Spear Gate — Chapter Three, Pt. 1

The ground trembled in his pursuer’s wake. Dirt fell as Maelys ran, and all around him trees uprooted and fell against one another as their once sturdy foundation sunk and swam. Twice Maelys tripped, but his momentum carried him through and he managed to keep his feet beneath him. The monster roared behind him, and the blaring of the horn made the leaves shudder with terror. He wasn’t even sure if it was gaining on him, but he dared not look back.

“Rozire!” he called into the forest. He hadn’t seen his mentor since the thunderous footsteps began.

“Calm down, I’m here, I’m here!” came a familiar voice. Maelys stopped and turned around to see Rozire pacing up behind him. “No, don’t stop, you fool, we keep running!” Pushing on the boy’s shoulder, he sprang into motion once again.

“I was worried you had died!” Maelys choked. “After I fell, and that swordsman appeared, I–”

“I’m alright. We need to focus on getting away from that thing.”

“What about the swordsman?”

Rozire glanced at his pupil and winked. “I told you I’d protect you.”

“Funny,” Maelys grinned as he leaped over a particularly large root. “I don’t feel very safe at the moment.”

“Imminent death at your heals adds a spice to life, wouldn’t you say?”

The forest quaked when the creature stomped on the ground once more, and the ground before the two of them climbed upwards, defying gravity as it rose to their heads and then some, halting them immediately.

“Hallowed One’s curse,” Rozire muttered. “This way.” He shoved Rozire to the side, parallel of the dirt wall, and they took off once again.

“What is going on? Did that thing just do that?” Maelys said as he followed orders. He tried to swallow the fear, but with his chest heaving from the exertion it became a cough.

“It’s called a constructor,” Rozire nodded. “They can mold the elements around them to suit their needs. That means it can shape the dirt however it wants, and it can also create water to boot. Those things are the keepers of the Meadows. They make sure it looks pretty for the folks in the upper city while they keep it treacherous to discourage the less fortunate. Not to mention the creature itself can kill us in lots of creative ways.”

“So it’s not a man, but it’s intelligent?”

“They do have some intelligence, but I’m not convinced it’s a living, breathing animal, actually. Nobody’s sure. The constructors have been around as long as the cities they guard have, though. Lots of speculation, but nobody is stupid enough to get close to one on purpose.”

“You keep saying ‘they’,” Maelys trailed off.

“Yeah. There are over a dozen of these things in the Meadows.”

“What if we run into another one?”

Rozire chuckled a bit, though he was clearly starting to lose his breath. “Can’t get any more dead than we will be if this one catches up to us.”

The deep, horn blaring roar shook the woods once more. Again, the ground ahead of them lurched upwards. Before they could change course, the two adjacent sides walled them off as well. There was nowhere to run but back towards certain death.

Rozire clutched his staff and let out a long breath. “Looks like we have no choice.”

“What?” Maelys cried. “You want us to run towards that thing?”

“No. We’re going with ‘Plan B’.” Rozire was calm, but serious.

“What’s ‘Plan B’?”

His mentor looked up at the sky, where the outline of Eranos was only barely visible through the cover of the trees. “Remember when I got to your little town? So far away that the sister-planet looks nothing more than a distant hill in the horizon?”

Dread sank into the back of Maelys’ throat.

“I told you I was looking for an apprentice in cartography. A young man with a thirst for adventure and a willingness to get into trouble.”

The deep thunder of approaching death was getting louder, but something about Rozire’s demeanor calmed him. “You never really taught me anything about map-making.”

“Yes, well. Here’s the truth. I am a cartographer, as surprising as that may be to you, but it’s the least of many occupations of which I may claim. I wasn’t looking for an apprentice.”

Maelys frowned as his mentor turned to face him. “I don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t suppose you could even if I told you everything here and now. But I’ll tell you some, to get you started. You see, I was looking for your mother.”

His breath caught in his throat, eyes widening. “My… mother…?”

“She’s always been the elusive type. I’ve been looking for her ever since she left Upper Terrace. When I found you I knew I was on the right track, only to find out the trail had gone cold when I learned that you had never known her.”

Another thunderous boom, beating in sync with Maelys’ own heartbeat.

“I wish I could tell you we were going to Upper Terrace because that’s where she is, but the chances of that are slim at best. I gave up my search, and instead I was going to finish my true task. I brought you along because,” he paused at that. “Well, never mind that for now. What’s important is that you make it out of here alive.”

He pulled out the vial of Red Teeth.

Maelys snapped out of his stupor. “What? What are you doing with that?”

“When we were separated, I tried to use it on the constructor,” Rozire explained. “It had no effect, as I feared. Things can never be too easy, I suppose. Here.” He offered the bottle to his pupil, who took it with quivering arms.

“I wish it didn’t have to be this way, leaving you with so many questions, but I can’t say anymore. Do you trust me?”

Rozire had asked that question dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past few months. It had become a catchphrase of sorts. But now, there was no joviality in his tone.

Maelys nodded.

His mentor’s face was grim. “I need you to drink that. All of it. Constructors have some way to detect the presence of life around them, and it targets the biggest threats first. If you drink that, you will be effectively invisible.”

Trees exploded and fell. Through the thinning foliage, Maelys glimpsed gold.

“Once you get to Upper Terrace, they’ll take you to an infirmary. Unless the city has drastically changed since I left, the worst they will do is kick you out of the city when you’re better. Go there, and find Varra. You can trust her. Now drink.”

Maelys took a deep breath and exhaled. His hands were still trembling, but he managed to pull the cork off and, before he allowed himself to hesitate, drank the bottle.

The liquid was cold, but as soon as it fell down his throat, he felt as though he had been thrust into an inferno. His vision darkened, and he could feel the hard slam of dirt against his knees. He heard his mentor’s words swim in and out as he lost consciousness.

“…st of luck, Maelys… Aeni… your path…”

Spear Gate — Chapter Two, Pt. 2

Maelys followed behind, boots slamming into the grass below. The acoustics of a town going to sleep was replaced by a forest waking up. The calls of thousands of restless crickets bounced off the wall, amplifying the noise. It was accompanied by the occasional bird call and other common predators.

“We’ll have to be careful we don’t attract any unwanted attention,” Rozire whispered back, gazing into the forest. “The Meadows are large enough to house a steady population of all kinds of beasts. Mostly animals you can find all over the place. Watch out for bears, and don’t touch any of the plants. Got it?”

Maelys nodded furiously. If they encountered any bears, there was no way the two of them could survive. Neither of them had any defenses to speak of. A staff and an umbrella couldn’t discourage a rabid squirrel, let alone a rampaging monster. It was no wonder so few people even tried to sneak into Upper Terrace.

“Is…” Maelys jogged a little closer so he could whisper as quietly as possible. “Is that what the Red Teeth is for? To poison any bears?”

They passed beneath the first few trees as they entered the Meadows. Leaves crunched under their shoes, and Rozire ducked under branches that were too tall to bump into. He realized that some trees were partially uprooted, while others were partially submerged in an unusual amount of dirt.

“It would be a waste to use it on a bear,” Rozire finally responded with a shake of his head. “And in any case, they’re easy to avoid. We don’t really have to whisper, by the way. Things will probably smell us or see us long before they hear us.”

Maelys may not have been the most experienced survivalist in Tebrein, but he wasn’t confident that either of those statements were very accurate. “Where exactly on your travels did you have to learn how to avoid bears?”

Rozire winked to his pupil. “You still have quite a bit to learn about me, you know.”

At that moment, a deep, distant sound echoed through the trees, like the sound of a low note on a horn. The sound continued for a few seconds, and when it stopped, the rest of the forest was nearly silent.

Maelys shot Rozire a glance, who returned it. His mentor’s demeanor remained unconcerned, but his grip the staff tightened visibly.

“What was that?” Maelys mouthed, almost completely silent now.

“That,” Rozire said, voice unchanged. “Is one of the true guardians of Upper Terrace. Lower Terrace and the Meadows wouldn’t stand a chance in the event of a full scale assault. An army would just burn down the forest and kill nearly everything inside. But that, my boy. That could stop an army, if it needed to. Those are the things we’re actually scared of. It’s what makes the Meadows so dangerous. Don’t worry, though. They’re pretty noticeable.”

As they started to pass beneath the forest, Maelys stopped.

“What’s wrong? You’re not having doubts now, are you? We’re only a night’s journey from one of the largest cities in the world!”

“I’m not going,” Maelys said.

“What? Don’t give me that, you’ve traveled halfway across the world with me and you’re going to stop now?”

“This isn’t what it used to be.”

“What are you talking about, we’ve been in lots of dangerous situations before.”

“This is different,” Maelys argued, raising his voice. “Before it was hiking through mountains and meeting interesting people! Discovering new and exciting things! Now it’s breaking the law, committing blasphemy to do it, and risking our lives along the way! And for what? You’ve never even told me anything!”

“Sure I have. I’m a cartographer mapping the the world. I don’t carry parchment with me because my job doesn’t truly begin until our journey ends. We’ve talked about this.”

“You don’t need to go to Upper Terrace to mark it on a map.”

“I realize that, but you don’t understand. Upper Terrace is the end of the journey.”

Maelys paused. “Upper Terrace is your home?”

His mentor shook his head. “Not exactly. It’s more complicated than that. But suffice to say, once we get into the city safely, our lives will change drastically.”

He looked back to Lower Terrace, the wall still visible through the trees, then ahead, where the forest fell into shadow. The path ahead was still unclear. “Promise we can get there safe?” he asked.

Taking note of the genuine concern on Maelys’ face, Rozire softened, his demeanor losing his jovial air for a moment. “I’ll protect us. We have nothing to worry about.”

Maelys nodded, and took the lead as they started off into the wood proper. His mentor followed behind, and before long they were back to traversing over roots and through bushes in relative silence.

“What is it like in Upper Terrace?” Maelys asked after a while, grabbing a firm dead branch off the ground to use as a walking stick.

“Well, life there isn’t really all that different from anywhere else in Tebrein. You’ve seen all manner of towns and villages, even larger ones like Tal’Doraken and Thornwall. In most of those cities you have the normal folk being governed by one house or lord. Upper Terrace is the same, but all the people are unspeakably rich and the ones lording over them make a council which also rules the nation of Tebrein.” Rozire paused to look up at the sky, which drew Maelys’ attention. It was a clear night, without a whisper of a cloud, but with the thickening canopy only a faint outline of the sister-planet could be seen. “It’s also much bigger than most cities, save Lower Terrace, of course, but it isn’t densely populated. People use their money to buy bigger houses or buy their neighbor’s houses so they can claim more land. It’s a game the nobility like to play. If you don’t have enough money, you get pushed out.”

A lot of that didn’t sit well with Maelys and his idea of why Rozire would have any business in a place like that. His mentor was the richest person he had ever met, as far as he knew, but with how big the houses seemed to be from a distance, he doubted even Rozire could afford to survive in such a society. Beyond that, he hated politics. On their journeys the two often went out of their way to avoid having to deal with them if it could be helped. Either way it didn’t sound like a place to stay.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Rozire said. “This doesn’t really sound like an adventure. And you’re right, it’s not. But it gets better. I have some friends in the pal—”

Following a soft crash of distant thunder, the ground began to shudder. Maelys wrapped his form around a tree trunk as tightly as he could as the tremors intensified. Dozens of birds flooded out of the trees they were nested in, flying northwards.

Rozire cursed under his breath, grabbing his pupil’s collar and peeling him off the tree. “We have to go. Now.”

A second boom of thunder, closer now. It was like a god setting foot on mortal soil, the very ground beneath them quaked in fear. Maelys, too stunned to do anything else, allowed his mentor to pull him from the tree, but instead of turning and running in the direction the birds had gone as Rozire had done, he fell to the floor in shock.

Through a gap in the trees he saw it. A gold shimmer, like a piece of plate armor. Moving in his general direction.

Before he could glimpse anything more, the world went black.

Soon, a face appeared in it. A crooked smile with pale eyes on a shapeless form, staring straight into his soul, a burning hunger from deep within. From somewhere, it pulled out a sword.

And lunged for him.

Maelys sparked into action, pulling to his feet and sprinting the way Rozire had to have gone. Deft leaps and ducks took him over roots and under low branches. It was several moments before he even realized that his blindness seemed to have already been cured. A glance backwards gave him no view of the shadowy swordsman, but it did little to help his terror.

The ground was still shaking, and at the same time it also seemed to be steadily sinking. He was climbing a hill yet not getting any higher. “Rozire!” he shouted, jerking his head back and forth in a panic to find his mentor. He was nowhere to be seen.

The sound of a low horn blared throughout the forest once again, this time much closer. Not the call of a beast on a leisurely stroll. It was the roar of a monster on the hunt.

Spear Gate — Chapter Two, Pt. 1

“So,” Maelys began. “What exactly is the plan here?”

Rozire tucked the Red Teeth into his vest and stepped closer to his pupil and the inner wall. “It’s pretty simple, really. Not even somebody as thick as you could mess this up.” He gave a smirk at the jab. “We scale the wall, sneak through the Meadows between the cities, try not to die, then once we get to the wall of Upper Terrace, we scale that one.”

“I feel as though some important details are missing for one of those steps,” Maelys gulped.

“You’ve never scaled a wall before?”

“I meant the ‘trying not to die’ part.”

“You’ve never tried to not die before?”

“Well, travelling with you has given me some practice, I admit.” He pulled the umbrella off the loop to his side and unfolded it. “But I’d still like more specific information on how we’re avoiding death.” As he said this, Rozire started eyeing the wall more closely, looking for a good spot. The wall wasn’t very imposing. Too tall to see over, but not high enough to require a ladder to scale, if one had the dexterity.

Rozire did, even if his age was becoming more and more of a limiting factor as days passed. Leaning his staff on the side, he grabbed the top and heaved himself up, and with a grunt of pain rolled himself over onto the wall. “Well, I’ll tell you this,” he replied, catching his breath. With a long exhale he presented the purple vial from his vest again. “This is our ticket to safety.”

“We’re going to poison somebody?”

“I didn’t send you to get a bouquet of flowers, boy.”

“We’re hinging all of this on a little bottle? What if that plan fails?”

Rozire thought about that for a second. “If that plan fails, we’ll just use it anyway. Look, don’t worry about the details until we’re in the moment. Don’t you trust me?”

“A little too much, I think.”

“Good,” his mentor smiled. “And put away that umbrella. I’ve humored you these past few weeks but really, it’s useless. I’ve always found that particular custom of your people rather silly.”

“It keeps away the demons!” Maelys stammered. He clung to the handle with a firm grip.

“Boy if there really were any demons that came out at night, I don’t think being indoors would do you any good.”

“If the stars can’t see us, their minions won’t know where to find us. Don’t you know anything about the Aenias faith?”

“If the stars can’t see you? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?”

“Well, thousands of people live in Tebrein. Maybe tens of thousands. If it’s safe to go out at night, I think word would have spread by now.”

“Remind me, who’s the mentor here?” he replied with a raised eyebrow. “Look, if any demons come, I’ll handle them, got it?”

Maelys sighed, folding his umbrella back up with a grumble.

“If we die, I’ll take the full blame,” Rozire added. “Hand me my staff would you?”

He complied, and after his mentor took it he offered a hand to help Maelys up, but instead, the boy grabbed the ledge and threw himself upwards rolling into a crouch once he had scaled it.

“I see your agility has improved to match your new height,” Rozire frowned.

“You’re just getting old,” Maelys shot back. It only elicited a shrug from his mentor. He turned his attention to what lay before them, and the view would have been incredible if the growing twilight didn’t fill him with fear.

The other side of the wall was a stark contrast from the thatched roofing and cobblestone streets of Lower Terrace. It was filled with the deep green of trees and various flora, and the flowing landscape rose and dipped with small hills and valleys. The occasional creek peeked in and out of sight between the forest canopy. The Meadows was a conclave of nature’s beauty, and it served as a barrier in between the two largest cities of Tebrein.

In the center of the Meadows was a giant pedestal, and atop that was Upper Terrace. It was little more than a silhouette in the growing darkness, but even in the distance Maelys could see the shape of buildings that were far larger than any he had ever seen. Unless the light messed with his perception, many of the structures had to be four stories tall, if not more.

“What do you think?” Rozire asked.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said, breathless.

“You say that everywhere I take you,” he chided. “Give me something a little more unique for the capital of Tebrein, would you?”

“If it’s as dangerous as you say, it’s at least a beautiful place to die.”

His mentor laughed. “That’s more like it! Come on!” And with that, he jumped off the other side of the wall into the Meadows.

Spear Gate — Chapter One, Pt. 2

As soon as fresh air returned to his lungs, Maelys felt his muscles relax. Something about Previk’s shop made him feel old and dusty, as if the outside world might forget him if he lingered too long. The boy himself hadn’t been aware of it when he was inside, but being in the warm arms of the sun once more was liberating.

Now, to find Rozire. The sooner the better. The vial of poison he now carried in his coin purse was worth far more than he had expected. If he lost it on the way, he shuddered to think what his mentor might do. Lower Terrace wasn’t the most reputable of cities, after all.

He looked up to the sky. The sun was making its descent, closer to the horizon than the sister-planet Eranos. He still had time, but Maelys had nothing better to do than to go to the meeting spot. With how unfamiliar the city was to him, getting lost was a real possibility.

With a steady step against the cobblestone, he passed down the thoroughfare where people still mulled about. A few were getting ready to head indoors before the sun set, and others went about their business with a hasty gait as they tried to finish their daily errands before it got dark. He approached the marketplace, but not much produce would be sold at this hour.

The buildings of Lower Terrace were nondescript. In fact, many were smaller than what even he was used to growing up in Sedranon. They were made of wood with thatched roofs, and very few of them were more than one story tall. Of course, space was not an issue for the city, since it had no outer wall. It was another oddity, but understandable in this case. Attacking this city had serious obstacles, both physical and logistical. Beyond that, there was nothing in Lower Terrace worth having. Besides, any would be attackers would really be targeting Upper Terrace, anyway.

Maelys got goosebumps just thinking about it. The fabled city inside a city. The true capital of the realm of Tebrein, and in a way the center of the Aenias faith. Few were admitted inside, and even fewer ever left. Rozire was the only one Maelys had ever known to see the city proper.

And he would become the second.

Soon, he reached the agreed upon spot. A secluded patch of grass at the foot of the thick stone wall that divided the two cities. It was behind several storefronts, with no alleys passing through and, by extension, very little risk of anyone chancing upon them, especially at this hour. Most people would be in their homes by now, and the shopkeepers that lived with their business had little reason to even be outside.

An anxious glance at the sky gave him a view of mixed pink with a darkening blue. “Rozire better get here soon,” he muttered. He had tried to sound brave when telling Previk about their nightly infiltration, but in reality, the idea was terrifying. Travelling with his mentor occasionally necessitated being out during the Shadow, but never without an umbrella for some protection and not once had he forced Maelys to be out in full darkness. A lot of things would change today. Perhaps he would lose his soul and prove Rozire right about Aenias. He wondered if the vial of Red Teeth could protect him from demons.

“Ah, there you are,” a low voice stated. Maelys turned to see his mentor walking into the clearing. He frowned to see Rozire using his quarterstaff for support even more than he usually did these days, and his hide tunic heaved in and out with effort.

“Is everything alright?” Maelys asked.

Rozire trailed his free hand down his silvery hair, tugging softly at the short ponytail to pull out the knots. “Yeah, just uh… saw somebody I didn’t want to catch up with, is all. My trip was cut a little short and I had to take a detour on my way here. Did you manage to find Previk?”

“I did,” he replied, wondering not for the first time what task his mentor saw to if he had given Maelys such an important job. “He gave me a vial of Red Teeth.” At that, he grabbed his coin purse and fished it out.

Rozire nodded in appreciation, taking the vial. “Nicely done, Maelys. You must have done a fair bit of haggling if you managed to get this without much trouble.”

“Not really, I don’t think he would have sold to me at all if I hadn’t mentioned your name.”

He shrugged. “You used your assets to your advantage. Can’t fault you for that. He’ll wish to see me, if he knows I’m in the area, I suppose.” After a moment he frowned. “In the future, I’d rather you not mention my name unless strictly necessary, though.”

Maelys shrunk a little. “I’m sorry, if I’ve inconvenienced you, it wasn’t my intent.”

“No, no, you haven’t. But if word of my arrival spreads, I’m afraid our task will grow more difficult. We can trust Previk to keep the secret, though. You did well, in any case.”

The sky began to grow darker as torches were lit in the nearby streets. “Well,” Rozire said. “Looks like we’re right on schedule.”

Spear Gate — Infiltration Pt. 1

(Legacy story: This is no longer canon, as I’ve reworked this scene entirely.)


“I’m still not comfortable being outside at this hour.”

“You’ll grow out of that soon enough. This sort of thing is common in my line of work.”

Maelys sighed. “I’m pretty sure sneaking into the most heavily guarded city in Tebrein has nothing to do with cartography. At night no less.”

“I thought you didn’t believe me when I said I was a cartographer,” Rozire smirked, looking up as he worked.

“Oh, I don’t believe most of the things you tell me. You don’t even own a sheet of parchment. But you insist on sticking to that story, so I might as well play along.”

“I am a cartographer.” He leaned closer and tapped his head with his free hand. “It’s just all safe in here. My real job won’t start until we return to my home.” He glanced up to Eranos, lit a dull purple by the sunset. Only a few months away, if they made good time. “Besides, there is still some daylight. It isn’t against your religion to be outside right now.”

“That would make me feel better if we had plans of being indoors anytime soon.”

Rozire nodded, looking back down as his attention returned to his work. “True. But that would defeat the whole ‘infiltration’ plan. We already snuck through the easy half of the city. It’ll only get harder from here on out. Plus, you have to admit that breaking rules is much more exciting. And if it makes you feel better, your people’s entire belief system was based on the idea that the stars would come down and eat people if they were outside at night.”

Maelys eyed his mentor, who still sat against the wall tying a rope around his waist. “I think you’re growing more insane by the minute.”

He looked up again. “You say that, but you still followed me halfway around the world.” With one last tightening of the rope belt, he stood and grabbed his staff.

“That argument doesn’t work. You know why I left. Going with you was just the best option.”

“You have a point. Here, hold this.” Rozire held out the simple staff for Maelys. The boy took it without a word, watching him grab the ledge atop the wall they stood beside. Heaving himself up with more strength than grace, he brushed his cloak with a hand before reaching down to take the staff back. As he did. he glanced behind at their destination before returning his gaze to the boy, intending to help him up.

Before he could offer any assistance, however, Maelys grabbed the top of the wall and threw himself up, rolling into a crouch once they were on the same level again.

“I see your agility has improved to match your new height,” Rozire frowned.

“I’ve been taller than you for weeks, you know.”

He raised the staff at the boy menacingly. “Keep talking like that and I can relieve you of that head of yours.”

Maelys rolled his eyes, doing a poor job at hiding a smirk when his gaze fell upon the gleaming city only a few hundred yards away. It’s buildings reached impossible heights. Many of them had to be four stories tall. Around the city was a wall not unlike the one they stood on now, though it was much taller. It was as though the inner city had been built on a pedestal in the center of a ring of foliage, which filled the gap in between the two walls. There were forests, rivers, and slopes around this ring, as if the very landscape itself had been crafted to augment the beauty of the elevated city it guarded.

“Upper Terrace,” Rozire stated. “Have you ever seen a city so pristine?”

Maelys frowned, awe mixing with anxiety as he watched the sun fall out of sight beyond the city ahead.“None so beautiful. Nor so big.”

“Well, that will change as soon as our journey comes to a close. Where I come from, cities are as large as nations, spanning far beyond what the eye can see. You can walk in one direction for days and still be inside the same building.”

“I wish I was inside a building now,” he muttered.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Besides, nobody will even be out to catch us at this hour.”

“Nobody but the gods, that is.”

“Gods be damned, we’ve got work to do. Come on, this is the most dangerous part.”

“What, are the trees poisonous? Does this have anything to do with your weird rope belt?”

Rozire frowned, gazing out into the perfect wilderness. “No.” He pointed. “That’s why.”

In the dimming twilight, Maelys squinted to see what his mentor was referring to. After a moment his eyes caught movement of something come out of the distant trees.

It was difficult to make out, but there was a creature moving slowly yet deliberately. It glinted from distant light, which meant it was probably wearing armor. And yet nothing about it’s walk resembled anything Maelys could identify as human. As it walked, the very ground itself reshaped itself. Trees fell as the dirt beneath them heaved upwards, creating hills. Water materialized out of nowhere, flowing down into newly crafted valleys it made in the direction it was going.

“What in the world is that?” Maelys asked.

“Constructor,” Rozire replied, face serious for once. “The guardians of Upper Terrace. We better hope we don’t run into one of those on our way there.”