Monday, August 19, 2019

153 - "You Must be Mad” - Shylai’a - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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Shylai’a (shih-LIE-uh) sat in the city square of a neighborhood in the city’s InnerWall quarter. She took a deep breath. She forcefully folded her tense arms with her fingers in fists. She crossed a leg over her knee in an attempt to appear casual, unaffected, but her clenched jaw and bouncing foot belied her real feelings.

A momentary breeze in the hot summer air rustled the leaves in the tree above her but did little to cool her mood. They need City Guards! Ever since the attack, they’ve needed more soldiers in the ranks! They’re actively recruiting skilled fighters instead of just pressing peasants like they usually do! So, why don’t they want me?

She snapped her head back and forth as uninterested people walked the street before her. Some stopped to shop or haggle with street vendors, while others just walked on.

She unfolded her arms and tried to forcibly calm them by rubbing her hands across her skirt of heavy banded leather. Part clothing, part armor, the long, thick slats of hardened leather hung from under her sword belt, and fell draped on either side of her leg, which still had the protection and coverage of heavy cloth underneath. She crossed her arms again, over the coarse blue tunic. I’m as skilled as any swordsman they’ve got! I can guard the city as well as any man. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to join!

But when she had stepped into the recruiting line, the captain had pulled her out and told her to “go home and play house.” When she’d argued that the city had been attacked and needed more defenders, he had shown her the short line of young men signing up and said, “And here they are! Just pick one and marry him!” The men had all laughed. Some had whistled and yelled, “Marry me, sweetheart!”

Shylai’a swore and stood up with her fists clenched. She stood still, tense, as if looking for something to kick or punch. Marry them? They’re all weak and scrawny mama’s boys! I could’ve taken any one of them in a fight! Finally she just grunted and started walking.

As she paced around the perimeter of the square, she noticed a group of people gathered in a clump. They all seemed to be focused on something in the middle of their circle. They were laughing and shouting, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Some street rat must be doing a funny dance. They’d better all watch their purses.

Shylai’a strode past them, shaking her head.

“...Great doom is coming! Doom!” an old man’s voice croaked out. “Doom shall befall this city with long dark wings and shiny teeth!”

“That happened last month, you old fool!”

“He’s not much of a prophet. He can only say what’s already happened!” The crowd laughed at their taunts. Some began to disperse. Between the bystanders, she caught a glimpse of an older man, standing up on a bench, wearing a dirty gray tunic over his hunched shoulders. He waved a gnarled wooden cane in the air. He was not tall and the sides of his head had long, stringy white hair over his ears and surrounding a sweaty bald spot.

“Snakes creep through the streets. Little ones. BIG ONES! You all must repent! You must find kindness! The Creator decrees it! If the people will abandon their secrecy and their darkness and their hatred and their hiding eyes, the flowers will yet bloom in this city!”

“There are already flowers here!”

“Yeah, it’s summer!”

The old man laughed. “Yes! The flowers will come! Joy will follow! Children will dance!” He jumped from the bench and began to shuffle his feet to imaginary music, holding his cane before him.

The bystanders, suddenly weary of their afternoon’s entertainment, began to go their separate ways. “You, there, friend,” The old man continued, taking a man by the arm. He turned his head one way and the other, looking closely at the bystander’s face. “Don’t you know what day it is? The new wind is sweet like fresh bread!”

Shylai’a found herself smiling at the harmless old man, in spite of her frustration. The bystander shook his arm free with disgust and just a bit of fear and tossed a few copper pieces at the old man’s feet. “Here. Save your preaching for the chapel!”

The old man noticed Shylai’a and stepped toward her, leaning his head far to one side as he looked at her. “Hmmm....”

“What?” she asked, amused.

“You have fish in your eyes...”

“You are a strange old man.”

He nodded, smiling. “Yes, I suppose I am.”


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

152 - "Where Am I?” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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Thissraelle opened her eyes to darkness.

Surprised, she jerked her gaze all around her, but saw nothing. The last thing she remembered was also darkness. A shiver of fear rolled through her as she looked toward her hands and legs. She was surprised that she could see them. Quite clearly, in fact, as if her body alone were brightly lit from... somewhere?

Am I dead? 

She turned her hands over. They looked real, and she could flex her fingers. She grabbed at her dress. It was a fine, white linen, cut to fit her perfectly. Her delicately worked leather shoes formed beautifully to her ankle. Beyond her feet, again, there was nothing.

I'm falling! She panicked. She kicked her feet and flailed her hands, trying to feel or grab anything solid. Anything to hold on to.

Wait. No. I'm not falling.

She hung in the space, still except for her heavy breathing. I'm not falling.

Where am I? I must be dead.

She looked at her hands again. She grabbed her dress again and rubbed the fabric between her fingers. She ran her fingers through her hair and felt its texture. Do dead people feel things?

She floated for a moment, thinking and looking.

I might be upside-down. That thought made her smile. How would I turn over? Which way is up, anyway?

She slowly reached out to see if she could touch anything in the darkness.

Where's Eddiwarth? And Karendle? They were near me! Are they here, too? Her head and eyes bounced from side to side as she tried to find them.

No. Of course I can't see them. 

She filled her mind with her will, and a light blue haze began to form around her. As the feeling swelled inside, her mind came alive. She pushed herself forward, flying away into the emptiness.

Flying... Where?

She slowed to a... Stop? How can you move if there’s nothing to move to or from? How can you stop if you’re not really moving?

Well, that wasn't so helpful.

As she floated, pondering, confused, a bright and vivid light appeared beside her, startling and momentarily blinding her. She shielded her eyes with her hands. After a moment, her eyes adjusted to see a man in the light, and after a moment more, she recognized the face. He was not in armor like he was last time, but wearing a loose white tunic and leggings.

“Ah. Saint Ivarr.” She mumbled, “so, if this is heaven, it’s a bit underwhelming.”

He shook his head. “Fair Thissraelle, Wizard of Light. This is not heaven. Nor hell.”

“Well, if I were dead, I don’t think I’d be getting visitors, either.”

“You are, in fact, not dead.”

Thissraelle looked away. “So, where am I? It’s very dark here.”

Ivarr gestured with a wave of his hand. “It is as you choose. This is your mind.”

“If this is my mind, I’m not very creative.”

He shrugged. “Well, you ARE still unconscious.”

Thissraelle sighed and rubbed her face with her hand. “I haven’t found Heathrax yet.”

“No, you haven’t.” He drifted around her and faced her. “You have fought for your friends. You have healed and protected strangers.”

Anger and frustration welled up in her, flowing over and rushing out into the darkness. “Why do I need to find him? Heathrax. Who is he anyway? What’s happened to everyone? Why did my father make the Guild attack the Church?” She grabbed his shirt and shook it. “Why? Tell me why?”

He covered her hands in his and gently pulled them away. She released them and he answered, “You have much to learn. Much to learn about the world and yourself.” He let her hands drop, and his brightness started to fade.

“For now, rest.”

In a moment, she was swallowed in darkness again.



<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Monday, August 12, 2019

151 - "Is That Me?” - DeFrantis - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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My wedding. The sound of those words in DeFrantis’ head sent waves of excitement and confusion shivering through her whole being. She stared at the image of herself in the mirror. It didn't look real to her. Familiar, but not real. She looked... beautiful.

One of the ladies there with her, a plump and cheerful woman who easily had fifteen more winters of age beyond DeFrantis, set a delicate wreath of reeds and flowers over her dark hair. The woman and her friends had been with DeFrantis all morning, dressing her, turning her, combing and braiding her hair, and preparing her for her wedding. Andrina and little Lilia were there as well, sometimes handing things to the ladies, but mostly chasing each other around the room and playing.

My wedding.

"All right! Now stand up and let's have a look!"

DeFrantis stood and the three women spun her around, tugging and tucking the dress, sashes, and the flowers. DeFrantis had never met them before today. They were matrons of the congregation of the Church of Three Lights in Dirae, and Brother Mathezar had sent them to the monastery in the woods to be her attendants on her most special day.

It felt odd to DeFrantis. She was grateful to them, of course, but she would have preferred to have Thissraelle and Karendle there. As she thought of them, she felt the emptiness of missing them. She would have loved to have them helping her prepare, even if they would have been arguing for most of the time. Frankly, between the two of them, they would have ended up with her looking jumbled and confused, like a WinterFest evergreen that had been decorated by too many people. She pictured each of them in her mind. She was worried about them. She’d heard of chaos and battles in Twynne Rivers, and it had been weeks since the group of them left Dirae on Granthurg’s barge.

"Well, what do you think?"

DeFrantis looked in the mirror, transfixed.

Is that me?

Just last spring, she had looked like a drowned street rat, skulking through the heartless alleys of Twynne Rivers in the rain. Then, in that dark night, trapped in the dungeon of the guard tower, she had met Antonerri. Now here she stood, ready to be his bride.

Is that really me? She looked incredulously at the two ladies, and said, "Thank you so much. I don't know what to say!"

They laughed and embraced her. "Please, miss. We should be thanking you!"

"True!” One of the others said, “Since the slavers left town, our children can play without fear. By the Creator, I can actually go to church again!”

The third woman nodded, then added, “They call you the Deliverers of Dirae”. They hugged her one more time, then clapped, giggled, and fussed some more. It all seemed so strange for DeFrantis. Deliverer of Dirae? Is that me? I have an Earned Name? I had always been just DeFrantis. Just a street kid. 

A knock sounded gently on the door. They all froze with anticipation. Even the little girls stopped running. “Ladies?” The heavy door to the room muffled the brother’s hesitant voice, “Everyone is in place. They’re ready for you.”

An excited shiver rushed through DeFrantis’ back. Her pulse quickened a bit. She smiled at her attendant ladies, and they nodded back. “Lilia? Andrina? Are you ready?” The girls nodded, and the attendants straightened the girls’ small dresses and handed them baskets of flowers. DeFrantis drew in a long breath. “Let’s go, then!”

DeFrantis lifted her dress just above her feet, and they walked carefully out of the chamber, down some stairs and into the abbey courtyard. Colorful cloth streamers draped from trees to awnings and waved in the summer breeze. The mid-morning sun was bright and already quite warm. A cluster of brothers stood round the porch of the monastery’s chapel. She could see the Abbott’s mitred head and robed shoulders as he looked out over the monks. His eyes brightened as he saw DeFrantis and the girls approaching.

Some of the monks noticed, too. “They’re coming!” A whisper ran through the huddle. They parted to allow the girls passage to the porch. As they cleared the way, DeFrantis caught sight of Antonerri standing in front of the steps, watching her approach. He wore a long, white cloak over his shoulders, and a plain but smart tunic underneath, with wide sleeves and a finely-made thin leather belt. He straightened tall and tugged at his tunic. It looked less like an adjustment and more like he didn’t know what to do with his hands. He had neatly trimmed his beard for the occasion, and it framed his delighted smile.

Oh, that smile. He struggled so hard to find it. She found herself smiling as well. She took in a deep breath to calm her own heartbeats.

The little girls reached the porch and separated, one to each side as they had rehearsed the day before, to join the other children of the orphanage. DeFrantis stepped up next to Antonerri and he took her hand. He drew her toward him and kissed her forehead. She looked up into his eyes. Suddenly things fell into place, and it all felt real. Of all her life’s mistakes, struggles, and searches, this finally felt right. She was loved. She was home.

Antonerri turned to face the Father Abbott, and she did so as well. She held his hand tight. The Abbott began speaking, giving advice and reading scriptures about marriage and family, but she didn’t hear a word of it. It was a blur. After a bit, he paused, then read them each their questions and vows. Her eyes danced with his as they promised their lives to each other and the Abbott started praying over them in Latin. Then suddenly, she and Antonerri were kissing, laughing, and holding each other tight. The brothers were clapping and cheering, and the bells clanged a cacophony from the tower above. The moment left DeFrantis a bit dizzy. She buried her face into Antonerri’s neck and shoulders and held on, feeling her heart pounding. Lily, Andrina, and the other children rushed to grab a hold of the couple’s legs.

Finally, they relaxed, kissed again, and followed the Father Abbott into the chapel with all of the brothers for their first service of the mass as husband and wife.



<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

150 - "Searching” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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Interludes


Granthurg stepped with a slight limp down the pier to his barge. It was very early in the morning, still dark. He breathed in the familiar stale smells of the river. He’d not been to his barge except for a few times in the three weeks since the fight in the chapel, partly for practical reasons and partly out of fear. Life in Twynne Rivers had definitely changed. And not for the better.

After dredging himself out of the river that night, he’d collapsed, half dead, on the bank. The following morning he’d shambled through alleys and side streets to get to the RiverFront quarter and the Old Steersman Inn. The steady rains still kept most people inside. Along the way, he’d passed the burned out ruins of the Grand Cathedral. It was surrounded by City Guardsmen, and there was no sign of Thissraelle, Karendle, or Eddiwarth. They were still sorting through the damage, but nobody remembered seeing a young elven girl, or a half-dwarf in the thick of the fight. The good news was that they weren’t among the recovered bodies, either, at least not yet.

He hadn’t stayed there long, weakened by the loss of blood. When he finally arrived at the kitchen entrance to the Old Steersman, the innkeeper rushed him upstairs to his room, where Granthurg spent the next week and a half lying under sweaty sheets, fighting off the fever from the infection in his leg.

He’d called out for Thissraelle, but the innkeeper just said they couldn’t find any magical healers. The inn staff kept changing his bandages and bringing him herbal treatments. Finally, as he had rested, his fever had broken, and he had begun healing.

As he walked along the pier he glanced back up at the quay of the RiverFront, looking for... Anyone. He wasn’t sure who might be there, but he wanted to be sure he’d not been followed. He felt the white dagger against his ankle in his boot. It felt safer having it to weild, but, considering how many wanted it, he was also vulnerable carrying it at all. He stepped down onto the deck and untied the bow lines securing the barge to the dock. He began to slowly walk aft, inspecting the barge as he moved.

About a week ago, once he had healed sufficiently, he’d come here to make sure it was secure. The storm had scattered several of the tarps, but otherwise, it had been well. He’d suspected that a few of the cargo crates had been either stolen, searched, or both. He didn’t really care if they had. That was the least of his worries. He’d squared those that remained all shipshape and tied them down again. Now, as he walked the deck, they looked to be all still in place.

His mind drifted. Memories of the past months came to him. Memories of running the river with Rinkmorr. Memories of defending the barge against what he’d thought were river pirates, then those that were after the white-bladed dagger. The dagger that Rinkmorr had left with him. The dagger that Rinkmorr had been killed for. Memories of new friends all fighting to defend Thissraelle.

Thissraelle.

His brow furrowed with worry. He untied the starboard stern line, and stepped up onto the steering platform. He’d never had a friend like Thissraelle. In just a few months, they had connected to each other like they had been friends their whole lives, like she was his little sister. A VERY little sister, to a giant like me!

I can’t let myself believe she’s gone. There were no bodies.

She had to have survived the attack, somehow. They’d gotten through battles together, before, and Granthurg knew how strong she could be. He couldn’t accept the idea that she hadn’t survived.

However, the two weeks he’d spent searching for her had turned up nothing.

It hadn’t been easy to search, either. The Church pulled all of their Holy Guard from other posts to stand and protect the burned out shell of the Cathedral, and no one was allowed onto the site. Somehow, thieves and looters still managed to scavenge the ruins, making off with gold and oculi. The leadership of the Church was nowhere to be seen. Many said the councils were killed off, and others said they were all in hiding. When Granthurg had first became well enough to leave the Old Steersman, there were still angry mobs shouting outside the Wizard’s Guild, clamoring for vengeance from the King. The Royal Guard stood watch, but did nothing to stop them, nor to calm them. Finally, the Royal Guard and the City Guard together raided the Guild Hall, and arrested what few wizards remained there. Mages of the Guild were never very common in the streets of the city, but since the attack, they’re not seen at all.

Granthurg himself was in fear. He didn’t know who knew about the blade, nor why they wanted it. But someone knew he had it, and they would eagerly kill him to get it. He he didn’t want to be seen by them, and didn’t want to lead them to his friends, once he did find them. He’d gone out, mostly by night and early morning, to try and find Thissraelle, Eddiwarth, or Karendle. He’d checked in on his barge, but never saw them there. He’d asked at the Inn they had chosen, and in the streets nearby, but nobody had seen them since the attack. It was like they had vanished.

Where do I go, now? His mind’s eye pictured Antonerri and DeFrantis romping with the kids of the orphanage. They would want to know what happened. But what if the men who want the dagger follow me there? We’re only starting to see the reach of the Dragon’s Flame. 

Granthurg untied the port stern line, setting the barge fully free of the pier. It was his boat, now. Debt-free and beholden to no one. He had no obligations and no commitments. Only questions.

So why don’t I feel free?

He also had no direction and no friends. He had almost no hope of seeing them again. He stepped back onto the steering platform and lifted the hatch over the oculus, half expecting it to have been stolen as well. But the latch was locked, and the stone intact. He held his hand out above it, closed his eyes, and searched deep in his being for the will to go on. His face burned and his eyes watered as he’d remembered learning this step from Thissraelle. Slowly, he felt it swell inside him, and heard the water churn underneath him. The boat began to move backward, out of the berth, and away from the dock.

Where do I go, now? I need to get far away. I need to escape, to think things through, to find some answers.

After clearing the docks, and moving into the center of the river, he turned the barge to the Lesser Wynne, the southern fork, then westward, toward the Graemal Mountains.

I’ll go home.


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Monday, August 5, 2019

149 - "Wizards and Dragons” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

<<<>>>

A deep man’s voice echoed through the Grand Cathedral. “BEAST OF THE DESTROYER, YOU WILL NOT PREVAIL!”

What’s that? Thissraelle stood, leaning against Karendle's newly formed rock wall. It was quite warm from the fires that had just been spit all over the other side. She carefully raised her eyes above the jagged edge of the rock. The horrific muck retched from the innards of the drake continued to burn all around her. Other things in the hallway, rugs and tapestries, were now also burning, making it difficult to see.

“Stay down!” Eddiwarth warned.

“What do you see?” Karendle added.

A bright light shone from the air in the center of the nave. Its brightness cut through the flames and smoke, casting the drake and the balcony structures into harsh silhouette. In the midst of the light floated the form of a man wearing long white robes. He held a staff in his hands, with an oculus at the head. The huge stone was radiant with brilliant white light. That’s the priest! The drake twisted its head around to face him, and it shrieked.

“NOW YOU DIE!” The priest extended his hand, raising the staff over his head. A shaft of white shot from the stone and hit the drake’s torso, driving fully through it and exploding into the edge of the balcony. The crack of the strike echoed through the vaulted ceilings and sent pieces of shattered rock and drake flying down the hallway. Thissraelle hid her eyes from the blinding flash and ducked back behind the wall. Karendle, Eddiwarth, and the man who had been healed all huddled as the explosion rushed past them.

Thissraelle’s ears rang. She blinked her eyes to clear them, then raised up and looked again. The drake, blown nearly in half, slowly fell outward, toppling below with the crumbling remains of the section of the gallery it had clung to. It crashed with the stones onto the burning pews down below.

Thissraelle looked to left and right. The archer was still hiding behind the now weakened and crumbling pillar. The guards on the other side were laying under the shattered remains of the table. It had offered them precious little protection. She saw at least one of them moving. They’re hurt! I’ve got to get to them.

 The explosion of light had blown a lot of the flames away, but much was still burning around them. “Eddiwarth! Get up!” She grabbed him by the shirt sleeve. “Can you take care of the flames?”

Flustered, he scrambled to his feet. “Yeah! Hold on...” He steadied himself against the stones of their wall, and gestured at the burning floor. Nothing happened. “Oh, come ON!” He made the gesture again, with frustrated urgency, and the flames obeyed, extinguishing like candles on a cake.

She rushed toward the gallery, toward the men lying on the floor. She had to levitate herself over some of the rubble to get to them. Eddiwarth and Karendle followed as best they could.

She heard a man shout, “Parith! Are you well?” She glanced up and saw the one who had been with them behind the wall. He was limping low toward the archer. Turning back to the guards, she tried to move some of the remains of the table away from the man underneath it. She found she had to call up her will to be able to lift the splintered boards with her mind. It was still hard to move them. She felt very tired. Soon, Eddiwarth arrived and began to help. The soldiers stirred and moaned.

“Hold on,” Thissraelle said, to comfort them, “we’re going to help you!” The elite tunics they wore over chain armor were scorched and riddled with small rips, but they seemed to be intact and not burned. “Can you move?” One of them, mostly freed of debris, began to roll over. He seemed more dazed than damaged.

“Oh, shaking earth!” Karendle swore.

“What?” Thissraelle looked up from her work. Karendle stared with fear out over the nave through the gaping gash in the balcony. The light shining on her from the priest was not as blindingly bright as it had been moments before. Thissraelle followed her gaze.

Two other wizards rose up into the air above the sanctuary. They stood on a huge, billowing, growing cone of pure darkness. One, wearing black robes, had his arms out to his sides, his palms up, as he lifted them both on the magical pillar. The other man, in deep blood red, laughed as he raised his arms to work his own magic.

Thissraelle instantly recognized the robes the wizards wore. Her breath caught in her throat, and her heartbeat stopped. She had grown up seeing wizards and wizarding students wearing those same robes. Her father had worn more masterful versions of those robes. No, it can’t be! Not the Guild! He would never order this! No! No!

The priest was still flying, but quite a bit lower than he had been. He saw the rising menace, and raised his staff in his weary arm. The red wizard flung his hands forward and a bolt of harsh lightning leapt out and struck the priest in the shoulder. The impact slammed him back, smashing him into a pillar above the opposite gallery. He cried out and slid downward, leaving a trail of red splattered and smeared above him. He struggled to float forward, and tried to lift his staff. The dark mage reached out with his hand, as if grabbing something the air before him. Thick ropes of black darkness grew out and lashed around the priest’s chest, down his torso and up around his neck and face. The wizard closed his hand tight and the priest screamed in pain. The staff with the bright oculus tumbled from his hand and clattered onto the floor below.

“NO!” Thissraelle screamed. “You can’t do this!” She ran, stumbling, to the railing of the balcony.

“Thissraelle, stop!” Eddiwarth ran after her.

No, you can’t do this! Father, no! She thrust out her arm, to summon her light. I’ll fight them! I’ll take them! But nothing came to her. She collapsed to her knees, her will spent. The wizard in black looked at her, scowled, and formed a dark, writhing mass in his hand. He twisted back, then threw it straight toward her.

Thissraelle’s mind and world exploded in darkness.

The End of Part 11, and Story Arc 3


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Start the whole story from the beginningStart from where this current story arc begins. Start from where the current story part begins

Thursday, August 1, 2019

148 - “Why?” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

<<<>>>

Granthurg lurched onto the balcony just after the wizard in black. The man turned around and faced Granthurg with only a snarl and a dagger. He slashed out, but the giant easily stepped back and deflected the strike with his hammer handle. Granthurg could see fear in the man's face as he spun around and ran away, heading down the balcony. Granthurg swung the hammer at his retreating back. The wizard was quick, however, and the hammer only smashed into the wooden floor. The man dashed away in the dark haze, coughing.

Granthurg took up his hammer and gave chase. His heart pounded with determination, and his mind, with questions. Why did they attack? Why a chapel? And a cathedral, too? Why is he fleeing instead of fighting? Why isn’t he using his powers? 

Granthurg stumbled onto another ascending stairway, this one much more narrow. His will is spent! That’s why he’s running. His companion is down, and his own will is gone!

As Granthurg stepped into the stairway, it felt wrong under his feet, unsteady. This was the central spire, the bell tower of the chapel. The walls below were stone, but this structure was made of thick timbers and daub. Its foundation had probably been weakened by the first explosion that the striking wizard had thrown. This doesn’t feel safe. But I’ve got to get him. I’ve got to find out what’s going on. He pressed on upward, in spite of the creaking and swaying of the structure. It seemed to go higher than it had looked from below.

He reached the landing, and found a ladder leaning up the final way to the bell platform. He looked up through the gap to try and see the wizard, but couldn’t. Climbing up the ladder would make him an easy target. He shifted on the narrow platform, and felt it sway. He listened for the wizard, but only heard the crack of lightning and the response of thunder, mixed with screeches of drakes from down below.

Granthurg moved to the base of the ladder and looked up. “If you come down before this tower crumbles, maybe we can both come out of this alive!”

He heard no response.

“I don’t want to kill anyone. I’m just defending innocents,” Granthurg continued. “Come down and we’ll talk!”

The mage blew out three sharp, shrill blasts on a whistle. Its loud tone cut through the noise of the storm and the burning below. Who is he signaling?

Granthurg hefted his hammer close to the head in one hand, and grabbed an upper rung of the ladder with another. He ascended as quickly as he could, trying to rush the top. The opening wasn’t very big, but he got through it well enough, and climbed up onto the bell ringer’s platform. The wind through the open sides blew rain onto him, making his grip unsteady. The mage ran on him from behind and jumped on his back, slashing into his shoulder with his dagger. Granthurg shouted and twisted his back, throwing them both against a pillar.  The mage grunted with the impact, and the tower lurched and groaned just as loud. The bell swung and clanged hard with a deafening toll. The two both fell to the wet planks of the platform. Granthurg reached out to steady himself, and his hammer slid away. He reached for it, but the tower shook again, and the hammer fell through the gap under the bell. It clattered against the stairway below.

The wizard was crawling toward the ladder opening, and whistled his signal again. The wet boards and the angle of the platform were making it difficult for him to move quickly. Granthurg lunged onto him, punching into the ribs of his back. The man grunted and gasped for breath.

“Tell me why you attacked this church! What’s going on?”

The mage just coughed and wheezed.

Granthurg pulled his head back by his wet hair and snarled, “TELL ME!”

Granthurg heard the flapping of huge wings and an unearthly screech coming closer. The tower shook and leaned as the drake hit the side and gripped the timbers tight. It snaked its head and shoulders into the opening of the tower and snapped its teeth at Granthurg. The lurching tower and the clanging bell made it difficult for the drake to hit a solid bite, but its teeth raked across his arm muscles as he tried to deflect the attacks.  He flailed and punched to keep the dragon’s jaws away, and brought up his feet to kick at its throat. Its breath was a horrible acidic haze that made it hard to breathe and see. His ears were filled with the sounds of clanging bells, shrieking drake, and cracking timbers.

The drake reached in with one of its front feet and grabbed onto Grathurg’s thigh, digging its talons in deep. Granthurg screamed in pain. The tower shook and shifted again. The drake pulled him through the opening and rain washed over him. He suddenly felt light, even weightless. They were falling. The tower was collapsing out over the street. The mage was screaming as he fell, and the drake began furiously flapping its wings.

The drake tried to fly, but didn’t let go of Granthurg’s leg. The pain was unbearable and hanging upside down in the air was making him dizzy. Granthurg reached up to grip the drake’s arm. He didn’t want to be carried off, but he didn’t want to fall, either. The drake flapped its wings furiously, trying to go higher, but the weight of a giant was too much. It flew out, over the street, still flapping, still struggling, but slowly dropping.

Shrieking and struggling, it flew out past the barges on the riverfront and the two of them splashed hard into the deep center of the river. Granthurg struggled for breath. The beast began writhing and twisting in the water, jerking Granthurg around. For a moment, it flipped over and Granthurg was above the surface. He gasped a fast breath before the drake’s spinning plunged him under again.

Granthurg reached through the cold water, over the drake’s gripping talon, along his leg, and to his boot. It was difficult in the shifting and splashing motion. He shoved his hand in and pulled out the white-bladed dagger. Gripping the hilt tightly, he plunged the curved blade into the upper leg of the beast.

The drake thrashed and twisted harder than ever, and Granthurg could almost hear its screams even from below the water. Then, it stopped. The head and tail splashed into the water, the death grip of the talon on his leg eased, and the beast began to sink and drift with the flow of the river.

Granthurg shook his leg free and pushed off the beast with his other foot. He broke the surface of the river, gasping for breath. He tried to swim away from the drake, but with an injured arm and leg, it was difficult even to tread water and stay afloat. The drake bobbed motionless in the river, slowly sinking. Granthrug looked around to see the city passing by as he flowed downstream. The flames from the chapel were growing more distant off to his left. He floated under the CentreTown wall bridge, and saw the conflagration that was the great Cathedral. He looked on in awe as people ran, screaming and confused.

Thissraelle!


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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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