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The Doom of Tarek

“Just look around: you’ll find something to laugh about under any rock. The world doesn’t make sense anymore… What else is left for us to do except to drink and laugh away our sorrow… If death is around the corner, then I want to face Him with a tankard in my hand and a smile on my face.” 

By Hristijan Pavlovski

Hristijan Pavlovski is a professor of Philosophy who loves art as much as he loves wisdom. His philosophy is that no other medium can summon the full range of human emotion quite like the literary arts can, and it is his goal to explore the extent of that.


My dearest sister,

I am writing you this final letter to announce my coming home. The months have been hard on me here in the Shey Lands, but I have prospered.

How is everything in Stormvale country? 

Ahh, silly me. I got so used to asking you this question with every letter that I forgot that your reply would not reach me here. Yet, I am not sad at the thought of your reply not reaching me, for I will be elated to hear all that news from you personally. 

The lands here are cold, vicious even. Yet, I was left with no choice after Father died. I had to find prosperity somewhere, for I could no longer bear to look into your eyes anymore. The way the light dimmed each time I had to reveal to you that there would be no food that day. I could not stand it anymore. 

Luckily, Sar’Kata grinned at us. Had that foreman not passed through our village looking for able-bodied men, then I fear what our fates would have been. Father, for all the good he did, was a prideful man. He never wanted to teach me the family craft, because he feared I’d surpass him one day. He was a good carpenter but not a very good father. He was a good husband at least: he never once struck mother. I hope that she is doing well. She couldn’t offer us much, but at least she taught us to read and write the Sailor's Speech.

The work here is hard, it drives a man to his breaking point. The foreman cares for us; I believe his heart is benevolent, but the master of the land keeps asking for more and more. Each time we manage to chop down 14 timbers, the master demands 15 the next day. We barely have time to mourn those who fall. For we know that, as soon as we bury the body, we’ll have to get back to work. You become unsure which you mourn more: his death, or that you have to continue working without an extra pair of hands to assist you. 

Simeon’s death struck us the most. He was a good kid, came all the way from Timberfalls country. He was experienced at hewing the wood, but we all cherished him for his wit. Especially on the hardest days, he would always manage to cheer us up. Being separated from one's nest for so long tends to eat at a man’s heart. 

The food, well, it is palatable. On some days we eat good - on others, you get sick from the barley and turnips. On the good days, the hunters might bring in a mountain goat. Sometimes we get hare, or lemmings if the hunter’s dogs manage to dig them up. But on the days that they don’t manage to catch anything, we get that gods-awful barley. I swear, as soon as I come back, we will never, ever, cook barley again in our house. 

Over the months, I have managed to save up two satchels worth of coins. That should last us until next year at least, we just have to be frugal about it. When I come back, I intend to propose to Ignes, my beloved. Please do not spoil the surprise by revealing this news to her! I want to see the smile upon her face. Her smile is what I have missed the most since I came here. In my free time, I play our favorite songs on the flute that I brought along with me. Her favorite was always “Prancing Meadows.” I remember singing it to her last summer as we sat upon the hillside staring down at the meadows. 

“Dancing, prancing meadows / call you today. Dancing, prancing meadows / call you to play. The hare is out, the fox about, the song is in the wind. Will you join us for a dance: a dance until the end…”

I cannot wait to embrace her once more and profess my love to her. The only ones I’ve embraced in the past few months are the stinking lumbermen. You have to. When the wind starts blowing upon our shack in the evening hours, we begin to pray that the whole thing doesn’t come down right on top of us. The creaking of the shingles sends us off to sleep each and every night; after a while, it becomes almost like a melody.

But now, with the winter months soon approaching, we have to deal with the snow as well. The living conditions are becoming unbearable.  Every time it hails, we have to patch up the shack in the morning. I grow tired of plugging holes. And the food is becoming more and more scarce, as most of the animals have begun hibernating. The only thing left are a few roots, some grasses, and that damned barley. 

I’d wish I could write more about my situation, but I do not live a very exciting life. The life of the common man has always been constrained to poetry and song. I guess no lord wishes to see upon their walls the “filthy peasants” underneath him going about their day. They prefer to grace their murals and tapestries with prettier sights. 

So, I leave you with a poem I wrote. It helps me accept my fate. 

 


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How to Tame a Gryphon

To be a gryphon rider, you must know the Aerie.

A Rite of Passage: How to Tame a Gryphon and What You Need to Know

“Even Those Meant for Greatness Can Fail”

A pamphlet scribed and illustrated by Roger Hermit


Writing by Kizzie Le Carpentier

Kizzie Le Carpentier is a graduate of Plymouth University in the U.K. She published her first book, “The Walk Back Home” in June of 2021.

Art by A. Broadhead

A. Broadhead has been writing since she was little, though she took a roundabout route to getting published, including a degree in Psychology and a stint doing social work. Her first full novel, “The Hottest Day of the Year”, is due to come out at the end of 2022.


What it means to be a Gryphon Rider

The pleasure of the wind on your face, as it blows your hair frantically all over the place, is immeasurable. When you’re up that high, it feels like you’re the one flying. It’s irresistible not to spread your arms out.

The smell of dew and leaves and soil, the smell the dawn brings…

The sun reflects off the water as you glide your toes over the lake’s surface. The warmth of the sun on your face and the joy it brings is bliss. You get to watch everything come to life. You get to watch the sun rise and set each and every day.

If you fly far enough, you’ll reach the water’s edge, to the sandy beaches and fierce shore tides, and watch the beauty of the sky as it changes color throughout the day.

The forests seem small when you can see everything below; the rivers seem like puddles, the rocks of the mountains seem like small stones; everything seems so small and yet endless. 

You get to fly over all of Tarith: over Griffinrock, over Castellea, over Stormvale, over Lion’s Head and over Timberfalls. You get to watch the people in the cities and the villages from above and dive on intruders who are below.

It is your responsibility to kill and plunder when needed, to have the courage and joy of plunging your gryphon’s talons into the heads of our enemies.

It is your responsibility to serve.

In return for your courage, sacrifice, and commitment, you will be given titles, wealth, women, and a true sense of meaning. It does not matter what background you come from: if you have the skill to tame a gryphon, you have the right to power.

In return for the knowledge that is given upon on your ‘rite of passage’, you will give your life to the people and to your King, and you will not fail him. The most important thing to remember is your responsibility to obey orders and carry them out without question.

This is what it means to be a gryphon rider.

Character Studies for the Nameless

These are some concept art pieces for the character behind “The Nameless Accounts, also known as… er, minor spoiler, Ezran. I explain some of the concept process for each image.

Facial Structure

This exercise was more to stretch my understanding of facial structure then it was to make character concepts for Ezran. The lower middle image is his most accurate structure, though I am rather fond of Dwarf Ezran in the upper right, and the upper middle feels like an Elder Scrolls Bosmer. Meanwhile, the lower left has the facial structure of Neddryn from “The Hottest Day of the Year”, though not his hairstyle.

facial structures character study for Ezran, the Nameless

Expressions

Facial structure is further refined by drawing a bunch of expressions for Ezran. These also help define the character, as I’m sure you’ve noticed Continue reading “Character Studies for the Nameless”

Shining in the Darkness

He started to say something else – an order, most likely – but then a horn overpowered his voice. The captain growled, shooting a glance towards his men and attempting to fire off a reprimand, before another horn blast did the same.

And another, and another… Sir Lusant returned his gaze to Captain Peter and found his face had gone white.

And the mountain itself roared.

By Gatlin Peavler

Gatlin Peavler is an author with a love for ye olde fairy tales, myths, and chivalric romance. He has an admiration bordering on obsession with the knightly ideal, found in books like "Le Morte d'Arthur" and "The Song of Roland", and he hopes to evoke a piece of that in his fiction.


Sir Lusant looked up and thought there had never been a moment when the sky so perfectly captured the reflection of the affairs of the earth beneath it.

Dusk had settled unevenly across the heavens. In the north, the palette of twilight colors was still blue and clear of cloud or star, stretching into strange violets as the celestial painter moved his brush southwards. Like gilded stones, spears of distant sunlight skipped and bounded upon the westward ocean. Their gentle warmth struggled to cross the waves and touch the paladin, fighting a battle against time before the sea would swallow the sun whole in the coming hours.

Directly above him, pale yellow clouds  knit themselves thicker and thicker, like a tapestry. Tendrils of black miasma reached towards them, rising from somewhere behind the impenetrable Alt’Rhazian mountain range: heralds of yet-unseen engines of war. The air was at once still and restless. Wind buffeted the grass at his feet and drew the cloud cover further north, the darkening front threatening to suffocate him as it enveloped the world entirely.

Sir Lusant could not yet see a moon. He could not remember if any would be shining tonight.

A voice, deep and coarse, brought him back to earth.

“Behold our knight in shining armor, up here with his head in the clouds,” it scoffed.

Sir Lusant blinked once before refocusing on the reality below him. With a sigh, he turned to the square face of a man scowling at him.

The man’s rough features seemed marble-esque beneath the dignified uniform that marked him as one of Tarith’s captains. His brown eyes met Sir Lusant’s in a moment of mutual acknowledgement before they re-focused on the field beneath them, watching the men he commanded preparing for war.

“Any reason you’re not down there?” the captain asked.

“Prayer, contemplation – paladin things.” Sir Lusant smiled gently.

The captain snorted. “You’re nervous.”

“You know what they say about knights in shining armor,” Sir Lusant admitted as he gestured to himself, highlighting the contrast between them. The young knight nearly sparkled in comparison to the veteran; Sir Lusant was fit but unscarred, features fair and only barely stained by long hours in the sun. His armor was resplendent with the shining symbols of his order and of his god. In contrast, Captain Peter only entertained the absolute minimum of ostentations for his uniform so that his soldiers would recognize him as captain.

“You couldn’t have picked a better battle to test your mettle on,” assured the captain. “It’s not Scythe Fort – well, grel, that’s the point! It’s a hole in the damn mountains, leading right into their gods-forsaken country.”

“Through the Reaches,” the paladin reminded.

“A hole,” corrected the captain, “that they don’t expect us to come through.” He chuckled at a joke only he seemed to know. “They’re going to learn buying information works both ways.”

 


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The Setting of Sirith

For a while, I have been making use of Living Story Roleplay in World of Warcraft to map out the plotline for Seryth/Sirith. This spawned three short series including “The Story of Seryth“, explaining Sirith’s origin as a baddie, “The Shaping of Seryth“, acting as a sequel to Story and detailing what happens to Sirith after his defeat, and then the unfinished “The Search for Seryth“, which introduces Ezran and his quest to try and redeem the broken warlock. (Regarding the confusion of the name: “Sirith” is the character’s actual name, but it was taken on the WoW server I rolled him up on, so he became “Seryth” for the Living Story. In this post, he is back to being Sirith, since the setting is also back to being Talmenor, not Azeroth.)

However, when it came to Ezran and Sirith’s final meeting, where Shaping and Search were supposed to collide, I couldn’t make it work out: the scenarios available to me in-game couldn’t carry the weight or significance I needed.

Sirith’s tale in particular petered out, while Ezran’s threatened to overshadow him in a way I felt wasn’t fitting for the overall theme of the plot. Ezran is a larger-than-life character already, coming out of a series of his own (more on that later) yet somehow Sirith must transcend him, as the student always surpasses the master. So, it wouldn’t do for Sirith to come crawling back to Ezran without achieving some kind of heroics of his own. “The Shaping of Seryth” still has some moments I like as far as character development goes, but it doesn’t really go anywhere as a story, and I knew that needed to change.

Finally, I distanced myself from the Living Story Roleplay entirely and let these scenes write themselves without the guidance. It’s a fast-paced read for what feels like a novel worth of plot, much like the Living Stories, and when it comes to writing the fuller book there are many spots I will need to fill in.

I will probably still end up stealing some of the better moments from the Living Story series as well, particularly Ezran’s. It had some good timing.

Author’s Note

He came from Svenby, he said. It was one of those towns no one had ever heard of, except that one tavern drunkard who only talked about it when he was deep in his cups and reminiscing about the war. “Reminiscing” was a polite word for it; those were often the nights the bouncer had to drag him out in the morning, barely conscious and still begging for more drinks to drown the memories. Given this effect on the drunkard, no one asked him to elaborate either. Continue reading “The Setting of Sirith”

Thorn of the Rose

“O Scourge of the Sea! Though long you have stalked me, no more shall you withhold your truth from me…

“…O Scourge of the Sea! I see the curtain has parted, your true form at last revealed to me.”

Thorn of the Rose

By A. Broadhead


Act One

The moonlight lit the paths leading away from the village square, silvering the hair and hoods of the wuyon’mari streaming into it. Its light was overpowered by the lanterns in the square itself however, shining blue and violet, green and gold, from the branches of the white-barked trees. Keelath took a sniff of the air, scented with herbs and exotic perfumes and all kinds of food.

The Long Dark holiday was in full swing. Continue reading “Thorn of the Rose”

The Treeless Tundra Road

A small light coming from behind me catches my attention; getting ever closer, the distinct sound of boots compacting the snow restores some of my hope. A tall cloaked figure approaches me. I can’t see what they look like through the snow, but I focus on the lantern in their hand and what sounds like a bell clinking with every step they take.

“You’re going to die if you stay out here.” A man’s voice calls out to me from behind the shield of falling snow. A harsh voice, an unused voice.

The Treeless Tundra Road

By Kizzie Le Carpentier

Kizzie Le Carpentier is a graduate of Plymouth University in the U.K. She published her first book, “The Walk Back Home” in June of 2021.

I love books, movies and stories that unravel a new world with new creatures. I love it when a writer makes up something completely new and unreal – but I love it even more when a writer can convince me that their fantasy world could be real.

Kizzie Le Carpentier

“Goodnight; sweet dreams.” I lean in to place a kiss on my child’s forehead and tuck the sheets into the bed. My dark hair falls over my shoulders and drapes over the bedsheets. 

“Where are you going, Mummy?” My little girl looks into my eyes and then at my thick fur-lined cloak.

“I’m just going out for a bit. I’ll be back. If you need anything at all, just ask your brother.” I stroke my daughter’s head with my gloved hand.

The wind outside was hitting the hut and making the wooden shutters shake. I stand up and walk over to my son, waiting patiently at the door, and place my hand on his cheek, stroking it with my thumb.

“You make sure to look after your sister while I’m gone.”

“Yes, mother.” His eyes are watery; it is obvious from his clenched jaw that he’s fighting back the tears. His remaining parent is about to leave in the same manner as his negligent father. He coughs into his hand.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. Make sure you get some sleep too.” I walk over to the bedroom door, which is also the front door, and slide my fur boots on. 

I look over at the countertops, making sure there is food and water on the side and then look to make sure all the shutters are closed and that the key was where my seven-year-old could reach it. The cold made the dampness on the ceiling reek and the air harsh. The fire is raging, but it does little for comfort.

“Make sure to lock the door behind me. And don’t answer for anyone other than me.” I open the door, and a freezing gust of wind blows into the hut as I step outside into the darkness. Continue reading “The Treeless Tundra Road”

The Beast of Saltern

“The Beast,” Owen whispered as his stomach sank like a stone. “…am I right, Alys?”

She nodded and whimpered softly. “Everything happened so fast… Rhys was playing by the gate… Then something roared, and he screamed. When I looked up, this thing held him in its mouth as it bolted for the trees.”

The boy had seemed so full of life when they met on the road to Saltern. So full of questions. And now, just a few hours later, Rhys was… gone. Snuffed out by a creature who didn’t even belong on this Sphere of existence.

The Beast of Saltern

By Austin Worley

A native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Austin Worley writes speculative fiction and poetry. His published stories include heroic fantasy, Weird Westerns inspired by the rich history of his home state, and genre-bending tales starring the vigilante Whippoorwill. When he isn’t writing, Austin enjoys amateur astronomy and astrophotography, reading, video games, and spending time with his family. You can follow him on Twitter @AMWorley_Writer.

Despite the fly buzzing around his face, Sir Owen Gibbs didn’t move a muscle. Not even when a salty breeze rocked the bough where he perched. Instead, he stared at a crimson stain on the beach below. Glistening blood pooled around the half-eaten goat staked out here as bait, while duller splotches were the only trace of an elderly workman slain on his way to the salterns that lent the nearby village its name.

I never should’ve waited out that storm in Bredon. Maybe the poor grandfather would still live if he’d braved the driving rain. Maybe he would’ve already bagged the man-eater folk had dubbed the Beast of Saltern.

Teeth grit, Owen fit a bolt into the flight groove of his heavy crossbow. Just one more thing to regret… At least sitting up over a kill offered him a chance to avenge the salter and everyone else who’d fallen victim to the Beast. If the man-eater didn’t think this place was safe, he would’ve dragged the goat somewhere else instead of eating in the same spot where he’d devoured the old man. He’d return for a third meal sooner or later.

Now, now, Owen reminded himself, could be a she. Some ice bear sow or mountain tigress come down from the Tuthei Shey in search of easier prey. Folk did claim the Beast was of a similar size. Then again, he wasn’t sure how much stock he put in those accounts. Nobody with a good look at the man-eater had lived to tell the tale, so eyewitness reports were fleeting and contradictory. Some described it as decidedly feline, others said stout and bulky like a bear, and a few sounded downright demonic.

Personally, he doubted most of them even described the same creature. Sightings ranged from the foothills of the Tuthei Shey all the way down the coast into Tarith, and rumor held the Beast of Saltern responsible for almost two hundred deaths over the past year. Ridiculous. Folk had probably just attributed unrelated attacks and disappearances to a particularly vicious bear or a white Sheyn tiger. Maybe even a lion who’d wandered up from Yeniden or escaped some circus. Over his long career as a royal forester, he’d witnessed stranger things.

Clouds drifted across the face of the brightest moon, and Owen instinctively tensed at the deepening darkness. Was this how humanity spent its nights in ancient days? Huddled up in the trees and caves of primordial Talmenor? Hiding from predators? At least the gods have granted us tools since then…

Resting his crossbow’s stirrup on a fork in the branch, he wrapped his legs around the thick bough and flattened himself against its bark. Perfect! The dead goat lay squarely in his sights from this vantage point. If the Beast of Saltern returned craving leftover chevon, he’d have a clear shot at the unsuspecting man-eater. And with such a heavy draw weight, one shot from this crossbow was enough. More than enough.

 For what felt like an eternity, he sat in silence. Stars wheeled across the partially clouded sky, and anxiety began nibbling at his gut. Did he catch my scent? Ripening aromas from the carcass below should have masked him, but even the slightest whiff of potential danger might drive his prey away from its favorite haunt.

Before worry could swallow him up, Owen heard the sweetest sound anyone hunting man-eaters could ask for: the snorting alarm of a deer. But it sounded…off. Halting. Almost like it didn’t know whether to fear whatever had caught its attention.

Something rustled in the underbrush about a hundred paces to his left, and a silhouette slunk onto the beach. What in damnation…? The shadow moved with the graceful gait of a panther yet stood taller than most bears and carried even more muscle around its shoulders. A short tail swayed as the creature padded over for a second helping of goat. Some sort of injury? After all, its thick mane suggested a male lion.

Then the clouds parted.

Moonlight bathed everything in silver, the spiny quills around its neck glinted like a bristling wall of pikes, and he knew this fiend defied nature simply by setting foot on Talmenor. Gods have mercy!

The Beast of Saltern was a nekru.

Continue reading “The Beast of Saltern”

Seven Diamonds for Soqqith

“Deliver the gem to Nushaba,” Soqqith whispered. “Break my chains, and you shall be a mother again.”

By Austin Worley

A native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Austin Worley writes speculative fiction and poetry. His published stories include heroic fantasy, Weird Westerns inspired by the rich history of his home state, and genre-bending tales starring the vigilante Whippoorwill. When he isn't writing, Austin enjoys amateur astronomy and astrophotography, reading, video games, and spending time with his family. You can follow him on Twitter @AMWorley_Writer.


When Hawwa bint Huda el-Zaidi spied a column of smoke rising against the rosy sky, the voice in her head spoke for the first time all week.

“Hurry!”

She stiffened at the desperation dripping from his voice. Before now, Soqqith only ever addressed her with sibilant whispers. Soft. Gentle. Almost a lullaby. Nothing like his latest command. Why would smoke worry a creature mighty enough to grant her powers beyond imagination and promise even more?

“Hurry!”

Anxiety fluttered in her chest. The smoke…wasn’t it rising from the northeast? And didn’t her maps say the ancient ruins of Nushaba stood off that way? Oh gods! Someone threatened the temple, and if his acolytes fell before she delivered her cargo—

 


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