[Story] Story a Week 52 – The End

[[ Prompt: A story titled “The End”.

I have seen prompts before that asked you to write the death of a character. I guess this is basically that, but larger in scope, it’s a vision of the Legion invading the Ghostlands. But don’t worry, as all Bronze dragons know, it’s only a possible outcome! ]]

The first streaks of dawn stretched over the Ghostlands sky, illuminating the wintry landscape below. A cold rain had frozen overnight, sheathing the branches and fences in a layer of ice. Renzdormu shivered, eager to finish his morning patrol and return to his cozy bed. There would be cake or muffins by the time he was back, and tea and chocolate. He occupied himself with wondering what sort of muffins they would be — manaberry, perhaps — as he glided low over the forest. As he crested the final ridge that led out to the ocean, something caught his eye, stark and jagged among the ashes of the scar.

It was a portal, a large one. As Renner watched, fel energy crackled over it, the surface churning like a stormy sea. His first thought was to try to break it, but he knew the structure was too strong — it was some sort of reinforced metal and likely had wards as well. He swung around and flew straight back to the school, beating his wings to carry him faster. Hethurin had to know, so he could prepare the portals to get everyone to safety.

Renner landed in the garden, shifting hastily into his elven form as he did so, jogging into the entry room. Hethurin wouldn’t be up this early, but he could ask Tik to rouse him. But surprisingly, he was, already speaking with the death knights. “There’s a–” Renner interrupted. Whatever they were talking about couldn’t be as important as this.

“Portal,” said Salenicus. “It appeared last night.”

So they did know. “It looks to be opening,” Renner said. “You must start the portals,” he said to Hethurin. “I’m going to find Zayel and see if she can help me close it.”

Hethurin was already making his way down the hall, knocking on doors to wake the students. Renner could hear confused and sleepy voices behind the doors, asking what was going on. Once outside, he made the flight over to the healing clinic in town, where Zayel would already be seeing to patients or making up beds for the day. Isandri looked up as he arrived, surprised. “Get to the school,” he said. “A portal is opening. Zayel, come with me.”

Zayel’s eyes grew wide, but she followed Renner outside. “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Very sure,” Renner said, looking south to where he’d seen the portal. The rangers! He’d forgotten they were here in the forest too, and first in the path of anything that might come out of that portal. “It’s this way,” he said, shifting back into his dragon shape, his great wings lifting him into the sky. His eyes scanned the forest below as he flew, searching for any demons. Maybe there was still time to close it before anything came out. He heard Zayel gasp, and he looked to her.

“Look,” she said, as the surface of the portal alit with vivid green flame. The spiraling surface seemed to pull apart, and a teeming swarm of imps poured forth from it. Renner couldn’t even begin to count how many there were; they were countless, like a hive of bees or ants. They ran over the ground, leaving it charred with flickering fel flames behind them, moving north up the scar — and toward the school. Renner had fought imps before. Even this many shouldn’t pose much danger.

“Is there any way you can close that?” he asked, turning to Zayel. She stared intently at the portal for a few long moments, and shook her head.

“It’s too strong,” she said. “There’s something very powerful keeping it open.”

Likely something much bigger than imps, even a swarm of them. “Go up to the school,” Renner said. “Hethurin will need help making the portals. If you could keep the demons out–”

Zayel nodded. “I can keep a ward up long enough for that, I think.” She looped around, heading north toward the school. “Be careful, Renner,” she said.

It wasn’t a matter of being careful, it was a matter of buying Hethurin and the others enough time to get to safety. The thought of the school — his school — being over-run by demons was unacceptable to Renner. The students, so eager and innocent, couldn’t be harmed either. He would not allow it. The bronze dragon landed squarely in the middle of the imp swarm, hoping to break their march. He snapped with his jaws, swung his tail, and swiped with his paws at any imp within reach. He could hear their pained shrieks, feel their bones crunch between his teeth. They jumped and crawled onto his back, their needle-sharp claws scrabbling to hold on. He could feel the fel fire burning into his scales, but he ignored it. There would be time to heal later.

The imps, seeing their kindred dying, finally scattered. They darted off into the forest in different directions. They were still out there, but they were far less dangerous alone. Renner looked back to the portal, and groaned. More demons were coming, and bigger ones. He recognized the mana-eating hounds, the long, tall inquisitors and the strange one-eyed orbs. They did not look at him as they emerged, rather they continued their march north. They had orders, Renner realized. Someone was in charge of this invasion. The demons were not simply roaming where they wished. It was even more important to stop their advance. But without the leader, it would no doubt continue. Where was he?

He would have a better view from the air. Though he ached from the fel burns, Renner spread his wings and flew up over the forest, searching. Even from afar, he could see a bright blue glowing barrier surrounding the school. He hoped it would hold against so many demons. Something whizzed past Renner’s head, and he drew back in alarm. A second later, the ground below shook with the impact, a smoldering crater of green fire. Infernals! Renner looked up, searching for more. If he could prevent them from hitting the barrier, that would help. He darted underneath the falling boulders, shoving them out of the way. It hurt, much worse than the imps had hurt, but if one of them got through the barrier — he didn’t want to imagine it. The forest below had caught on fire, the trees crackling with vivid green flames as the infernals pushed their way through. They were huge, their rocky heads towering over the tops of the trees. And more were coming.

A battalion of demons, each armed with two long swords, advanced along the scar. Each was huge, its hoofbeats causing the ground to tremble with each step. The portal yawned once more and Renner saw the general emerge — at least, he was certain it had to be the general. A monstrous pit lord, its massive body too large to fly, stepped out and surveyed the forest. Renner circled back around the portal, studying his prey. As long as he could stay in the air, he would have the advantage. It was surely weak around its head and especially the eyes, though its head was covered with spikes, and a pair of long curving tusks. He would have to stay away from those. But unless the head was stopped, the demons’ invasion would press on. If nothing else, he had to buy Hethurin enough time to make the portals.

Renner swooped down, clawing at the pit lord’s head. He didn’t seem to even scratch the thick, scaly skin, but the pit lord certainly noticed his presence. He bellowed and swatted at the dragon, but he darted away quickly.

“Captains!” the pit lord bellowed. “Remove that dragon.”

The eight demons with the long swords paused in their advance and turned around to look. Renner ascended up, out of their reach. Though they were more agile than the pit lord, they were still very large and couldn’t move as quickly as he could. And their swords only reached so far. Renner was careful to stay just out of range. Maybe he could draw them back toward the ocean, away from the school. But he could see the other waves of demons, continuing to walk north, ignoring his presence. They had their orders, and they would follow them.

One of the sword demons lunged toward Renner, swinging wildly. He ducked under and around them, flying up when he needed to pause for breath. The burns from the imps still stung, and he could feel the impact of the infernals — that would surely bruise later. He hoped Zayel knew how to treat dragon injuries as well as elf. Below him, the demons appeared to consult with themselves. He supposed it was a good thing that they weren’t more competent. The entire forest would have been burnt down by–

A bolt of fel fire caught Renner off-guard, causing him to stagger off-balance and flap wildly to regain his position. It had come from one of the long, thin inquisitors, and others gathered behind it, their hands glowing with magic. The fire had burned a hole in the leather of one of his wings, and the pain was almost unbearable. But he had to stay in the air. If he landed, he would be dead.

“Again!” ordered the pit lord. “Bring it down!”

The inquisitors’ hands alit with flame, and magic was much more difficult to dodge than slow swords. And his right wing already hurt terribly. Renner flew south toward the ocean, trying to draw them away from the school. He could hear the heavy hoofsteps of the sword demons following behind him. That was good. Another bolt of fire seared over his back and he shuddered in pain. It was enough for one of the swords to catch him, and Renner went tumbling head over tail into the brush. As his vision went dark, he saw the barrier over the school dissolve.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Sorelle’s Diary

Orledin kept his word and brought some bread to the school. Usually Terellion makes it, but I have to agree that Orledin’s looks really good. I can’t say whether it tastes better or not because I haven’t tasted either of them. He also brought the other death knight along with him. Orledin just sort of left him in the common room and disappeared into the kitchen with all the bread. He was in there a really long time, I suppose he was talking to Terellion and Tik about cooking or something. I thought he wanted to talk to me but I guess not.

The other death knight was okay though. He’s not as cute as Terellion, but he’s okay. He was worried about sitting on the furniture because he’d been outside. I told him it was fine. People come in with way more dirt than him all the time, usually Xarola and Vyn after they went for a walk, and the other rangers come here sometimes too. As long as you don’t put your muddy boots on the couch or something, but he didn’t do that. That would make Tik upset, although he was still in the kitchen. We talked a little bit. He asked about what I’m studying and where I’m from. I explained that I wanted to work on my arcane and frost magic more so I can take my final exam, and that I’m from Dalaran. He didn’t ask which Dalaran I meant, which is good I guess. I don’t really like talking about that anyway. He wondered if death knight frost magic is anything like mage frost magic, I don’t know but I said he could maybe talk to Raleth about it, or Keyalenn. So he’s going to come back to do that. I would think it’s not the same, because death knights don’t get magical training that I know of, but maybe they can learn something from him.

I did ask what he did before, and he said he helped find lost death knights. I thought that was strange, like how do you lose them? I thought they were all under control, though I suppose they aren’t now. Or what if they just become too broken to fight anymore? I know it happens to Forsaken eventually. It must happen to them too. I told him I meant when he was alive, and he said he worked on the docks, I guess that means unloading them and such since he said he didn’t sail on them. He said there were humans and dwarves there but he didn’t say anything about either of them. He spoke common though, which is good. He said that he and Orledin went through demon portals to fight them. That would mean they were in the Nether, which is really dangerous. He said he didn’t know if it was, but where else would demon portals be coming from? Unless they were opened by someone who isn’t a demon, that’s the only possibility. Back when I had to study in that awful place, I learned way more about demons than I ever wanted to. He also said that he and Orledin killed dreadlords, except that he did all of it because Orledin wasn’t very good at fighting. I don’t know if he was exaggerating or not, it sure sounds like it because from what I know about them they are very large and dangerous. I’ve never even seen one myself but like I said, I know about them from books and my teachers. He said they killed a lot of them, not all at once but one after the other. Why would he exaggerate though? Unless he was trying to show off, but I can’t tell if he was or not.

I explained how I usually practice later in the night when the others are in bed. For one, it’s more private so if I mess up it’s less embarrassing, and for two it gives me something to do at night. It gets really boring sitting in my room alone so I usually use that time to study, or read. I borrow books from the other girls sometimes, though I’ve read most of them by now. Sometimes I sew, but in the winter it’s a bit dark for that and I don’t want the lights to keep anyone else awake. The death knight seemed interested in the library here, there are some history and adventure books that he’d probably like. I don’t think he’d like the girls’ books very much. Honestly, they are silly but I guess I like them because it’s the closest I’ll get to anything like that now.

[Art] Merry Christmas!

Renner and Zayel are getting in the holiday spirit!

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[Screenshots] SWTOR 5th Anniversary Collage

A while back they asked for people to send in screenshots of their character for a giant collage, the other day it was posted!

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Obviously I had to find Kazta. She’s actually really close to the top, just above the “Old Republic” part of the logo, under the “R” in “Wars”. It’s cool seeing everyone’s characters and what they chose for their screenshot!

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[Story] Story a Week 51

[[ Prompt: A story set at Christmas

This is actually a re-working of a story I wrote when I was uhh like 12? I know it’s kind of similar to Toy Story but I swear I thought of it before that. The main difference is in the original, the conflict was between Bears and Not Bears, instead of Animals vs. Electronic Toys. ]]

Caesar watched the snowflakes flutter by on the cold winter breeze. “Call the animals for a meeting,” he announced, when the doors were locked and all the lights shut off. Excitement buzzed among the shelves; those who had been here for some time knew what time of the year it was, the newer animals were filled with restless curiosity. They gathered, as they always did, on the rug in the play area, as it was large enough to hold all the animals. Some balanced on the cardboard blocks, while others perched on the wooden train table. Caesar took his place in the center of the brightly-colored rug and addressed the gathering.

“Animals,” he announced. “It is nearly Christmas. Some of you may not know what that means.” Caesar was not only the largest, but by far the oldest of the animals in the shop. He was Not For Sale, and had stood in the shop’s window since shortly after its opening, more than twenty years ago. He was from Germany, and very expensive. He knew a lot about almost everything, and all of the animals looked to him as their leader.

A murmur of excitement went through the gathered animals. “Christmas,” Caesar continued, “Is a time when all children receive gifts. It is your very best chance to have a home. Thus it is vital in these coming weeks that we all do our share to ensure that as many of us are bought as possible. Keep your ribbons straight, your fur unmussed, no dirt or stains–”

A sharp clatter emitted from behind the animals, and they all turned around to look. It was one of the electronic toys, an imposing dinosaur robot. Every surface of him was hard and metallic, his eyes small red points of light. Though it wasn’t the name on his box, the humans usually called him Rex. “Hah!” he scoffed, stomping toward the animals. Each step clattered the floor and sent a shiver through them. “You’re antique. Out-dated. Nobody wants stuffed animals.”

Caesar frowned, drawing his head up proudly. “On the contrary,” he said. “You are the one who will be out-dated. Next year there will be a new electronic toy that everyone wants. Animals are timeless, enduring, classic. We are the  best friends of children, their comfort and confidants. We keep them safe at night.”

Rex sneered, showing his rows of jagged metallic teeth. “Sounds boring! I’d rather stomp and knock things over! And so would they!”

The tip of Caesar’s tail twitched, irritated. “Now look here, you weren’t invited to–”

“Yeah?” Rex demanded, drawing higher onto his hind legs. “This is our store too! Look around, old man. How many shelves do you dusty old animals have?”

It was true. In the past, there had been an entire wall of animals, eagerly waiting for children to take them home. Then, as demands changed, they had given up their shelves to new kinds of toys. Now they occupied only one section, on the back wall of the store, under the words “Animal Friends” painted on the wall.

“It isn’t about how many we are,” Caesar said, shaking his head. “But how loved. What will become of you if a piece falls off? Or your batteries run out? How much do you think your child will love you then?”

Rex pointed one of his gleaming metallic claws right into Caesar’s muzzle. “I think you’re scared. You know what’s coming, but you can’t stop it. We’re the future. You’re nothing but an antique, meant for a box in the attic. Let’s see who gets bought and who doesn’t. Then we’ll know for sure.”

Just as Caesar had said, more and more people came into the store in those next few weeks. Tinsel and garlands were hung around the store, and a snow scene painted onto the window. Cheerful music played while the store was open, but even so, the animals watched anxiously as more and more of the new electric toys were sold. Robot dinosaurs, skittering mechanical insects, miniature flying machines, and chirping electric birds were set up on the counter and disappeared into boxes, to be wrapped up and put under a Christmas tree. Now and then an animal would be picked up, but often they would be put back down again.

Sooty was a black bear who had lived in the store for almost a year. He worried that he might be there forever. “We should do something,” he urged Caesar one night. Outside, the snow glittered in the glow of the street lamp.

“What do you propose?” asked Caesar.

“Sabotage,” said Sooty, his voice low.

Caesar said nothing, but blinked slowly and looked back out into the night. That wasn’t a no.

Sooty snuck over to the electric toy section. Everything looked so harsh and unfriendly, made of metal or hard plastic. But in this case, that was good. Sooty pulled himself up onto the shelf and crept behind the boxes on the shelves. One good shove, and an electric toy went clattering onto the hard tile floor. They beeped and whirred in anger, and Sooty escaped back to Animal Friends. The next morning, the workers picked up the broken pieces on the floor and gathered them back into the box. A broken toy couldn’t be sold, not even On Sale.

But if Sooty believed the electric toys would simply accept this outrage, he was wrong. Two nights later, a squad of robots found one of the animals alone, and their sharp edges tore a hole in his seam. Again the workers didn’t know how an animal had been damaged — perhaps an over-eager child in the store — but he could no longer be sold. He went into the trash bin with the broken electric toy.

It was only three days until Christmas. The shop bustled with last-minute shoppers looking for the perfect toy for their child or niece or nephew. It seemed that every time Sooty or the other animals looked, Rex was grinning triumphantly. Maybe he was right. Maybe no one did want animals anymore. Sooty was surprised by a woman picking him up. She smoothed his fur and read his tag. He felt his heart race — people only looked at your tag if they were thinking about buying you.

“What do you think, honey?” She lifted Sooty, showing him to the man next to her. He was wearing a fuzzy scarf.

“Every kid needs a teddy bear,” the man said, with a smile. He took Sooty carefully and held him in his arms as they looked around the store. Was it really happening! If a person carried you, it was almost guaranteed they would buy you. Not always, of course. But the chances were good, especially if it was a grown-up who carried you. The couple walked over to the electric toy section. Sooty was forced to look at that smug look on Rex’s face again.

“This is cool,” said the man, picking up a miniature helicopter. No! Sooty thought. If the man picked up the electric toy, surely he would put Sooty down. But he didn’t. He took both of them up to the counter. Sooty and the helicopter looked at each other doubtfully. But sure enough, both of them were wrapped in tissue and put into a shopping bag. Sooty heard the shop door jingle as they walked out, felt the cold wind blowing outside.

The man and woman drove home. Sooty watched as the helicopter was put into its box and wrapped up in colorful paper. The woman tied a beautiful ribbon around Sooty’s next, and set him beneath the Christmas tree.

“Can you hear me?” asked Sooty, once everyone had gone to bed.

“Yes,” said the helicopter. “Just barely.”

Sooty looked up at the Christmas tree. Tiny lights sparkled all through its branches, the tinsel and ornaments reflecting their glow. It was probably the most beautiful thing Sooty had ever seen.

“They liked both of us,” Sooty said, thoughtfully.

“They did.”

“Maybe Rex was wrong. Maybe Caesar was too.”

“Hmm?” said the helicopter, inside his box.

“Maybe it’s not either or. Maybe there’s a place for all of us.”

The helicopter was quiet for a while before it answered. “I like that idea,” it said.

Sooty smiled, and nestled down among the presents to wait for Christmas morning.

[Screenshots] Fangs of the Father

Harrier finally finished collecting his 60 gem clusters (it went faster once he got his artifact weapon and could do 25 instead of 10-man), so I begged a friend for help with spine and finished the quest today.

See what a good rogue he is? You can’t see him at all!

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[Story] Story a Week 50

[[ Prompt: A creation myth ]]

Harvian didn’t explain anything, not at first. He insisted on walking on his own, despite his injuries, and Tamazi had no choice but to allow him. It was not until they had put the village several miles behind them, and the Huntress’s eye opened in the sky, that he finally spoke.

“What do you know about dragons?” Harvian asked.

Tamazi frowned, puzzled. “Not very much. Aren’t they all gone?” She had never seen one, nor known anyone who had. The only dragon she knew of was the one from the tale she’d told Harvian before, but that had happened many generations ago.

Harvian clicked his teeth and sighed. “No, I guess you wouldn’t.” He glanced around and pointed to a small stand of trees across the path. “We can rest there for the night.”

Though they had no food to cook, Harvian started a fire for light and warmth. Tamazi was relieved to see him do this magically; perhaps whatever damage the dark creature had done was only temporary and going away. But she did not ask about that now, she was more curious about the dragons. “What about the dragons?” she insisted, after they had settled down in front of the fire.

“It’s best I start at the beginning,” Harvian said. Tamazi turned her ears forward curiously. “A very long time ago, before any of us can remember, the world was empty. No birds flew in the sky, no fish swam in the seas, and no animal walked upon the ground. There was only the sky, the sea, and the rock. They decided there should be a caretaker, a keeper for the world, and they set out to make one. The body was formed out of rock, the sea brought it to life, and the sky lifted it into the air. The child was called Mahra, and she was the first dragon.

She was at home on the rock, in the sea, or in the sky. She kept watch over the world and guarded it from danger. But in time she grew older, and she yearned for children of her own. She mated with the sky, and she tended her nest as gently and carefully as any mother could. From that egg hatched Aurilahn, his scales a brilliant glowing gold. He basked in his mother’s warmth and love, and she placed him in the sky that she might see him every day. Though she was happy with her child, Mahra saw that the world was empty and lonely. She raised another nest with the sky, this time there were three eggs: Burakhar, Lakahari, and Miralana. Burakhar was wild and swift, stirring the sky into fluffy clouds and rainstorms. Wherever the rain fell, plants began to grow and cover the rock. Lakahari was a shy and secretive child, always hiding and playing tricks on others. She went to live at the very edge of the world, where the mists could hide her. Miralana, her scales a shining silver, was delicate and wise. Mahra placed her in the sky beside her brother, but they were both so large that they had to take turns — one flew at night and one in the daytime.”

Here Tamazi made a face, but she didn’t interrupt.

“The world began to feel full and alive, but Mahra knew she was not yet finished. She mated with the sea, and raised another nest of three: Ellikhova, Karmiaki, and Tuhlmanna. Ellikhova took to the sea immediately, splashing and creating the waves and tides. When he went to visit his mother on the rock, he left scratches in the rock that became the streams and rivers. Karmiaki was blessed with very good luck and a love of all things beautiful, and Mahra chose her to give her riches to those most deserving. Tuhlmanna loved the plants that grew on the rock, and tended to them — she could heal them when they were ill and help them grow fuller and stronger.

Mahra looked over the world and was very pleased with it, but still no creatures ran upon the rock, or swam in the sea, or flew in the sky. She gathered from the plants — twigs, leaves, flowers, and moss. She took them to the sea and built them into creatures, using sand to hold them together and the water to bring them to life. She made them in different shapes, using different plants. Some were soft, made from moss, while others were spiny and made from twigs. Some were beautiful, adorned in flowers, while others were rough like mud. Mahra breathed gently upon the creatures, and they began to stir. They began to walk out into the world on their own. Some went into the sea, others into the forests, and others flew away into the sky.

But now Mahra was old, and she wanted to finish making the world before she died. She had one final clutch of eggs with the rock: Tahkarith, Ramador, and Nahrinah. Tahkarith was rough and fiery, and Mahra set him on the highest rocks, where he chewed and dug them into mountains. Ramador was proud, strong, and dangerous. He taught the animals to fight and defend the world from danger. Mahra’s last child, Nahrinah, was very strange. Peaceful yet strong, and most of all very wise, she was chosen to tend to the animals after they had died.

The world was no longer empty, but full of life, and everything was as it should be. Mahra told her children to guard and keep the world well when she was gone. Ancient and tired, she lay down upon the rock and died. Her blood ran into the rivers, and those animals that drank of it gained some small part of her wisdom. They became wise, and able to use weapons, and stand on two legs. Most important, they were able to speak with Mahra’s children, the keepers of the world.”

Tamazi waited until Harvian was finished before she spoke. “So those children were dragons?” she asked. It still didn’t make any sense to her.

“No. Not as we know them. The dragons are their chosen, to speak for them here.”

“That still doesn’t make sense,” said Tamazi.

“There is only one dragon for each god,” said Harvian. “They choose him, or her. They gain some of their power. Well, normally there’s one. Miralana’s died some time ago.”

“Then how do they choose them?”

Harvian grinned, his teeth shining brightly in the darkness. “That’s the mystery. No one knows exactly. There have been scholars that study it who have an idea, but they don’t know for sure. They believe that a drake is chosen and undergoes a physical change.”

“Like that one in the swamp,” said Tamazi. “Is he going to turn into a dragon?”

“I hope not. But yes, one of those. As far as anyone knows, it hasn’t happened yet. The Temple of the Moon stands empty.”

Tamazi looked at Harvian intently. “That’s the place you want to go.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“That’s… complicated,” said Harvian. “It’s already late. We should rest while we can.”

Tamazi frowned. Why would he not answer? But it’s true, she was exhausted from the ordeal and the village and from the journey. Her injuries still ached, but not nearly so much as they had. The moment she lay her head down, she felt herself drifting away to sleep.