Monday, November 25, 2019

179 - “Three to One” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

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


When Korr’s eyes opened, it was still dark. He was bundled up tight in his blanket and that kept him relatively warm. In spite of the rest, his arms and legs were stiff, partly due to having them straight all night, but also due to the constant walking over uneven ground. The wooden platforms of this waypoint were much smaller than the ones had been in the previous night and there were no tarps to break the wind. The fire had long since dwindled, so the morning chill blew sharply across his cheek. He raised his arm and inched his hand out of his bedroll. Instantly, the cold air bit his fingers. Maybe I’ll just stay in bed for a while.

He rolled his head and saw Parith sitting next to the firepit, with a faint glow from the embers illuminating his downturned forehead and the blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He was breathing slowly. The drake slept curled around Parith’s feet, its tail swishing occasionally in its dreams.

Korr smiled. Thissraelle and Karendle had tried to convince Parith to sleep the whole night, as he’d been very active the previous days, but Parith had insisted on taking a watch anyway, settling for the final turn.

Korr closed his eyes.

No, I have to get up. I need to run my forms. He breathed deep, then climbed out of his blankets.

A few minutes later, he found a place a short ways away from the waypoint with a little more space between the trees than usual. A little bit of dim morning light was starting to filter in between the bare branches. He paced off the tight perimeter, then moved to the center. He breathed deep and tried to clear his mind.

As he moved through the first forms, his feet swished and crunched through the thick layer of fallen leaves.  He scowled, unsatisfied. His motions, the footfalls of the stances and the force of the punches, seemed to be clumsy and jerking. Maybe it's just the cold.

He paused and walked back to the center of the space and breathed. He began again, but after a few postures, stopped. My mind is distracted. I'm not focused.

He felt, rather than heard, a presence behind him and stiffened. What's this? He spun around and set his feet into a low defensive stance. He swept his hands, palms forward, before him. He saw only the shadows and the trees.

They are all around. He crossed one foot behind the other and began a slow backward turn, his fists at the ready.

Footsteps rushed toward him and he spun again, sweeping his forearm ahead of his body. It connected with the flat of a thrusting blade and knocked it aside. His shoulders turned with the motion and he brought his left fist shooting upward, glancing off of his attacker’s ribs. It wasn’t a solid hit, but it did throw the attacker off balance a bit as he went past. Korr planted his feet firm. How many are there?

His attacker scrambled to his feet. He was a wood elf, with a thin build, like Parith, but a bit younger. Behind him stood two more, one with a spear, and another with a short blade. In the dim light, it looked to be wooden, but still edged. He remembered what Parith had told them.

“What are you--” Korr was interrupted by the forward elf, who shouted something in elvish and lunged at Korr’s chest. Korr dropped underneath the blade, twisting his body and sweeping his leg before him. It caught the elf’s knee and swung his leg out from under him. He fell with a grunt in a crunching bustle of leaves.

The other two circled the perimeter as Korr rolled to his feet. He backed away, glancing around. There are no others so far. Clarity of mind. Breathing. The elf to Korr’s right began spinning his spear as he inched his way further right, drawing Korr’s attention. The elf on the left ran forward and jumped up against the trunk of a large tree, pushing off and grappling onto Korr’s shoulders. Korr felt the impact, and fell forward with the push, tucking his shoulder under and flipping the elf over him. His momentum carried him, and he sprang back to his feet, backing away. Something warm and wet ran down his arm and he suddenly noticed a painful cut where the last attacker’s blade had sliced.

Their swords may be wooden, but are sharp. I’m outnumbered and these elves are fighting deadly. Focus, control... I’ll need to do more than block.

The spearman stepped in, jabbing forward with the bladed tip. He followed Korr’s motions as he dodged from one side to the other. Korr feigned to the left, then slipped right, grabbing the spear as he spun. He swung his elbow behind his own shoulder and up over the elf’s head, then threw his arm forward, catching the elf by the chin and flipping him backward over Korr’s leg. The elf let out a gagging shriek, then hit the ground with a thud. Korr brought the heel of his other hand down on the man’s chest, and felt the ribs crack under the blow. The elf coughed and gasped.

Korr jumped back and the first attacker slashed low, cutting into Korr’s thigh. He shouted and stumbled further back. The elf hissed out some threat that Korr couldn’t understand and lunged forward with his blade. Korr dodged to the side, then leaned back on his wounded leg. Pain shot through him, and he winced, but raised his other leg and drove its heel hard into the elf’s face. He fell back to the ground with a crunch.

Korr recovered from the kick in a solid square stance, and swept his fists into place at his sides. The one remaining elf stood, his sword raised in both hands, but didn’t attack. His face was tense, with determination masking his fear. Korr's own breathing was heavy and labored.

Shouts rang out from the direction of the waypoint and Korr’s eyes widened. A loud shocking crack echoed through the forest. They’re attacking my friends! In his focus he had forgotten the others. The elf glanced back over his shoulder then dashed away, running toward the shouts and jumping up into the trees.

Flaming...! He tried to run after, but his wounded leg wouldn’t let him move with much more than a fast limp. He heard a shriek. Was that Thissraelle? Or maybe Karendle...


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, November 21, 2019

178 - “Safe Journeys” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

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The winds blew a bit colder and stronger over the course of the next two days as they continued along the shadowed road. They settled into a routine each morning. The drake would squawk and nudge Parith, then he and Eddiwarth would start a fire. As the others awoke and gathered their kits, they ate a bit, either of their stores or a little more of whatever Parith had hunted up the night before. Then, they all left on their way, continuing on the meandering northbound road through the forest.

One morning Korr must have awakened early and withstood the chilling air, as Thissraelle saw him practicing his forms in the roadway. The rest of them, however, were up and ready to leave before he finished.

Parith often left the group to run through the trees and "scout ahead". This made Thissraelle nervous, but they continued through the shadowy forest along the road. Thissraelle had wanted to smooth things over with Parith, and had tried to talk to him, ostensibly about the path, but he'd brushed off her questions with curt answers. 

"I don't think he likes me much," she said to Eddiwarth later that morning, when Parith was gone.

"Why's that?

"I think I upset him when we were leaving the city," she explained, "when I admitted I was afraid of the wood elves."

“Afraid of them?” Eddiwarth asked, “Why?”

“They don’t like high elves,” she said, “right?”

Eddiwarth shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never been around them. I grew up in Twynne Rivers, and I never associated with any. I never knew any high elves, either, except for a few in the Guild. But then, they also never talked to me much. I didn’t really have friends in the Guild. I don’t know why.”

“It’s all the same.” Karendle had been walking behind them. “The only elf I know that’s treated me nicely has been Thissraelle.” 

Thissraelle smiled, but it didn’t last long. ...And even I wasn’t so easy to deal with. “Anyway, I didn’t think they’d like us crossing their forest. That, and I just thought there would be lots more of them here in the woods.”

"Yeah, where are they? You'd think we would've seen a few by now. We've been in Umbrawood for, what, two days, now?"

Thissraelle nodded, and they walked in silence. She she risked a side glance at Eddiwarth. He's got a nice face. Just a scruff of a beard growing and it’s been a few days since he’s had a bath, but, still...

"What," Eddiwarth asked, when he noticed, "Do I have weeds in my teeth?"

Thissraelle tossed her hair out of her eyes and stepped on ahead. As she passed, she saw Eddiwarth raise a brow at Karendle, who just chuckled and shrugged.

Soon after, they rested for lunch. The winds had picked up and the leaves were dropping more rapidly. The four in the party sat quietly in a circle by the side of the road, eating, when they heard the now-familiar “rrawk” of the drake. It flapped to the ground and rustled through the leaves toward Korr. 

Thissraelle looked up, scanning the shadowy trees above. “Where’s Parith?” Is it me, or is getting a little darker? She couldn’t see him, or anyone, for that matter. Maybe the sky had clouded over. It IS a little chillier.

Parith slid down a nearby tree trunk and hurried toward them. “Hello! Did you miss me?” There was a bit of urgency mixed in with his sarcasm. The drake yelped and trilled, but didn’t move from where Korr was feeding him. Parith leaned into the circle and hissed, “We may have trouble.”

Thissraelle’s eyes widened. “What?”

“There are a couple of riders down the road behind us. Two of them, with a pack animal. They’re not running their horses, but they’re moving quick, like they’re trying to catch up to someone. Maybe us.”

Thissraelle and Karendle passed worried glances at each other. Parith continued. “At first I thought they were just another trade caravan, albeit a small one. But they’re moving too fast. Traders are usually not in a hurry.” He squinted back over his shoulder to look down the road.

Eddiwarth stood to look, but couldn’t see through the shadows down the curve of the road.
“Should we hide?”

Parith shook his head. “I’m sure they already know we’re here. I say we just let them pass and see what they do. But then, this is your team, your guild.” He nodded his head toward Thissraelle.

What did he mean by that? Is he actually accepting me being in charge, or is he throwing me under an oncoming rockslide? She tried to read his eyes, but got no more clarity than his words. Even still, what he said made sense. Now wasn’t the time to be mentally debating trust issues. She took a deep breath. “OK, then. You take your bow up in the trees and be ready. Eddiwarth, stand by the donkeys and make sure you’ve got a grip on the reigns. Everyone else pull in close. Ready any weapons, but keep them hidden.” As they heard the hooves of the horses rustle through the leaves and brush, she added, “Be calm and friendly, but wary.” Parith nodded.

Everyone moved to their places and prepared. 

Thissraelle reached her focus inside of herself and felt her will become ready. She saw Karendle reaching for her pouch of oculi and slip her right hand in. Korr sat on a fallen tree, but shifted his weight so he was almost in one of the stances she had seen him practice.

A dark horse and rider came into view, followed by another, who was leading a third, lighter colored riderless horse. Their cloaks were dark brown, making them hard to see. The lead rider wore a hood, hiding his face even further. 

Korr mumbled, “We should probably be casually talking among ourselves.”

“Good point.” Karendle said in a low voice. “Lovely weather we’re having...” Eddiwarth adjusted the packs on the donkeys, while looking warily at the other travelers. Thissraelle tried to keep her head down and not look too intensely.

“Hail to you, travelers!” The second man called out, but their horses didn’t stop. His voice was not deep, even a bit light. Is that him? The one we talked to? She looked into Karendle’s face. 

Karendle looked up at the man, then raised her left arm in a wave. Her right she kept in her pouch, under her cloak. “And to you.” Thissraelle saw Karendle’s eyes narrow as she nodded. It IS them! Thissraelle’s hand clenched into a fist and her shoulders tensed. 

The horses stepped on. 

As their hoofsteps began to distance, the voice said, “A safe journey to you all.” Karendle didn’t respond to his good wishes. Thissraelle hazarded a glance from behind her hood. She saw the back of his head only, with elvish ears standing out from the hair before he disappeared into the forest. Is he a high elf or a wood elf? I can’t see from here.

The friends watched warily as they disappeared into the shadows. Eddiwarth approached the group with care. Parith climbed down and joined them.

“That was them.” Karendle whispered. “The ones that want Thissraelle.”

“Those two?” Parith asked. “Why didn’t they attack, try to capture her?”

Eddiwarth rubbed his head. “Maybe the fact that there were only two of them and more of us.”

Karendle and Thissraelle exchanged knowing looks. Karendle finally let her shoulders relax. “Probably because they still think that I’m going to do it for them.”


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, November 18, 2019

177 - “Poems and Surprises” - Eddiwarth - A Tale of Heroes

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True to Parith’s word, The waypoint was not too much farther. While Karendle and Korr found wood for a fire, Thissraelle and Eddiwarth unloaded blankets and supplies. The waypoint was a fairly large circle of open ground, slightly off the main road, obviously for caravan wagons and livestock to gather. Along the northern perimeter were low wooden platforms built around the trunks of larger trees, about three to four feet up off the ground, with steps. Above those platforms were built roofs, also radiating about fifteen feet out from the tree trunks, sheltering the platforms. All along the northern sides of the shelters hung flaps of old and very thick fabric as a break against the colder northern winds. Near these, in the clearing, was a stone fire pit, ringed with more stones for sitting.

While Thissraelle arranged blankets and bed rolls on the platforms, Karendle and Korr returned with wood and Eddiwarth used his powers to light it.

Again, true to his word, Parith returned with a small roe deer, slain by arrow and slung over his shoulders.  By that time, the fire had built to good glowing coals. He called Eddiwarth over, and the two quickly gralloched, cleaned, and sliced it up. Soon, pieces were sizzling on skewers over the fire with a bit of salt and herbs.

Before long, the day’s journey had worn on them. Soon, only Eddiwarth and Parith were up, making sure the packs were ready for the morning. Parith nudged Eddiwarth’s arm.


Parith gave a toss of his head in the direction of the fire. Eddiwarth’s gaze followed his gesture. Thissraelle sat there, her cloak open on her shoulders, bathed in the flickering glow of the fire and the steady shine of a pinpoint of magical light over her head. Her face was down in a book. I thought she’d gone to sleep.

He looked back at Parith, who nudged him toward her. “Go on...”

Eddiwarth hesitated, but Parith nodded.

Eddiwarth stood, dusted himself up, and tried to make his own cloak straighter. He walked over to the fire.

“I thought you’d gone to lie down.”

She looked up. “No, not yet. I’ve just been studying.”

He sat down on a stone near hers. “What is it?”

“It’s that book that Tarl gave me before we jumped through the portal back to reality.” She closed the book and held it up, looking at the detailed gold inlays on the dark leather cover. “I guess it’s translations of some writings by this Heathrax.”

Eddiwarth glanced over. “Can I see?” She shrugged and handed him the book.

“I’m kinda hoping I can read some clues that will help us find him.” She sighed and stretched her arms. The fireglow lit her face as she rolled her neck back and forth.

Wow, she’s beautiful! Focus on the book, ‘Warth, focus on the book.

She continued, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, “I haven’t seen much that’s useful so far.”

“It looks like poetry.” Eddiwarth noted, looking back at the pages. He held it at an awkward angle so as to catch the light from over her head on the page.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much all I’ve seen so far.” She waved her hand and the light drifted over to him.

“Hmmm.” He stopped turning the pages.

“What?” she said, quietly.

He cleared his throat and began reading.

“If I were to stand at the top of a mountain, looking down
From such a place, I would see forever below me.
If I were to stand in the city, looking up
I would see anger, fear, and strife and wouldn't notice the mountain.
I will leave the wars to others.”

After a few moments, he guessed, “What does that mean? I don’t really see any good clues in it. We already know he’s in the mountains.”

When she didn’t respond, he turned up from the book. She was looking at him with an almost wink, a curious, surprised look.


“Nothing,” she smiled, “just read another.” He shrugged and flipped a few pages.

“Rocks fall, broken from the cliff face, over the brush in the valley
The small bushes broken and crushed under the oppressive weight of stone.
Watered by spring rains, a flower presses upward,
Brightly colored petals reaching and stretching for the laden clouds.
Who has won the battle?”

He was surprised to see that she had leaned over to be able to look over his shoulder at the poems. She glanced up and smiled. “A chef and an orator. You surprise me, Eddiwarth.”

“A chef. Yeah, right. You’ve had leftovers in the Guild Hall that were better than that meal.”

She pushed his arm playfully. “OK, sure. But you do have a nice voice for poetry.” She yawned. “One more.”

He nodded and turned the page. “This one looks a bit longer.”

“A carpet of trees sway under autumn's wind.
The breezes tell the leaves to greet the sky.
Brown, yellow, red, they chase and spin
Then rise and fall and blend their colors.
I long to fly with them.

It is a delicate dance of hopeful love
A flirtatious reel of nervous anticipation
The leaves, playful sprites, beckon to me.
The call I hear is not the tumbling leaves-
I hear your call.

I will leave my mountain and cross my forest
Where these leaves are tossed by the highest winds.
I will break the clouds with the stroke of wings
Wings of dreams that bear me over meadows of white
I will fly with you once again.
I will fly with you once again.”

For a moment, their eyes met in the dim. Then, she quickly stood and took the book from his hands. “Thank you. I hope you sleep well.” The spot of light followed her as she hurried off to the shelters, her cloak flowing behind her. She grabbed to close it against the cold as she walked. He just watched her go, confused.

Wait, what was that?


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, November 14, 2019

176 - “Who Are We?” - Eddiwarth - A Tale of Heroes

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


Finding the road had been simple enough. They had merely followed the edge of the forest eastward until they came to it. In spite of a year of lessened use, it was still not fully grown over. The sun was sinking by the time the company entered the forest, and the cluttered arches of branches and leaves above blotted out even more of the fading light of day. The wheel ruts in the path that the years of caravans had worn were wide enough to walk down and it was pretty obvious which of the low brush plants were the sharpest ones. The tree trunks by the side of the road were bigger than any that Eddiwarth had ever seen, even in his time in the western reaches of the forest, around the monastery. They couldn’t see the upper branches of the trees, but the leaves from them were falling all around them in a steady blizzard of brown and red.

There wasn’t as much wind in the forest, so Eddiwarth undid the buttons of his cloak and let it hang open. “Oh, wait. It’s still cold out here!” He re-attached the top clasp.

Karendle laughed at him and rolled her eyes. Their feet crunched and swished in the leaves that had fallen as they stepped through the brush. Birds were calling in the branches. What’s so scary about this place? It’s a bit dark, but the sun still gets through.

“What we need,” Eddiwarth declared, “is a name.”

Parith cocked his eyebrows in skeptical surprise. “A name?”

“Yeah. A name.”

“A name.” Parith laughed. “For what?”

“Why, for us, of course! Who are we?” Eddiwarth gestured to everyone. “We’re all on the same quest, right? An adventure. Aren’t we a team? It’s like we’re a new adventurer’s guild! Heathrax’s Heroes!”

Karendle gave him a look of disbelief, then exchanged headshakes with Thissraelle. Parith rolled his eyes. They continued walking.

Eddiwarth held his hands out, hoping for a response. “Eh? Anyone?”

“How long did it take you to think of that one?” Thissraelle said.

“Just now!”

“Well, keep trying. Come on.”

“The Dark Forest Guild? Whatd’ya think? Korr?”

Korr just walked on, leading the donkey. “Perhaps we should wait until we actually complete a quest before we decide what we are called.” Eddiwarth just humphed.

As they walked, Parith unpacked a short bow and a few arrows from one of the donkeys.

Thissraelle looked concerned. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to climb up a tree and shoot him if he comes up with any other silly ideas.” He slung the bow over his shoulder and slid the arrows through his belt at his hip. “Seriously, though, you guys keep going on the path, and before long you’ll get to the waypoint. I’ll probably catch up before then, but otherwise just wait for me there.”

“Where are you going?” Thissraelle asked.

“Like I said earlier, I’m going to go see if I can hunt something up for dinner.”

“Are you sure? We have some hard bread, fruit, and water.”

“Yeah, but we might as well save that for other days when we can’t find anything else. Don’t worry, I’ll be right back. You won’t even miss me!” He winked at her.

Thissraelle drew her head back a bit. She tugged her cloak tighter against the cold. Eddiwarth bristled from behind her. Parith smiled at him, then jumped several feet up to grip the thick trunk of a nearby tree. He scurried up to a low, sturdy branch. “Just stay on the path to the waypoint. Start a fire. I’ll join you there.”

“What if you get lost?” Thissraelle called up to him. He just laughed as he scampered along the branch and jumped into shadows. She threw a concerned look back at Eddiwarth, then Karendle.

What if we get lost?


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, November 11, 2019

175 - "The Sight of The Forest” - Eddiwarth - A Tale of Heroes

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Eddiwarth and Korr walked a bit ahead of the others as the brown, waving grass of the meadow sloped upward toward the crest of yet another rolling hill.

"First one to the top?" Eddiwarth said, sprinting away. Korr followed, and easily overtook Eddiwarth, who paused only a short few paces from the top, hands on his knees and gasping for breath.

"I guess I didn't know... how tired I would get after... walking for so long." Eddiwarth took the last few steps to top the hill. A cold breeze blew across the meadow, tossing his hair and chilling his nose. He gasped at the expansive view before him. "Well, by The Creator, that's amazing!"

"Truly," Korr agreed, "it is beautiful."

Less than a mile ahead of them ran a thick wall of trees as far to the left and the right as they could see. They were of several different varieties, some tall, others shorter, some narrow and straight, others with round canopies of branches. The advancing autumn had left the trees partly bare, but they still carried leaves ablaze in colors from vivid yellow to deep browns and reds. The mid-afternoon sun was baking them all in a tint of gold. The winds pulled leaves from the trees and led them dancing across the meadow.

Eddiwarth spun around and waved to the others below them. "Thissraelle! Karendle! You'll want to see this!"

The two hurried up the hill, leaving Parith leading the two donkeys. His brow furrowed with frustration.

When she got to the top, Thissraelle drew a breath. "What a sight!" She held her hand to her chest. "For years, I looked at this forest way off in the distance from the windows of my tower at the guild hall. Even in the fall, I could see it as a washed blend of brown, and green in the spring. But to see it up close is a wonder.”

Karendle added, “The trees on the western side of the forest, near Dirae and the monastery, aren’t nearly as tall as these, here.”

Parith finally joined them at the top of the ridge. “Here, take this,” he said, and handed the lead line of one of the donkeys to Eddiwarth. He stretched his back. The drake on his shoulders squawked and had to shift position as he moved. “Yeah, you think they’re tall here, but this isn’t even the deep parts of the wood yet. Somewhere near here, probably to the east a bit, is the main road through the forest. Not too far inside, there’s the first waystop. It’s a space to the side of the road with a few shelters built into the trees. I’d like to stay there tonight. If we hurry, and if we find that road soon, I might even have time to hunt up some hares or venison.”

Eddiwarth brightened up. “I’ll start a fire and cook them for us!”

Thissraelle looked at him with her brows up. “When did you learn how to cook?”

“Back at the monastery, on kitchen duty.” He said with a bit of smug confidence. “Though I wouldn’t say I’m any master chef, I’ll do the animal justice.”

Parith moved ahead, leading one of the donkeys. Eddiwarth nudged his burdened beast along behind him. “Is the road clear?”

“It used to be. It hasn’t been used as much recently, since the high elves stopped. Most of the trade with Twynne Rivers happens by barge through the western swamps, now. There will probably be some brush that grew up on the road. It wasn’t too bad last spring when I traveled. You’ll want to watch out for the bladeferns.”

“Bladeferns?” Eddiwarth asked.

“The leaves are really long and have sharp cutting edges. They’ll shred your pants and then your legs. We harvest them very carefully. Our mages use nature powers to harden them and turn them into daggers and knives. They do that with other leaves, too. Or sometimes, an artisan will carve wood and shape it into a sword, a bow, or a spear. They’ll smooth it to a sharp edge and then the mages make it hard, like steel. That’s what we used for all our battles against the high elves.” He glanced back at Thissraelle.

Eddiwarth looked as well. “That would be neat to see! Where’s your sword?” Parith just chuckled in response.

“I like to use my staff when I fight, but I lost it at the cathedral. Maybe while I go through the forest I’ll get a chance to make a new one.”


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, November 7, 2019

174 - “The Dragonbonded” - Tonklyn - A Tale of Heroes

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A distant scream slashed the dark and echoed through the passages.

From a small lamp, suspended below the ceiling by a bronze chain, shone three oculi. A polished silver hood built above them into the lamp reflected the light down onto Tonklyn's study table, covered in books and scrolls. The light also shone on a soft, high-backed chair sitting in front of the table, but it was turned slightly, as if Tonklyn had pushed it aside while standing.  A large, thickly woven rug with ornate designs covered the stone floor, surrounding a large and shining metal dish in the center of the room. Three large stones sat in the dish, glowing with warmth.

Shrieks of terror and pain sounded again, louder this time.

Across the rug, opposite the table, stood a large bed. Thick velvet drapes hung from the bedposts, surrounding Tonklyn in dark warmth and isolation.

A deep rumbling roar shook its way down into the chamber. It blended with the harsh piercing shrill of more screams.

What is going on up there? Tonklyn raised up, kicked against the tangle of his blankets and his night robe, and parted his curtains. The wails shivered down his nerves like the grinding of a millstone. He stepped to the table and picked up his staff, lighting the oculus on the end.

As he left his room, the air in the passage quickly became cold, and continued to get colder as he got farther from the glowing stones in the bin. The stone floor chilled his feet and he shivered. The few feet of the hallway beyond the illumination of his oculus were cloaked in shadow.

Another roar cut through the cold, and Tonklyn stopped, surprised. It was getting louder, as were the screams that followed. Those died off and bounced down the reverberant stone stairs. Those screams are human voices. What is he doing? 

Tonklyn rushed up the stairs, turned the corner, and froze.

Kirraxal stood in the dim light of the main chamber chandeliers, near the table with the large scroll. The scaly skin on his neck shimmered as it reflected what little light was shining down. Three legs bore his weight and his fourth arm was extended. In his hand, he held someone up. Tonklyn could see that the figure wore the armor and tunic of their new royal guard. The dragon’s eyes stared intently at the man, and his hand shook slightly, as if he were squeezing the soldier in a crushing grasp. The soldier’s arms and legs flopped from side to side, limp and dripping blood.

Tonklyn stood in shock, unable to move. Kirraxal was focused on the body and paid no attention to the sudden shift in the shadows as Tonklyn had entered the room.

Finally, with a growl, Kirraxal loosened his grip, and the crumbled form of the man tumbled from his bloody hands to the floor with a slap. Tonklyn saw two other bodies lying there, equally distorted into inhuman postures. Tonklyn slowly stepped forward into the chamber. He squinted from the brightness of the light of his staff. It cast erie shadows against the walls.

Kirraxal turned to look at Tonklyn, then back at the three bodies lying on the floor before him. As Tonklyn came closer, he noticed that much of the blood on the floor was a dark purple, not just the normal red of the humans. What happened? Did they attack him? He quickly looked up and saw the thick purple liquid dripping from Kirraxal’s fingers and claws.

“You’re hurt!” Tonklyn called out. “Did they think they could attack you? Are there more?”

The dragon muttered. “They did not attack.”

Tonklyn stood back and raised his gaze high up toward the dragon’s face. “Then why were they killed?”

“They are not dead.”


Kirraxal dropped his hand to the floor and looked back to the three bodies. “Not completely.”

The purple blood that stained the stones was evaporating into a dark haze that spread over the floor and the bodies. That smoke stirred and shifted, like a sleeping man moving his leg underneath a blanket. Their arms and legs swept under the layer of mist, making an unearthly and haunting scraping on the stone.

Tonklyn watched in morbid fascination. “This is the from the scroll. You’re doing the death ritual you wanted me to translate!”

Without speaking, or looking away, the dragon nodded.

He didn't wait for me to translate it all. He's figured it out on his own. Tonklyn's mind and heart raced.

An elbow flipped above the smoke for a moment, then it lifted up a shoulder. Another body moaned and rolled onto its side and began to rise. It’s broken and twisted torso made crackling sounds as the muscles reknit and the bones slipped back into place. A second man stood up, but fell back to one knee.

Tonklyn's eyes widened, and he turned away, but he couldn’t help but look back at the misshapen bodies. Their skin, once made a bit rough only by short dark hairs or an occasional scar, bunched and twisted until it became a dark scaly leather. Gradually, they stood straight, without stumbling or becoming imbalanced. They looked up to Kirraxal with emotionless worship, like statues of soldiers awaiting orders.

Tonklyn stepped back, his breathing shallow.

Kirraxal spoke first. “They are the dragonbonded. They carry my blood and will serve me with a single-minded loyalty, obeying my every command. They will stop at nothing, fear nothing, and never hesitate. They will fulfill my wishes,” The dragon leered with emphasis at Tonklyn, and then looked back at the soldiers, “without question.”

Okay. Tonklyn took a deeper breath, holding it in. I get the point. I will have to be very careful.

Kirraxal looked at the gash in his palm. It had mostly stopped bleeding. He spun his body around and stepped back to his gigantic bed. His steps were marked by the scraping of his claws on the stone and the splashing of blood. He curled himself onto his mattress and brought his tail around to his chest. “Tomorrow, you will have other servants clean my chambers. Then, they can see what my dark will is capable of.

I see.

"After that, I will give these three their tasks. One will go to find the white dagger and bring it to me. Another will go to find the lineage of this Heathrax that you're warning me about.”

Tonklyn continued backing away, toward the passage back to his own chamber. “And the third?”

“The third will remain,” the dragon huffed, glancing at Tonklyn before laying down his head, “as my guard.”

"Yes, your Majesty"


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, November 4, 2019

173 - “Planning in the Shadows” - Tonklyn - A Tale of Heroes

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


Tonklyn cut off another thin sliver of the medium rare venison steak on the plate before him. He held it up and examined it in the room’s oculus light. It was perfectly browned and seared, delicately seasoned and drizzled with an tangy berry sauce. He tasted it and savored the richness. Maybe you don’t have to be the King to live like one...

The last few weeks had brought significant changes, since the treasure horde had been found. It had been initially difficult to convince Kirraxal to begin using the gold to strengthen his reign. The dragon had wanted to keep it all close. He began to see, however, the comforts and influence that money can bring. Being the descendant of a demigod and the focus of religious devotion is a wonderful thing, but it only gets you so far. Eventually, some people will have to be paid. 

He took another bite and sighed. ...Like a chef! And servants.

He sat in his chambers, at a table surrounded by books and scrolls. One, most prominently placed where he could see it as he dined, was a very large book, with pages almost as large as a man lying and spreading his arms and legs wide. This one had been found among the gold and relics in the horde. Its pages were of thick heavy fabric and were filled with large glyphs of dragonscript. It was clearly not intended for the use of humans.

On top of one if its open pages lay one of the books that Tonklyn had brought back from the cathedral’s catacombs. This one was also large, at least for a human, but still much smaller than the dragonkind tome. It contained much of the lore and history that the humans had gathered on the dragons, and was helping him to translate and understand the other writings in the horde’s collection.

Kirraxal had demanded that Tonklyn read the great tomes of dragon history to him, but it had been slow, as Tonklyn struggled with the interpretations. As a result, there were still many gaps in the timelines. They were gradually getting through the reigns of the original Dragon Kings. Tonklyn, particularly, wanted to know what it was that caused their eventual decline. How was it that the humans were able to overcome them after so many years of domination?

Kirraxal also learned as they read, grasping the meanings of some of the glyphs quickly. He didn’t, however, have much patience for reading.

A distant bell chime rang, loud and deep. It rang again. Nor, it seems, does he have patience for much else, either.

Tonklyn dropped the fork and stood. He closed and hefted the smaller human-made tome and shifted it into position under his arm. He carefully adjusted his robes, strode into the hallway, and continued up the stairs. As he walked, the bell tolled a third time.

“Yes, yes, I hear it! I’m on my way!” he muttered. Creator’s mercy!

He came to the top of the stairs, rounded a corner, and stepped into Kirraxal’s great chamber. He immediately bowed to his knee, as was his new protocol. “Your Majesty.” Two servants in drab brown robes on either side of the entrance bowed as well, first to Tonklyn, then more deeply to Kirraxal.

The dragon was lying on his bed, with his head snaked upward and his hind legs and tail curled around. The bed was a massive and deep mattress of ornate quiltworks on a stone dais, whose edges were now gilt with polished gold and silver. Ornate chandeliers of oculus stones hung above and would be easily able to light the room like a high noon sun, but Kirraxal always kept them glowing dimly. A large wooden table had been set next to him and an immense scroll was partly unrolled across it.

Has he been reading? This is different.

Kirraxal snorted and harsh smoke wafted across the table. “Have you found anything, or are you just hiding and eating down there?”

“Even your majesty requires sustenance.” I really don’t like talking like this.

“Yes, well, you humans seem to think that getting bigger means a bigger prize.”

Tonklyn breathed deep and steeled himself for a moment, convincing himself to not respond. “I have found some references to this Giatrace Dragonfriend, as you requested. I believe that this is his elvish name. There are a few mentions in human lore, from the time of elder DragonKings, to someone named Heathrax. I gather that at the time, there were some of the dragons that disapproved of the rule of the King, calling him oppressive and a tyrant. They advocated a more... shall we say, interactive rule with the subjects of Wynne. This Heathrax could have been one of the humans they interacted with.”

“Mmm,” The dragon turned his head to look at Tonklyn. “If his descendants still live, they could make it difficult to rouse any dragons remaining in the mountains. We will need those dragons as vassals to overtake the high elves in Emberfire.”

“Your Majesty is beginning to think more strategically, I see.”

“And you are continuing to speak disrespectfully, I see,” Kirraxal snarled. “I still don’t like the waiting. It makes me tense. But, yes, I am seeing some sense in it.”

“Once we find them, many will fly with you with promises of fiefdoms and power. I think that in the spring, things will move much more swiftly. The Khelnar that have infested the forest of Umbramire will be rousing again, and we will be able to manipulate them to harass the wood elves. The dissent and confusion that we are brewing up in Twynne Rivers will also be ripe. Yes. After the winter, it will be the time to strike.”

"Very well. We will be prepared." Kirraxal rolled fully onto his belly and raised his chest quarters. He turned his focus back to his scroll. "Come over here. Can you interpret any of these glyphs?"

Tonklyn hurried over and looked. He had to step up onto the bed dais to see the unrolled sheet and its markings. Some looked familiar, but they seemed to be written with a unique hand. The letters were less rounded and more... harsh. "This one is for 'human', but it's not shaped quite like most other writings. It's also right next to these glyphs meaning 'dragon'. This one has elements of other glyphs. Part reminds me of 'life', or 'blood' or maybe both. This part around it is a distortion of 'death'."

"Very good. I am correct, then. I am flying on the right wing."

Oh! By The Creator! Tonklyn’s eyes grew wide and he hissed in a sharp breath. Or The Destroyer, more likely! Tonklyn's voice became hushed. "This is shadow magic, isn't it? This is deep, deep shadow magic. This is playing with the dead."

"The ancient Kings were wise, weren't they, human?" The dragon spoke with a hint of malice, "I will learn their secrets."


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!

Previous Scene, Next Scene
Start the whole story from the beginningStart from where this current story arc begins. Start from where the current story part begins