Purification episode 55: The Elder’s Demand

Derry led them through the patchwork houses and to a slightly larger one.

“The elder lives here,” she stated. “Come on.” She opened the door and led them inside.

“No guards,” Bonnie muttered.

“What’s a guard?” Derry asked, over-hearing the remark/

“It refers to a person charged with protecting somewhere or someone,” Twila explained.

“I don’t really get it,” Derry said. “What are they protecting it from?”

“Don’t you guys have monsters around here?” Lysara inquired. “I mean, we fought a big monster thing with a venomous tail on the way down here and we were told to expect golems too.”

“Oh, those,” Derry said. “They never come this far. The only time we have to worry about them is when we go to the ruins to do the releasing melody.”

“So, why did you go alone?” Lysara asked.

Derry looked at her blankly and then slapped her own forehead. “I forgot to take protection! This sucks, I’m gonna get scolded again.”

“I can’t figure out whether she’s kind of flaky or just faking it,” Axra whispered.

“Be nice,” Twila whispered back. “We don’t know for sure that she’s an enemy yet and we don’t want to screw up the chance for diplomacy.”

“Great Great grandma!” Derry called. “I’m back!”

A wrinkled dark elf with the same gray flesh appeared. Although hers was considerably duller than Derry’s highly luminescent tone. Axra wondered whether it was an age thing or it was something that varied. Axra also noted that the old woman’s eyes were clenched shut.

The old woman hit Derry on the forehead with her walking stick.

“Call me elder around visitors, Elder!”

“Sorry,” Derry stated, rubbing her forehead. “I forgot.”

“So, who are your friends?” the elder asked. “Not that Goldie girl you’re always around… Six of them… No, seven. One’s knocked out. Kindly explain.”

“They came from the surface, Grandma!” Derry cried. “And one of them is a surface dark elf!”

“The surface?” the old woman asked. Her eyes opened. They were a milky white colour. She leaned close to Lilly, squinting. “Yes… she does look very strange.” She closed her eyes again. “Which one of you is the surface dark elf?”

“That would be me,” Axra answered.

The old woman walked up to her, her eyes opening again. “Yes, you are different than us, but so similar too.” Her eyes closed again. “Pardon me, my old eyes don’t work so well anymore. I can’t keep them open for very long. You’ve done well, Derry, bringing them to me.” The old woman made her way to a chair and sat down. “Tell me two things, Surface Dwellers, how did you get down here and why did you come?”

“We came looking for the Zerstörelicht,” Twila answered. “We got here by phasing through some stones and climbing the great staircase.”

“What’s a great staircase?” Derry asked.

“They’re in scorpitoid territory,” the old woman explained. “I saw them once when I was a young woman.” Her head faced their direction. “This phasing that got you through to the top of the stairs, could you do it again?”

“I can,” Twila answered.

“Then I have a request,” she said. “I want you to take our young people, including Derry, up the stairs and to the surface.”

“What are you talking about, Grandma?” Derry inquired, her voice becoming suddenly loud. “Why do you want us to leave?”

“Because we aren’t doing well down here,” she answered. “We’re surviving, barely. But we have to strictly control our population and stay confined to this small area. It’s no life for you or anyone. But some of us… we’re too old to make the journey. You youngsters, though, you can make it. And you can build a new life with our darker cousins.” The old woman reached out and squeezed Derry’s hand. “Please, Child, let me do this for you.”

“I understand,” Derry whimpered, her eyes clouding with tears. “If it’ll make you happy, I’ll go.”

“I’m sorry,” Twila stated. “But I don’t know if we can take them. The dark elf counsel might not allow them to immigrate into their city.”

The old woman glanced at Twila, eyes slightly open. “You’ll work something out, I’m sure.”

“And who are you to give us orders anyway?” Axra asked.

“I’m someone who knows where to find what you seek,” she answered. “If you do this task for me, then I’ll tell you where to find the Zerstörelicht. If you refuse, then you can spend your lives searching for it. It is, after all, not easy to find.”

“So, it’s blackmail,” Bonnie stated.

The old woman hit Bonnie with her walking stick. “Not blackmail, Youngster. An exchange. I have knowledge you need. You have skills I need. I’ll exchange the knowledge for you using those skills to our benefit.”

“How many youngsters do you have?” Twila asked.

“A couple thousand,” the elder answered.

“It’s not a decision that I can make,” Twila said. “Is it okay if I contact the dark elf Matriarch and discuss this with her?”

The elder nodded. “Just don’t take too long to decide. I don’t have that much time left, you know.”

“I understand,” Twila said. “Just wait here, I’ll go outside and cast the sending spell.” She hurriedly left the house.

“Is… is it all going to be okay?” Lilly wondered.

“Well, if she can’t get the dark elves to take them in I can find them a home in Nervius,” Axra said.

“That would be ill-advised,” Bonnie said. “Their eyes have clearly adapted for this kind of environment. They could thrive just fine underground with the dark elves or the dwarves… but they’d almost certainly go blind on the surface. Although I’m more concerned about how to get that many people up the stairs.”

“It won’t be easy,” the elder agreed. “I suspect some won’t make it. The scorpitoids will leave you alone, probably. They shy away from large groups, you know. But the psyrens… they won’t let you go without a fight.”

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Purification episode 54: Those Left Behind

Lysara took Derry back with her. Fang followed in the air, watching the strange woman intently.

“Guys!” she called. “I’m back! Is everyone okay?”

“They’re fine,” Twila said. “Well, mostly. Velvet hit Reginald pretty hard. But Reginald should be okay when he wakes up.”

“Ummm, who’s your friend?” Lily asked.

“This is Derry,” Lysara said. “She was singing the song that had us at each other’s throats.”

“You’d better explain yourself quickly,” Twila said. “Right now Bonnie, Axra and Velvet are still sorting themselves out, but once they recover their wits they’re going to be very curious about why you brought the woman who caused all this trouble here.”

“It was an accident,” Lysara stated. “She didn’t mean any harm. How was she even supposed to know we were here?”

Derry stepped forward. “I… I just don’t know what went wrong,” she said. “No one was supposed to be over here. I’m sorry.”

“So, what were you doing exactly?” Twila inquired.

“I was releasing my pent up emotions,” Derry said. “We do it routinely to keep the psyrens away. Letting go of our anger, hatred, fear and grief. I didn’t know anyone would be caught in it. Much less such… strange looking people.”

“You don’t look like anyone we’ve ever seen either,” Twila observed. “What species are you a part of? Lilly, Lysara and I are all half elves, half humans.”

“Oh, we’re dark elves,” Derry said. “I’ve heard stories that there are other species on the surface, but I never thought I’d meet one.”

“A… it… can it really be?” Lilly asked.

“A dark elf?” Twila added.

“I’m sure you guys forgot all about us up there,” Derry said. “I mean, I’m sure we’re in history books or something, but it’s probably just a footnote at this point since we’ve been down here for so long.”

Twila and Lilly looked at each other.

“Actually,” Twila said. “We have dark elves much closer to the surface. A whole nation of them. My aunt currently presides over it as the matriarch. One of our companions is a dark elf too.”

Derry stared blankly at her, scratching her head. “Sooooo you came to bring us back and reunite us with our sisters?” She looked around. “When can I meet the dark elf you brought with you?”

“Sorry,” Twila said. “We didn’t know you were down here. And Axra’s still a bit indisposed.”

“Axra, huh,” Derry whispered. “Axra… I like the name.”

“I… it’s weird, isn’t it?” Lilly asked. “I…, no offense, I just mean that… our… the dark elves we know… they don’t look like you.”

“These guys have been down here for several millenia,” Twila stated. “It would make sense that there would be physical differences between them and the dark elves who live much further up and visit the surface regularly.”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” Axra said. “But just what in tartarus is going on?”

“I echo the question,” Bonnie said. “I’m especially curious about our ashen… visitor.”

“This does seem like something I should probably know,” Velvet said. “So, can you explain in as few words as possible?”

Derry gasped and moved forward. She looked Axra over. “You…” she muttered. “Are you, possibly, a surface dark elf?”

“Well, half,” Axra said. “But yeah. Why?”

“Sister!” Derry cried, taking Axra’s hand. “It’s so good to see you!”

Axra pulled away from her. “And just who are you anyway?”

“Her name’s Derry,” Lysara said. “She’s a dark elf who lives down here.” She explained the situation as best as she could.

“Let me show you all to my village,” Derry offered. “I know our elder would love to meet people from up there. Especially a fellow dark elf.”

“We accept,” Twila said. “Please, lead the way.”

Derry beckoned for them to follow her. Axra stopped Twila. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked. “I mean, it could be a trap. She did put us under that weird spell, after all.”

“True,” Twila answered. “But a group of dark elves living down here would explain how the psyrens have survived. The way they release their emotions is probably palatable to them. Furthermore, we won’t be able to find out for sure without going.”

“And if she tries to enchant us again?” Axra asked.

“I’ve ordered Fang to follow closely behind her. If she uses any magic against us, I’ll order him to attack,” Twila explained. “And then we’ll know that she’s lying if that happens.”

“Watcha guys talking about?” Lysara asked.

“Nothing too important,” Twila answered.”Well, let’s get going.”

“Lysara…” Axra began. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to try to hurt you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Lysara said. “I mean, you were under a spell, right? It’ll make an interesting part of the story when I tell everyone what happened here. Friends put at each other’s throats by a careless release of magic. A princess trying to kill her close, personal friend. A knight fighting against her own princess. I can just imagine the verses.” She shook her head. “The important thing is that we’re good friends and you would never, ever try to hurt me under normal circumstances, right?”

“Definitely not,” Axra agreed. “Even if you do annoy me at times it’s nothing worth hurting you over.”

“Yay!” Lysara exclaimed. She hugged Axra. “I’m so glad we got over that and it isn’t going to hurt our friendship.”

Axra rolled her eyes.

The group followed Derry through the ruins. Bonnie and Velvet carried Reginald until he woke up. Derry led them to the northern border of the ruins. There were fields mere metres away with plants Axra couldn’t identify growing in them. Several gray skinned people were working in them. Beyond them was a city.

The buildings were somewhat crude, but practical. They also had a speckled look, being constructed of a mix of different kinds of stone.

“Fascinating,” Twila muttered.

“Come on,” Derry beckoned. “The elder’s home is this way.”

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Purification episode 53: Song of Madness

“Ho… how do we stop them?” Lilly asked.

“We’ll have to pull them apart,” Twila said. “Hopefully we can incapacitate them without hurting them.”

“Got it,” Reginald said. “Velvet, grab Axra and I’ll grab Bonnie.”

Velvet punched Reginald in the face. “Don’t tell me what to do! I’m so sick of you causing me extra work.”

“Damn Hybrid!” Reginald screamed. “I’ll bring you down for good!” He drew his sword and lunged at Velvet. Velvet shoved the blade aside with his palm and decked Reginald in the gut. He was about to punch Reginald again, but Reginald dropped and rolled out of the way.

“Why are those two fighting?” Lysara asked. She hugged Twila. “This is scaring me.”

“C… could the Psyren protection spell have failed?” Lilly asked.

“Impossible,” Twila stated. “If they had broken through the spell I would’ve felt something. They’d have to be being affected by something else… something distant.” Twila snapped her fingers. “The music!” She chanted for a moment and snapped her fingers.

“Do… do you sense anything?” Lilly asked.

“It’s definitely magic,” Twila answered. “It seems to be stimulating aggression.”

“So, we just have to stop the music!” Lysara declared.

Twila nodded. “And we have to stay calm or we could find ourselves losing control too.”

“Is… is it really okay to, you know, leave them like this?” Lilly asked.

“No,” Twila said. “Lysara, take Fang with you and find the source of the music. Lilly and I will stay back and try to stop the fighting.”

“Okay,” Lysara said. “Let’s go, Dragon!” She ran towards the sound of the music with the little dragon flying behind her.

“We’ll split Axra and Bonnie up first,” Twila said. “See if you can get them apart and keep them that way for at least thirty seconds.”

Lilly nodded. She brought out her bow. Axra and Bonnie were swinging their blades back and forth, trying to find an opening in the other’s defense. Lilly gasped as Axra barely evaded a thrust from Bonnie’s blade. Axra kicked the other woman in the gut immediately afterward, forcing her back several steps.

That’s when Lilly acted, firing several arrows between them.

“Stop!” she cried, keeping her voice as firm as she could.

“Stay out of this!” Axra ordered.

“I can deal with you when I’m done with her,” Bonnie threatened.

Axra glared at her. “You are so dead! No one threatens Lilly when I’m around.”

“Force chains!” Twila’s voice rang out and both Axra and Bonnie found themselves entangled in a mess of energy chains.

“Come on,” Twila said. “Now we have to stop Velvet and Reginald.

*****

Lysara was getting close. The sound was coming from nearby. She just had to remember to stay calm, lest she lose herself like Bonnie and the others had.

She followed the melody to a building nearby. Inside, sitting on a pile of rubble, was a woman with gray, luminescent flesh. She was singing while rocking back and forth.

Lysara grabbed her chakram and started creeping up to her. She was around a metre away when she inadvertently kicked a stone. The woman stopped singing and turned towards Lysara. Her eyes went to the chakram and she ducked behind the rubble.

“Please,” she whimpered. “Take what you want, just don’t hurt me.”

Lysara froze. “But… you were casting a spell on us, weren’t you?”

“Was I?” The woman asked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. Please don’t hurt me.”

“Does this mean you aren’t a psyren using that song to turn us into food?” Lysara asked.

The woman shook at the mention of psyrens. She shook her head. “Please, don’t say their names. They… they’ll find us. What, what are you anyway? I’ve never seen anything like you.”

Fang flew down to Lysara’s shoulder and cocked his head towards the way they’d come.

“Can you come with me?” Lysara asked. She put her chakram away. “I promise we won’t hurt you. I’m Lysara Hart, and you are?”

“Derry,” she said. “Derry Homuja. I…” she peeked out from the rubble. “I have your word that you won’t hurt me?”

“You do,” Lysara said. “I swear by the great Zeus himself.”

Derry hesitated. “I… I guess he’ll do.” She slowly came out from the rubble. “I’ll come along.”

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Purification episode 52: Mysterious Song

Twila rummaged through her books, searching. She’d made Lilly tell her about the encounter with Gail five times. She knew what psyrens and golems were but this other thing… This “sleeping destroyer” what did it refer to? 

She heard a yawn behind her, but ignored it. “You two are up early,” Axra muttered. “Where are Reginald and Bonnie, anyway?” 

“Oh… sorry,” Lilly said. “I… we… kind of forgot to wake them.” 

“You’ve been up all night?” Axra asked. “Aren’t you exhausted?” 

“N… not really,” Lilly said. 

“Twila?” Axra asked. 

“Oh… I’m perfectly fine,” Twila said. “Just looking for something.” 

“So, what happened to get you both worked up?” Axra inquired. 

“I would like to know that as well,” Bonnie stated. 

“When’d you get up?” Axra asked. 

“Couple minutes ago,” Bonnie answered. 

Twila closed her book. “I’ll answer that. I’m sure Lilly’s tired of repeating the story by now. Could you two please wake the others up? I think everyone should hear it, all things considered.” 

“No problem,” Axra said. “Give me ten seconds.” She grabbed a pan and banged a metal ladle against it. 

In moments Reginald and Lysara were out of their tents. Fang was flying up in the air near Twila. 

“A most effective method,” Bonnie said. “But there’s one person who won’t be affected by that kind of thing.”

Bonnie took one of their canteens inside Velvet’s tent. 

“Dammit, that’s cold!” They heard Velvet cry. 

“Just get out here,” Bonnie ordered. 

Bonnie came out of the tent with Velvet in tow. His hair was dripping water. 

“Something happened during our watch that you should all be aware of,” Twila said. She recounted Lilly’s story while Lilly sat back and nodded in agreement. 

“So, what’s a psyren?” Lysara asked. 

“A bothersome creature,” Reginald answered. “Not one that a group of lovely ladies should have to face.” 

“It’s a type of mental parasite,” Twila offered. “They’re ethereal beings that possess corporeal beings. They then use the body of the possessed being to cause death and suffering and feed off of the emotional stress caused. I’m not sure how they would manage to survive down here, though. But I can use a protection spell to keep them from taking over any of us.” 

“Well, that’s good,” Lysara said. “As expected of my beautiful Twila! So, what’s a sleeping destroyer?” 

“I don’t know,” Twila said. “I checked my books, but I couldn’t find anything with such a vague description or anything that was called that.” 

“I can’t say I’ve ever heard of such a thing either,” Bonnie answered. 

“That woman is underestimating me,” Axra said. “As though I can’t handle golems and psyrens.” 

“W… well, on your own it might be a little…” Lilly muttered. “I… I mean… there’s also the destroyer to consider.” 

“We’ll beat it when we come to it,” Axra stated. “I’ve got Todberührung after all.” 

“Well, we’ll just have to figure out what to do when we encounter it,” Twila said. 

The group ate breakfast and packed up. Twila renewed the darkvision spell and cast a mental shielding spell and they went into the city. 

They walked the deserted streets, stopping on occasion for Twila to cast a detection spell in the attempt to find any enchanted object. It was eerie thinking about the people who had lived there and been killed or forced to flee. 

“That sound,” Axra muttered. The group stopped to listen

“A song?” Twila asked. 

“I like it,” Lysara stated. “It’s so pretty!” 

“It hurts my head,” Velvet complained. 

“More importantly, it’s coming from a place where there shouldn’t be any music,” Twila said. “I suggest we follow it.” 

“Great idea!” Lysara exclaimed. 

“So, let’s go,” Axra said. 

The group followed the sound further and further into the city. It was strange, Axra mused. The song was soft and lyrical, she’d certainly heard much louder, but it was still starting to give her a dull, throbbing headache. Maybe it was the relative quietness of the caverns contrasted with the soft melody. 

Lysara skipped a little as she went. She was contemplating getting out her lyre and strumming a musical accompaniment when she bumped into Axra.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to bump into you.”

Axra turned and glared at her. “Gods, I hate your stupid happy face,” she declared. “Your incessant joviality just gets on my nerves.”

Lysara took a step back. “I’m really sorry,” she whimpered, taken aback by the ferocity of Axra’s words.” 

“Axra?” Twila asked. 

“Ar… are you okay? Lilly asked. 

“Just fine,” Axra said. “At least I will be when I kill this nuisance!” She drew her blade. 

Lysara jumped back and tried to hide behind Twila and Lilly. 

Bonnie back-handed Axra. “Enough! Royal Brat. I’m so sick of your selfishness. Just because you’re a princess you think you can go around doing what you want and taking the precious lives of those we hold dear?” She drew her sword. “Shall I punish your arrogance?” 

“Bring it on!” Axra cried. “I could take ten of you, treacherous turncoat!” 

“Calm down, both of you!” Twila cried. “What is…”

While Twila was calling for peace, Bonnie rushed at Axra, swinging her blade. Axra pushed her own sword against it, deflecting its course, and tried to jab Bonnie in the chest. 

“Th… they’re fighting,” Lilly muttered. “Oh… oh my.” 

“Just what is going on?” Twila whispered. 

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Purification episode 51: Gail’s Warning

Whatever this creature was, it was strong. Its initial lunge nearly wrenched Bonnie’s blade from her hands. The impact did send her several steps backwards. It brought its other claw swinging down at her but Axra stepped forward and blocked it with her blade. 

“Princess… get back,” Bonnie grunted. 

“Not a chance,” Axra declared. “You aren’t fighting this thing alone.” 

The monster shifted, bringing three legs on each side. It slammed Bonnie and Axra into each other. Before it could take advantage of their temporary vulnerability, an arrow flew into one of its eyes. It shrieked and swung its tail at Lilly. 

“Yeah, no.” Velvet said, catching the tail in his hands. The stinger coming only a few short centimetres from his face. 

Lysara ran for the creature’s front. He chakram clashing against its claws. Her nimble body avoiding its swipes.

The creature used its claws to gradually guide her inward. Eventually getting her into position so that it could swipe at her from two sides at once. It almost managed to crush her between them, but Bonnie had regained her feet. She pushed Lysara out of the way. 

Fang flew from Twila’s shoulder and blew fire into the monster’s eyes. It shrieked and jumped back, or tried to. Velvet braced himself and held firmly onto its tail causing it to trip over itself. 

“Now!” Twila cried. “Burning Lance!” Flames burst from her palms and slammed into the creature. 

It wailed in pain and flailed ferociously, pushing Velvet away from its tail, its stinger scratching into his chest. 

Lilly fired an arrow. It flew through the creatures’ throat. It convulsed for a moment more and went still. 

“Is… is everyone okay?” Lilly asked. She and Twila helped Axra to her feet.

“I’m fine,” Axra said. “It just stunned me for a sec. That’s all.” 

“I’m cut, but its nothing too serious,” Velvet answered. 

“Are you quite certain?” Reginald asked. “Its stinger may have been poisonous.” 

“I’m part dwarf so it probably won’t affect me even if it was,” Velvet stated. 

“You think that’s what was let loose down here?” Lysara asked. 

“I shouldn’t think so,” Bonnie said. “I mean. yeah it would be dangerous if we were fighting a bunch of those, but I don’t think they would pose enough of a threat to force the dark elves away.” 

Lilly helped bandage Velvet’s wound and the group rested from their battle before continuing their trek down. Bonnie waited until they were on a clean stretch without breaks that had to be jumped over before pulling Velvet to the back of the group. 

“Did you notice?” she whispered. 

“Notice what?” Velvet asked. 

“During that fight, he stood back and did nothing,” Bonnie stated. 

“Well yeah, but he probably didn’t want to get in the way,” Velvet speculated. “After all, we didn’t have a huge area to fight and if someone had fallen off…”  He looked over and noticed Bonnie’s glare. “Got it. I’ll keep watching him.” 

In the front of the group, Lysara was talking to Lilly. 

“You sure are lucky.” 

“I… I am?” Lilly asked. “H… how do you mean?” 

“You’re so cute that even a princess fawns all over you,” Lysara stated. “I thought that I was charismatic but damn, you have got it made.” 

“I… I don’t know,” Lilly said. “I… sure, everyone is kind to me… but I don’t think… I mean… I’m really not any cuter than any other girl here.” 

“That’s exactly what it is!” Lysara cried, snapping her fingers. “It’s that timid demeanour. You seem like the type of proper lady who needs protecting!” 

Behind them Axra rolled her eyes. 

*****

They made it to the bottom of the steps without any further incident and Axra finally got a close look at the city. The home of her foremothers. Most of the buildings were domed with columns lining the entrance. They had been constructed of a bright white marble. They had probably been an impressive sight a long time ago, but now they were devastated. With collapsed roofs, split and cracked columns and crumbling walls. Still, they were in surprisingly good shape considering their advanced years. 

“We should camp here for the night,” Twila suggested. “We can explore the city in the morning.” 

Axra nodded. “Good idea. I could use the rest.” 

“How do you know it’s night?” Lysara asked. “Have you kept track of the time in your head?” 

“Not at all,” Twila answered. “I’m just saying night for lack of a better term. The truth is, I have no idea what time it actually is. But we’ve climbed a long way and I think we all need a rest.” 

“We’d better set a guard schedule,” Bonnie said. “Two people at a time, given the potential danger.” 

“All right,” Axra said. “I’ll go first.” 

“Princess, you should sleep,” Bonnie protested. 

“Don’t give me that crap,” Axra said. “I came all the way here not as a princess, but as a warrior in my own right and no one can tell me I’ve slacked off at all.It’s not like this is my first watch either.” 

“But…” Bonnie began. 

“But what?” Axra asked. 

“With all due respect, your Highness,” Bonnie stated. “You and Velvet were the ones most affected by that battle. As such, you two should be the ones who sleep through the night.” 

Axra was about to protest again when she felt a hand on her shoulder. “It does make sense,” Twila said. “Lilly and I can take the first watch. Bonnie and Reginald can relieve us.” 

“Fine,” Axra agreed. “But next time, I’ll take the first watch.” 

The group set up a small cooking fire and prepared a quick meal. Afterwards, Twila and Lilly waited outside while the others retired to their tents. 

They were about halfway through their watch when Twila froze up. 

“Twila?” Lily asked. She moved over to the other woman. She was completely still. 

Lilly checked her pulse, hand shaking. Her pulse was strong. Lilly let out a sigh of relief and gently shook her. 

“Twila, wake up. You fell asleep.” 

“She’s no getting up.” 

Lilly turned around, startled. “Gail?” she asked. 

“Yo,” Gail said. She was sitting in the exact spot Lilly had been a moment before with her legs crossed. 

“Did… did you cast a spell on her?” Lilly asked. 

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing harmful,” Gail said. “She’ll just be stunned for a bit.” Gail rose and held out her hand to Lilly. “Come! I’m getting you out of here.” 

“Oh… I couldn’t possibly…” Lilly said. “I… I don’t mean to sound ungrateful… but, you know… they need me here.” 

Gail knelt down, putting her hands on Lilly’s shoulders. “This is no place for you,” she said, her face had the same expression as when she’d warned Lilly about the djinn. “More than scorpitoids lurk down here. There are steel golems, psyrens, worst of all, the sleeping destroyer. If it awakens…” She looked back to Lilly. “Anyway, those creatures and more are why I came to pick you up.” 

“I… thank you… for thinking about me… I do appreciate it,” Lilly stated. “But… I really can’t leave. I… I need to help my friends.” 

“Then I’ll bring them along too!” Gail declared. “I’ll get all eight of us out of here. Just take my hand.” 

Lilly shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t possibly make that decision for them.” 

“I see,” Gail said. “Then I’ll come back for you when those six die. Just remember, I offered to save them.” In a flash of light, she was gone. 

“Lilly?” Twila asked. “What are you staring at?” 

“It… It’s a long story,” Lilly answered, turning back to Twila. “And really confusing.” Lilly looked back to where Gail had been and gazed over the ancient city. Gail’s words haunted her. The half goddess had been so certain when she’d said it: ‘when those six die.’

Lilly shuddered. 

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Purification episode 50: Winding Staircase

It took nearly forty minutes before Axra, Twila and Lilly had their next rendezvous with the other teams and were able to explain the situation. 

The group returned to the wall. 

“I’ll go first,” Bonnie stated, drawing her sword. 

“There was nothing dangerous in the immediate area when the three of us went through,” Axra said. 

“Perhaps,” Bonnie said. “But I’m not taking the risk that something saw the three of you. I’ll go first.” 

Axra shrugged. “Suit yourself.” 

“I’ll come up front with you, Bon,” Lysara said. 

“You stay back,” Bonnie snapped. “You’ll just get in the way.” 

Lysara stepped back, her head hanging. “Sorry.” she whispered. 

Twila cast her spell and the group waded through the stone, eventually reaching the other side. Bonnie examined the area carefully before sheathing her blade. 

“How do we get down there?” Lysara asked. 

“We’ll have to climb down the stairs,” Twila stated. “Jumping over the gaps as we go.” 

They began their trek downward. When they got to the first gap, Bonnie and Velvet jumped first. Velvet muttering about it being a pain. Both landed easily on the other side. Reginald came next. 

“Come on, Lilly,” Bonnie urged. “You come next.”

Lilly let out a whimper and backed away. 

“What’s wrong?” Lysara asked. 

“Lilly’s afraid of heights,” Axra informed her. “You and Twila go next. I can manage to get her over.” 

“If you’re sure,” Twila said. She and Lysara made the jump. Fang flew after them and landed o Twila’s shoulder after she’d landed. Twila landed firmly, Lysara landed on the edge. Bonnie grabbed her arm and pulled her forward before she could lose her footing. 

“Thanks, Bon,” Lysara said. 

“Just be more careful,” Bonnie said, looking away from her. 

“It’s our turn,” Axra said. “You ready?” Lilly took a step forward, whimpered and ducked. “No helping it, I suppose,” Axra stated. She picked Lilly up and took a running leap, easily making it over the gap with the other woman in her arms. 

“Princess, you shouldn’t have done that,” Bonnie chided. 

“It’s no big deal,” Axra said. “I could carry Lilly all day and not get tired.” 

“It’s dangerous to make the jump like that,” Bonnie argued. “At least let me carry her next time.” 

“No way!” Axra declared. “I’ll carry her. You take point and make sure that there aren’t any enemies in the way.” 

“Sorry,” Lilly whispered. 

“It’s okay,” Axra said, her voice soft. “I’ll get you through this. So don’t worry.” 

They continued downwards in that fashion. Every time they came to a gap Axra picked Lilly up and jumped it after everyone else had gone. They eventually stopped on a stable segment to eat and rest. 

“How much further?” Lysara asked. 

Bonnie looked down. She could just make out the ground. She then looked up and was barely able to make out their starting position. 

“We’re about halfway there,” she said. 

Lysara grunted. “Can you carry me?” 

“No,” Bonnie stated. 

“It’s just not fair,” Lysara complained. “Lilly gets carried.” 

“S… sorry,” Lilly muttered. 

“Can someone carry me too?” Velvet asked. “I’m not used to moving around this much.” 

“Will you act like a pro…” Bonnie began 

“Shhh,” Axra interrupted. She was looking intently around. 

“Something wrong?” Twila inquired, her voice low. 

“I hear something,” Axra explained. The group went silent, listening for whatever it was Axra heard. 

“A scurrying,” Twila said. “Another giant millipede, perhaps?” 

“I… I don’t think it has that many legs,” Lilly said. 

Finding the source of the sound was difficult in an enclosed cavern, even one as large as this. It seemed to be coming from several directions. 

Lysara looked up, seeing glistening chitinous plating. She grabbed Bonnie’s arm?

“What?” Bonnie asked. Lysara pointed upwards. Bonnie followed her finger. 

“It’s on the wall, get down!” She drew her sword and waited, hoping that the creature she was seeing would pass by and ignore them. It was roughly three hundred fifty centimetres tall. It had ten legs, sharp and pointed that it was using to dig into the rockface. It had four compound eyes, each around the size of a coconut. It had dripping fangs and a dark red and black carapace. It had a segmented tail, ending in a stinger larger than Bonnie’s blade. 

It stared at them for several moments. Axra reached very slowly for her blade, not wanting to startle it, but not wanting to be caught unarmed if it decided to attack. 

The creature let out a shrill, chilling shriek and lunged. 

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Purification episode 49: Winding Tunnels.

The tunnels were a pain. According to Twila, some of them were naturally occurring while others had been deliberately dug by the dark elves. The result was a mess of winding, twisting paths that came to abrupt halts at places or merged unexpectedly with others. Axra found herself relying on Lilly’s sense of direction, knowing that she would be going in circles before too long if she were by herself. 

They had reported back in for the second time. No one had found anything yet. 

“Wait,” Lilly said. 

“What is it?” Twila asked, pausing. 

“That’s the way we went before,” Lilly said. “We need to take the other fork.” 

“And this one might lead to a dead end too,” Axra said. “I’m so sick of these tunnels.” 

“They are quite difficult to navigate,” Twila said. “Lilly, you seem to have the best grasp of where we’ve been already. So, you lead the way.” 

“Oh… Okay, if you want me to,” Lilly said. 

She led them down the tunnel for a while until they came to another fork. 

“We haven’t been here before, right?” Twila asked. 

“No, we haven’t,” Lilly said. “Which way would you like to go?” 

“Let’s try the left,” Twila said. The three headed down the tunnel, eventually finding themselves against a wall. 

“Dammit!” Axra cried. 

“It’s okay,” Lilly said. “I know you’re frustrated. We all are… but I’m sure we’ll find our way.”

“We may already have,” Twila stated. She was examining the wall. “Look at this rock face.” 

“It looks about like any other wall to me,” Axra said.

“Not quite,” Twila said. “It’s very smooth. Here, feel.” 

Axra walked over and touched the wall. “Oh, so it is. Is it the entrance?” 

“Possibly,” Twila said. “I’ll cast a mapping spell. It should show how thick the wall is. If it’s thin enough, I’ll try phasing through it.” 

“Shouldn’t we all go?” Axra asked. 

“Well, it’s a bit risky,” Twila said. “I can’t know what’s on the other side until I’m actually there. So, I should go alone.” 

“Then send me,” Axra said. She quickly held up her hand to interrupt Twila’s protest. “You’re the only one who knows how to use that phasing thing. So, someone else should take the risk.” 

“Th… then I should be the one,” Lilly stated. “Af… after all, I… I’m the least important.” 

“You are not,” Axra said. She grabbed Lilly’s shoulders and looked her directly in the eyes. “You will always be important. I should go because I can draw my sword faster than you can notch an arrow, and I can keep swinging.” 

“B… but…” Lilly started to protest. 

“Calm down,” Twila interrupted. “Both of you. Listen to me for a moment. I have to go.” She looked from Axra to Lilly. “I just finished the mapping spell and I can get through the rock. But I’ll have to recast the phasing spell to get back here again. It won’t last long enough to make it a two way trip.”

“Then I’m going too,” Axra said. “To watch your back. I know you don’t want to risk anyone else, but there’s no way I’m letting any friend of mine go into something like this alone.” 

“M… me too,” Lilly said. “Th… there’ll be strength in numbers.” 

“Very well,” Twila agreed. “We’ll all go. After we’ve confirmed whether or not it’s the right place, we’ll come back and rendezvous with the others.” 

The three stood together while Twila cast her phasing spell. Axra felt her body tingling. She also felt strangely light. 

Twila nodded and the three ran into the wall. It felt a lot like swimming, but with greater weight and pressure. The three eventually came out the other side. They were on a ledge overlooking a pretty deep chasm. 

There were signs that a large staircase had been carved leading up to their platform, but over the years it had been overrun with subterranean plants and there were several visible gaps where segments had worn away and fallen.

Axra looked out at the bottom. She could see the tops of several large buildings. 

“We found it,” Lilly whispered. 

“Indeed,” Twila said. “Let’s go get the others.” 

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Purification episode 48: Delving Deep

Lysara returned looking dejected. She laid down on her sleeping bag and faced away from everyone. 

Bonnie returned roughly fifteen minutes after with a large amount of wood. “I’ll keep watch, Princess,” she said. 

“You can take the first watch,” Axra said. “Wake Velvet halfway through the night to take the second.” 

“Understood,” Bonnie stated. 

Axra took Lilly’s hand. “Come with me a moment,” she said. She led Lilly just out of sight of the camp. 

“W… what is it?” Lilly asked. 

Axra leaned forward. “What is going on with those two?” she whispered. “I know that you know.” 

“I… it’s none of my business, really,” Lilly said. “Or even… even yours.” 

“It could jeopardise our mission,” Axra argued. “If they’re bickering we need to get it resolved so they can work together. Don’t you agree?” 

“I… don’t… I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” Lilly muttered. 

“You know I trust you,” Axra said. “If you tell me that it won’t interfere with Bonnie’s skills, I’ll believe you and let it drop. So, is this going to affect Bonnie’s skills?” 

“I… it wo… it probab…it probably will,” Lilly stated. “But… but it isn’t something we can fix. Bonnie… she… she’s in love with Lysara. But, the thing is, she doesn’t want to admit it.” 

Axra was taken aback. She turned away from Lilly and looked towards the camp. “I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “Don’t know what I was expecting… something I could fix, I suppose.” She sighed. “Thanks for telling me, though.” 

*****

They continued their trip the next morning with Lysara and Bonnie not talking to each other. Lysara kept glancing at Bonnie whereas Bonnie deliberately avoided looking at Lysara. 

Axra talked with Twila and Lilly. She avoided mentioning Bonnie’s situation but she did think about it. On one hand, it would be good for her if they got together. It would keep Lysara away from Twila. But that was a selfish thought and she was ashamed of it.

They finally reached the underground entrance. Like before, they left the horses with the dark elf guards. 

“Velvet, leave the dogs too,” Axra ordered. 

“Why?” Velvet asked. 

“Because we’re going into a dangerous area and I don’t want them hurt,” Axra stated. 

“What a pain,” Velvet muttered. “Now I gotta walk.” He got out of his wagon and reluctantly gave his dogs into the care of the dark elves. 

“Be good puppies okay, Vicki, Jaime, Leela, Turlough, Ace and Lucy,” Lilly said, speaking in a quiet, soothing manner. The dogs wagged their tails and looked up at her. 

Twila cast a darkvision spell on herself, Lilly, Lysara, Bonnie and Reginald before they proceeded downwards. 

Their guide took them to the city gates before returning to the surface. 

The group hurried through the city and to the tunnels on the other side. 

“So, the old city is through here?” Reginald asked. “Quite noisy for a taboo area.” 

“We aren’t in the old city yet,” Twila said. “These tunnels are used for several purposes.” She pointed to one that sloped very slightly downwards. “That one leads to the mines. And that one…” she pointed at one sloping slightly upwards “leads to some fields. They grow several kinds of edible mushrooms and other plants.”

“So, which one takes us to the old city?” Bonnie asked. 

“I don’t know,” Twila said. “The entrance was sealed off, remember? We’re going to have to find it.” 

“We’ll split into teams and search,” Axra said. “Lilly, Twila and I will check one area. Velvet and Lysara can check another. Reginald and Bonnie can check another. We’ll meet back here every hour and report. Come on, let’s go!” 

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WordPress Anniversary

One year ago I signed up for WordPress. Since then I’ve had 114 posts in my main blog, including the entirety of Omicron Squad and the current Purification story which has almost reached fifty posts. In my anime review blog, I’ve had 112 posts with both excellent and terrible anime popping up as well as everything in between.

It’s been a pretty productive year and I owe a lot of that to all of you. Yes, those of you who follow, read and occasionally comment on what I’m doing. With special thanks to Yvonne who drew this lovely image of Sirvanna from Omicron Squad.

Sirvanna by Yvonne

It’s thanks to all of you lovely people that I’ve come this far and I hope you’ll continue to support me for another year. I’ll keep doing my utmost to make the content compelling.

Now, since it’s been a year, I thought I’d ask a few questions of my readers.

1. Did you prefer Omicron squad or Purification? I’d highly appreciate it if you explained your answer.

2. In Purification, what are you hoping to see happen?

3. In Omicron, what part of the series did you like best?

4. Which character have you liked the best so far?

5. What do you think needs the most work in my writing? While I don’t guarantee that I’ll change anything, I will take any constructive criticism into consideration.

Feel free to answer as many or as few questions as you like, although I really would appreciate it if you answered a couple. If you don’t want to answer in a comment, my e-mail address is on my “about” page. Feel free to answer that way. And I’ll gladly answer any reasonable questions that you have as well.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of my dog (I could have put one up of myself, but I’m sure you’d rather see dog pictures.)

Dogtor

Would you like a Jelly Baby?

Thank you all again. Let’s have another great year.

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Purification episode 47: Painful Words

The three stood, hands linked. They moved slowly, carefully. One wrong move and they risked hitting the centre, and the violent backlash that would come from it. 

No amateur mage could have managed such a precise use of magic, but these three were all veterans, experienced practitioners of their craft. Slowly they cut away all the pieces of the spell until only the centre remained. Then, they cut off their efforts and opened their eyes. 

The snow had stopped everywhere save for a small area in the town square surrounding the ice sculpture of Lilly. They had done it. 

“That went well,” Isaac noted. 

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t dispel all of it,” Zero stated. “I suppose they’ll have to get used to the sculpture.” 

“It might be good for them,” Moira said. “An eternal snow surrounding a grand sculpture of a beautiful maiden. Travelers will come to see it.” 

“Perhaps,” Zero said. He walked away from the two. “Rachel, we’re going home!” 

*****

“Ahh the underground,” Reginald said. “You know, I’ve never been there.” 

“We have,” Lysara declared. “On this trip too. Right, Bon?” Bonnie ignored her, keeping her eyes ahead. 

“W… will your aunt be mad if we don’t stop by?” Lilly asked. “Maybe we should stop by her place again… just to make her happy.” 

“Aunt Elaine is very busy,” Twila said. “She won’t mind if we pass through without seeing her.” 

“We should stop by,” Reginald said. “After all, I would dearly love to meet your family, Fair Twila.” 

“Why?” Twila asked. 

“We don’t have time anyway,” Axra argued. “The longer it takes us to find these things the more danger Lilly’s in.” 

“I could stop by her place and visit for all of us,” Velvet suggested. 

“That wouldn’t be helpful,” Bonnie said. She turned to Axra. “It’s getting late, your Highness. I suggest we make camp.” 

“That okay with you, Twila?” Axra asked. 

“We probably should,” Twila conceded. 

The group found a clear space and quickly set up camp. 

“Hey, Bon…” Lysara began. 

“I’m going to find more firewood,” Bonnie said, excusing herself. 

“What’s up with them?” Twila wondered. 

“I… I wouldn’t know,” Lilly said. “How would I?” 

“Okay, so you do know,” Axra observed. “Come on, out with it.” 

“It… it’s complicated,” Lilly said. “And, you know, not my business.” 

*****

Bonnie took her time gathering wood. It was all about control. She just had to force herself to not react so strongly to Lysara’s attention. How was something that sounded so easy so damn difficult?

“Bon?” 

Bonnie froze. Lysara had followed her. “Bon, what’s the deal? I thought we were friends so why are you ignoring me?” 

Bonnie looked over into Lysara’s golden coloured eyes. Eyes that sparkled and pleaded. She felt her face flush. “Bon, talk to me, please.” 

Bonnie abruptly turned away. “I’m here as a soldier for my princess. Nothing more. Extra relationships… friendships… they aren’t part of my duty.” 

“So, you don’t care about anything aside from duty?” Lysara asked. She’d positioned herself back in Bonnie’s line of sight. 

Bonnie took a step back and looked to the side. “What else is there to care about?” The words sounded weak even to her. 

“Bon, is that really true?” Lysara asked. “Why won’t you look at me?” 

“Gods you’re persistent!” Bonnie declared, forcing herself to look directly at Lysara. “I don’t have time for friends, okay?” 

“Sorry,” Lysara said, looking at the ground. “I’ll leave you alone.”

She walked sadly away and Bonnie felt a terrible pain in her chest, tears coming to her eyes. This was for the best, she told herself. But… she’d hurt Lysara and seeing the pain in the young bard’s eyes… Bonnie dropped to her knees and hid her face in her hands, hoping that no one else would come to find her. 

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