I wrote this short piece for The Dreamers Awaken adventure. These story does not take place during the adventure, but was designed to give the gamemaster some additional background information.
Zzhastor Brune gestured at the massive stone door. The portal responded to his will, swinging shut without a sound. Sunlight glittered from the multicolored concentric circles carved into the surface. Despite the door’s impressive size and weight, it lacked the Darksilver inscriptions necessary to stop a determined Veilwalker. Of course, none of the Library’s defenses were up to that task. The best he could hope was that no Veilwalkers would be interested. And why should they be? No researchers remained and everything of value had been transported to Nhasun Ornis Carra.
A deep, measured voice disturbed his reverie. “Scholar Brune, we must leave. Travel grows more dangerous.” The hulking form of Melikke filled the cave entrance. He carried his chal’far fal d’orn at the ready and wore a Darksilver shield upon his back. The gold-chased engraving in his Darksilver armor gleamed. Brune nodded, and turned away from his life’s work. Perhaps there would be another life in which to work again, when he awoke after sleeping a few centuries in Tarass Shar Orn.
Melikke led him down the hill to the water without saying another word. The man was patient as f’lunin, and ten times more deadly. The bags were already in the boat, and the pole men stood ready. Brune stepped into the boat and took a seat, followed by Melikke. The warrior set his chal’far fal d’orn across his legs. The spear’s Darksilver blades seemed to absorb rather than reflect the sunlight, so that the weapon appeared even more menacing.
The pole men pushed the boat into the channel. Soon they settled into the rhythmic strokes experienced pole men used on long journeys. Each time a pole dipped into the water, ripples radiated from the point of contact in concentric circles. Brune counted three, six, and nine rings before a pole pushed back into the water, destroying the old pattern and generating another.
The clash of ripples fascinated Brune, how they engaged in mutual annihilation near the pole, yet remained undisturbed further away. The observation might equally apply to other processes both magical and mundane. The phenomena deserved additional study someday. Brune sighed and dropped his snout to his chest. Melikke said nothing.
The boat glided by overhanging branches that brushed Brune’s scales, releasing droplets of water as they sprang back. The mist felt good upon his skin. The pole men focused on the route ahead, while Melikke’s head swiveled in all directions.
A gentle curve brought them abreast of a small peninsula that separated the channel from a wide lake. The pole men angled the boat north into open water. Broken branches and tree trunks jutted above the surface. A black bird circled the tempting perches, squawked and flew off as the boat approached.
Then Melikke was on his feet, chal’far fal d’orn raised to strike. “Swing wide,” he ordered. The pole men immediately complied. The boat veered right into deeper water and the trees passed on the left.
“Is something hiding in the trees?” Brune asked.
Melikke kept his gaze to the left. “Those are not trees, Scholar. Broken bren’pushar. Metal arms and legs frozen where they died. But still, if the body holds residual magic, sometimes they can self-repair.”
A chill crawled over Brune’s scales, and he shivered in the stifling heat of the early afternoon. No construct had ever reached his Library. These were the first he had ever seen.
Brune extended his senses toward the dead constructs. “I perceive no magic.”
“Nor did I,” agreed Melikke, “but I once saw a man die after saying words much like those. So we swing wide.”
The pole men pushed more vigorously and soon the construct limbs vanished in the distance. Melikke remained standing while the sun descended in the west. Brune felt foolish and slightly humiliated at his lack of knowledge. The warrior was an impassive statue, apparently oblivious to Brune’s display of ignorance.
Tarass Shar Orn drew closer, as did the war. Smoke clouds smudged the northwestern sky. The late afternoon breeze carried the twin scents of smoke and charred flesh. Brune grew uneasy and watched Melikke for danger signals. Brune lacked the experience to distinguish any but the most obvious threats.
The top of a Teleportation Tower rose above the treetops. Melikke surged forward as the pole men drove the prow ashore. Here they would abandon the boat and travel overland to Tarass Shar Orn.
The warrior hopped onto land. His tail swept from side to side in a nervous gesture. The pole men held the boat steady while Brune stepped out. Then they pulled the boat from the water and gathered the bags.
Melikke guided them east, skirting south of a guidepost. Brune saw no people; perhaps most of them had already entered the refuge. Near dusk they reached the summit of the island. An old tree sprouted from a small clearing. Mighty in its prime, with a trunk almost ten feet in diameter and a hundred feet high, the tree was now weathered gray and the branches bare and broken.
Brune’s lip lifted to expose teeth. The tree appeared lifelike in all aspects, yet was actually a disguise designed to hide the chamber that dropped to Tarass Shar Orn.
Melikke was beside him. “You deserve to be proud, Scholar Brune. A fine job. If I did not know, I would not suspect.”
The praise was unexpected, and pleased Brune more than he wished to admit. Why should the opinion of this warrior mean so much, even if he was the legendary Melikke? Brune instinctively countered with a self-deprecating reply. “Some Veilwalkers will be fooled, but the more powerful will still find the entrance.”
Melikke shrugged. “And your Darksilver designs on the door below will stop them. Defense in depth is always a sound strategy.”
Brune opened his mouth to speak the code that would open the tree. Melikke’s tail twitched. Something wet landed on Brune’s neck. Melikke whirled, bringing his chal’far fal d’orn around to skewer a creature that had leaped from a nearby treetop. One of the pole men was down, writhing in pain, skin turning greenish-black. The warrior braced his foot upon the construct’s chest and wrenched out the blade.
Three more constructs sprang from the trees. Melikke slid forward to meet them. Brune blinked, and the warrior shifted from one spot to another so quickly he seemed to skip the intervening space. Melikke gripped the center of his spear with both hands, each blade pointed at a different construct.
Brune froze and stared at the constructs. Veins shone through translucent purple skin the color of oxygen-depleted blood. The creatures had two mouths, one above the other in an elongated head. Viscous fluid dripped from two sets of sharp teeth. Brune wiped his neck with the hem of his tunic.
Melikke flowed between two constructs. He ducked through the narrow space formed by converging bodies, flicked the chal’far fal d’orn to the right, and pivoted as they passed. The right construct stumbled to the ground and did not rise. The left tucked into a roll and came up facing Melikke. The third construct closed on the warrior from behind.
Melikke snapped his tail, tripped the construct at his rear, and pinned it to the ground with his spear point. He yanked out his weapon and purplish blood spurted in a brief fountain.
The last construct charged Melikke, mouths wide in a voiceless howl, claws sweeping across the warrior’s Darksilver armor in a screeching contact that sent up a shower of sparks. Melikke jumped back and sliced down with a spinning chal’far fal d’orn. The construct’s belly opened and it fell into a puddle of its own intestines.
Melikke cleaned his blades on the fallen pole man’s tunic. “Forgive me, brother, but I must attend to the living.” He bowed to Brune. “Scholar, the situation deteriorates faster than I had thought. These do’gan should not have been here. I must return to Harlass Orn.”
The warrior waited for Brune, the surviving pole man, and the bags to begin the descent to Tarass Shar Orn. Then he ran back to the boat. He knew that he would die soon, and he accepted the fact. The Sacred Lady would watch over him. But he was also very tired, and the thing he most regretted was that he might never again know rest.