Chapter 21.1

“…Environment is like the shadow, and life, the body. Without the body, no shadow can exist, and without life, no environment. In the same way, life is shaped by its environment.” — Nichiren Daishonin





Inside her, the violation still wrought havoc, but her limbs were stilled as her patron began to exude an energy that pressed on her on a fearsome level.  She gurgled, her hands still like claws as spine bended her toward the ground.  Her eyes twitched to the side, scared wide, as blood seeped in like tears. It would be a blessing if they scabbed over, for she saw her god turn dark.  Dark like an unending space, pregnant with possibilities.

You will remove thyself, or this God shall remove thee!  Lacertli thundered.  The girl could feel his words and wished herself elsewhere.

Ancient One, let your vermagus speak, she has such a wonderful voice! Izma replied.  I want to hear how she came to meddle in my joy, to stand in the way of my revolution!  Did she know she was a trespasser?

Lacertli wasted no more talk.

He slipped forth, a sigh on the ground, as leaves would skip the earth, before he burst up again in an arc–all fangs and claws and reptilian fury.  Nyx did not dare turn her head to see the battle in full, but she saw the lizard god descend on the creature-woman, who from her peripheral sight was like a cluster of stars and bright jewels.  She shivered as the air crackled and a deep boom resonated through the air. The fog that held secrets of other worlds now pulsed and surged like malicious smoke.  The wondrous images were gone.  The blood was drying on her fingers, and her face itched from the healing wounds.

A ripple went through the ground and she heard the music stop with a violent scream.  Then silence.

Nyx saw clawed feet stop near her.  Her muscles relaxed as the pressure that bound her vanished.  She raised her head, face lax in shock.


Lacertli stooped down, and as he did, he grew larger.  So large, that she was like a small rodent to his massive clawed hand, which scooped her up into its palm.  The girl squeaked as he held her up to his long face.  The lizard god roared, and shadowy golems rose in his likeness.  The edges of his form blurred and the colors that made up his body separated like light through a prism.  Spikes appeared on his tough skin.

Night Child, I have chased the creature off, but she will return.  She will seek thee.  I cannot allow this.  So I must hide you.
The god started to close his right hand, and Nyx panicked.

Sir!  Sir, please wait!!  I don’t understand! She screamed, scuffling along his salty palm.

Night Child, he hissed.  Thou must continue your search.  Remember that the lost can be found again!  Remember the standard you now carry!

She was plunged into darkness as his hand closed around her, squeezing her till she couldn’t breathe.  Then she felt the world sigh over her, and his touch was gone.  She fell backward into nothing.






Elmiryn exhaled softly, and Quincy felt a breeze brush back her hair.  She shivered without meaning to.

After the strange music had left her head she felt out of sorts.  The brunette wondered a bit if it were all a dream.  The idea was a bit ludicrous.  Elmiryn?  Capable of commanding a mob of undead?  But Quincy knew that was being generous.  Elmiryn wasn’t in complete control.  She was just barely keeping it together.  It had taken the warrior forever just to get the undead to spread out enough that Quincy and Sedwick could reach her.  They could’ve done it themselves, but Elmiryn hadn’t been kidding when she said she felt everything the soldiers did.  The wizard had tested this herself when she twisted the exposed nipple of a Belcliff soldier…and maybe it was a bit of payback for all the grief Elmiryn had brought on her.  The wizard didn’t feel bad.  The soldier’s skin was in better shape than most of his companions.  The skin only tore a little bit.

Upon finding her, Elmiryn was stuck in a crouch with her body stiff as a board.  She stared up at them, only daring to move her eyes.  When Quincy reached down to grab her arm, the ceiling groaned and a small crack fissured along the southern end.  Wide-eyed, the woman let the warrior go.  “Damn…” she breathed.

“Yeah,” Elmiryn snapped.  The wizard heard some of the undead murmur the same.  “I did mention that would happen, didn’t I?”

“How do we move her?” Sedwick mused.  He went to rub the side of his face, then winced when he touched his cut.

The wizard shook her head.  “We don’t.”  She looked at Elmiryn.  “You were able to move the soldiers, you should be able to move yourself.”

“I’m trying,” was the strained reply.

“Where are the dwarves?” Quincy muttered, looking around.  “Why haven’t they come?  They can see this, can’t they?”

“There’s a lot I’m not sure about.  I can’t hazard a guess till we get more information.” Sedwick crouched down in front of Elmiryn and leaned on his legs.  “Elmiryn, how are you doing?”

Her mouth quirked into a smile.  “There’s no real words for it.”  Then the smile vanished and she just stared.  “It…hurts a little.  In a good way.”

Quincy narrowed her eyes at that.  “Elmiryn, just how much are you feeling?”

Cerulean met azure.  “Everything.  Down to the lace of your brazier.”

The wizard’s nose scrunched.  “But I’m not wearing a brazier!”

Elmiryn’s eyes batted. “Oh.”  She let her gaze roll to the soldiers. “…Ohhh.”

Quincy frowned and looked at the dead men.  One of the soldiers?  Really…?

Sedwick waved the revelation away with his hand.  “Aaaand…we’re focusing.”

Both women looked at him, one still confused, the other restraining her laughter.  “Right,” Elmiryn piped.  “Focusing.  I am totally focusing.  I’m focusing so hard, bits of me are turning blue–”

Sedwick ignored the warrior and stood, rubbing his chin.  “I won’t lie.  I’m really worried.  The music that was in the air felt alive.”

“Meznik.”  Elmiryn spat the word out, like venom.  “Remember, don’t try to…uh…remember.  Y’know.  The song.”

“Hard not to think about something you’re thinking about…” Quincy said, rubbing her forehead.  She couldn’t help it.  The melody popped in, unbidden.  Laaa, la, laaa, la laa-di-daa…

A fetid hand struck her across the face.  Quincy staggered.  She gazed at the undead, completely stunned.  She pointed at it, then glared at Elmiryn.  “Did–Did–Did you just–?!”

“If I told you not to think about a bunch of rotting men dressed only in lingerie, would you be able to focus like our dear Sedwick asks?”
Quincy stomped a foot and grabbed the soldier by the nose.  Without thinking she slipped into Fanaean.  “You bastard witch–try something like that again and I’ll make you feel broken a thousand times over!!”  Of course now, she wasn’t thinking about the demon song, just hurting Elmiryn.

…And what a bunch of undead wearing lingerie would look like.

“She’s started babbling.  Thus, I don’t care.” Elmiryn looked at Sedwick, and Quincy was ready to kick her in the face.  That horrible mental image would never leave her– The warrior went on, “Meznik came.  For a bit.  Just to gloat, it sounded like, but…I mentioned this, didn’t I?  He’s worried.  Doesn’t like being here.  He’s…”  The woman frowned.  “He’s guiding me.  Maybe he’s the one forcing our path.”

“What makes you say that?” Sedwick’s voice took on a harsh note.  Quincy shoved the undead away by the face with a sneer and watched the elemental’s expression shift from contemplative calm to a bristling anger.  “He’s put you in danger countless times and killed hundreds of people.  Why change that now?”

“Because he has plans.  He’s always talking about what he does like it’s an art.”  Then Elmiryn’s eyes narrowed.  “Theater backdrops…”

Sedwick looked at Quincy who held up her hands in answer.  “What?” Sedwick crossed his arms.  The muscles in his neck were bunching.

“When I went to confront Nadi for the first time, he told me he ‘shifted some backdrops’ and that was all.  He moved things around.  Made her confused.  That drove her insane.  He never did anything to her directly.

“And?” Quincy said.  “Never mind that you are both quickly associating all of this to this demon, but you still can’t even figure out how to stand up.  Are you telling me you’ve found a connection?  Between this disembodied spirit and the very physical shifts that keep happening when you so much as wiggle your pinky?”

Elmiryn’s smile had a hook to it.  “I’m a mortal.  I still have weight.  My flesh defines me.  They teach us that early on as kids.  The gods and spirits are beings unbound by earthly ties.  But I’m–” She coughed out a laugh.  It sounded false and bitter.  “I’m changing, into something else.  I can feel it now.  I’m sitting on a line–and because of that, I’m pulling at both sides of the blanket, so to speak.”

“Huh?” Quincy said, frowning.  Then her eyes widened.  It was just as the warrior said.  All societies, in one form or other, teach their young their place in the universe.  They were mortals, and their lives were bound by the vessels of flesh as much as they were sustained by the physical environment.  Immortals and spirits knew no such tethers.  Elmiryn, since they had found her, not only had shown signs of a greater stability in this spiritual dimension, but the ability to see what mortals could not.

Quincy knelt down in front of Elmiryn, her azure eyes wide.  Her heart was beating fast. “If what you’re saying is true, then you don’t have much time.  Either your consciousness slips back into your body or you dissipate into this place without a way to come back.”

“Or knowing this place, she’d be ripped apart.  A piece of a soul in a shell of a body whilst the rest of you lives in the bones of these dead.”  Sedwick said grimly.

“I know the dust too,” Elmiryn said, looking between them.  “I know the rock and the buildings and the machines and the stains and the insects and the tiny, tiny, tiny creatures that live on our skin that we can’t see.  Did you know? Dust makes for good conversation.  They know quite a bit!”  Elmiryn paused for a breath, then looked at her hands with just her eyes.  “Hey.  I, um…I can’t feel my arms.”

“I guess we know which way she’s slipping then…” Quincy said with a sigh.


I opened my eyes and regretted it.  So much light.  I hissed and turned my face away, eyelids squeezed shut.  I could hear laughing and popping.  Music sounded off in the distance.

I was on cold stone, which bit into my spine as my shoulders and head hung free over an edge.  My legs dangled at the knees.  I clawed at the stone and started to raise myself up.  My eyes slivered open.  Warmth.  Fire.  I frowned and sat up fully.  I held a hand up before the light and opened my eyes further.

All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe.

I was on the hand of Halward, the Star Ruler, who gazed down toward the Earth with stern expression as his other hand pointed skyward.  Torches on long poles blazed all around him, lighting every nook and cranny.  Though it were just a statue, I could just imagine his hair really being blown about the wind, the fair locks teasing his lined forehead as his penetrating stare held me fast.  He was bare chested, his strength for all to see, and I let my eyes travel down his muscled arm to where I sat.  I realized with a start that this statue of Halward was not condemning those on the ground.  He was beckoning them to rise, up to the heavens.

Sweet Aelurus, I thought.  Lacertli didn’t–no–he couldn’t have–

But I turned my head and thought I was going to faint again.  Through Halward’s stone fingers I saw a city.  A city where tall gables pierced the skyline, and red brick domes with golden ribs and star-like crowns dared to mimic the stars of the night.  The paved streets teemed with phantoms, all cheering, all carousing.  Fireworks popped over the heads of the crowd.  The sky was dark, but the city was ablaze, thanks to the tall curved lamps that focused their light downward

From one god’s hand into another.  Lacertli had sent me to the Fiamman Kingdom.

…I was dead.

Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead!


Quincy rubbed her temples and started pacing.  “Damn, damn, damn…”

Sedwick stared at Elmiryn like she were a strange new plant.  Elmiryn had stopped talking for the last ten minutes.  She stared with glass-like eyes as drool came out of the corner of her mouth.

“You think…she’s still there?” Sedwick murmured, his head tilting to one side.

“She could be anywhere…or everywhere, from what she told us.”  Quincy bit her knuckle.  Then her eyes brightened and a wolfish curl came to her lips.  “But this…this reminds me of something.”

“Really?” Sedwick turned and gazed up at her.  The woman paused and looked down at him, one eyebrow tilted.

“I came across…records, of a slave girl, an Omatt, who had gained the power to control things on the most basic level.  She could make silk from stone and steel from water.”

“Arachne…?” Sedwick breathed.  His brows rose so that his forehead wrinkled severely.

Quincy’s jaw tightened and she turned her back to him.  She glared at the ground.  “It isn’t exactly the same, but there could be an answer in those stories.  Elmiryn has become in tune with everything around us, but she sees herself in everything.  She has to believe that the environment is separate from herself.  Something she can control.  And she can do that if she manipulates the basics.”


“One of the first things you learn as a spell caster is that Life has many levels, and not all of them can be seen by our eyes.”  Quincy leaned her head back.  “You have to feel it.  Enchanters talk about intellectual clusters.  Matrices of the mind.” She crouched next to Sedwick.  “Did you know that lightning sorcerers can sense energy in brains?  That alchemists can break an item down to nothing?  Not even steam or dust.  Just nothing?” She cut a look across at the man,  “That they can bring it back from nothing?”

He frowned softly at her. “I’ve been learning of the way of spirits, but this is out of my realm of knowledge.”

“There’s one common denominator for the things that make up our world.  If Elmiryn is truly in touch with our environment, then she should be able to feel that and control it.”

Sedwick gestured around them.  The undead had been reduced to husks, just standing quiet.  Even the air had stilled.  “How can we reach her?  Nothing is responding.”

Quincy scooped up a handful of dirt.  She let the large grains filter through her fingers, leaving only a light silky coat over her skin.  “I thought a conversation with the dust she likes so much seemed like a good idea.”


I scaled down the statue, around the back, trying to keep the shakes from my limbs, because one slip or misstep could see me undone. I had to scramble up Halward’s arm and make a wild leap to the waistband of his loincloth.  There I spider-climbed to the back of the statue, out of view of those down on the street.  As I looked down, I realized however that there was no where else for me to go.  I bared my teeth, pressing my forehead to the stone.  It took me a full minute to get my bearings and fight the moisture from my eyes.  I turned looked over my shoulder.  Again, I saw no way of climbing down the statue, but a sweep around me showed me another way.  It was a bit of a jump, but I could jump onto one of the torch poles and slide my way down.  The poles were well anchored as far as I could tell.

I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths.  I wasn’t afraid of heights.  I could survive great drops, and some of my favorite places were up high.  But even I could see the danger of falling from such a place.  I looked back to the pole, judged the distance, and with a small grunt I jumped for it.

For a terrifying second I thought I had jumped short.  I fell through the air, my mane of hair lifting and the rags on my body flapping in the wind.  But then I came close enough that I was able to grab onto the pole.  It was polished brass and pulled at my bare skin.  I hissed as I slammed into it.  Then I bettered my grip and started to climb down.

I made it to the base in one piece, and looked around.  I was behind one of Halward’s feet.  I pressed my back to it and peered out to the crowd.  Now that I was closer, I could see them better.

The phantoms were all dressed up in robes, dresses, capes, and feathered hats.  All had colorful masks.  People disguised themselves as reptiles, birds of prey, and caricatures of man.  They laughed and danced about each other, drunk and wily in their merriment.  I shrank further back.

…Among them were solid beings, not phantoms, who towered over the crowd a full five or six feet.  They had long spindly arms and wicked claws that now and again reached down into the throng and plucked up a glowing orb.  These they swallowed, their jaws gaunt and jutting, the fangs small and uneven.  I couldn’t see their faces, for they wore hoods, but they had long bull-like horns where white symbols had been burned into the black bone.

“Gods…” I breathed, then went down onto my knees where I proceeded to press my forehead to the cold ground.  “Oh gods, what am I going to do?”  I squeezed my eyes shut and wished I were on a ship heading east with Elmiryn.  I wished, with not a little shame, that we had kept to ourselves.  That Argos hadn’t found us, that we hadn’t met Lethia, that we hadn’t broke into Holzoff’s and freed a lunatic–

Then I stopped.

My body felt cold and I sat up.  The shadow of Halward’s leg colored my thoughts.  How despicable was I?  After all I had gone through, was I really the sort of person to think such terrible things?  That was something my Twin did–

Only…My Twin wasn’t here.

“I’m just as bad as She is…” I sighed, bowing my head.  “I’m sorry, Lethia.  Wherever you are.  I hope you can’t hear my thoughts.  I’m not sure you’d forgive me for being such a coward…” I wiped the tears that had fallen.  But somehow the desire to cry was just not there.  Within the next instant the tension in my throat was gone and my eyes dry.  I thought about my recent battles and instead, became angry.  “Honestly!  What a kitten I am!  I didn’t survive all of that just to curl up into a ball!” I gave one last swipe of my eyes.

I stopped focusing on the haunting spirits and the unsettling creatures that fed on them, and instead started looking at the buildings and structures that populated the square–for that’s what it was.  The festivities spanned out as far as my eye could see, but it seemed to start here, with people funneling in through what were a set of archways to my right.  I saw a path out by the crenelated parapet of a two-story tower not far from the statue platform.  Though I’d be in the open from point to point, there was one thing I could do.

I could slip into the shadows.

With a deep breath in through my nose, I pressed into the shadow of Halward’s leg.  I emerged into that cold place, the Umbralands, blinking.  The shadows here were weaker, because of the torchlight that flooded down from above.  Thus, in this monochromatic world, the shadows were starker, but the white more prevalent.  My way to the tower was blocked.  But I didn’t feel a resistance from my environment as I had from the Kreut.  Those tall spirits didn’t seem to upset any balance here.  When I willed the shadows to form me a path, they did so without too much suggestion.  The festivities went on as normal.

I hopped down from the platform and sprinted along the black path to the shadows of the tower.  As my form passed, the trail I had created vanished.  Once in the safety of the tower, I knew I needed to slip back.  The divisions created by the intense lighting made travel here limited, and while I could still sort of see the phantoms and the spirits, I could not see them well enough to feel comfortable.  They were like a shifting mob of smudges and crosshatched lines in that hot sea of white.  Damned Fiammans, what was with their obsession of light and fire?

I pressed into the tower’s dark wall and slipped back into the real world.  Or…was this real?  Then it hit me.  Of course I wasn’t in Fiamma.  Not physically anyway.  So the phantoms were…?

But then a firework flared my way, lighting past my shocked expression, and I pressed back into the stone wall with a numbing shock.  The phantoms did not react, though I knew some were looking my way.  I blinked and felt my panic subside.  I took a step toward them and squinted my eyes.  Then I found the answer to my question.

The phantoms were people.  Real people.  But they were not here.  In this shard.  Lacertli had said this world was a reflection of mine.  If that were so, could not mortals be seen in the environment too?  It would explain the indifference to the towering spirits that harvested from them with little hurry.  The humans could not see the creatures, and yet they were a part of the environment.  Still in some way manipulatable.

Now that I knew that my likelihood for discovery was a lot lower, I didn’t feel as nervous.  I looked up the tower wall.  There were precious few places where I could grab a hold, and they were all too high for me.  The wall adjacent, however…

I took several steps back, and with a breath, I rushed up the corner wall, which was built at a slant to cast off rain water.  I made it up six feet before I reached the edge with my hands.  I pulled myself up.  From there I turned and with a small jump I grabbed hold of a bare brick that was left after those surrounding it had eroded.  From there, I reached up and took hold of another, and another, until I made it up to the parapet.  I lifted myself up and through the crenelations, head bowed, panting a little.


I froze.  Slowly my eyes lifted.  A flare of white light from a firework lent me the sight of an abalone gaze winking through half-moon glasses.  Soon after, I was met with a fanged smile from a deltaic face not even three inches from my own.  Something sharp prickled at the back of my head.

I flinched from the deep, honey-dew voice that entered my ear.  There was something unsettling about it.  “The Lady graces me with kin!  I can taste the very nature of you from the air itself!”  The person’s true nature eluded me, such that I couldn’t guess their gender with any sort of confidence.  They sat on the edge of a blade, neither tipping one way or the other.

They bowed low, leather jacket tinkling from the many belt buckles they swept aside.  I had a dim view of their slim form, and saw the breasts that shadowed their chest.  A woman then.  She had glossy copper hair that stopped just at the shoulder blades.  This was pulled into a low ponytail.  Her ears were large and long at the tips, like an elf’s, but that was where the similarity ended, for along the ridges down to her lobes were four other protrusions.  They reminded me of the horned trumpet shells Marquis used to bring to my village to sell, and indeed, her ears did have the quality of trumpets the way they stuck out so.  Her nose was small and the ridge so shallow that it seemed almost beast-like.  The nostrils were practically slits.  I didn’t know what this woman was.

She introduced herself merrily.  “I am Tristi, a humble servant much like yourself.  I answer to Fortuna, the Lady Luck, and bear her standard on my right hand.”  She held this up, and I saw a fingerless glove with a smooth dark oval over the back.  It gleamed like glass in the flashes of the fireworks.  I also noticed she had only four fingers.  Then she lowered this, looking expectant.

Startled, I realized Tristi was waiting for me to introduce myself.  Or rather, to proclaim, as Lacertli would put it.

“I am Nyx, an…adventurer, I…er…suppose.  I–I answer to Lacertli, the…ah, Dreamwalker.”  I felt foolish.  Tristi sounded so sure of her station, and certainly looked the part.  I, on the other hand, was quivering, half-naked, with hair matted from blood and gore, and pale limbs that hardly looked capable of snapping a dry twig in half.

The woman tilted her head back with a loud, “Oh!” She wasn’t afraid of discovery by the giants it seemed.  “So the Lizard King has finally chosen a champion!  Aye, but you are a strange choice!  And your standard?” Tristi asked, her lips tilting.  She was getting increasingly aware of my inexperience and it really started to make me feel like an even bigger idiot.

“What?” I frowned.  She had asked for my standard, but I had thought it only a metaphorical idea.  I knew what they were of course.  Symbols or emblems affiliating one to a particular nation, family, or order.  But I had no flag or badge to display.  “I don’t have–”  But then Tristi, with cold hands, grabbed me by the left shoulder and pulled at the rags left covering my chest, tearing them.  I squeaked and fell away from her, swatting at her hands.  “Stop that!  Let go!”  I scrambled to cover myself–she’d pulled just enough of my clothes that now my breasts were open to the chilly air.

She backed off fast at my protest, but looked unconcerned by my mortification.  She pointed at my chest with a wink.  “Nyx.  Look.  You hold your patron’s standard even if you are not aware of it.”

I blinked and looked where she pointed.  Over the top of my left breast was an image of a lizard, much like the one I’d seen on Marquis before he’d died.  I stared.  I ran my fingers over it.  The skin was smooth–this wasn’t a scar.  It was more like a tattoo, one done with a mild ink to make it almost seem like a birthmark.

Tristi wasn’t as fascinated by this revelation as I was.  She already turned her back to me and walked across the roof to look down at the festivities.  Some of the glow from the streets lit her from below, making her seem a bit sinister.  Not such a stretch.

“You caught me at a fortuitous moment, sister!” The woman crowed.  She held up a hand which held an orb.  “I follow the whims of my mistress, and she has led me here on a task.  Forgive my brusqueness.  I would love to chat more–you are the first champion I’ve met since Njord’s, and it’s been an age–but I have work to do!”  She turned from me and kissed the orb before lightly tossing it to the crowd below.  “If you are truly Lacertli’s champion…”  She looked at me sideways with a maniacal grin.  “Then you’ll be able to keep up.”

Then I heard a keening wail rip through the air, before a blast rocked the tower and sent it careening into the crowd…


Sedwick was huffing behind her.  “If I’d known this was what you meant–”

“What were you expecting?  For me to pull another trick out of my bag?”

“Frankly?  Yes!

“Just because you’re half-elemental doesn’t make you arbitrary ruler of mystical knowledge.  Kindly shut up and go sit your bare ass on a sharp rock, why don’t you?  I’m busy being useful.”

The man snorted and walked away, hands in the air.  Quincy crouched down, returned to the task at hand.  With her forefinger, she wrote into the dirt:


Then she rocked back onto her heels and waited. She’d tried two other messages in about ten different places, and each time was a failure.  This was quickly looking like a dud as well.  After waiting what felt like an eternity, the wizard, now red-faced, erased the message with a violent sweep of her hands.  Then, with the nail of her thumb, she scratched in a new message:


She glared at the words for a full minute.  Then Quincy sighed and let her forehead hit her knees.  “Ugh…”  When she lifted her puckered face, she got a surprise.  Her message had been replaced with a new one in slanted cursive:

You spell my name wrong and suddenly I’M the idiot?  It’s E-L-M-I-R-Y-N, you fucking twat.

Quincy’s face turned beat red.  “Tai’undu!  Wikan a-lo kuele pon golj mkundu Fiamman!!”  Fuck!  Why am I stuck with this bastard Fiamman!! The woman erased that message and scribbled back:


The response came back quickly.  Quincy’s words were smoothed away, and all at once Elmiryn’s response came.

I was following a lead.  I think I know where Meznik went.

Quincy grit her teeth.


Relax.  I’m starting to get the hang of this.  I found out a few things–

But the woman’s words were lost in a strong gust of air.  The brunette jumped to her feet.  It wasn’t Elmiryn, she knew this.  The feeling that crept up the back of her neck was…

With a hiss and pop, Henriette appeared, her ghostly face long and her eyes wide.  She sounded out of breath.  “You have to leave!” she panted.  She pointed up the path with her axe.  “Flee, run!

Quincy frowned at her.  “What–?”

Sedwick, who’d taken to pouting down the road, now pointed ahead with pale eyes turned wide.  “Quincy, the dwarves!”

The wizard looked, her teeth bared as she drew her sword.  Henriette cursed next to her and came near.  The ghost felt cold and Quincy flinched from having her so near.  “Madreg and some of the commoners–it happened so suddenly!” she breathed.

A gang of the common dwarves had appeared and were marching toward them and the undead.  Their eyes glowed red and their forms had turned black and smoky.  Madreg was at the head of them.

“We’d been waiting for so long.  When we saw what you had done with the undead, some of us rejoiced.  The fighting was finally done.  But some…lost it.  Some weren’t satisfied.  Some were afraid what it meant.  They wondered if you’d hurt us too.”  Henriette held her axe at the ready.  Sedwick came to join them, his arms turning to watery tentacles.  Around them, dwarven fighters, appeared.

Quincy didn’t bother asking how such wild and open ended conclusions could be drawn from such a dubious situation.  The dwarves had said it themselves.  They were getting closer to an existence of mindless evil.  It didn’t have to make sense when you were losing yourself to time.

“Elmiryn, either you get out of the dust,” Quincy fell back into a fighting stance, her eyes narrowed.  “Or dust you’ll stay, and us to join you, damn it all!”

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