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wolfie2kX

Sophia's Choice...

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wolfie2kX    522

Welp.. As many of you may know, I published 5 short books a couple of years ago right here on DarkMatters.org that wound up being incorporated in a quest added to Sacred 2 (Ancient Secrets) as a Christmas present to the community... It was fairly well recieved. There were a few people out there who had a few issues - that were resolved eventually to everyone's satisfaction in the final version that wound up in the game. (Note: the final volume of that series is still "coming soon". Seems it was accidentally left out of version 140.)

 

Anyhow... During those spirited discussions, a few other issues popped up - and a few seeds were planted. Those seeds finaly sprouted over the holidays when I had some spare time to muck about.

 

This story takes place some time after the fateful events in the final tome in the Ancient Secrets series. It ties the world of Ancaria then to the world of Ancaria in Sacred 2 and how things came to be in Sacred and Sacred Underworld. It, I hope, will answer a LOT of burning questions... Like how the dragons, who in the 4 of the 5 diaries were really, really bad guys, became good guys (well, as good as dragons can be, anyhow). What the heck happened to the Dwarves. For that matter, how did one lone survivor of the Dwarven race manage to escape his race's fate and wind up in Ancaria millenia later?

 

Thus far, I've drawn extensively from Sacred, Underworld and Sacred 2 lore and come up with a tale that, I hope will entertain. There will be many surprises, many old friends dropping in for a visit,

 

And now, without further adieu, the first installment of Sophia's Choice...

 

 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Sophia's Run

 

Sophia, a first lieutenant of Maria’s Seraphim army, ran as fast as she could. Time was ticking away. Maria had been seriously injured,, perhaps for the last time. Sophia had heard whispers about what had happened. If the rumors were true, she didn’t have much time. She arrived at the Seraphim Island teleporter and shed most of her armor. It would just slow her down. She kept her sword. She would need that to get past the wild beasts and T-Energy mutants that were currently roaming around the island. She didn’t have time to play with them.

 

Sophia got the urgent summons half an hour previously, while she and her squad were in the midst of a battle with the demons that had infiltrated from the other realm. The last of the vile beasts was on its last leg when the messenger arrived at the site of the battle. The urgency of the messenger’s summons gave the squad the extra motivation to put a quick end to the monstrosity. A hail of Archangel’s Wrath put an end to the beast’s life.

 

She ran as fast as she could up the path that lead to the tower. The wildlife on the island seemed to sense that she had no time to waste and consequently retreated from her path. It was as if they too felt the shock of what happened and were grieving as well. As Sophia ran up the final path, she could see the stunned looks of her fellow Seraphim.

 

As Sophia arrived at the door to the tower, she was greeted by Manda, the physician tending Maria. The look on her face said it all – time was short. “Hail, Sophia!” said the doctor, “Hurry, her time is short.”

 

Sophia pushed past her. The sight that beheld her was anything but expected. The deep wounds to Maria’s midsection were beyond horrific. It was as if she was almost bitten in half. The figure under the blanket seemed shorter than Maria. But no, the wet spots where her feet should have been spoke volumes. Her legs were missing mid-shin, no doubt by the other side of the mouth of the creature that bit her.

It was a miracle that she was still alive. Even more amazing was the fact that she was as quiet as she was. With wounds as horrific as the ones Maria had, one would have thought the pain would be excruciating. No doubt this was due to Manda’s healing potions and pain killers.

Sophia took a step closer, even though she felt revulsion; the bile was pushing at the back of her throat, but she managed to hold it back.

 

“Come closer sister,” Maria silently whispered, “My time is short. There is one last task I must give you.” Sophia complied, forcing her attention only Maria’s face. The tears were streaming from both eyes. If nothing else, focusing her attention there seemed to make the bile settle back into its place.

 

“You’ve arrived just in time. I’m not sure I could have held out much longer,” Maria whispered. “Take my helmet and put it on.”

 

Sophia could scarcely believe what she was hearing. One simply didn’t put on Maria’s armor, let alone her helmet. It was sacrilege. Blasphemy! “No my queen! I can not!” she replied, slightly louder than perhaps was appropriate for the situation.

 

“Silence!” Maria exclaimed with a painful note. “My time is over. My final task is to make sure the Seraphim have a leader. You will need the helmet if you are to lead our sisterhood into the future.” A wave of pain went through the fallen Seraphim’s body, “I’ve chosen you to be my successor. In order to lead our sisterhood, you must have all of the knowledge and wisdom of the ancestors at your disposal.”

 

Sophia stood there for a moment, allowing her statements to sink in. “Why, my queen, was I chosen?” she asked quietly. “We all thought Lurinda was to be your choice.”

 

Maria groaned briefly and then said, “Lurinda is a good friend, and a great warrior, but she lacks much,” and promptly passed out.

 

Manda stepped in and put a hand on Sophia’s shoulder. “She will need some rest now. I will tend her in the meantime. Might I suggest a bath, something to eat and a nap while she gathers her strength?”

 

Sophia stood shocked at the physician’s suggestion – but then realized she had just been through several hours of combat and was covered from head to toe in the blood and gore and other nasty bits of her fallen victims. Not to mention she ran a great distance to get here, and no doubt had a bit of an odor of her own. By the Creator! What a way to present herself in front of the queen! Sophia merely nodded with a hint of embarrassment to the doctor and left the room.

 

Sophia made her way to the barracks and found her cot. A runner had gathered her armor from where she dropped it after leaving the portal. It had already been cleaned and neatly piled at the foot of her cot. She opened her footlocker and found a towel and some cleansing soap and made her way to the bathhouse. A quick glance in the mirror gave Sophia a bit of a shock as she almost didn’t recognize herself. She looked as if she had spent the day rolling around in a Kobold cesspit instead of vanquishing demons. Her odor wasn’t all that much better.

 

Only an elderly elven woman was in evidence at the bathhouse. It would seem everyone else was off holding vigil for Maria; understandable, given the situation. Blissfully, the attendant woman hadn’t recognized her – yet and didn’t make any fuss. Sophia realized this would be the last time she would have the luxury of having a bath here in the troop barracks so she decided to make the most of it.

 

She put the towel near the edge of the bathing tub and put the soap near it. She stuck her toe into the water as a test. She slipped into the warm and soothing water and sank into it up to her neck.

 

All manner of wild thoughts ran through her head. The events of the past few hours – the battle with the demons, the messenger’s frantic summons, the run to the tower, and of course, Maria’s bombshell naming her, Sophia, as the new leader of the Seraphim. What was Maria thinking? She picked up her soap and began scrubbing, removing the crud stuck to her skin. She put some soap in her hair after noticing there were a lot of bits of the same crud stuck in her auburn locks. She rinsed herself off and climbed out of the tub. It was good to be clean again.

 

She wrapped herself in her towel and made her way back to her cot. She put her head down on her pillow and fell into a fitful sleep. The soothing warmth of the bath took more out of her than she expected. Food and answers would have to wait.

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

Sophia woke a short while later to a violent shaking. “Sophia! Wake up! You’re needed in the tower!” someone exclaimed. A runner stood over her Sophia shook the fog of sleep from her head and ran off when Sophia sat up. Light was filtering through the window. It was morning.

 

Reality came storming back with her return to wakefulness. Parts of what happened seemed to be components of a bad dream. Maria being bitten almost in half by what could only be a dragon, Part of her wished it was nothing more than just a nightmare, but there was her armor by the foot of her bed, complete with the fresh scars left on its hull by the demons she and her squad battled the previous day. She quickly got dressed in a clean uniform and ran out the door and down the path to the tower.

 

When she arrived, she had to push her way through the crowd of onlookers – Seraphim, Elves, Humans, some dwarves, lizardmen and a small contingent of Orcs. All had come to lend their support, prayers, and good wishes. No doubt, many were here to bear witness to what can only be considered a once in a lifetime experience – the changing of the Seraphim leadership. Something that had never happened in the entire chronicles of recorded Ancarian history.

 

When she finally got past the crowd and into the tower, she finally found Manda hovering over Maria. The look on her face said it all – the outlook was grim. The doctor stood up and walked over to Sophia when she caught sight of her.

 

“Her fever is high. She will not last much longer,” she said. “Few people know this about dragons, but their bite is highly toxic. Everyone worries about being burnt alive by their breath, but at least, that’s a quick death. A dragon’s bite is far more insidious,” she continued, “Dragons aren’t well known for dental hygiene. They chomp their prey, and bits get stuck in between their teeth. Those bits rot – and the result is a bite that is the most potent poison known to Ancarian science. The worst part – it’s a slow, excruciatingly painful death for which there is no cure.”

 

“Maria woke up a few moments ago and wanted to speak to you one final time,” the physician said. “Go quickly, while there’s still time.”

 

Sophia stepped closer to the cot where Maria’s nearly lifeless form lay. The Seraphim leader’s breath was even more ragged than it was the night before.

 

“I’m glad you came quickly. My time is very short,” gasped Maria. “I must tell you about the helmet before I pass. It’s more than it seems. It’s an ancient device - far older than anyone would realize.”

 

“It’s a recording device. It contains the sum total of the wisdom of the Seraphim going back to the dawn of our own creation.”

 

Maria paused a moment to let the implications sink into Sophia’s consciousness and to catch her breath. “It will tell you everything you need to know.” A wave of what seemed to be excruciating pain coursed through Maria’s frame.

 

Manda quickly moved closer to give Maria another sip of one of her pain killer potions, careful not to give her too much lest she put the wounded leader to sleep. A few moments later, Maria continued, “Seek Lurinda’s guidance. She can help you get acquainted with the helmet and how it works.”

 

Sophia tried to digest the sum total of what she just heard. She was overwhelmed by it all. The only thing that came out of her mouth was “Why me?”

 

Maria managed to force a weak smile to her lips with much effort. “Because, my sister, I’ve seen something within you. Your leadership skills are second to none. Your combat skills are excellent. You also have the patience of the Creator. You have the heart of a warrior and the mind of a diplomat.”

 

“I also foresee a great number of challenges coming ahead,” she continued. “Ancaria is changing. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. I trust you will make the right decisions to steer the world to a better future.”

 

A spasm shook through Maria and her body went still. Manda rushed over and checked for signs of life. She merely looked at Sophia and sadly shook her head. The first and only queen of the Seraphim passed away.

Edited by wolfie2kX
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Omnicide    26

Great story, wolfie; I can't wait for the next installment. Your writing style is to-the-point and easy to understand.

 

Playing a Seraphim and having most of Sophia's armor set, I was also able to vividly picture everything that happened in your story.

 

 

The hard (and painful) lesson from the story: Seraphim guard those legs! Dragons find them to be very tasty treats.

 

 

 

 

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wolfie2kX    522

Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it..

 

Actually, as things would have it, Dragons don't find Seraphim tasty. If they did, Maria woud have been in the Dragon's gullet. Humans yes, Elves, yes, but Seraphim - not so much. The reason why will come out in a soon to be posted chapter.

 

To get things moving, I figure I might as well post the next part right now... :D

 

The Passing

 

Sophia stood motionless for a good long while. The sudden weight of the world was pressing down on her. She was staring at Maria’s now lifeless corpse. She suddenly realized that everyone in the room was staring at her.

 

She only could think of one thing to say – a state funeral was in order. “Clean her up, please,” she said, “Make her presentable. There will be many who will want to come pay their respects.”

 

“Yes, my Queen!” was the response from the people in the room. Sophia had to stifle a laugh. The whole situation was surreal. Just yesterday, she was battling the a hoard of the alien invaders in the great wasteland on the western continent and now, she was suddenly the focus of the world’s attention. Her word was law.

 

Lurinda stepped up to Sophia “Come with me,” she said to Sophia. “There’s much we have to do in the next few days.”

 

To a runner she added, “Summon the blacksmith and archmage. We need to make Sophia some armor fit for a queen!” Sophia merely stared blankly at Lurinda. “What? Do you really expect to be running Ancaria in that ratty old battle scared armor of yours?”

 

Sophia’s stomach chose that moment to interrupt. Lurinda looked at Sophia and asked, “I can see you’re in need of some food. When was the last time you ate?”

 

“I had combat rations yesterday around the middle of the day,” she replied.

 

“Combat rations? You poor thing!” Lurinda exclaimed as she grabbed a passing runner by the shoulder. “Fetch her some of that roast boar and some of those root vegetables from last night’s dinner,” she told the runner and sent him on his way. “And don’t forget the bread!” she yelled after him as he disappeared around the corner.

 

“Now then, you’re no doubt fit to bursting with questions.” Lurinda led her to a side room, one with a table and chairs to sit.

 

“Why me?” asked Sophia. “Aren’t you Maria’s right hand?”

 

Lurinda smiled “Yes, I am - er - was Maria’s best friend, and her right hand. But I know I’m not the right one to be our leader. Maria has had her eye on you for quite some time. She’s watched you blossom into a leader. Your troops sing your praises – and those songs reached her ear.”

 

“Me? I suppose it’s true I’ve done some good for the people. I’ve killed many of the demon invaders, a few dragons, and have always done my best to keep the peace, but I don’t think anything I’ve done has been worthy of such high praise. I was merely doing my job,” replied Sophia.

 

Lurinda laughed, “’Merely doing my job’ you say? But that’s just the point. You have done your job and done it well and in the process you’ve saved a lot of lives and made a lot of friends. You’ve managed to get the respect of the people of Ancaria – Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Lizardmen, even the Orcs think highly of you. And that is saying something. Getting an Orc’s respect is no mean feat!”

 

At this point, the runner Lurinda sent after food arrived with a platter for two, laden with meat, vegetables and bread. “Dig in! One thing you’ll need to learn to do as queen – eat when you can. There’s always a crisis popping up and regular meals aren’t always possible!” said Lurinda.

 

Sophia’s eyes almost popped out of her head looking at the feast before her. She had to admit it – the food before her looked many times more appetizing than the usual combat rations she was accustomed to eating. While combat rations gave the person eating them a full daily supply of everything needed to nourish them and keep them healthy all day long, they lacked considerably when it came to smell and taste. It could be said they had next to no flavor – unless you consider paper a flavor.

 

Sophia took a slice of bread, smeared some of the yellowish brown sauce on the platter on the slice and stabbed a slice of the meat and put it on top. She folded it in half and took a bite. Her eyes began to water as she almost choked.

 

Lurinda laughed a bit at Sophia’s discomfort, “Go easy on the mustard. Your taste buds have likely gotten so used to those bland combat rations they’re likely going to be on overload!” she poured Sophia a goblet of water and passed it to her.

 

Sophia gulped down half of the goblet and said, “You’re right. It’s been so long since I’ve had real food. I’ve forgotten there’s such a thing as flavor.”

 

“Now then, once we’ve eaten, we’re going to try the helmet on,” Lurinda said between bites. “There’s lots of business we need to attend to before the funeral.”

Edited by wolfie2kX
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wolfie2kX    522

Thanks.. This won't be War and Peace.. It's just a short story. :agreed: Most of the chapters are all about that long.

 

Anyhow.. here we go with the next installment.. :D

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

The Helmet

 

After the meal, Sophia felt fit to burst. She hadn’t eaten that much real food in a very long time. She guessed that there were some perks of being the next Seraphim queen.

 

Lurinda led her to another antechamber of the tower and had her sit down on a chair. She brought a helmet Sophia recognized as the one Maria normally wore and handed it to Sophia. “Go ahead and put it on.”

 

Sophia held the helmet in her hand and looked at it. It was golden in color and had what appeared to be a blue gem in the center of the forehead that glowed. There were two antennas, coming up from each ear. The top was open so hair could pass through. The inside looked like pretty much all other similar helmets of the type. It didn’t look like it offered much in the way of protection, but given what Maria said, it wasn’t meant to be used in front line hand-to-hand combat.

 

“Maria told me a bit about the helmet and how it works. When you put it on, it will ‘connect’ to your mind,” Lurinda began, “Maria told me that when she needed information on anything, all she had to do was think about it and the helmet would tell her what she needed to know about it.”

 

“It is said that the helmet is a relic from the time when the Creator walked among us on Ancaria. Sadly, we no longer can make anything like this. There are many such things we’ve forgotten over time. This helmet is the last of its kind and as such, must be protected at all costs.”

 

With that, Sophia slipped the helmet over her head...

 

...And the world suddenly changed. There was no pain, no sensation. The room, while brightly lit by the midday sun went dark. The whole world and reality faded away for what seemed an eternity. Sophia felt as if she was floating amid nothingness. She did her best to keep her composure.

 

From Lurinda’s perspective, Sophia was still sitting exactly where she was before; however, she stopped responding to what she was saying. As Maria’s confidant, she had seen the past queen go into such trances when communing with the helmet. She took it as a positive sign Sophia and the helmet were bonding.

 

Just then, a runner burst into the room, winded and gasped, “They’ve cornered the beast who killed Maria! The bloody lizard is located in the northern forests of Bengaresh!”

 

Lurinda’s angered glare at the runner cut his outburst short. Something seemed to be happening to Sophia.

 

To Sophia, there were a few words that seemed to penetrate the fog around her.

 

Beast.

 

Killed.

 

Maria.

 

What seemed to be a gentle voice from somewhere deep in her mind, one word sounded, “Accessing...”

 

The world seemed to shimmer as the darkness was replaced by a cavern Sophia didn’t recognize. It wasn’t any place she had ever been, but it was immense. And in the immense space was an immense dragon, greenish blue in color. Sophia could see others around her with their BeeEffGee weapons pointed at the beast, firing away in rapid succession. The beast was getting seriously cheesed off by the fire he was taking. He lashed out with fiery breath at the Seraphim to her right, incinerating one and heavily injuring two more. It’s piercing stare bore through Sophia, filling her with fear for the first time in her life.

 

Sophia was confused. She had never faced this particular beast but somehow he now seemed to be somewhat familiar. A deep sense of dread started to sink into her heart.

 

Suddenly, the beast lashed out with his mighty neck and twisted his head so he could envelope Sophia in his colossal jaws. She suddenly felt the piercing of his sharp teeth in her midsection and calves. Waves of pain flooded her lower body as the teeth drilled through her armor and into her flesh.

 

And suddenly, she felt something hit her in the head, breaking through the agony she was experiencing. The cave and her tormentor vanished and the room she was in was suddenly restored.

 

Lurinda’s worried face replaced that of the dragon and the room she was in previously replaced the cave. A breath of relief flooded through her. Sophia reached up and pulled at the helmet to remove it.

 

“Wha happened?” Sophia managed to exclaim breathlessly. She immediately started checking herself for tooth marks in her abdomen. Fortunately, there were none.

 

“DRAT! I knew I forgot something. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t expecting any interruptions so soon,” Lurinda said in an annoyed voice. “Especially of that sort. I'm so sorry, Sophia. I had to hit you in order to snap you out of that trance.”

 

“It was so... horribly real. I saw one of the invaders – a dragon. It breathed fire and burned some of our sisters and the beast then bit me in half!” Sophia said as she was catching her breath as she realized her face was stinging.

 

A tear or two welled up in Lurinda’s eyes. “I was hoping we could save that issue for another day,” she said in a quiet, sad voice. “That sounds like the beast that bit Maria. She was, of course, wearing that very helmet when it happened. It must have recorded everything that happened.”

 

“I see,” said Sophia in amazement. “It was as if I was there, in the cave, in Maria’s place, being attacked instead of her.”

 

Lurinda merely nodded. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work from what Maria told me. But there's supposed to be a way to control that. You'll have to ask the helmet how it works. The helmet teaches you how to control it."

 

"So what did the runner say?" asked Sophia, "All I heard were three words - Beast, Killed and Maria."

 

"Do not trouble yourself with the beast. There are enough Seraphim out there who are ready to deal with it," Lurinda replied.

 

"But..."

 

"Right now, Sophia, we must get you ready to assume the mantle of leadership of the Seraphim," Lurinda interjected, cutting off Sophia's protest before she could start. "We have enough enemies to deal with who are not of Ancarian origins. The Creator knows we don't need to alienate the people who come from our world as well. There are forces amongst the various races of Ancaria who are hungry for the power that we, the Seraphim hold as you well know. And they wouldn't be as benevolent with it as we are!"

 

"Yes, of course, Lurinda, you're right," Sophia acknowledged, making a mental note to revisit that experience later on. There was something about it that was just not quite right.

 

Sophia spent the rest of the day and well into the night, learning about the helmet and various things she would need to know as the new queen.

Edited by wolfie2kX
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Etherian    76

What a fantastic read. I had no idea you where such a affluent writer wolfie. Certainly a way with words.

Like Omnicide said earlier. We are ready for the next installment.

I remain, :smart:

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wolfie2kX    522

Er.. Affluent? No.. I'm usually poor as the proverbial church mouse. Skilled? Eh.. I have my moments... Depends on how "into" something I am.

 

But thanks for the praise none-the-less.. :D

 

Before we get to tonight's installment... Part of it takes place in a location that should be familiar to anyone who's gotten all their achievements in the game. Bonus cookies to anyone who figures out where we're headed...

 

We're also drawing on some Sacred 1 lore... Hopefully everyone's at least up to speed on it. If not, feel free to ask questions.

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Forbidden Fruit

 

Late in the evening, after Lurinda decided it was time to take a break. After a light evening meal, she excused herself and bid Sophia a good night. Sophia, on the other hand, wasn't the slightest bit tired, even after the long day's study sessions. The situation on Ancaria was far worse than it was generally let on to believe. After several years, the people grew tired of the nearly endless attacks from the beings from the other realm. Far worse, they grew a bit ill tempered by the inability of the Seraphim to deal with the invaders once and for all.

 

It was quite understandable when you look at it from the common being's perspective. In addition to the attacks on their person, their property and livelyhoods, there was, of course, the tax on the populace. The Seraphim were far too busy to do any farming, and slaying the invaders was hungry work. There was a growing resentment among the various races of Ancaria and this was just one of those challenges Maria aluded to.

 

But Sophia had other things on her mind. The big lizard who bit Maria... there was something about him that struck her as odd. She had to see it again for herself.

 

She slipped the helmet on once again, and focused her mind as Lurinda had shown her. She gave the helmet the command to disable the pain recall and steered her mind toward those same three words - Beast. Killed. Maria.

 

The room dissolved again and the cavern was once again around her along with the crack troops of Maria's party that were with her when they faced the beast. Once again, the flames shot out of his mouth and burned the troopers to her right and the neck once again snaked toward her and the slavering jaws enveloped Maria/Sophia. This time, however, there wasn't any pain as the beast chomped down on her body and began shaking her. As the remaining troops shot at the beast, and his jaws relaxed and spat her out, Sophia saw with clarity what she only glimpsed at previously and understood the expression on the beast's face.

 

Surprise.

 

The beast was clearly shocked. Something about the bite clearly threw the big brute off his game. Something about him changed. He could have finished eating Maria, and yet he chose to spit her out.

 

As she was thinking about the why of this, the helmet's voice chimed in, "Accessing..." A moment later, the voice continued, "It's a well hidden secret of the Seraphim that a single taste of their blood by evildoers can purify them."

 

Sophia thought about this a moment and wondered why that would be so secret. The helmet responded again, "If this information was widely known, there would be a bloodbath. There are enough dark forces on Ancaria that the good people would seek the blood of a Seraphim to purify those who are evil. Seraphim are a finite resource."

 

At this point, Sophia was disturbed by a knock at her door. She removed the helmet and said, "Come in." She opened her eyes and noticed that dawn was breaking as Lurinda entered. She noticed the helmet in her hands and said, "I see you've been up all night with the helmet instead of resting. We've got a rather busy day today. The master blacksmith and archmage will arrived from Ciria Delith to fit your new armor."

 

"Lurinda, can that wait? I need to do something. It shouldn't take more than a short while. I should be back in time for the midday meal."

 

"Sophia, seriously. It doesn't pay well to anger the master blacksmith and the archmage from Ciria Delith! We covered that yesterday. These men are very important and have taken time out of their busy day to come here to measure you and plan out your new armor's attributes."

 

"Yes, Lurinda. I do understand, but I think I'm onto something big. Something they would ultimately appreciate more, I think, in the long run."

 

"Really? What did you have in mind? Hunting the dragon?"

 

"As a matter of fact, yes!"

 

"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR BLESSED MIND?" Lurinda asked with a genuine look of horror on her face. "We just lost ONE queen, and now you're volunteering to be the second in nearly as many days? Simply OUT of the question! There's just NO way we can allow you to go out into the world ESPECIALLY to hunt one of those beasts! Half of your honor guard are incapacitated with burns, three of them are dead. Incinerated by the very beast you want to go chasing after!"

 

"Actually, I was thinking of going alone."

 

"You really have gone insane!" Lurinda exclamed with the color draining from her face."

 

"Not really. My session with the helmet was actually quite productive. I think I've found something important. Something the might even turn the tide of the war against the invaders."

 

"Oh? Exactly what is it that you've found?"

 

"I can't tell you... Not yet anyhow. If I'm right - and I'm fairly certain I am, I'll tell you exactly what I found and we'll work out a plan of action. If I'm wrong, then I die and the secret dies with me," Sophia replied.

 

"What secret?"

 

"At this point, if I told you, I'd have to kill you. And I'd really rather not have to do that," Sophia laughed. But I really need to do this now, quickly, before the hunting party catches up with the dragon and kills him. Once he's dead, there won't be any way to prove my theory one way or the other. And then Maria would have died a meaningless death."

 

Her last comment got Lurinda's ire. "Maria DID die a meaningless death! Almost bitten in half by that monster!"

 

"Maybe not. If I'm right," Sophia countered, "it will turn the tide of the entire war in our favor!"

 

"I still can't let you go alone. If you die, someone will still need to retrieve the helmet."

 

"Very well, come with me then. I'm willing to take one and only ONE person with me. Any more and we risk spooking our quarry. And in the meantime send an order to the hunting parties to stand down if they find the beast and report to me directly."

 

Lurinda was flabbergasted - and impressed. In the past day and a half, Sophia was already showing the sort of leadership that caught Maria's attention. "I can't go with you."

 

"Why not?" Sophia asked.

 

"If I go with you and we both get killed then who will show the next queen how to use the helmet? Besides you, I'm the only one who knows anything about it."

 

"Point taken." she replied. "Now what's the latest on the beast's location?"

 

"He was last seen in the northern end of the forest region of Bengaresh. West of the Badawi settlement."

 

Sophia was already on her feet, strapping on her old armor. She stuck the queen's helmet into her pack and put her old battle helmet on her head. It was enough to hide her identity as she made her way to the Serahim Island portal. She picked up two of her sharpest swords - a matched set, perfectly balanced for the blade dance - her favorites. She hoped she wouldn't need them, but, she really had no intention of going entirely unarmed. Only fools with a deathwish wander about Ancaria these days without any weapons.

 

"You're really serious about this?" Lurinda inquired with a worried expression.

 

"Yes, I am!" Sophia replied with conviction. "I should be back by midday," she continued as she walked out of the room.

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wolfie2kX    522

OK Folks.. Tonight's installment brings in more Sacred 1 lore and introduces us once again to a rather familiar character from Sacred and Sacred 2...!

 

So hold onto your spleens everyone, it's going to be a wild ride as we:

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Enter: The Dragon

 

Sophia made her way down the path from the tower complex and followed the road to the portal on the southern tip of the island. She told the portal that she wanted to go to Badawi and stepped through into a small clearing. She stopped for a moment to swap her old helmet for the queen's helmet. She walked down the path and made her way west, following the path through the trees.

 

The Bengaresh region before her was famous for farming. Some of the best food grown in all of Ancaria came from the immense valley before her.

 

She moved slowly, deliberatly, her senses scanning the surroundings for anything that might become a problem. She could hear the wildlife of Bengaresh go about the daily business of forest life. She caught a glimpse of a bear at one point, but the creature decided discretion was the better part of valor and vanished quickly in the opposite direction.

 

She moved further along, looking for any sign of the big beast - broken branches, scat, screams of fright, not to mention signs of carnage, anything a behemoth the size of what she was looking for might leave behind, giving away it's presence. Nothing. She kept moving.

 

She was also looking for signs of the hunting/recon party - also without much success. Whoever was part of this team were very good at hiding the signs of their passing.

 

She stopped after a while to examine a broken twig. Nothing. She was about to give up and head back to the portal when she noticed a small gully that was cut into the hillside. It looked passable. She stood up and headed up the dirt trail. The gully led to another path, flattened rock actually, that wove around the hillside. At the end of the path, there was another gully leading up the hillside. Sophia started climbing quietly up the hillside. There was no telling what was lurking further up the trail. There could be wild animals such as bears or wolves or bandits laying in wait. Her quarry could also be up ahead.

 

She could see the narrow path open up into a box canyon up ahead. There indeed was something up ahead. Something huge. Whatever it was, it was big, bluish green and scaly. She stood up. She gave the helmet a slient command to start recording, ironically, in much the same way Maria must have before her fateful encounter with the beast.

 

The big lizard didn't seem to take notice of her yet. He seemed to be quite out of it. Not too surprising after battling Maria's guard, being shot at numerous times by their weapons, not to mention being chased all over Ancaria. Sophia decided it was best to be on her guard. Wounded animals that were cornered were dangerous to be sneaking up on. As such, she decided to announce herself.

 

"Hello."

 

The big lizard stirred, opened his eyes and forced them to focus on Sophia's relatively tiny frame. "Come to finish me off?" His voice boomed in quite a startling manner. It had a deep resonance, but the really surprising thing about it all was that the being laying in front of Sophia actually could speak at all. The voice in question also had a note of melancholy as if the speaker had pretty much given up on life itself and was awaiting death.

 

"No. I came to ask a question," Sophia replied.

 

"A question?" the big lizard repeated, with a quizzical note in his voice.

 

"Yes. What's your name?"

 

"My name? Why would you want to know that? Are you planning having a tombstone carved for me?"

 

"No. I thought we might become friends," Sophia replied.

 

"Friends? Ha Ha Ha Ha", the big beast laughed. "I find that hard to believe after all of the death and destruction I and my kind have brought to your world."

 

"True, there are many people on this world who would likely object. But I'm not everyone. I suppose I should introduce myself first. I am Sophia, the new queen of the Seraphim. And as such, I have influence and can give you sanctuary."

 

"I am Loromir, General of the Army of the Carnach. But I have to wonder why you would offer me sanctuary. I am near death at the moment. Aren't you the slightest bit worried that should I recover, I might attack you and everything else again?"

 

"Pleased to meet you, Loromir. And no, I have a suspicion that you've changed."

 

Loromir paused sliently before taking a deep breath and sighed, "It's true. But how did you know?"

 

"Let's just say I have my sources," Sophia responded with a hint of mystery.

 

Before the conversation could continue, the two were disturbed by a rustling in the grass in the gully leading to the cul-de-sac. Sophia pulled a large health restorative potion from her belt and tossed it towards Loromir and said, "Here, drink this. I'll be right back. It seems we have visitors." She then pulled her swords and walked toward the disturbance.

 

There were five of them - Elven by the look of their ears, bandits by the masks they wore to cover their faces. Two of them had pikes, one had a big two handed sword, the fourth had a sword and shield while the last carried a big battle axe. Sophia weighed her strategy should things get out of hand.

 

"Well, well, what have we here?" the leader of the band said. "It's one of those big lizards that have been destroying our villages and a Seraphim. The lizard looks half dead and I'll wager the little lady will fetch a king's ransom! Get 'em boys! Kill the lizard and capture the wench!"

 

"HALT!" Sophia commanded, "Leave him alone!" So much for a peaceful resolution to this situation. Why is it these mortal beings think they can overpower a Seraphim with endless years of training and practice, skills honed to the razor's edge - not to mention all of the years of combat experience under her belt?

 

The bandits advanced, ignoring Sophia's warning entirely. They worked their way around to encircle her. Sophia steeled herself, recalling all of the training she got under Niokaste herself. The two with the pikes made the mistake of being on either side of Sophia, across from each other. Sophia flicked her swords so they stuck in the ground at either side, she then quickly moved her hands to grab the pikes as their wielders stabbed at her. She then gave the pikes a yank that sent the pointed shafts continuing past her and into the opposing attacker. Two down. She grabbed her swords and brought them up to block the two swordsmen as she ducked the swing of the axe that would have taken her head off.

 

Suddenly, there was a crunching sound from behind her and a rather harrowing scream. As she spun around in a circle, she noted the abscence of the axe wielder behind her. She glanced upwards slightly to see his bloody feet disappearing into the jaws of her new friend, Loromir. Sophia completed her rotation and thrust her sword into the side of the attacker on her right. The two handed sword wielder on her left, seeing his advantage dwindling before his eyes in such rapid succession, quickly reevaluated the odds of his survival and decided it was better to cut and run for his life.

 

Sophia grabbed one of the pikes and ran after him. She threw the pike at the fleeing bandit and it struck home, square in the middle of his back. The bandit screamed as the spear penetrated his chest. His legs tripped and he tumbled off the edge of the cliffside into the forest. She turned around and walked back toward Loromir who was busy finishing off the second bandit corpse.

 

Loromir looked down at Sophia "What? I haven't eaten in 10 days. I'm starving! And besides, there's no sense in letting perfectly good meat go to waste - even if it is kind of dry and stringy."

 

Sophia couldn't argue with the logic. "Thank you, by the way, for the help." Loromir was too engrossed in his feast to respond. She turned away, as if to check to see if there was anything else coming up the path, not so much for security's sake but to avoid watching Loromir's grisly eating habits. Her experience reliving Maria's demise was still too fresh in her mind. She stifled a shudder. It was one thing to replay things by way of the helmet, but quite another to experience it in person. The one sensation the helmet didn't reproduce, fortunately, was smell. The smell of the offal was quite rank.

 

She took the other pike and drove it straight into the ground. Blast it all, the stick didn't cast much of a shadow. It was midday - and she was late getting back for her fitting. Lurinda will have fit when she returned.

 

She glanced up at Loromir, and saw he had finished the third corpse and was reaching for the fourth. "Are you finished eating?"

 

"Almost..." Crunched Loromir. "Where's the last one?"

 

Sophia turned and said, "He fell over the edge of the cliff. No idea. I'm sorry."

 

"Ah well, probably for the best. If I eat any more, I won't be able to move for days," Loromir pined with a somewhat sad note in his voice.

 

"Then I'd say it's for the best. You shouldn't stay here. There are hunting parties out looking for you. I can't guarantee your safety here."

 

"Have you forgotten who and what I am?" Loromir asked in a bemused way.

 

"Not really, but I think your former comrades might think something was wrong if you stay away from them for too long. Or am I wrong? Wouldn't they also wonder why you haven't returned to them?"

 

"I see what you mean," Loromir mused. "So what do you have in mind?"

 

"There is an island in the north, it's uninhabited and has an entrance to a network of tunnels that expand into large caverns you can use for the time being. How soon do you think you can move?"

 

"My wings are still a bit stiff," boomed Loromir, "but I can fly for a short bit."

 

"I'm afraid that won't do. The island is very far away, several days on foot, across three mountain passes, not to mention crossing the ocean to get to the island by way of boat will take at least a day in itself - provided we can find a ship's master who is willing and has a boat big enough to take us there," Sophia mused. "Unfortunately, the portal system on Ancaria wasn't designed with beings as large as yourself in mind."

 

"So, if I wasn't so large, I could use this portal system and we could get there faster?" Loromir inquired.

 

"Yes, of course. There's a portal a short distance to the east, near the settlement."

 

"Then bear with me for a moment. This is a problem I can solve!"

 

"En-Toh veridact Enominar!" Loromir's voice boomed. And Sophia had to blink several times, Loromir's immense body began to shrink. His wide wings disappeared, his scales became smooth - like the skin of an Elf or a Human. His eyes changed as his pupils became circular.

 

And he was quite - naked.

 

Sophia just stared at the dragon become man. She had heard of various magics that could transform someone from one form into another but she had never witnessed the process herself.

 

"You really should close your mouth, Sophia," Loromir's voice - now a few octaves higher said, "It's not polite to gape. Not to mention it attracts flies."

 

Sophia was jarred from her reverie. "Yes.. Of course.. That wasn't very polite. I'm sorry. It's just that I've never seen that sort of magic before."

 

"Do you think this will get us to our destination then?"

 

"Um.. Well.. No.. You're naked," Sophia blushed.

 

"Ah yes. The customs of most mammals on this world demand their bodies to be wearing clothing and armor and such," Loromir mused as he bent down to look over the pile of clothing turned to rags he removed from the bodies of the bandits. "I don't suppose any of these items will do. I seem to have been a bit careless when I removed them from my dinner."

 

"The bandit who fell over the cliff! Wait here, let me see if I can find where he fell." Sophia began.

 

"Hurry, please. I can only hold this form for about half a day before I transform back into my normal size."

 

Sophia took off down the path toward the cliff where she last saw the bandit. She arrived at the spot where the pike hit him and cautiously, she looked over the edge. Fortunately, he didn't fall very far. A tree had broken his fall just below the edge of the cliff. She laid down at the edge and reached over to grab the bandit's wrist. She pulled him up and onto the cliffside she was perched on. She removed the pike buried deep in the man's back. There was, unfortunately, a rather large hole where the pike hit home, and the shirt was rather bloody around the wound. But those could not be helped. They would have to do.

 

She quickly undressed the corpse and piled the clothing in a heap. Hopefully they would fit Loromir. She gathered the clothing and made her way back to where Loromir was waiting.

 

When she arrived, she handed the clothing to him. He pulled the shirt over his head. It was a bit of a tight fit, but it at least fit. The pants were a bit tighter, but they too at least would serve their purpose for the time being. The boots, on the other hand, were another matter. Loromir's feet were too big to fit into them.

 

Sophia helped him look through the other bandit's footware until they finally found a pair of sandals that could be adjusted to fit Loromir's feet.

 

"Let's get moving then," Sophia said as she handed Loromir the pike she pulled from the ground and the pair set off for the Badawi settlement portal.

 

The journey down to the main path was uneventful and silent. The native wildlife of the forest was mindful to keep their distance, as if they suspected the man wasn't quite what he seemed. By the time the pair reached the portal, it was late afternoon. Sophia mused the powers that be would be furious with her. But it couldn't be helped. This had to be done. It was too important to the future of Ancaria.

 

Sophia stopped short when they arrived at the portal. She had considered the options available to them when they got to Seraphim Island. There was only one way to get Loromir to the caverns in one piece without too many explanations along the way - and before his transformation ended and he was restored to his fearsome self. They would have to use a bit of deception.

 

"Loromir, there's only one way to make this work. We can't let the other Seraphim or for that matter, anyone else know who and what you are yet. Emotions are running hot and I'd rather not have to hurt anyone.

 

"From here on out, in case anyone asks, you will be known as Kivas, a trader in herbs and spices from Bengaresh. You were attacked by bandits, and they would have killed you had I not saved your life. You were injured and I helped fix you up, but I felt it necessary for you to visit a physician and unfortunately, the healer from Bengaresh wasn't available."

 

"Ah.. So we're mostly telling the truth."

 

"It's simpler that way. The more lies one adds to a story, the less likely it is to be convincing."

 

"Very wise for someone so young," Loromir commented.

 

"I'm far older than you might think, Kivas," Sophia countered.

 

Loromir/Kivas laughed. "Really? You don't look a day over 30,000."

 

"We Seraphim don't age," Sophia offered.

 

"By your count, I'm over 50,000 of your years old."

 

"We're getting off the subject," Sophia dodged.

 

"Fair enough. So what are we going to say about the rather obvious hole in the back of this shirt?"

 

"Simple enough, when I came upon you, you were stripped naked and needed something to cover up. We um..borrowed some from the dead bandits. They certainly weren't going to be needing them any more."

 

Loromir/Kivas laughed again, "Cunning strategem! You know you've got a mind like a dragon."

 

"I'm honored, Loromir." And with that Sophia set the portal for Seraphim Island and the pair stepped through.

Edited by wolfie2kX
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wolfie2kX    522

Tonight's installment revolves around Seraphim Island.

 

Bonus cookies to anyone who spots the easter egg I've stashed in this chapter. :D

 


---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Seraphim Island


The pair arrived at the Seraphim Island portal moments later and were greeted by guards.


"My queen! Thank the Creator! You had everyone worried!" the guard exclaimed when she recognized Sophia by the crown on her head.


"Well met, sister!" Sophia countered. "I was delayed. Is Healer Manda on the island tonight?"


"Why, yes, she should be in her quarters."


"Are the blacksmith and archmage still on the island?"


"No, ma'am. They left shortly after midday. The two of them were quite ill tempered when they left."


"No doubt. Keep up the vigilance, sister," and with that, Sophia started up the path toward the tower with Loromir/Kivas in tow.


"Am I to understand I kept you from something important?" Lormir/Kivas asked.


"You could say that. The master blacksmith and archmage from Ciria Delith were to fit me for my new royal armor."


"Surely, that would have been more important than coming after me."


"Not really. If I hadn't come along when I did, those bandits might have killed you. And in all truth, I think you're far more important than you might think."


"Because something changed me?"


"Exactly. We'll talk more about this later. After we've gotten you to the caverns and we can relax. But for now, let me do the talking."


Loromir/Kivas merely laughed.


As they approached the last path leading to the tower entrance, Sophia spotted Lurinda, waiting at the entrance and she looked somewhat sullen.


"Sophia, by the Creator! You had us all worried when you didn't return on time."


"I was delayed. I ran into some bandits who were trying their best to kill my charge. I had to take care of them. He was injured and I had to get him back on his feet."


Lurinda shook her head. "You do realize you've antagonized the Dwarven master blacksmith and the Archmage of Ciria Delith. You know how full of themselves Dwarves can be. It's double that when they've reach Master status in their craft. Put the Archmage in his company, and he's just as bad."


Sophia sighed. "I'll send him my apologies in the morning. But in the meantime, is Manda available? I'd like her to take a look at my handywork. I'm a fighter, not a healer."


"You brought him all the way here for that?" Lurinda asked somewhat incredulously.


"The healer in Badawi wasn't available," Sophia countered.


"I see. Very well, bring him inside," Lurinda said as she tapped a nearby guard on the shoulder who went to fetch the doctor.


Sophia led Loromir/Kivas to her quarters. "Have a seat and relax for a moment. I'll be back shortly." and walked out of her quarters to find Lurinda.


Lurinda was just on her way to Sophia's quarters with Manda in tow.


Sophia thought long and hard about how to break the news to her sisters and finally came to the conclusion that the only way to do it was to be blunt about it.


"Sisters, before we go in, there's something I need to discuss. I believe I found something fundamentally important to ending the war against the invaders."


Lurinda and Manda looked at Sophia with more than just a bit incredulity. The war had been going on for nearly 10 years and even with all of the contributions the various races of Ancaria had made, the best they could manage thus far was stalemate.


"What's the best way to defeat your enemy?" Sophia asked.


Lurinda almost instantly replied, "Kill them."


"No. There's an even better way. Make him your ally," Sophia countered. "And I think I've found a way to do just that."


"Really?" Manda asked, even more incredulous than before. "Our enemies haven't really shown much in the way of anything but murderous intent toward any and all Ancarian life. How do you plan to do this?"


"That's something I'm going to need your help with. But before we can do that, we need to do something else. Lurinda, is there an entrance to the cave system below us inside the tower itself?" Sophia asked.


Lurinda said, "Yes. But what's that got to do with what we need to do now?"


"Lead me to it and I'll explain on the way," Sophia replied. "What if I told you that the dragons are actually highly intelligent beings? Ones with immense magical powers."


"I'd say, I wouldn't be too surprised," Lurinda offered as she led the way down the corridor.

 

"What if I told you that Kivas was actually one of those large flying beasts?"


Manda just about fell over. "ARE YOU INSANE? That beast killed our queen not to mention injured, maimed and killed a lot of our sisters!"


Steady, sister! Yes, he did, but it wasn't entirely his fault!"


"NOT HIS FAULT? How can it be 'not his fault'? He attacked her, bit her almost in half and poisoned her! I'd say it was definitely HIS fault! I saw the damage that monster did! I was the one who had to take care of her!"


"Believe me, Manda, I’m more than aware of that fact, except he wasn't himself. He was under the thrall of some being named the Carnach."


Sophia opened her door and said, "Come with us."


Loromir/Kivas rose from his seat and followed quickly. His color was a bit greenish. "Are you feeling well? You look a bit ill."


"I'm well enough. Though we should hurry. It won't be long now," he whipspered to Sophia.


"We're going there now."


The foursome moved to the end of the corridor, to an apparent dead end. Lurinda twisted a light fixture on the wall hard to the right and a section of wall ground open. Beyond the doorway, a staircase carved into the rock sank into the depths. Lurinda took a pair of torches from the wall and lit them from another torch on the wall. The foursome then took the stairs down.


After what seemed an eternity, the stairs ended and the passage widened into a very large cave. It looked as if it had been formed by water in some long lost ancient time. Other passages seemed to lead off in various directions from this cavern.


"Is this the place?" Loromir/Kivas asked.


"Not exactly," Sophia replied. "The one I had in mind is a bit further on."


"I think this will have to do for now," Loromir/Kivas interjected with a strain in his voice. "I don't think I can hold out much longer!" He began removing his shirt while kicking his footware off simultaneously. Moments later, Loromir/Kivas was au naturel.


Manda and Lurinda watched in amazment, much as Sophia did earlier in the day as Kivas the merchant morphed into Loromir the dragon.


Loromir stretched his four great legs and rotated his neck slightly until it seemed to crack.


"AHHH.. Much better," boomed the giant dragon's voice. "Greetings! My name is Loromir, former general of the Carnach."


After the echo died down, Loromir continued, "I take it they haven't seen this sort of Magic before either."


Sophia cracked a waned smile, "No, my friend, I don't believe they have." And then turned to Manda, "Please check him over. We need to make sure he's healthy. He wasn't doing too well when I found him. I gave him a healing potion and he did seem to be doing better afterwards but still."


"Are you serious?" Manda finally regained her voice. "I have no idea where to begin."


"Manda, you're not just a doctor. You're the best doctor in all of the realms of Ancaria. You've probably forgotten more things about medicine than most mere mortal physicians could ever hope to learn. Who else could I put in charge of his health? Consider it a challenge!"


"Lurinda, he will need something to eat as well," she continued. "Can we get him a few wild boars? Maybe a cow or two?"


Loromir, who had been listening intently interjected, "Preferably live ones! We dragons like our meat fresh!"


"I'll get a detail on it right away!" Lurinda responded, slightly shaking her head. "Um. How soon will you be wanting them?"


"A day or so, I would imagine," replied Loromir. "I had a meal earlier today."


Manda, meanwhile, had been walking around the immense dragon, looking for injuries not healed. As she rejoined Sophia and Lurinda, Sophia asked, "Well, what's the verdict? Will he live?"


Manda looked a bit perplexed as she replied, "I wouldn't know. I've never been this close to one of his kind. But he looks well enough, I suppose."


Loromir, meanwhile, layed himself down and curled up for some sleep.


Sophia whispered, "Maybe we should let him get some rest. It's been a long day." And the trio climbed the stairs to the tower.


Edited by wolfie2kX
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Omnicide    26

More good writing and background on Sacred, wolfie, although I couldn't figure out what the Easter Egg was in the last story.

 

Of course I'm working on 2 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, but I will go over the story one more time after I've had some rest.

 

 

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wolfie2kX    522

OK.. I'll give everyone a hint on the easter egg... "It's all in a name..." And in all fairness, the easter egg first appeared in the chapter before yesterday's. Ok.. that's 2 hints.. :D

 

Anyhow.. Tonite, there's a double bonus - since the first chapter is fairly short.

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Pondering the Future

 

The following morning, Sophia awoke early. It was somewhat unusual for her. She wasn't exactly a morning person. She got herself cleaned up in her private bath and got ready to face the day. Today's schedule would be most complicated, cramming the previous day's schedule, what could be salvaged of it, in with whatever was on today's battle plan. And add to that the fact there was a dragon in the basement level of the tower that needed attention as well.

 

She stepped out from her chamber and was thinking of going to the main hall, but half way there, her stomach reminded her that she hadn't eaten anything the day before. She made her way to the kitchen area instead. She stepped inside only to find several Elvish workers already awake, getting the morning meal ready for the masses. One of the women came up to her, with a stern look on her face, "Sorry mum, the kitchen's closed until breakfast time - and that'll be after dawn. So shoo! Be on your way!" while escorting Sophia out of the kitchen area.

 

Sophia was a bit beside herself. She thought it odd that the kitchen help would be so short with the queen of the Seraphim. Then she realized she didn't bother with wearing her crown. She thought she should go get it, put it on and show the woman in question just who she was bossing around. But then she thought better of it. She didn't want to come off like one of those petty lords who pushed his status in your face and made you certain you knew it. It only made people resentful and besides, the first hint of sunshine was starting to break the darkness. Breakfast would be coming soon enough.

 

Sophia decided then to go to the main hall after all after making a side trip to her quarters for her new helmet - just to avoid any misunderstandings. She stepped into the great hall, but there weren't any signs of life. She looked at the grand throne at the far end of the great hall. She decided she might as well take it for a test fitting. After all, she would likely be using it for many, many centuries to come. It'd be good to know if it was comfortable and to her taste.

 

The throne itself was built to suit Seraphim physiology. It had a broad seat, suitable for most tail-less bipedal life like Elves, Humans and Orcs, but the back of the seat tapered from the width of the seat at the bottom to a single cushioned beam rising to head height. This was so the occupant's wings wouldn't get in the way while still offering full back support. Sophia sat down in the chair and settled into it. It wasn't too uncomfortable. The cushion was a bit worn, likely to fit Maria's proportions.

 

Her thoughts then turned toward Loromir. Dragons. They were rather interesting beings. She would need to bring both Lurinda and Manda in on the secret she discovered in her last session with the helmet - the fact that Seraphim blood has ability to remove all traces of evil from a being so possessed. She had to figure out how to remove the thrall the rest of Loromir's brothers and sisters were under. She wondered how many dragons were currently on Ancaria and how much Seraphim blood it would take to liberate them from the Carnach's thrall.

 

Certainly, she could not ask her sisters to jump into the mouths of dragons to get them to take a bite. No one should ever have to suffer what Maria went through. It's not like they wouldn't do so willingly - but the helmet said something about Seraphim being a "finite resource." She would have to make time to ask the helmet about that remark at a later time.

 

For now, she decided it was best to compile a list of questions she would need to ask to get her goal of liberating the dragons and winning the war.

 

She was interrupted by an unpleasant and familiar voice. The cooking lady was making her way through the great hall and she stopped to give Sophia another piece of her mind. "You there! How dare you sit in the queen's throne?"

 

Just at that moment, the first glint of sunlight came through the windows of the tower and struck her helmet. The old crone's rant was suddenly cut short. "My apologies..! I did not recognize you my queen!" she blubbered as she quickly retreated and left the way she came.

 

Sophia smiled for a moment. She would have to make peace with the woman later. She sat a while longer, pondering the questions she would need to ask today.

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

A Time for Answers

 

Lurinda arrived at the tower a short time later. She seemed on the verge of panic. Sophia greeted her, "Good morning, sister. What's troubling you so early in the morning?"

 

"I had a rather disturbing thought when I woke up."

 

"And that was?" Sophia urged.

 

"That trick of our new friend - can others of his kind also do it?"

 

"I would imagine so," Sophia offered. "It's question number 14 on my list of things to ask him today."

 

"ONLY number 14? You DO realize what that means? It means they can attack somewhere and then vanish by hiding amongst the very people they attacked when our troops arrive!" Lurinda exclaimed.

 

"Yes, the thought crossed my mind. It would explain a lot as to how they are able to attack and then disappear and move about our world with such ease. But I think it won't be a big problem. That is, if we can solve a few other problems first. Speaking of which, have you seen Manda this morning?"

 

"No, I haven't," Lurinda replied. "Not since last night."

 

Sophia looked around and called for a runner. One appeared in the hall a moment later. "Go find Manda the healer. Have her meet us for breakfast. We'll be eating in my quarters this morning." The runner glanced at Lurinda momentarily and she nodded her approval.

 

I don't know about you, but I'm famished," Sophia said. "I do believe I forgot to eat yesterday. Actually, that's not entirely true. Our guest's dining habits are a bit repugnant. I suppose he put me off of my feed."

 

"I'll get some food ordered for us then," Lurinda offered.

 

"I'll go with you. I need to be introduced to the kitchen help," Sophia continued. She quickly recounted her encounters in the kitchen and in the great hall earlier.

 

Lurinda laughed, "Well, in that case, let's get going."

 

"Yes, PLEASE!"

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

A short while later, Manda arrived at Sophia's quarters with a kitchen helper following closely behind, laden with a large tray containing an assortment of fruits, meats, breads, and cheeses.

 

"Good morning, sisters," she greeted the pair.

 

"Good morning, Manda," Sophia returned the greeting. "Thank you for joining us for breakfast." She waited until the kitchen help left and then closed her door. "Dig in, sisters, we've got a long day ahead of us," she continued as she herself began gathering foods for her plate.

 

"What I'm about to tell you, does not leave this room," she said quietly. "I think I've found a weapon that can bring an end to the war!" She paused momentarily to let that sink in and take a bite of the tasty food on her plate.

 

"An end to the war?" Lurinda asked with incredulity. "Surely, with what we've learned in the past day, it can't be THAT easy."

 

"It won't be easy, but I trust we can work through the difficulties and make it happen. I've discovered what turned our guest downstairs from the rampaging beast into what he is now. If we can do the same for the others of his kind, then the enemy's numbers will be reduced and we can finally end this conflict."

 

"What I'm about to tell you is the Seraphim's closest guarded secret - for obvious reasons. Do not tell anyone! If this secret gets out, it could mean the end of the Seraphim as a whole. You both must swear an oath to keep this secret between just the three of us. We can't tell anyone - not even Loromir."

 

"Agreed!" Lurinda and Manda both acknowledged in near perfect unison.

 

"So what is this mystery cure?" Manda asked.

 

"Our blood." Sophia replied, with cold certainty.

 

"Our blood?" Manda repeated.

 

"Yes. It seems Seraphim blood has the ability to purge evil from anyone who consumes it," Sophia whispered and paused again to let things sink in.

 

"Surely, you're not expecting our troops to jump into the mouths of these beasts to tame them, I hope," Lurinda added.

 

"Of course not! I have no intention on sentencing any of our sisters to the same sort of death sentence Maria went through! That is why I'm bringing you both in on this. If we can pull this off, Maria's death will not have been for nothing! Manda, how much blood can a Seraphim stand to lose at a given time? And how long would it take to recover from that loss?"

 

Manda thought for a moment and replied, "About a pint's worth should be safe. And I would say, it would take about 5 - 7 days to recover completely with a proper diet and rest. However," she continued, "the blood doesn't stay very fresh for very long. Once outside of the body, it becomes spoiled quickly. How much blood would it take to have the desired effect on the beasts?"

 

"That's something I'm not entirely sure about," Sophia pondered. "Something else we will need to find out."

 

"Oh.. I almost forgot!" Lurinda said, "I have a message from the Master Blacksmith and Archmage. They said that if you want your armor, you'll have to come to them in Ciria Delith. They didn't appreciate being blown off yesterday."

 

"Yes, and as I said the other day, if we can end the war, they'd like that even more," Sophia retorted. "And had I not gone out when I did, our friend below would be quite dead right now and we would have lost the only proof we have that it works. I think you'll agree that it's more important than getting fitted for my new armor. No matter. I'll go to Ciria Delith for my fitting. Did they say when they would be available?"

 

"No, but they did suggest sending a runner in advance."

 

"Very well, send one and find out when it would be convenient for them to have me come by."

 

"Consider it done!" Lurinda replied.

 

"In the meantime, I think we should wrap up our breakfast and pay a visit to our new friend," Sophia concluded.

 

"Is there any more information on this from your source?" Lurinda asked. "Maybe there's something in there we can use."

 

"I'll have a look later," Sophia replied, taking the hint.

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

A short while later, with the meal finished and after the dishes had been cleared, the trio made their way down to the underground chamber to visit Loromir. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Sophia called out, “Hello!”

 

Loromir was already awake, “Greetings! I was beginning to think you forgot about me.”

 

“How could we forget about you, my friend?” Sophia replied.

 

“You flatter me,” he replied.

 

“We have a proposition for you. And a few questions,” Sophia said.

 

“A proposition?” Loromir asked, his curiosity piqued.

 

“Yes, we think we might have an idea on how you were liberated from this Carnach’s thrall. We’d like to do the same for your fellow dragons.”

 

Loromir snorted. “I see. As a strategy, I suppose that would make sense. However, I must say, most of my brothers and sisters aren’t as amicable as I am. You might be able to break the Carnach’s hold on them, but you may still find them to be unwilling to have much of anything to do with you or any of the people of this world – except, perhaps to eat them.”

 

“But if they’re freed from the Carnach’s clutches, would they still be willing to fight for him?” Sophia inquired.

 

“Likely not - nor would they be likely willing to fight for you either,” Loromir clarified.

 

“I suppose that’s a risk we’ll have to take,” Sophia replied, “In the meantime, that power of yours, the ability to change into a man – is this something all of the other dragons can do as well?”

 

“Of course! It’s a basic spell taught to all hatchlings,” explained Loromir. “They’re drilled on how it’s done for at least a hundred years until they can do it with ease and hold their adopted form for at least a quarter day.”

 

“And when a dragon is in the transformed state, are you able to tell that person is a dragon?” Sophia asked.

 

“That depends. Some dragons can create and hold their form better than others. There are some of us who can do it very, very well. There can be some subtle tells that a person wasn’t quite what they seemed.”

 

“I see. So then, there isn’t any way to spot them reliably?”

 

“I could. I can sense their auras,” Loromir replied. “But I doubt any of the beings on this world have the ability to sense them properly.”

 

“Even in your transformed state?” Sophia asked.

 

“Of course.”

 

“How many dragons are there on Ancaria – that you know of?” Lurinda chimed in.

 

“Hmm. By your count, I would estimate at least 100.” Loromir replied after a moment’s consideration. “Our counting system is a bit different. I could be off.”

 

The questioning was interrupted by a Seraphim who came down the stairs just then. She walked up to Lurinda and whispered something in her ear.

 

Lurinda dismissed the messenger and said, “We’ll need to take a break for the time being. The runner we sent to Ciria Delith just returned moments ago. It seems the master blacksmith and archmage sent a message back that they will be able to see you for your fitting today, but only if you leave immediately.”

 

“Drat! Just as this conversation was starting to get interesting,” Sophia exclaimed.

 

“May I accompany you there?” Loromir asked.

 

“Maybe. As long as you’re in your transformed state. I’m not entirely sure you’d be welcome otherwise.”

 

Loromir laughed, “That much is obvious.”

 

“Is there a particular reason why you want to go?” Manda asked.

 

“I only wish to prove myself to you and your cause. I am no fan of the Carnach. You see, we dragons were once a noble race, highly intelligent. We had honor. We were also a prideful race and through our pride, the Carnach managed to enslave us. Give me a moment and I’ll be ready to go with you.”

 

“Very well, Loromir, you can come with me.” Sophia accepted. “In the mean time, Lurinda, do we have anything that might fit him better somewhere in our stores?”

 

“Are you sure about that, Sophia?” Lurinda asked worriedly. “Much of your honor guard is still out of commission.”

 

“Yes, sister, I’m positive. I won’t be going unarmed. I seriously doubt that anyone would dare attack me in Ciria Delith – no matter how annoyed the Master Blacksmith and Archmage happen to be. Besides, Loromir will be with me and Loromir and I make a good team. Don’t we?” Sophia replied.

 

“Yes, I suppose you two do make a good team.” Lurinda said, rolling her eyes in frustration.

 

Manda looked back and forth between the three of them. “Don’t look at me. I have patients to attend to. My calendar is quite full!”

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wolfie2kX    522

OK kids, it's that time again!

 

Tonight's installment revolves around a trip to Ciria Delith, the ancient Elven capital known to Sacred 2 fans as the Jungle region. You could say the city had fallen on some seriously hard times in the years between the events you're about to read and the events in Sacred 2. Imagine the city of Ciria Delith as a huge metropolis - much like Thylysium is in "modern" Ancaria - only bigger. Strip away the wildlife, the overgrown vegetation and several yards/meters of dirt and you might find:

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Ciria Delith

 

Shortly after, Sophia and Loromir emerged from the portal in Na’Fian, the sea port on the outskirts of Ciria Delith, the elvish capital. Ciria Delith was a cosmopolitan city, even though it was primarily Elvish. There were other races in evidence here – some humans, Dwarves, even a lizardman or two. Even a few hybrids were in evidence. Sophia spotted a Garema or two – a cross between a Dwarf and an Elf. Even a few Orcs were making their way through the city, leading a cart filled with goods from Nor Plat. Traders from every corner of Ancaria were in evidence, selling various wares.


The pair looked around momentarily, expecting a welcoming committee of some sort, but there didn’t seem to be one. The Master Blacksmith’s academy was located in the northern portion of the city, near the cliffs that bordered Ciria Delith with Bengaresh, the agricultural center of the elvish realm. Sophia thought it odd that they didn’t have someone standing by, waiting for their arrival. No matter, they would find their way on their own.


“Come, let’s get moving,” Sophia said and began moving down the road inland.


Loromir seemed a bit distracted as he followed Sophia along the road. He quickly caught up with her and whispered in her ear, “Be on your guard. There is something amiss here.”


“What do you mean ‘amiss’?” Sophia asked.


“I’m not entirely sure. There seems to be a taint in the air. Don’t you feel it?”


“I can’t say I do. Things seem normal to me, but if you sense danger, then by all means, I’ll be on my guard.” Sophia replied, checking her favorite blades.


The pair resumed their walk to the Blacksmith Academy. As they went on Loromir’s unease seemed to lessen somewhat. They arrived at the massive wrought iron gates in front of the blacksmithing school shortly afterwards. The gates were quite impressive as they were as tall as Loromir in his normal form. It could be easily seen why this school was the premier school of its kind on all of Ancaria. There was a heavy knocker on the gate in the form of a huge dog with a round ring in its mouth. Sophia made use of it to announce their arrival.


No answer. She tried the knocker again. Finally, a rather diminutive apprentice arrived and opened the gate. It looked somewhat amazing to watch someone so young open the heavy gate, but it was a testament to the makers as proof of how well balanced the mechanism was.


“Hello,” the apprentice greeted his visitors, “How ken I help you?”


At once, Sophia realized her mistake. The apprentice wasn’t Elvish or human. He was a young Dwarf. “We’re here to see your master. I have an appointment to have my armor fitted.”


“Och. The master’s not here. He left at the crack of dawn along with the other apprentices.”

 

“He did? Did he leave any instructions for you to take the measurements?”


“No, all he told me to do was to clean up the workshop.”


“Did he say when he would be back?”


“No. He just said he would be back later.”


“I see,” Sophia replied. “Do you know where I can find the archmage?”


“He’d likely be in the Temple of the Creator on the far side of the city,” the Dwarf replied.


“Thank you and have a good day,” Sophia said as she started to turn away.


“Would you like to leave the Master a message,” the apprentice asked.


“No. Just let him know his appointment showed up,” Sophia replied.


With that, the heavy gate shut and Sophia and Loromir were left to their own devices. Sophia continued down the road, past shops and the throngs of people hustling and bustling on the city road.


“That was most unproductive,” Loromir mused.

 

“Yes, but not entirely unexpected,” Sophia replied. “This is the blacksmith’s way of telling me that he is very important in the world and that he is not to be trifled with.”


“Are we then going to see the Archmage?”


“Yes, but I have a feeling he will have been called away on some emergency or other. Still, we must go and at least show them that we made the attempt,” Sophia said.


“I see. At least, we’re able to take in the sights. This city is most intriguing. All kinds of people selling all kinds of interesting things,” Loromir said with a somewhat distracted tone.


“True, But this is also the sort of place where you can find yourself on the short end of a bargain. Many of the merchants here have that sort of reputation,” Sophia cautioned.


“Not like it matters. I don’t have any gold or other things to trade,” Loromir replied. “Nor do I really have any use for the things being sold. Still, I find it fascinating.”


Moments later, they arrived at the crossroads, and the Temple of the Creator. It seemed to be somewhat busier than the blacksmith’s academy. There were a number Temple Guardians standing at attention with pikes and a group of acolytes in evidence and Sophia approached one of them.


“Good day,” she said, “I’ve come to seek an audience with the Archmage.”


“Good day,” the acolyte responded, “I’m sorry, but his Holiness is away on business and I’m not entirely certain when he will be back. He left at the crack of dawn this morning.”


“I see. Well, if you’d be so kind, please give him a message. Sophia the queen of the Seraphim came to see him – at a time and place he and the Master Blacksmith designated. Also tell his lordship that Sophia is not amused by this petty nonsense.”


The color in the acolyte’s face turned a shade or two paler than it was previously. “Yyess, m’lady! I will pass on your message!”


“Good. Be sure he gets it as soon as he returns.” Sophia said with a commanding voice.


Loromir meanwhile was watching the exchange from a bit of a distance and was barely able to stifle a laugh as Sophia rejoined him.


“What’s so funny, my friend?” Sophia asked with a mild irritation in her voice.


“Why, you, my dear. I can see why you were chosen to be the queen,” Loromir replied with much amusement.


Sophia sighed. “The day is wasted.”


“It doesn’t have to be. There are still plenty of things to see and do here in the big city. Why don’t we check out some of the shops in that direction?” Loromir offered as he pointed south.


"How long before your transformation is over?”


“I should be fine for quite a while still.”


“Very well, I suppose it’s not every day you’re able to visit a place like this very often.”


“I have a very good feeling about this area.” Loromir added as he started wandering further south.


Sophia followed, Loromir’s curiosity was infectious. Sophia almost lost Loromir in the crowd when suddenly he just popped up out of nowhere.


“I think I found an answer to some of your problems,” Loromir said excitedly.


Sophia looked around. The shops in this part of town didn’t seem to have much to offer, being populated by what appeared to be purveyors of junk and other low quality merchandise.


“You don’t say,” Sophia said with skepticism in her voice.


"But I do. Look there,” said Loromir as he pointed toward a booth manned by a Dwarf. He was selling odd bits of armor and weaponry as well as various knickknacks. He didn’t seem to be all that impressive a figure.


“What’s so special about him?” Sophia inquired. “He doesn’t look all that extraordinary. His weapons look to be mediocre at best. Most of his stuff looks like junk.”


Loromir looked a bit frustrated. “No. I mean look at him.”


“He seems to be your typical middle aged Dwarf. Not very well dressed. He doesn’t look very successful in his trade.”


Loromir sighed with frustration. “I forget. You can’t read people’s auras! I’ve seen many of his kind here in the city today. His aura is different from all of the others. Do you remember what I said when we got here? About the taint in the city? It’s the auras – his is light, like yours. The others of his kind and for that matter, most of the people in this city have a much darker aura. You need to talk to him. He can solve all kinds of problems for you. He needs to come with us.”


Sophia’s initial impression of the Dwarf wasn’t all that favorable and yet, Loromir had some very amazing talents. It’s not like she had much to lose if he was somehow wrong.


She approached the booth and said, “Good day!”


“Och. Good day. What can I do for ye?” the Dwarf replied.


“I need some custom armor, augmented.” Sophia replied.


“Ha! Surely you jest. Why would you be coming to me for that sort of thing?” the Dwarf said.


“Well, you see, my friend here, Loromir, he’s got a unique talent for finding people and things that are just what I need. And he seems to think you’re a lot better than you let on.”


“HA! And what makes him think that? I’m just a washed up Dwarf. I’ve been ostracized by my kind. I’m no longer welcome in Dwarven territory. I make a meager living here in the city from selling what merchandise I can. I don’t even have anything to fit a Seraphim. I’ve got a few rusty bits of armor for elves, humans and the odd Orc. Not that there’s much call for Orc armor here in Ciria Delith. If ye want fancy armor, you’d be best off seeing the Master Blacksmith on the other side of town.”

 

“Yes, I can see you don’t have anything that can fit me. But Loromir here thinks you’ve got what it takes to make my armor.”


“Your friend is daft, then. My skills with a hammer are as rusty as this old battle axe,” the Dwarf said while pointing at a particularly rusty piece of metal that barely could be recognized as an axe of any sort.


Loromir, meanwhile, made himself busy by looking through the pile of junk the Dwarf was trying to sell. He picked up an old metal shield and examined it closely. “I wouldn’t say that. You say your skills are rusty, and yet, this shield, you have here, it seems to have been mended by expert hands. Are you saying you’re not the one who mended it?”


“Och, yes, I mended that shield. What of it?” the Dwarf replied, somewhat testily.

“Well, it’s just that there’s evidence of five holes in it that have been patched by quite expert hands,” Loromir countered with his usual charm.


“Good eye, I suppose. There were actually six holes in that particular shield!” the Dwarf exclaimed, getting seriously irritated. “It still makes no difference. No one would be willing to buy it. It’s a used piece of junk.”


"I’d buy it, if I had a need for one. It’s a fine shield. In fact, I’d say it was actually better than it was when it was first made. And I see what you mean. I almost missed the sixth hole. Very clever metal folding my friend – If I wasn’t told there was a sixth hole, I would have missed it entirely,” countered Loromir in his most charming way.


“You bet it’s better than when it was first forged. The blacksmith who forged it wasn’t a master - not even a journeyman. He was nothing more than apprentice,” the Dwarf responded, Loromir’s flattery was soothing his irate nature. “You see, I was the apprentice who forged the blasted thing.”


“I see,” Loromir said, becoming a bit more serious.


“Aye. I made it,” the Dwarf continued with a sad voice. “You see, I found out one day my father took and sold it and all of the works of the other apprentices of the Academy as the works of journeyman level blacksmiths,” he continued. “I brought this to my father’s attention, and he threw me out of the academy and made me an outcast among my own people.”


“You mean to tell me that YOU’RE the son of the Master Blacksmith?” Sophia jumped in.


“Aye. And I’ve spent the last decade of my life doing my best to fix things, but to no avail. Every year, there’s just more and more worthless junk I can pick up on the battlefield. ”


“Why didn’t you go to the council with this?” Sophia asked. “Or to a Seraphim? Had someone been told about this, we could have done something about this!”


“Aye, perhaps, but there’s the wee problem with the scandal it would have brought. We Dwarves depend heavily on trade with other races. No one would ever trust our merchandise again. And besides, my father made it so my reputation was so sullied, no one would take me seriously.”


“I suppose that makes sense,” Sophia replied. “I also would suppose it would depend on how things were handled. We wouldn’t have to make a major spectacle out of it. We Seraphim have been known to apply subtle pressure on people and make them shape up.”


“Excuse us for a moment,” Loromir jumped in as he pulled Sophia aside. When out of earshot, he whispered to Sophia, “Can you buy that shield from him?”


“Of course I can. But I don’t really see the point,” Sophia whispered back.


“Trust me. His confidence in himself needs bolstering. ”


“Very well,” Sophia whispered, as they turned back to the Dwarf.


“So how much did you say you wanted for the shield my friend was interested in?” Sophia asked.


“Forty Gold pieces,” the Dwarf replied.


“Only forty Gold pieces?” Loromir returned. “Surely you jest. Why that shield is worth at least three times that! We’ll gladly pay you 120 Gold pieces!”


The Dwarf was clearly puzzled. “Are ye daft? I know what its worth – Forty Gold pieces and not a shard more!”


“I know a thing or two about armor, my friend and this shield is clearly worth much more than forty Gold. Sophia, pay the man!” Loromir responded. “Please.”


Sophia pulled out her purse and dug inside. She pulled out a fist full of Gold pieces and began counting them out on the table. She counted out 10 coins and stacked them up in a pile. She then repeated the process eleven more times until there were a dozen even stacks of coins on the table and took possession of the shield. The Gold pieces quickly disappeared from the table.


Loromir meanwhile was scanning the crowd; his dragon senses were telling him there was something in the area that didn’t sit well with him. He spotted one of the Archmage’s acolytes in the crowd that was coming and going behind them. The acolyte, realizing he had been spotted, turned, making his way north towards the temple and disappeared into the throng.


“I think we should adjourn our discussion for the moment,” Loromir said, his voice lowered so only Sophia could hear. “We’re being watched.”


Sophia diverted her attention from the table for a moment. She handed the shield to Loromir and said “Come with us.”


“Are ye daft too? What about my merchandise and shop?” the Dwarf inquired.


“The question you should be asking – do you value your life more than the things you have for sale?” Loromir countered. “You said it yourself – most of these things aren’t worth much. You, on the other hand, are worth far more than you realize.”


"Aye, they’re not worth much, but they’re all I have!” the Dwarf replied sadly.


"Bring your best items, then, and let’s get going. We’re not exactly safe here.” Loromir said.


The Dwarf gathered half a dozen items, far more than could easily be carried and slipped into an unusual contraption that looked to be a large tube stuck on his back.


"What part of ‘not exactly safe here’ don’t you understand?” Loromir asked with mild annoyance.”


“Not a problem if we divvy up the load between the three of us. Besides, I’ve got a surprise or two of my own. I haven’t survived all these years alone without using my wits!” said the Dwarf as he handed a pair of swords and another shield to Loromir and handed a pair of swords and an axe to Sophia. “Let’s go, I’m ready!”


Sophia stared at the pair of blades thrust into her hands. She weighed them. The balance was surprisingly good. Too bad they didn’t exactly have much in the way of looks. They looked quite primitive compared to the pair she had slung on her back. The axe likewise looked ancient, but as far as hafted weapons go, it was also well balanced – perhaps even for throwing. It wasn’t too heavy, yet, it had enough mass to cleave through most armor, provided it was thrown with enough force.


With the trio assembled and ready to go, Loromir took point. He led the group further down the road south; Sophia recognized the area they were headed towards was the Center for T-Energy Research. The massive building loomed on the right as they neared the bend in the road. They crossed the river by way of the long bridge and made their way around the south side of the building and across the bridge on the far side before they reached the beach and turned north toward the port of Na’Fian where the portal awaited them. Loromir decided on the beach route as opposed to the paved road mainly to avoid prying eyes.


They finally arrived at the portal without incident. Sophia took the lead and set the portal for the Seraphim Island and the trio made their escape.

Edited by wolfie2kX
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Omnicide    26

Well, it's got to be either this: "What's the best way to defeat your enemy?" Sophia asked. "Make him your ally (friend)"

That is a quote from Abraham Lincoln.

 

Or "Enter: The Dragon" which is a Bruce Lee movie.

 

The other thing was "I'm a fighter, not a healer" kinda reminded me of Dr McCoy from Star Trek, but I think it's one of the first two. One of those quotes has to be the Easter Egg (I never did have much luck with the Easter Egg stuff in Sacred 2).

 

 

 

 

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Omnicide    26

So far the story is coming along great, Wolfie; keep up the good work. You're making me want to get back into writing again. :smart:

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wolfie2kX    522

Your third guess was kinda warmest to the one I was looking for - though it's off by a Generation. Kivas was the name of a character in a Star Trek: TNG episode where Kivas was a trader - and a collector of all manner of rare items - which is why he kidnapped Data.

 

The guy who plays Artie on Warehouse 13 (Saul Rubinek) played Kivas Fajo in the episode in question.

 

The other two - yes, those are also easter eggs - good job on spotting those. :D

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wolfie2kX    522

Tonight, we find out a bit more about our new Dwarven friend. And he finds out a bit more about the company he's keeping...

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

Return to Seraphim Island


The trio stepped out of the portal on Seraphim Island; they all took collective deep breath of relief.


Sophia looked at Loromir, “Now that we’re back and in one piece, can you explain to me just what the heck is going on?”


“Aye, I’d like to know that myself,” the Dwarf interjected.


“In simplest terms, we just escaped Ciria Delith with our lives,” he replied.


Given the blank stares he got from Sophia and the Dwarf, Loromir continued, “There is an evil presence in the city. The taint of which has touched the majority of the people there. Had we left you there, I’m not certain if you would have been alive tomorrow.”


“Eh? You’re a soothsayer of some sort?” the Dwarf replied.


“No. I’m a Dragon.”


“Er. What’s a dragon?”


“You’ll find out soon enough,” Loromir replied. “In the mean time, I suggest we get going to my lair.”


“Yes, let’s get going,” Sophia agreed.


The trio then struck out heading up the path toward the tower.


“By the way, how much do you want for this pair of swords?” Sophia asked the Dwarf as they were walking along the path.


“Now with those fine swords strapped to you’re back, why would you be wanting with those?” he countered.


“Well, it’s true they’re not exactly the prettiest swords I’ve ever seen, but they do seem to be very well balanced. And they seem to have a fairly keen edge on them.”


“Aye, they do. I honed them myself!” the Dwarf replied, with a hint of pride in his voice. “They’re sharp as a razor.”


Sophia wondered how a being with a beard as long and as unruly as his would know anything about the sharpness of razors. “So, how much DO you want for them?” she repeated.


The Dwarf thought long and hard. “You’re serious about buying them?” he said with a hint of incredulity.


“Yes, I am. Look, when I say I want to buy something, I mean it!”


“Och. I meant no offense. I was hoping to sell them for 500 Gold.”


“Five Hundred Gold?”


“Aye. Five Hundred Gold – each.”


“Ah. That’s much more like it,” Sophia replied as she was looking the pair of swords over once again. “I’ll tell you what. I’ve got someone you should meet. Her name is Karem, and she’s the head of the armory on Seraphim Island. If she likes your handiwork as much as I do, I can guarantee you a permanent position working here on the island. We Seraphim could use someone with your gifts.”


“Gifts?” the Dwarf repeated, “What in blazes do ye mean by that? And how can ye guarantee I’d be given the job? Are you friends with the queen or something?”


“You sell yourself far too short, my friend,” Sophia replied. “I’ve become quite fond of this pair. But I want Karem to have a look at them. Her eye is far more expert than my own. And no, I’m not a friend of the queen; I am the queen of the Seraphim!”


“Och! You’re pullin’ me leg!” the Dwarf replied in disbelief. “Er. By the by, what exactly is a dragon?”


“Nope, I’m not pulling your leg and you’ll find out soon enough, I imagine,” Sophia replied.


By this time, the trio had reached the tower. Lurinda, as usual, was waiting for them near the entrance.


“Greetings, sister! How went the fitting session?” Lurinda asked.


“Greetings! It didn’t. When we arrived, it seems the Master Blacksmith and the Archmage were both absent. It seems both had chosen to leave Ciria Delith at the crack of dawn.”


“The cheek!” Lurinda said. “But that makes no sense. The runner we sent to Ciria Delith left well after dawn...”


“I know,” Sophia interrupted, “That’s something I plan on looking into promptly. In the mean time, summon that runner and Karem, the armorer, I have someone here she needs to meet.”


Lurinda motioned toward a waiting runner sitting off to the side who took off running.


“In the mean time, check out these two swords I’m planning on buying.” Sophia said as she passed the dual blades to her.


“Nice balance. Not much on looks, but they feel good in the hands.”


“My thoughts exactly!”


“I take it your charge is the one responsible for making these blades what they are.”


“Yes, he is.”


“The real question though – are they sharp enough?” Lurinda asked as she motioned to a second runner, “Fetch some melons!” And the second runner took off toward the kitchen area.


At this point, Karem and the first runner arrived in the hall. “Ah, Karem, greetings sister!” Lurinda began. “It seems Sophia found something interesting you should take a look at,” as she passed the pair of blades to her.


“Interesting. These two blades compliment each other very nicely. Not exactly the prettiest blades, but then again, some of the most destructive swords that have ever been made were quite ugly to behold. Where did you find them, my queen?” Karem asked.


“I found them in the marketplace in Ciria Delith.” Sophia replied. “Actually, Loromir, found them. He seems to have a good nose for sniffing such things out. So how much do you think they’re worth?”


“Well, how are they at cutting things?” Karem returned.


“We were just about to find out.” Sophia said as the second runner returned with a few melons. “Ah. Good timing! By the way,” she said to the first runner, “Where’s the runner we sent to Ciria Delith?”


“I couldn’t find him, my queen,” he replied. “He wasn’t in his quarters, nor in the mess area. I took the liberty of sending some other runners to find him.”


“Well done. I like it when people anticipate – it saves a lot of time.” Sophia replied. “In the meantime, let’s see how sharp these blades are.”


The second runner put one of the melons on a small table and Karem took a swing at it. The melon was cleaved neatly in half. She swung at it with the other blade and the melon became perfectly quartered. “Very nice!” she commented to herself.


“So how much are they worth?” Sophia repeated.


“Hmmm. I hate to be put on the spot, but with what little time I’ve had to look them over, I’d hazard a guess they’d be worth maybe two thousand gold each. Why? How much did you pay for them?” Karem inquired.


“I haven’t paid yet, I wanted your expert opinion first. But my friend here, he wanted five hundred per blade.” Sophia said as she pointed in the Dwarf's direction.


“Your friend, you say? Karem asked.


Yes, my friend,” Sophia stopped short, realizing she was missing some information. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe I got your name,” she asked the Dwarf.


“Och. That’s likely because I never told ye,” he replied. “My name in Dwarven is a bit of a tongue twister – even in Dwarven. It’s a curse my father laid on me at birth, the Barsteward. I suppose though it would help to have a name. Ye can call me Smitty.”


“Nice to meet you Smitty,” Sophia acknowledged. “This is Karem, the master armorer of the Seraphim. And it looks like I owe you four-thousand gold pieces. And if you’re interested, a job working for Karem here, I’m certain the two of you can come to a working agreement.”


“Certainly! If we can get more quality weapons like this, then by all means, we most certainly do business,” Karem replied.


Smitty the Dwarf was quite speechless. For decades, he had barely eked out a meager living, his wares considered to be sub-par junk. And now, the queen of the Seraphim and her master armorer were singing the praises of his work. It made no sense.


“I don’t think I ken oblige you,” Smitty replied.


“Why ever not?” Sophia asked.


“Ye don’t get it. My father would not allow it.”


“Start at the beginning and explain it to us, please.” Sophia encouraged.


“Och, Very well, since you lovely people are so damned insistent,” he began. “Many years ago, when I was a wee lad, I was apprenticed in the Smith guild. My father, the Master Blacksmith had very high expectations of me. I went through my training years and eventually graduated to the level of journeyman. During my first year as a Journeyman, I went on a trip across Ancaria. I happened to be crossing the mountains between the Elf and Human realms and found the remnants of a battle. It looked like the elves and humans had yet another squabble. Among the debris left behind, I found a number of swords and shields by the corpses. One of them looked familiar to me. It was that shield your friend there bought from me. It was the very first shield I forged as an apprentice.


“I knew it was my handiwork. I was quite proud of the thing. It even had my mark on the back. My father dismissed it as being mediocre and sent me back to try again until I got it right,” he continued. “I never saw that shield again until that day.


“To make a really long story short, I come to find my father sold it and a lot of other substandard arms to anyone willing to pay for them. Later on, I faced him about this and he told me to mind me own business and that he knew what he was doin’. We had a long argument about it and he threw me out of the guild, ostracized me from Dwarven society and put a curse on me.”


“A curse?” Loromir asked. “What sort of curse?”


“The worst kind,” Smitty replied. “The kind where the entire blacksmith guild will not have anything to do ye if ye do business with me.”


“That doesn’t sound much like a curse to me,” Sophia said.


“Och, Just wait until you need to have something repaired and there’s no blacksmith in all of Ancaria who’ll touch the job with the longest halberd you got, not for any price. Nothing. It doesn’t matter the race either. No Elf, Human, Orc, Lizardman not even a Kobold! That rusty axe in my shop was the mark of my curse. I had to display it prominently in my shop, whereever I went. If I didn't, the local blacksmith would report to my father and that would not have been good for me nor my customer.”


“I see. Well, I think we might be able to do something about that,” Sophia replied.


“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Loromir replied. “We have everything we need right here, right now to make your armor.”


“OK, I get that we’ve got a very talented blacksmith in our midst, but what about an Archmage to bless and imbue the armor?” Lurinda chimed in.


Loromir laughed. “Who needs an archmage when you’ve got me?”


“How did I know you were going to say something like that?” Lurinda smirked.


“Did I miss something?” Karem asked with a ‘left out of the loop’ look on her face.


Sophia, Loromir and Lurinda looked amongst themselves as if an unspoken discussion was taking place between the three of them, deciding on if it was a good idea to admit Karem and Smitty into their fold.


Sophia took the reins. “Karem, please sit down. This may be a bit much to take in all at once.”


Karem, being the no-nonsense type, looked at Sophia as if she was trying her patience a bit, but complied.


Lurinda meanwhile dismissed the three runners waiting in the wings.


When they had left and Lurinda finished closing the doors, Sophia began, “Loromir, isn’t quite what he seems to be. You see, he’s a dragon.”


Karem was instantly on her feet, Smitty’s swords in hand, threatening to lop Loromir’s head off.


“HOLD sister!” Sophia commanded. “He’s not the enemy! Not any more! He’s on our side!”


Karem, being as disciplined as she was, backed off, but kept both swords in hand.


“I hate to interrupt, but exactly what is a ‘dragon’” Smitty broke the tension.


“It’s almost that time,” Loromir said with a smile, “Why don’t we just show him?”


“Very well, let’s go then,” Sophia said and the group followed her out of the hall and down the corridor to the entrance to the caverns below the tower. Lurinda opened the passage door and the group descended into the inky depths.


As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Loromir began removing his clothing, neatly folding them as he went. As he removed the last of his clothing he began to transform into his big scaly self.


Karem and Smitty both gaped in amazement as Loromir’s body grew and morphed into his dragon form. Sophia and Lurinda, while they had seen this transformation in the past, were still equally amazed.


A few moments later, when the process was complete, Loromir boomed with his deep voice, “Greetings, I am Loromir and I am a dragon!”


Smitty fainted.


Karem merely stood her ground, swords at the ready. “You’ve all gone mad!”


“No sister,” Sophia replied, “We haven’t. In fact, Loromir is only the first of our enemies to be freed from the evil that is overshadowing Ancaria. He is now on our side!”


Karem’s mind still fought to get a grasp of the situation. Centuries of combat training honed her instincts to vanquish the monster in front of her while her disciplined mind listened to what Sophia had to say and kept her from the attack.


“On our side?” Karem asked.


“Yes. Come with me, I’ll explain it all to you.” Sophia said. “Lurinda, you and Loromir look after Smitty.”


Sophia and Karem went up the stairs while Lurinda bent over to check on the Dwarf.


“Lurinda,” Loromir began, “I’m getting hungry! When can I get something to eat?”

 

Lurinda was distracted from tending her diminutive charge. “I believe that our scouts were able to get a cow or two and a few live wild boars for you. I’ll have them brought down for you tonight.”

 

“Just to be on the safe side,” Loromir boomed, “maybe we shouldn’t have anyone else come down here that isn’t part of our circle,” he laughed as he pointed a claw toward Smitty.

 

“Good point,” Lurinda agreed as she turned her attention back to Smitty. “In the mean time, I sincerely hope you aren’t thinking of having either of us for dinner.”

 

Loromir laughed again, “Have no fear. I do not eat my allies. Besides, his kind doesn’t smell very palatable.”



Edited by wolfie2kX
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Etherian    76

Keep the short stories coming wolfie.

 

You have my mind engaged & wanting more of the same.

 

I remain, :smart:

 

p.s.~ keep this up. You will force me to dawn my dusty old uni cap once again.

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wolfie2kX    522

In the previous installment, our heroes put all of their cards on the proverbial table and Sophia's inner circle expanded yet again. Today's installment finds Sophia explaining things to Karem, the chief of the armory...

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

The Prisoner

 

Meanwhile, Sophia and Karem made their way to the tower. The two of them retreated to Sophia’s private quarters and sat down.

 

“So, the dragon is really on our side now?” Karem asked, breaking the silence.

 

“Yes. He is.” Sophia replied, somewhat unsure of where to begin the tale.

 

“What I’m about to tell you is somewhat shocking. And what I’m going to tell you must stay within these walls just between the two of us. Lurinda and Manda already know the whole story. The things I’m going to tell you must not become public knowledge, mainly because if it does, it could have dire consequences for every one of us.

 

“OK. I think I can go along with that.” Karem consented.

 

“You see, Loromir is the dragon who bit Maria. Something happened to him when he did that. He changed.”

 

“Changed?” Karem said with the same sort of skepticism Lurinda and Manda showed previously.

 

“Yes. It has to do with our blood.” Sophia said. “Our blood has the ability to excise evil from any being who tastes it. Loromir and his kind have been enslaved by a being known as the Carnach. When he bit Maria, and her blood gushed into his mouth, the thrall he was under was broken.”

 

As Karem sat and mulled over this tidbit of information, a noise came from Sophia’s closet. Instantly on the alert, Karem grabbed the pair of Smitty’s swords from the table and tossed one to Sophia who grabbed it deftly in midair. They made their way to the closet slowly and with stealth. Suddenly a male figure in runner’s garb burst from the closet and tried to make it past the two waiting Seraphim.

 

“Whatever you do, we must take him alive!” Sophia exclaimed as Karem deftly swung her free fist at him and cold-cocked the intruder onto his backside. He was out cold.

 

Just then Lurinda and Smitty arrived and entered Sophia’s chamber. “Well, well, what have we got here?” Lurinda asked. “Ah. It’s our missing runner. The one I sent to Ciria Delith this morning.”

 

“We’ve got a problem,” Sophia said. “I was briefing Karem on what we’ve been up to so far, and he overheard all of it.”

 

“Did he, now. That’s a problem,” Lurinda said with annoyance. “It figures he would seek shelter here in the one place that no one would think to look. We need to interrogate him before we can do anything else. How much did he overhear?”

 

“Everything of consequence,” Sophia replied.

 

“Everything is not good. By the way, Loromir will need some food. We will need to move his dinner down to his lair.”

 

“That gives me an idea,” Sophia said with a wicked grin on her face. “Tie him up!”

 

Lurinda and Karem moved in and quickly had the prisoner tied with his hands behind his back. Soon after, the prisoner regained consciousness.

 

“On your feet!” Sophia commanded. “We’re going to take you downstairs.”

 

Lurinda figured out what Sophia had in mind and subdued a grin of her own. “Let’s go!”

 

Karem, can you arrange for some quarters for Smitty? We’ll finish up our discussion later.”

 

“Yes, my queen!” Karem replied.

 

Sophia, Lurinda and their charge made their way down the steps to Loromir’s lair.

 

“Greetings my friends,” Loromir’s voice boomed in the faint light. “What have you brought me?”

 

“Greetings again, my friend,” Sophia replied. “We’ve brought a small problem.”

 

“A problem you say? Shall I eat him?” Loromir asked, with a twinge of hope in his voice.

 

“Not yet! This runner here has been behaving rather oddly today. He’s the runner Lurinda sent to Ciria Delith this morning. The one who returned telling us that the Master Blacksmith and the Archmage summoned me for my fitting.

 

As Loromir emerged into view, his immense bulk had a very unpleasant reaction on the prisoner. His face blanched and a large wet stain appeared in his crotch.

 

“Humph,” loromir began, “He seems to be quite the coward.”

 

“What about his aura?” Sophia asked.

 

“Yes... He’s got that same taint I saw in the city,” he replied.

 

“I thought as much,” Sophia replied and turned to the prisoner, “Now then, what ever possessed you to send me on a wild goose chase to Ciria Delith?”

 

The prisoner blubbered. “They paid me!” Tears were streaming down his face.

 

“They paid you? How much?” Sophia demanded.

 

“Five Thousand Gold pieces.”

 

“Who paid you?” Sophia continued the interrogation.

 

“The Master Blacksmith and the Archmage,” the prisoner replied nervously.

 

“Where were they when they paid you?” Sophia asked.

 

“They were at the Academy when I got there.”

 

“I see. And then what?” Sophia prodded the prisoner.

 

“When I got there they were prepared to leave. They gave me a bag of Gold pieces and told me to tell you to come to the Academy immediately. And then we all left. I came back here and I have no idea where they went, but I assume it was by portal.”

 

“And why would that be?”

 

“Because we walked together to the portal in Na’Fian,” the prisoner concluded.

 

“Loromir, this man here also overheard some information that was not meant for his ears. Can you do anything to block his memories of the last quarter day?”

 

Loromir looked amused and a little disappointed. “Besides eating him? Ha ha ha ha! Of course I can!” With that he placed his left claw on the prisoner’s head and looked into his eyes. The prisoner practically fainted as Loromir’s eyes bored through him. “He should wake up shortly without any recollection of what happened in the past quarter day.”

 

“Lurinda, take this poor excuse upstairs and secure him. In the mean time, I’ll go round up Loromir’s dinner.” Sophia said.

 

“Well played! Though I thought for a moment you brought him to me as an appetizer.” Loromir said in jest. “Fear not, he looks far too stringy to eat. I prefer my food to have a bit more meat on them.”

 

“Good. Considering I don’t really consider what he did to be a capital offense. Besides, I’d rather have him alive at the moment so we can figure out what that taint is and how to remove it.”

 

“I’m not entirely certain myself, but I highly suspect it’s the Carnach’s doing.” Loromir mused. “Now then, you mentioned something about dinner?”

 

“That’s pretty much my thoughts as well. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go get it. You might want to go back into the shadows. I’m not sure who is available to give me a hand with it.”

 

Loromir stomped off into the shadows as Sophia went back to the tower.

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wolfie2kX    522

In the previous installment, our heros had a close call - and some "fun" at the expense of someone who overheard something he shouldn't have. In this installment, we ask another 'burning question' - with appologies to Clara Peller...

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----


Where’s the Beef?

 

Sophia arrived at the tower a few moments later and made her way to the main hall. On the way back, she realized she forgot to ask Lurinda where the animals were housed. She looked around and saw a runner waiting in there. She motioned to him and asked "Do you happen to know where the wild boar and cows Lurinda had brought to the island are being kept?"


"No my queen," he replied. "But to be honest, I just started my shift moments ago."


Sophia then went outside. No sign of the animals - nor anyone else – given in the early evening, most Seraphim and the other races living in service to the Seraphim were either eating or preparing the evening meal.

 

Sophia tried her best to think where Lurinda might have ordered the people bringing the animals to put them. She was drawing a blank given she had never been involved in such matters on the island. Come to think of it, there had never been a dragon living beneath the tower either.


Lurinda arrived back at the tower just then, much to Sophia’s relief.

 

"Just in time! Where did you have the traders put the animals for out friend’s dinner?" Sophia called out.

 

Lurinda looked a bit confused. "I had the traders bring them up here. In fact, they were right here when I left to take our prisoner to the confinement cell. I take it you didn’t bring them down as yet."

 

"No." Sophia replied.


"Let me get a fast runner. Maybe we can catch up with the traders before they leave," Lurinda said as she went inside.

 

Moments later, the runner Sophia quizzed earlier was off and running down toward the portal and Lurinda came out.

 

Sophia looked at the ground, searching for hoof prints. There were four sets coming up the path from the portal, and there was an area – as Lurinda said – where there were hoof prints in somewhat of a circle as if the animals stopped and were milling about. But that’s where the trail abruptly went cold.


"It looks like they got to this point, as you said," Sophia began. "But that’s it - as if they vanished into thin air."


"Curious."

 

Just then, a kitchen helper came out and looked around.


Sophia called to him and asked "Excuse me – did you see any animals here?"


"Aye, my queen. There were two cows and three boars here when I came up here the last time."


"Do you happen to know where they are now?"


"Certainly, they’re in the slaughter pen being tended to by the butcher," the Kitchen helper replied.


Sophia and Lurinda looked at each other and then took off for the kitchen area. Moments later, they arrived just as the head butcher was about to slit the throat of the second cow. The first had already been gutted, bled, dry, skinned and was in the process of being expertly processed into roasts and various cuts of meat.


STOP!" they yelled in unison! The startled head butcher jumped nearly out of his own skin at the interruption.


"I’m sorry, but I need that cow alive and intact!" Sophia commanded.

 

"Yes my queen, but we won’t have enough for tomorrow’s feast."


"Tomorrow’s feast?" Sophia repeated

 

"Yes, we were ordered to prepare a huge meal for the guests following the funeral and the wake for Queen Maria."

 

Lurinda gave herself a face-palm. "Blast it. I knew I was forgetting something. I scheduled Maria’s funeral and a wake for her tomorrow. I’m sorry."

 

"It’s all right, Lurinda, with all that’s been going on the last few days... It’s quite understandable." Sophia said.

 

"So now what?" Lurinda asked.


"We go on a hunt!"

 

"It’s just about dark now, do you really want to go hunting at night?"


"It’s getting dark here, but dawn should be breaking on the eastern continent. I think we can find him something suitable to eat there."

 

"I suppose so. Who’s going to break the news to him?" Lurinda asked.


"I will. Let’s get going," Sophia decided. "First, a stop in my quarters – I need to put my armor on.

 

Moments later, the two were descending into Loromir’s lair.

 

"Greetings again, my friend. We seem to have a bit of a problem," Sophia began.


"Greetings! What do you mean, ‘problem’?" Loromir asked.

 

"Your dinner was mistakenly taken into the kitchen and slaughtered. The cooks are currently preparing it for the wake tomorrow." Sophia replied.


"That is a bit of a problem."

 

"But all is not entirely lost. I am personally going out on a hunt on the Eastern continent to find you something to eat," Sophia said.


"The Eastern continent?" Loromir asked.

 

"Indeed. Dawn should be breaking there by the time I get there."

 

Loromir thought for a moment then said, "It would be a very, very bad idea to go through with this plan," he boomed. "You forget, the Eastern continent is where we emerged into this plane of existence. Many of my brothers and sisters and many of the Carnach’s forces will be in the area, and the portals there will be far too dangerous to use. No matter. I can hold out until morning arrives here," he sighed.

 

"Very well, though, I should warn you, there will be a lot of commotion on the island tomorrow. As Sophia mentioned earlier, Queen Maria’s funeral and wake will be held here. We’re expecting dignitaries from all over Ancaria."

 

"Be on your guard!" Loromir boomed with authority. When the echo died away, he continued, "The agents of the Carnach will likely be among those attending."

 

"Are you certain of this?" Lurinda asked.


"I can not be entirely certain. But, if I was still amongst the Carnach’s minions, I would most certainly make the attempt to disrupt the proceedings in a very big way. Think about it. You will be hosting the leaders of every race on Ancaria. What would be a better opportunity to create chaos than to attack them when they were all together in one place?"

 

"Lurinda, we’ll need to double security."

 

"That will hardly be enough!" Loromir interrupted. "You will need me standing by at the portal. Only I will be able to spot anyone who is up to something. And for that, I will need to eat something, preferably sooner, rather than later. It’s really best of I have a bit of time to digest a meal before I transform."

 

"Fair enough, how much would you be needing to eat now?" Sophia asked.

 

"I suppose I could make do with a wild boar."

 

"Lurinda and I will go to the kitchen now and see what we can do."

 

Sophia and Lurinda made for the stairs. Sophia was hoping they still had one of the boars mostly intact. In what would be record time (if such records were kept) they made it up to the top and were off to the kitchen area. As they arrived, the butcher had just gotten through slitting the throat of the last boar. The others and the cows were already on spits, turning and roasting.


"Hello!" Sophia said.

 

The butcher turned, "Hello, ah... It’s you again, my queen."

 

"I’m going to need that last boar right now. But I promise you that I will get a replacement for it first thing in the morning."

 

"Mistress, you do realize it will take hours to cook the beast all the way through and be tender and perfect for our guests."


"Yes, I’m sure it does, however, I have a need for the boar right now, as it is. It’s very important."

 

"Very well, you are the Queen," the butcher replied, a bit mystified as to what the Queen herself would be needing with a wild boar carcass in the middle of the night. But hey, he was only the head butcher.


Sophia and Lurinda grabbed the boar, still dripping with blood and slung it on a roasting pike. They barely strained under the weight of the dead beast with their superior strength. They made their way down the passage to the cavern below.


"Loromir, hello!" Sophia called out.

 

The dragon stirred in the shadows. "Ah... Dinner!


"Sorry, but the beast is dead. The butcher just cut its throat moments before we arrived."


"No matter! The carcass is still fresh. And it smells wonderful!" Loromir boomed with a happy sound in his voice.


Sophia and Lurinda removed the boar from the sling and retreated a bit so Loromir could grab his snack.


Loromir grabbed the boar with both of his front arms and his mouth made its way around the neck of the beast. He bit down with an awful crunching sound as his teeth ripped through the neck and the head came off in one big chomp. Loromir reared his head a bit and swallowed the head whole.

 

Sophia turned her attention to Lurinda and said "We should probably find him something a bit nicer looking than what he was wearing the other day to Ciria Delith if he’s going to be out and about as our guests will be arriving."


Lurinda was glad to have the distraction. Watching dragons feed was as unpleasant as Sophia mentioned before. "Yes, of course, I’ll get right on it in the morning. Did you have any particular type of clothing in mind?"


"Not offhand."

 

"I was thinking, the archmage, the master blacksmith and a number of other notables from Ciria Delith and Bengaresh are supposed to be coming. I’m not sure we could get away with saying he’s a traveling spice merchant from Bengaresh. They could easily see right thorough it or worse yet, recognize him from your trip there."


"You’re right. We will need to concoct a better story for him." Sophia replied.


Sophia turned back toward Loromir for a moment, just in time to see the last hoof vanish into his cavernous maw.

 

"Ahhhhh," Loromir sighed contentedly. "That hit the spot!"

 

"Glad you enjoyed that!" Sophia said. "Now I do have a question for you before we leave you to get some rest. Your transformation... Can you change your appearance much? Or do you always look the same?"

 

"I can change my appearance. I overheard a bit of what you were talking about while I was eating and I agree. It would be best if I looked different from my previous transformations. Do you have anything special in mind?"


"Not really. I would say keep your body about the same size and shape. Maybe make your hair a different color and make your face look like someone else." Sophia replied.


"Easily done," the big lizard said.


"We’ll come and get you before the guests arrive," Lurinda added. But for now, we should all get some rest. Sophia and I have some armor to polish. We too have to look our best!"

 

"Very well..." Loromir boomed sleepily. "Good night!" And with that he curled up and went to sleep. Sophia and Lurinda made their way upstairs.


Edited by wolfie2kX
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Etherian    76

Old dusty Uni. cap is once again on...16 years after the fact.

 

Keep em' comin' wolfie.

 

I remain, :smart:

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wolfie2kX    522

They're comin'... :D

 

Tonight, we find Sophia finally getting a brief moment to herself - with the ability to dig into the helmet's repository of knowledge to get some answers...

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----


The Night Shift


Sophia made her way to her quarters. She came upon Karem waiting just outside her door.


“I was hoping we could finish our conversation,” Karem began.


“Come on in,” Sophia invited.


“I had suspected there was something different with our blood. What you told me earlier – it finally made sense why and how I won certain fights,” Karem began. “Have you ever had a fight with someone and suddenly they stopped fighting back and just gave in? Gave in far sooner than expected?”


“I never really thought about it. But now that I think back about it, I suppose I have.” Sophia replied. “And yes, that does tend to shed new light on those situations. At any rate, I hope to leverage this advantage into winning the war.”


“Now that would be something. What did you have in mind?” Karem inquired.


“I’m not entirely certain as yet. I was hoping you and I could come up with something.” Sophia replied. “But in the meantime, I have much to get done before morning. I need to polish up my armor a bit for the funeral.”


“Oh! Yes, I suppose I should get to that as well.”


Sophia stood up and unbuckled her chest plate and placed it on the table before going to her closet to fetch some polish.


“Is that the armor you were going to wear tomorrow?” Karem inquired, with a mild annoyance.


“Yes. It’s the only armor I own at the moment. Unfortunately, I never got fitted for my new royal armor. Things got a bit hectic with Loromir’s rescue and then the masters in Ciria Delith decided to be petty so it didn’t get done today either. Not that they could have gotten it done on time even if we did get the fitting session done this morning.” Sophia sighed. “So I’ll have to make do with what
I’ve got.”


“This armor is in fairly shabby condition! I understand you’ve worn it for quite some time and have gone through many battles with it, but as far as appearances go, it will make you look bad in front of the nobles and other dignitaries who will be coming here!”


“Why? I am a Seraphim. I’ve been through a lot of combat. I’ve vanquished all of my opponents and I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Sophia countered.


Karem smiled, “I know you have and there is no shame in wearing this armor amongst your sisters, but we are going to be hosting the world’s dignitaries tomorrow. And they will expect you to be in your royal finery.”


“... Which I do not have!” Sophia finished.

 

“I realize that,” Karem replied. “But we’ll just have to make the most of what we’ve got. Give your armor to me. I will have it mended properly by morning!”

 

“It’s no real trouble. I can polish my armor too.”

 

“I’m sure you can, but I have something in mind – I plan to give the project to my new blacksmith to see what he can do with these dents and scratches,” Karem countered.


“Very well. I suppose there are other things I can do tonight,” Sophia gave in. “Speaking of Smitty, I assume you find him some suitable quarters.”

 

“Yes, I did. I put him up in the barracks on the north side of the island. He complained a bit about the furniture being the wrong size and set about to do some modifications so he could reach things.”


“Good. I suppose we’ll have to keep him under wraps tomorrow. Given what he told us tonight, I think it would be best not to antagonize anyone until we get things sorted out with his father and the Blacksmith Guild.”


“Agreed. I don’t think we’ll get much in the way of an argument from him on that.” Karem replied and with that, rose from her seat, taking Sophia’s chest plate with her. “In the meantime, I better get going. This armor won’t mend and make itself presentable.”


“Very good. I’ll see you in the morning!” Sophia acknowledged. She closed the door behind the departing Karem and thought about what her next task would be. She opened the door and made her way to the kitchen. As she entered, she saw the same butcher tending the roasts on various spits.


“Good evening,” she called. “Any chance I can get something light to eat?”

 

“Of course, my queen!” the man replied. “The roasts aren’t quite ready, and won’t be until midday, but I think there’s some porridge left on the stove.”


“That’ll do nicely. Where can I find a bowl?” Sophia asked.


“Let me get it for you. The kitchen matron would have my hide if I didn’t serve you myself,” he chuckled as he dug up a bowl from a stack in the corner.


“Ah... I think I met her earlier today. She does seem to be quite stern about things having to do with the kitchen,” Sophia mused.


“Indeed. She’s like that outside of the kitchen as well. I should know. I married her,” he sighed as he grabbed a ladle and scooped a large serving of porridge from the pot.


“You don’t say. How long have you been married?” Sophia inquired.


“Going on 35 years now. But we get along just fine. I work the night shift and she works days. Couldn’t be a better arrangement,” he grinned. “There’s some beet root sweetener over there in that jar. Help yourself.” He then handed the bowl to Sophia.


“Thank you, kind sir!”


“Tis nothing. The late shift is rather quiet with not much going on besides the roasting. I’m quite glad for any interruption.”

 

Sophia grabbed a spoon from the counter and opened the jar, taking a liberal spoonful from its contents and dumping it onto her bowl. She then stuck the spoon into the porridge to give it a stir, the spoon stood up on its own accord.


The butcher, who was watching Sophia, sprang to her aid, “Let me get some milk for you to loosen that up a bit. The ladies tend to make the porridge thick enough to use as mortar for brickwork. Sometimes I wonder if they’re trying to kill me.”


He went into another room briefly and came back a moment later with a pitcher of milk and motioned to Sophia to come and get some.


Sophia suddenly had a disturbing thought, “Um... I’m not taking your supper from you, am I?”

 

The older man looked at her and replied, “Oh no! There’s plenty of things for me to eat. Someone’s got to sample the meats to make sure they’re ready. And I have to check the seasoning as well. I’ll be fine.” He then poured some milk onto the bowl of cereal.


“There, that should do it,” he announced.


“Thank you again!” Sophia said as she stirred the now loosened mass in her bowl. She pulled the spoon from the bowl and gave it a taste. “Not bad. I bid you good night, kind sir.”


“Good night!” he replied.


Sophia made her way back to her quarters and settled down to eat. She dipped her spoon into the porridge and found it was doing it’s best to congeal again. The man was right. This stuff could be used as mortar. No matter, it was food. Sophia ate a spoonful and found it didn’t taste nearly as bad as she thought it might. It was still far superior to combat rations. Then again, even Orc cuisine was far superior to combat rations. Not that anyone but Orcs could stomach Orc cuisine. Some of their dishes were downright nauseating.


She finished her bowl of porridge and set the bowl aside. She decided that she was going to spend some quality time with her helmet. There were many questions that needed asking and hopefully, it would have answers.

 

After a moment, the room once again faded. Sophia focused her thoughts onto Seraphim blood and its property – the one which purges evil from bad people.

 

“Accessing...” the helmet said, “Specify additional parameters for search.”


Sophia thought about methods to deliver Seraphim blood to its target – methods not involving being bitten in half by a giant reptile.


“Given the finite supply of Seraphim, there are no acceptable methods for delivery.”


Damn. There were those words, ‘finite supply’ again. Sophia decided maybe she should ask about that instead.

 

“Accessing...” the helmet chimed in again. “Seraphim are a finite supply. There are no new Seraphim being created. The number of Seraphim is decreasing with every death.”


Sophia had to admit, she never thought about it. The Seraphim simply always were. They were eternal. Sophia thought for a moment. Every Seraphim knew that the Creator gave them life – what seemed like eons ago. Though, none really had any recollection of the Creator.


She wondered if the helmet knew how Seraphim were created. Perhaps, somehow, if she could find the means to do so, the Seraphim numbers could be bolstered. Maybe if she could find the Creator?


“Accessing...” the voice continued. “Access denied. This information is restricted by the order of the second queen of the Seraphim in the year 2494, First Elvish Empire.


Sophia was confused. “I am the second queen of the Seraphim. Who is this second queen?”

 

“Accessing... Negative. You are Sophia, the third queen of the Seraphim. Seraphim Maria was the second queen of the Seraphim. Her reign lasted over 100,000 Ancarian years and ended two days ago.”


“Who was the first queen of the Seraphim then?” Sophia thought with puzzlement.

 

“Accessing... Access denied. Information restricted by Second Queen of the Seraphim in the year 2494, First Elvish Empire.”


“Drat!” Sophia thought. This wasn’t good. She would have to figure out how to unlock the information if the Seraphim were to survive as a race. For that matter, all of Ancaria’s races survival was at stake.

 

Another path: Why aren’t there any new Seraphim? Surely, all Seraphim were clearly female. Females of other races bore young.


“Accessing... Access denied. Information restricted by Second Queen of the Seraphim in the year 2494, First Elvish Empire.”

 

Fair enough. Why aren’t there any male Seraphim?

 

“Accessing... Male Seraphim were deemed unstable and dangerous, ergo; research into male Seraphim was terminated.


“Can you show me what a male Seraphim would have looked like?” Sophia asked the helmet.

 

“Accessing... Rendering complete. Image represents idealized concept of male Seraphim.”


Sophia looked at the image in her mind. Something in the image stirred something within her. The male was tall – taller than most elves and humans currently on Ancaria. His hair was blonde like most female Seraphim. His shoulders were quite broad, his chest muscular, his wings were different from female Seraphim wings. The male’s spread much like a bird or a bat as opposed to being directed toward the rear. His face, however, was cruel, hateful. His mouth had no smile. It was twisted into a sneer. Revulsion.

 

The Creator was wise for abandoning them.


Sophia felt she wasn’t getting anywhere with this. She returned herself to the waking world and decided to get a bit of rest while she could.


Edited by wolfie2kX
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Etherian    76

Bravo! This story is unfolding nicely.

 

I remain, *high fives*

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wolfie2kX    522

I got some bad news folks. Tonight's installment will likely be the second to last daily installment for the time being. :( Unfortunately, it's far quicker to copy/paste stuff than to come up with the next bit of the story and type it in. And we've just about caught up with what I've gotten written so far. Which is actually a considerable amount as I'm working on page 55 in Word. Fear not, I will post as I get chapters completed.

 

On a positive note, I'm going to break the current chapter in two - given it's already almost 10 pages long - and I'm far from the conclusion - so there will be something today as well as tomorrow - provided I get a chance to write tonight!

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

Funeral Day


Early the following morning, Sophia woke somewhat refreshed. She didn’t sleep as well as she usually did. There were far too many questions bouncing around in her mind that refused to go away.


She thought briefly about what she had planned for the day. A quick hunt for dragon chow. Greeting visitors at the funeral. Accepting their condolences. The funeral ceremony itself. The wake. Sending everyone home safely. She realized she wouldn’t get a chance to get all of her group together until late in the day, or perhaps tomorrow.

 

She rose and took a quick bath, put a long tunic and some sandals on and stepped outside. Since dawn was breaking, Sophia thought a quick breakfast was in order. But first, she thought it would probably be best to check on the progress on her armor. Besides, there would be a fairly big feast with plenty food and it would probably be best to leave room.

 

Sophia went outside and followed the path to the Armory on the north side of the island. As she approached, she noticed the lights were on. She wasn’t certain if they were still on from the night before or if the people inside were just getting an early start to the day.

 

She knocked on the thick wooden door and a moment later, a Seraphim who Sophia wasn’t familiar with opened the door and said "Good morning, sister. Can I help you?"

 

"Good morning sister. I’m here to see about my armor." Sophia greeted.

 

"I’m sorry, sister, but everyone’s still sound asleep. We had a long night. Can you come back in a short while?" the Seraphim said.

 

"Sophia!" Karem’s voice boomed from behind the door. "Open the door Sumi and let her in! Don’t you recognize your future queen? Sophia, you’re just in time! Come on in!"

 

Sumi opened the door after turning a bit red from embarrassment and Sophia stepped through into what could only be considered organized chaos. The armory was a large workshop with a small warehouse attached to it. There were tools all over the work bench and the forge looked as if someone had been using it. In front of the workbench was a sort of scaffold that looked as if it was a long bench taken from the dining area. Next to that there were a series of shallow steps leading to the top. Karem looked as if she had been roused from a nap.

 

"I just stopped by to see how things were going." Sophia began.

 

"They’re going far better than I could have imagined. Smitty is quite the miracle worker." Karem replied.

 

"He is? Did he finish with my armor?"

 

"Not exactly..." Karem smiled mysteriously. "He’s still working on it. But wait till you see it. I’m sure you’ll be quite impressed."

 

"I’m sure I will."

 

"I know you will! I wish I had an army of Smittys working for me. Well, at least two or three more of him. He’s amazing!"

 

"So... Where is he anyhow?" Sophia inquired.

 

"He stepped out for a moment; He said something about needing something or other to finish up your armor."

 

There was a knock at the door. Sumi went to answer it. It was Smitty. He was a filthy – as if he had been hard at work at the forge for hours which of course, was the case.

 

"Good morning Smitty!" Sophia greeted him.

 

"Och! Good morn to ye too! Yer a bit early. I need little more time to finish up yer armor!" Smitty replied. "If ye come back after breakfast, it should be done by then."

 

"Very well..." Sophia replied. "In that case, I won’t keep you. In the meantime, Karem, can we get someone down near the portal to confiscate and store our visitor’s weapons – at least until they leave?"

 

"I suppose I could have someone down there, though, I’m almost positive that there will likely be plenty of people who won’t like that one bit." Karem replied.

 

"I’m also sure of that, but I think it will be for the best. This is to be a funeral for Maria, and I don’t want today remembered for anything else. Oh... and Loromir will also be down there keeping watch for anything – odd."

 

"As you command," Karem replied.

 

"OK... I’ll be back shortly then." Sophia said and made her way out of the workshop.

 

As Sophia made her way back to the tower and the dining area, she realized how naked she felt without her armor. Not that it wasn’t nice to not be wearing armor for a change; it’s just that there was a certain comfort she got from wearing it.

 

Sophia arrived at the mess hall and had a look around. Sure enough, there was a bench missing. There was also a line of Seraphim and various beings – most of which were working in the service of the Seraphim in various positions – lined up for their morning meal. Someone ahead of her turned around and noticed her standing in line. Suddenly everyone ahead of her stepped aside and waved her forward.

 

Sophia stood there for a moment, slightly embarrassed. She still wasn’t quite use to this sort of special treatment. "Please, everybody – as you were. I am not in a hurry. I can wait for my breakfast."

 

After a moment or two, the people that were ahead of her in the queue got back in line. It wasn’t so bad – the line was moving fast enough. And pretty soon, she was at the head of the line. She grabbed a tray and a bowl. She was hoping to get another bowl of that porridge she had previously. It was simple food for a not so simple day.

 

When she had the server’s attention, Sophia asked "I’d like a bowl of porridge, please; and some sweetener and half a cup of milk."

 

The server taking orders looked a bit aghast, but turned back to the stove to see if there was any left. "I’m surry, we seem to be out of porridge."

 

"Very well, I guess I’ll have whatever is the order of the day," Sophia replied, somewhat dejected.

 

The server then piled some sliced meats, bread and eggs onto Sophia’s plate.

 

"One more thing, if you could. Take three more orders of food to the Armory, please. There are some hard working people there who have spent all night working and could likely use some food," Sophia asked.

 

"Very well, three orders. I’ll see what I can do. The matron might not allow us to do that."

 

"If she has any – and I mean any – problems with carrying out my wishes then have her come see me."

 

"Yes my queen!"

 

Sophia turned and looked around the dining hall, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of room to sit. She decided she would go eat in her room again. She looked around again, but neither Lurinda nor Manda were in the hall. They were no doubt, too busy with their own duties for breakfast.

 

She sat down and began to eat. It was kind of strange eating alone. Seraphim usually had meals together in the field – units would stop and eat their combat rations when and where they were able. And here on the island, everyone, it seems ate together in the mess hall.

 

She ate quickly, hoping to get a quick hunt in for Loromir’s next meal. But she needed her armor before she could go out. She was also quite curious as to what Smitty was able to accomplish overnight.

 

She picked up her dishes and made her way back to the dining hall to drop them off. When she arrived, she noticed the food server who took her order this morning had a nasty bruise on her face.

 

"What happened to your face?" Sophia asked the servant.

 

"Um Nothing, my queen," she replied.

 

"Nothing?" Sophia returned with skepticism. "’Nothing’ doesn’t leave bruises on one’s face."

 

"Yes, my queen, I’m sure it was ‘nothing’," the servant replied trying to hide something.

 

"Very well, if you say so." Sophia decided she would need to keep a close eye on the kitchen help... But for the moment she would have had other things on her plate that needed her attention. She almost laughed at her own little joke – watching the kitchen help and things on her plate, but caught herself before it got out.

 

She put the dishes down and left, heading for the armory.

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

 

A short time later, Sophia was once again at the door of the Armory and knocked on the door. Sumi, as before answered the door and let her in.

 

"Sophia! Hope your breakfast was good," Karem greeted her queen.

 

"It was adequate, Karem. How was yours?" Sophia returned the greeting.

 

"To be honest, we haven’t had a chance to get to the mess hall."

 

"And what about the breakfasts I had the kitchen send over?" Sophia asked.

 

"We didn’t get any such treats." Karem replied.

 

"I see. I’m going to have a few choice words with the kitchen matron then. I asked the servant girl who served my breakfast to send over three plates of food for you, Sumi and Smitty. When I got back from eating in my room, I noticed the same servant girl had a rather ugly bruise on her face.

 

"But that will have to wait. I’ll be needing my armor – provided it’s ready."

 

"Smitty’s in the back. Sumi, go get him." Karem ordered.

 

Sumi got up and went looking for Smitty.

 

"Just wait until you see what he’s managed to do overnight!" Karem gushed. "He’s absolutely amazing to watch when he’s plying his craft."

 

Sumi and Smitty returned a moment later.

 

"I figure Smitty should be the one to unveil your armor!" Karem announced.

 

Smitty walked over to what appeared to be a Seraphim standing with a huge cloth draped over her head. Sophia realized that was merely a mannequin used for making armor. Smitty pulled a small cord and the cloth covering the armor dropped, revealing an entirely different set of armor from the one Sophia gave Karem the night before.

 

The armor set on the mannequin was quite different from the one Sophia usually wore. Sophia’s usual armor set had a silver colored chest plate with a hard upper section that had a number of small metal sections below it that covered her midsection from the bottom of her rib cage to her waist. These allowed her the maximum flexibility while also giving her a measure of protection.

 

The one on the mannequin however had a solid torso section with a high cut section around her hips that allowed some flexibility around her midsection. At the hips, there were metal sections that gave her protection down to the mid-thigh area. In the front there was what appeared to be a blue curtain made of cloth. It was likely there for modesty’s sake.

 

There was another part that covered her shoulders that were wide to give protection to her shoulder joints, while giving maximum range to motion.

 

"It’s..." Sophia was stunned speechless. "Amazing." She walked around the mannequin, giving it the once over from all sides.

 

"Och! Thank you, Sophia," Smitty said. "It’s guaranteed to fit ye the first time too."

 

"How would that be possible?"

 

"Simple enough, I got yer measurements from that yer old armor!"

"I’m amazed. I really like it a lot! It’s beautiful! But you realize I can’t wear it today, don’t you?" Sophia asked.

 

Smitty’s face fell. Sophia knelt so she was face to face with the Dwarf.

 

"You know your father and the Archmage will be here today. If I were to wear that armor at the funeral, they will no doubt be asking a lot of questions; questions, which, they of course will already know the answers to. I am hoping to resolve your situation without making a huge public spectacle of it. If I wear that armor today, it will only inflame the situation. And I hope to keep today in Maria’s honor."

 

"Och... I understand." Smitty said with quite a bit of dejection.

 

"Smitty, cheer up. You are an amazing being. I don’t think there are too many people in the whole of Ancaria who could craft an entire set of armor overnight. As long as you want, you can and will have a position here on this island. In fact, Karem told me earlier this morning that she wanted an army of blacksmiths with your talents!"

 

Smitty looked at up at Karem who smiled and nodded in agreement.

 

"Aye... I understand. I suppose that would also mean I can’t attend either." Smitty added.

 

Sophia thought for a moment about that. "Let me see what I can do about that. In the mean time, I’ll be needing my old armor."

 

"Och... I think I may have made a mess of things."

 

"What do you mean by that?"

 

"I took a look at that armor and I dinna do anything with it – except of course, getting your measurements. It’s sitting in the corner over there."

 

Sophia sighed slightly; relieved her old armor was still intact. Still dented and scratched, but at least, in one piece.

 

"Don’t worry about that. It’ll be fine. If anything, I’ll make it work in our favor," Sophia smiled at Smitty.

 

Sophia stood up and walked to the corner where her armor was piled unceremoniously. She picked up the pile and excused herself to change into the old set.


 

Edited by wolfie2kX
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wolfie2kX    522

Welp... This chapter is turning into a rather LOOONG one. Much longer than I figured earlier. So I figure I can break it down into maybe 3 - 4 parts. We'll see...

 

When we last saw Sophia... She was just changing into something more comfortable - her old armor.

 

 

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----


A short while later, after changing into her armor, Sophia made her way to her quarters. She would need her favorite bow and a sword if she was going to get to hunting up a wild boar for Loromir.

 

As she left her quarters, she almost bumped into Lurinda, who it seems was on her way to see her. “Good morning, Lurinda!” she greeted.


“Good morning, my queen!” Lurinda responded. “Were you on your way somewhere?” pointing at the bow.


“Yes, I thought I’d get in a quick hunt this morning for our ‘guest’...”


“I’ve already taken care of that. I sent out a party at first light and they just got back with a pair of wild boar. I’ll need a bit of help getting them downstairs though. Can you give me a hand?”


“That’s a relief! Thank you for that and yes, certainly, I’ll help you!”

 

“By the way, are you really thinking of wearing that armor today?” Lurinda said, indicating the armor on Sophia.


“I most certainly am!” Sophia defiantly replied.


“I thought you were going to at the very least polish it up a bit.”


“I was... But Karem came by last night to finish our conversation. We talked a bit more and she noticed my armor was in need of service – and suggested that we turn our new friend loose on it. Smitty took one look at it and decided it wouldn’t do one bit and wound up making an entire set of armor – in one night!”


“Wow. That’s amazing!” Lurinda said with her eyes almost popping out. “The last time Maria got herself a new set, it took the Master Blacksmith a fortnight to get it done – and it still wasn’t quite right. It took another seven days to get the thing to fit properly. So... Why aren’t you wearing it today?”


"For one simple reason: the Master Blacksmith and the Archmage are supposed to be coming today – aren’t they? After the way things played out in the past few days, it would be quite odd for me to be wearing new armor. Especially when we were spotted by the Archmage’s acolytes making off with Smitty. I hope to resolve the issues between him and his father quietly, without making a public spectacle. I want today to be remembered for Maria’s funeral, not for anything else.”


“Very wisely put! You do seem to be taking to being like a duck to water.” Lurinda smiled.


“I suppose so. I’m still not certain I’m the right Seraphim for the job, but until someone better comes along, I suppose I don’t have much choice,” Sophia replied. “By the way, did you get any breakfast this morning?”


“Not yet, I was hoping to get something to tide me over.”


“Good. I have another matter that needs to be dealt with there.”


“Oh?” Lurinda asked.


“Yes. I asked a server to send three plates of food to the Armory for Karem, Sumi and Smitty when I got my breakfast. When I returned my tray, the same server girl was behind the counter with a rather ugly bruise on her face. And when I got to the Armory, I found they hadn’t gotten the meals I had sent over.”


"I see... But before we do, we need to get someone else his breakfast.” Lurinda reminded.


“Yes, let’s get going.”


The two went out and got one of the hogtied wild boars and threaded a long spear between his legs. They hoisted him onto their shoulders and took the boar inside to meet its fate.


When they arrived at the bottom of the steps, Sophia called out, “Hello!”


A few moments later, Loromir responded, “Hello! I see you haven’t forgotten me and my needs!”


“Surely, how can we forget you, my friend? Much has happened since last night.”


“Just put that tasty morsel down anywhere.” Loromir asked greedily. “Do tell...”


As Sophia and Lurinda unburdened themselves, Sophia began, “Well, your instincts about our Dwarven friend were correct. Karem volunteered to have him take a look at my armor last night. He took it upon himself to build a brand new set of armor – and managed to get it finished in what can only be called record time.


“HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!” Loromir’s hearty laughter boomed and reboomed with each echo. “I told you that little man was special!”


“The problem is, of course, that the Master Blacksmith and Archmage are due here shortly and given what Smitty told us about his situation, I don’t feel it’s wise to wear it so... blatantly in front of them.” Sophia said.

 

“Indeed, that would not likely have a pleasant outcome,” agreed Loromir. “Those two will bear watching. In the mean time, can I see the new armor?”


“That will have to wait, my friend, we have guests arriving very soon. There is an awful lot of activity on the island already. We can’t let anyone see it just yet, lest word get back to them.”


“Very well, it will give me more time to ponder what gifts I will impart on the armor. In the mean time, I better eat as my meal is getting cold. It seems my laughter scared the beast to death!” Loromir said as he reached for the boar.


“We’ll be right back, we were only able to bring one down at a time and we’ve got another waiting for you at the top.” Sophia said.


“Can we save that one for later?” Loromir asked just before he ripped the head of the boar off in one bite.


“Sure. I’ll find a place to keep him until later.” Lurinda said and left the lair.


Loromir was, in the meantime working on one of the hind legs of the boar.


“Good boar... Tender and juicy!” Loromir said between bites.


“Loromir, have you ever tried the foods we eat?” Sophia asked, “When you’re transformed, that is.”


“I can’t say I have,” he replied. “But if you would like, I am willing to do so,” as he put the last of the boar in his mouth.


He swallowed the last bit and said, “Ah... That was good! Now then, you mentioned you’d like me to look differently from my recent transformations.”


“Yes. I think that it would be more advantageous if you weren’t immediately recognizable and it would likely be a good thing to adopt a new identity. Let’s see... You can be Doran, a servant attached to the armory. I had Karem set up a place near the portal where visitors can turn in their weapons while they are visiting our island. They can pick them up when they leave. Everyone who is visiting will need to pass by there.”


“Good plan. You know, I seem to be rubbing off on you. You think more and more like a dragon every day. Ha ha hah! I will make myself blonde this time around. My overall size, however, will need to be about the same as before. I can better maintain my transformation that way.” Loromir replied, with much mirth in his voice.


Loromir once again, underwent his change, and got dressed. “Will this do?” he asked.


Sophia gave him the once over and replied, “Yes. That should do nicely. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen you before – at least – not in this form.”


The two left for the tower.


---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----


Sophia and Loromir/Doran went down the path toward the portal. When they arrived, they met Karem and Sumi who were manning the weapons check booth.


“Greetings, sisters!” Sophia began.


“Greetings, my queen!” Karem replied. “Who have you got there with you?”


“This is Doran. He is assigned to you for the day.”


“Thank you! I’m sure he will be quite helpful!”


“In the meantime, I have to find a place for Smitty so he can be part of things without being seen.” Sophia said. “I take it he’s still in your workshop?”


“Yes, he still is. He decided he was going to get started on some projects while he was waiting.”


“Very good, I’ll find him there.” Sophia said as she left Loromir/Doran at the portal.


Sophia found Lurinda waiting for her as she arrived at the tower. She updated Lurinda on Loromir/Doran.


“There’s one more thing we need to sort out this morning. Do you know of a vantage point where Smitty can watch the funeral proceedings without being spotted by anyone?” Sophia asked.


"He should be able to view it from the second level of the tower, on the landing at the top of the steps.” Lurinda replied.


“And he should be OK there?”


“As long as he keeps quiet, I don’t see a problem.”


“Great, I’ll go get him then.” Sophia said. “By the way, I’ve got a few things to ask you about when we have more time. Remind me in case I forget.”


“Anything in particular?” Lurinda asked.


“Yes, I found some records in the helmet that Maria blocked - something that happened during the First Elvish Empire. Do you know if we have any other records that go back that far?”


“The First Elvish Empire – now that’s going back a long ways! I’ll have to think about that.”


“Good. How are the preparations going otherwise?”


“Very well, actually, we’re pretty much waiting for people to arrive now.”


“Great! I’ll go get Smitty then.” Sophia said as she started down the path to the workshop.


---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----


Shortly after, Sophia arrived at the workshop and knocked on the door. A moment later, the door opened and Smitty’s head popped out. “Good Morning!” he began.

 

“Good morning again, Smitty. Are you ready to go?” Sophia asked.


Smitty looked down at the floor. “I’ve decided not to go,” he replied with a dejected voice.


“OK, Can I ask why?” Sophia asked.


“I’ve got me reasons. First off, I’ve had a look at the stuff in your inventory that you’ve got from the Blacksmith Guild and quite frankly, I’m disgusted and ashamed by the quality of the armor and weapons you’ve got stored away.”


“I see. But there isn’t much you can do about it at the moment, is there?” Sophia replied.


“No, but if I see my father there I am not likely to be able to hold my anger in check.” Smitty replied. “And I know you want to handle things in your own way. So if I go, I’m likely to spoil that little surprise.”


“I see. You do realize that today is a special day that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it’s the first time it’s ever happened in all of Ancaria’s recorded history.” Sophia offered.

 

“Aye, I realize that much. But there’s just too much at stake. My father and his people will be looking for me. They will find me if I go – even if I somehow manage to keep my big mouth shut.”


“Do you think they really can do that?” Sophia asked.


“Aye. If not by sight, by sense of smell.” Smitty replied. “We Dwarves may not be blessed with great height, but we’ve got other traits. We have a very keen sense of smell and taste. That’s how I can take one look at a sword and tell you if it’s good or if it’s a piece of junk. I can smell what it’s made of.”


“I see. That’s something I didn’t know about Dwarves.” Sophia said, impressed. “Very well, then maybe we can do the next best thing. I’ll see if we can have a remote viewer set up in here. You can watch it from here.”


“Nae... Dinna go through any trouble over it. I got plenty to keep me busy right here. And ye better get moving. Yer guests will be arriving soon enough.” Smitty said.

 

“Very well, if you change your mind...” Sophia said.

 

“I won’t!” Smitty interrupted with a hint of irritation in his voice.


“OK. I offered and in the mean time, I’m off to greet visitors.” Sophia said with resignation. “I’ll see you later.”


“Off with ye already or you’ll be late!”


Sophia stood and left Smitty to his own devices.


Edited by wolfie2kX
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