The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 3: The First Strike)

3 Realms 3-24

It was the next to last official night of the Under-union Festival and the 4 Fs’ Beautiful Blues were performing their Felansi dance routine in front of a large crowd. The ladies passionately danced, their hands clapping to keep time for the gentlemen to strum their guitars. They were pouring their souls into the routine, closing their eyes and letting the music guide them, yet concentrating intensely on their steps. The music then reached its crescendo and the clapping and steps intensified until one last strum of guitars stopped the ladies in a flourish. The crowd applauded wildly as the ladies held their pose for a few seconds until they all opened their fans, fanned themselves as they curtsied slyly, then they pointed their fans to the men as they got up, holding their guitars and bowing, then hugging the ladies as they walked off aside from Tufarmem as she spoke to her husbands before sitting in a chair and fanning herself alone onstage. As the rest of the Blues exited stage left, Termaf came in stage right and cast her gaze over the audience with a worried expression, as if she were looking for something. “Hi, pal!” called Tufarmem to Termaf. Termaf then turned to Tufarmem and approached her.

“Did you call me ‘pal’?” she asked. Tufarmem looked a little confused but nodded. “Why, I haven’t heard that word in years. You know, kid, I wasn’t always a wandering floozy like you.”

“…She call me a floozy?” Tufarmem asked the audience.

“Ah, back then, it was a brighter time,” continued Termaf, ignoring her question. “I remember the days of yore when I was a happily married woman. Then, one day, a stranger came to my house, begging me for food and shelter, so I told her to make my home her home. Boy, she did.”

“Ooh.” Sympathy was strong in Tufarmem’s comment.

“Yes, ooh, indeed. One night, I came home from work and called out for my darling husband. ‘Lanswey! Oh, Lanswey! …Lanswey? Lanswey, the bread-winner’s here!’ Then…I found it!”

“…Found what?”

“A note. A note on his pillow!” Termaf looked like she was about to burst into tears.

“Wh…what did the note say?”

“It was one of those cold-blooded notes. ‘Termaf, I’m running away with Yunfeen!’” Termaf then broke down as Tufarmem got up from her chair and rubbed Termaf’s back in reassurance. Soon, Termaf stopped crying as her face hardened. “I swore, then and there, to all the Divine Ones, that I would catch them and make them pay for breaking my heart! I packed my bags and left my house for a nomadic life, hunting them and gathering any information I could about them! My first stop was in the Over-realm in the Drelda Forest, and the Fae told me that I had missed them by three days! On with the chase! To the Gamfinar Jungle, then to the Coliamdii Kingdom! Then the Falchineve Drider colony! Then to the Mid-realm! Largandra! Vorkath! Aridu! Last, back to my native Under-realm! Crelima City! Frigandor! Realmgate City! Then, at last, I met my hated enemy, face to face, in the Grilthan Forest! Specifically, at Alanshi Falls!” Her expression then turned crazed. “ALANSHI FALLS!” She then turned to Tufarmem slowly. “Slowly I turned! And step by step, smarg by smarg, I crept up to her!” She did the same to Tufarmem, then took her chin. “And, standing at the precipice, when I felt her hot breath on my cheek, I LET HER HAVE IT!” She then started beating on Tufarmem!

“HELP!” shrieked Tufarmem. “MURDER! POLICE! HELP!” Termaf then stopped and appeared to regain her senses.

“Wait, you’re not my hated enemy!”

“No! I’m the lady who called you pal!” Tufarmem then readjusted her dress and tried to steady Termaf.

“Forgive me, I haven’t been well. It’s that place! Every time I hear it, it tears me apart!”

“Doesn’t do ME any good, either!” Tufarmem then turned to the audience. “Ungrateful, that’s what it is! How do you like a dame like that?! I talk to her, try to be friendly, and she flies off the handle because she hears ‘Alanshi Falls’!”


“Oh no!” gulped Tufarmem as Termaf turned to Tufarmem slowly.

“Slowly I turned! And step by step, smarg by smarg, I crept up to her!” She did the same to Tufarmem, then took her chin. “And, standing at the precipice, when I felt her hot breath on my cheek, I LET HER HAVE IT!” She then started beating on Tufarmem again!

“HEY! HEY! HEY!” Termaf stopped and stumbled near stage left.

“It’s that man! I’ll kill him! Her too! …Blood?” Termaf then looked down and cried out. “RIVERS OF BLOOD! POOLS OF BLOOD! HA HA! THE BLOOD!” She then went offstage, leaving Tufarmem to fix herself up.

“What a meeting!” As she dusted herself off, Yunfeen came onstage and bumped into her. “Pardon me, pal!” mumbled Tufarmem.

“…Did you call me ‘pal’?” asked Yunfeen, causing Tufarmem to gulp. “It’s been a long time since I heard the word ‘pal’.”

“You too?” quizzed Tufarmem. “Haven’t you got any friends?”

“That’s what I was getting to, the dirty soul-leech! She tried to take him away from me! AH! But she didn’t succeed! So, she trailed me!”

“To the Drelda Forest?”

“…Yes.” Tufarmem swallowed nervously before continuing.

“Then the Gamfinar Jungle, the Coliamdii Kingdom, the Falchineve Drider colony, Largandra, Vorkath, Aridu, Crelima City, Frigandor, and Realmgate City?”

“Yes! YES! But how did you know?!”

“You’d be surprised!” Tufarmem then sat back in her chair. “Then she found you at the Grilthan Forest’s Alanshi Falls!”

“ALANSHI FALLS!” A crazed expression crossed Yunfeen’s face.

“Not again!” yelped Tufarmem.

“Slowly I turned! And step by step, smarg by smarg, I crept up to her!” She did the same to Tufarmem, then took her chin. “And, standing at the precipice, when got ready to swing, I LET HER HAVE IT!” Now SHE beat on Tufarmem.

“SOMEONE HELP ME!” She then stopped when Tufarmem cried out.

“What have I done?! Blood! The Judge! BLOOD!” That was when Termaf arrived back onstage. Yunfeen caught sight of her. “Ah, it’s you!”

“Oh, there you are, Yunfeen!” snarled Termaf.

“Why…!” growled Yunfeen as they inched towards each other…then hugged each other! “Why, it’s been too long!” cheered Yunfeen.

“I’ll say!” laughed Termaf. “I almost caught up with you in the Drelda Forest!”

“I think I saw you in Aridu, but it could have been a mirage.”

“Shame he strung us along like that.”

“When did you find out?”

“Well, I heard the news in Frigandor, but never believed it until after our encounter.”

“Go on, where did you find her?” Tufarmem urged.

“Forget about it!” replied Yunfeen.

“Yeah, it’s past history,” agreed Termaf.

“Why, you cowards!” snarled Tufarmem. “You’re afraid to say ‘Alanshi Falls!’”

“ALANSHI FALLS!” repeated Termaf and Yunfeen with a crazed expression on their faces.

“You stay away from me!” yelped Tufarmem.

“Slowly I turned!” continued Termaf and Yunfeen as they slowly turned and approached her, their expressions still crazed. “And step by step, smarg by smarg, I…!”

“Let them have it!” called Tufarmem as she flung clouds at their faces and dashed off, stage right. The audience applauded as Tufarmem returned and joined Yunfeen and Termaf in a bow.

“Thank you all for joining us!” bid Termaf.

“This is one of our family’s best gigs ever, despite all the mishaps!” continued Yunfeen.

“Unfortunately, the Closing Ceremony is tomorrow, which means we must say good night and goodbye,” sighed Tufarmem.

“Who knows where we’ll perform next,” mused Termaf. “We don’t know, we just go where the wind leads our skyships. But, despair not, for we will never stop performing! With that, the Feisty Felansi Forsorna Family bids you all a fond farewell!” The three gave one last bow as the audience applauded. They then exited stage right, waving goodbye and smiling all the while.

The day finally came. The Closing Ceremony was prepared as the Royal Families sat in their respective positions. The announcer took his place at the podium and began. “Well, it seems our collective memory of certain legends is rather…lacking, for want of a better term. I personally can’t believe I forgot that the White Riders were put to rest long ago. Still, we had fun and having the 4 F’s perform here was a really nice touch. With all that, the reigning monarchs may now step forward and light their fireworks!” Andwayla began.

“I am Queen Andwayla Narven, ruler of the Galdredan Lava Kingdom!” She snapped her fingers and fireworks launched into the air, lighting the sky with her home’s colors.

“I am King Exarla Yunumtey, ruler of the Greltharg Merfolk Kingdom!” He did the same as Andwayla, and thus was the way for all monarchs.

“I am King Alnedar Yerudii, ruler of the Morgonthor Trench!”

“I am Queen Yurmar Hanthuu, ruler of Crelima City!”

“I am King Esirat Glasnita, ruler of Frigandor!”

“I am King Enrel Wenshar, humble ruler of the Actanila Mega-shark Grounds.”

“I am Queen Landuii Altror, ruler of the Calnthor Merfolk Kingdom!”

“I am Queen Endomu Gokurah, ruler of the Greshkagh Mountains!”

“I am King Endormak Tothen, ruler of the Grilthan Forest!”

“I am High Priestess Torunath Lundalii, ruler of the Haldebor Drider Caves!”

“I am Queen Rutalmer Worodai, ruler of Realmgate City!”

“I am Lord Tomugath Varsek, Ruler of Falgreth!”

“I am Chancellor Penshek Tolshoon, ruler of Dwelga!”

“And I am Under-King Orbak Emboramii, ruler of the Belsnath Citadel!” The last fireworks launched, and the crowd cheered. As everyone left for their ships, Malnar gave one last goodbye to her family.

“I’ll be sure to come back the instant Arsha’s completed her tour!” assured Malnar.

“And we’ll keep your room untouched,” answered Orbak.

“…Hey, where’s Mama?” asked Yunfeen.

“Oh, crud! I forgot to ask!” Orbak chided himself. “Arsha, Elmpam’s going to her old home to give a sermon at the church. Could she bum a ride off you?”

“Certainly!” answered Arsha. “Where is she?”

“She’s outside the Endeavor with Denstra right now, waiting to get your word.”

“Then we’ll be there straight away! Farewell, Orbak!”

“May the Divine Ones bless you with clear skies!” wished Orbak. Soon, he left for his own ship, then they stopped by one of the ships the Forsorna family uses. They met with a female Troll in the same style and color of dress Yunfeen usually wore.

“Everyone, meet the Red Matriarch, Lantwee Forsorna!” bid Yunfeen.

“A pleasure to meet you all,” greeted Lantwee. “I trust you’ve all enjoyed our performances?”

“We certainly did!” answered Malnar.

“Then let me present a gift to you.” Lantwee then pulled out a data crystal. “This contains all our performances throughout the existence of our family, even the ones from this week.”

“Thank you, Ms. Lantwee!” Malnar accepted the data crystal.

“Anything for extended family. It’s got a variety of menu options and will constantly be updated with each performance.”

“I will be sure to binge all the performances when I get the chance! Break a leg!”

“And you too!” Yunfeen and Malnar hugged each other one last time before Yunfeen joined Lantwee. Arsha then led her group to the Endeavor and met with Elmpam and Denstra.

“Captain, did you receive word of Queen Elmpam’s journey?” asked Denstra.

“Orbak himself told me,” answered Arsha. “We’ll happily take her. Queen Elmpam, welcome aboard.”

“Many thanks,” bid Elmpam. “You know, this is my first time setting foot on a Dauntless-class vessel.”

“Then you’ve picked the perfect one to board for the first time, now that she’s gotten an overhaul.” They went up the ramp and Arsha led Elmpam and her lovers to the bridge. There was a new addition to the bridge. “…Four chairs, I see. Is one of them for Endea?”

“Yep,” confirmed Denstra. “So, if we face the chairs with our backs to the screen, from left to right, they’re the Ship’s Counselor, the Captain, the XO, and the Ship’s Mechanica.”

“Then we’re in business,” declared Arsha as she sat in her new seat while Elmpam and Arsha’s lovers watched the whole thing from the observation balcony. “Nazay, lay in a course for the nearest Under to Over Realmgate, then take us to the Coliamdii Kingdom.”

“Course laid in, Captain,” reported Nazay.

“Nice and easy.” At Arsha’s command, the Endeavor rose into the air.

“Bridge, this is the Chief Engineer!” called Thangred over the comms. “Everything’s running smoother than ever!”

“That’s no exaggeration,” confirmed Endea. “I feel 10,000 years younger!”

“Good to hear!” praised Arsha. “Just keep us posted. Bridge out.” The Endeavor then went on its way to the Realmgate.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 3: The First Strike)

3 Realms 3-23

Everyone who had seen the broom riders met with Arsha in the conference room on the Endeavor. Nazay, Endea, Tornoth, and Bulshnak told them what they saw, causing Gorfanth to sympathize more with his brother. When Endea and Nazay explained what the riders were doing during their sighting, Lardeth threw his hands into the air. “Of course!” he complained. “After experiencing ghosts, why WOULDN’T Oyed come pay a visit?!”

“What do we do?!” gulped Falnii.

“Pray and repent, by the sound of it!” answered Tornoth.

“There isn’t enough time in all the Realms for you to do that, Tornoth!” snarked Gorfanth.


“Guys, fighting amongst ourselves is the worst thing to do right now!” called Arsha. “We need to come together. Nazay, Endea, get us to yellow alert. Malnar, Yunfeen, go tell the Royal Families about the White Riders and make sure you emphasize what Endea and Nazay saw. Lardeth…”

“Everyone, please!” called Calandra’s voice as she and Orbak entered the room.

“My friends, there’s no need to prepare for war just yet!” urged Orbak.

“Daddy, there is EVERY reason to prepare for war!” argued Yunfeen.

“She’s right!” agreed Malnar. “The White Riders are back, and it looks like Oyed’s managed to seize control of them! Why else would they open a gate to the Depths?!”

“They DIDN’T open a gate leading there,” replied Orbak.

“And the broom riders you guys saw aren’t even the White Riders,” supplied Calandra.

“…How do YOU know that?” asked Tornoth, suspicion furrowing his brow.

“Allow us to present the leader of the broom rider band,” answered Calandra. She and Orbak stepped aside to reveal the leader of the band take their mask of to reveal HIS features. Arsha’s jaw dropped. The leader was a human of Arsha’s skin tone.

“Tendrak!” she snarled as she set her hairpiece onto the table.

“You know him?” asked Foresna.

“You guys haven’t met him yet,” hissed Arsha. “Everyone, meet my cousin on my dad’s side, Tendrak Royana, leader of the Whitefleet Broom Platoon!”

“Hey, Arsha!” chuckled Tendrak. Arsha stood up and grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him close to her face.

“You’re part of Realmfleet, aren’t you?! What’s the idea of terrorizing an Under-realm kingdom, Round Ears?! And you guys!” She pointed to Orbak and Calandra. “What’s the idea of letting them?!”

“Perhaps, I could explain myself, Pointy Ears!” snapped Tendrak.

“Yes, perhaps you should!” agreed Arsha as she let him go. Tendrak brushed his shirt and began.

“Let me start by saying it was never our intention to terrorize the Galdredan Lava Kingdom. We were summoned here to take part in a defense trial called ‘Operation: Warning Web’. The goal was to create an early warning system that would alert people of any potential threats Dr. Borg would fling at us. The Royal Families figured that, since this kingdom has the most broom riders, we would be inconspicuous enough to prevent any sightings. However, after Nazay and Endea spotted us last night, I had to declare the project a failure.”

“Then what about the fiery portal we saw you casting last night?” asked Nazay.

“That was no portal, Commander,” assured Tendrak. “One of my platoonmates is a smoker. He lit up a cigarette and I told him to snuff it for security’s sake. Unfortunately, it still retained its light as he tossed it to the ground onto a patch of dry grass. I figured we should spare the fire department a headache and ordered everyone to douse it. That’s what you two saw, the smoldering remains of us taking care of a fire.”

“I heard the whistle of my late father’s ghost train when Foresna, Falnii, and I saw you guys,” called Lardeth.

“What you heard, Your Highness,” answered Tendrak, “was the after-effects of a wind-dispelling charm. We were hit with really hard crosswinds, so we had to get rid of them for a safer flight. The freight cars you guys were stuck between had a flat bed of pipes and the wind must have passed through them at the right pitch to simulate a ghost engine’s whistle.”

“So, why wait until now to tell us all this?” asked Foresna.

“It was a Code Black operation,” explained Calandra. “The Royal Families didn’t want the details to leave the room they were using to discuss this. I was in on the conversation because Mother wanted to test me on whether or not I would blab about a Code Black operation to the ones I loved.”

“So, even Elmar was ignorant about this?” inquired Arsha.

“He was until last night,” replied Calandra.

“In order for a Code Black operation to be declassified,” continued Orbak, “the people in charge would have to unanimously vote on it or the one carrying out the operation would have to declare it a failure. Queen Andwayla Narven, in all the times we discussed this after the first few sightings, voted to keep it classified. She wasn’t happy when Tendrak took the decision out of our hands. Honestly, I’m glad he did, because the rumor about the White Riders returning at any point in time was always proven false.”

“What makes you say that?” asked Malnar.

“I’m surprised you and Yunfeen of all people don’t know!” remarked Orbak. “The White Riders were laid to rest during the First Age of Unity! During King Rentar Emboramii’s reign, Rentar gathered scientists and mages from across the Realms to try and cure the White Riders as a way of making reparations towards those families. They found a way and restored them to a peaceful rest, taking the bodies back to their families so they could be interred properly and rest in peace. Any time there were sightings, it was always the power of suggestion from a swindler or some young punks trying to scare people. Rentar made the details of their final rest public, so I’m surprised you girls forgot that!” Yunfeen and Malnar turned beet-red in embarrassment.

“Mally,” gulped Yunfeen.

“Yes, Yunny?”

“I think we goofed!” Yunfeen hid herself behind her fan.

“That’s a distinct possibility.” Malnar put her head to the table.

“So, there’s no ghouls flying around?” asked Arsha as she set her hairpiece back into its usual place.

“No, there’s no ghouls flying around,” confirmed Orbak.

“Are you friggin’ KIDDING me?!” snapped Tornoth. “You mean to tell me that Bulshnak and I embarrassed ourselves in front of Gorfanth because you guys wanted to play with your new toys?!”

“…How did you embarrass yourself?” asked Malnar as she picked her head up.

“What?!” yelped Tornoth. “Forget I said anything!”

“Come on, Tornoth!” chuckled Lardeth. “Out with it!”

“No! I won’t!” snapped Tornoth.

“You know what?” giggled Arsha. “We don’t need him! We can ask Gorfanth!”

“Don’t you dare, Gorfanth!” snarled Tornoth.

“I won’t,” assured Gorfanth. “Sorry, everyone, but my staying mum on the details is all part of a contract with his company.”

“Then Bulshnak can talk!” suggested Falnii.

“No, I can’t,” rumbled Bulshnak.

“Can’t or won’t?” chuckled Foresna. As everyone had a turn ribbing Tornoth and Bulshnak, Orbak and Calandra stayed in the back, observing the whole thing. This incident would be going to the public after this, but they weren’t so sure of the repercussions.

“Excuse me, Your Majesty,” muttered Calandra to Orbak as she left the room. She made her way to Elmar’s quarters and found him running his hands over his face. “Elmar, sweetie?”

“I just had a call from Councilman Torrudai,” he mumbled. “He’s demanding to speak with you.”

“…He’s not happy with Mother,” sighed Calandra. “I’ll speak with him.”

“Communications console’s over there.” Calandra sat down and keyed in a command to connect with Torrudai. She then put in a passcode, followed by completing a retinal scan before an old man appeared.

“Your Highness, I’ve been looking for you,” he grunted.

“Elmar told me you were looking for me,” replied Calandra.

“I’ll be blunt, your mother’s decision in light of the panic that went on has made many of my colleagues and people VERY unhappy.”

“I’ve been told that by the people themselves.”

“Then you have a better grasp of the situation. I need to make this very clear; the Galdredan Council has just barely voted to let your mother continue ruling until you marry Elmar and he retires from Realmfleet. However, that was a pretty slim vote. Right now, people have no confidence in your mother’s abilities.”

“Her heart is in the right place, Councilman.”

“Perhaps, but you have frequently said that her head isn’t.”

“…Yes, I did.”

“Your Highness, the only reason that she’s still in command of our kingdom is that she DID propose effective methods of routing Splitter operatives for all Realms and imprisoning them. You must understand that if she does something like this again…”

“Just give me a heads-up so I can return to claim the throne if the vote swings that way.”

“…I’m glad you understand, Your Highness. For now, safe travels.” The call ended and Calandra put her head in her hands.

“…I know she’s my mother,” she mumbled to Elmar, “but she’s not doing our kingdom any favors.”

“Well, we cannot change her so easily,” muttered Elmar. “We can only hope that her future actions will be less…absurd.”

“Yeah…” Calandra simply sat in Elmar’s lap as he wrapped his arms around her in a reassuring hug.

“…You know,” mused Elmar, “I believe the 4 F’s are going to be performing within the last 10 days of this week.”

“…Yeah, I could do with some 4 F entertainment,” chuckled Calandra.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 3: The First Strike)

3 Realms 3-22

Tornoth and his new partner, a male Orc named Bulshnak, headed towards their destination. Bulshnak had the charisma of a potato, droning on through the rulebook and zinging Tornoth for even the slightest infraction. The horseless carriage stopped at the foot of a dirt driveway leading to a small house. “Steelhorn Haven,” grumbled Tornoth.

“The correct address is…” interjected Bulshnak.

“I lived here when I was a calf, so I’ll use the name Dad gave it!” snapped Tornoth. Bulshnak scoffed at being brushed off like that as they exited the carriage and went up the driveway. They arrived at the door and rang the doorbell. “I’m surprised Dad wanted anything to do with us.”

“With you, specifically.”

“Look, I may not be the favorite of the herd, but I’m not disowned. Dad still keeps in contact with me.” The door opened to reveal Gorfanth. “…Well, well, well! Hello, Gorie!”

“What did I say about that stupid name?!” snapped Gorfanth.

“Sorry, Gorie.” Tornoth laughed. “What brings you back home?”

“Family help. There’s a wagon train that needs to get to the Welmark Well of Fire and it needs to be there by tomorrow morning.”

“What’s the train full of? Your old dollies?”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this. …Tornoth, I need to arrange a continual delivery contract with the Galdredan Reliable Road Services.” Tornoth stared…then fell to the porch floor in hysterical laughter. Bulshnak arched a hairy eyebrow as Gorfanth just gave his brother a deadpan look. Tornoth then climbed up the porch’s support and held himself to the railing as he calmed down. “…Finished?”

“Wait, you’re serious?” asked Tornoth as his amusement faded faster.

“Yes. I need a route to the Well and you guys offer the fastest routes.”

“What do you need us for? We’ve all been there once or twice.”

“You more than us! The routes Great-Grandpa took when we were younger were closed off and he’s getting on in years!”

“I thought living on a skyship meant you didn’t NEED help!”

“Living on a skyship means knowing when to ask for help and I’m asking for help now!”

“Regretfully,” fussed Bulshnak, “Regulation 7, Subsection 9, paragraph 3 clearly says that we cannot negotiate a contract at so late a time unless there was a form of assured quid pro quo.”

“What sort of quid pro quo?” asked Gorfanth, suspiciously.

“That can vary from client to client,” answered Bulshnak. “It can be an actual service now or a later favor.”

“…I’m more inclined to accept a later favor,” remarked Tornoth.

“Forget it!” snarled Gorfanth. “I’d rather owe a favor to Reb Rojam than you!”

“Then we can’t negotiate a contract at this time,” chuckled Tornoth. “Regulations are QUITE clear! Have fun finding someone else!” He and Bulshnak then departed as Gorfanth mooed angrily at their backsides before slamming the door. “I love making him mad!” Tornoth chuckled to himself.

“Regulation 4!” fussed Bulshnak. “Potential clients may NOT be an…antago…” he trailed off as he looked up in the sky.

“What’s up with you?” asked Tornoth as he followed Bulshnak’s gaze. His own eyes then grew to the size of dinner plates. Flying overhead was the white broom band!

“A…Are those…?!” stammered Bulshnak. “Th…They look like…! Galtrak, protect us! They’re real!”

“Quick! Into the house!” urged Tornoth. They pounded up the drive and back onto the porch. Tornoth retrieved the spare key from a panel inside the exterior wall, put it into the door lock, opened the door, then they dashed into the house and slammed it shut, panting in fear.

“What are you two doing in here?!” protested a voice.

“GORFANTH!” cried Tornoth as they whirled around to face his brother.

“What’s the matter with you?!” snapped Gorfanth. “You sound like you’re going through puberty!”

“Don…don’t be stupid!” stammered Tornoth as he regained his gruff voice.

“Me?! You’re the one who flew in here like he’s seen a ghost!”

“Maybe I did…”

“What? You know what, forget it. I’m in no mood for crazy explanations. That wagon train needs to leave tonight, so fine! Take it and I’ll owe you a favor!”

“Er, never mind the favor! I’d be more than happy to help my big brother! No charge whatsoever!”


“Of course! We’re family, aren’t we? We gotta help each other out!”

“Oookaay, I don’t know who you are or what you’ve done with Tornoth…but I’ll take your offer. Actually…” a wicked grin then crossed Gorfanth’s snout, “I must insist on repaying the favor.”


“I won’t tell everyone you squealed like a calf!” Tornoth’s tail flicked in irritation as he looked at Bulshnak. The Orc shrugged and he sighed in defeat.

“Fine. I’ll accept that. Where’s the wagon train?”

“Garage shed 2. It’s already opened.”

“I’ll drive the carriage up and hook it up.”

“Splendid! Pleasure doing business with you!” Tornoth snorted as he and Bulshnak left the house. Gorfanth then looked at the small altar. “Whoever’s watching the whole thing, this is probably wicked of me, but I’m gonna enjoy hanging this over his head!”

The next night followed and Endea was awake again! Her overhaul was finished, and she enjoyed a nice meal after being welcomed back. She was then taken on a rail-ride similar to the one Lardeth and his group took. Her companion was Nazay at the time and he had taken her to a 4 F’s show with the Wonderous Whites as the stars. They had recently made their ships Mechanicas and they became members of the family. After the show, Endea and Nazay returned to the open auto-coach and went back down the line…before running into a complication. “And people say I can’t navigate on the ground!” grumbled Nazay.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Endea as she brought the coach to a stop.

“Face it, Endea! We’re lost!”

“How’s that possible?!”

“Because we don’t know where we are!”

“Nazay, it’s not like we took the wrong road! We can only go where the tracks take us! Since we passed over a bridge spanning a lava river, I’d say we’re on a branch line near the Welmark Well of Fire!”

“Which we shouldn’t be! We’re supposed to be on the MAIN line!”

“Maybe there was a points failure, or maybe the Signalman made a mistake. In any event, I fail to see this as OUR problem! We’re probably about 500 Mebs from the Old Palace Theater Station. If I’m right, we stop there, then get directions back onto the main line from the Stationmaster.”

“I’m just not too keen on traveling down an unknown line in the middle of the night away from your main body! What if someone’s meant to come down this way?”

“You’re right. Maybe we should go up and check.”

“…I guess that’s the best plan we’ve got so far.” Endea then brought the auto-coach up to a cautious speed and they went down the line.

“Er, Nazay, are you familiar with the White Riders?”

“I’ve heard that legend dozens of times.”

“Then, about the sightings…”

“Honestly, I think it’s all some ridiculous hoax. Someone’s trying to stir up a panic. Maybe one of Dr. Borg’s plans.”

“Why would she want to do that?”

“To demoralize us, maybe. I don’t think we’ll see them.” Oh, if only Nazay was right! After getting directions back to the main line from the Stationmaster, they went down the line towards a loop that led to the main line. Traveling down the loop, there was a light. As they came nearer, the light could be seen as a fire…with the broom rider band hovering above them and casting something with their wands at the fire! “Okay, I take back what I said!” cried Nazay. “Sweet Olpen! What’s going on?! Why’s the ground on fire?!”

“It looks like…!” gulped Endea. “Commander, you don’t think that’s…a gateway to the Depths, do you?!”

“I’m not in a mood to find out! HIGHTAIL IT!” Endea opened the throttle and the coach roared down the track!

Unbeknownst to them, the band heard everything and saw them make a break for it. The leader shook their head. “Spotted and we made them panic,” they grumbled.

“I TOLD you guys this operation wouldn’t work!” snapped a second.

“Come on, be fair!” argued a third. “There’s plenty of broom rider traffic! This kingdom’s got the most broom riders in all the Realms!”

“None of them are an all-white band,” remarked a fourth. “We stuck out like a sore thumb just enough for people to spot us.”

“You know, if I were a superstitious person,” mumbled the last, “I’d start thinking that the White Riders were around.”

“Then we don’t have a choice,” muttered the leader. “I’m calling it.” They activated a communicator. “Your Majesty, people spotted us and ran in a panic. Operation: Warning Web is a failure. …I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but after an auto-coach fled from us, we felt like we had no choice. …Very well. We’ll be there shortly. Good night.”

“That’s it, then?” asked the fourth.

“That’s it,” confirmed the leader. “Whitefleet Platoon, return to base.” The broom riders then took off for their base of operations.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 3: The First Strike)

3 Realms 3-21

Foresna, Lardeth, and Falnii were enjoying a nice, romantic rail ride during the night. It was on a private, open-roofed coach that was powered by an engine. It was going slow along a branch line along the continent’s southern coast. Foresna breathed in the salty air. “Man, this is a nice view,” sighed Foresna happily.

“I have to admit, no view in the Over-realm can match this,” agreed Lardeth.

“You know,” mused Falnii, “I’ve never been to the Galdredan Lava Kingdom before the Endeavor had to come here.”

“What do you think so far?” asked Lardeth.

“…It’s lovely,” sighed Falnii happily as she leaned her head onto Lardeth’s shoulder. She then brought Foresna’s head down to her lap and stroked his hair. They all gave a contented sigh as the coach continued its leisurely run down the track. Their eyes soon shut as they let the noise of the coach’s wheels on the track bring them to sleep…a sleep that was interrupted as the coach suddenly lurched as it went over a set of points to a siding! Foresna moved to the front of the coach and hit the brakes as the coach traveled between two rows of freight cars. The coach stopped and the three looked at their surroundings.

“What in the Depths…?!” snapped Foresna before he made a call to the nearby signal box. “Excuse me,” he began as the Signalwoman operating the box accepted the call, “my lovers and I were taking a nice tour down your line when we ended up in a siding. What’s going on?”

“I’m afraid, Sir,” replied the Signalwoman, “that all trains had to be diverted into a secluded area, by order of Queen Narven herself.”

“What for?!” demanded Lardeth as he and Falnii joined Foresna.

“She wouldn’t say,” replied the Signalwoman, “only that it was part of a project.”

“Oh, peachy!” grunted Lardeth.

“Thanks,” grumbled Foresna as he ended the call.

“Just once,” sighed Lardeth as he looked towards the sky, “I’d like to have a romantic excursion with at least one of my lovers without something going wrong!”

“We’ll have to make sure Queen Narven hears of this,” declared Falnii.

“You know, I rather hope Calandra takes the throne quickly,” muttered Lardeth. “She seems to have her heart AND head in the right…” a noise then interrupted him, a noise that froze his soul! “Th…that noise!” he squeaked.

“Might have been the wind,” gulped Foresna.

“No, I recognize that sound!” insisted Lardeth. “Don’t you remember?! Dad’s ghost engine made that sound when it whistled!”

“Lardeth, we all saw him and his train reach the Heights last year, remember?!” urged Falnii. Another noise then rang out. They saw five white streaks in the sky.

“What were they?!” asked Foresna.

“If they weren’t going so fast, I might have seen them,” mused Falnii.

“I caught a glimpse of them!” called Lardeth.

“What did they look like?” asked Foresna.

“A broomstick band of five, all in white!”

“Isn’t that what Malnar, Gorfanth, and Arsha saw?”

“Sure sounds like it,” muttered Falnii. “We need to talk to them when we get back.”

Orbak was walking through the corridors of the Endeavor as the overhaul was finishing up. With any luck, Endea would wake up within two days. As he passed by a conference room, he heard the conversation. “You saw them too?!” yelped Malnar as she met with all those that had seen the broom rider band so far.

“They were rather difficult to miss,” replied Lardeth.

“What’s going on here?” asked Yunfeen as she stroked Beruka’s middle head.

“Wait a minute,” called Termaf, “isn’t this their anniversary?”

“…Whose anniversary?” asked Arsha.

“Oh, yeah, it is,” remarked Malnar. “There’s an Under-realm legend about a five-rider band that died.”

“Oh, yeah, that one,” recalled Yunfeen.

“Mind telling those who aren’t initially from the Under-realm about it?” requested Foresna.

“I’m sure I told you about them?” asked Gorfanth.

“I can’t say as I recall any stories like that,” remarked Arsha.

“Nor me,” supplied Lardeth.

“News to me,” reported Falnii.

“I have to agree with my old home’s Crown Prince,” muttered Tufarmem.

“I’m surprised,” muttered Beruka. “I would have thought you’d have heard it from Loondal.”

“Well, it’s not a happy Ghost story,” warned Malnar. “Heck, I’d hardly call it a ‘Ghost’ story.”

“What WOULD you call it?” asked Arsha.

“…A Ghoul story.” Her audience was then captivated. “They’re the first Ghouls, prototype Revenants. During the War of the Realms, my first ancestor, Intrag the Conqueror, was growing more impatient with the stalemate the war became. He ordered his top mages to create unstoppable soldiers for him to conquer the Realms or suffer horribly.

“The mages soon came up with a theory. Vampire blood has been known to have mystic properties, even going so far as to revive recently dead animals of all Realms and give said animals a smidge of Vampire powers. So, they theorized that a generous amount of Vampire blood would revive recently dead soldiers.

“When Intrag heard the plan, he ordered them to enact it. They scoured the Realms for five of the greatest warriors, killed them, and then applied Vampire blood, taken from Vampires who had failed Intrag. Intrag came to see the bodies walk on their own. He was impressed and gave the order to mount brooms and fly about, spreading his gospel.

“Unfortunately, something was wrong. The Ghouls didn’t understand Intrag’s instructions. They simply flew around the skies of the Under-realm. When Intrag heard the reports, he was furious. He mounted his own broom and pursued them. He ordered them to return home for reeducation, but they refused. They said that they were under orders to fly around the sky and they must complete that mission.

“Intrag was enraged. He fired his own magic, but nothing phased them. Whatever damage they suffered, even under his strongest magic, they shrugged it off and resumed their patrol of the sky. They didn’t shoot him down, just went around him constantly. Intrag was furious. His mages had failed him, and they were executed on the spot. That was mere days before the Message was discovered.

“Many have tried to undo what was done to the Ghouls but were unsuccessful. They are cursed to forever wander the night skies of the Under-realm, appearing only on the anniversary of their creation, earning the name ‘White Riders’. Any who catch sight of them, woe be to them.” Malnar ended her story and her audience was in some form of self-reassurance.

“W…what kind of…woe?” gulped Falnii.

“Any kind,” answered Gorfanth, “from the most minor to the most major.”

“Oh dear,” sighed Orbak from outside the conference room. He went towards the entrance ramp without another word.

Calandra was in another dress fitting session. There was one particular wedding dress that caught her eye and she decided to try it out. It was a little loose fitting on her, but she liked the design. The Royal Seamstress was taking measurements and making decisions on alterations. “Now, the shoulder-revealing collar is, in my opinion, a nice touch,” she mused.

“Maybe,” sighed Calandra, “but I want to drape my arms around Elmar’s shoulders when we kiss.”

“Well, with that in mind…” muttered the Royal Seamstress before someone knocked on the door.

“Come in!” called Calandra. Orbak then entered the room. The Royal Seamstress knelt in his presence.

“What can we do for you, your Majesty?” she asked.

“I need to speak to Calandra about certain…sightings,” explained Orbak. The Royal Seamstress was confused.

“Er, would you mind leaving us alone for a sec?” asked Calandra.

“Um, very well, your Highness,” mumbled the Royal Seamstress. She then left the room. Once the door closed, Calandra turned to Orbak.

“There were more sightings?” she asked.

“Foresna, Lardeth, and Falnii saw them last night,” confirmed Orbak. Calandra flopped into a chair.

“Great, now we’ve got THREE sightings in the span of two nights!”

“There’s more. When all the witnesses came together, Malnar told them about the White Riders.”

“That’s gonna cause panic! Not what Mother was hoping for!”

“But exactly what you and I said would happen.”

“Does Mother know? Should we tell everyone?”

“Your mother knows and, when we met, she voted ‘no’ on saying anything.”

“Your Majesty, I know this operation is predicated on secrecy, but Mother’s being stubborn right now. She needs to understand that if there are any more sightings, the word ‘covert’ won’t mean a damn thing.”

“You know better than I do that Andwayla has a knack for remaining ignorant, even in the presence of overwhelming facts.”

“So, what, we just let this play out?”

“We don’t exactly have much choice.” Calandra sighed in defeat.

“All right, I’ll alter the event schedule as best I can to at least minimize sightings. With any luck, we’ll keep the situation from escalating.”

“I daresay the Divine Ones will have their work cut out for them in answering prayers for good luck.”

“No kidding. This could be what gives Dr. Borg the excuse she needs to strike against us.”

Standalones TTR

A Solstice Song 5

When he got a chance to open his eyes, he saw that it wasn’t a tombstone, but a chair; HIS chair. He looked around to see that he was back in his apartment! Malnar opened her eyes to see the apartment’s ceiling instead of a dark, cemetery sky. “…I’m home?” asked Droka.

“So it would seem,” mused Malnar. Droka then dropped to his knees and clasped his hands in prayer.

“I will keep the Solstice with all of my heart!” he promised again. “I will live in the past, present, and future! The Divine Ones that showed me what those aspects mean shall strive within me! I will not ignore the lessons taught on this journey! The Heights and the Solstice be praised! I swear this on my knees, Calna! On my knees!”

“I don’t think it would do you any good if you tried to make amends on your knees,” joked Malnar, hope for her uncle rising.

“Quite right!” cheered Droka as he got up from the floor. “I must start! But…what day is it? I don’t know how long the Divine Ones brought us on that journey! I don’t know anything! I’m a newborn!” He opened his window and looked outside. A Dwarf boy passed by the apartment building. “Excuse me!” he called. “Young man!” The boy looked up.

“Me, Sir?” he asked.

“Yes, my fine fellow!” confirmed Droka. “What’s today?!”

“It’s…it’s Solstice Morning,” replied the boy.

“It’s still the Solstice!” whispered Droka. Malnar heard that.

“…All in one…well, they ARE the Divine Ones, they can bend time as they wish,” mused Malnar.

“My boy!” called Droka to the Dwarf boy again. “Do you know if the Prize Turkey was sold yet?”

“The one twice my size? No, not yet,” the boy replied. “I should know, my father’s the butcher.”

“Excellent!” cheered Droka. “Don’t go away! I have something for you to do!” The Dwarf boy was confused as Droka disappeared from the window. After a minute, he returned. “Catch!” he called. He tossed down a bag of something and the boy caught it. “Go on, look inside!” urged Droka. The boy shook the bag first and it made a jingling noise. He then opened it and his eyes widened at the amount of Golds in it.

“That’s twice the Prize Turkey’s price!” he called up.

“Tell you father,” directed Droka, “that I’m buying the Prize Turkey! Whatever remains is yours! If you and your father come here with the turkey in five minutes, I’ll refill the bag with the price of the turkey and all of that is yours!” The boy sprinted quickly.

“Where’s the turkey going?” asked Malnar.

“To Twelmek’s, of course!” cheered Droka. “They need a fabulous Solstice dinner!” During the five minutes they waited, Twelmek got dressed and used the mana scraps he had to mend all of his clothes to look nice. The door chime rang. “Right on time!” chuckled Droka. He and Malnar bundled up and headed to the door. The butcher was there with the turkey in hand and his carriage was outside the building. “Excellent turkey!” praised Droka. “How much was it?”

“500 golds, sir,” replied the butcher, his beard barely hiding his confusion.

“Splendid!” answered Droka. He handed 500 to the boy. “As promised!”

“Thank you, sir!” bid the boy.

“So, you DID buy it?” asked the butcher.

“I did, indeed!” confirmed Droka. “I need you to deliver it to 96 Hillside Road, on the eastern edge of town! Make sure it gets there in time for Solstice Dinner! Don’t let them know I bought it for them. It’s an anonymous gift for them.”

“I will, indeed, sir,” promised the butcher as he set the turkey back in the carriage.

“Before you go,” called Droka. He handed 100 Golds to the butcher.

“A tip?” asked the butcher.

“And a Solstice present!” replied Droka.

“Thank you, sir!” praised the butcher as he got into his seat. “Happy Solstice!”

“Happy Solstice!” returned Droka.

“They’re going to love that,” chuckled Malnar. “When will you tell Twelmek?”

“After I give him his long-overdue raise,” replied Droka. “I think five times his usual amount will help his family.”

“It’d certainly get them a bigger house,” agreed Malnar.

“…Have you ever noticed how wonderful the Solstice is?” sighed Droka happily.

“Every time it rolls around,” chuckled Malnar. “You know, the invitation to dinner still stands.”

“…Even after the load of nonsense I pulled yesterday?” asked Droka.

“You’ve changed,” replied Malnar. “You look happier. I would like to help you continue being happy.”

“Well, I’d be a fool for not accepting, wouldn’t I?” chuckled Droka. “This year, I accept.”

“Come on, then!” cheered Malnar. I must say, it was quite the surprise when everyone met Droka. He joined in the fun, taught everyone another game as well as participating in similes, and told them about the journey that made him change his heart.

Twelmek was running, and I do mean RUNNING, to the bank the next day. He was puffing the instant he got into the building and lit his candle before hearing someone clear their throat. “What do you mean by coming in at this time?” grunted Droka in his old manner.

“I’m sorry, sir,” gulped Twelmek. “I didn’t pay enough attention to the time.” Droka then stepped forward and handed him a piece of paper. Twelmek winced and looked at it…only to find that it WASN’T a notice of Termination of Employment, it was a compensation note. “…Sir, I think you gave me the…”

“Long overdue raise you needed to aid your family?” interrupted Droka. “I did, indeed.”

“…Sir?” asked Twelmek.

“A Happy Solstice to you!” cheered Droka. “I will raise your salary and assist your family in all of its struggles! I will see to it that Teegar can walk with no aid and will ensure she has the best possible life! …Well, what are you standing there, gaping for?! Go stoke up the fires and get some warmth in this place!”

“Y…Yes, sir!” stammered Twelmek, wondering if it was a dream. Outside, Malnar had heard the news. Droka DID donate to help the poor, to the same collectors that visited him two days ago, and saw to it that he would donate the same amount of money throughout every time of the months ahead, until his own death. Malnar smiled warmly, her heart made lighter with the knowledge that change was always possible. She walked down the street and did some thinking by herself until she was stopped by Balmo again. She dashed into an alley to talk to her and a Flame Elf woman that looked familiar.

“Your uncle is true to his word,” chuckled Balmo. “He now understands how to keep the Solstice in his heart.”

“And to Teegar, who will NOT die,” continued the woman as she pointed to herself, revealing herself to be an older Teegar from the future with both of her legs working, “gets the operation needed to save her. Arsha’s CMO did that and your future with all of your lovers is safe.”

“Go Marshii!” cheered Malnar. “May all of divinity bless us on this and every day!”

“We certainly will,” agreed Balmo. “Farewell, Malnar Emboramii!” She and Teegar’s new future faded.

“A Happy Solstice,” called Malnar to the heavens, “and a happy new year!”

Standalones TTR

A Solstice Song 4

“You…you then wish to show us the future?” gulped Droka.

“I do,” answered Balmo. She then pointed. As if by some abrupt change, the scene behind Malnar and Droka was now that of the Stock Exchange. A quartet of people were talking, a plump Centaur woman, a beardless Dwarf man, a Halfling man that was small for his people’s average height, and the Halfling’s wife of average Halfling height.

“All I can say is,” remarked the Centaur woman, “I don’t know how. All I know is he’s dead.”

“Do you know when he died?” asked the smaller Halfling.

“Last night, I think,” mused the Centaur woman.

“Is there going to be a funeral?” asked the Halfling’s wife.

“A cheap one, I’ll be bound,” sighed the Dwarf. “Any mourners?”

“I doubt it,” muttered the Centaur woman. “His only friend died before him, his family’s gone, he’s got no one.”

“I’ll go if there’s food,” remarked the Halfling. “You know us Halflings, we MUST be fed.” That earned a laugh from everyone in the group. The observers, on the other hand, didn’t laugh.

“Who were those people talking so rudely about?!” demanded Droka.

“You will understand soon enough,” replied Balmo as the scene changed again. It was a dingy room with items all strewn around. A wicked looking Elf woman dumped her bag onto the floor with a fat human pawing through it.

“His bedsheets?!” he cackled. “I hope he didn’t die of anything catching! Oh, and is this his shirt?!”

“Got them all washed,” croaked the Elf woman. “Don’t want any disease on my conscience. Besides, they was gonna bury him in it! If he was gonna have them, why weren’t he more natural?”

“Can’t argue there!” laughed the man.

“More of them?!” protested Droka. “Balmo, this is absurd! Let me see some tenderness connected with this death!”

“As you wish,” whispered Balmo. The scene change to an older-looking Twelmek.

“Wh…why does he show signs of age?” asked Droka.

“Listen,” directed Balmo.

“My daughter,” whimpered Twelmek as he knelt in prayer. “My precious daughter…” He was kneeling by a crutch carefully preserved.

“…I see,” mused Droka.

“Not yet,” countered Balmo as the scene changed to a cemetery. She pointed at one of the headstones. Droka guessed whose name was on it.

“Oh no,” he sarcastically wailed, “I’m going to die!” He then dropped the act and whirled on Balmo. “This whole thing is a waste of my time!” he bellowed. “First, Freemal has me take a trip through my past! You DO realize that the past makes up who I am, right?! What’s the point of reliving it if I already remember it?! Then, Mordek shows me the present! Oh, wow! It’s like I’m living in it right now! Now, we have you, Balmo, the future? And what IS the future, I’m getting a headstone. Of course, I am! I’m going to die, Malnar’s going to die, her lovers are going to die, Orbak’s going to die, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! …We’re all going to die and leave when it’s too early, so what’s the point of showing me my headstone?!”

“It IS your headstone, yes,” mused Balmo, “but what about the spirits?”

“…Spirits?” asked Droka.

“WHOA!” yelped Malnar. Droka turned and gasped in disbelief. Chained ghosts appeared before them and the faces were all known to him. Malnar, Orbak, Elmpam, Twelmek, and his own ghost, they were all chained.

“Wait a minute!” protested Droka. “I thought I was the only one risking the chains!”

“With you dying,” explained Malnar’s future ghost, “it changed us all. I never married my other lovers, Dad became tyrannical, Mom left him, Twelmek died of depression, and we are ALL chained to YOU! All because you never moved on from your sister’s death!”

“No!” begged Droka. He then turned to the living Malnar and Balmo. “No, please, not them! Hear me! I’m the only one that must be chained! Please! Why show me this ghastly future?! And why tell me this is because I see no logic in moving on from her death?! Do you have ANY idea what it was like?! Would you say goodbye?! COULD YOU?! How can you say goodbye…” at that moment, he was crying, “when someone is living life and not remembering her?!”

“But Daddy DOES remember her!” replied Malnar. “THAT’S why he’s living life! He’s doing it her name! He added Mother’s name to the list of living in people’s name when she died! We’re asking YOU to move on!”

“How can you ask me that?!” wailed Droka as spectral chains wrapped themselves around him. “WHEN MY FAMILY LEFT…it was like losing her all over again!”

“Uncle Droka,” whispered Malnar as she knelt down to see eye to eye with him, “none of us are your sister. Money is not your sister. No one and no THING can replace her. There IS something capable of lasting a lot longer than money. Live in her name and memory.”

“How can you even ask that with your mother dead?” asked Droka. “How can you move on?!”

“It’s a process,” replied Malnar. “Uncle Droka, this is where you are right now. Where do you WANT to be? Where do you NEED to be?” Droka then looked back and saw the ghosts.

“Balmo, are these the shadows of the things that WILL happen or the things that MAY happen?” he finally asked.

“That is up to you,” replied Balmo.

“…Where is my sister’s grave?” inquired Droka. He looked back to see Balmo pointing to a headstone. Droka made his way to it and wiped off excess snow from the stone to read Telna Emboramii, the sister of King Orbak and Baron Droka. “Telna, I have been a foolish man after you died,” he confessed. “Through it, I am chaining our family to selfishness. Well, no longer! I don’t ask for forgiveness, only that I make things right and free our family! I will keep the Solstice with all of my heart! I will live in the past, present, and future! The Divine Ones that showed me what those aspects mean shall strive within me! I WILL NOT IGNORE THE LESSONS TAUGHT ON THIS JOURNEY!” He then hugged the tombstone and cried, his eyes shutting. Malnar shut her eyes and cast her head upward, silently asking the Divine Ones to grant him the chance to change and promising that he would take it.

Standalones TTR

A Solstice Song 3

An hour had passed as Malnar was about to nod off. Her arrival to Dreamland was interrupted by footsteps. She got up from her seat to see Droka getting something from the cabinet. “Droka?” she asked. Droka jumped before assuring himself it was Malnar.

“After that nightmare,” he muttered, “I need something to calm my nerves.”

“LOOK UPON ME!” called a jolly voice, spooking both Malnar and Droka. A fat, jolly looking man in red was in the room. “I do beg your pardon,” laughed the man. “Did I startle you?”

“No, I just like to yelp in surprise all the time! Sheesh!” snapped Droka.

“Mordek?” asked Malnar.

“I am, indeed, Mordek!” replied the fat man. “One of the five Divine Ones that watch over the element of fire!”

“Are you the next guide?” asked Droka.

“That I am!” cheered Mordek. “I’m here to show you how the Solstice is celebrated by ALL walks of life! Come!” The scene melted away to reveal the Ruling Castle, the seat of Power in the Under-realm and Orbak’s home.

“What the?” muttered Droka.

“Okay, why are we back home?” asked Malnar. They heard footsteps approaching the castle gates. They whirled around to see a second Malnar approaching as she blew into her hands, then rubbed them. She then rang the buzzer.

“May I help?” asked an elderly gentleman’s voice.

“It’s me, Dweemar,” replied the second Malnar.

“Come on in, Your Highness,” bid Dweemar. “Your parents are eagerly awaiting you. I trust you had a pleasant night at your uncle’s?”

“That man lives in a practical ice box!” complained the second Malnar. Droka turned to the first and scowled.

“Well, you do!” she protested as everyone followed the second Malnar in.

“Malnar!” yipped a voice. The second Malnar was then wrapped in five pairs of arms all giving a simultaneous embrace. A white, fuzzy muzzle rubbed itself on the second Malnar’s face.

“Hey, Mama,” chuckled the second Malnar. The hugger, Elmpam Emboramii, stepped back and rubbed a pair of hands down the second Malnar’s face.

“Good grief, you’re frozen!” she observed. “The walk must have been biting cold!”

“So was my uncle’s apartment,” replied the second Malnar. “That man never stokes his fire! And his attitude’s no better! Do you know what he said to a pair of donation collectors?”

“He tossed them out without leaving a tin?” called a voice. Orbak stepped into the foyer to join his wife and daughter.

“He tossed them out without leaving a tin! Exactly!” confirmed the second Malnar. “I gave them twice my usual donation sum to cover for the verbal abuse they suffered! Leaving people to feel cold and miserable on the Solstice! What kind of man is he?!”

“A rather stingy one,” remarked Orbak. “I take it he refused to dine with us?”

“He said he’d see me in the Depths before that happens,” replied the second Malnar.

“Well, there ARE people who accepted and are more cordial than my brother,” mused Orbak. “I believe they’re…right there.” He pointed to a door with five people Malnar loved very much.

“LARDETH! GORFANTH! ARSHA! FORESNA! FALNII!” cheered the second Malnar happily. She rushed towards her future spouses and joined in the embrace. “Lardeth, Arsha, how did you finagle leave time?” asked the second Malnar.

“After the Borsootha affair,” replied Arsha, “Rokalla managed to convince Realmfleet that we needed a break.”

“So, we chose the Solstice to celebrate with you,” continued Lardeth.

“Well, it’s great to see you again!” cheered the second Malnar. She turned to her parents. “Is the ballroom ready?”

“Ready and eager for our feet and voices!” declared Orbak. “Come! We have a celebration to commence!” The scene changed to the ballroom where a violinist played and everyone gathered in a circle. Elmpam had a small handkerchief in her hand and danced as if she were hiding behind it while everyone clapped in tempo of the violin. While she danced and twirled clockwise, everyone else danced counterclockwise. Elmpam kept twirling until she danced towards her husband and danced with him before passing the handkerchief to him and taking his place in the circle. This time, Orbak was dancing as if he were hiding behind the handkerchief while everyone else circled him. He then danced towards one of Malnar’s sisters, Twentha, and she took his place in the middle. This went on and on until everyone had a turn. Soon, everyone was clapping as the violinist finished and bowed.

“I played that game when I was a child,” mused Droka.

“You ARE missing out on a great deal,” replied Mordek.

“Let’s see, how about a game of Similes?” suggested Foresna.

“Similes?” asked Lardeth. “What’s that?”

“One person has to start a simile,” explained Foresna, “and the person that is chosen by the speaker has to complete it. If they fail to do so, then they’re out. Allow me to demonstrate. Arsha, sly as…”

“Sly as a fox!” finished Arsha.

“And she’s safe,” continued Foresna.

“How will we know when we’re out?” asked the second Malnar.

“The person who’s out is the one sitting down,” declared Orbak. “Do you all mind if I start?”

“Be our guest, Your Majesty,” replied Foresna. Orbak then turned to Lardeth.

“Lardeth, proud as…” he proclaimed.

“A peacock,” finished Lardeth.

“Elmpam, tight as…” began Orbak.

“Your brother,” snarked Elmpam. That got a laugh from everyone.

“Oh, ha ha,” grumbled Droka.

“Not the simile I was thinking of,” answered Orbak. “Sorry, sweetie, but you need to sit.”

“Yeah, tell an Inu to sit,” Elmpam comedically grumbled. She had an exaggerated pout as she sat down.

“I believe that is enough for now,” mused Mordek. “Come, we must go to Delga’s castle.” The scene faded and changed into the main courtyard where Delga, Larbuu, and their respective harem partners cuddling on a bench.

“I’m afraid it’s true,” sighed Enfanti, “Dad can’t come to our Solstice bash.”

“That’s a pity,” sympathized Delga. “Then the mine’s atmosphere is taking its toll on his health too much.”

“Can’t we send help him?” asked Dorbu.

“Do you have 90,000 golds to cure him?” asked Enfanti.

“90,000?!” yelped Larbuu. “That’s robbery! And at the Solstice too!”

“So, the fact remains, your father won’t be joining us,” sighed Delga. “A pity. We haven’t seen him for months.”

“What is her father’s name?” asked Droka.

“Alnam Glarosa, I believe,” replied Malnar. Droka then went quiet. “…Refused a loan in his name?” she guessed.

“I had…no idea,” muttered Droka. The scene then changed again to a small, two story house with only one room for the entire family. It was a family of Flame Elves. A mother was cooking as her children were helping. “Who in the…?” quizzed Droka.

“Twelmek’s family, I believe,” mused Malnar.

“Come on, Dweena,” called the mother to the eldest daughter. “Come set the table.”

“Yes, Mother,” replied Dweena.

“Hey! Dad’s home!” called one of the twin boys.

“And Teegar, too!” cheered the other.

“Let them in!” directed the mother. The twins opened the door to let Twelmek and a young girl in. The girl was on Twelmek’s shoulder and had a crutch in her hand. Both cheered when they saw their family.

“Happy Solstice!” cheered Twelmek. He set the girl, Teegar, down and she was helped to the table. A goose was set in the middle of the table and drinks were poured for everyone.

“A rather small goose for two adults, an adolescent, and three children,” muttered Droka.

“That’s probably all he can afford,” replied Malnar. Twelmek then raised his glass.

“I’d like to propose a toast,” he called. “To Droka, the founder of this banquet.”

“Founder of the banquet, my ears!” snapped his wife as her ears moved so the flat tops were level with the floor. “I’ll tell you what, I’d send him a piece of my mind to feast on!”

“Gleemar, it’s the day of the Solstice,” replied Twelmek.

“And, from what you’ve personally said,” continued his wife, “he won’t have anything to do with it!”

“Mama, isn’t the Solstice a time for forgiveness?” asked Teegar. The mother drew in a breath, knowing her crippled daughter was right.

“I’ll do it for your sake,” she sighed, “your siblings’ sake, your father’s sake, and the day’s sake, but not for his.” She raised her glass. “A Happy Solstice to Baron Droka Emboramii. May he be very happy, wherever he is.”

“Baron Droka,” answered everyone before they took a sip.

“…I suppose I deserve that,” sighed Droka.

“Hm?” asked Malnar.

“Nothing,” dismissed Droka. “…Mordek, tell me about the young Teegar. How full will her life be?” Mordek winced before answering.

“I see an empty place at the table and a crutch carefully preserved,” he sighed.

“…A pity,” grunted Droka.

“Pity?” hissed Malnar. “You still believe what you said earlier?! How she should hurry up and die because she’s not productive enough?! I would advise you to hold your tongue until you know what the unproductive are and where it lives.”

“Man, if man you are,” continued Mordek, “you will find that, as it stands now, you are worth less in our eyes than MILLIONS like that poor man’s child, even BILLIONS worse off than her! Believe it or not, she is one of the lucky poor in having a roof over her head! Come!” The scene abruptly changed to a village of poor people. This was nothing more than a collection of raggedy tents with families huddled around small fires.

“What in the…?!” spluttered Droka. “Why are we in the bad part of town?!”

“This is one of the poor villages,” explained Malnar. “You know, one of the places where you said people badly off should go?”

“But…but I thought they were better constructed than this!” protested Droka. “I thought there would be, you know, actual buildings!”

“They can’t afford the upkeep of such buildings,” answered Mordek. Droka’s eyes were then grabbed by something beneath his robes.

“Lord Mordek, what’s that behind the robes? Is it yours?” asked Droka.

“No, THEY belong to all of our children, no matter the species,” corrected Mordek. He pulled them back to reveal a boy hissing and spitting with fingernails broken into claws and a girl with the telltale sagging stomach. “I present to you Young Master Ignorance and Young Miss Want,” introduced Mordek. “They desire warmth of any kind, whether it be from an actual fire or the flames of kindness, hence why they cling to me!”

“Don’t they have ANY help?!” wailed Droka.

“Are the shelters still in operation?” asked Malnar coldly.

“Why are you using my own words against me?!” snarled Droka.

“Because you’ll find that your words and actions,” hissed Malnar, “are more deadly that ANY weapon that can be constructed! Lord Mordek, I think we’ve…Mordek? Lord Mordek?!”

“He’s off on an errand,” whispered a voice. A woman in black robes then approached them. There was an uneasy air around everyone.

“L…Lady….Lady Balmo?” gulped Malnar.

“I am,” answered the Divine One, one of the five that watch over death.

Standalones TTR

A Solstice Song 2

Malnar was trying to keep herself awake, her eyes shutting and her head drooping forward while she sat, then snapping back and forcing her eyes open. Droka never bothered staying awake. He was fast asleep. Malnar’s head snapped back and her eyes opened again…and were never burdened by sleep again as a figure stood in the light it generated. This light felt otherworldly, and Malnar knew the figure as if she had had continual contact with it. “…Freemal?” she gulped.

“Greetings, young Malnar,” replied Freemal, one of the five Divine Ones that look after the element of earth. Her green hand then touched the curtain of Droka’s bed and pulled it back.

“WHO IN THE DEPTHS?!” snapped Droka as he woke up. “MALNAR, TURN THAT LIGHT DOWN!”

“You cannot turn my light down so easily,” interjected Freemal. Droka then got a good look and gasped.

“Are…are you the guide Calna told me would come?” he gulped.

“I am,” replied Freemal.

“H…How are you here to guide me?” whimpered Droka.

“To help you remember your past,” replied Freemal.

“…That’s all?” remarked Droka. “A trip down memory lane?”

“Come, we must see what began your current view of the world,” directed Freemal. The scene changed into what looked to be outside a hospital room. Malnar gasped when she saw herself as a child sitting on the waiting bench.

“Did…did you just…” she spluttered at Freemal.

“We are but shadows,” assured Freemal. “Do either of you remember this day?”

“This is when my sister Twanmee was born!” cheered Malnar. “Winter Solstice Eve! I was so happy at having another sister to play with. This was just a few years before Mama died and Daddy remarried.” A younger Orbak came out of the hospital room.

“Malnar, want to see your sister?” he asked the child Malnar.

“Yes, please!” cheered young Malnar. Then, her face went pensive. “Daddy, why isn’t Uncle Droka here?”

“He…er…he’s a very…troubled man,” replied the young Orbak.

“I always found that to be an odd answer,” mused the present-day Malnar.

“Then let me clarify,” grunted Droka. “While your youngest sister was born, I was outside the cemetery, reminding myself that money is longer lasting than love, life, or holidays.”

“Why?” asked Malnar.

“If it was as ephemeral as life,” answered Droka, “money wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, it lasted longer than my sister.”

“…Oh,” realized Malnar.

“My sister was the only light in my dark world,” continued Droka. “Not even my wife or son could jolly me out of it. I soon learned that money does not save, it only exists and we need to keep track of it for fear of losing our path.”

“That didn’t serve your marriage well, did it?” mused Freemal.

“Don’t you dare!” hissed Droka. “Don’t you dare show that Solstice!” The scene changed into an old house as a Succubus woman sat down, looking sad. A younger Droka then entered the house.

“It was quite a day,” he muttered. “The Troondars tried to sue me for price gouging. They never had a case; the prices of houses are correct. It’s their own fault that they couldn’t pay on time.”

“And yet, you cannot pay your debt,” muttered the Succubus.

“I beg your pardon?” asked Young Droka.

“You’re barely here,” explained the Succubus.

“Well, I have to brave society and the idiots invading it to avoid poverty for us,” answered Young Droka.

“When I married you,” countered the Succubus, “I thought you were the bravest man alive!”

“Have I done anything cowardly?” quizzed Young Droka.

“Your son feels no attachment to you!” snapped the Succubus. “You’ve become obsessed with gain that no other attachments matter to you, not even your family! Can you look me in the eye and say it wouldn’t matter if we were rich or poor?”

“…It would be preferable for us all to be wealthy,” muttered Young Droka.

“No! Don’t say that!” hissed the present day Droka.

“Oh, what an answer!” wailed the Succubus. “That proves it! The man I loved died with his sister and I’m living with the shell of his former self! Well, no longer! I see no reason to continue calling myself your wife!” She stormed out of the manor and out of Young Droka’s life.

“…You were married!” hissed Malnar. “You had a family and let it slip away!”

“His loss,” remarked Freemal. “Lord Twandek Larkentha’s gain.”

“Twandek? Delga’s cousin?” quizzed Malnar.

“The same,” replied Freemal. “Let us observe the Solstice of 10 years ago, the day Calna died.” The scene changed to Frigandor as the same Succubus was walking with a Frostik man, arm in arm as a Human/Incubus boy laughed and played with a Frostik/Succubus girl. There was a smile on all their faces. The Succubus then had her attention diverted for a bit.

“Twendrii, Wilcam, not so far,” she called, kindly but firmly. The children listened

“Little scamps,” chuckled the Frostik, Twandek. He then remembered something. “My sweet, I passed by a place of business run by an acquaintance of yours during my stay in the Belsnath Citadel.”

“Who?” asked the Succubus.

“Guess,” replied Twandek. The Succubus thought long and hard.

“I can’t come up with an answer,” she giggled. “What’s the place of business?”

“Droka and Calna’s,” revealed Twandek. The Succubus’ smile faded. “I know Droka’s name causes you grief, but I thought I’d tell you that his partner, Calna, was near enough to say that his soul was about to forsake his corporeal body. When he dies, Droka will be without a friend.”

“His money has been a friend to him for some time,” muttered the Succubus. “Some would say, too close of a friend. Poor Droka, to be alone with no physical companion.”

“Spare me your pity!” snapped Droka. “I have no need of it! As for you, Freemal, get out of my sight! Stop tormenting me like this! I don’t need a trip down memory lane to remind myself of how I became who I am! GO AWAY!”

“I’ll leave,” replied Freemal. “I must inform you, though, everyone needs a trip to remind themselves of what made them the way they are.” As she vanished, so, too, did the scene until Malnar and Droka were back in the apartment.

“Just uninterrupted rest,” pleaded Droka. “That’s all I need right now.” He then retired to his bed.

“…Pity is all you will get from me,” sighed Malnar once she was assured Droka was asleep.

Standalones TTR

A Solstice Song 1

The Winter Solstice had arrived! During this frigid time of year, good cheer was felt by all beings across the Realms. Lights were lit to show that happiness still burned brightly during such a cold time. At least…in most buildings. Over in a Baron’s place of business, said Baron was busy with his books and ledgers. He heard a slight scrape. “Just what do you think you’re doing, Mr. Twelmek?” snarled the Baron.

“Th…the fire, Lord Droka…it’s dying,” explained the Flame Elf Clerk, Twelmek.

“Come here,” snapped the Baron, Droka. Twelmek approached Droka’s desk. “What’s this draping over my body?”

“…A coat,” replied Twelmek. A rather cheaply made coat, if one could observe it, almost like Twelmek’s own coat.

“And under it?” asked Droka.

“A shirt,” answered Twelmek.

“And what surrounds my legs?” inquired Droka.

“Pants,” replied Twelmek.

“They’re clothes,” grumbled Droka. “Our respective species, Human and Elf alike, had the intelligence to protect us from the cold. If I see you with that coal shovel in your hand, it might be necessary for you to prepare your resume.”

“Yes, my Lord,” gulped Twelmek. He then returned to his seat and was about to sit down only to hear a knock on the door.

“…Well? Let them in!” snapped Droka. Twelmek opened the door to allow Malnar to come in!

“Happy Solstice, Your Highness!” greeted Twelmek.

“Oh no,” groaned Droka.

“Happy Solstice, Mr. Twelmek!” returned Malnar as she lowered her hood to reveal her glowing face, her cheeks reddened by walking briskly in the cold weather. She then saw Droka. “Happy Solstice, Uncle Droka!”

“Load of nonsense,” rumbled Droka.

“Something not balancing right?” asked Malnar in a slightly teasing tone.

“Not my ledgers, the whole holiday!” snapped Droka.

“…The Winter Solstice? A load of nonsense?” repeated Malnar. “That’s a joke, I trust?”

“I can’t afford to joke about it!” snarled Droka. “‘Happy Solstice’, to the Depths with the whole thing! All the Winter Solstice represents is racking up credit and being unable to pay it off the next year! If I had my way, any dimwit with ‘Happy Solstice’ in their head would have their heart burst upon even thinking it!” Someone rang the doorbell. “Oh, what now?!” moaned Droka. Twelmek had let an Inu male and a Dwarf female come in.

“Droka and Calna’s, I believe,” mused the Dwarf woman. “Have we the pleasure of talking to Mr. Droka or Mr. Calna?”

“Mr. Calna died ten years ago,” grunted Droka, “on this very day.”

“Then it is a pleasure to see you, Mr. Droka,” greeted the Inu man as he handed a business card to Droka. He turned the card over, then rolled his eyes as he handed his own business card to them. “At this time of year,” began the Inu man, “it is noted that many are in need of basic necessities.”

“So, those of us with the money and resources to do so,” continued the Dwarf woman, “should do their part in easing the suffering of those that cannot afford a roof over their heads.”

“I’m hearing a pair of patriots,” sighed Malnar happily. At that moment, they noticed her.

“Your Highness, I do beg your pardon!” gulped the Inu man as both bowed.

“Please, get up,” directed Malnar. “Save the bowing for a Royal Audience. I should bow to you two if you’re looking to help the poor.”

“Hold on, aren’t there villages?” asked Droka.

“…Plenty of them,” replied the Dwarf woman.

“And the shelters, are they still in operation?” quizzed Droka.

“They are, but the conditions are rather…lacking,” answered the Inu man.

“Then Poor Law is in full force?” continued Droka.

“Very busy at this time of year,” remarked the Dwarf woman.

“Oh,” sighed Droka in relief. “For a second there, I thought something had stopped them in their useful duty. I’m glad to hear things are going well.”

“Not so well for the poor,” corrected the Dwarf woman. “As my partner mentioned, the conditions are rather subpar to keep them safe and happy. Some of us are trying to raise a fund to buy them food and shelter, more STABLE shelter. What can we put you down for?”

“…Let’s see, zero golds,” mused Droka, “zero silvers, zero bronzes, zero coppers, and zero tins.”

“…Ah, you want this to be an anonymous donation,” guessed the Inu man.

“I want you idiots to leave me alone!” barked Droka. Their faces showed confusion. “You asked me what I wanted, so that’s my answer! …By the Ones, must I explain it in full detail?! I already pay enough by giving to the shelters and making sure the Poor Law has the necessary funds to keep it going and to keep the poor useful! They must make use of it!”

“Many CAN’T make use of it!” protested the Dwarf woman.

“And that same number would rather die!” supplied the Inu man.

“Then tell them to hurry up and do so,” snapped Droka. “The rest of us that want to be productive would get along better without the poor hanging on our sleeves! The door is right behind you, make use of it! Good day, you two!”

“Why, you heartless…!” snarled the Inu man.

“Sir, Madam, could you wait outside?” asked Malnar. “We can discuss my donation when I’ve finished up here.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” obliged the Dwarf woman. The two left the bank and left Malnar to confront her father’s brother.

“Uncle Droka, that was…!” she hissed.

“Malnar, my niece,” interrupted Droka, “keep the Solstice how you like and let me keep it how I like.”

“No one keeps the Solstice!” argued Malnar.

“Let me leave it be then!” snapped Droka. “It never does ANYONE good!”

“Our spirits are lighter!” argued Malnar.

“I supposed that’s why your father remarried,” muttered Droka, “to make his spirit lighter.”

“He remarried because he loves Ma!” protested Malnar.

“Loves her!” grunted Droka.

“You and I both know that love is a powerful force!” argued Malnar.

“It gets in the way of your goals,” countered Droka.

“I think you’ll find,” refuted Malnar, “that it didn’t get in the way of Daddy’s goals. Why not have dinner with us tomorrow and see?”

“I’ll see you in the Depths before that happens,” snarled Droka.

“…I’m not asking much,” urged Malnar. “I only want you to be a part of family life. Why can’t you and Daddy be friends?”

“You’re wasting both of our time with your mewling!” snapped Droka. He then looked at his watch. “Oh, Sweet Ones! It’s closing time! Twelmek! Close up the bank!” Twelmek couldn’t clean up his workstation faster. “I suppose you want the whole day tomorrow?” grunted Droka.

“If possible and convenient,” confirmed Twelmek.

“It’s possible, yes,” sighed Droka. “But convenient? No, and neither is it fair. If I were to dock your pay for it, you’d strike, wouldn’t you?” Twelmek gulped. “But you don’t see the logic in me striking for paying a full day’s wages for no work.”

“It’s only once a year,” observed Twelmek.

“And it’s still a day where a person’s pocket is picked,” grumbled Droka. “Still, you may have the whole day off. Be here ready to open the day after!”

“Yes, my Lord!” promised Twelmek. All three had hurried out. Twelmek made a dash for his house while Droka stormed towards his apartment, Malnar hot on his heels in the snow.

“Don’t you have a home to get to?” snapped Droka.

“Not until I pick your brain for a while,” replied Malnar. “I want to know what makes you so cold.”

“Then you’re in for a long night of never finding out,” grunted Droka as he continued on his way. They arrived at his dingy apartment and he pulled out his key.

“It looks like you did SOME spending for elaborate ornamentation,” remarked Malnar as she pointed to the knocker.

“What are you talking about? I never…!” Droka then yelped in surprise. The knocker had a Troll’s face on it instead of a lion’s. “C…Calna?” gulped Droka. “No, impossible!” The face faded and returned to being a knocker. “…No, the stresses of the day,” dismissed Droka as he and Malnar entered the apartment building. They climbed the stairs and went down the hall to his apartment. He unlocked the door, found a small fire and his meal of soup, and sat down by the fireplace to take in soup. “There’s some food in the cabinet if you must have it,” grunted Droka to Malnar.

“I’m more freezing than hungry,” shivered Malnar. “Can’t you make the fire any stronger?!”

“Fire fuel is too expensive,” snapped Droka. “Now, if you would REALLY insist on picking my brain, perhaps…” he was interrupted by a bell ringing. “Malnar, some quiet, please,” grumbled Droka.

“That’s not me!” gulped Malnar. The door then opened.

“I said, stop it!” demanded Droka.

“Uncle Droka, I’m not doing this!” yelped Malnar. She then froze at hearing the sound of chains being dragged across the floor. After five seconds had passed, a Troll man materialized partly, still transparent and looking more like stone than a living Troll should. The Troll was bound in many fathoms of chains made of cash boxes, keys, and bank books. Droka yelled and grabbed the poker, swinging wildly through the Troll until the Troll stopped the last swing.

“Take it easy, Drokky,” advised the Troll. “I’d rather you not risk a heart attack, not until I’ve received proof that you heard what I needed to say.” The Troll then saw Malnar. “Good Evening, Your Highness. Happy Solstice.”

“H…Happy Solstice,” replied Malnar weakly.

“My word!” breathed Droka. “You…you’re…”

“Calna Drelmek,” finished the Troll, “your old business partner and your best friend.”

“But…but you’re…dead!” gulped Droka.

“A chained ghost!” gasped Malnar. “I thought such ghosts never show themselves!”

“Not usually,” replied Calna’s ghost. He then turned to Droka as he was shaking his head. “What’s the matter, don’t believe in ghosts?”

“Not in YOUR ghost, no!” hissed Droka as he returned to his soup.

“Can’t you see me? Hear me?” asked Calna. His spectral hand then placed itself onto Droka’s shoulder. “Feel me?” Droka shivered at the sudden decrease in temperature on his shoulder.

“You’re probably something I ate!” snapped Droka.

“Then I must have eaten the same something,” mused Malnar.

“Exactly,” declared Droka. “Any minute now, everything will return to normal! This is all a load of nonsense!”

“YOUR VERY ATTITUDE IS A LOAD OF NONSENSE!” roared Calna’s ghost. Droka cried out in terror.

“Please!” wailed Droka, his stony face displaying abject terror. “Have pity on an old man!”

“Droka Emboramii, do you believe in me now?!” demanded Calna.

“YES! YES, I DO!” replied Droka. “But…but Malnar is right! Ghosts that are chained are never seen unless in extreme circumstances! Why do you make an appearance now?!”

“To help you escape my fate!” explained Calna. “Every spirit that walks the earth has to travel and go on a journey of change. Beings like Malnar take that chance so they could learn from other cultures to help assist in that change. She is comfortable with learning new things. As long as she stays the course, then her soul will be free forever when she dies! Do you believe the Depths of the After-realm are torture? No, at least you abandon hope and are comfortable being declared wretched! They do not know the torture of being shown what their actions have caused in the mortal realm! I am condemned to such a fate, trying to lighten my burden by helping those more wretched than me, but never being able to do so! Constantly burdened by my chains of sin!” He held out a length of the chain wound about him to explain.

“You mean, that chain represents whatever sin you’ve committed?” asked Droka.

“It represents a multitude of my sins!” wailed Calna. “No rest, no peace, no way to help those less fortunate than me!”

“…Calna, I can’t understand why you are chained in the first place!” protested Droka. “All your life, you were excellent in banking!”

“And never turned my eye towards the consequences of my ruthless endeavors!” urged Calna. “I never realized until it was too late how unfair I was being to those less fortunate than me!”

“…Is that what this is about?!” snapped Droka, his usual demeanor returning. “Some spiel about changing your ways?!”

“I’m warning you, right now,” insisted Calna, “don’t waste your life as I did!”

“Waste?!” protested Droka. “How can you say that?! You were a legend in the banking business!”

“That was not my business!” wailed Calna. “The affairs of other people were supposed to be my business! The good of society was my business! Charity, mercy, kindness, all that good stuff, THAT was my business! Our trade is nothing but peanuts compared to our true business! Listen to me and listen well, Droka, my time is almost up! I came here tonight after 10 years of failed attempts to reach you to tell you that you have a chance of breaking your chain! There will be three guides coming for you! Listen to them carefully! Expect the first guide at 1:00 tonight!”

“Can’t they all come and we can get this over with?” asked Droka.

“Expect the second guide,” continued Calna, “on the following hour, and the third the hour after that. Pray that you never see me again!” The chain, as if strings on a puppet, dragged Calna through the window. His wailing joined with those around him, chained ghosts like himself, weighed down by the pursuit of material gain.

“…Well, this is a turn,” mused Malnar. “So, who would be your guide?” mused Malnar.

“…A load of nonsense,” grumbled Droka.

The Three Realms The Three Realms Cast


Born in the Under-realm’s capital of the Belsnath Citadel, Beruka is one from a litter of four. He’s the dog of Yunfeen, Malnar’s sister, and lives with her and her caravan of spouses in the Feisty Felansi Forsorna Family, along with his parents and brothers and sister. At 2,086, this Sentina Cerberus is dating another Cerberus from within the 4 F’s named Tregii.