Prompt — (Therros) The Bell Tower of Tear

Noviel sat on the edge of the ruined lookout, feet hanging off as she stared out into the sea. The cool breeze tousled her hair as it drifted by. Waves made a soft, rolling crash as they hugged the sand and the rocks several hundred feet below. Sea birds made their nest on the cliff face, and a few more perched on the stonework of the tower with no knowledge of the sacrilege they committed by taking roost here. Or would be committing, if Tear still had a throne, a king, a country, or a people.

This was the last piece of that forgotten time she could find. She doubted whether many people in Therros would know this ruin for what it was: the site where the apocalypse began. The one she herself had started.

Not that she had any memory of that, of course. She and the rest of the Arbiters had to give away a piece of themselves to perform their foolish errand. She gave away her memory of what had been, and now she could hardly remember anything older than a few weeks.

She pulled out her notebook. The latest one, for Noviel had had many over the centuries. The first page: ‘The Bell Tower”, followed by a set of instructions of how to find it, when she inevitably forgot. This notebook was what kept her on her path. She refused to lose her way, like many of the others did.

With a sigh, she closed the book and rose to her feet. This place always had an odd familiarity to it, even though every time she visited the sight was brand new. That was one small benefit of the curse, at least.

Time to go. There was always work to be done. Too much work to be done. With Nera on the brink of collapse, and Amoria preparing for war, it was hard to find the time to search for the other Arbiters. Couldn’t they see that they needed to unite to stop the looming threat? Sephiran didn’t think so. And he was dead now. She prayed the others wouldn’t be so foolish.

Of course, the heroes would be aiding her. Where had they gone? She consulted her notes, but there was nothing written about which direction they were headed when they set off. How stupid of her not to write that down!

Noviel glanced down to the floor of the lookout. There were missing grooves between the stonework, with a large gap in the middle. The only piece of the Tear Catch that had been returned was her own shard. Besides the shard the heroes carried, Sephiran’s, the rest would still be with the Arbiters. Ideally, once they found all of them they would bring the pieces here. This was where the journey began, but it would also end here, one way or another.

Fixing a mistake. That’s what her duty was. In the end, it didn’t matter if the others really understood. Their compliance would certainly help, but it wasn’t necessary. Noviel looked up. In the center of the tower, despite the rust and overgrowth, a large bell watched over the rest of the ruins. Though no cord hung down from it now, , and while she couldn’t remember having seen the bell before, somewhere in the back of her mind she knew what it would sound like when it rang again someday.

 

Prompt: bell_tower_peak_by_arcipello

Story — (Therros) Missive from the King

My Dearest Tessarane,

I trust things have fared well for you thus far. Rest assured that I have kept as few eyes on you as possible, and I know not when this letter will reach you. I write this on the third day of Seedsprout, 1288TS. A few months since your abrupt departure.

Things have not gotten easier here. Refugees arrive daily, more numerous than each day before. Against Isorin’s counsel, I have decided to house them and protect them as best I can. As far as I am concerned, they are my people now. My responsibility. I worry that Nera is on the brink of collapse, but I can do nothing about it without risking my own people, and I cannot bring myself to do so.

If that wasn’t enough, I have heard rumors of unrest from the East. I worry of some deep, unknown threat there, and it is of no little concern to me that I am told this is the direction you headed when you left the kingdom. Of course, Isorin has offered to locate you and bring you home, but I have ordered him against it. You are a grown woman, and you may do as you please. Just be aware of the ones you have left behind. Do not be so careless as to rush into death, especially when you have so staunchly refused your studies of the arcane arts.

I don’t intend to persuade you to return home. I know how stubborn you are about your independence. It was perhaps your mother’s most unfavorable quality, and it both delights and saddens me to see so much of her in you. In any case, I know you have your own journey you must take. I have a few reports of the peculiar folk you have taken a liking to, and I reserve judgment, for they seem to be capable individuals.

With you gone, it has given me time to reflect on what transpired when last we spoke. I have decided that I was too harsh, and that even I am capable of blunder. So allow me to apologize for everything. The loss of your sister still weighs heavily on us all at home, but I will not attempt to excuse my regrettable actions. That being said, I feel it necessary to remind you that there was no nefarious plot surrounding your sister’s death. I know not what you seek to achieve so far from home, but if your desire is fueled by revenge, perish the idea. There is none to be had. Sometimes misfortune falls at the best of times, but fate is a cruel mistress.

I have tasked Isorin with the delivery of this letter, to ensure it’s safe journey. However, I have expressed my desire that he do so with minimal magic, as I know how uncomfortable it makes you. Still, I suspect he will ignore my wishes and make impossible haste in his effort to return to my side as soon as possible. Forgive him. He has the kingdom’s, and my, best interests at heart.

I pray to the gods above that you are safe, and for the love of all that is good, stay away from Teraldia. It may be the brightest beacon, but there lies the darkest shadows.

With my blessing,

Iyrandrar the Bold, King of Eklesia and Protector of the Southlands

Story — Seacrets

The hull of the Hope crashed against the waves, the sea growing more restless by the minute.

“That storm looks like its coming directly at us,” one of the shipmates said. “Its odd to see an easterly at this time of year. Perhaps we should turn aside.”

The captain looked outwards from the bow, into the darkening horizon. He pulled something from his coat and glanced at it before stuffing it back inside, ensuring that nobody saw. “There will be no course adjustments while I’m captain of this ship.”

“Sir, there’s no reason to rush head long into the storm. Maybe we could sail north and let it pass by us.”

“Absolutely not!” he yelled, loud enough to get the attention of other crew members. “If we sail north or south we’ll be caught in it longer. Our best way is to maintain our course and sail right through and if I hear any more from you I’ll leave you here and you can swim north.”

The shipmate was silent for a moment, the sea slapping the hull as the ship rocked back and forth. “Yes, captain,” he muttered before leaving the bow. There was no arguing with the captain, especially in one of his moods.

The captain turned from the bow to the main deck, addressing everyone. “You’ve all been particularly rebellious as of late. There will be no more of it. I don’t know what superstitious mothers you were raised by, but the world is a big place. Strange things happen that don’t mean anything. Just trust your captain and everything will–” He began to walk down the stairs of the bow, but a particularly large wave slammed against the boat and he was thrown off his feet.

He landed on the deck with a dull thump, and he wheezed as all the air was knocked out of him and something flew out of his coat, sliding down the deck.

Struggling to get air back in his lungs, the captain rose to his knees and saw a few of the crew members looking at what he had dropped.

He cursed and hastened forward, lunging for it.

“What in the…” the sailor that held it said, stepping backwards and out of the captain’s reach.

“What is it?” somebody asked. Everyone knew about the thing the captain hid. It wasn’t uncommon to have a lucky charm.

“It’s a compass!” he replied, holding it up to show the crew.

“Oh, for pete’s sake,” one of the mariners yelled. “What a letdown!”

“It says we’re pointing north,” he continued.

The clamor on the ship died. The captain cursed under his breath, unsure of what he should do.

“I knew there was something wrong,” the original shipmate said. He pointed to the storm they were still heading towards. “That storm’s not an easterly at all!”

“Strange things happen, eh?” the sailor asked the captain. “Strange like lying to your crew about what bloody direction we’re sailing?”

“Alright, alright,” the captain said. “Let me explain.” He managed to swipe the compass away from the sailor, and tucked it back into his coat where it belonged. “But first, back to your stations, we have a storm to brave, and we’ll all die for sure if you all sit here lollygagging.”

As if on cue, rain starting dripping onto the deck. Most of the men were unsure, but with a few harsh looks, many went back to what they had been doing before. “You three,” he pointed to the mariner, sailor, and shipmate. “I’ll tell you.” They moved closer to hear the secret. They all stood on the center of the main deck as the boat rocked. He nodded after a moment, assuring himself of what he was about to say. “We’re going to the Inverse Crescent.”

The shipmate gasped in shock. The mariner and sailor cursed. Nobody went to the Inverse Crescent. Nobody ever returned from it.

“You’ve killed us all!” the mariner spat.

“Tell me, does anyone know what the Inverse Crescent is?”

“It’s a landmass shaped like a waning moon,” the shipmate said. “Filled with cannibals that attack outsiders on sight.”

“I heard it was a giant whirlpool that flowed the wrong way,” the sailor contradicted.

“No, no! It’s the lair of an enormous beast with a crooked fin! It eats ships whole!” the mariner supplied.

The captain held his hand up to silence them, then used it to push his wet hair out of his eyes. Miraculously, he had regained control of the situation. “It is none of these,” he explained. “Nobody on the mainland really knows because nobody has ever been there. They are all too afraid to find out for themselves. No, it is not a death sentence as you all would be lead to believe.”

The reason so few people ventured was because of all the superstitions around it. There was no debate that the Inverse Crescent existed. It was on every map. People just didn’t know what it was because it was just past the Point of No Return for any ship that could venture out that far from the mainland.

“And you would know? You’ve been there?” the sailor said, suspicious.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” the captain lied. “I can tell you it is a paradise unlike any you have seen. If our true destination had been revealed to you sooner you’d have mutinied.”

“We still can mutiny. I think we should turn back,” the shipmate suggested. “I don’t like any of this, and I especially don’t like being lied to.”

“Agreed,” the sailor said. “If the Crescent is as good as you say, you’d never have had a reason to leave.”

“We can’t go back now,” the captain said. “We don’t have enough food to make it all the way back to the mainland.”

“You lied to us about that, too?!” the mariner shook with anger.

A flash of light, and thunder crashed some distance away. Water from the rain and the sea flooded the ship, crashing onto it and flowing back out the sides. The Hope had found its way into the thick of the storm.

“Our only option is to keep going as I’ve said,” the captain said, unconcerned. “The only land we have any hope of reaching is the Inverse Crescent. You can mutiny all you want. Tell the entire crew that I’ve lied to them. But either way, your best chance of survival is to push us straight through this storm right now and get us there.”

Story — (Therros) Unlikely Companions

Sure, you always have a place to camp, but the problem with having a creature with trees growing out its back is finding a big enough river to water them thoroughly. I had lived in the Emerald Hills with Trem, my gaiasaur, for four years. they have some deep rivers there. Beautiful place. We probably would have stayed for years to come, if circumstances hadn’t changed.

The earth rumbled as the beast’s fists bored into the dirt. A dull, low tremor, sinking slightly beneath his weight. Trem echoed the earth’s dismay.

“I know, buddy,” I murmured, looking back up at him. “I’m tired, too.” I heard there were some lakes in this area. Not a perfect solution, but it would have to do.

Trem groaned again, louder this time.

“Trem, we talked about this. Keep it down. We’re having a hard enough time as it is without you alerting the rest of the world to our presence.”

“Already alerted!” a high-pitched voice said. It was coming from above me. I swiveled around, looking up to him. As I stopped, so did he.

Sitting on one of his horns and silhouetted by the rising sun, casually swinging her legs, was the shape of a little girl.

“Hey!” I yelled, squinting my eyes. “How did you…? Get down!”

“Too high to jump!” she replied.

I sighed. This was the last thing I needed. “Trem, you gotta sit down, buddy.”

He groaned in annoyance. I couldn’t help but empathize. A few moments later, he bent forwards, leaning to sit down. The girl slipped, sliding off of him as he moved. She screamed.

I cursed. She was over twenty feet up and I was too far to catch her. I ran anyway.

“Peter!” she yelped.

As I charged for her, the ground beneath her molded and arose. It coalesced into a humanoid shape, arms outstretched. It snatched the girl from the air and saved her from what would have been a crippling fall.

I gaped, frozen in shock. “Thanks, Peter,” she laughed, patting the earth golem on its undefined head.

“What in the… you can conjure elementals?” The only one I knew who was powerful enough to do that was an Eklesian archmage. Truth be told, it was part of the reason I didn’t argue when their forces told us we had to leave.

“Just Peter,” she replied as the golem gently placed her onto the ground. “He helps when I need him to.”

This girl couldn’t have been older than eight. I couldn’t even imagine a sorcerer so talented at such a young age to be able to perform such a difficult spell. Even witnessing the act didn’t seem real.

“What are you?” I heard myself say.

“My name’s Ami,” she giggled. “And seems to me like you need my help.”

“Maelys,” I introduced myself with a somewhat reluctant bow. “Trem and I are just travelers. We’re trying to find a new place to live.”

“Trem? As in ‘tremendous’?” she returned her gaze to the gaiasaur behind her.

“Or ‘tremor’,” I replied. “I’m not very creative, but he seems to like the name.”

“So where’d you come from?” she asked. She examined me up and down. There wasn’t much to see. The only remarkable thing about me was my traveling partner.

“The Emerald Hills. We left because the new Eklesian rule told us to. Apparently the hills are suddenly a part of their domain.”

“You think Eklesia is bad? You’ve never been to Teraldia.” How could this little girl know so much about the politics of two different nations?

“I just want to be as far away from civilization as possible,” I lamented. “Trem and I just need a deep river with lots of fish. The Emerald Hills were perfect. But I’ll take us through the Lifeless Expanse if we have to. Anything to be away from the hustle and bustle of cities.”

“You ever been to the Shrouded Isles?”

“No, where is that?”

“They’re islands off the northern coast of Amoria.” I didn’t want to admit it, but I hadn’t heard of that place, either. I just shrugged.

“Well, that works out nicely. That’s where Peter and I are going! We could show you!”

I for one, am not quick to trust. It usually takes a night of ale and laughter to get on my good side. Trem seemed to take a liking to her, though. As impossible as it is to discern the behemoth’s body language, he seemed energized by the girl’s arrival. I could put faith in that, at least.

“Very well. We must travel by river, if possible. Trem gets much of his nourishment through the trees on his back, and they need water.”

She nodded, emphatic. “Sure, that makes sense. Peter, go get some water from the nearest river! We’ve got a long trip ahead of us!”

Story — (Therros) Stone Golem (225)

Her chances were slim, but she couldn’t let that stop her. It was escape or death, and she wasn’t ready to die. The stone golem chasing her, however, was making escape less and less likely.

“Damn this entire forest,” she murmured under her breath. It was as though she had lost all competency in her long rest. She couldn’t even teleport without expending all her energy! And now a single pathetic golem was going to kill her.

Kalthiel kept running, though she was already exhausted. The golem charged through the tree behind her, crashing through the bark and shattering it into splinters, shrapnel flying everywhere. “Nearly impervious to magic,” she huffed, eyeing it for a moment. “Yet dwelling in Verik’s domain. That’s almost blasphemy. How does a construct like you end up in the Feral Vale, anyway?”

But she had no time to consider such questions. Unlike her, the golem had no trouble traversing the terrain. And giant rocks didn’t tire.

Stop the golem. Find the Fountain, she thought. How do you stop a hulking behemoth that is immune to anything you throw at it?

Pulverizing another tree, Kalthiel dodged out of the way. She had no idea what direction the Fountain even was at this point. She could still be a hundred miles away for all she knew. Spinning back around and running in the direction opposite the golem, she grasped the pendant around her neck and whispered a prayer. “Zephirine, guide my path.”

As soon as the golem was able to halt its momentum, it turned to face her once more. How unnatural the creature looked in this wild forest. So rigid and stern. So slow and impervious. Yet she knew with the force it carried, it would only take one strike to end her and all her plans. Ridiculous. How could she be so weak?

It may not be harmed by any spell I throw at it, she pondered. But magic can still affect it indirectly. As it charged again, she prepared to use one last spell. This would be the last of her energy. She would have to rest and hope she arrived in time, lest she encounter anything even more dangerous than a stone golem. It entered within thirty feet of her, and she reversed the gravity in a column ahead.

The golem suddenly started falling up, along with the branches of the surrounding trees and loose leaves and berries. It would only last a minute. She hoped it would be enough, because if it followed her she would die of exhaustion before she could get away. She thought about casting a guidance spell to ensure she traveled in the right direction, but with how tired she already was even that might kill her.

She didn’t even have the energy to run away. Ambling in her best guess at the right direction, she tried to gain as much distance as she possibly could from the golem. Perhaps falling a hundred feet to the ground below would also help slow it down, if it still wished to give chase.

But she had to reach the Fountain. With no guidance, the adventurers would have no direction, and with no direction, there would be no stopping the evils to come. The evils that had awakened her in the first place.