Good day, my lovely readers. I have just returned from the trip I spoke of in a previous update. I drove out to Yellowstone National Park with Sorin and another friend of ours. 5 days of travel, 4 days in the park itself. It was amazing. The serene grandeur of nature, put on full display, complete with vibrant environmental wonders and majestic fauna. As you may or may not be aware, I am from the United States Midwest (which I revealed in a character profile of myself many moons ago). In case you haven’t been, the Midwest is fairly monotonous, scenery wise. I love my hometown and my home state, but compared to the fierce vitality of Yellowstone, it’s rather mundane. So, this trip has inspired me. I’m ready to write. Look forward to some good new stuff in the near future.
Well, what is there to say? The second chapter is ready. I think.
Chronicles of Koeleth Extra Chapter
The Ender of Worlds: The Saving of a Man
Chapter 2: Student and Mentor
“So, I’m here. What are we doing?” Thomas asked, sounding far more insolent than he intended.
The training grounds were a vast patch of dry, dusty earth—something fairly uncommon in Sorowa’s Cradle. Behind the young warrior, not five feet away, was a large wooden door leading to the main chamber of the guildhall. There were few things about Cradle-of-the-Moon that were impressive, especially when compared to Ramsthrone, the glimmering capital of its western neighbor, Ramsrest, but it took good care of what few organizations called the city home. The Adventurers’ Guild was no exception; though not the lavish training grounds of the Royal City’s chapter, these training grounds were not lacking. There was an archery range, several training dummies for melee combat, a small field for horsemen, and a handful of fighting rings. At the far end of the site, opposite Thomas’ current position, was a small arena. He was new to the guild, but he was aware that the arena was the real proving grounds. That was where captains were made, where grudges were settled, and where glory was earned. None of this meant much to Thomas. He had other motives for being here.
Marcus, leaning up against a fence post, observed the rookie as he took in the scenery. This must have been the first time he had actually set foot on the training grounds. Thomas was standing between the archery range and a fighting ring, analyzing the resources available to him. Marcus had heard Thomas’ question but allowed him the time to take in his surroundings.
“We’re training,” the veteran adventurer finally declared, disturbing his apprentice’s thoughts. “Why do you think we’re at the training grounds?”
“Haha, very funny,” Thomas replied sullenly, trying to read Marcus’ stoic face.
Marcus had to stifle a chuckle and reminded himself he was dealing with someone who was still quite young.
“You tell me,” the captain said, as Thomas approached him. “What are you trained in already?”
“I know all the basic techniques of any foot soldier in the army. My father taught me; he served briefly in the service of Lord Cradleborn, but he left in order to take over the family business. He taught me to respect the weapons I made. I took an interest in swordsmanship, so he had my uncle come up from Ekoalreich—he’s the captain of the guard in a city down there—and teach me a few unique techniques. For a while, we had a wandering mercenary staying in our town—Heather Stormbrand, I believe it was—and she taught me some things. Let’s see…I know sword and shield combat, both standard Koeleth dueling and the Ekoalreich techniques, and a little bit of halberd work.”
“Family business?” Marcus asked, slightly perplexed.
“Oh, yeah. I’m a trained blacksmith.”
A blacksmith! A blacksmith! It all made sense now. This young man’s muscular body, strong grasp of weaponry, and impressive endurance were to be expected if he were accustomed to working in a forge. What possessed this smith’s son to leave home to join the Adventurers’ Guild was still beyond Marcus.
“You are skilled in melee combat?”
“What about ranged?”
“I couldn’t hit the broad side of a castle.”
“And unarmed combat?”
“Not exactly professional, but I can make do,” Thomas groaned, rubbing a bruise on his chest.
“Well, for a novice, you really did a number on Bruce and his boys,” Marcus said matter-of-factly. “But you are correct—that wasn’t exactly professional. Punched a distracted man, broke a chair over a man’s chest, kicked a man in the groin, body slammed a man, all while taking several blows. Impressive, but unprofessional. We’ll work on it.”
“So, what’s happening?”
“We’re starting with unarmed combat.”
“Are you serious? I just told you I’m not good at it.”
“Exactly. Before I train you with weapons, I’m going to train you without them.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“You came here of your own volition. If you don’t want to train with me, you are welcome to leave.”
“…Fine. I’ll do it your way.”
“Good. We’ll start with some basic maneuvers.”
Thomas followed Marcus into the nearest ring and prepared for a fight. Thomas lifted his fists and dug both feet into the ground. Marcus balanced himself , staying light on his feet; he was ready to dance around Thomas’ unconscious body. Marcus made the first move, and Thomas found himself on the ground before he could even move.
“Too slow,” Marcus observed.
“Teach me your ways, Master,” Tom joked, getting back to his feet.
“That is the most excited expression I’ve ever seen from someone who just got their ass kicked.”
“Well, I want to learn how to do it,” the rookie said, an eager grin spreading across his face.
“Let’s get started, then.”
Marcus followed Thomas through the door to the guild bar. Several of the bar patrons looked towards them; it wasn’t often that Marcus trained one on one with a rookie, and even rarer that he reserved a fighting ring all day for it. Bella and Evangeline were sitting at the same place they were two days prior. Upon hearing Thomas laughing Evangeline smiled, but Bella ran over to him to check on the myriad bruises adorning his face and arms.
“By the guardians, are you okay, Tom!? What happened to you!?” Bella frantically interrogated.
“I’m fine!” Tom replied jovially. “I picked up a few lessons today is all. And I think I’m ready for the next bar fight that comes along.”
“No!” Bella argued. “The idea is not to get into fights! Last time you did that you got a beating!”
“What’s all this?” Tom inquired, somewhat dumbfounded. “Why are you so worked up over that? I won that fight.”
“Only just barely! I’m worried about you! That’s why I’m so ‘worked up!’ You idiot!”
Bella marched off to the dorms in a huff.
“What was that all about?” Tom pondered aloud.
Evangeline, who had caught up to Thomas just as Bella started to leave, smacked her palm against her forehead.
“You dunce,” she said. “You better apologize to her later, Tom.”
With that she turned and followed her frustrated friend.
“For what? What did I do?” Tom muttered.
Marcus concealed a smile, marveling at how such a skilled warrior was utterly hopeless on the battlefield of social interaction. He silently removed himself to his usual corner of the bar, and Tom followed.
“So, what next?” his young student asked enthusiastically.
“Next? You take a break for the night is what’s next,” Marcus answered.
“Well, I mean, yeah, but I mean what comes after this? What do I learn then?”
“Hold up there, Tom. You’ve barely dipped your toes in the lake that is unarmed combat. Look, you’re learning quick, but let’s take on one thing at a time. Tomorrow we’ll work some more on that, but I want to work on your halberd usage as well. Why do you carry that thing around, anyways? You clearly aren’t used to using it.”
“Oh, well, that’s an interesting story! Not long after I split with my travelling companion, I—ah!” Tom began, but was interrupted by a sharp pain in his chest. “I…I guess I can save that that story for later. Right now, the adrenaline is wearing off, and my wounds aren’t fully healed. I think I need to get some rest. And apologize, I guess. Still don’t know what I did wrong…”
“You don’t have much experience with the opposite sex, do you?”
“My best friend is a girl, what’s there to know?”
“Your best friend is a girl, and you don’t know anything about women? There is little hope for you. But yes, go rest. Go apologize. Buy her a flower. Or several. Talk to Evangeline first. She’ll make sure it’s safe.”
“Safe? What do you mean by that?”
“Just trust me on this, okay?”
Marcus shooed Tom away, carefully watching the young man as he stroked his chin, deep in thought.
“That kid has no hope,” a middle-aged man said, slipping into the recently vacated booth seat.
“What do you want, Shark?” Marcus hissed.
“Ah, that’s no way to treat an old friend, is it?” the man called Shark smirked.
After a few seconds of angry glaring, Marcus’ lips started to curl at the ends, then the two men broke out into laughter. Marcus was so unaccustomed to such jubilant glee that he found his face aching from the effort.
“How are you, Shark?” Marcus inquired when he had finally caught his breath. “Finally back from that three year mission of yours, I see.”
“Oh, I’m doing fantastic. Old Theophrastus Shark is still in top shape,” the sandy blonde exclaimed, pounding a fist on his chest. “That mission was a real doozy, let me tell you. Actually, nevermind. If I told you I’d have to kill you. Haha!”
“You’re welcome to try,” Marcus answered. “Save it for later, then, when there are no prying ears?”
“Naturally. I have a lot to get off my chest. Anyhoozit, who’s the kid?”
“Wow, the stoic raven of the guild is taking on a young fledgling, eh?” Shark guffawed, his hazel eyes open wide.
“You make it sound like I’m some sinister, uncaring monster.”
“How many people have you opened up to? I mean really warmed to?” Shark asked rhetorically.
“You want to know why?” Marcus sighed.
“He impressed me.”
“Oh? I demand more.”
Marcus explained the events of two days prior, remarked on Tom’s courage, praised his fighting ability and resourcefulness, and commented on his relative normality compared to other adventurers.
“So this kid—Thomas was his name?—he impressed you with his fighting ability and wisdom beyond his years? You know, there have been others.”
“But not like this kid. I see something of myself in him, I suppose.”
“He’s out to save the world.”
“He’s out to save the world. Just like you.”
“You can’t save the world. Or at least I can’t.”
“And yet, when a promising hero to be shows up, you always take them under your wing. Face it, Marcus, you want to save the world. And he’s your chance.”
“…Maybe. But he’s got potential, Shark. He’s going to do things.”
“Of course he does. Don’t ruin it. Remember Abel?”
“Abel was different; he was broken. I was young, reckless. I overlooked the obvious.”
“Never mind that. Let’s drink to your health and retire to the dorms to discuss your mission.”
Marcus greeted the morning with some trepidation; he knew this would be another grueling day of training with his impetuous new apprentice. He had time to think about Shark’s words. He would not make the same mistakes he had in the past. He would not have another Abel North. Thomas was not Abel; that Marcus was sure of.
“What’s on your mind?” a young voice called, cutting through the fog of regret that was clouding Marcus’ thoughts.
“Oh, Thomas, you’re here.”
“Um, yeah. I have been for a while. You okay?”
“Yes, perfectly fine. Let’s begin your training,” Marcus answered, straightening himself up. “Did you manage to smooth things over with Bella?”
“Yes, question mark?” Tom replied. “I’m not sure. I still have no idea what I did wrong.”
“Hopeless. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. You need to work on your kicks.”
After several days of training with Thomas, Marcus noted that his young apprentice was a quick learner. He was not quite a master of the various unarmed combat techniques that Marcus had been working on with him, but he certainly showed promise. Aside from sparring with him personally, Marcus also had him fighting against combatants who were skilled in unarmed combat; he was keeping up with accomplished adventurers and was easily overcoming some of the other rookies who specialized in unarmed styles of fighting. If this sort of principle applied to other areas of combat as well, Thomas could be a truly formidable warrior.
“Excellently done, Thomas. Mike, go ahead and take a break. You’ve earned it,” Marcus recommended.
It was not a lie. Thomas had just delivered a solid kick to his fellow apprentice’s head, knocking him clean off his feet. Mike woozily stood up, rubbing his head the whole time; Thomas helped him to the guildhall door despite his own extensive bruises.
“Hold up, Thomas. We have something to discuss.”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Still as insolent as day one.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll start showing some respect when I see a reason to,” the novice adventurer joked.
“You’ll get yours someday. Listen, it’s important that you’re prepared for what’s coming. As you’re already aware, you’ll be sent out with other captains over the course of the next couple months on various missions. The goal is to find where you fit best in the guild. Of course, once you are a full member of the guild, you’ll get to choose your own missions. But, should the guild master ever need your particular services, he needs to know how to best apply your skills. You’ll do well with Cpt. Farbank and Cpt. Snowtear. They are kind and valorous, true Men of the River, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Cpt. Shark is an old friend of mine from days long past, and he’ll steer you true. The other captains you may serve under will not trouble you greatly either, save for one. In a few weeks, you will work with Cpt. Bleakwood; he is a hard man. He is inflexible and intolerant of any dissension. You may find that he challenges those beliefs you hold dear—stay strong. His lieutenant, Percival Searock, is a giant of a man—surely, you’ve seen him—and he is as loyal as he is skilled. If you hope to shift the tides of the mission by turning Percival to your side, you are wasting your time. However, he is a man of honor, and if you can prove yourself to him, he will reward you accordingly. Above all, take care of yourself. If you fall, Bleakwood will not help you up. He will leave you behind, if it means finishing the mission. Come back alive. You have friends waiting for you, not the least of which being a certain young miss.”
“Heh, thanks,” Thomas meekly replied, a hint of red creeping into his face. “But with you training me, there’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“Let’s hope so, my friend.”
I bet you’re wondering why I’m reposting this chapter. Well, it’s simple, really: I’ve polished it up a bit. Why have I polished it up, you might ask? Well, as it so happens, I am actively working on the Ender of Worlds. The next installment will be out soon, and hopefully accompanied by the long overdue next chapter of the River’s Tale. So, take this updated version of chapter as a blessed omen of chapters to come. (I’ll be deleting the old post so that any confusion over which is he final version can be avoided.)
Chronicles of Koeleth Extra Chapter
Ender of Worlds: The Saving of a Man
Chapter I: The Rookie
“Run! Don’t be a hero!” Marcus ordered, his grey eyes scanning the battlefield.
The young adventurers did not need to be told twice. Marcus was no stranger to fighting bandits, and he knew that there were too many here for his charges to handle. The distraction was enough for the rookies to escape, but it also provided the perfect opportunity to catch the veteran off guard. The bandits were on him like vultures on a corpse. Four of them broke off from the group and intercepted the fleeing apprentices; after a bit of a fight, however, the apprentices came out on top. One of the remaining bandits lunged recklessly towards Marcus, leaving him open to a piercing blow from Marcus’ sword. Another, upset by this turn of events, followed the foolish actions of his cohort and Marcus gladly gave him the same reward. These two must have been picked up recently, given the rest of the bandits fought at least somewhat effectively. The third bandit was proof of this, as he and Marcus exchanged several blows. One slash from the bandit’s sword even got close enough to shave away a couple strands of the long black hair that hung across Marcus’ face. A couple of other bandits ganged up on him as well, but Marcus held his ground. His skill had earned him more than a few medals at the guild already; this was no different.
“Damn,” Marcus cursed under his breath.
He dropped his left hand down to his side, a gesture that went unnoticed, but whatever course of action he had intended to take was cut off by someone else. The attacker at his back mysteriously vanished and a halberd blade removed the burdensome head from the shoulders of another. It was a clumsy blow but effective.
“I told you to run, rookie,” Marcus said sternly, hiding his relief that he was not alone.
The black clad warrior simply nodded to him and carried on the fight. In contrast to his ineloquent halberd work, Marcus was impressed by the young man’s swordsmanship. Though he carried none of his own, as the decapitated corpse fell backwards, the youth grabbed the dead man’s sword and let gravity unsheathe it. As soon as it was free of its leather cage, the sharp blade flashed into action, disarming a nearby bandit. Having lost both his weapon and his nerve, the bandit fled. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Marcus used this opportunity to take down the last of the three bandits that had been troubling him. Standing back to back, he and the novice adventurer faced down the remaining bandits, now numbering only six.
“How many can you take, rookie?” the older warrior asked his young charge.
“Let’s see, with their level of skill and that quality of equipment…three. I can take three.”
“Three, huh?” Marcus contemplated aloud. “Fine. An even split. I call the big guy.”
The two immediately got to work. With the bandit sword in his left hand and the halberd in his right, the young man handily dealt with his foes. The bandits came close to striking him a couple times, but the halberdier always managed to evade their blades. Marcus had no trouble dispatching his adversaries and even had the luxury of watching his subordinate finish off the last of their foes.
“Impressive,” he commented as the warrior cleaned off his weapons and sheathed the sword. “You took out five men. Excellently done for an apprentice. Thomas Riversedge, right?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, Captain Fatebound,” the rookie replied. “I only got so far because you were fending off several at once, however.”
“Isn’t that how teamwork is supposed to work?” Marcus retorted in a matter-of-fact tone. “We need to discuss your issues with following orders, though. I told you to retreat.”
“I have no issues with good orders. Dumb orders, on the other hand…”
“Defiant. Gutsy. Reckless. You’ll do well in the guild,” the captain observed. “No point in calling me captain if you aren’t going to follow orders; You may call me Marcus.”
“Thank you, Capt—I mean, Marcus. You can call me Tom, I guess,” Thomas said, uncertain of what to do. “Sorry to diverge from the topic at hand, but shouldn’t we see to the other apprentices?”
“You are correct. Let us be off, then.”
Marcus watched as Thomas Riversedge turned around and began to march off, before abruptly stopping and collapsing to the ground. His eyes grew wide and his body was shaking. He began dry heaving, as the cold sweat of horror mingled with the hot sweat of battle. Marcus calmly went over to check on the rookie. The adrenaline had worn off.
“You okay, Tom?” he inquired. “You’re new to this whole killing thing, aren’t you?”
“I—huegh—I’ve only—hic—only done it o-once before,” the novice said, his face splattered in blood and tears.
His once clean, black hair now clung to his face and neck, dripping with sweat. He looked directly at Marcus for a brief moment, revealing a pair of deep blue eyes framed by a pale face. He could not be any older than seventeen, Marcus thought. This boy was strange to him; on the one hand, he fought like an experienced soldier, but, on the other, he claimed to have killed only once before. He even had the muscular body of a soldier. Perhaps his family was one of noble origin? Or maybe he was a guard’s son? Marcus was reminded of a younger version of himself in some ways. If you were to ask any random villager, however, they would never guess his true age. A young appearance was one of Marcus’ many blessings, and to most he appeared to be no older than thirty; most pegged him at twenty-six.
“What was the first time?” Marcus asked, knowing that he was pulling his young charge’s attention to unwanted memories, but also pulling it away from the current situation.
“hic—It was on my first day on my own,” Thomas recalled, starting to calm down. “I left my hometown with my best friend, but she and I parted ways after a couple days. She was off to Compassia’s Hand, and I was off to…well, here, ultimately, I guess.”
“I was ambushed by a group of bandits. There were five of them. I stabbed the first with my halberd; self-preservation instinct. The next two were really bad fighters and went down easily. I got lucky with number four; I swung wildly and cracked him in the skull. Number five ran. But I didn’t chase him. I was too shocked at what I had just done.”
As he listened to the tale, Marcus’ piercing slate eyes analyzed his appearance. As attire went, Thomas wore used but clean black trousers tucked into shiny leather boots. Over his black long-sleeve shirt he wore a simple leather jerkin with the guild insignia on the back, a custom fit piece of armor issued to all new apprentices. Though cheap compared to better made leather armor, Marcus could attest to the comfort and effectiveness of the jerkin. Despite his apparent inexperience, Thomas wore the jerkin well. Marcus found himself wondering who exactly this Thomas Riversedge was and where he was headed. The boy seemed absolutely sincere, and that is what perplexed him so.
“Are you composed?” Marcus inquired, offering to help the rookie to his feet.
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so,” he replied, taking the offer. “Let’s go.”
“Evangeline Highcrest, check,” Marcus rattled off, looking from one young face to the next. “Robin Moonwash, check. Linda Creekside, check. Solomon Beavertail, check. And, lastly, Thomas Riversedge, check. Everyone accounted for? Then let’s head back.”
The green-eyed Evangeline turned to Tom, awestruck by the slightly older adventurer’s actions, and asked, “Your name’s Thomas, right? That was amazing, what you did!”
Blushing slightly at the platinum blonde’s praise, Tom stuttered in reply, “Th-thanks, it was nothing. Um, you can just call me Tom, if you like.”
“Tom, huh? Well, I think that was really brave of you, Tom. I just ran away. That’s not a good thing for an adventurer to do, is it?”
“W-well, Marcus did tell us to, so I think it’s perfectly fine.”
“Still, what you did was so cool.”
As his charges marched towards Cradle-of-the-Moon, where their local guildhall was located, Marcus contemplated the job they had just completed. What was supposed to have been a simple mission turned into a dangerous battle when the small band of new recruits walked into an ambush. The report said that there was a small group of bandits harassing merchants and travelers, so the master of Marcus’ chapter of the Adventurers’ Guild sent him out with a group of promising apprentices. Alas, the report failed to mention what it meant by small, because what they had thought to be eight or nine bandits at most turned out to be a good fifteen, each reasonably skilled in their own right and collectively smart enough to set up a trap for any would-be interlopers. Had Marcus known what was coming, he would have brought one or two of the other captains with him. By some good fortune, or maybe some machination of the guardians, he had in his presence someone who had potential. He might have to keep an eye on this Thomas Riversedge fellow.
Later that night, Marcus found himself indulging in a pint of some cheap ale in a dark, secluded corner of the guild bar. He sat watching, as he always did, the bustle of the various adventurers who called the guildhall home. Apprentices sat around large tables and chattered, excited for the quests that the guild had in store for them. Most of them likely came from broken homes or orphanages, and this was their chance at a better life. Adventurers are rarely born into comfort and security. Instead, adversity drives them to seek out a greater destiny. Such was certainly the case for many of their elders. Several experienced adventurers hovered around the bar itself, seeking the sweet relief of drunken bliss. Perhaps they had returned from some harrowing adventure that had nearly claimed their lives, or maybe they were trying in vain to drown memories that had haunted them for far too long. A few of them sat at a booth, arguing. Marcus noticed that this group, a team that often went out together on missions, was short a member. They had likely lost him in battle. He understood. Another captain was already headed their way to help ease tensions. Three booths away, another group was celebrating and clearly had been for a while, given how red in the face most of the members were. Clearly they had achieved some victory. Several veteran members, like Marcus himself, sat isolated from the rest of the crowd simply observing, longing for the innocence of their youth, or drinking in the lively atmosphere, or even just pondering. A handful of them gathered around a game of chess, discussing their recent quests and whether or not they might retire now.
Amongst all the usual commotion, one thing stood out to Marcus: a lone rookie holed up in a corner of the bar, just observing. Thomas’ mouth was smiling but his eyes were scanning the room grimly. He wasn’t comfortable. And neither was Marcus, now that he thought about it. The one thing Marcus knew about the Adventurers’ Guild was that the members were a diverse cast of characters. Some of them were less friendly than others. Adventurers were widely regarded as heroes, but not all of them lived up to their reputation. The guild allowed for a wide variety of jobs, many of them coming from less than savory elements of society. Trouble was brewing, and that trouble came in the form of Bruce Draketooth. He was a somewhat skilled adventurer and the kind who took on jobs from the dark side. With him always were his thuggish companions, Joseph “Joey” Rotwood and Bertrand “Big Boy” Bluestone. Bruce slammed open the doors to the bar, his shaved head gleaming in the bright light of the bar, followed closely by the scrawny Joey and the aptly dubbed Big Boy. They each wore leather vests with the image of a treasure map and a sword emblazoned on the back, the Adventurers’ Guild’s insignia, a sure sign that these Neanderthals somehow managed to graduate from apprentice status to the real thing. They approached two female apprentices conversing at the bar. The green-eyed blonde Marcus recognized as Evangeline and the other was a cute brunette with whom she was seemingly friends.
“Hey, ladies,” Bruce interrupted with a voice reminiscent of the growl of a wolf, leering at his new acquaintances. “You’re looking ravishing this evening.”
As he said this, a chill went down Marcus’ spine. The compliment was laced with deviant hunger. Apparently, he was not the only one, as Thomas sat up straight, watching the situation intently. The girls, sensing his perverse intentions, shifted uncomfortably.
“Thanks, Mister…?” Evangeline inquired, barely hiding her unease behind a forced smile.
“My name’s Bruce, hot stuff. This is Joey, and my large friend here is Big Boy. Say hello, boys.”
“Heheh, hello, babes,” Joey laughed lecherously, like a horny weasel.
“Hey,” Big Boy bellowed like a bull hippopotamus.
“H-hi,” Evangeline’s friend fearfully replied.
“Now,” Bruce continued, “me and my boys saw you two beauties sitting over here all by your lonesome and thought you might like some company.”
“Well, that’s very kind of you,” Evangeline started, more annoyed than anxious, “but Bella and I were having a pleasant and private conversation with each other. You boys seem like lovely gentlemen, but my friend and I are perfectly fine. Perhaps we might be more…wanting for company at some other time, but we respectfully ask that you leave us to our conversation.”
“Aw, whatsa matter? You don’t want to have any fun? We could show you a real good time,” Bruce purred eerily.
“We’re having plenty of fun by ourselves, no thanks to you. Right, Bella?”
“R-right,” Bella stuttered.
“You’ve never been with a real adventurer before, have you? You’re really missing out. My boys and I will give you the experience of your life.”
After this comment, several of the senior members of the guild had gotten up to intervene, Marcus included, but someone else beat them to it. Thomas, in the blink of an eye, was standing next to Bruce.
“C’mon, you ladies wouldn’t want to miss out on the experience of a lifetime, would you?” Bruce grinned a wicked grin, running a finger through Evangeline’s hair.
“Eww, get away!” she retorted, slapping his hand away.
“I don’t think you understand me,” Bruce said, his grin replaced by a snarl.
“Excuse me, sir,” Thomas interjected politely. “These respectable young ladies have politely declined your offer. It would be most gentlemanly of you to honor their choice, would it not?”
“Who invited you to this party?” Bruce barked.
“No one invited me,” Thomas answered, subtly putting himself between the ladies and their harassers. “I saw that there was a bit of a disagreement and thought I might offer some help. You gentlemen are certainly…ugh…impressive individuals, and I’m sure, somewhere out there, there are other women who would love your companionship. However, these lovely maidens, Evangeline and…Bella, was it?”
The brunette nodded and blushed, a slight smile gracing the corners of her lips.
“These lovely maidens, Evangeline and Bella, have expressed their desire to enjoy the remainder of the evening without the company of anyone but each other. Certainly, you gentlemen wouldn’t want to disappoint these good women, would you?”
“Keep your nose outta my business, greenhorn,” Bruce threatened.
“I am simply trying to diffuse the tension. You can hardly fault me for that.”
“Buzz off, asshole!”
Bruce pushed Thomas aside and approached the girls once more. Thomas mumbled something inaudibly.
“What did you say?” Joey said in his nasally voice.
“I don’t like bullies,” the apprentice repeated, this time louder and harsher.
“Oh yeah?” Big Boy guffawed, folding his arms menacingly. “And what are you going to do, shrimp?”
Without saying a word, Thomas drew back his left fist, adjusting his stance accordingly, and locked his eyes on Bruce’s head, which was turning to address what had become a nuisance. Marcus signaled to the other senior members to let it happen. Swiftly and solidly, the young man slammed his fist into the brutish adventurer’s jaw, knocking his head into the counter between the two girls in the process. Dazed and incoherent, Bruce slid to the floor.
“What the!? Why, you little bastard!” Joey whined, preparing a punch of his own.
Thomas deftly avoided the strike, only to be jabbed in the side by Big Boy’s meaty fist. A two on one fight without a weapon hardly seemed fair to Marcus, and it would only get worse. Thomas kept his eyes on both his opponents while subtly moving away from the bar. He dodged a powerful punch from Big Boy, but Joey snuck in a painful thrust to Thomas’ gut. Rather than slowing him down, though, Marcus noted that Thomas seemed to improve with each attack. Soon, Thomas was dodging or deflecting every blow the two underlings threw at him; he was learning about his foes even as they fought him. He was still fighting defensively, however, and as long as he did that, he could not win. Meanwhile, Bruce had come to his senses. He swallowed both of the female apprentices’ drinks, hoping to dull the throbbing ache in his head. Taking off his vest and donning a set of brass knuckles, he approached Tom. The apprentice swordsman seemed less confidant without a weapon, but Marcus was impressed at his overall dexterity. Thomas saw his chance to turn the tide of battle when Big Boy unwittingly stepped into a puddle of ale that someone had spilled. Thomas repelled a punch from Joey and jabbed him in the stomach as Big Boy swung a fat fist at his chest. Thomas rolled out of the way and watched as Big Boy lost his balance, slipping in the alcohol and falling to the ground. Joey continued his assault, negligent of his friend’s plight, forcing Thomas to back into a chair. This would have tripped up a lesser brawler, but Thomas used it to his advantage, grabbing the chair and swinging it into Joey’s legs, knocking him down. He then smashed the chair against Joey’s chest, leaving him unable to fight and possibly breaking some ribs in the process. Big Boy had stumbled back to his feet, and Bruce had arrived, knuckles ready to cause some blunt force trauma. He was a considerably better fighter than his two lackeys and Thomas had to focus most his attention on Bruce, leaving himself open to attacks by Big Boy. The large buffoon managed to get in a few cheap shots that left Thomas hurting. It was almost certainly pure luck that led to Thomas evading a swipe from Bruce that landed a damaging blow on Big Boy. While Big Boy and Bruce tried to coordinate themselves once more, Thomas climbed up onto the nearest table and launched off, body slamming the larger man, leaving him in much the same state as his ferret-like companion.
“Looks like it’s just you and me now,” Thomas gasped, tired and bruised.
“You knocked out my boys, interrupted my fun, and never even apologized. You’re going to regret crossing me,” Bruce growled.
Thomas simply smiled. The one on one fight went smoothly, all things considered. Thomas blocked most of Bruce’s punches, but one strike with the brass knuckles connected with Thomas’ shoulder. As he started to grow weary, and as Bruce began to get the upper hand, Thomas resorted to a crude but effective tactic: a low blow. He kneed his foe right between the legs, and, when the brute collapsed to the ground, Thomas punched him until he could not fight back. Battered but breathing, Thomas surveyed the carnage left behind by the struggle. One broken chair, several spilt ales, and three incapacitated gorillas. He knew this would not go over well with his superiors, especially given that he started the fight. Marcus and his peers breathed a collective sigh of relief, however, as the young brawler had not only protected those girls, but had also taught Bruce and his boys a lesson they would not soon forget, made all the more potent by the fact that Tom was only a rookie. The male apprentice wobbled a little, and then collapsed from his exertions. Before he hit the wooden floor, the two young women caught him. An older adventurer pushed a chair their way and they laid him down in it. Bella fastidiously cleaned his wounds, while Evangeline began cleaning up the mess. Marcus gestured for the three apprentices to come over, so Bella and Evangeline walked Thomas over to Marcus’ booth.
“Ladies, are you okay?” the veteran adventurer asked.
“Yes, sir,” they both replied.
“Good, good. Go get the nurses. They’ll want to look at all of the combatants.”
“Will Thomas be okay? This is the second time today he’s come to my aid, and I am a bit concerned,” Evangeline asked.
“He’ll be fine. The nurses will tend to his wounds. In the meantime, I have something I wish to discuss with him. Now, go get the nurses and then go on with the rest of your evening as you see fit.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
The two young women rushed for the nurses, Bella constantly checking over her shoulder to see if Thomas was alright. After they were gone, Marcus turned to the barely conscious Thomnas and locked eyes with him.
“Alright, kid. This is the second time in a single day you’ve jumped into a dangerous situation, and both times you’ve impressed me with your ability to fight. I think you can do better, though. You should have been able to win that brawl without getting a single scratch on your own body. There’s something strange about you, and I want to know what it is. Two days from now you’re going to meet me at the training grounds in the morning. For now, rest up. You’ve got all day tomorrow, and I have a feeling you’ll be getting a fair amount of female attention. I’m sure it would reassure them to see you recovering properly.”
Hi. Howdy. Hey. How’s it going? Welp. I didn’t mean to go a month and a half without posting anything. A thousand and one apologies to you all. I have nothing to post right now, but I am working on the story! I swear on my life, I have not abandoned my writing. I just let the time get away from me. It’s no excuse for the lack of writing, but it’s the god’s honest truth. I have to deliver the unfortunate news that it will be sometime before another chapter of the main story comes out, but I have a couple side chapters in the works. I am going on a trip early in August and that will prevent me from writing for a bit, but I should be back at it at the end of August.
Once again, sorry.
Science and Koeleth butt heads. A lot. Case in point, the Oathkeeper, Tom’s iconic stone longsword. The fact of the matter is stone swords just don’t work, sans crazy magic mumbo jumbo. And the Oathkeeper isn’t magical. It’s just a sword, made of stone. In fact, gemstones don’t work either, so the Earthstar has to go, too. Honestly, metal is the only suitable material for sword making known to man. Steel, in particular, is well suited for the task of sword making. Why, you might ask, is steel so much better than minerals? It’s very simple really: steel is flexible, durable and relatively easy to repair, while stone is rigid, brittle and near impossible to repair (especially by medieval standards). Gemstone is less brittle than stone, but not enough to compensate for the advantages that steel has. The most important quality that steel has over other materials (at least as far as I can deduce) is its flexibility. A rigid sword breaks because its brittle and can’t sustain repeated impacts. Stone doesn’t have that flex. All this said, I’m not completely trashing the Oathkeeper; it’s too intertwined into the story. Not, like, fate of the world rests on this blade crucial, but simply a constant presence in Tom’s arsenal. So, my alternative is as follows: I plan to rework the story of Earthgift such that instead of cutting their weapons from stone, they forge them using the heat of volcanic magma. This slightly alters the geography of Darwin’s Expanse, but whatevs. If you’re wondering how such a smith might endure the scalding heat of subterranean molten rock, the answer is simple: talcum based protective gear. See, I’ve decided that while no more sophisticated than most other societies of their time, the Urdvayne, who worship the Stone, have a particularly advanced understanding of geology, mineralogy, and metallurgy. In other words, they know how to make good swords and they have the materials needed to make them. So, the Oathkeeper still exists, just in a different form. This, of course, also means the Royal Oathkeeper, the Oathbreaker, and all other variations of the design must also change. But I’ll get more into that when they come up in the story. Anyways, that’s all for now, so keep your eyes peeled for new updates.
I’m sitting in my car right now as I update you folks. For because reasons, that’s why. Anyways, just wanted to let you all know I am still working on the chapter. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, what with having a forty hour work week between both my jobs and other commitments to attend to. Sorry for the delays but it may take even longer as I’m basically rewriting the chapter. I figured a better way to do what I wanted to do,but it requires me to rewrite the chapter from the very beginning, which is time consuming.
What is up, my cherished readers? I have a small request of you. Very small. It’s costs you nothing but a few seconds of your time. When I post content, I encourage you to comment on it. I want to know what you think, how my story is being recieved, and what can be improved. You are unlikely to affect the outcome of the story in anyway, but if you have some idea of how the writing or the flow of the story might be improved, I want to know. To that end, I have left my commentz section open. Thanks.
Remember awhile back when I made a post with terms and definitions? Well, this is part 2! Also I edited a term from the original post.
Classifying Koelth, Pt. 2
Sealer – Any creature, human or otherwise, who has been born with a natural resistance to magic. Whereas abominations suffer from an excess of magical influence, sealers lack the sorts of residual and vestigial magic that even normal humans have. Like abominations, sealers can vary greatly in their ability to affect magic. Due to the passive nature of most sealers’ abilities, they rarely learn of these powers. Universally used term.
Asperser – A paragon who turns renegade during the process of receiving their guardian’s blessing. This is the rarest form of magical blessing by far, and all records indicate that the only way this can happen is if one guardian intervenes in the ritual of another, one of the greatest taboos among the guardians. The intervening guardian presents an idea to the would-be paragon that they cannot resist, leading them to completely reject the blessing of their original guardian. As a result, the asperser receives two blessed artifacts: his original paragon artifact and a separate renegade artifact. Unlike a normal renegade, whose renegade weapon is simply a twisted version of their paragon weapon, the asperser’s paragon weapon retains its original power, and their renegade weapon has its own distinct power. Primarily Trialian term. Ex: Cecil
Grand Sealer – A sealer whose abilities allow them to combat paragon level magic. At this level of power, sealers are not simply resisting magic, but actively manipulating it. When fighting against a non-magical opponent, nothing is gained. When fighting against a powerful mage, however, what would be a weakness for others becomes a strength for the sealer. Primarily Trialian term.
S-Rank Hybrid Classifications
Note: It is not uncommon to have hybrids of previously mentioned classifications. However, they rarely receive any special recognition. When they reach S-Rank, however, it then becomes noteworthy. In the below cases, all aspects must be S-Rank. We are dealing with characters whose nature is no weaker than Grand Sealer, Slayer, Paragon, Iconoclast, World Eater or Archfiend. A slayer who is also blessed is only a paladin if they have paragon magic, for example. These classifications are rare enough (except maybe the paladin) that you will never see more than two or three introduced into a single story (probably). You will see two of them, for sure, in the River’s Tale, but you’ll get no more spoilers.
Paladin – A slayer blessed with paragon level magic. Many paragons, renegades and exemplar learn how to fight against other magic users due to their frequent encounters with them, but without their own magic, they find themselves lacking. The paladin has trained himself to take on mages even if he is deprived of his own magic. Societally, their respective roles as paragons or renegades remain unchanged, but when they are put to the test, their skills in physical combat give them an edge. Primarily Trialian term.
Archangel – An archfiend blessed with paragon level magic. For all their merits, paragons, renegades and exemplars are limited by a lack of diversity in magical ability. They have only the magic which they are blessed with. Much the same could be said of archfiends. Their abilities are vastly broadened if they have two magical talents instead of one. Thus, archangels have a keen edge in battle. Most archangels, rare as they are, are exemplars, as the guardians’ sense of balance typically precludes archfiends from being paragons proper, and, as a result, they are rarely renegades. Primarily Trialian term.
Soul Bender – A grand sealer blessed with paragon level magic. Grand sealers are dangerous on their own, but gifted with paragon level magic they become a force to be reckoned with. Capable of manipulating the magic of others and commanding powerful spells of their own, it is not hard to see how legends arose claiming that soul benders could affect souls themselves. Most soul benders, rare as they are, are exemplars, as the guardians’ sense of balance typically precludes grand sealers from being paragons proper, and, as a result, they are rarely renegades. Primarily Trialian term.
Demi-Soul – An iconoclast blessed with paragon level magic. Demi-souls have twice the magical power of paragons, but are no more susceptible to magical burnout than a regular paragon. Normally, demi-souls are created unintentionally, as some forms of apostate magic can be shielded from the guardians. Naturally, if the guardian cannot tell that an individual is magical, they would have no trouble further blessing them. Often reluctant to be chained to a master, there is a disproportionately high number of demi-soul exemplars who go renegade. Primarily Trialian term.
Resonator – A world eater tether blessed with paragon level magic. Unlike other such combinations, resonators typically become paragons before becoming world eaters. Earthbound guardians are not beholden to the same laws and customs as the ascendant guardians, and as such care little whether or not a human is already blessed. Depending on the circumstances, such a bonding can force a paragon to go renegade. However, several outside factors play into this. Primarily Trialian term.
Dual Soul – A paragon blessed by two guardians. If one person represents the values of two guardians equally, he may find find himself blessed by both. Once a rare but real thing, it is now one of the greatest taboos among the guardians. Primarily Trialian term.
Fiend Hunter – An archfiend with slayer training. Oftentimes an archfiend finds itself the target of paragons, exemplars, slayers and even other abominations. Thus, when facing mages and those trained to fight mages, it is useful to have non-magical skills with which you can defeat them. Primarily Trialian term.
Soul Breaker – A grand sealer with slayer training. Grand sealers are dangerous on their own, but trained in the arts of slaying they become a force to be reckoned with. Being virtually immune to magic, they are the ultimate anti-mage weapon. Even an asperser would do well to steer clear of a soul breaker. Primarily Trialian term.
Dark Paladin – An iconoclast with slayer training. Many iconoclasts learn how to fight against other magic users due to their frequent encounters with them, but without their own magic, they find themselves lacking. The dark paladin has trained himself to take on mages even if he is deprived of his own magic. Primarily Trialian term.
World Stalker – A world eater tether with slayer training. Often world eater tethers will learn slayer arts to be able to defend themselves against the various magical foes they face and, on rare occasions, their own familiar. Between the familiar’s power and the tether’s skill, the world stalkers are nearly unstoppable when they set their minds to a task. Primarily Trialian term.
Fallen Angel – An iconoclast born as an archfiend. It is hard to determine whether a fallen angel’s powers come more from their iconoclastic magic or from their archfiend magic, as both emerge at a young age. However, they channel each variety of magic through different methods. Because of their natural magic affinity, archfiends make for very dangerous iconoclasts. Due to the methods by which most apostates are made, both aspects of a fallen angel’s magic work well together. Primarily Trialian term.
Fiend Eater – A world eater tether born as an archfiend. It is hard to say what might give rise to such a pairing, but it is undoubtedly a formidable one. The tether and the familiar play off of one another’s magic so well that it would be foolish to cross them without being prepared. Primarily Trialian term.
Soul Cleanser – An iconoclast born as a grand sealer. Few examples of this combination are known. The effects of forcing magic through the body of a sealer of any degree seem to be erratic and unpredictable. Sometimes it results in an artificial abomination, because the body cannot properly absorb the magic; other times it produces relatively normal humans, with the added magic simply filling the gap left by the victim’s anomalous nature. In rare cases, the victim’s nature and their magical weapon remain separate but intact, making for a powerful combination. In either the first or the last case, a grand sealer who achieves iconoclastic magic can be quite the potent anti-mage. Primarily Trialian term.
Soul Eater – A world eater tether born as a grand sealer. Though no harm is intended, this pairing can be dangerous for the familiar, as the sealer’s abilities will sometimes drain the familiar’s magic, causing harm. Why an earthbound guardian would endure such a punishment willingly is unclear, though some suspect that they are trapped by the sealer’s magic. Either way, this unlikely combination proves quite useful, with both parties being able to manipulate and shape magic skillfully. Primarily Trialian term.
Disruptor – A world eater blessed with iconoclast magic. Unlike other such combinations, disruptors almost exclusively become iconoclasts before becoming world eaters. Earthbound guardians, while far more in tune with magic than any human, sometimes struggle to detect iconoclast magic, and therefore would likely bond with one unintentionally. However, the knowledge of their tether’s magic would also have little bearing on the guardian’s decision to become a familiar. Primarily Trialian term.
The Elephant in the Room and Final Notes
No doubt you have noticed something missing from the above list. There is one combination I haven’t accounted for. Well, there is a simple reason for that: sealers and abominations, by their very nature, exclude each other from coexisting. Sealers lack normal levels of magic, and abominations possess greater than normal levels of magic. If you had a person who was born as a sealer and an abomination, what you would probably see as the result is a normal human. There is no exception to this rule thus far, and there likely never will be. As it is, the chances of encountering more than one of each type of hybrid character are extremely low. World eater and slayer combinations are by far the most likely. Slayers are the product of training which anyone could theoretically learn, while world eaters are the result of a magical entity taking a shine to a particular person. Iconoclast and grand sealer combinations are the least likely. Sealers are rare, with only a handful existing in a single generation in Trialias, and there might only be two or three grand sealers among them. Due to the taboo nature of apostate creation, the actual number of apostates in the world is believed to be low; however, occasionally, when a successful method is discovered, there is a spike in the number of known apostates. Iconoclasts are rarely immediately noticed; often the magic increases in power as the child cursed with it grows into maturity, much like an abomination. Somewhere in the middle you find paragon types and abominations. Abominations are not terribly uncommon, but archfiends are exceptionally rare. Since all three major Trialian nations have a negative view of abominations, there are several organizations that hunt them. Fiend hunters, therefore, are more common than archfiends without slayer training. There is a set number of paragons each generation due to the fact that each guardian may pick one and only one paragon, with rare exceptions. However, there is always a predictable but varying number of renegades and exemplars. When a paragon turns renegade, oftentimes a guardian with have an exemplar on hand to replace them. Due to the inevitable conflict between paragons and renegades, and even between paragons and rival paragons, many fighters on both sides learn slayer magic to counteract their foes’ magic, thus paladins are common.
Turns out my editor was having the same problems with my chapter as I was, so it’s going through even further refining as we speak. A thousand apologies. Hopefully the end product will justify the wait to some extent. Anyways, that’s where I’ve been. In case I haven’t mentioned this, I also expect to be getting a substantial increase in work hours, so my schedule going forward is…chaotic. I still plan on giving all the other posts I promised, it just may take some time.
This is not the special thing I was planning. This is something I thought about very recently. And so I wrote it.
A Hero Fallen, A Hero Risen
“What happened to you!?” Tom rebuked, his unbridled wrath shooting daggers at the old man. “You were a hero! You were a defender of the innocent, a guardian of truth!”
The man gave no response, coldly staring down his younger adversary. His eyes were dead as the bearskin he wore over his shoulders; blood painted his finely crafted chainmail. The old warrior raised his axe and readied his shield; he would end this young upstart.
“What happened to the great and mighty Willamar Icerender!?” Tom spat, unfazed by his foe’s lethal intent. “You, a hero among heroes, a Koeling of the highest regard, have been reduced to a vile and repugnant fiend! When the paragon of Warrdu took innocent lives in Barren Reach simply for the crime of being poor, you fought him to the death, slaying him with your bare hands!”
The disgraced hero ignored Tom, adopting an aggressive stance. He was going to achieve greatness, and he would not let any ignorant child impede his progress. Tom was steadfast, however, and refused to budge.
“When the Bear of Itrelia threatened the town of Grave Hollow, you battled until neither of you could even move, let alone fight. It was out of sheer respect that the Bear abandoned his quest of destruction!”
Willamar charged forward, his axe powerfully swinging at Tom’s exposed neck. It was with astounding speed and reflex that Tom deflected the blow. Willamar was just as adept at blocking Tom’s counterattack, however. Tom’s recounting of his history never ceased, however.
“When the Cult of the Lost sent their forces against the western border, you lead a charge to drive them back!”
Against a lightly armored opponent, someone as skilled and strong as Willamar would normally wipe the floor with him, but Tom outmaneuvered him at every turn. Tom never broke eye contact, and Willamar began to feel the weight of his judgement.
“You’ve saved countless lives! How many hundreds of children are alive today because of your valor? How many innocent peasants thrive thanks to your sacrifice? And yet you have fallen!”
For a brief moment, the old warrior hesitated. His opponent did not take advantage of this opening, a kindness he had not seen in many a year.
“How did you get here?” the younger man continued. “You’ve become a monster! You’ve slain farmers! You’ve devastated small villages!”
“No…” Willamar protested, denying his sins.
“You were once a hero to children, and now you are the thing of their nightmares! What happened to the man beloved by the masses?”
“Stop!” he said, his voice a pained growl.
“They call you ‘Calamity’ now! But you used to go by a different name! They used to call you ‘Lightbringer.'”
“Lightbringer died fourteen years ago! I am Calamity now!” Willamar screamed, but the will to fight was quickly leaving him.
“I never much cared for titles myself,” Tom continued, his tone more compassionate and less judgemental. “The only title I need is my name; it tells me exactly who I am. But you embraced Calamity like a mother embracing her child. You took it on, as if you were bestowed with a high honor that needed upholding.”
Willamar fell to the ground, his spirit all but broken. Tom stood above him, sympathetic but on guard.
“It was never meant to be this way,” Willamar bemoaned. “The first one was a mistake. I was mislead. They told me that the village was haven to a group of rebels. I was convinced they harbored ill intent and that the whole village was rotten. I…tried to spare the children, but, by then, my ‘reinforcements’ had arrived. Oh guardians, the bloodshed. When I learned the truth, I couldn’t live with myself. It..broke me. Nothing I can say can undo what I have done, and I fear my hands are too bloody to be redeemed. I don’t know that I can stop myself now. You must end me.”
“You were a childhood hero of mine; that’s something hard to forget. Nor am I a man without guilt,” Tom pondered. “But even I have to admit that you may be beyond saving. I think there is a chance to heal, though. A wholly wicked man doesn’t feel the weight of his sins, nor does he wish to rectify them. So, how do we fix this?”
“We cannot. You must end me. But before that, I have a request. You must prevent another tragedy from occurring. I agreed to meet a certain mercenary captain and fulfill a rather wicked contract. If I were to go, I could not resist the reward, but you have no steak in this game. Kill him. End it before things escalate. I know your reputation as the Merciful Mercenary, but you must do this.”
“You know who I am? I don’t recall introducing myself.”
“Vincent told me of you. Thomas Riversedge is not a foreign name to my ears. Vincent…warned me that you were coming.”
“Why would Vincent do that?”
“He was a friend once.”
“…Must I kill you?”
“I see no other way, do you?”
“You know, there was one little girl I managed to save from that village. She gave me a simple bracelet, crude and amateur, but it is my most treasured possession. She’s a young woman by now, about twenty, I imagine. She had the curliest brown hair and the brightest hazel eyes. I know it is unlikely, but if you cross paths with her, please give her the bracelet and my sincerest apologies.”
“Alright, that much I can do.”