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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Ian Chisholm26/Male/United States Group :icongrammarnazicritiques: GrammarNaziCritiques
Truth can be harsher in a Crit
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Fields of apple trees stretch in every direction. The sky is dull and gray with clouds, with the sun well past its midpoint. The whole world looks dirty and cold.

Teal walks along the road. The upper section of her armor is removed and she carries Tress against her chest. The child is still asleep, a Stim Patch stuck to her forehead. The flowers in her hair have turned orange.

Walking behind Teal, Rolf mixes potions on his floating table. His eyes are on Teal. He glances back once at Zarah behind him. The half-human holds her Cleaver up against her shoulder. Scarfenstein is balanced atop her head, spread wide to shade her eyes.

Zarah grunts and asks, “Are we there yet?”

Rolf's walking turns stiff as he moves out from between the two women. One of his flasks begins to bubble and froth, and he returns his attention to the potion making.

Teal shakes her head. “Karth will be several hours of travel. The sun will be low in the sky when we arrive.” She raises a hand from Tress' shoulder to point at the horizon. “You will see it reflecting off Peaceful Lake.

The half-human groans. She looks to Rolf. “Hey, alchemist. Amuse me. Make something blow up.”

He pours the frothing liquid into a white jar and caps it. “That would be counter to my desire to mix useful potions.” Smiling back at her, Rolf suggests, “Perhaps we could tell stories to pass the time.”

She grins. “Sure! Here's a story. Once I had to kill this guy, but he had three shape-shifters working for him as body-doubles. Long story short, I had to kill the shape-shifters before I could kill him.” She points to Rolf with her Cleaver. “Is it your turn?”

Rolf's hands are pale as he puts his potion kit away in a drawer of the floating table. “Oh, I thought I would have more time to think of one. Allow me to confer with Miss Teal.”

He walks faster to catch up with Teal. His voice is a whisper, “I don't think that woman is joking about being a killer for hire.”

“I am aware of that, Rolf.” Teal presses Tress closer to her chest and sighs. “Zarah is an assassin. She is under the employ of the Count”

Rolf stares. “If ye knew … how long have ye known? Why have ye not arrested her?”

“Oh don't think she hasn't tried.” Rolf jumps as Zarah speaks from beside his shoulder. The half-human laughs as the shape-shifter scurries around to Teal's other side. “We've had our clashes, and she's tried to stop me. But I'm faster, and official as fuck.”

Zarah vanishes, and reappears standing beside Rolf. Her arm drops down around his shoulder. “Hey, shape-shifter. Amuse me.” She smiles and shows him a spectral knife in her hand. “Run.”

His form writhes and melts away as his insectoid body appears. Standing still, he stares at Zarah.

Teal shakes her head and continues walking. “Stop acting like a child.”

Zarah dismisses the knife. “I'm finished here anyway.” She follows Teal, whistling.

The all-but-naked shape-shifter stares at the ground, his faceted eyes twitching. The lower half of his white face cracks open, and a tongue emerges to lick his eyes. Rolf shakes his head and takes a step forward. “No.” He raises his arm and points at Zarah. “Ye are not finished here.”

Zarah turns back, smiling as she lifts her Cleaver. “I'm not?”

“If ye wish to kill me, I doubt I can stop ye. But I expect ye would have done so already if ye wanted to. Ye do not appear to be the type to hold yerself back.” Rolf's hand is shaking as he lowers it. “Thus, all ye wished for was to scare me.”

“Uh, yeah.” Zarah shrugs and plants her Cleaver in the dirt. “So?”

Rolf nods. “Apologize.”

Zarah stares at him, her mouth stuck open in a half-smile. Teal stops and turns around to watch the two, hefting Tress higher.

“It is a simple request.” Rolf crosses his arms and tilts his head to the side. “Actually, no. It is not a request. I demand ye apologize.”

Zarah snorts. She pulls her Cleaver up out of the ground and laughs. “You'd have lived longer only requesting it, shape-shifter. No one tells me what to do without a fight.” Scarfenstein coils down from her head to drape itself over her free arm. Zarah takes a breath and tightens her grip on the Cleaver.

Teal steps back and holds Tress closer. “Rolf, this is unnecessary.” She sighs. “I won't bother saying you shouldn't do this. That's obvious. But what do you want her to apologize for?”

“For threatening me, Miss Teal.” Rolf undoes the clasps on his large backpack and stoops to lay it on the ground, without looking away from the waiting Zarah. “Even if she did not plan to follow through.” The potion box floats away from his side and rests atop his backpack. “Especially because she did not plan to follow through.” He glances at Teal. “If a fight is what it takes, I will risk my life.”

The shape-shifter stands tall and flexes his many-jointed fingers. He remains unarmed, and his mandibles begin to twitch. The half-human in front of him moves her foot forwards a hair and licks her lips. Teal takes another step away from the two.

Zarah dashes forward, her Cleaver held straight like a rapier. The tip is aimed for Rolf's heart. He grunts and waves a hand in front of himself, and a rift forms. Zarah's sword plunges through the rift, but she stops. Another rift is open in front of her face. The point of her sword is against her forehead.

Rolf nods. “I could have positioned the exit rift closer to yer head. Remember that.”

Zarah frowns and pulls her Cleaver out of Rolf's rift. Her other hand snaps forward, throwing Scarfenstein like a flat disc. The red fabric wraps around Rolf's head.

He starts to reach up for Scarfenstein, but instead his head balloons outward to twice its size. A flat, stretched version of his normal human face forms on his white chest and Rolf speaks. “Yer familiar will get no sustenance from my carapace. Now, how shall I defeat ye.” His fingers twist and contort at his sides, drawing designs that leave colored lines in the air.

Zarah grunts and brings her Cleaver down to her side. She breaks into a run that takes her half a circle around Rolf. “You talk too much.” With a sudden turn, she darts for him. But her foot slips on a patch of slick ground behind him and she collides face-first with his back side. A crackling lightning field appears around Rolf's body and Zarah is flung backwards.

“Ye think too little.” Rolf's hand stops waving and he reaches through another rift. His pointer finger glows plum purple and taps Zarah on the shoulder as the half-human regains her footing. “Of course I would protect my back from an assassin.” Rolf becomes covered by a cherry red aura as he turns to face Zarah, who is now covered by a purple aura.

She swings her Cleaver at Rolf, but her aura burns brighter and her movements are sluggish. Despite slashing Rolf's front several times, the electric field bounces her slowed attacks back.

On one swing, Rolf reaches out and touches her Cleaver, his finger now glowing yellow. The red aura around his body burns bright as his hand smacks the Cleaver a second time. A yellow burst throws the large weapon from Zarah's hand, where it sticks in the ground some ten or fifteen helms away.

Rolf nods. “Ye are now defenseless. Do ye concede?”

“I don't!” Zarah runs toward her sword. “Whatever you said.”

The shape-shifter smiles and holds out his hand. The Cleaver wavers a little, but doesn't move until Zarah reaches it and yanks the sword free of the ground. Rolf frowns. “Yer sword is not enspelled for weightlessness? Yet ye lift is so easily.”

Turning around, Zarah runs at him and pulls her sword back for a slash. Facing her, Rolf brings his hands together. His normal slight glow, almost invisible in the daytime, disappears. An orb of blinding light appears between his hands, and grows to engulf him and the half-human. Teal shades her eyes with a hand.

The Cleaver thuds to the ground as the light subsides. Scarfenstein is back on Zarah's head, and she is sitting in a small, throne-shaped chair. The half-human struggles and shakes, trying to move, but she is strapped down in multiple places.

Rolf's human face appears on the back of the chair, and he smirks. “Yet ye do not have monstrous strength as I feared. Ye are truly a mystery.”

Zarah scowls and pulls against her bindings. Then she smiles. “Is this how you get off? Forcing women to sit on you?”

The shape-shifter laughs. “If it was Miss Teal in yer position, I might find some way to enjoy myself. But I have no interest in yer skinny ass.”

The throne ejects Zarah with a popping of the bindings, and she stumbles away. The half-human takes a breath and brushes herself off. Meanwhile the throne behind her grows taller and shifts to become Rolf's normal human form. He glances down to the Cleaver at his feet, and then at Zarah.

“Apologize for earlier, please.”

Zarah sighs. She stares up at the sky. “I'm sorry. I was bored and acting like a bitch because I thought you were weaker than me. Okay?”

Rolf chuckles. “Yer apology is accepted. But I still doubt I could stop ye, if ye really wanted to kill me. I truly am weaker than ye.”

Teal steps forward and shakes her head. “You fought well, Rolf. She was not going easy on you.”

“That's right!” Zarah turns and stomps her foot. “I don't go easy on anyone!”

The shape-shifter shrugs. “It required every trick I know just to stay alive. Using my crossbow against ye would have been my downfall. I did not have any battle-specific potions ready to aid me. My Stim Patches cannot save me from the mortal wounds yer sword would give. Presumably ye fought battles in Goldenburg that sapped your resources, while I avoided fighting until I joined ye two.”

He inclines his head to Zarah. “More to the point though, I doubt an assassin would have qualms against slitting my throat while I sleep. That is what I meant. I will have to trust ye, since Miss Teal does so as well.” He glances from Zarah to Teal. “Correct?”

Both women only stare at him. Scarfenstein ripples atop Zarah's head, waving in a soft breeze.

Teal lifts Tress higher against her chest and turns around. “Come on. The faster we arrive in Karth, the sooner we can book passage to Riverside.” She walks off down the road.

Zarah walks up to Rolf and crouches down to pick up her Cleaver. “I'm not really the type to slit throats.” Leaning the sword against her shoulder, she nods at Rolf. “But you're smart to believe I'll kill you if I feel like it.” The half-human follows Teal.

Rolf tilts his head to the side and frowns. He picks up his backpack and jogs after the two.
High War - Chapter 17.1

Fight scene to start the chapter! Zarah and Rolf are alike in some interesting ways, so I guess it was only a matter of time until they fought over some small issue like this. Both are a little messed up emotionally (oh wait, that's all my characters) and both have an ego and a pride that can cause them to act out. Both will say inappropriate things at the best and worst times (which ended up working quite nicely here) and both are struggling with that whole “Grow up? Nah” issue. They are both powerful and slowly growing more so, but haven't achieved their maximum potential because they are afraid of the responsibilities that come with being powerful. Teal makes for an interesting comparison here; she always strives to do and be her best, because she heaps responsibilities upon herself. Zarah and Rolf needed a threat like the Phoenix Army to start growing into their full potential, while all Teal needed was for someone to help her with the things she didn't yet know. People still dealing with their pride and fear require opposition, while those who have their pride and fear under control instead need a guiding hand.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language, and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.


Next: soon ...

The large room's floor is broken up into puzzle-piece sections, each at a different height from the others. Ladders and knotted ropes and steep stairs connect the various sections, so that even moving from the front door to the Pokedollar register requires clambering up several floors. The walls are covered in ropes and harnesses, and the merchandise racks throughout the store hold gloves, lightweight clothing, and shoe boxes.

Behind the counter near the middle of the store stands a man with long, lean arms. His hair is braided like knotted rope, and a pair of headphones are nestled among the strands. Bobbing his head at a medium tempo and watching a computer screen, he waits for customers.

Zack opens the door. He stands there, gaping at the room, until Cid pushes him aside to walk past. She is followed by Lana and Hiero, who both make the same expression Zack did. Rae closes the door behind them and smiles, her eyes searching the ceiling.

The man behind the counter looks away from his computer and grins. “Yo, bros and broskis! Welcome!” Cid lifts her hood and the man blinks. “Cid! How's my favorite broski? I heard you left town.”

She sighs. “I'm only staying for a little while. Demon Trainer Cid was beaten in glorious combat and must abide the demands of her nemesis.” She raises a fist and shouts, “But soon I will travel forth, and the wider world will know terror again!”

The man smacks the counter top and laughs. “A nemesis? Good for you, broski! And who are your friends?” He looks them over, and then points two fingers at Zack and Hiero. “Is one of those bros your nemesis? Tough luck for them!”

Cid sneers. “Demon Trainer Cid will pretend you did not make that crude insinuation.”

“I guess the nemesis would be me.” Rae waves her hand in the air and jumps. “Hi!”

The man behind the counter blinks and taps his headphones. He tilts his head to the side and smiles at Rae, his eyes narrowing. “Broski?” Then he shrugs and grins. “It's a tall world out there I guess.”

“Sooooo awesome!” Zack shouts, and everyone turns to stare at him. “This. Is. The coolest store!” He runs to the nearest ladder, climbs up, jumps to a platform nearby, grabs a rope hanging from a higher section, and shimmies down. “You actually sell things here?” Zack rummages through a rack of gloves. “This isn't just an indoor amusement park?” He lifts up a t-shirt to read the label, then glances at the man behind the counter. “Do I need to pay you to spend time here?”

Lana snorts and covers her mouth, chortling as she leans against Hiero, who sighs and covers his eyes. They remain near the door, as Rae walks over to begin examining the ropes along the wall. Cid starts climbing toward the counter where the man is standing, who smiles at Zack.

“Thanks, bro! Be careful, but enjoy yourself!” He waves a hand at the racks. “And if you want to pay, buy something, bro! I just got this sweet new line of Trainer threads. Zero pressure though.”

Zack looks at the t-shirt's price tag, then pulls out his Pokedollars card and reads the balance. He winces. “Oh wow, sorry but I have to pay for food and stuff. When I'm famous, I promise to come back and buy one of everything and promote them on TV. My big brother did that once.”

The man nods. “Zero pressure, bro.”

On reaching the counter, Cid points at everyone in turn. “That's Hiero and Lana, you can ignore them. Over there is Demon Trainer Cid's only worthy rival, known as World Savior Regola. And the loud one is Zack. They wish to receive climbing certifications and your free starter set of climbing gear.”

Cid turns around. She gestures to the man behind the counter, while speaking to everyone else. “This is Mountain Climber Kegger. When approaching, I suggest bowing at least once. Demon Trainer Cid demands you treat him with respect.”

Kegger reaches over the counter to tap Cid on the head. “They don't have to bow, broski! But thanks for the up-sell.”

Cid crouches down below his reach and glares at the floor. Her hands reach up to straighten her hair as she Krabby-walks away.

The Mountain Climber grins. He calls out to Hiero and Lana, “Bro, and broski! Come on up!”

Lana glares and shakes a fist at him. “I'm not your broski!”

Hiero bites his lip and glances around. “Wouldn't some people have a problem getting around in this store? I don't think this store is wheelchair accessible.”

Kegger chuckles and gives a small shrug. “I guess it isn't.” He places his hands on the counter and vaults over. Bounding down the slope between the counter and the front door, he lands in front of Lana and Hiero with a smile. “But I get to stay in shape just moving around in my store. And isn't it more fun this way?”

“Sooooo fun!” shouts Zack. He climbs up a set of steep stairs to a higher platform and a display of icepicks. “I've never been to a store where I could break a sweat.”

Kegger nods. “Exactly, bro!”

The Mountain Climber crosses his arms and throws back his head to laugh. Lana turns her head and harrumphs. Looking at her for a moment, Hiero walks forward and climbs to a platform with specialty Acorn balls.

Rae tugs on a rope attached to the wall above. The rope pulls taut and the anchor creaks. “So the only people who can shop here are those who can climb.” She turns around and smiles up at Kegger. “Not very kind, but practical for a store that sells climbing gear.”

Cid stands and places her hands on her hips. “Of course! You will not discover your foul kindness here, World Savior Regola, nor in any place of sinful commerce.” She throws her arms wide. “Mountain Climber Kegger is simply more honest than those other fools. He is the most honest man in this world!”

The Mountain Climber waves away the comment. “I'm not that honest, broski!”

Smiling, Rae walks closer to Kegger. He grins down at her, taking the headphones from his ears and placing them around his neck. Lana looks from one to the other, and takes a few steps away.

Cid pulls down the hood of her cloak and walks to the edge of her platform. “And now, World Savior Regola, evil has good outnumbered two to one. This was Demon Trainer Cid's plan all along.” She leaps from the platform in Rae's direction, shouting, “Today will be your end!”

Zack and Hiero look on wide-eyed from their platforms, and Lana presses herself back against the wall.

Rae smiles and holds out a hand to Kegger. “You remind me of my brother. Will you be my friend?”

The Mountain Climber laughs. He turns and catches Cid mid-flight in his long arms before she can plow into Rae, spins her around, and plants her safely on the ground. While Cid is still reeling, Kegger turns back and shakes Rae's hand.

“It'd be my pleasure, broski!” He glances at Cid and frowns. “And broski! Enjoy yourself, but be careful!”

Above them, Zack sits on the edge of his platform and nods. Hiero breathes out a soft sigh, and Lana steps away from the wall with a smirk.

Kegger claps his hands and grins. “Now then, bros and broskis! Did I hear you wanted climber certification?”

The entire back of the store, from floor to ceiling, is a climbing wall. Multicolored tags and handholds are thrown across the surface like abstract art, and a few ropes of various colors hang down from the ceiling. A small, metal platform waits near the top and to the right. A zipline stretches from above the platform to a stack of cushions near the front door.

Zack, Hiero and Lana wear harnesses over their clothes. Lana pulls at hers, grimacing, while Zack is stomping his feet and shaking his fists. Hiero stares up at the wall, blinking over and over.

Kegger glances over at Rae, standing away from the others along with Cid. “Are you sure you don't need certification, broski?”

Rae smiles. “Uh huh. But I'll tell my brother to come here. This is something he should do, as a Trainer.”

Cid crosses her arms and nods. “A World Savior does not need to climb walls. She will fly over them with her great strength.”

Rae stares at Cid, her eyes wide. “Fly?”

Cid shrugs. “An expression.”

The Mountain Climber laughs and turns back to the other three. “Now, call out a Pokemon you can carry on your back, bros and broski!”

“I'm not your broski!” Lana shakes a fist at him, then frowns. “Wait, why? Are we not climbing the wall ourselves?”

Zack and Hiero toss Pokeballs up in the air, and Slakoth and Chimchar appear. Zack slings Slakoth over his shoulder and the Normal-type clings to him like a backpack. After staring at Zack for a moment, Hiero holds out a hand to Chimchar. The Fire-type chatters something at him, “Char chi, chim har har,” but grabs his hand and climbs to his shoulder.

Kegger gestures to the boys. “You should never climb without a buddy. You may not have a hand free if you get attacked while climbing, so it's good sense to have a Pokemon ready.” He points up at the wall. “My wall doesn't have any Pokemon living in it, but I assume you'll be climbing in natural environments after this. Even the side of a cliff has wild Pokemon.”

Cid shouts, “Any Trainer who cannot carry their Pokemon on their back is weak!” She sends out Jigg-O, who hops atop her head and inflates. “Demon Trainer Cid could carry ten Pokemon atop her head!”

Rae giggles and shakes her head. “You would have to stop at six, I think.”

Lana looks down at her Pokeballs. After a moment she sends out Meditite and holds out a hand to it. “Brittney, up!” The Pokemon tilts its head to the side, but then nods and grabs hold. Lana places Brittney on her head, where the Meditite floats cross-legged.

Kegger nods and walks over to the wall, where he grabs three different colored ropes hanging from the ceiling. “Next, attach yourselves to the wall. You must be one with the wall to climb it.” He snaps the ropes to the harnesses of Zack and Hiero. When he tries to do the same for Lana, Brittney growls and snatches the rope from him. Kegger backs away and the Pokemon attaches the rope.

Walking back to the wall again, Kegger finds three ropes of the same colors. He picks out the rope matching Zack's and turns to him. “Okay, bro! Show me what you got!”

“Oooookay!” Zack runs at the wall and leaps on, Slakoth clinging to his back. His hands find the first few handholds and he reaches for the next one as fast as possible, as if trying to race up the wall.

Cid snorts and Rae grins. Kegger grunts and holds the rope with both hands, keeping the line above Zack taut.

About a few lengths up, Zack misses a handhold. He scrabbles against the wall, his upper body falling backward even as he tries to hold himself up with his feet. Kegger hauls on his end of the rope and Zack is pulled back up, but then swings away from the wall.

Zack throws his hands up in the air. “I'm flying!”

Kegger grins. “Until you hit the ground, bro!” He brings Zack down hand over hand and the boy belly-flops against the ground. “You won't always have safety ropes. Slow and steady wins the race, bro!”

Hiero shakes his head. “I do not think Zack knows the meaning of slow and steady, I have never seen him do anything with care.”

Zack stands up and laughs. “That's right, I'm going to be the fastest after all!”

“That's cool, bro!” Kegger grins and points back at the wall. “Now go be slow and steady as you practice. You have to be one with the wall. Once you get better at climbing, you will be moving as fast as you can go.”

Cid nods. “Mountain Climber Kegger can ascend any wall, at twice the speed as you will ever hope to accomplish. He has devoted his life to climbing. He truly deserves the title Climber of Mountains.”

Zack's mouth opens. He blinks and whispers, “Devoted his life?” Zack looks up at the wall. “I devote my life to being the fastest, and my Pokemon will be the fastest too.” He charges at the wall again and reaches for the first handhold. “I'll be slow and steady, as fast as possible!”

Kegger smiles wide and keeps the rope taut, but only with one hand this time. The others look up as Zack climbs the wall, moving his hands from each hold to the next as soon as he is secure, gripping each one tight before pulling himself up.

He is soon nearing the metal platform, and one hand reaches out to grab the metal side rail. “Safe!” He pulls himself up and in, and Slakoth pats him on the head. Zack jumps up and down, his arms in the air. “Oooooh yeah!” The others below all clap.

Kegger calls up to Zack, “I give that climb a B-plus, bro! You were a little wobbly, but you showed good effort.” He points to the zipline. “Now have your buddy attach you to the line and come back down. I need to see an A climb before I sign your climber certification card.” Kegger looks down and nods to Hiero. “You're up next, bro!”

The boy nods and walks over to the wall. Hiero's hand finds the first handhold, and he places a foot on another. Then he turns back to Kegger. “Like this? Is this correct?”

Kegger nods and gives Hiero a thumbs up, before taking a good hold on his rope. Above them, Zack shouts and jumps from the platform. He and Slakoth fly across the room on the zipline, Zack screaming and Slakoth crying big tears as the Pokemon clings to his neck. Hiero watches them land on the cushions, and then turns back to the wall.

“I will be like Zack. I will give this my best effort.” His other hand reaches for a hold above the other, and his foot pushes him up. But then Hiero's other hand loses its grip and he falls backwards, to hang against the safety line just above the floor. His eyes are closed and Hiero whimpers, “I cannot be like Zack. I do not have his athleticism.”

Lana leans over him. “You were not born the same as him, there are genetic and social walls between what you and he can do. But you can overcome them. I expect that from you, at least.”

Kegger smiles. “She's right, bro! Any wall can be climbed.” He pulls Hiero to his feet with the safety rope. “Now climb this wall!”

The boy stares up at the wall. “I don't think it's possible. There is no way I can climb this.” He sniffs and wipes at his eyes. “I am not an athlete. I am a Pokemon Trainer.”

Lana shrugs and back away. Cid snorts, and Rae stares at Hiero with a blank expression.

Kegger laughs. “Then don't climb the wall as an athlete, bro! Climb the wall as a Pokemon Trainer! Be one with your Pokemon, and with the wall!”

Chimchar grabs Hiero by the ear and points him at the wall. He is slow to move, until the Pokemon pulls him forward by the ear. Hiero reaches up and grabs a handhold, and then grabs the next as he brings his foot toward the wall.

As he pushes himself higher with his feet, Chimchar jumps to his back and hugs his neck. The Fire-type Pokemon's tail burns bright, the force of the flames pressing him against the wall. Handhold by handhold, Hiero makes his way up the wall at a Slakoth's pace, his arms and legs shaking. He stops several times to rest, allowing Chimchar to extinguish its tail for a moment and point out the next handhold to him.

Lana stares up at Hiero and chuckles. “Do the same for me, Brittany.” The Meditite nods.

Zack climbs down a ladder and joins the group watching Hiero climb. He cups his hands around his mouth and shouts, “That's so awesome, Hiero! Like, uh, like a Pokemon jet pack! Gooooo Hiero! You're climbing slow and steady like a champ!”

Kegger speaks to Lana, “You're up next.” He gestures for Cid and Rae to come closer, hands them Hiero's rope, and takes Lana's rope in both hands.

She approaches the wall and looks up. “Easy. I've climbed a few rocks in Bonif.”

Brittney turns to face away from the wall as Lana climbs the first few holds. The first time she misses a hold and starts to fall backward, the Meditite thrusts a palm against the air and Lana is pushed close to the wall. Lana ascends at almost twice the speed as Hiero but half that of Zack.

Hiero reaches the metal platform. With Chimchar helping him, he pulls himself atop the platform and raises a slow fist. “Woo.” Zack claps and cheers loud enough for three people.

“Nice climb, bro!” Kegger grins and shrugs. “I have to give you a C though. A few more attempts and you'll start to get the hang of it.”

Hiero sighs and nods, not standing from his spot on the platform. Chimchar unhooks the safety rope from his harness and sits on his shoulder. The Pokemon wags a finger at him and mutters, “Chi har chi!”

Stepping on to the platform, Lana walks over Hiero as Brittney unhooks her. “Only once isn't enough, Hiero. Neither is twice, or thrice.”

“That was a solid A-minus climb,” Kegger calls up to her. “Meet me at the front desk for your certification.”

Brittany attaches her to the zip line. Lana grabs the rope with a final comment for Hiero, “You will do it over and over, until there is no difficulty performing the task.”

He nods. “Yes, Lana.”
Pokemon: the Game - Chapter 22

Why in the world did I think this chapter would be half the length that it is? My original plan was something like: a page to meet Kegger, a page or two to practice climbing, and no more than three pages as they get their starter gear and head for the canyons. The key moment of the chapter was going to be that starter gear, and now it has to go in the next chapter. I thought these chapters without Clay would be two or so, but now it's looking like four or more! Poor Clay. We'll have to check up on him between the climbing adventure and the Pokémon Tower adventure. Oh, and does anyone see the reference in Kegger's name? It'll be more clear next time, with the starter gear.

This is part of my Risen Saga, a Pokémon story with blood and violence and occasionally even death. There may at some point be nudity, sexual themes, strong language and material that is almost certainly ideologically sensitive ... but I rarely put up the mature content filter because I don't want to restrict anyone from reading this story. If you feel strongly that I should for a specific piece, please say so, I would appreciate that! Oh, and if you go here you can check out a map I made of the Leogre Region, complete with routes and location information. Pokémon belongs to the Pokémon people and not to me; thank goodness, I'd probably do this to it.


Next … soon

As I open the front door of the dorms, I find myself wishing I had a thicker coat. It’s cold out here, and foggy, and still very dark. In roughly ten minutes, I’ll be in a warm room at work; but right now I have a shivering early-morning walk ahead of me. I work as the morning janitors’ assistant, or Student Janitorial Aid as the school says. That means I wake up every morning at four am, and at five I'm buckling on a backpack vacuum. During the first half of that hour between I pry myself out of bed, get dressed, and brush my teeth. I move slow at four am, I brush my teeth for almost 10 minutes, but that still leaves me with about twenty minutes every morning before I have to walk out the door. During that twenty minutes, I game.

At college I often have an hour long break (or more) between classes; too short to go back to my dorm and my laptop, too long to wait idly. Reading a textbook for the next class could sometimes fill that time, but not always. And I despise having nothing to do. It’s time being wasted, time that I’ll never get back. All during high school I read to spend that hated time, such as on bus rides or during Free Study Periods. Every week I stopped by the town library and picked up a few books. But here at college I would have to walk into town to find a library with a good fiction selection, which I was not prepared to do. So, I game.

When I talk about gaming, usually it involves my trusty Gameboy Advance SP, with its Cool Cobalt color, flip-open design, rechargeable batteries, and back-lit screen. My game collection includes: Chessmaster, an old Tetris cartridge with a dead memory, a couple esoteric RPGs (Role-Playing Games), most of the Pokemon games older than five years, a bundle-pack of two Castlevania games, an old Mario game, and almost every Legend of Zelda for the Gameboy Advance. By the end of my first year of college, I had played through every one of them to boredom. I needed something new to game on.

In my second year, I took a bus into town and bought myself three used games at a local store: Megaman Battle Network 3, 4, and 5. I had played the first of the series some years back, and remembered liking the battle system, how it gave me very fine control of my avatar’s actions, always a plus when you have quick gaming fingers. And the customization in the game was top-notch, with hundreds of different ways to play. That system was as much fun as I remembered, and some of the advancements to it in the later games in the series are brilliantly effective.

Number 3 took me all the way to the end of my second year (remember, twenty minutes every morning) and number 5 has been keeping me busy this year. There was a brief intermission between the two in which I played partway through number 4, only for the internal memory battery to fail and all my progress to be lost. I turned it on one morning, and my saved game was gone. I turned it off, back on again, same result. Turn off, take cartridge out, blow into it (not that this technique is even supposed to do anything), turn back on. Nothing. Just like that, days and weeks of time was gone, lost to the void. That experience chafed like I had fallen off a horse and been dragged along for a few miles. But, all in all, the purchase of those three games has been well worth it. My gaming continued.

But back to the present. When I open the door to the freezing outdoors at ten minutes before five on a Tuesday morning, I feel oddly happy; joyous, maybe even exuberant. No reason really, at least no good reason some might say. It’s cold, early in the morning, I’m headed to work, its way too early in the morning, and it’s excruciatingly cold. Yet I’m happy. I’m raring to go. I’m going to get so much done today. Why? Then I realize: because I just had a good gaming session.

In the twenty minutes between leaving my room and heading out the front door of my dorm, I have just had a very enjoyable bit of gaming while relaxing in the big poofy chair near that front door. I defeated a boss character, kept my own guy nice and healthy, wiped a bunch of the smaller enemies, and I even got some cool enhancement parts. Imagine driving down the freeway, jumping over a slowly opening bridge, then avoiding the cops who are after you for reckless driving, and finally getting a free set of tires; it’s a little like that. I don’t know whether it was luck or skill that made this session so satisfactory, but I do know that the euphoric mood will stay with me for the rest of the day. And all because I game.

But then I realize something else, walking down the steps. It’s a little weird that a game made me feel this good. Why should this game, which can go well or badly or even fail catastrophically due to happenstance beyond my control, make me feel so happy? More importantly, why should it make me feel ready to face the day? If I had done badly, if my luck had been rotten, then I would now feel the opposite. I would be miserable, angry, the same way I felt when the internal battery of number 4 completely failed on me, like my time had just been utterly squandered. Why should gaming determine my mood for the day ahead?

Sure, it could rain and I would have another reason to be a little miffed, but at least then my attitude would be due to something totally beyond my control. I could shrug it off and remember that it was just a completely indiscriminate occurrence. Gaming is not some chance occurrence. It was something I chose, possibly in the hopes that gaming would lead me to experience positive emotions like I felt today. I chose to game.

I suddenly understand that Zen idea, how we shouldn’t attach our mental well-being to material objects, that inner peace is more important than outer happiness. I can understand now why we should let go, detach ourselves from the material world. The physical world is so chaotic, so unknown. Number 3 was awesome and number 4 broke, there was no way to tell before-hand that either would be the case. Number 3 put me in high spirits and I “rode the wave” for several days, and then number 4 made me glum. Why can’t I be happy or sad for reasons other than such happenstance situations? Why can’t I just be happy for the non-random occurrences in my life? Why should my gaming hurt me?

From the bottom of the steps there's a path to work, which takes me up a long hill. Along the way, I start to see things from the other direction. Maybe it’s important to have these feelings, so that we know what to do with the real thing in the future. After playing number 3 and gaining a lot of joy from beating it, I took a while to cherish that feeling. I held on to it. And really, the purpose of the game is to be beaten; even if I have a bad day or two, I will almost certainly reach that final boss of the game someday. And as for number 4, sure I felt bad momentarily, but then I got over it. I dealt with that anger, I moved on, straight to number 5. I gamed onwards.

And really, what are those “non-random occurrences” that I was just talking about? Should I be proud of walking forward? That’s pretty non-random: I decide to walk forward, and then I do so. I’ve never felt joy from being able to walk forwards, certainly not like the pleasure of gaming. Maybe I could be instantly stricken with a disease that causes me to fall over instead, or walk sideways like a crab. In fact, let's pretend that I was stricken with a disease that caused me to crab-walk whenever I intended to walk forward. And if one day I finally managed to beat the disease and walk forward against all odds, I would be pretty happy. Something good happened, and I would get all the pleasure that I could out of that. And what if non-random occurrences can’t make me happy? Should I give up on them, just to avoid being sad? I wouldn't give up on gaming just to avoid that.

Now that I think about it, almost at my destination, how bad do I really feel about number 4 flaking out on me? Yeah, it sucked, but on the other hand I still enjoyed the time before it died. While I was playing it, it was a pretty good game. What’s more important, the journey through the game or getting to the ending? Seeing as my favorite part of the series is the battle system, I would have to say playing through the game. And after it failed I felt bad about that, but I also understood it was a risk going into buying the game used. Gaming holds that risk.

So here I am, Tuesday morning, standing outside of work. I’ve been thinking about this the whole way. And I realize, “My life is a lot like that game.” Okay, I don’t spend my day fighting evil robots, searching for new weapons, saving the world. But sometimes things go my way, and oftentimes they don’t. Sometimes the rooms I vacuum are simple, uncluttered, set on easy difficulty you might say. Or perhaps the rooms are large and have a lot of chairs. At times the sun is shining when I walk between classes and sometimes it’s dark, cold, and raining. I’ll be happy about the former, I’ll deal with the latter. Most importantly, I keep walking forward, because … well, because I have to. It’s walking forward that gives me happiness, or more precisely the new situations to deal with. And walking forward, with all it entails, is still better than not experiencing that happiness at all. Gaming is better than not.

In my old Mario game, Mario is always walking forward. He can’t turn around, he can’t return to where he was to get something he missed. Every boss he faces, he does so head on, always looking forward. Running through the level, sometimes I can just skip an enemy, jump over them, keep on walking forward. For me, the past exists; I can remember it, I can learn from it, I beat it already. But for Mario, that past is invisible. I cannot see what’s going on at a certain distance behind him. And maybe that’s okay for us, too; maybe we should stop looking at the past. Learn from it definitely, allow the good things to buoy us and ride that wave, but also stop letting the bad things hurt us. We should always be walking forward, gaming forward.
Me - Walking Forward
More old, embarrassing stuff! Can you understand this old essay I did for a random writing class? Because I can't understand some of it, and I wrote it. That is what you call old and embarrassing writing. But yeah, basically it recounts the odd line of thinking my brain took one early morning on my way to work. I guess back then I couldn't tell how nonsensical some of this piece is. I still agree with the final thought though. The past is the past, we should learn and feel good from it, but ignore the past when it tries to hinder us or make us feel crappy. We should always walk forward.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore)
Joyous faces the MEK in the stone hallway. Small giggles escape the gray-skinned teen as he takes the war pickaxe in both hands. The handle extends to become longer than he is tall, and a small twist forms for his right hand to grasp, as the blades lengthen and grow thinner. With a war scythe held ready, Joyous grins at his foe.

The four-legged MEK turns to him, its legs clicking against the floor with each step. The legs stoop lower to the ground as its translucent upper shell grows. Swirls appear in the growing top half and form holes, allowing chain-tentacles to emerge link by rustling link. They wave around, extending in every direction. The ends of some are sheathed in different types of elemental magics: rippling fire, crackling ice, hissing lightning, drippy purple slime, and more.

Inside the bulbous membrane another white orb joins the first, floating up from below to join its partner. They stare down at Joyous, moving in concert and tracking him. The two MEKs have fused together, one astride the other as rider and mount.

The combined creature takes a step forward, and steam issues from its leg joints. The fused MEK's tentacles swirl above and around its body, as its two eyes consider Joyous. He stares right back, taking a step forward as well. Joyous chuckles, stamps his feet, and waves his scythe back and forth in front of himself.

Joyous and the MEK pause when a loud thud comes from down the hall. The sound is followed by a muffled boom, a drawn-out screeching, and then a thunderous crash. Joyous and the MEK back away from each other and half-turn to face the noises.

The Drunk emerges from the far doorway, trailing steel chains and covered in a fine powder. His eyes are squinted shut, and his arms are flailing and outstretched. His foot kicks a stone the size of a Small Folk left from the ceiling's collapse, and it flies across the room to pass between Joyous and the fused MEK. The boulder crashes against the metal door and collapses the wall around.

“Sorry!” The Drunk wipes dust from his eyes and blinks several times. His eyes remain watery and unfocused. “Didn't mean ta hit that. Everyone safe an whole?” He sneezes, and much of the stone dust falls from him.

Wiping at his eyes again, he takes a good look down the hall. He smiles to see Joyous. His fists clench at the fused MEK towering above Joyous. Then he spots the scythe in Joyous' hands and his mouth opens. “Boy, what have ya got there?”

The MEK's feet clatter against the stone floor as it bolts away from Joyous, toward the Drunk. The boy snickers and leaps after the running MEK, his scythe raised to slash down its back, but one of the rear tentacles drops down to grab his arm from above. More tentacles follow, and they wrap around Joyous' midsection to hold him up in the air.

Standing his ground with both hands behind his back, the Drunk considers the thing running at him. He sidesteps its first slashing leg-blade, and twists under the next horizontal slice. When a thick arm of tentacles tries to slam against him he raises his palm to meet the blow. His hand rebuffs them, and the arm of tentacles separates into its component parts accompanied by a quick series of popping noises.

The Drunk grunts. “Ya may be a big beastie, but ya can nay underestimate me.”

He grabs one of the MEK's front leg-blades and lifts, flipping the creature on to its back. The MEK's tentacles flail in a sudden fury, but manage to support the upper body as its legs kick and twitch against the air. Joyous is thrown by the tentacles holding him, and he rolls to a crouch.

The Drunk is standing on the ceiling above the fused MEK, but only for a moment. He launches himself at the creature's exposed underside, brings an elbow forward, and supports that arm with his other as he tucks his chin against his chest, making an arrow of his body.

There is a sharp plink sound on impact, like a pebble striking steel armor. The tentacles all fail and the upper body smashes against the ground. Cracks appear in the floor and dust explodes outward in a ring. The Drunk is tossed away with his face set in a frown. He twirls around in the air and lands on the toe of one foot in front of Joyous.

The gray-skinned teen is leaning against his scythe and greets the Drunk with his eyes wide. “That was amazing! I really thought you had it there, but then nope! But you were really cool anyway, Mister.” Joyous' eyes flash and he gasps, “What? You're my Second Father? Wow wow wow!”

The Drunk's eyebrows raise. “Boy? Are ya feeling ill?”

Joyous laughs. “No, Second Father. I feel great!” His eyes flash and he nods. “If you say so, Twin Brother.” He smiles at the Drunk, “My name is Joyous, Second Father. I'm Sorrow's twin brother. It's so awesome to meet you, Second Father!”

The Drunk considers him, and then pats Joyous on the head. “Right, boy. That's a good boy.” He turns around to face the MEK, which is using its tentacles to roll over and right itself. In a whisper to himself, “The boy's gone mad.”

Back on its four feet again, the fused MEK wobbles a little. Its eyes focus on the Drunk, and its metal jaws open and close with a rumbling growl. The MEK's legs stomp against the ground, as its energy-covered tentacles all curve to point in the Drunk's direction and the others pull back away.

“Boy, stand back a bit.” The Drunk gestures for Joyous to leave. “This may get ugly.”

“No, Father!” Joyous stands straight and grips his scythe. “I wish to laugh and have fun with you as we defeat this monster!” His eyes flash and he nods. “And Twin Brother Sorrow agrees. Let us help you, Second Father!”

Before the Drunk can reply, a tentacle sheathed in flame flares up and spits a ball of orange fire at him. The Drunk and Sorrow dodge to the side, but then another energy tentacle flares, spitting an orb of lightning. More tentacles flare, firing globs of purple acid, shards of blue ice, and many more. The Drunk picks Joyous up and holds him under one arm. He dashes away from the magical barrage for the exit.

Joyous laughs as they run through the doorway. He screams, “This is going to be the most fun I've ever had!”

In the round cave, the Count and several of the city's larger citizens are attacking one of the three large crates with crowbars, hammers, and knives. The rest of the citizens are lined up in front of the other two, which have already been breached. Palace butlers and city guards form lines going in to both, and move the contents of each out hand to hand. Sudo is distributing bundles of clothes, traveling cloaks, and boots from the first, while the Master of the Forge gives out trail rations and water canteens at the other. Orbs of light hang suspended in the air above the operation.

To the side, men and women in white and black robes wait for anyone who wishes to approach them. Many of the citizens do; the priests and priestesses in white give private counsel or warm hugs as needed, while those in black hold a bony hand over their foreheads and speak with their eyes closed. Klax stands with the white robed group, passing his hand over people to find internal injuries. Bell stands behind him, her arms crossed in the sleeves of a new concealing gray robe around her.

A shout goes up from the third crate. The Count and his crew run away as the side creaks, groans, and falls to the ground with a clatter. The third crate is full to the brim with weapons. Racks of hand-crank crossbows line the inner sides, and the rest of the giant crate is split into four sections: quivers of bolts stacked in one, gleaming swords in another, long spears in the third, and wooden maces in the fourth. A thin staircase inside gives access to each section.

The citizens cheer, and hurry to form a third line. At the Count's call, butlers and guards break away from the other two crates to help the distribution process.

Everything comes to a slow halt as the Drunk charges out of the dark Gauntlet, Joyous still under his arm. The Drunk shouts, “Run, lads and lassies! Get! Hide! Scamper!” His voice is small in the large cave. Still running, he cups one hand to his mouth and shouts, “It's coming!”

The crowds turn to the Count, who smiles and calls out, “What is? A trap guardian?”

The Gauntlet's archway explodes behind the Drunk when the fused MEK stands to its full height before entering the cave. Its tentacles emerge from their holes and swirl through the air, and those with energy start firing in every direction. The metal jaws open, and a whine of steel scraping against steel is heard like a hunting cry. Its blade-feet find purchase in the softer, natural rock floor. The creature surges forward after the Drunk, heading straight for the crowded citizens.

His voice-amplification wand is held to his mouth as the Count commands, “Please do as he says! Find cover against the walls!” Everyone jumps into action.

A piercing whistle comes from Sudo, and the castle butlers run from wherever they were working and kneel before him in four lines. He taps his wooden leg against the ground and nods. His commands are curt, “C-class, citizens. B-class, the Count. A-class, attack. Set!”

The first line of butlers pull out silverware knives and leap straight up, vanishing. The second and third lines draw silverware spoons and forks; the second line runs to surround the Count, while the third line spreads out in front of the retreating crowds. The fourth line looks up at Sudo, but he only taps his foot again and disappears. Several of the remaining butlers sigh, and they all run to join the citizens.

The city guards and castle smiths look to each other. Some shrug and start to follow the citizens. Then the Master of the Forge speaks up from among them, “All right you miserable lot! Grab a weapon and prepare to attack!” The guards and smiths look to the MEK, which is now about halfway across the room. They look back to the Master of the Forge, who sighs and nods.

“Okay, fair enough. I'll go first, so watch me and see how I fare before jumping in yourselves.” They all cheer and run for the weapons crate.

Over among the priests, the oldest man in white strokes his long, white beard and speaks up, “Anyone who can use Light's beam, surround me and channel into mine. Everyone else will conserve their energy for healing.”

He closes one eye and raises his palm to the ceiling. Above, a bubble of hard light forms. Many of the white-robed priests and priestesses step back and bow their heads, while the rest raise their hands toward the bubble and join him in chanting together.

“Light, we birth your first blessing in this dark place. We feed and we focus your power to banish the darkness. Grant us your first blessing as a beam!”

The gaunt old priest in black cackles and grabs his shovel. “Diggers!” He points to the MEK, his bony finger wavering. “Bury it!” Behind him, the frail priests in black all pull out small hand shovels and spades and trowels. They scoop into the ground and join their leader in throwing the stone at the fused MEK.

The Drunk leaps forward and crosses the remaining distance to land near the Count. He places Joyous on the ground and wags a finger at him. “Boy, no complaints now. I want ya ta help as ya can, but leave the beastie ta me.” Joyous' eyes flash and he nods with a big smile. The Drunk's bushy eyebrow raises but he turns back to face the fused MEK. “Good lad.”

Screeching, the MEK brings its energy tentacles forward. They flare, pointing at the backs of the running crowds. But then the Drunk appears before it, hurtling through the air between the tentacles, his fist pulled back. He grunts and strikes it between the eyes. The MEK's blade-feet try to keep going as the top half is thrown back, causing the large creature's feet to fly out from under it and the whole creature to spin in the air. Its tentacles pierce outwards, stabbing the ceiling and floor and holding the whirling creature in place.

Silverware knives streak from the shadows of the ceiling to strike the MEK. A large beam of harsh, bright light spears the creature's top half, burning through any tentacle hit, as rocks and stones strike its sides in a rain of blows. Crossbow bolts come next from the castle smiths and city guards, some hitting their mark and others landing off target. The Master of the Forge, the red scales covering his body, flies in on flame wings and swings a hammer made of fire against the fused MEK.

One tentacle lashes out and wraps around the Master of the Forge. He flaps his wings to escape but its grasp remains tight. Another tentacle reaches for the Drunk, but he smacks it away with the palm of his hand as he floats to the ground. More tentacles stretch out and search the ceiling, plucking butlers from the shadows above like grapes from a vine. The MEK glares at them all, its eyes whole and unbroken, and puffs steam from its leg joints. It smashes everyone it has grabbed against the ground, with a sickening crack from each butler and a loud thud from the Master of the Forge.

“No!” The Drunk's eyes glow bright as he shouts, “Ya will not hurt them!”

Standing in front of the MEK, his eyes burning a molten gold, he strikes it under the jaw with a stiff uppercut. His punch leaves an indent and the MEK lurches backwards, cracks appearing across its lower body. It tightens its grasp on those it is holding as tiny fibers start sucking at them, and the cracks across its body disappear. The fused MEK begins stomping around, trying to pierce the wily Drunk with its blade-feet.

Joyous turns to the Count and laughs. “This isn't going well I guess! But we can help. Twin Brother said you are the Count and that we have a key for the black door. Can I unlock it now, please? Pretty please? Please please please.”

Watching the combat from within a circle of butlers, the Count nods. “Quickly, if you can.”

Looking across the room towards the black door, Joyous grins. “Fast is my middle name! Not really, that was a joke!” He laughs and pulls back his arm to throw his scythe. “Watch me go!”

He throws the scythe, but instead of leaving his fingers, the scythe pulls him along for the ride. He crouches atop the spinning weapon and flies across the room in a dark blur.

The gaunt leader of the black-robed priests turns to watch his flight, and gapes. “A Reaper of flesh?” He cackles and reaches down for another shovel-full of stone. “We die in interesting times.”

The scythe's blade sinks into the black door and Joyous steps off, grasping the scythe's handle again. With his other hand he reaches into a pocket and pulls out the crystalline key. “My first time turning a key! This is so exciting!”

More silverware knives and chunks of stone and crossbow bolts strike the MEK's side, but they either shatter or bounce off its hard shell. Another beam of light burns away more tentacles, but those grow back in an instant. The MEK starts firing energy blasts at its attackers, immolating or freezing or cooking or dissolving anyone it hits. It throws the bodies it its grasp away, along with the Master of the Forge, and starts to canter towards the crowd against the wall, behind the Count and the open crates.

The Drunk grabs the MEK by a blade-leg and stops it. “I think not, foul beastie.” He spins around and throws the MEK back over his shoulder. It slams against the wall, halfway between the black door and the cavern's entrance.

Instead of chasing it, the Drunk runs to the Master of the Forge and bends over him. “Lad, are ya conscious? I could very much use that ring a fire now.”

Groaning, the Master of the Forge sits up. He reaches into a pack around his waist and holds out a small, red ring. “Take it if it will help. But the flames will burn you as well.”

Taking the ring, the Drunk nods. “Aye lad. Fix it for me after the fight.” He pats the Master of the Forge on the shoulder and then helps him to stand.

With a loud creak and a moan, the great black doors begin to open. Joyous pulls his scythe free and bounces up and down. “I did it! Door successfully opened! Everybody, I got it open! Who's awesome? I'm awesome!”

The citizens all turn toward the opening door, and with a cheer they start to stampede for it. The Count calls out to them, “Wait! It isn't safe yet!” But they don't heed him.

The MEK pushes itself away from the wall and stands. Its eyes consider Joyous jumping beside the black door and then the crowds running his way. The MEK's jaw opens and its teeth grind as it charges toward the crowds. Knives and stones and bolts hit it, but the MEK pays no attention to these ineffective attacks.

The gaunt leader of the black-robed priests cackles and sticks his shovel into the ground. “Damned God, bury this foe within your dark embrace.” A black aura appears around his body and pulses once.

A giant slab of stone under the charging MEK flips up like a trapdoor, catching the MEK and almost capping it within the hole. But the MEK's feet slash against the ground, cutting the stone to pieces. It continues on, as the citizens reach the door.

The leader of the white-robed priests strokes his long, white beard and nods. “We must change tactics. Light, bind this foe with bonds formed of your first blessing.” A white aura appears around him.

The bubble of light above sweeps forward and splits to become three bands of hard light that wrap around the MEK's upper body and constrict it. But the MEK's lower body continues running, and its jaws crash open and closed several times as its tentacles struggle against the bands. The citizens begin to filter through the opening door, all of them trying to get through first as the fused MEK approaches.

Sudo appears between the MEK and the citizens, several large forks held in each hand and one gripped between his teeth. A leg-blade sweeps toward him, but he catches the tip between the prongs of several forks. The other front leg-blade tries to take his head off, but he catches that too. Twisting his torso, he attempts to change the path of the MEK. But its back legs dig in and it pushes forwards, bowling Sudo over. He vanishes before the MEK can impale him with its leg-blades.

Joyous hefts his scythe and starts to walk toward it with a wide grin, but the Drunk and the Master of the Forge fly in on wings of fire and land in front of him. The MEK rears up and brings two leg-blades down toward them.

The Drunk grunts and claps his hands together, catching the blade headed for his forehead. He laughs and turns to the Master of the Forge. “We can defeat this together, lad!” But then his smile cracks.

The Master of the Forge does not respond. The MEK's leg blade has pierced through the armored skin of both his arms, which were crossed over his face and now fall to the ground. The leg blade has gone deep through his head, directly through his brain, and the tip is poking out on the other side. Blood leaks from his clenched mouth and ears. The red scales vanish from his body, which then slumps to his knees.

“I'm not happy anymore!” The Master of the Forge's blood is splashed across Joyous' face. His eyes are wide and his grin is pulled back in a rictus. He screams at the MEK, “This isn't the best day ever anymore because of you!” The scythe glows umber and doubles to twice its size with a thump like a heartbeat, then doubles again, and once more to be as big as the MEK. “I'm not joyous anymore!”

He leaps straight up in the air, and slices his scythe down the fused MEK's front. The attack opens a wide gash, and the MEK's right eye cracks. The bands of light remain untouched.

The teen's skin flushes with its old dusky gray color, and his eyes turn a clear, milky white. His smile disappears into a flat line, and the scythe's handle becomes several shades darker, almost black.

Sorrow nods and twists himself around in the air. “I am no longer Joyous.” He slashes his scythe across the MEK's midsection, between two bands of light. Another wide gash appears, forming a large cross on the MEK's front, as its left eye cracks as well. Sorrow lands on the ground, and the scythe shrinks to its normal size.

The MEK lets out a wail and thrashes about, pulling back its leg-blades and bursting the bands of light. Its tentacles fling outward in every direction. Sorrow spins his scythe around, cutting down the tentacles that reach for him, but many more pass by. They reach for the screaming citizens at the black door and wrap around them, as the fibers emerge to drink their life.

“Oh no ya don't, vile beastie.” The Drunk pulls out his silver hip flask and the fire ring. “Ya won't be healing from them this time.” He takes a large swig from the flask, and then brings the ring to his lips. Fire appears around his hand, burning blue, and he blows through it to create a fireball that engulfs the MEK. The tentacles are burned from their bases and wither away. The Drunk waves his hand around to put out the flame.

Sorrow nods. “Thank you, father. I had not considered the creature's ability to heal. But I believe I can dispatch it now.” His eyes flash black and he nods again. “Thank you Twin Brother. I will try that. Shade.”

A black sphere appears around his body, pouring out from the chain armor under his clothes, covering him completely and for several helms around. From within the inky darkness he comments, “This was intended to be a defensive measure, but now – we shall see.” The scythe flashes outward several times, slicing through the shadows, which fall apart in ribbons. Five Sorrows are left as the darkness collapses, each black as midnight. Their mouths move in unison, “This will indeed aid me.”

He dashes straight for the MEK, bringing five scythes in running slashes. Two carve through the MEK's four leg-blades and they break, dropping the creature. The other three run straight up its side, slicing through tentacles even as they emerge. When the reach eye level, two of the shadow Sorrows sweep to either side and dig their scythes into its ooze-skin, impaling one eye each and pulling the skin taunt as the third slices up the center. The fused MEK splits into two halves and the white orbs inside pop out.

Standing in front of the crates, the Count directs the continued efforts. Sudo and the Drunk wait behind him, a towheaded boy in the Drunk's arms and a girl with an eyepatch in Sudo's, both now wrapped in traveling cloaks. Klax is between them, holding his hands out over the children.

The city guards and castle butlers are back to helping distribute the goods, but everyone is silent now. They move slow, as if at a funeral. The white-robed priests help the few who received non-fatal injuries, while the black-robed priests are digging a large pit in the center of the room. Bodies are stacked beside it.

At the mouth of the Gauntlet, Sorrow sits on a large stone. The black scythe hangs at his hip, reduced to the size of a handaxe. His voice is a whisper, “My apologies, Zander. If I had been faster, your death might have been avoided.”

The gray, featureless specter beside him shrugs. “No worries, kid. Pretty cool way to die, all things considered.”

“I will keep that in mind, Zander. I did not know there were cool ways to die.” He turns to the specter. “Tell me if I can help you, Zander. I can tell your family of your fate, to bring them the human emotion of comfort.”

The specter chuckles. “I don't have a family. Not anymore. Parents died a long time ago. Hated my adoptive family. Don't have friends or anything. And I wasn't actually married with kids, I just wanted more of the loot. I wasn't even sent by the Count, that was a lie too.”

“Oh.” Sorrow blinks. “Well … I would have given you all the loot if it could mean you didn't die.”

“Thanks, kid.”
High War - Chapter 16.4

Chapter 16 is way too long! I'll probably cut it in half eventually, but for now it is a long chapter with two big fights and two meaningful deaths ... which should make it easier to split I suppose. But hey, I finally got this chapter done! And the Goldenburg destruction arc is complete as well! The third and final arc of High War Book 1 begins now, with some traveling and lighter stuff to start.

Also, today's Type-AB Fusion O-MEK is something I had some help designing, and so I'd like to thank :icondarkeangel: for that help. He designs and draws mecha and so I asked him for some mecha design advice, and he even made some very cool illustrations of the O series which I will share if anyone wants to see them. Once again thank you :icondarkeangel: and everybody go check out his page!

This is a part of my High War project, a story about a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.



We are hiking on Saturday,
the trail long on the map but our waterfall awaits.
I'll be looking for wildlife: snakes and eagles and

A doe, a female deer
stands at the valley's edge, one cloven hoof inflamed,
a recent wound still fresh from an early-morning

The accident plane flies above,
there have been reports of rocks on the road
and the local pilot wanted up in the air, he follows

This river is only rivulets
its path forked and branched to its own demise,
yet it still carries that feeling of bigness, like

The sun conquers the night
but did you know it was once thought a goddess,
a messenger more than a creator of daytime.

We rest at the halfway point, an old mossy roof,
carrots and apples for our meal, no sign of

The doe limps uphill, keeping to the dappled shade,
a silent petitioner questing for a well-known

Remedy unneeded, the road is clear the pilot says,
he flies a lazy loop to check again before heading

Upstream the river is whole and unbroken,
a dynamic deluge, bounding over rocks under

The sun was first given a pseudo-scientific explanation
by Anaxagoras, who thought it a flaming metal ball.

From the final platform we gaze upon our goal,
And I spy a doe dipping a foot at the rock's edge.
A plane flies overhead, perhaps a local sight-seer
Taking in the wide and rushing river far below,
As the sun bakes the earth between green boughs.

As we drive home, it begins to rain. One drop becomes a sideways river
and joins with others in descending the window,
five drops become four become three
become two become
Sketch - Five Rivers
More old, embarrassing stuff! And a free-verse / visual poem, so it's extra embarrassing! I hope you enjoy the fruits of my embarrassment.


Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Favorite Quote: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

I'm here to tell my stories; I love Anime and I'm aiming at a career writing animation scripts, but for now I'm a writer-in-training creating worlds and characters and telling stories with them for my amusement. I'm also searching for a visual artist to collaborate with; if you read something here that inspires you and you can make dem perdy picture things, I would be interested in enlisting you for a creative partnership with the goal of collaborating on something awesome. And I'm here to learn; I want advice on how I can improve, I gladly work with, co-author or even take on requests to sharpen my writing skills, and if you'd like a critique or some proofreading you only have to ask.

I upload something new every week, either part of an ongoing story I am writing, or something more random like a character piece or personal opinion paper. I also try to do prose critiques every week, and I write webcomic reviews semi-regularly for my Journal section and collect them in archived compilations of ten. Occasionally I look back at something I have uploaded to DA (at minimum a year old) in the hopes that I can glean something useful from it, and when I'm bored I hang out in the Philosophy forum. Of course the busier my life gets, the less of all that I do.

My 2015 avatar is me, writing down by the lake! Of course you can't see much of me, especially not the sweet hat I'm wearing, and this image is from forever ago, like high school or something, and I'm writing data findings on the water for science, some project my Grandpa gave me to help his fishing club ... but it's me!

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Add a Comment:
samosvulter Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2015
Thanks for the fave~:D
Have a nice day~~:iconlucywaveplz:
(1 Reply)
ColorCosmosFlurry Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
thank for the fav!
(1 Reply)
alexthetyger Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Do you do critique trades?
(1 Reply)
CommnderShepard117 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2014
Have you checked out the next chapter yet?
(1 Reply)
mydlas Featured By Owner Edited Nov 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
thanks a lot for the comments, I came in and checked your gallery ^v^
decided to add you and give you a llama as well, you deserve it!
(1 Reply)
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