Stories

Southlight Wives’ Poem

“Dear sailor, I give you the Southlight flag
May it bring you peace from man and beast alike 
Dear countryman, I give you bread and wine from our fields
May the bounty of our land keep you from hunger and thirst
Dear family, I give you a cloak sewn by our mothers
May the love of both keep you warm from the air and sea
Dear father, I give you the laughter of your children 
May it find your sails and keep them full
Dear husband, I give you a kiss from me
May it bring you home swiftly back to me.”
– Brady Tatro

Departure

“Do not seek the door, said Mother. You must not go, said Father. There will be many years for adventuring, said Gnosi. But mine is not a name for waiting. Anypomonos.
Now, with the doorway in front of me, sparkling in an array of colors I have only seen in dyed silk and iceberries, I am rewarded. Even the turrets of the ice palaces cannot compare to its beauty. My gaze darts in every direction to follow its scintillating shape. Its borders are certain but ever varying against the cobalt sky. I move closer through the snow as they shift, on toes tingling with closeness to the Phenomenal magic. The wind whispers as it whistles softly into my ears, but the words do not sound like Allos words. They are different. I try to say them back but they feel strange and my incantations are clumsy.
As I approach I am bathed in soft green-gold light, warm and enticing. The wind picks up and makes my hair and cloak dance. I am drawn to the doorway, my feet moved by fate, my hands reaching out. My hood falls. I breathe deeply, and the air tastes of spellwork and spices.
It is time for me to see the Ephemeral Realm, where lives pass like the sparkling of nighttime snowflakes. I have waited long enough!
I leap.”
– Laura Snider

A Traveler’s Drunken Dity

With gleeful smile and trickster grace,
A Gold coin flips and dances through space.
Like drunken brawlers the Divine swirl about,
With a nudge and a trip they tumble down.

In Fire and Ice danced Silver and White,
When Golden glint of spinning coin,
Caused mischief in the two left-footed one.
The gods do make a graceless heap. 

Ethereal Black and Wild Brown,
Did dance the dance to make Trickster frown.
It mucked up Black’s untouchable cloak,
And where Brown and Black touched land was left broke.

Black’s cloak was ruined, so it sought a spell,
From two left feet Silver, to banish Brown’s smell.
When it tripped on Gold wire, and took a spill,
Right into Silver, the gods, how they fell.

Trickster was not done with its fun,
But Black was ire, and totally drunk.
Black set off in an ire and tackled the Trickster,
Seven eons bad luck when gods break the mirror.

Nimble be quick, and Trickster be quicker,
Leaving Black lying in pool of glass splinters.
White and Silver went to aide Black
Only to be knocked over on top of its back. 

Thus came the Allos, Prytanis, and Skoti,
Distant Thymos, and Humans a plenty
When in came boorish Purple who said,
“Enough is enough. Trickster, your fun is done.”

Balance restored and Dark Days descended
With Purple born light, a Queen ascended
With gleeful smile and trickster grace,
A Gold coin spins and dances through space.”
– Andrew Champion

Battle of Falmouth

On the Twenty first of Springfall, we marched into the night
to meet the Seren bastards, in battle at first light
among the blazing heroes, that readied for the fight
were the fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys That Wore the White 

The heroes took their places, and faced the Seren horde
and up across that great ridge, the Seren numbers poured
and though we were outnumbered, we refused to take flight
we were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

The Blacknalleers in armor, they took that day
Gallantly they formed up, and refused to give way
Their stunning Braelin banner, glowed in the morning light
with the fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

A solid Caxton spear wall, formed up upon their flank
one hundred gallant spearmen, stood ready rank by rank
and all those Braelin soldiers, were readying their pike
they were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

Our Gallant Braelin soldiers, they charged to take the hill
they drove the Seren numbers, back by force of will
briefly our gallant warriors, seemed poised to win the fight
they were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

The victory we scented, it sadly couldn’t last
The larger Seren army, around our flank went past
The stalwart Caxton spearmen, they died to hold the right
they were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

The brave Hawksworther rearguard, Held their ground without fear
Till mounted Seren lancers, came crashing through their rear
And many Braelin heroes, lay fading in the night
they were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

The battle up at Falmouth, it ended in a rout
The larger Seren army, they forced our brave band out
and to the Braelin heroes, no quarter gave that night
to the fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White 

We are the survivors, and now you’ve heard our tale
the loss we took that sad day, it bled the army pale
so Generals take a lesson, from the lives we lost that night
we were fathers, soldiers, brothers, sons, the Boys that Wore the White.

– Eric Ulmanis

01 Summerrise 1213 

I went to see the Ravensgate cemetery for the first time today. I had been meaning to go for some time to pay my respects but only just got the chance today. A man called Darren was kind enough to escort me there as I did not know the way.
 
It is not a terribly big graveyard, nor terribly impressive, save for the finely kept stones of the Marcheford family. However it is quiet and serene. The grounds are sheltered from the midday sun, nestled in the surrounding wood and guarded beneath the somber vigil of a great and gnarled old tree. That tree must have been standing sentry over the Marcheford line since the very first body was laid to rest beneath the earth there. The Marcheford family graves were well groomed and their markers made of fine stone. The late Mrs. Wake, wife of the old Gravedigger, also lies buried in an unassuming corner of the yard, her grave neatly tended and cared for with obvious love.
 
None of these stones spoke to me so loudly, however, as a singular headstone of weather-stained slate, which sits lonely beneath the solitary tree. On its face reads the name Eli Whittaker.
 
Eli Whittaker, the tragic peddler more commonly known today as ‘Eli the Barrow Boy’. I was surprised to find that Darren did not know the story. So I sang for him. I sang the tale of poor Eli Whittaker who fell in love with a nobleman’s daughter and who killed himself in grief after learning of her death. I sang for poor Eli, the boy who had saved pennies in hopes to marry the woman he loved. I sang for the hours he must have spent crying his wares. I sang for the loss he must have felt, and I sang for the love he must have kept as he drowned himself in the Kordiso River.
 
After finishing the ballad, I was compelled to lay a few golden flowers upon the lonely mound. It did not look quite so lonely after that…

– Shaylin D

“Favors for Favors”

“Jus’ one copp’er all ya need ta send that letta? Well here ya go.”

Finally, he thought–a moment framed by the glow of lantern light before three strangers. One which reminded him of home so much, full of daring underhanded ideas. The other was responsible for the words written on the paper which he had been prepared to die for. As soon as the coin accompanied nine others in his pocket, he stood taking the lantern in his hand.
“Best I get going with this then.” He said with that charming grin that betrayed no hint of the fear he held of being discovered here.

Three became two and they walked back into the town of Ravensgate. Looking up from below the Silver Raven carried not the commotion it housed the former night. It wasn’t rare to get a man like that, especially when it was one claiming to be from Caxton. His boisterous tone. The stench of drink from both his mouth and tailored clothes. A bearing demanding respect on title alone.

He was used to such things. The urge to kill again that he had, this time, kept contained still occupied his thoughts. Did such lowly men deserve to be murdered? Maybe. If they wanted it bad enough, he decided silently. There were other ways still. His friend had shown how egos bruise so easily from a talented pick-pocket. 

He did not doubt the chance to leave bruises from his fists would be far behind. 

– Jake Thompson

 

The Song-And-Dance Man

There is a musician who wanders the roads at night, known only as the Song and Dance Man. He wanders, searching for bands of adventurers or Travelers, and promises free entertainment to end an evening of feasting. When his offer is accepted, he grins ear to ear and begins to set his stage. Some might think that he was a Traveler, for he carries with him a large tent, and it takes but a matter of moments for him to set it up. Beckoning to enter, he closes the entrance behind himself, and quick as a blink scurries up the main support pole to a stand about twenty feet high. And then he begins playing. Accounts of the instrument he uses vary, but one thing is the same: he sings along with it in some language that no one has ever heard before, but dancing ensues. Soon, feet grow weary and backs begin to ache. The dancers realize that they cannot stop. Hours pass as feet bleed and ankles snap, but even on broken bones they keep dancing. Exhaustion sets in, but still they dance. And when it is too much, and dancers drop dead of fatigue, they get back up and continue dancing until the Song and Dance Man is satisfied. Then he leaves with the dead, and they are never seen again. Those lucky enough to be spared can never forget what they saw, and can be heard humming the unholy tune of the Song and Dance Man. 
-Brandon Shoop

The Hunt

A woman sprinted through rows of sparse trees and shrubs scattered across the mountainside. Muscles burned on final reserves of energy, a last desperate push for survival. Unmistakable as a courier from the purple and gold blur of color following her every move.
“Who in their right mind would send a letter to Beast People?!” she muttered out through clenched teeth.
Loose rock slid out from under her right foot, a chorus of varying animal noises accompanying her fall. A savage rushed forward with a javelin, casting it up at the helpless woman in one fluid motion perfected by countless hunts. Another burst of noise from the tribe surrounding her, this time in anger. What appeared to be a careless fall was salvaged by incredible acrobatics. Even more incredible was when she turned to catch the missile, throwing it back for a grisly kill. A moment later she was overwhelmed, her scream echoing out among the sound of another successful hunt.

– Jake Thompson

The Gambit

“The godscape of the Eternal Realm lay before him. The tracings of each fine line. Every entwining brush-stroke rippled changes into being. Three steps ahead.Caer stared at the tiles in his hand. One wrong move and the gods would fall edgeside, giving Aegis the advantage. He could feel the man’s smile. That Southlight smile he had grown to hate. At last, he laid the tile down. And the gods stirred. New paths opened and Caer moved the tokens one by one. The paths fit as expected. Tracing the white token along its path he held his breath as it met its silver companion.

“And so,” Aegis said with his smile, “white met silver, and the Allos were born.” Caer didn’t laugh however, his eyes scanning the board. Aegis offered the Allos mark up, but the nobleman paused. 

“Instead, I shall banish the Allos from my company,” spoke Caer at last, with a smile of his own, “for a Shift.” Aegis’s eyebrow rose as Caer picked up a tile from the board, this one laden with a black token, and replaced it anew. The black god surged along its new path and met its siblings with a thunderous crash. The Human mark was his.

“The Human Gambit. Risky.” Aegis smiled his smile as he placed his tile and began moving the tokens. He laughed, claiming the Prytanis, Skiazo, and Thymia marks in succession. “I hope it serves, as your humans will stand alone.” 

Caer grinned. “Isn’t that always the way?”

-Stephen Dewey

The Chase

We see them, blurs, these bandits two who flee
The law, pursued by those they have done wrong
We race till we lose them behind a tree
They sigh, now sure they will be safe ere long. We find the trail, still fresh, leads to the glen
Where recently I strode with comrades fair
Those men who ran a dash too slow to then
Be useful when I fought these bandits there. I stood stock still, arrayed one to their two
Two criminals, these breakers of the law
But when I raised my blade, to cut and hew
They sliced my knees with blades as sharp as claw. I ask aloud: why lie I broken here?
Doth justice lie as I, struck down like deer?

– Zach Kronisch

Hunter and Hunted

The Night was dark, no moon in sight. 
The hunt was on in the dim light.
But who was the hunter?
And who was the hunted?

Two animals lie, defeated.
Young cubs, lives taken too soon.
Slain by the fierce hunter.
A mother watches, helpless.
Too late to save them.

Revenge is near.

Growls in the bushes.
Rustling branches, then Silence
The mother stalks her prey, waiting.
Her moment to strike, soon.

Eyes meet, mother and hunter.
The mother attacks. Blood is spilled.
The hunter falls. 
Her revenge complete. 

Surrounded, the mother fights.
Nothing left, Overpowered.
She fights to the end, her spirit breaks.
She joins her cubs, Defeated.

The hunter has become the hunted.
Both mother and hunter are prey.

– Kelly Bitner

Aurelie

Dark-drowned, despairing, the child
Weeps alone, waiting for mother
To find her, to hold her close
And take her home. But home is far, 
Mother is gone, and monsters lurk
In every shadow. A sharp crack;
A breaking-sound, broken limbs
Remind the child of the roaming villains
That cruelly chased her through cold wood
And brought her here. Here, in these woods
Of Ravens-gate, the roaring of crickets
And strange moans of magical beasts
Drown out the calls of her captors, and those
Who would save her from this unholy night
And all its terrors. They thunder through the brush, 
Blurred shapes, bellowing her name
A charm to draw the child out,
But she dares not stir. She hears them draw near. 
Before her eyes, blinding lantern-light!
The strangers surround her, set upon her
With quick-fired questions. She clings to a man
Whose calloused hands clutch no blade
Whose soft words soothe her fears,
Whose arms, open against the dark,
Provide her refuge from the perils of the night.
She follows him, her friend and savior,
Till they leave the forest, free of grasping-boughs.
A noise from behind; nameless things
Snarl and squeal, swords cut
At the shadows, slicing flesh;
She screams. Strange hands, 
Not her friend’s, fly her
Away from the carnage, carry her
Up, to safety, to the Silver Raven.
But it is not until he returns, unharmed,
That she truly knows, with no trace of doubt,
That the night’s ordeal is over, at last. 

– Zach Kronisch

The Walkers of the Water

Beware the bridge where thieves and liars lay their traps:
The water there knows nothing but deceit.
 
Smoky forms rise in shrouds of steam,
Blank faces and ethereal limbs gliding
Like shadows of another plane, silent and unseeing,
Blurs against the trees and nothing more.
 
But be not fooled.
 
Run. Run away and don’t look back,
Lest the glistening ghouls ensnare you,
Rising up on high with the terror of demons—
Or wrapping you in the drowse of water’s cold embrace
And whispering betrayals in your dreams.
 
Clear as crystal gems the water may be,
Or glassy as the mirror that shows you truly who you are.
But water never shows without distortion;
It twists and stretches forms, and hides its depths.
When it cloaks itself in borrowed human forms,
Beware. For the peril then is greatest:
It is without, and within.
 
Be not deceived.
Beware the stream.

– Emily E