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Blackrise Surtmuilim · Fabled Hearts

Blackrise Surtmuilim

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In the dark mirrorrealm of Kigan, Awarth, in the lands of Blackrise Surtmuilim, in particular in the Shatterlands Ghochran and within the region of Fasil-Yad, there was a curious city. This city had at its centre a magnificent, though uncompleted, gleaming white clocktower that even someone numb to magic could feel the power emanating from.

The Clocktower dominated the city, which was understandable considering that most of the other buildings were cones that were of a suitable size for tiny people, there were however two buildings that were of a more regular size, quite different from the grand scale of the clocktower or the small scale of the cone buildings.

One of these buildings was another tower, though not a clocktower. This tower was however curiously high for how thin it was, like the clocktower it was unquestionably magical. It was a twisted stem of mirrored tubes that the darkness slipped off of, but the tubes bent at harsh angles creating wells of darkness all over the tower. Since the darkness was so directed by the construction of the tower, it glowed dimly in the deep dark of Awarth.

The other building had considerably less effort in its construction. It was made from large slabs of white rock, fused together with magic, it was likely the building did not even have foundations. The large slabs had no windows, for Awarth has no day in which light would be let through.

There was merely a grate stuck in the upper part of one of the walls for ventilation. The roof was conical, but instead of going to a point, it split open near the top, while a cap was on top of this opening. Smoke lazily flowed out of the opening, for you see, the building was a forge and a temporary home of the smith who worked the forge.

The smith in question had just gotten up, and was about to begin his work. He was fairly content with the city, who’s name was Talvharn. There were a few reasons for it. The gnomes, the Lord of the Clocktower and the residents of the other tower were all quite good neighbours, that was a big plus to the smith. There was just the right sort of materials in abundance. He had next to no competition.

Main thing that the smith liked however was the low, low chances of him being run out of town and the fact that he actually got work.

You see, the smith was a tainted, a crossbreed with the ancestry of more than three races. He had a bit of a complex about his appearance after all he had gone through before Talvharn had been suggested as a safe haven to him by a passing merchant, so he wore a heavy leather hood that hid his face. He did however quite noticeably have four arms, and though there were thick black leather gloves on each limb, the bulky green arms were visibly a strange mishmash for skin, scale and chitin.

Tainted face much discrimination in the worlds of Kigan and Awarth, but a strange settlement like the one he was in? Gnomes themselves, being tiny cones with feet and eyes, normally are treated little better than pests. Added to that gnomes are usually quite disposed to fear and fainting, so once they had gotten used to his presence weren’t about to be terribly hateful. The lord of the clocktower himself was also a kind of commonly hated being.

At Talvharn the smith’s skills were valued.

He peered at his forgefire, the lord of the clocktower had looped the time of the flames, they would as long as the power was upon them, never go out or lessen in heat. The blue flames blazed as strongly as they had the day before. Satisfied that the fire was in order, he picked up his enchanted tongs and grabbed a bar of smelted shadow. He had worked hard to make the shadow metal the day before.

Just as his mother had taught him, he had mixed ore and shadow, and then pulled away the traits of the ore, leaving only shadow to infuse the blank metal. It was a slow process, but the smith was proud of the level of purity of shadow his bars had.

He thrust the bar into the fire, heating it, then he brought it to his azure anvil. With his two left hands he picked up a heavy hammer that looked far too rusty, and had a very short handle, his two hands barely having room to both go on it.

He pounded the shadow metal flat, putting it back into fire whenever he needed to. Then grabbing a second pair of tongs he began to roll the sheet up. In short order it was a tube. He pulled out a mask made of the black ice of Fasil-Yad, then he took out the wand that had, supposedly been in his family for years. It was almost too long to be called a wand, and had a curious bulb on the end of it.

The wand had actually been resting in the middle of the forgefire, so he had to wait for a while before he could safely handle it. When it cooled he grabbed it and touched the wand’s bulb to the tube of shadow metal. The bulb burst into furious flame, and sparks bounced off against his ice-mask. He quickly got to sealing the tube up.

He repeated this activity, making several tubes of varying lengths until he was out of shadowmetal bars. It was then that he set all the tubes aside and began smelting more shadowmetal.

As he was doing so, he eventually spotted the quivering figure of a red gnome. He stopped his work.

“You here for the tubes?” he asked, knowing the answer.

The gnome was transfixed with fear, but after a period of awkward silence he managed to speak.

“A-ahh, yes, for the, um scaffolding… we aren’t all mages after all. Aha. ha. ha.” He laughed nervously.

The smith gestured towards the pile of pipes.

The gnome bobbed and dashed out, and then several other gnomes dashed in, and together they all lifted the pipes with their minds and out of the forge.

The smith sighed. A lot of the gnomes still weren’t that used to him.

He looked forlornly at his shadowmetal bars.

Scaffolding. He had been making pipes for scaffolding pretty much ever since he had gotten to Talvharn.

He got back to work, glad he had found such a safe haven, but he really would have liked to been making something a bit more glamorous, even if it was only once in a while.

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Chapter Fifteen: Noodles helps, in a manner of speaking.

“Let me get this straight again” Ivak began. “The castle is here”

“Yes, it is here” Fatho claimed, waving around at the castle-free surroundings.

Ivak looked around, he sighed.

“The castle isn’t here” he said.

“Yes, it isn’t” Fatho said dejectedly.

He sat down, grabbing his head, cradling it.

“This kind of hurts, I’m trying to find a way but I can’t” He said.

All at once, Fatho went crosseyed, then he keeled over.

“Oh my! Is he all right Claroosa?” Ivak said, taken aback.

Before Claroosa could check a gurgling snoring emitted from Fatho.

“I think he’ll be fine milord, it seems the castle really is here and not here” She said.

“I suppose we should have expected something like this from a castle made by the Sorcerer of Spaces”

Ivak tugged on his beard, trying to think of what his next move should be.

“I am sorry milord that I cannot be of more help with this, I know little of the ways of magic” Claroosa apologized.

Ivak waved dismissively

“That is quite alright Claroosa, I’ve no great knowledge myself… ah, of course, Aunty Yagma gave me a mirror that I could use to communicate with her, surely she will know of some way that we can gain access to the castle!”

“How convenient milord!”

The mirror was quickly taken from where it had been packed away, Ivak held it before himself. It was not acting like a normal mirror, indeed to one who did not know what it was, it did not look like a mirror at all as it reflected nothing.

“Yagmalral, Yagmalral, Yagmalral”

So did Ivak speak her name three times, and the mirror crackled with life so suddenly that Ivak nearly dropped it. Then, an image of Yagmalral appeared on the mirror. She was not wearing one of her furs, instead she wore a scaly blue robe with a black feathered collar, her steely eyes burned brightly.

“You’re having a bit of trouble finding the castle aren’t you?” She said, cutting Ivak off before he could speak.

“Y-yes, but how do you know what we are doing?” Ivak asked.

“Oh, I have ways of knowing things, now, I can help you, but I’ll need to use your body as a conduit for my will, so I could try forcing my will through the mirror but it would be a lot easier and far less painfully if you consent to it, it’ll be pretty easy since we are blood relations”

Ivak nodded.

“Yes of cor…”

The mirror crumbled to ashes and Ivak’s body went rigid. His eyes lost their blue irises and instead the whole of his eyes spilled forth steely light.

Ivak looked towards Claroosa.

“Well, let us begin then, Mjorn” Yagmalral said, through Ivak.

Yagma then began rifling through their packs. Claroosa took the time to rouse Fatho.

Who, upon seeing Ivak with steely light spilling from his eyes, screamed.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”

“HE’S POSSESSED! QUICK WE NEED TO KILL IT BEFORE IT KILLS THE PAIR OF US!”

Yagma hiss irritably at being so disturbed. She pointed one of Ivak’s finger’s at Fatho and cloth formed out of the flow of magic and wrapped itself around Fatho’s mouth.

“I’m the head mage of House Vulk, tainted thief, not some Awarthian spirit”

Claroosa wisely kept her peace, not wanting to draw Yagma’s ire.

Yagmalral finished her search by taking out three paintings. One was of the ice wheel spirit they had encountered, one was of the painting of fire that had been changed by the presence of Awarth. The last was a painting of a fuchsia house serpent.

“Oh, I was wondering what happened to that serpent, I wonder when he found the time to paint it?” Claroosa said.

Ivak’s eyes flickered back to his natural blue.

“Ahhh, Yagmalral what are you going to do to Noodles?”

Ivak’s eyes emitted steel light once more.

“Gah, don’t do that to me boy, don’t fight me, You have no idea how painful that was, now don’t worry about your pet it’ll be fine, in fact it will be arguably better off!” Yagmalral proclaimed.

She looked over the painting once more.

“Yes, this will be perfect”

She pointed one of Ivak’s fingers at the paintings, and she began in a breathless stream to speak of portals an openings.

The paintings floated upwards. Yagma held out Ivak’s other hand, and clenched his fist, as if crushing something. The fuchsia house serpent’s painting was crushed, splintered and the subject of the painting came out, sheathed in steely glow.

“All magic has a cost, all has cost and to give up something hard won, and a gift received by quirk of awarth is fitting” Yagma pronounced.

The serpent began to grow in size, it formed a circle, biting its own tail.

Fatho, who had managed to claw the gag on his mouth away remarked on this.

“Isn’t a serpent biting its own tail a chlanic symbol” He said uneasily.

Yagma shot him a venomous look, but Claroosa took it upon herself to avoid Fatho being turned into something.

“Usually yes, but it can just be related to portals, and travel. It is rare for it to be that way though”

Fatho was not at all happy about Yagma’s presence, the feeling however was probably mutual.

The serpent gently spun through the air, picking up more and more speed, getting larger and larger until. The steel light that showed Yagma’s influence through Ivak began flickering, it seemed she was having a bit of difficulty.

The other two pictures were orbiting the gateserpent. Yagmalral clapped Ivak’s hands together and the gateserpent was engulfed in a blazing flame of cold. Yagma grasped something with Ivak, and pulled.

The coldflame settled on the fuchsia serpent’s body, forming a thick mane behind its head that trailed behind like a second tail.

Yagmalral hissed some more words for effect and pushed at the flows of magic, shunting her own mana through Ivak’s body. There was a tearing sound, and inside of the circle that the gateserpent formed, a portal seemed to open, beyond Fatho and Claroosa caught a glimpse of an obsidian castle.

“It is done” Yagma announced. “Ivak, this serpent will let you go through many barriers, and enter many sealed spaces, you need only command it to do so when you are near such a thing. It will take the form of a ring when you wish, now goodbye and take care”

Ivak’s eyes returned to normal. They waited a bit for him to get his bearing back, then they went through into the space that the Sorcerer of Spaces, Ceilron Shail had separated out from Awarth for the obsidian castle.

The first thing that caught their eyes was not the castle or the stone garden, but the massive kyrou-sphinx barring their way.

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Chapter Fourteen: The Crab, The Horned Beast and the City in Abyss

“How long have we been on this island anyway?” asked the Crab of the Horned Beast.

The Horned Beast looked up at the sky, which was filled with grey wolves, it was possibly going to rain. She didn’t like it when it rained. There was no sun or moon visible.

“We’ve been stranded a while, well, at least the island tastes good.” She said.

She took a scoop of the blue island. It had a spongy texture. Apart from the Crab and the Horned Beast there was a pale tall tree, one with circular black leaves. The tree seemed quite annoyed. The Horned Beast and the Crab were sitting on a picnic rug. The rug was chequered black and white.

“This was a terrible place to have a picnic” The Crab complained.

“Oh, I don’t know the view is quite nice, apart from the clouds” The Horned Beast said.

Deep inky void spread out all around the island. However, visible shining in the abyss, was a city, a delicate city, ghostly, filled with high spires, floating towers. A spiderweb.

“It is dead” The Crab said.

“Not really, I’ve seen movement there” The Horned Beast said.

“The city isn’t the problem, the issue is that it is dead”

The tree rustled irritably as if trying to draw the attention of the Crab and the Horned Beast.

“Can it really remain that way if there is life there?”

“It won’t wake, can’t wake”

“I don’t know if that is good or bad, but I don’t think I agree with you”

The Crab ate some of the island.

“I wonder what’ll happen after we’ve eaten all the island”

“We could drown, or we could end up in the city, I might like the city”

“Well I don’t think I’d like that, I don’t want to be there, just in case anything happens”

“I thought you said it can’t wake, won’t wake”

“I said it the other way around, and it doesn’t need to wake”

A wolf fell from the sky and was eaten by the inky depths.

“How do we know about this anyway?” The Horned Beast asked.

“We’ve eaten the island” The Crab mused.

“Does this mean we are part of it now?”

Wolves began raining from the sky. The Horned Beast pushed the things off the island, grumbling.

“This has happened far too many times”

“Why don’t we eat one?” The Crab questioned.

The Horned Beast looked at the Crab aghast.

“It was only a suggestion” The Crab grumbled.

There was the cry of a croaking bird.

The Crab and the Horned Beast froze.

The tree however, only got more agitated.

“He comes.” the Crab hissed.

“The huntsman”

“What’ll we do?”

“What can we do? He’ll cut down the tree and that’ll be it”

“Will something come from the city?”

“No, they let the huntsman roam”

It arose from the blackness, a dark figure. One with the head of a bird, bearing a heavy axe in the shape of a beak. It slowly walked over the abyss.

“What if we offered some of the island to it?”

“No good, the huntsman will hunt you, he will cut the tree down”

“What about you”

“I could escape to the city”

“Do you have no loyality?”

“None, I have a shell, so I’m going to be selfish”

“A fine excuse”

“Of course”

The huntsman was closer now. The wolves were all gone. The Horned Beast gazed up at the sky.

There was more void, but this one was filled with stars.

“If we could be stars, we’d be safe”

“They tried that”

-It didn’t work- said the huntsman.

He was right next to the Horned Beast. He swung at her. She turned her head away, she lost a horn, the tree moved a bit, the horn bounced off of the tree, and struck the huntsman right in the head. The huntsman burst into a thousand shadowy birds that tried to fly away, but the stars struck them down.

“Huh, well that happened” The crab remarked.

Cracking noises came from the tree. Where the horn had struck, there was a crack in the tree, the crack was getting bigger and bigger.

“We are done for!” The One Horned Beast cried.

They and the island fell through the crack in the tree.

* * * * *

The marble boat crashed into the black snow, sending up a massive swirl of snowflakes upwards.

Ivak, Claroosa and Fatho tumbled out.

“Anyone remember what happened?” Fatho said, standing up groggily.

Ivak rubbed the grittiness from his eyes.

“The dream bubble popped, and we entered dreammist, apart from that nothing”

Claroosa naturally was taking stock of their surroundings.

“I don’t remember anything either, but where-ever we are, Galshea is far away.”

The flames of the Awarthian Galshea were nowhere in sight. Instead the trio were near to a forest of oretrees, rocky growths that bear minerals, not normal fruits. They are a common replacement of the trees of Kigan. The trees were mostly sandstone, with hematite fruits. A fairly useful variety for the production of iron. Though, the seeds would have to be extracted from the ore first.

Awarthians concerned themselves with mining fruit more than they did having oretree orchards.

“How long were we inside the mist?” Ivak wondered.

Fatho scuttled over, and inspected Ivak’s beard, then he looked at Ivaks hair, eyes widening a bit. Part of Ivak’s hair was no longer hair, but blackish green circular leaves.

“Seems we were quite fortunate, we’ve only been there a little while, and…”

Fatho looked at his lower body. Where his crablegs had once been vestigial, they were strong limbs capable of supporting his body. His thin legs were hanging in the air, looking more like the vestigial limbs now.

Claroosa was fingering the large horn on her forehead, where once there was just two little stubby horns there a pair of far larger longer horns, even the one that was broken was thicker and longer than the stubby ones had been.

“…we’ve not experienced many changes to our bodies. You know, after this, I am never coming to Awarth again if I can help it”

Ivak was touching his head leaves, feeling the texture of them. He wondered if he’d grow new ones and shed old ones.

“So where is the castle Fatho?” Claroosa asked.

Fatho scratched the back of his head bashfully.

“Well, I have good news and bad news. The castle is here, my sense of direction was right. That would be the good news and the bad news”

Ivak and Claroosa looked around. There was no sign of any castle, or any construction. Nothing but oretree forest as far as the eye could see.

“Fatho, there is no castle here”

“That’d be the bad news”

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