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Disjecta Membra

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  1. Disjecta Membra

    The Reformer

    Broadswords Chapter Twenty-Eight The Reformer The Dark Collective was coming closer to executing a plan of attack on a kingdom than they ever had. It wasn't that they hadn't had the capacity to do so; no, the power that they shared between all of their members could have caused devastation for quite some time. But the Dark Collective was an intelligent group. They knew that if they launched an attack on a single kingdom or region, the rest of the world would be able to prepare. And that they'd be able to join forces to take down the Collective. Then there was Elsior. A strong mancer, undoubtedly. But a naïve one. He was too fresh, too young, and too focused on a personal vendetta. He was nearing the completion of his own side-project, one which would surely wipe Jhirdyr off the map. In doing so, it would reveal to each of the other kingdoms that the Dark Collective was still active and capable of mass destruction. He was exactly the weak link in the Dark Collective that they needed. The Reformers were a group dedicated to putting an end to the Dark Collective. Not all mancers were bad; not all of them wanted to use their abilities for evil. While it was true that many members of the Reformers did not have abilities past divination, and many members of the Dark Collective had lost those divining powers, there were members of each group that were capable of both. Those involved with the Dark Collective who were able to manipulate things as well as see details of the future were by far the most powerful. However, there was no telling how many of them there were. Even to the Reformers, there was not a whole lot of insight on what exactly went on in the Dark Collective. They had more information than the general population, of course, but not by much. It was much harder to gather information using the powers of divination on those that had similar abilities. Harder, but not impossible. One of the Reformers' most invaluable members was a Pyromancer named Phërion. Phërion was on the frontline of taking down the Dark Collective and was one of the allegiance's strongest assets. But as all of the Reformers did, he had to play his cards strategically. He knew that since he wouldn't be able to get into Elsior's head, or likely any of his cohorts, he would have to look at alternative ways to get closer to the situation. Sending in a double agent was out of the picture; they'd attempted it a handful of times in the past, each with disastrous results. They'd lost some strong Reformers in their efforts. The Dark Collective was not a stupid bunch, and they'd figured it out each time. No, Phërion would have to find someone that was connected to Elsior, but not directly working with him. Through many exhausting nights of pushing his Pyromancy to its limits, straining himself to find visions within the crackling flames in many different hearths, he finally discovered that there was a connection Elsior shared to a prince in the kingdom of Jhirdyr. Jhirdyr was across the Axial Sea from Dorderia, the kingdom Phërion was from. The Axial Sea, being the largest body of water on any of the continents, aside from the ocean, was a treacherous place to travel over. But it was either that or travelling around it altogether, which would have doubled the journey time. Not one to shy away from adventure, plus being concerned with the amount of time they had left, he chose the more dangerous path. There were few boatmen that were willing to travel all the way across the sea, but he was able to find one to agree to escort him over the waters for a steep fee. Between the tumultuous waves caused by whatever tectonic forces occurred beneath the seafloor and the monstrous creatures that lived in the depths of the waters, there were several points in which he feared they wouldn't make it. But they managed to come through unscathed. He was accompanied by Roark, a fellow Pyromancer who was still coming into his own. He'd wanted to make the journey alone, but several of the head Reformers had insisted he'd take a companion. While Roark wouldn't have been his first choice, they'd insisted that the young mancer was an up-and-comer and a task such as this one would help develop his capabilities. While Phërion didn't think such an important mission was the right choice for someone so fresh, there was nothing further he could say in the matter. It was getting dark by the time they'd entered Jhirdyr, and they needed a place to stay for the evening. They found a small place, Street Inn, and approached the man behind the bar. "We're looking for a room for the night," Phërion said. He noted that the man seemed distracted and added, "Are you alright?" "Yes, I'm sorry," came the response, though the man's demeanor didn't change. "My brother usually handles the room rentals." He shuffled around under the counter for a moment before emerging with a dusty, poorly-bound journal. He pushed it across the bartop toward Phërion. "We have just two rooms, were you looking for separate lodgings or will one suffice?" "Have the rooms got two beds each?" Phërion asked. He didn't mind sharing a room with Roark, in the interest of saving money. The boat ride had cost more than he'd liked, and he wouldn't say no to cheaper options. But not if it meant sharing a bed with the younger mancer. The man nodded. "How many nights?" "Just one, for now. If we need to extend our stay, we can revisit that option later." He wrote his name down in the book where the man pointed, and handed over the payment. The innkeeper advised that there were a round of complimentary drinks that came with the stay. After the journey they'd had, both mancers were happy to accept. "My name is Sal, by the way," the man said as he presented them with their ales. "If you need anything at all, please let me know." He stepped back and stood there awkwardly. Phërion took a swig of his drink, feeling an instant relaxation course through his bones. But Sal was making him feel uncomfortable with his demeanor. "Sal, you sure you're alright?" "Yes, I'm fine. There's just been a lot of things going on as of late," he said simply. Though a casual statement, Sal's words piqued Phërion's interest. He had a feeling that whatever Sal was talking about had at least something to do with the reason for their visit. Attempting to keep the conversation afloat without seeming prying, he took another drink. "Oh? Anything exciting? We're from Dorderia, you see, and if there's any special events taking place, we'd be interested in possibly attending." Sal cleared his throat and finally made eye contact with Phërion. "Excitement, yes, but I'm afraid not the sort you'd be looking for." Phërion could tell that there was plenty that Sal wasn't telling them, and that the barkeep recognized he was coming across off-putting. There was a sudden noticeable shift in his voice, despite the fact that it was obviously forced. "There are several things to do in Jhirdyr, though! We've got great marketplaces, tons of historical buildings that you must see, and some of the best libraries on the continent. And there are wonderful places to eat here, but you won't find a better meal than in this very establishment. Can I interest you in a view of the menu?" While hunger was indeed gnawing at his stomach, something else that Sal said had caught his attention. "Libraries, you say?" He'd caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a library in a few of his mancy sessions, though it hadn't been clear why. Maybe Sal was the answer to that question. "Yes, indeed. I must admit, I'm not the most avid reader. That's another area my brother is better equipped for. But we've got large selections in each of the libraries within the kingdom. If you're interested in literature, I recommend the city's primary library. I can give you directions, if you'd like." He didn't know why, but Phërion felt that the library should be their first stop in the morning. There was a gut feeling about it, and he knew he'd have to practice some focused Pyromancy to see if he could hone in on what it all meant. Gut feelings with mancies were always a significant sign that one was on the right track. Taking Sal up on his offer, he memorized the simple directions to the library and allowed Sal to seat them to peruse the menu. They'd eat, get a good night's sleep, and he would call on the flame in the morning to kick the plan into motion. The poor excuse for a room that Phërion and Roark shared was small and cramped, and the dual beds barely fit inside. There was a small chest between the two for them to store their belongings, but the quarters didn't grant enough space to hold much else. Including a fireplace. Phërion had to settle for a candle in which he'd obtained from Sal. It would make the divination more complicated, but if he focused hard enough it would still be doable. He sent Roark out to the dining room for a few hours so he could really concentrate on the task at hand. However, the thin walls didn't do much to keep him focused. He could hear every sound from the other rooms in the building, plus much of the commotion from outside on the street. Regardless, he was able to get a clear enough vision to realize what he needed to do. Blowing out the candle, he fetched Roark on his way out of the inn and the two made their way toward the library. When they reached the squat building, he knew exactly where to go. Though he was an established mancer, sometimes the second nature that the craft provided still surprised him. He'd never set foot in the building, but it was as if he knew the layout like the back of his hand. He found a small book detailing Terramancy tucked into the stacks in the magic section. Through the visions he'd seen in the candle's flame, he knew exactly where it would be. It hadn't told him if there were any other books specific to the mancies, though, and he knew he had time to kill. He scanned the rest of the section, but no other books seemed to focus on the subject of mancies at all. He loved finding books on Pyromancy, just to see what kind of wild opinions and "facts" the author supplied. At the same time, he wasn't surprised; before the Dark Collective had soiled the name of the mancies, when mancers were not seen as an overall nefarious group, Terramancy was one of the most prevalent in Jhirdyr. If there was only one book on the subject, even in a library as large as this, it made sense that it was the only one remaining. Swiftly, he moved the book from its initial location and tucked it behind a book on Tarragonian. "Let's go," he told Roark, a sense of accomplishment in his voice. Roark, still a novice, didn't seem to understand the intricacies of how the art of Pyromancy spoke to the mancer. "I don't understand, exactly. You moved a book? That's going to help us get to Elsior?" "Keep your voice down!" Phërion said, a little too harshly. "We don't need people knowing why we're here, and certainly not if they're familiar with who he is. That wouldn't bode well for us. And yes, it will get the ball rolling." If Roark was upset by Phërion's reaction, he didn't show it. He did lower his voice, though, as the two exited the library. "I know I'm still learning, but I don't see how this is going to make any difference." Trying not to snap again, especially considering the fact that he hadn't wanted the other Pyromancer to join him in the first place, Phërion took a deep breath before he continued. "The prince I saw in my visions, before we came here… this morning, I saw in the flames that he will come across the book. As you'll learn, the art of Pyromancy, as with most mancies, isn't always clear. What I do know is that this is an important step for everything to progress in our favor. That is where the feeling comes in, the feeling of knowing it's the right path." "But… won't he just find the book anyway? If he's going to be looking in the correct section, versus a different section altogether?" Though Roark was getting on his nerves, Phërion was beginning to realize that the boy needed his help if he ever hoped on making something of himself as a mancer. He was seeing why the head Reformers had mandated his accompaniment. "There are some things I just can't explain. It all comes down to that feeling. It bubbles in your core, like an arrow pointing you in the right direction. You learn to let it speak to you. In this case, it's specific to the book I moved it behind. That much I know. It was about the Tarragonian language. If I didn't move it, the prince wouldn't locate both books. He would stop after finding the one on Terramancy, since that's his goal. But in my visions, he needs to find both of them." "But—" Before Roark could even begin his question, Phërion cut him off. "I don't know. I would assume it's because this prince needs to learn the language as well as discover more information on Terramancy. Why? No idea. Maybe he'll only be able to put an end to Elsior's plan by speaking to someone that only knows Tarragonian. Maybe he needs to get distracted in his studies so he can't get involved, and so someone else finishes Elsior off. Maybe it's something that will come into play dozens of years down the road. I really couldn't tell you. I just know it's right." With that, Roark finally stopped asking questions. Phërion felt like he could actually breathe normally again, without the onslaught of inquiries. They had several hours left before nightfall, considering the task was as simple as it was. They decided to check out some of the other things Sal had mentioned that the kingdom had to offer. At that point, they just needed to let everything fall into place.
  2. Disjecta Membra

    The Draining

    Most of it was planned for sure, but some of it has presented itself to me as golden opportunities as I’ve gone along. I’m glad you’re enjoying it and that you find it thrilling, your comments are truly inspirational and your reactions are exactly what I hope to envoke. Thank you so much for your dedication to the story! Next chapter will hopefully be ready soon. It’s gonna be slightly different, so I hope it keeps the energy alive!
  3. Disjecta Membra

    The Draining

    I thought it would be an interesting concept to have all the expected heroes (slayers and squires) unable to do much, while the unexpected gents (barkeeps and princes) are making headway in fighting back.
  4. Disjecta Membra

    The Draining

    Kep is definitely coming into his own. While he started off more of a timid character, he’s getting much more involved and proving that he’s integral in the things that are afoot!
  5. Disjecta Membra

    Caption This Challenge! Halloween Edition

    It was a crowbar. Who’d left that in the road? But as the headlights of his truck switched to the brights, he realized that he’d fallen for the trap.
  6. Disjecta Membra

    Chapter Three: Know Thyself

    A lot of details thrown at us, but still so much shrouded in mystery. That's not easy to do, but you've done it nicely.
  7. Disjecta Membra

    The Draining

    Broadswords Chapter Twenty-Seven The Draining He found Elan's house with ease. It wasn't hard; though all of the houses on the inner streets were large and lavish, only one was flanked with ornate dragons. Kep stopped before the house, looking up at the tall white pillars that bordered the entrance. Its entirety was made of stone, ensuring far more stability than the buildings in his own neighborhood, which were a hodgepodge of wood, stone, metal, and other various materials. The vast difference of the appearances of the houses and buildings in the center of the kingdom made it feel like they were in two separate cities. It was rare that Kep found himself in the vicinity, and it made him feel uncomfortable. Jhirdyr was a place of acceptance, and caste issues were rare. The rich didn't typically have a distaste for the poor, and vice versa. They really did all coexist. It was one of the greatest things about Jhirdyr, as most other kingdoms and cities across the continents did not have that same mentality. But Kep felt that his appearance made him stick out like a sore thumb. Considering he'd had a history of struggling to interact with others in general, being around people in a different class than his own wasn't something he really knew how to adapt to. As such, he didn't want to stand on the street any longer than he had to. He stepped up the walkway to Elan's house and studied the doorknocker. The ring itself was a snakelike dragon, coiled in a perfect circle. He wondered if it was Elan's personal taste, or if it was standard for dragonslayer homes to be so themed on the subject. He lifted the knocker and brought it down against the metal plate three times. He wanted to ensure it was heard – who was to tell how large the home was and if the knock would be audible if it wasn't repeated. While he waited, he let his mind wander. He was nervous for Birten. While the squire had mentioned that the trip could take longer if the slay was a difficult one, Kep had just assumed it would only take the minimum amount of time. Since it was now about three weeks since Birten had departed, Kep had begun to feel concerned. Everything was probably fine, but Birten had been the first person he'd connected to in quite some time. He knew it was natural to worry. His knocks remained unanswered, so he repeated the action. He couldn't hear any noises from inside, though the thick stone structure probably wouldn't allow for that anyway. Maybe Elan was still asleep. Though it was a few hours past noon, it was possible. He was a bachelor after all, and with a freelance-style job. It wasn't as if he had to follow a strict schedule. If that was the case, it annoyed Kep. They'd made the plans to meet up. If Elan couldn't ensure that he was ready on time, it didn't sit well either that he was the right man to make plans to tackle the dragons. Considering that Kep didn't know Elan all that well yet, and also that he didn't want to be seen entering a dragonslayers home without being granted access, he didn't feel comfortable going inside to see if Elan was indeed sleeping. Plus, houses in this area of the kingdom were likely always locked. With a heavy sigh, he let his shoulders fall as he turned away and headed toward his side of town. He was disappointed. This whole process, scary as it was, made him feel like he was making a difference for once. He'd been looking forward to this day. The way Elan acted the other day, he'd thought he was serious about the whole thing. It wouldn't make sense that he'd be able to hold the number one spot in the rankings if he wasn't dedicated. Unless he was just trying to shake Kep off. He stopped walking as the thought hit him. Maybe that's what it was. Elan could have decided he didn't want this random guy tagging along. Kep wasn't a skilled warrior, after all. He barely had any dragonslaying knowledge. From the perspective of someone like Elan, he could be considered a nuisance. But Kep was the one who made the initial discovery. And it was his cave. And he was serious and devoted. If Elan was indeed trying to exclude him from the process, Kep wasn't going to take it sitting down. He'd spent too long as a passive individual, and he didn't want to let that mentality lead his life anymore. Ever since he'd started changing his outlook, he'd been happier. He wondered if Elan had decided to head out to the cave. If that was the case, Kep would join him. He changed directions; instead of heading to the inn, he was going to go to the stables. The stable attendant refused to let Kep know if Elan had taken his horse out of the private stables. He wasn't surprised. But he had a feeling that he was right and that the slayer had indeed made a solo trip to the cave. Kep knew he shouldn't pay to rent a horse, as it wasn't a business need. It wasn't something that was going to help the inn in any way, and thus it wasn't money he should be spending. But he didn't want to walk all the way to the cave. He was too interested in confronting Elan. Additionally, if he was wrong, he didn't want to have to make the journey back on foot as well. So he rented one, making a mental note to not mention anything to Sal. When he arrived at his destination, Elan's horse was standing outside of the cave. She looked slightly restless as Kep stationed his rental next to her. How long had Elan been there? He forged ahead, letting his torch guide him. "Elan?" he called. Though he was mad at him, he also didn't want to sneak up on the slayer. That could end up badly for everyone. Still, his call wasn't reciprocated. It wasn't long before he found his bag. It was in the middle of the ground and opened. A box lay open atop it, crafted from a form of wood Kep didn't recognize. To the right of the items, the rocks and dirt were shifted aside as if something had been dragged in that direction. Kep aimed his torch that way. It was then that he saw Elan. He was propped up against the wall, his top half slumped over. His skin was far less pigmented than normal. The Sanguistis was in his hand. Rushing oved, Kep fell to his knees before the downed slayer and anchored his torch into the ground. "Elan! Elan!" he yelled frantically, shaking the man's shoulders. He remained limp, his head bobbing with each shake. Kep eyeballed the dagger. Its spike was still impaled into Elan's hand. He assumed it was the cause of this. Tentatively, he wrapped his fingers around the bandaged weapon and pulled it out of Elan's palm. A small glisten of blood freshly shone at the tip. How much of his blood had been absorbed by the thing? He tossed it aside, wanting it to be far away from him. He shook Elan again. "Hey, are you in there?" All former irritation with Elan was out the window. He was scared for the slayer's life. Kep was no medical expert, but it seemed quite clear that the dagger had drained a lot of blood out of him. He had no idea how long Elan had been there, either, so there was no telling how much. He put his ear to Elan's chest. Though faint, he could hear his heartbeat. He was alive, but it seemed just barely. He had to get him to an apothecary. There was no time to go back into town and bring one back. He had to find a way to get Elan back to the kingdom. Though he wasn't anywhere near as in shape as Elan, years of maintaining the inn, carting around heavy boxes of supplies, and working with his hands in general had kept Kep's arms rather muscular. He might have had a little extra weight around his middle, but his upper body strength did exist. Considering how tall and brawny Elan was, it wasn't an easy task, but Kep somehow managed to heft him onto his mare. Out of breath, Kep mounted his own horse and grabbed the reins of Elan's as well. He wasn't the best at horseback riding, so he hoped he could maintain both horses all the way back. He didn't have much choice. All he had to do was get him to the gates and the guards could assist from there. The ride back took longer than Kep had hoped. He'd kept the pace brisk; he didn't want to run the risk of Elan falling off the horse if they moved too quickly. But finally, they'd neared the entrance to the kingdom. The guards typically disregarded passersthrough except for special instances. If royalty was arriving from another kingdom, for example, or when knights or dragonslayers returned from a mission. Other than that, the guards knew who was leaving the kingdom and thus knew who to let back in. They were quite astute when it came to ensuring that they weren't allowing entrance to outsiders. As such, they would have normally let Kep and Elan through without a second glance, since they'd known Elan wasn't on a slay. Of course, that would be the case if both men were upright. Considering Elan was doubled over, the guards took immediate notice. Kep had been expecting that of course, and needed it to happen. They could get Elan to where he needed to go. What he hadn't been expecting, however, was their reactions. They didn't begin opening the doors as they normally did. Instead, one of them called out. "Oy, you! Who is that you've got with you?" Kep called back nervously. "It's Elan, the dragonslayer. He's—" But he was cut off. "What have you done to him?" The guards looked angry and accusatory. Kep wasn't unaware that their hands were on the hilts of their weapons. "I found him like this. He's lost blood. H-He's alive, but just barely. He needs medical attention, right away," Kep responded. Finally, the guards began the process of opening the doors. He never realized how painstakingly long the process was. One of the guards took the reins from Kep and began leading the horse into the kingdom. Kep made to follow, but another guard stopped him. "We've got it from here, kid. Scram," he said, and pointed in the direction of the stables. Hesitantly, Kep obliged. He shouldn't have been surprised, but in a way he was. At the same time, it was probably lucky that the guards let him leave instead of keeping him for questioning. It wasn't every day that a random citizen brought an incapacitated, renowned dragonslayer into the kingdom. As he returned to the stables, he knew Elan was in the best possible hands. Obviously they would utilize the royal apothecary, who was the best medic the kingdom had. Remembering his recent dreams, combined with his current mindset focused on apothecaries, Kep couldn't help but think of Jeno. His old friend had begun his apothecary training when they were still teenagers. Now that they hadn't spoken in years, Kep wondered if he had followed through and taken the subject on as a full-time job. He also remembered that Jeno used to have a fascination with weaponry. Though he had always said he didn't want to be part of the king's guard, a knight, or a slayer, he'd loved weapons. Maybe Jeno could give Kep some insight on the dagger that had almost taken Elan's life. He swallowed hard at the thought. He missed Jeno, he really did. But their drifting apart had been awkward. How would it be to visit him after all this time? As he thought about it, he remembered what had run through his head when he was at Elan's doorstep. He needed to avoid the passiveness he was so used to. And it had been Jeno's last words to him that had helped him accept the more positive mentality. He made his decision. He was ready to patch things up.
  8. Finished! Cutting it close, but it's done!
  9. Disjecta Membra

    The Flashback

    Broadswords Chapter Twenty-Six The Flashback As the heat of the dragonfire began to increase, Daegon watched as the reds became oranges, which then became yellows, and finally whites. Though he was dehydrated, beads of perspiration began to pepper his skin. He felt himself fading out of consciousness. "You must never let them see you sweat!" Vyrik said, grunting as he hoisted his sword before him. It was a heavy sword, Daegon knew, as it was one of his many squire-related duties to lug the thing around. At sixteen, he'd been working alongside Vyrik for two years and the aging slayer had always favored that sword. Despite its heft, he'd insisted it was his best weapon. Regardless, Daegon was ready to toss any of a wide assortment of other weapons to Vyrik if needed. It wasn't unusual for him to call out for a battleaxe or a short sword partway through a slay. Many of the other slayers in the kingdom of Darkhaven tutted at Vyrik's unusual methods. Even so, he was one of the longest-lasting slayers they had, and by far one of the best. Daegon had shown a lot of promise, Vyrik had said, which is why he'd chosen him to be his squire. Daegon never questioned any of his slayer's motives. Vyrik's sword sliced through the air, missing the dragon's neck by inches but causing the beast to withdraw slightly. It roared at him, and a collective gasp from the onlookers followed. Having a group of civilians in attendance during a slay was never a good thing, but the people that lived on Dragon's Loop Island were not generally concerned with safety. After all, they voluntarily resided on an island that was surrounded by water dragons. Thankfully, the aquatic creatures almost exclusively occupied the inlet and waters surrounding the island and rarely came ashore. If they did so more often, the island would have needed its own set of dragonslayers versus calling on those from Darkhaven. But when they did encroach on the land, the islanders were quick to call for reinforcements. This was Daegon's fourth trip to the island, and he'd become accustomed to the audience. It was them, the crowd, whom Vyrik was referring to when he shared his advice. "If they see nerves, they will be quick to turn on you. They have no dedication to a single slayer. If they felt that I was too intimidated by this beast, they'd instead begin to call on one of the others from the kingdom. Reputational risk is always at stake when people are involved. And in many ways, humans are far more dangerous than dragons." With another flourish of his weapon, Vyrik downed the dragon. Its long, sinewy neck fell toward the sand. Daegon had to leap aside to avoid being struck. From behind, he could hear the cheers of the islanders. True to his word, Vyrik appeared undaunted. Daegon knew, however, that the slay was not an easy one and swelled with pride to be associated with a man that could showcase so much strength and perseverance in such difficult circumstances. After the crowd began to disburse and Vyrik collected the dragon's tongue, they made their way to one of the island's inns. Though the journey back to Darkhaven was not a long one, Vyrik generally preferred to spend the remainder of the day after a slay in the town where it occurred. "Take advantage of your travels," he would say. "Many people are stuck in one place their whole lives. In our career, we are given the opportunity to see different places, different cultures. Soak it up." They unloaded their gear in their room and bathed, washing off the day's adventure. Daegon took his slayer's sage words to heart, and no matter where they were he would broaden his horizons and experience things that Darkhaven didn't have to offer. As he toweled himself dry, he debated how he would spend his evening. Vyrik had chosen to catch a play at the amphitheater, but Daegon had never been one for dramatic performances. "What have you settled on?" Vyrik asked, buttoning up his eveningwear. Daegon studied him as he dressed, impressed with how the man was still cool and confident even in his middle-agedness. It was another thing Daegon looked up to him for, and he could only hope that he'd be as impressive as Vyrik as he got older. "Any suggestions?" Daegon asked. In previous visits to Dragon's Loop Island, he'd already attended a joust, explored the legendary beaches, and taken a tour of the beryl mines. He was eager to try something new. "You haven't been to the ruins yet, have you?" Vyrik realized suddenly, turning to face the boy. Daegon knew he hadn't, of course, but also wasn't aware that the island was home to any ruins. "No, sir. What ruins?" Vyrik chuckled. "I often forget your age, Daegon. There's still plenty to teach you of our occupational history. Quite some time ago, a noble family lived on the northern shores of the island. They were revered for their extravagant lands, a property that consisted of a grandiose mansion and dozens of other structures – a menagerie, a greenhouse, a mausoleum, a conservatory… the list goes on and on. The property – Fairmist, as they called it – was almost a town of its own. "The lord of the house had the structures built because of his fascination with the dragon-infested waters that surround the island. His ultimate goal was to have an underwater dome built in which he could capture a few of the beasts. A place where he could observe them in a more confined space, and where he could encapsulate them as living trophies. It would have been his definitive accomplishment. Construction was begun, but it didn't get very far." Wide-eyed, Daegon was intrigued. "What happened?" "The dragons became agitated. Large glass panels were being erected in their habitat. The seafloor was being disturbed, nests were being destroyed and eggs broken before they were near ready to hatch. They began to attack the men working on the project, then took to the rest of the estate. Fairmist was destroyed in a matter of hours, along with all of its inhabitants." Daegon couldn't believe he'd never heard of the events that Vyrik described. It sounded like an awful incident. He wasn't sure why Vyrik suggested it as a place to visit. Sure, it seemed far more interesting than an old mine or a stretch of sandy land, but it also seemed far more disturbing. "And this is someplace I should go?" The slayer nodded firmly, smoothing out his jacket. "It's just as important to garner knowledge from negative experiences as it is from positive ones. As men in this field, we need to learn from the mistakes made by others in the past. We know how temperamental water dragons are. But we weren't born with that information, Daegon. We have acquired knowledge from those before us. Slayers and civilians alike. Visiting the ruins of Fairmist, that's something I feel you would benefit from. To see what can come of those that become too complacent." Daegon dressed in silence. Never one to doubt his mentor's logic, he chose to take the recommendation and travel northward toward the former site of Fairmist. The next morning, Daegon was more reserved than normal. The ruins had taken a toll on him. Much of the land had become overgrown with weeds and other various foliage, but bits and pieces of the structures remained. He could see where dragon fire had scorched the brick, the discoloration still evident after however many years. Claw marks still marred the decaying wood, and the shambles of what had once been someone's home retained a morose feel. Vyrik tipped the deckhand after the crates of scales and teeth from their slay had been loaded onto the boat. Once everything was ready to journey across the waters back to Darkhaven, he approached Daegon and placed his hand on the squire's shoulder. "It's going to lay heavily on you for a while, but I'm glad you have that experience now." Looking up at him, Daegon broke his silence. "I'm grateful to you. I understand the importance of viewing the ruins. But sir… it scares me, a little. What will prevent something like that from happening to me?" The slayer sat down beside Daegon. "That family was ignorant, son. You are far from that. Someday, you'll find yourself in a situation where you'll be at death's door. Hell, if you develop into the dragonslayer I believe you will, you'll face that scenario several times over your career. But the one thing to remember is to never, ever give up. Sometimes your skills will get you out of it, sometimes it will be because of the assistance from others, or sometimes it will come down to sheer, dumb luck. Never be too proud to accept any of those means as a way out of a situation." "Damnit, Deke! What are you doing here?" Daegon's eyes fluttered open, the heat seemingly receding as he heard Elsior's angry cry. His vision was still distorted, but he could see that the dragon had indeed ceased its flame altogether. His eyes hurt, but he strained them as much as he could. Spots of light bit at his sight. He could just make out Elsior's shape, along with another figure. The dragon appeared to be completely under Elsior's control, as it stood idly by without a hint of disobedience. Just as the creature had begun charging its fireball at the snap of Elsior's fingers, it seemed to only act at his command. Whatever this thing was, this Elsior's Dragon as it had so egotistically been called, it was unlike any breed of dragon Daegon had ever even fathomed. "It's the squire," the other man said, a hint of worry in his voice. The squire. Birten. Had something happened to him? Was he dead? Elsior had assured him that Birten was alive, but Elsior's word was nothing to him. Further, the could-be franticness that toyed at the man's tone caused Daegon to believe that something had gone awry. Despite his weariness, the reference to Birten jolted his body into a more aware state. He forced his eyes all the way open, feeling the hint of a burn on his face from the heat that had moments ago filled the cavern. He sat up as straight as he could, leaning forward at the same time. He needed to hear whatever it was that was about to be said. Whether Birten was dead or alive, he had to know. "This had better be a matter of life or death, you swine. You've interrupted a very crucial point in my plan," Elsior spat. The tension between the two was unquestionable. His vision returning, Daegon could clearly see the infuriation that crossed Elsior's face. The newcomer hesitated, and the pause seemed like an eternity to Daegon. Those few seconds felt longer than the entire rest of the time he'd spent chained to the wall. "Spit it out already!" Elsior bellowed. The skin on his face was deep red, and the muscles in his neck strained as if they were about to snap. It was his eyes, though, that contained the most fury. It was an anger that Daegon had never seen take over another person. Finally, Deke revealed the reason for his intrusion. "He's escaped."
  10. Disjecta Membra

    The Uncertainty

    Broadswords Chapter Twenty-Five The Uncertainty It had been several days since Birten had been sequestered in Oestra. Though he was initially chained down for the majority of each day, his captors slowly began allowing him more and more time out of the restraints. He was, however, still confined to the overly white room. The first few days were the hardest. He was only granted reprieve from the shackles to eat and relieve himself. Even then, the food was delivered to the room and his bathroom breaks consisted of a bedpan placed on the floor while the peddler faced the other direction. Aside from that, most of his time was spent tied to the large stone slab in the middle of the room. It was uncomfortable, and the more he struggled the more the metal cuffs dug into his skin. Eventually, his wrists and ankles had begun to bleed, which is when he finally stopped writhing. He slept a lot. He often felt much better when he woke, as if maybe things would improve. And as the days went by, the positive feelings felt stronger. His captors seemed to take notice too, that he wasn't quite as resistant. That's when they started granting him more freedom. At first, it was primarily the peddler who had paid him the occasional visit. He made small talk with him, showed him trinkets that he'd gathered on his travels. Birten was hesitant at first, but it actually seemed like the peddler was trying to make him feel more comfortable. After all, the man had said he was just doing his job. He probably didn't have much choice in the matter. His name was Deke, and he'd been all over the world. He'd been to every continent, to cities Birten had only read about, and several he'd never even heard of. The stories he shared were only recountings of what he'd been through, but the tales kept Birten sane. It was better than staring at the walls. When Deke would visit him, he'd unclasp the cuffs and allow Birten to move about the room. Birten would use the time to stretch and get his blood flowing. Hours upon hours in the same position had caused his muscles to stiffen, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd been so uncomfortable. Deke was a savior, in a sense. He gave him the chance to prevent his body from becoming unusable. Eventually, Rea started visiting him as well. At first he refused to talk to her. She tried, that was certain. But he didn't want to give her the time of day. It was one thing with Deke, who seemed to be almost enslaved by Elsior. But Rea was clearly much more capable. He wouldn't have been surprised if she was just as much a part of all of this as was Elsior. But he slowly changed his mind on that, too. The more he listened to her speak, the more he considered that she was just trying to help him. "I understand why you must feel that we are your enemy," she had said. "Keeping you locked up in a room, tearing you away from your life. I would feel the same way you did, if I were in your situation." He scowled at her, wanting to yell but feeling too much anger and hatred. So he kept his mouth shut. He watched as she delicately paced the room, almost floating as she walked back and forth. Her voice was gentle. Even though he wanted nothing more than to scream at her until he was blue in the face, her soft tone made it all the more difficult. She continued. "But Birten, we are not the enemy at all. We just want to help. There are things at play that could threaten existence as we know it." She spoke sincerely, a legitimate look of concern on her face. Her hair was long, a bluish-black that broke the monotony of his imprisonment, and she tucked it behind her ears as she spoke. For some reason, it calmed him. Though his voice was steady, and his demeanor quelled, his words were still pointed. They were the first words he had uttered in her presence, and he chose them carefully. "You mean Elsior." He delivered the statement flatly, ensuring there was no mistaking it for a question. "Heavens, no. Elsior is a victim in all of this, like you are. Like we all are. This is bigger than him, bigger than all of us. It's… well, it's something that might be hard to hear. I'm not sure if…." She let her sentence trail off, and she turned away from him. Her elegant dress seemed to hang limply on her frame, its black folds enveloping one another. Her shoulders slumped. Though he didn't want to, he bit. "Try me," he said through gritted teeth. She faced him once again, smiling sadly. Her eyes were somehow dull, despite their almost black coloring. There was familiarity in them. As if he'd looked into those eyes before. "There's word of an uprising. In Jhirdyr. From within the walls of the castle itself." There was no hint of jest in her words. He watched her carefully, part of him not wanting to believe her and another part scared that she could be telling the truth. He swallowed. "What are you implying?" "It's not an implication at all. It's hearsay, really, but there's evidence to back it up. It seems as though the second eldest prince has formulated a plan to wipe out the reigning king and his immediate successor. And he may have gotten a dragonslayer to partake in his plot… your slayer, in fact… Daegon." Birten shook his head viciously, as if coming out of a trance. It was horseshit. Sure, he didn't know anything about Harmon. For all he knew, that part could very well be true. But he knew Daegon better than he knew anyone. And there was no way in hell that Daegon was involved in some vicious, despicable attack against their home. Rea didn't wait for a response from the squire; she kept talking as if she had been waiting for his reaction. "I know it must be hard for you to hear. I gather you were close with him." "You're insane," he muttered. He couldn't believe he'd almost believed her, believed Deke. They were just as guilty in all of this as Elsior was, and they had almost gotten to him. The stories, the casual conversations. It had all been a ruse. A way to cause him to let his guard down. She didn't show any emotion to his words, just continued to watch him sadly. "I've been called many things in my day, but I assure you that my mental health is very much intact. It can't be easy to learn of treachery at the hands of someone you've been close with for so long, but it doesn't change facts." He continued to stare at her, his blood boiling. Daegon was many things. Arrogant, foul-mouthed, ungrateful… the list went on. He had plenty of questionable qualities. But there wasn't a truly evil bone in that man's body. He cared for his kingdom, he took his job seriously. "Your facts are wrong. If these things were true, why would Elsior have rendered me unconscious and brought me here? Why would you and Deke be keeping me here? If there was something afoot, why wouldn't you be granting me the ability to go out there and do something about it? Instead, you have me chained to a table on an entirely different continent. Your logic is flawed." Rea's hand rose to her chest, almost instinctively, and she clutched something underneath the fabric of her dress. "Why? Birten, you're still not understanding. Elsior did this to protect you. To get you away from Daegon. He saw the way Daegon was misleading you, the same way Harmon had done to him. He loved that man. I can see it within you, too, that you feel the same way for the slayer. But let me ask you this. I know you're an insightful man, Birten, I can sense it. Have you never felt that Daegon had done something behind your back, kept a secret from you?" Immediately, Birten's mind raced back to the night of and the morning after the royal feast. How Daegon hadn't come home. He'd gone to the castle and didn't return until well after noon the following day. He'd expected that Daegon had been unfaithful. But could it have been with Harmon? He could feel Rea's eyes on him. She spoke again, a calmness still controlling her words but a hunger evident nonetheless. He didn't have to look at her to know she had closed the distance between them. "Is there something, Birten?" He remembered Daegon asking if he had slept in his own home that night, and himself lying in response. Why had Daegon been so concerned? If he truly had been sleeping with Harmon, he could have just been honest. They had discussed that possibility at length, after all. Birten would not have held it against Daegon had it happened, though it might have stung a little. But the chance to share a bed with a royal was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And Daegon, the egotistical man that he was, shouldn't have been ashamed to admit such. Unless there was more to it. If there was some deep, dark plot to overturn the royal succession, that would be something to keep quiet. But why? Why would Daegon take part in something like that? His standing. Of course. He hated that he wasn't more renowned in the kingdom, that he wasn't the best at what he did. He'd scream at Birten for any miniscule detail that didn't go exactly according to plan. He would complain after every royal feast about how the king didn't give him as much light of day as he did with slayers such as Elan. Daegon felt underappreciated. Birten looked at Rea. His lip quivered. She couldn't be right, he didn't want to believe it. He couldn't accept that Daegon had betrayed him, betrayed their kingdom. He wanted to remain as strong as he had thus far while being shackled there, holed up in some city in a foreign land. But he was finding it harder and harder to do. "You're realizing the truth, aren't you Birten?" she said. She approached him and placed her hand on his shoulder. He held back tears and jerked away from her touch. Not that it mattered. He wasn't sure what was true anymore. "Stop," he whimpered, closing his eyes tightly. "It's going to be alright," she said softly, pushing him softly back onto the slab. "Go to sleep. Everything will be much clearer in the morning, I'm sure of it." He felt as she placed him back in his restraints. He didn't fight this time. He kept his eyes closed, but a single tear made its way down his cheek. Maybe she was right. Maybe sleep would help clear his mind. He kept trying to assure himself of that as he finally gave in to exhaustion and drifted off into dreamworld.
  11. Disjecta Membra

    The Nest

    I think that would even be kind of mild for Elsior! He’s not up to anything good, that’s for sure.
  12. Disjecta Membra

    The Focus

    Something’s gotta give, right? Our primary heroes are all finding themselves in quite problematic predicaments.
  13. Disjecta Membra

    The Oneiromancer

    Ha! Ain’t that the truth! That could be a subtitle for the story. 😜
  14. Disjecta Membra

    The Pendant

    Are you referring to the one Birten has currently? It’s not meant to be anything special, it’s just a standard, run-of-the-mill dagger.
  15. Disjecta Membra

    The Truth

    I think in this case, they are absolutely good judges of Elsior!

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