The Last of the Wvorgi

“Quiet!” Brodin shouted over his shoulder at the frightened men and women. He stood between them and the door to the mage tower. “He is a Wvorgi! He did not hurt Khalen, but he may be able to find him.”

“The Wvorgi are extinct!” a man shouted. “They haven’t been seen in decades.”

“They are extinct,” confirmed Brodin. “He is the last, and we need his help.”

The Last of the Wvorgi

by Brittni Smyers

This story contains some mature themes to do with human trafficking and is not suited for younger audiences.

Editor’s Note

The crooked flats of Arondzei, the Village on the Steppe, were a series of plains carved across the northern ridge of the Alt’Rhazia Range, stacked together like neat vertical zigzags. Atop each shelf were shaggy, lush grasslands, the interweaving roots of the grass as thick as handwoven rugs, dotted here and there by small, modest homes of earth and stone, their roofs near indistinguishable from their surroundings, covered as they were in the same grass-woven sod. At a distance, the town was all but invisible, which was how the villagers liked it. 

Then, one night, the window of the old mage’s tower was illuminated by a small candle. The overgrown dwelling had been empty for decades, its stone walls heavy with dirt and snaked over with vines. Creeping weeds and climbing foliage all but obscured the front of the building from view. If not for the candle in the window, the place would be all but invisible to the undiscerning eye.

Yet, the next day, the weeds and vines were cleared away. Not long after that, a new frame was set in the doorway, and a fence went up, creating a small corral for a cadre of goats. By then it was clear to the villagers that whomever had traveled to this place had intentions to stay.

Brodin, a young man from the village, elected himself spokesman to approach the dwelling. The rest of the village huddled in a group fifteen feet away or so, muttering amongst themselves as Brodin approached the building to find out whether the new arrival was friend or foe, warmonger or deserter. Striding to the door, his back ramrod straight, Brodin knocked brusquely.

“I come to discuss your intentions in this village,” Brodin said loudly, loud enough for the others watching to hear.

The door opened. The person inside could not be seen from where the villagers stood, but after Brodin spoke, the door opened a bit wider to admit him. With a brief hesitation and backward glance at those gathered behind him, Brodin ducked his head and went in.

Not ten minutes later he came out, his face as gray and heavy as autumnal storm clouds. Straight to his own home he went, where he closed the shutters and locked the door. From the secret place above the transom, he pulled parchroot beer and drank it late into the evening. When asked the next day, he told the other villagers the new resident had the right to stay but elaborated no further. Continue reading “The Last of the Wvorgi”

The Black Blade

“You moron! Never do that again!” yelled the captain. He approached Percy, yet as he put his hand on Percy’s shoulder, he was taken aback by what he found. Percy was standing stiff, but he was not alive. His throat had been bitten out. 

The Black Blade

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.


 Our story today begins in the market square of Rivermeet. On the board present in the square, we find a posting by the captain of the guard. It reads as follows:

The bailiff requires brave and capable adventures to investigate and inquire into rumors about strange noises emanating from the sewers below the city. Furthermore, in recent days there have also been reports of disappearances from the slums. We are unsure if these two events are connected.

A party is to be formed on the first day of the following week. Any adventurers who sign up will be awarded a gold coin for their services, with further compensation when the task is completed, based on the arduousness of the endeavor.

Signed,
The Captain of the Guard

Even among the hustle and the bustle of the busy market square, a pair of prying eyes spied the posting. The eyes belonged to Vivian, an aspiring medicine woman. 

She had recently finished her apprenticeship under her master, Dalaran, and was looking for an opportunity to test her knowledge. And, as most youths are, she was willing to potentially risk her life if it meant that she could gain some renown from her exploits. So, she decided to take up the captain’s offer. Even though she had no prior experience with adventures, Vivian understood that every party needs a healer, no matter the circumstances. It was better to have one and not need it, than not have one present when you needed it the most. Continue reading “The Black Blade”

Vigmarr the Scarred

Vigmarr wasn’t ready to share his story yet. He was beyond grateful that Elly understood that. What would she say if she found out the truth? He couldn’t bear to hurt her. Yet he couldn’t bear to keep thinking about it, either.

By Katrina Schroeder

Katrina Schroeder is a book coach, editor, and writer. When she's not knee-deep in words, she's playing tabletop and video games, reading more books than she can keep up with, or is in a kayak. She can be found on Twitter as @katrinaeditorial1 or you can learn more about her on her website at katrinaeditorial.com.


The village lay just ahead at the bottom of the hill, a few miles west of Bataklik Forest. The sky was gray, threatening to spit rain, and smoke rose from a few of the homesteads. Vigmarr wrapped his wolf-skin cloak a little tighter around him. The temperature was comfortable, but the sight of the village settled within the fog brought a shiver that shook him to his core.

Who the grel am I kidding? Vigmarr knew the shiver wasn’t the thought of the coming winter. He didn’t have the courage to make his way down the hill.

He’d camped just outside of town over the night. After taking six months to return home, he didn’t think one more night away would make a difference. Grel, his family probably thought he was dead anyway. He could just keep traveling and continue taking up mercenary work here and there, but none of those battles carried the same rage and excitement that they used to.

No, his family deserved to know. Elly deserved to know.

“Screw it.”

Vigmarr hefted his bag over his shoulder and made his way home.

He felt like the walk down the hill was the longest and heaviest walk of his life. But he also didn’t want it to end. The sooner it ended, the quicker he was in town. He grunted, shifted the weight of his bag, and picked up his pace. Dust kicked up around him, and it carried with it a nostalgic scent. He hadn’t been gone for more than a year, and yet the familiar scent of home’s earth elicited a softer grunt from his throat. His face began to relax.

Vigmarr finally crossed the village threshold and stopped. It didn’t feel any different. Why did he think it would? He shook his head and continued on.

“Vigmarr? Holy chit, boys, it’s Vigmarr the Scarred as I live and breathe!” He turned at the familiar voice. A young man, about Vigmarr’s daughter’s age, jogged up, followed by a few other young Yeni soldiers.

Tomas whistled as he got closer to Vigmarr. “Wow, I heard the stories, but they sure don’t do it justice. Trade ya a drink for each story you have for those scars.”

Vigmarr nodded his head once at Tomas and grunted. “Grab that drink another time? I best be getting home to Elly.”

Tomas nodded, and his eyes softened with grief. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.”

Vigmarr turned to leave.

“Vigmarr?”

Vigmarr stopped but didn’t turn around.

“I’m sorry. We’ll catch that drink soon. You deserve it.”

No, kid. I don’t. But he nodded and continued further into the village.

 


Halt! This is restricted content, citizen. Have you logged in?castle window


 

Freeport, No More

“Mage!” one of the men yelled, and chaos erupted.

“Get back, get back now!” Reylan called out. One of the best ways to fight a mage is with one of your own, but the nearest Tarithian mage was hundreds of miles to the north. He wondered why such a valuable asset would be here, on what amounted to garrison duty. Could the Krygons really afford to send one on such a menial task? If so, it did not bode well for their war effort…

By Rob De Graaff

Rob De Graaff is a history enthusiast and amateur writer from New Jersey.


Captain Reylan Ceidwyd was thinking about gryphons.

He had seen them only fleetingly on a handful of occasions: small forms that soared and dove through the sky, the knights on their backs urging them on to more spectacular maneuvers. He had only seen one up close once, a creature the size of a horse, ill-tempered, but still possessing a noble bearing. He would never ride one himself, of course. He wasn't that foolish.

Yet if we had one of them, we would know what's happening in Freeport by now, he mused.

He stood and lit a candle to illuminate his path. A part of him recoiled at the idea of lighting a fire in enemy territory, but this deep within the cave system, in the foothills north of the port city, exceptions could be made. For want of anything better to do, Reylan strode towards the entrance of the cave, ostensibly to inspect the state of his men, but more to alleviate boredom that was a soldier's constant companion. As he passed, most of his own men nodded or gave a simple greeting, while the Yeni among them either glowered as he passed or were in a stupor from the events they had witnessed.

About two months earlier, the Krygons had invaded, their great armada appearing out of the mists and landing to the south of the merchant city of Freeport. The army disembarked and marched, unopposed, overland for a handful of leagues to lay siege to the city, while the rest of their fleet blockaded Freeport's harbor. The native Yeni put up a valiant resistance in the city itself, but soon Freeport was overwhelmed by the raw numbers of the southerners. When word of the siege reached Tarith, Queen Caitlin and her High Court wasted no time, and soon Reylan and his company of rangers were aboard a ship taking them south. They disembarked under the cover of night and hid in the foothills of the Tarithian Mountains north of Freeport, gathering up a handful of the siege's survivors along the way. The Yeni they found had been hiding there for nearly a month, squatting in one of the caves carved out by the ever-shifting Dehitero River.

Reylan reached the entrance of the cave and blew out the candle before crossing the threshold. The two guards stationed there, Valos and Belowhent, both greeted him quietly, before turning their gaze outwards. Reylan had several more men further out as pickets, ready to report back any enemy movements, but so far there was no sign of the enemy.

“Any sign of Harlak?” he asked.

“None, sir,” Valos said. He was an wuyon'mar, and his actual name was something that Reylan had given up trying to pronounce years ago. “I'll spot him long before you, sir.”

Reylan looked out to the south. He and his company were in the foothills to the northeast of Freeport, the first break in the near-endless grasslands that stretched to the south. To his right, he could make out a haze in the air: the tell-tale sign of a large city-state, caused by countless cookfires and not, Reylan hoped, conflagrations still raging from Krygon's battle-magi. The greater smudge on the horizon, near the ocean, was the city itself.

“Let me know the moment you see something,” he told Valos.

Just then, he heard a commotion behind him, deeper into the cave complex. It was not loud, but certainly louder than he wanted. The voice was speaking in Tarithian, but it had a thick accent, and Reylan's shoulders sagged when he heard it.

“Not this again,” he mumbled to no one in particular, but he caught a glimpse of Valos and Belowhent grinning.

“Where is he? I must speak with him!” shouted the voice, coming closer. “I cannot stand this any more!”

“Have fun with that, sir,” the wuyon'mar ranger said.

Reylan turned and almost ran headlong into Sansomer Grellando, a Yeni merchant or commander of the city watch of Freeport, or... something. He had been rather vague as to his true occupation, but Reylan figured that was typical of Yeniden and did not want to press the matter further.

“There you are, Old Man,” said the Yeni. Reylan was known as "the Old Man", more due to the streaks of iron-gray in his otherwise jet-black hair, rather than his twenty-seven years. “This is too long! Too long indeed!” The man's voice was increasing in volume as he spoke.

“Our lives will get much shorter if you don't keep your voice down," Reylan said, trying his best to mollify the man.

Sansomer quieted himself, but the intensity of his displeasure remained. "It is been over a month," he said angrily. "One month! we have sat in these caves, and done nothing except go on some fruitless patrols. My city, my people are under occupation by Krygon, and yet we sit here idle.

 


Halt! This is restricted content, citizen. Have you logged in?castle window


 

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—

 


Halt! This is restricted content, citizen. Have you logged in?castle window