Guard is occupied on the other side of the island. You are alone. And now, you will die.”

The dark enchantress leaned closer to Jeffrey, a glowing hand outstretched towards his chest. Just as she was about to plunge it towards him, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye.

“It is me you want, leave him be.” It was the Sultan, barely clothed and haggard from his months of captivity. Despite his appearance, his voice was confident and commanding.

Their attacker was not impressed. “You are both merely obstacles that need removing. Do not make the mistake of assuming one of you has much more value to me than the other!”

As she shouted at the Sultan, Jeffrey searched the sands beneath him, his fingers finding what he searched for.

“What…” the enchantress began, noticing Jeffrey’s slight movement. It was all she managed before he brought his hand up and cracked a broken piece of gravestone on the side of her head. She stumbled backwards, clutching her head. Jeffrey felt two sets of arms underneath his own, hauling him to his feet.

“We need t’ move,” he growled as Altas and the Sultan helped him steady himself, “the fence in th’ back o’ the grave fell.”

They hurried to the gap in the fence, leaving their attacker behind them mumbling incoherently.


A great distance away, atop the mountains overlooking Cove, a man garbed in magnificent white robes stared in the direction of Nujel’m. The Time Lord, for all his power and knowledge, was unable to divine what the future here held. This bothered him greatly. As if this wasn’t enough, he was soon joined by an annoying reminder of that which he did fully understand.

“HeeHee…a bit high up here, is it not? A bit high, even for a hawk?”

The new arrival cackled and danced behind the him. Though it appeared to be little more than an imp, it was clear he was much more. “What do you want?”

“TeeHeeHee…a small chat only do I want. A question for you I have, an answer I doubt you possess.”

The Time Lord frowned, but played along nonetheless. “What is your question?”

For a moment, the imp stopped dancing, but continued to wear a crazed grin as he asked, “What trouble do you foresee, your portals of time joining those through space that are mine?”

“Your attempts to anger me will not work, imp. I suspect you know there is little I foresee, here. Your actions may have an effect on mine, or they may not.”

“Fear the loss of time, you do not?”

“There can be no loss of time. There can only be change. What concern of it is yours?”

“None. None at all! TeeHeeHee!”


Having just heard the rumor of King Blackthorn vanishing from his Castle, Sir Andrew rushed from the Chamber of Virtues. He knew it was likely to only be rumor, but he wanted to find out for sure – and few others currently in Britain would be able to.

He said goodbye to the monk at the entrance to the Chamber and took the road to the north. He slowed as he passed the memorial to Owain Surrey, a former auger to a former king. He halted in front of the memorial as he heard a voice whisper in his ear, “Sacrifice. Sacrifice.”

The retired knight, startled, look around him. He was alone.


“Stop,” Jeffrey commanded, “do ye hear that?”

His companions, still helping to support the Lieutenant’s weight, did as he said. They stood on the coast of Nujel’m, far from both the city center and the cemetery where they had nearly died. It was in that direction that they heard what sounded like the start of a furious battle.

“I need to return,” the man who accompanied Jeffrey stated, “it is my duty.”

The third member of the group shook her head, disagreeing. “Your Highness, I mean no disrespect, but the Lieutenant is in no condition to return, and it is because his duty is to protect you. If you should die, all of this will be for nothing.”

“Altas is right,” Jeffrey said through gritted teeth, “Fer myself I am not concerned, but fer us to win this and keep Nujel’m safe, ye must survive, Sultan.”

Weary from fighting and distracted by the sounds of distant battle the three did not notice the small ship approaching until it had nearly reached land. With a masthead the shape of a dragon, it looked like the type of vessel that used to be common among pirates in years long passed.

Jeffrey studied the ship as it approached, assessing it. “No cannons, and no crew that I can see. In any case, be ready t’ run…leave me here.”

The Sultan stood up straighter, hefting his share of Jeffrey’s weight before responding, “We will not.”

At that moment, a single figure appeared on the deck of the ship, and called out, waiving, “Jeffrey! Trying to cheat death again, are you? Why is there a naked man holding you up? I doubt Robert would approve!”

Jeffrey, almost at a loss for words, could barely respond. “What the hell…why…what are YE doin’ ‘ere?”

As the ship was brought close to the shore, the man aboard it turned his attention towards the sounds coming from the cemetery. “I’m heretosaveyou, now hurryupandstopstandingtherelikeafool,” the man replied in a hurried tone, his words running together.

The Lieutenant grinned, and gestured to the ship with a nod of his head.  “Let’s go.”


Frederick the town crier took a deep breath, resting from shouting the latest news regarding rumors of the missing King and the invasion of Nujel’m. As he did so, he watched with curiosity as a monk, or perhaps a healer with his hood up, descended from Heartwood. The man was tall, even imposing. He paused for a moment, staring up into the trees. He turned and saw Frederick staring at him. Frederick nodded towards him as he approached, hoping to turn a moment of awkwardness into one of mere friendliness. The man returned the nod as he smiled and pulled his hood closer around him. As Frederick watched the man pass by, he couldn’t help but think the face under the hood looked familiar somehow.


The battle ended, Captain Olivia studied the body of the slain enchantress. She did not look away as two Guards approached, both the highest ranked enlisted Guards.

“Keenbadger. Tobias. Have we found them?”

PFC Keenbadger responded with a shake of his head, “No, Captain, not yet. But we will.”

“There were signs of another fight that must have taken place just before we arrived. Hopefully…” Tobias said before being interrupted by the Captain.

“The Lieutenant is resourceful, but if the Sultan is not soon seen by his people to be alive and well, we may have failed our mission even as we have won the battle.”

The Captain wiped her sword on the robes of the defeated enchantress, and rose. One hand on the pommel of her sword, and the other on the ankh relic that she wore around her neck, she turned to survey the city of Nujel’m.

“Make sure our wounded are tended to. And keep looking.”


Atop the mountain that held Cove in its shadow, the imp cackled as the Time Lord departed.

“Alone he thought we were. But know better I do! HeeHee!” the imp said, seemingly speaking to the wind. The creature held one of its claws out, and smiled as a small sextant materialized in it. “Time for something new, I suppose it is. New places, new people, you see…”

The imp looked to the sky as the Pentad began to glow softly.

Never the end.


A note from Barnaby:

I apologize for the time it has taken to finish this, and for the manner in which it is written. As long as it took, it is still rushed. And, of course, poses as many questions as it answers – those questions no longer belong to me, if they ever did, for I was only ever played a small part in the tale that some of you have been telling for the better part of twenty years.

There are references here that will likely confuse many, but my hope is that some of them are noticed and recognized. It is often difficult to remember that the stories we hold in our heads are rarely remembered in the heads of others the same way.

The purpose of this fiction is to close out one chapter, while leaving openings for a new one. I look forward to seeing what that one looks like.

26

Jul

by Barnaby

Though it is sometimes difficult to believe, there have been times of relative peace in Sosaria. Times when neither kingdom nor clan found itself in extended conflict. When the evils that once, and would once again, plague Britannia were quiet. When the factions that sought control in the Old Lands of Felucca were weary of fighting and, aside from the occasional skirmish, were largely silent. That isn’t to say the world was void of danger – far from it. This danger, however, was more often than not confronted on the terms of the adventurer, warrior, explorer, collector, or hunter that sought it out.

It may seem a lifetime has passed since such a peace, but in truth it has only been three years. Virtuebane had been defeated, though Queen Dawn had perished. For nearly a year Britannia mourned – and began to move on. Led by the local nobility, and protected by Captain Olivia and the Royal Britannian Guard, things were calm, if different. This would not last, of course, thanks to the machinations of Lian Vinre, a pawn of Relvinian.

The Guards would fall apart, and the towns and cities of Britannia came into conflict with one another. A curse-driven plague tore through Trinsic, and threatened Britain. Minoc and Vesper were on the verge of taking arms against one another. Acting independently, a few remaining Guards struggled to maintain peace in Britannia, and an uneasy understanding between the Paladins and Necromancers in Umbra. Soon, Exodus would reveal itself, and would threaten to decimate the world.

Yet, once again heroes came together. In the Battle of Ver Lor Reg, Britannians allied with Gargoyles, the Paladins of Luna, the mysterious Ethereal Warriors, and even a few orcs to lay siege to Ver Lor Reg – ultimately defeating Exodus. The realm would once again have to recover from its wounds. But it would not be without help from an unexpected source.

It was at this time that Lord Blackthorn reappeared, looking like the man who walked the streets of Britain rather than the machine that sought to destroy it. He revealed that he had been a prisoner of Exodus all these years, that the machine was not him. Still, many were slow to trust him – some still do not. But he was crowned King, and acted not as a tyrant, as many believed, but as a healer.

He formed a Council of Governors, and empowered these elected officials to serve their represented towns in a way that no mayor or noble had been able to before. This would prove a wise decision. As contentious as some of the elections were, the result would be a series of capable leaders who would face challenge after challenge. In addition, he re-established the Royal Britannian Guard, creating two separate groups. The Town Guards would handle the day to day threats of their homes, while the King’s Guard would assemble in order to meet larger acts of aggression. These new Guards would face slavers, demons, and other evils.

Even now, as strange prophecies surface from the Dungeon Doom and old secrets threaten to reveal themselves, the mysterious Hawkwind seeks help in combating the surging power of Minax.

Whispers of an even greater threat, however, begin to be heard.


Deep below the surface, a spirit wanders cavernous tunnels. Lonely (but no longer afraid) it reflects upon its life – and recent demise. It studied new subterranean growths of grass and vines as it wondered for the thousandth time why it could not move on. Lifting its head from the freshly sprouted grass, it saw a great gnarled tree. As it watched, the tree began to glow red, pulsating. The spirit thought it heard a thump, thump and knew he had found the cause of his continued presence in the world.


High above on the surface of Felucca, three people stood on the docks of Occlo, staring to the sea. They conversed with whispered words.

“They were studying the loading operation here last week. They are going to suspect something.”

“Yes, they will, that is why you or your brother must take the opportunity presented to us – complete the contract, and let us be rid of the Detective.”

“Why must it be one of us? What if he is not there?”

“If he is not there, someone else of value will be, I’m sure. As to your second question, I have a battle to prepare for.”

“You? What about the pirate?”

“He has reached the end of his usefulness. Our…master…wishes him to be disposed of.”

The conversation at an end, the three stood in silence for some time. Staring out to the sea, they did not notice a figure rise from behind a barrel of fish and slowly depart.


On Trammel, King Blackthorn stood in his orchard. He gazed towards the western end of the spit of land upon which his great castle stood. His nose catching the faintest smell of sulpher, he made a short Hm and turned on his heel, walking back towards his study.


Elsewhere in Britain, Detective Thorpe re-read the report of one of his investigators, Tobias Cardont:

I’ve read some books on the Festival of Masks and two thoughts come to mind. The Festival involves a “game” whose players have to wear masks. Masks are about concealing faces and identities. What is the Vizier hiding? The Sultan’s location and the gold and his plans. Also, the “game” at the Festival is centered around a replica of a gem called the Eye of Dahsk. What is the true Eye of Dahsk, where is it located, and what can it do? I don’t know the answers, but do you?

Thorpe rubbed his newly shaved face, frowning at the loss of his well-trimmed red beard. Putting the report away, he turned to a selection of masks, and prepared for a party.

28

Jun

by Barnaby

It was an uncommonly quiet night in the Cat’s Lair. The dozens of tables inside Britain’s famous tavern are typically soaked with spilled ale and spirits, and their benches bent under the weight of the many patrons. Tonight, however, the tables were dry and the seats did not creak.

This suited Thorpe just fine.

The Detective scanned the tavern one last time before sitting down at a table where two men waited, drinks already in hand.

“Lookin’ fer somethin’ are ye?” One of the men asked. Though somewhat short in height and obviously more than a little effected by the drink, he nonetheless had the look of someone dangerous as he lounged in one of the few soft chairs in the tavern, a small axe propped nearby.

Thorpe shook his head before he replied, “Habit. How long have you two been here?”

“I’ve only just arrived. Jeffrey, I think, has been here for some time from the looks of him,” the second man replied, nodding to his inebriated companion.

Thorpe snorted as he gave a slight smile – about as close as he ever came to a laugh. “You should have seen him last week. I’m glad you decided to join us, Sir Andrew.”

Andrew the Kind, Knight of Britain, chuckled as Jeffrey threw a biscuit at Thorpe, missing by three feet. Though older than both other men by a number of years, his great red beard and and the laugh lines near his eyes gave the impression of someone still full of energy. “It was my pleasure. And just ‘Andrew’ please – at least while we are among ourselves. Besides, I will be retired again shortly.”

“Yes, so I hear. It seems as if you are the one who has taken all of the blame for dissapointing some of the Governors recently,” Thorpe stated.

“Gaah! He didn’ want ta be sittin’ in them meetin’s any longer anyhow, did ye?” Jeffrey blurted before Andrew could respond.

The Knight pursed his lips into a small frown before shaking his head and responding, “I was actually beginning to grow fond of being the King’s Viceroy. Still, I DID disregard their counsel by risking the Artifacts to retrieve the King. I do still have a bit of work to do before I am retired again – it would seem I am being sent to Zento. We have not lived up to our promise of medical aid, so the King would like me to help the process along.”

Thorpe nodded. “At least it would seem the Empress is content with us keeping the Artifact we recovered in Tokuno.”

“Content. I’ll tell ye what I’M content with – not havin’ to chase down any more artifacts, or clues, or havin’ to wade through any more swamps or snow!” Jeffrey exlaimed.

“Still upset about having to go to Nox Tereg?” Thorpe asked, smiling. He ducked as another biscuit sailed over his head, this one hitting a patron three tables over.

“Ow! Ohnicethrow, yastupididio…” the patron began, before realizing who he was rapidly insulting.

Jeffrey shrugged before apologizing, “Sorry, Moody. Fer a smart investigator, he has a small head!”

Rolling his eyes at Jeffrey, Andrew turned back to Thorpe and asked, “What of the Pentad of Power? Do you have any idea yet what it does, or what that imp could want with it?”

The past year had been a difficult one, as Jeffrey and Thorpe, at Andrew’s direction, sought five powerful items known as the “Artifacts of the Pentad of Power” which, when brought together, called forth the Pentad itself. In doing so, they continued the quest of an adventurer named Benambra, who lived over three hundred years prior. They were not alone in this endeavour, as the undead wizard and master of demons, Relvinian, also sought the Artifacts. In the end, the Artifacts were brought together, and the Pentad summoned. It was taken, however, by the enigmatic imp that has plagued the Kingdom with his tricks and riddles in recent years.

Thorpe had no fresh answers – only new questions. “Not now,” he stated with a slow shake of his head, “maybe not ever.”

The three men sat in silence for a moment, considering the implications of an unknown power being held by such an unpredictable being. Jeffrey broke the silence with a grunt, and signaled the barkeeper to bring another round.

“Well, tha King is safe, tha Kingdom is sound, Relvinian has crawled back in ta tha dirt he came from, and Olivia is back in charge o’ tha Guards. Oh, and Andrew is almost retired again! I can’t complain, given I thought I was goin’ ta rot in that hole I was stuck in.”

Thorpe grinned. Try as he might to hide it, Jeffrey was an optimist at heart.

A server arrived, delivering three fresh pints to Britannia’s stalwart defenders. Froth spilled from one as Jeffrey grasped his glass and raised it into the air.

“Ta what do we drink, then?” he asked. “Kingdom?”

Andrew nodded before adding, “And to the Virtues. And those who fell in their defense.”

Both men looked to Thorpe, whose face suddenly turned serious.

“Here’s to the next evil bastard we face, and the day he wishes he had never left the cover of the shadows.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is it! I’m going to die!

“Peter! Peter where did you go!?”

Bethany. “Run! Do you hear me? Get to the Abbey! RUN!”

Peter gasped for breath, finding it difficult to continue running after having shouted to warn Bethany. Not difficult. Impossible. His run slowed to a stumble, until finally he slumped forward against a tree. He turned to face his pursuer…to find nothing.

“Wh…what?” Bewildered, he looked around the woods, squinting in what little light could be found just before dawn.

Suddenly, he felt the ground under him move. Not with a tremble did it move, but with a squirm.
Paralyzed with fear, he could only watch as a gaping maw opened in the forest floor beneath him.

“Bethany!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~
WHAT: ???
WHERE: ???
WHEN: Sunday, June 29th, 5pm EST.