Category Archives: Monsters

The Jilted Matriarch

Coronation day had come and gone, and most of Voraniss was still celebrating with loud raucous cheering, howls, and raised mugs long into the night. There was one part of the country, however, that was eerily silent. Deep within the swamps, the Degazi Tribe gathered around their matriarch with downcast eyes. Imich-Ye was angrily pacing back and forth with the torchlight casting dancing shadows across her scaly face.

“We have been insssssulted,” she hissed. “How dare the Realmssss choose the Uthi Tribe over usssss. Xale’an iss but a child. She knowsss nothing of war, nor the greatnessssss of victory.” She took the time to hold aloft her silver sword, showing it off to the others in her tribe. “How many have we sssslain? Are we not the ssstrongessst?” She cried, the red glands on her neck inflating as her temper grew.

The tribe began to get restless, hissing their agreement as they started to stand all around her. “What sssshall we do, great Imich-Ye? Tell ussssss.”

“We will sssshow the new King and the outsiderssss their folly. We ssshall attack the Uthi and prove that our sssstrength is ssssuperior!” She shook her sword a few times for emphasis, and opened her mouth to display her jagged teeth. “Our Goddesssss, the great sssserpent Kul’Mathanigalurgtha, has sssent us a sssign and all but asssssured our victory.”

The other Kul’Matha began to cheer for their matriarch, raising their spears defiantly at the night sky as though its very presence offended them. “We follow you to war, Imich-Ye! To battle! The sssswampsss ssshall be ourssss!”

“We sssshall sssend an emissssssarry to Otugu of the Troxl Tribe. Perhapsssss he sssshall be our ally in thisssss. Chasssshk, gather our warriorssss. Denzuzu, tell the hunterssss to double their effortssss. We will need the rationsssss for our march.”

“Asss you wissssh, great Imich-Ye,” came the response. These Kul’Matha were quick to obey their matriarch’s orders and depart the crowd to begin delegations. If there was one thing Imich-Ye had proven to them time and time again, it was that she knew how to win battles. Under her watch, the werewolves had never gained a single inch in the swampland, and now they wished to keep it that way.

“Assss for the ressst of you, we mussst ssssharpen our ssspearsss and build the weaponssss we sssshall need for the assssssault. Prepare yourselvessss, and you sssshall know the tasssste of triumph.” Imich-Ye nodded to her people and began to leave the gathering for her own hut where she would begin to sharpen her sword and think upon her plans. “Damn you Mathiessssss,” she whispered into the empty building. “Damn you and your meddling.”

Yes, while the rest of Voraniss continued to party and celebrate, there were some that were far more content to plot and dream of the fruits that their ambition might come to bear; and some that had no idea of the danger behind the seeds they had planted.

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Den Day Report: by Adrian “Cronin” Cronin

In the Month of the Owl, usually shortly before the Snow Moon, the Wolves of Voraniss celebrate Den Day. Gifts are exchanged and grand gestures are made in an effort to court potential mates for the spring. The Elves and Humans of Voraniss, because of recent cultural exchanges, have also begun celebrating the day in their own special ways.

Calandian Elves have been filling the forest with enchanting music. Songs of love, loss, and hope have been magically carried from Voraniss proper all the way to halls of Kenkilit. Woven gifts of the forest, featuring out of season flowers and other promises of spring have been a very popular gift this season.

Kenkilit, the town which houses Voraniss’ highest human population, has been using the cold as an excuse for more… private exchanges of love and affection. The saying, “There are finer ways to stay warm in Kenkilit,” has become a common one. It has been my policy within my halls to, “always cast Aura of Protection.”

The Werewolves have celebrated as they always have; bringing gifts of hunted game to potential mates within their dens, or starting fights with other wolves to show off their combat prowess. Most of the fights are superficial at best, with no real danger involved. Lust can be a powerful motivator but next to the love of the pack, there is no equal.

Where it gets interesting for myself and the other Druids is observing the unlikely pairings within our more prominent members and how they are celebrating. Tulkhan brought Evie to hysterics when he brought her the carcass of a rabbit. He was very confused. Evie is renowned for her love of rabbits and jackalopes. He later made it up to her with a beautiful necklace that he handmade and the two seem more in love than ever. Elowen, my own daughter, has been courted by Asher, one of my most loyal warriors. His efforts to shower her with gifts of flowers and sweets seems to at least humor the Wood Elf, though her people are known for being a bit more direct about their desires, especially the women.

Abounding jokes about who the mayor of a town made of bones is have been running rampant… strong cases were made for both Helkias Blackraven and, the fairest of them all, High Druid Gavin the Green. This particular humor often escapes me for I know of no such place.

Yes, love is in the air in Voraniss. Mogar has even been witnessed tied to a tree with that strange look in his eye. My only fear is Tree-ents with tusks…

Becoming King/ Feast of Voraniss Teaser

The clearing was busier than he remembered it. Instead of just Lycans, he could now make out the chatter of Dryads, Elves, assorted Animal-Kin, Gnolls, Orcs, Harpies, one Kul’Matha, and a smattering of Pixies who were busy perching on Brutus much to his annoyance. Each time they landed he would try and swat them away, but they’d just come back a few minutes later to pester him.

The many conversations softened as Hygar approached, and he sat himself down upon one of the stump stools. It wasn’t his intention to stifle their exchange, but they all looked to him as if expecting him to say something. The large Werewolf cleared his throat, uncomfortable with the eyes upon him. “Greetings, friends,” he mumbled softly. “Per your request, we have gathered to discuss the happenings in Voraniss.”

Following suit, many of the gathered began to find their own seats; though some of them were content to plop on the ground, and Brutus stood vigil in the back as was his way. One of the Dryads wistfully clasped her hands together and sighed. “Thank goodness you’ve arrived, Hygar. There are many things happening in the forest that require your attention.”

“Would you like to begin, Lavendoris?” Hygar asked of the Dryad. They were kind creatures, elusive to outsiders as they spent most of their time within their groves or wandering the deep forest. He was fond of them, for they reminded him of Voraniss itself. If the forest was ever turned into a person, he imagined it would be a lot like a Dryad: Mysterious, beautiful, and giving…so long as you didn’t cross them.

“Oh yes, please. Thank you,” the Dryad stated, turning her attention to the group. “As most of you are aware, there have been many refugees entering the forest as of late. It is becoming difficult to keep track of them and make sure they understand the rules of the Forest. Why just the other week I caught a human trying to chop down one of my trees and I had to chase him out and send him running in the direction of Kenkilit for Cronin to deal with. We cannot continue like this or someone is going to get hurt.”

Brutus grunted his agreement. “She is right, Hygar,” he said lowly. “These newcomers don’t know the way of things. Not as a collective. They enter our borders and if they are lucky they are found by one of your Circle. If they are not lucky…” he jerked his thumb towards the Gnolls without any sense of subtly.

“What are you looking over here for?” demanded the largest Gnoll. Zok Bloodknuckle was his name, but he was only the most recent voice to step forward for their people. The Gnolls were frequently changing leadership and fighting amongst themselves. And if they weren’t fighting with themselves, they were fighting the Harpies. “You sayin’ we killed a few wanderers? So what if we did? They ain’t got no business bein’ in our space.” His words were buried deep beneath an accent flavored by barks, growls, and whines, but Hygar could understand it if he concentrated.

Brutus growled angrily. He didn’t take kindly to being sassed by the Gnolls. “If the Alpha says it is their business to be there, then it is their business.”

“We ain’t werewolves. Who says we gotta listen to your way?” Zok pushed back.

Brutus slammed a fist into the ground and the Pixies that were sitting on his head fluttered off to hide behind Lavendoris instead. “This is what I’m talking about, Alpha. The Gnolls continue to do what they want without any regard for anyone else. They need to submit to your authority or get out.”

“Get out? Try and make me, dog breath.” Zok stood up and stared into Brutus’ good eye. He was itching for a fight and Brutus wasn’t going to deny him.

In a flash, the large Werewolf pounced and the two were brawling on the ground and exchanging punches. Lavendoris yelped and tried to move out of their way, while the Harpies cackled in amusement. One of the Orcs got excited by the promise of battle and decided to jump into the fray by turning and punching the Orc next to him. This caused the Elves to get nervous and they drew their bows, turning their aim on the motion in the center of the clearing. Who knew how long the brawl would go on for if Hygar didn’t speak up against it?

“Enough!” Hygar roared. It was an uncharacteristically loud sound for him. Loud enough so that the hair on the back of Brutus’ neck began to bristle. “Is this what you want for Voraniss? Do you want to be an unruly mob of savages forever?” He furrowed his brow and shook his head in disdain. “Right now we have enemies at our door. Enemies that don’t care about your freedom,” he said pointedly at Zok, “nor your wolves,” he said at Brutus, “nor the Forest you all call home. If you do not unite to fight you will just be picked off one by one. If not by the poachers today, then by the Strangers from Beyond the Stars tomorrow.” His disappointment in them was intense, and despite their tough exteriors, they felt ashamed by his scolding. “Your petty squabbles can wait.”

Brutus released the headlock he had on Zok, and Zok removed his fist from Brutus’ gut. The Orcs helped one another up. Nobody dared to speak. The clearing was too tense and too uncomfortable. Hygar’s dad voice had cowed them all into submission. Well, all except for one. In the back of the clearing came a soft rumbling voice that spoke painstakingly slow.

“There is wisdom in the Wolf’s words,” said Autumn-Elm. “This forest has seen its share of bloodshed, and if we are to see more I should like to see us united and not opposed. As things were in the days of Vangrim.” He gave a nostalgic sigh, his wooden body groaning as he lifted his limbs to approach. “We need a leader. One that all people can rally behind.” Being an old tree he needed a break from all the excitement; so he paused to take another breath. “There is a precedent for this. The Giants had King Velindahl, the Animal-Kin had their Queen in Mon’ghora, the Wolves had their founder in Vangrim who was once a human Lord, and the Elves had Othorion Elderheart. Title and nobility invite respect on some level.”

Lavendoris urged the Dryads to move to Autumn-Elm’s side, taking care of him and making sure he was well. The poor old tree had already lost all of his leaves; more excitement was the last thing he needed. “You are saying we need a King?” she asked sweetly.

“Yes. Yes, I am,” the Ent replied. “There can be no confusion upon our laws, nor their enforcement, if we had a King.” He seemed relieved when the Dryads drew near, their presence healing the painful aches deep within his bark. “Kings unify lands and people. They create empires and defend them. I know better than most that time changes us all; we can either be flexible and adjust to what is placed before us, or we can stay the same to spite ourselves.”

Lavendoris hugged Autumn-Elm tightly, stroking her fingers along his barky skin. “What you are saying makes sense to me, wise one. But it begs the question…who should rule? What King is there for this new age? And could we agree? That is the choice before us.”

Zok pointed at one of the Harpies on the other side of the gathering. “The Gnolls won’t follow a Harpy. We’ve been fighting on and off for generations. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“Well we don’t want to follow you either,” the Harpies hissed back, glaring at Zok.

A chorus of sound and discussion burst forth again. Everyone was arguing over old grudges and whether or not it would be acceptable to get in line behind one another. The Pixies squealed and tried to redirect the conversation to a more productive place. “Wait, wait!” they cried. “Instead of focusing on who you won’t follow, maybe think of someone that you would!”

“I would follow Hygar,” Brutus announced loudly, and without hesitation. All the gathered shut up and turned to pay attention. “You care about this forest and the people in it. All of us. You once had the chance to kill me and take my warriors for your own, but you spared my life believing that there was still something within me that could be of use to the forest and wolves that dwell here. You do not let hatred or personal grudges cloud your judgment when it comes to our wellbeing.”

Lavendoris smiled and nodded her agreement. “Yes, yes! Hygar, you once helped protect the forest from unnatural corruption by leading your adventurers in a ritual to purge it. You respect nature and those of us that are a part of it!”

Even the Harpies didn’t seem to have a grudge with Hygar. “You returned one of our stolen eggs. We haven’t forgotten.”

The present Kul’Matha’s tongue flicked curiously in and out of his mouth. “You do not encourage your Wolvessss to hunt in the ssswampsss. You leave usss our landsss and ressspect our independence.”

Zok grumbled and huffed. He didn’t want to say anything nice about Hygar, but he also didn’t want to lie. “Last winter the Gnolls were starving because they couldn’t hunt in the heavy snows. Hygar brought us meat.” He kicked at the dirt sheepishly.

“If Mogar Ironblood follows you, then we follow you too,” the Orcs agreed.

Hygar took another heavy breath and looked around the clearing. “The peoples of Voraniss that adventure with me have indicated through a vote that they too would like a King, and yet I am not sure that I am the one for it.”

“All the more reason you should be,” Brutus replied. “Those who are wary of the power they wield are the only ones fit to have it in the first place.”

Hygar plopped his chin in his palm and squinted his eyes. “If all of you will it, then it cannot be helped. I must accept the path before me, but I will need to turn to you for your collective wisdom. Voraniss is a beast like no other and she cannot be ruled as other Kingdoms can.”

“Fortunately you’re stuck with me,” Brutus laughed, baring his teeth in a jovial grin.

Lavendoris was clapping her hands softly together with newfound excitement. “We should have a celebration and invite all the Realms to come and see the spectacle!”

“I don’t know,” Hygar grumbled, “that seems like an awful lot of people.”

“Yes, yes!” the Elves insisted. “We shall make a holiday of it!”

“Can there be fighting?” asked the Orcs.

“And food?” asked Zok.

“Oh, what about games?” the Pixies inquired.

Hygar merely sighed.

Before he knew what was happening the rumor had spread throughout Voraniss. Come the spring he was to be crowned King.

04. Finding Another: By Edward (Helkias) Hanscom

It’s been some time since I corresponded with the Corbachian War Council. For months I’ve struggled with the secrets I’ve kept from the other Broken Spears. The other Corbachians. Our time traveling together has led to a bond I don’t think can be replicated, not for me anyway. And yet it was all based on a lie. I lied to all of them. To Helkias.

I told Helkias everything prior to his leaving for Black and White, a masquerade ball. Which if I’m honest felt a fitting time to reveal myself for the low traitor I am. I expected cursing. I expected durns. I expected him to pick me up off my feet and toss me over the cliff. He did none of that. On the cliffside where we had so many of our chats, where he filled me in on his adventures alongside Cronin and his friends. Where he opened up about his past, telling me tales of his fights at his father’s side in Corbach, of his mother and how she cared for the sick during the plagues, of lost friends. Where he told me his hopes for the future. This grumpy and often silent dwarf-kin trusted me with all of this, and I betrayed him.

I sat there and told him of it all. The letters. My mentor. The council. And in the end, the fact that would change everything the Spears and Corbachians believed, that the princes yet lived. And he said nothing. Minutes past. He stared over Kenkilit. And when he finally spoke it wasn’t to tear me down. It wasn’t to swear vengeance, to tear me limb from limb. It was a simple question:

“Will you help me find them?” His voice cracked as he asked. But there was a fire in his eyes. One I had never seen before.

I was dumbfounded. But of course, I told him yes. He pulled me close then and in that embrace, I felt him shake. The sturdy dwarf, the stalwart captain of the Spears, this man I’d watch pull himself from rock bottom shuddered as he cried. I tried to comfort him. Until I realized he was beginning to laugh. He wiped his tears and jumped to his feet.

“Durn it girl, they live! Bwahaha! Me boys are out there just waitin’ to be found! Waitin’ on us, girl! Waitin’ for the durned Blackraven to take flight! Ah ha ha!” He shook his fists above his head and danced what I can only describe as a jig. I saw the mask he planned to wear to the feast under his cloak. He caught me looking at it.

“Everything has a story, girl. Let me tell you this one while my own brain percolates this news, bwahaha alive.”

Helkias’ father, Nurem, spent his son’s lifetime as a hunter of sorts. While in the village he worked as a blacksmith and helped where he could. But every few weeks Nurem would venture away from the village for varying amounts of time. When Helkias was old enough to be curious Nurem sat him down and told him of his band of hunters, The Vanguard. They took odd jobs from neighboring villages and occasionally wealthier clientele. They would hunt down bandits or procure artifacts. But their specialty was demons. From imps to greater fiends the Vanguard had trained and learned all they could in the libraries of Corbach to counter and destroy them.

A young Helkias took this as a challenge. He spent the next three years sneaking away to train with his friend Yrolf. The librarian at Corbach City’s library remembered Nurem, and was happy to tell Helk the tales of his father’s band. So it was that one his 17th birthday, Helkias waited on his father’s return. Each year the older dwarf-kin would ask Helkias on his birthday, what one thing the boy wanted. If it was in his power to do so Nurem did not ever turn his son down. So sitting by a cookfire outside their home Nurem returned to find the boy waiting, spear and shield laying against two packs.

“Take me on a hunt.” Helkias said as his father approached. Without hesitation, Nurem nodded.

Together they took to the road. A week they traveled in the early snows. At night they would either find respite in a tavern or camped along the forest paths. They spoke of the years past, Nurem had wondered what brought on his son’s sudden interest in reading and libraries. He expected Helk to take to the sword or spear, but not the boy’s intense desire to learn. He smiled.

On the coldest night of their trip, they sat across their campfire from each other. The sky was dark, clouds had moved in and snow likely. They caught the trail of a lesser demon and tracked it to a secluded area of a forest. The nearby village was plagued by disappearances and mutilated farmstock.

Helkias saw it first. Its golden eyes seemed to appear out of the chill dark over his father’s shoulder. Helk shouted a warning and lept across the flames, singeing his cloak. His father ducked out of the way and Helkias grabbed the demon. It stood two heads taller than he. But it’s wiry frame buckled under the surprisingly nimble form of Helkias. He wrestled it to the ground and held it there.

“Kantador hear my plea,” he shouted raising one hand above his head, “By your hairy ass and all the rest of your nonsense I ask you to bind this thing to my will.”

The flames flashed and died out. Helkias held it’s flame within his hand and without hesitation slammed his palm into the creature’s nose. It struggled and screamed as the flames engulfed its face leaving only bone, with the odd fleshy bit. As the flame engulfed the creature, Nurem took his axe and cleaved the demon’s head from its body, the flames stopped, the body remained whole.

“You looked so easy sitting there. I’ll kill your women and rape your cow.” The demon’s skull spoke without motion.

“You’ll hear its voice for a while yet, boy. “

Helkias nodded and pulled out a large coin. He tore the demon’s facial bone free from the rest of the skull and quickly strapped the coin to it. He tied off the rope.

“Yer mine now demon. The viscerocranium will never leave my person. It will stay wrapped until long after I am gone. Now, a simple matter, I require your name,” Helkias held the skull in front of him.

“My name breaks mountains and dries up rivers. You would melt if you heard it.”

“Yer goin’ ta tell me. Now.” Helkias scratched a divot into the coin with his dagger. The demon let out a screech.

“Fethalrimnar. Stop leave it. Fethalrimnar is my name and I call you steward of my life. Now stop.”

Helkias looked to Nurem who nodded and smiled. The Vanguard would live on. Would live on in his own son. Nurem looked to the sky and could just make out the stars. He told his wife everything she needed to hear.

I looked at the mask held by a small rope at Helk’s belt.

“Does it still speak,” I asked.

“Only occasionally. And only when I wear it. I’m sure with all the turmoil of today he’s going to be quite chatty during the masquerade. Maybe I’ll shut him up by dancing some.”

Helkias smiled and put his hand on my shoulder as he moved to head back to Kenkilit. He didn’t say it was okay. Or that he forgave me. Or that my place here was safe. He didn’t tell me anything. But it felt like I knew. As he made his way back home I saw he moved a little lighter, a bit more jump to his step. At least until he made it to the gate and saw the Spears contingent that would travel to Black and White.

“Durn it. I’m gonna have to leave all this. Bah.”

It has been weeks since that day. And plans are already in motion.

My last letter to the council was succinct. It was perfect. And I wrote it while Helkias paced behind me, drinking that god awful clear liquid he’s been so taken with. Smelt like you could clear paint off of wood. But that’s neither here nor there. The letter was less than I’d ever put to a page for those bastards. It wasn’t much of an ultimatum. It wasn’t even really a threat. It was a statement of fact really. It read simply:

The flames are not out and The Raven flies again.

I warned Helkias to not send them word, to just show up in Corbach one night. To rain Helfire on them. “But now,” he said, “They’ll tremble in their beds for enough time that I get to enjoy it. Then months pass. And nothing. They get comfortable with the idea that I’m not coming. And when they return to their beds one night. I’ll be there. Broken spear in hand. And then I’ll have my vengeance.”

His eyes got dark though the tone of his voice hadn’t shifted into his gloomy voice, he got when he drank too much. He was focused then. More so than I’d seen in a long time.

Alongside the barkeep they call Matthew and my watchful eye, The Blackraven will fly back to Corbach. And there he’ll tear apart the whole country to find you. I stopped writing the letters of betrayal. Now I write for a different reason. These journals are for you, Prince Eric. I will catalog the whole thing. And hope in some way it brings you closer to this man. They are for you to see what Helkias Gotholias Ryunn, son of Nurem and Alis, born of Corbach, Steward of the royal family, Voranian, Demon Hunter, Vanguard and best known as the Blackraven has done out of love for you and your family.