The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 4: Trials of Light and Dark)

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The team arrived in a new arena. Boltuk was actually feeling rather hopeful. During the trials, he was actually turning towards Realmfleet. He wasn’t sure they could convince the King, but they convinced a few Manticores at least. Arsha saw this. “You know, you COULD help us,” she offered.

“…Disobeying the King like that is a capital offense punishable by a most dishonorable death,” answered Boltuk. “My paws are tied.”

“…I’m sorry to hear that. You’re a good sort, I can tell.” Boltuk gave a sad smile before he took his place in the center of the arena. The crowd then gathered in the stands.

“These outsiders have passed one of the Trials of Intelligence by showing that proofs can be abused!” he called. “That is four trials under their belt. Only two more remain! How well can these outsiders find a pattern?! …Lady Andotal! Come forth!” A female Manticore strode out and waved as the crowd cheered.

“An interesting pun, Mr. Bloodwing,” she chuckled. “I am the fourth and you tell me to come forth.”

“…An unintentional pun, I assure you,” groaned Boltuk. He then turned back to the crowd. “Lady Andotal will write five numbers and the challenger must find a pattern within a minute! If they write out five more numbers that fall within the pattern, they win. If they fail to write the correct answer or they fail to come up with any answer within a minute’s time, well, I think we all can guess what that means!”

“All right, Delselii, Patrica, Foresna, it’s the four of us. Who’s the best at finding a pattern?” Arsha asked her team.

“Let me try my hand at it,” offered Patrica. “I’ve been able to find patterns in the past.”

“Then good luck.” Patrica then entered the ring.

“I, Patrica Looden, will accept the challenge!” she called.

“Very well!” replied Boltuk. “The instant Andotal finishes her last number, your time begins!” Andotal then used her tail to write five numbers in the sand. The numbers were 610, 987, 1,597, 2,584, and 4,181. “BEGIN!” called Boltuk. Patrica was a little surprised that the numbers were so large. Ten seconds passed and there was still no answer from her. Arsha gulped.

“I…was NOT expecting that,” she muttered.

“This is bad! There ISN’T a pattern!” groaned Bashoon.

“Actually, there is,” replied Orthena. “It all depends on if she remembers her math classes.”

“…Oh, I see it now!” realized Delselii.

“You do?” asked Arsha.

“Half a minute remains!” called Boltuk.

“Wait, really?!” protested Patrica. “I think you just added…added…added…just a minute!” She then started tracing out the first two numbers in another part of the sand. After that, she included an addition sign. She then saw that 610 and 987 equaled 1,597. She then added 987 to 1,597 and got 2,584. She then snapped her fingers. “A Loquntho sequence!” she cheered. “I know what the remaining five are!”

“Then write them,” declared Boltuk. “The clock has stopped for now.” Patrica then added new numbers to the original sequence. They were 6,765, 10,946, 17,711, 28,657, and 46,368. Lady Andotal then looked at the answer and how Patrica got her answer. She raised her eyeridges in approval.

“I never thought my ancestor’s number sequence would survive into your time,” she mused. She then turned to Boltuk. “She’s got the correct numbers!”

“And that makes five trials for the outsiders!” called Boltuk to the crowd. “The last trial will be prepared in an hour as it involves our King and Queen. Rest and prepare, for you need to have a flexible mind to face them.” The crowd departed and Boltuk gave one last look at Arsha and her team. “…I beg you, don’t take the last trial. If you fail it, we’re all slaves to Oyed and the Sphinxes will forever be in our thrall.”

“It’s because of the plight of the Sphinxes that we’re not turning back now,” replied Arsha. “I believe my team has demonstrated that they’re more than capable of passing anything you throw at us. I could only feel pride as they passed their trials and found the entrance to your kingdom. I won’t spit on their efforts now.”

“…No outsider has ever passed the Trial of the King and Queen. I urge you to reconsider.” Boltuk left and Arsha sighed.

“You have to admit, it IS a change from when we first met him,” remarked Lardeth.

“Still, I really hope he sees sense,” sighed Arsha.

“That’s the problem, here,” replied Falnii. “In accordance with his own culture, he DOES see sense and we don’t. Different cultures have different definitions of seeing sense. You’ve seen it yourself. I’m willing to bet your own parents have their own culture clashes, despite being on the same general page on certain things.”

“And it’s not just different species,” remarked Malnar. “Over-realm and Mid-realm Humans have different cultures. Even then, those pockets of humans have even further divisions. Rich and poor, smart and ignorant, which Divine One is the better one to worship, but it’s NOT inherently evil. It looks to me like the Manticores WANT to be more diverse, but they need a change from the top. Hopefully, we can bring that change. You saw it in Boltuk’s eyes.”

“…Well then, looks like we have a trial to pass!” declared Arsha.

“Atta girl!” cheered Malnar.

“Where is he?!” grunted one of the Manticore Revenants.

“It’s almost the end of the day and I don’t see 35 people before me,” replied Oyed. “Your father isn’t attempting to renege on the deal and get away with it, is he?”

“It’s well within his standard M.O.” The door then opened to let Lord Toonsar into the room.

“Ah, there you are,” purred Oyed. “How kind of you to join us. …Where are the people you promised?”

“…I regret to inform you,” replied the elderly Manticore, “that I couldn’t get enough in time.”

“Then your soul is forfeit. Farewell.” Oyed drew a circle in the air and…Toonsar smirked.

“Ta!” The circle then surrounded Toonsar and both it AND he exploded in white light.

“Wh-what?!” spluttered Oyed.

“That shouldn’t have happened?” asked the Revenant Manticore.

“No! It…a Maho-particle avatar! Someone tricked me!” Oyed was frothing at the mouth. The Manticore sniffed the air.

“It smells like…like…like something Velkor wove! The King’s behind this!”

“Your people’s loyalty is no longer certain! Get a team for me that will get me past the trials! Make sure they know a path to get me there before Arsha or there’ll be the Depths to pay!”

“Before Arsha, my Lord?”

“Arsha surrounds herself with people who are not only strong, but clever as well! They may very well pass the trials!”

“I understand, My Lord.” The Manticore headed off and Oyed looked out the window.

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Boltuk led the team through what would have been the third arena. The place looked more ornate than the previous one. “Man, I would have enjoyed this!” moaned Bashoon.

“It’s one of our favorite arenas,” replied Boltuk. He then led them to a new arena where a whiteboard stood in the center of the ring. The crowd filed in and Boltuk began his announcement. “These outsiders,” he called, “have passed the Trials of Strength! But brawn is nothing without a brain to back it up! Outsiders, you had best be able to prove your intelligence, for we do not love idiots! The first trial shall determine whether or not you have the ability to abuse proofs! If you can stump one of our smartest with something ridiculous and prove that it is possible with no loopholes, you win! If your opponent finds a loophole, you lose! Who shall go?!”

“Arsha, let me in on this!” giggled Malnar. “I’ll give you a year’s supply of chocolate if you do!”

“What? Why?” asked Arsha. Malnar then whispered her plan into Arsha’s ear. “…There is no way that will work!”

“Come on, Foxy! For me?” Malnar then gave her lover puppy-dog eyes.

“No! Stop that! You know I hate it when any of you do that! …Fine! Go ahead!” Malnar kissed Arsha on the cheek then practically skipped into the ring.

“It looks like you have set your challenger on us,” remarked Boltuk. “Very well! Lord Tanatar! You are needed!” An elderly Manticore man then came forward. He had a limp, but he was cheered to the echo as if he were a great gladiator. He raised his hurt paw as the crowd cheered, then he pointed to a section and lowered his paw. The section then quietly cheered. He then raised his paw, and the cheering grew louder. Then he put his paw to the floor and the cheering stopped.

“…Dang,” remarked Malnar to her opponent as he approached the whiteboard. “Sounds like men of intellect are REALLY prized here.”

“We DO uncover secrets that prove useful to fighters,” answered Lord Tanatar. “Now, what do you wish to prove?”

“Well, first off, I need to set the scene. Tell me, do you have grandchildren?”

“Seven of them, and I spoil them all rotten. Why?”

“That makes it a lot easier. So, do you see yourself as someone who spoils them equally?”

“Of course. But, I must be fair. Let’s say, for example, that there’s candy, about…give me a number.”


“Then I would give each one of them four pieces of candy.”

“I thought you said you spoil them rotten.” Lord Tanatar was confused.

“I do.”

“Only four?” Malnar clicked her lips in disappointment. “My Lord, you’re cheating them. Twenty-eight pieces of candy for seven grandkids? They deserve thirteen apiece.” Lord Tanatar goggled at Malnar.

“What in the name of the King are you talking about?!” he protested. “Seven by thirteen does NOT make twenty-eight!”

“Yes, it does!”

“Seven by FOUR makes twenty-eight!” Malnar sighed.

“Lord Tanatar, seven by THIRTEEN makes twenty-eight!”

“Seven by FOUR is twenty-eight! Aren’t you a soldier?!”

“Yes, but I’m also a Princess.”

“…What are they teaching royalty these days?” muttered Lord Tanatar.

“I can show you my work, if you wish.”

“Please, show us.” Malnar took up one of the markers and set up a long-division problem. She set it up like so:


“Now, seven into two?” asked Malnar. Lord Tanatar shook his head. “Seven will NOT go into two. No matter how much you push that big seven into that little two, it won’t fit! That’s gonna hurt the poor little two! So, I’m gonna put the two down here!” She drew a little two at the bottom of the white board. “Now, seven into eight?”

“It goes in once,” replied Lord Tanatar.

“Exactly!” Malnar drew a one at the eight’s right.

7⟌28 1

“Now, I’m gonna carry the seven. It’s a big seven, so we need to distribute it right.” She wrote a seven under the eight. “Now, eight minus seven?”

“One.” Malnar then wrote out the next step and answer.

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“Now, this is where the magic happens!” called Malnar. “A minute ago, we had a little discussion about a little two.” She then pointed to the little two at the board’s bottom. “This little two! You mind if I use it?”

“Go ahead,” sighed Lord Tanatar.

“Much appreciated! So, I’m gonna put the two by the one below the carried seven.” She then wrote her new two.

7⟌28 1



“Now, seven into twenty-one?”

“Three.” Malnar wrote the resulting three at the left of the one at the top!

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“There we go! Seven goes into twenty-eight THIRTEEN times!”

“NO! NO! NO! Nothing of the kind!” Lord Tanatar then erased the board. “There’s something you’re missing! Tell you what, we’ll multiply all this!”

“All right.” Malnar then wrote out a long multiplication problem.



“All right, seven times three?”





“Seven times one?”






“Seven plus one?”

“…Eight…” Lord Tanatar then saw where she placed the seven.






“And we carry the two!”






“There we go! Twenty-eight!”

“NO! NO! That’s not it!” Lord Tanatar erased the board again. “All right, that’s it! There’s only one surefire way to find a loophole here! Put down thirteen seven times!”

“Oh, I get it, you want me to add it.”

“Bingo! Go on!” So, Malnar wrote down 13 seven times.








“All right, now we start…!”

“Hold it!” Lord Tanatar leveled his stinger at her. “I’LL start it!” His stinger then went up the threes. “Three! Six! Nine! Twelve! Fifteen! Eighteen! Twenty-one!” Malnar then ran her marker down the ones.

“Twenty-two! Twenty-three! Twenty-four! Twenty-five! Twenty-six! Twenty-seven! Twenty-eight!”









Lord Tanatar goggled at the whole thing. “…I…I-I…I can’t…I don’t see any loopholes! She’s abused proofs!” He collapsed to the floor in shame.

“By Lord Tanatar’s declaration,” called Boltuk, “the outsider has won the first Trial of Intellect! Now, outsider, since you’re the winner, you may point out any loopholes he missed with no penalty.”

“Thank you.” Malnar then turned to Lord Tanatar. “My Lord, there WAS a loophole that I didn’t have a counter for.”

“What’s that?” he mumbled.

“The tens place.”

“…The tens place! Of course! …I will have to learn more, even if my King forbids it.”

“Come with me, and we shall proceed to the next trial!” called Boltuk. The crowd roared as Arsha and her team were led to the next challenge.

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The Manticores were finishing up the arena as Lardeth recovered. Arsha noticed that the inside of the circumference was lined with springs pointing inwards. A circular piece of material was then hooked up to the springs. “A trampoline?” asked Arsha. “I had one of those when I was a little girl. Went too high at one point and landed in a way that broke my leg.”

“Ouch!” winced Delselii.

“That would mean you lose this trial,” remarked Boltuk. The crowd then returned. The size of it somewhere between the first trial and the second. “We have seen these outsiders pass two of the six trials!” Boltuk called to the crowd. “They are physically and emotionally strong, but what of their agility?! How well can they dodge?! Will they be able to make good enough decisions and quick enough changes in direction?!”

“It’s a dodging trial?” asked Bashoon. “Let me in on that action! Goblins are only rivaled by halflings in our ability to make quick getaways!”

“Bashoon, wait!” hissed Delselii. “What if it’s something you can’t see?!”

“That’s where the ears come in.” Her ears flapped to back up her words.

“…Very well.” Delselii stepped back.

“Good luck, Lieutenant,” wished Arsha. Bashoon took off her shoes, then stepped into the ring.

“You believe your shoes will slow you down?” asked Boltuk.

“No, just don’t want to tear the trampoline,” replied Bashoon.

“…Very considerate.” Boltuk then turned to the crowd. “Bring forth the Casters!” Three Manticores then came out of the gates and took to the air surrounding the ring. “Dodge their magic blasts within a minute’s time!” he instructed Bashoon. “One hit and you fail the trial! Begin!” The Manticores fired on Bashoon, and she bounced upwards, dodging the blasts. One then fired near her, forcing her to twist out of the way in mid-air. Another one followed a milli-second later and she twisted out of the way again. There was a rapid-fire series of shots and Bashoon stayed ahead of them.

“10 seconds so far,” muttered Patrica.

“She’ll falter,” remarked Boltuk.

“You don’t know Goblins as well as I do,” retorted Arsha. “Heck, you don’t know Bashoon Barmek as well as I do. She takes any bit of adversity, and she makes the best out of the situation. Whenever she has a problem, she finds a solution.” The magic blasts soon became more erratic in their timing. Bashoon yelped as she twisted in the air, hoping to gain some speed.

“Half a minute remains,” remarked Boltuk. Another caster then joined the fray and fired.

“Oh, come on!” groaned Bashoon. With more shots added to the mix, she had to make decisions faster.

“I didn’t hear you summon another!” protested Arsha.

“I assure you, it’s part of the trial,” replied Boltuk. Bashoon kept leaping out of the way, but the added caster made things more difficult. Finally, they all prepared for a simultaneous shot. They were matching her movements and the blasts were getting bigger by the second! When Bashoon went into the air, they fired. There was only one choice, she dove OUT of the ring. She then looked to her team as the blasts hit each other and made a brilliant light. Her team then rushed up to her, leaving Falnii to continue her dream-weaving for Lardeth.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” she mumbled. “I felt like I had no choice! It was going to…!”

“With that done,” called Boltuk to the crowd, “all trials of Strength are passed!” Bashoon then looked at Boltuk.

“Wait, I won?! Bu-but I went outside the ring!”

“If the trial were still continuing, the casters would have targeted you regardless of whether or not you stepped out of the ring. The only way you could have lost is by being hit. I never said a ring-out would mean a loss. You could have run along the outside edge of the ring.”


“Even the stands.” Bashoon fell to her knees, groaning at the whole thing.

“I made things way too hard for myself!”

“Seems that way. In any event, like I said, the trials of strength are over. We will rest as we prepare the remaining three trials.” The crowd departed and left the team to their devices.

“Awake,” Falnii said softly. Lardeth then yawned and stretched as if he slept through the night. He then looked around the arena.

“Did…did we…?” he asked.

“Bashoon won the last trial for us,” replied Arsha.

“Though, I made it harder on myself,” remarked Bashoon.

“Then why aren’t we at the next trial?” asked Lardeth.

“We’re gonna be waiting for them to set up the next stage,” answered Foresna.

“…My opponent. The one who jabbed me with her stinger. What happened to her?”

“She was dishonored after attacking you. If I were a betting boy, though, she’s probably run to Oyed to tell him the news.”

Foresna would have won that bet. Nedola made her way to Oyed’s chambers. She bowed before an altar. “Mighty Oyed, I have news that must be reported in spite of how bad they are.” A black mist came into the room and coalesced into Oyed.

“You may speak,” he directed.

“Realmfleet’s found the entrance. Their team passed two trials. I tried to kill one as you ordered, but they knocked me aside, gave my target the anti-venom, and shamed me.”

“Someone undid your work?! I ordered their deaths!”

“Boltuk disobeyed those orders.”

“…Boltuk Bloodwing?”

“The same.” Oyed gnashed his teeth.

“He was there when I gave the order publicly! He was supposed to kill them outright!” Oyed drew in a breath. “I need to think on how to salvage this. In the meantime, report to Dr. Borg to have that mark removed from your forehead. It doesn’t suit a loyal follower like you. Thank you for bringing this to my attention as quick as you could.”

“I live to serve you, My Lord.” Nedola then headed to the door. Oyed sat in a chair and steepled his fingers as he thought. “If we had the numbers,” muttered Nedola, “we could make an example of them.” She then left the room.

“That’s a frightening statement in and of itself,” Oyed mumbled to himself.

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The crowd for the second trial was a little less than the first. It was clear that some of the Manticores thought Gorfanth had cheated in some way or that Teknar flaked out at the last second. Either way, the Manticores didn’t have much respect for Arsha’s team at that moment. Like the last time, Boltuk made his way to the center of the ring and addressed the crowd. “These outsiders have passed the first trial of strength!” he began. The crowd roared in anger. “However, there are other trials to consider! For physical strength is nothing without other kinds! Bring forth the Hunter, Nedola!” A female Manticore then strode towards the center of the ring. “As I have said earlier, since the Minotaur passed the first trial, a new challenger must take his place!”

“My turn!” declared Lardeth.

“What?!” protested Malnar. “I’m the second strongest of us! I should go!”

“Meaning that you’ll win too easily,” replied Lardeth. Malnar was confused.

“You sense it too, huh?” asked Arsha. Malnar then arched an eyebrow, wondering what her lovers were talking about. She then concentrated on her senses. It took a few seconds before she realized what they found.

“Hang on!” she called to Boltuk. “What kind of trial is this?! She’s far weaker than Teknar was! Heck, she’s weaker than you!”

“Like I said, strength is not strictly defined by physical fitness,” replied Boltuk.

“In that case, Lardeth, be as cautious as everyone says you are,” warned Malnar.

“That’s the idea,” answered Lardeth as he strode towards the ring.

“Same rules as last time,” called Boltuk. “The challenger must win either by killing her or by ring-out. Begin!” Nedola looked at Lardeth as he adopted a ready stance. Her gaze focused on his head.

“…How old are you?” she asked.

“…307, why?” replied Lardeth.

“That’s the hair of someone who’s 307 years old?”

“Not hair, clouds.”

“You’re a Zephyr?”

“Half Zephyr. The other half of my blood comes from my human father.”

“…A human father who failed to teach his son how to be masculine. Just like Zephyr fathers with their own sons.”


“I said your people don’t know a thing about what it takes to be a man. I know all about your race of trannies.” Foresna moved towards the ring.

“Why, that little…!” Arsha held Foresna back.

“This is Lardeth’s fight!” she hissed.

“He’s manly enough for us!” shouted Foresna.

“Foresna, stay out of this,” called Lardeth. “This is between me and her.”

“You think a delicate princess like you can take me?” mocked Nedola as she circled her opponent. “You, who spends so much time on your lipstick and your dresses and your nails and your eyes? Face it, Zephyr men are weak!” Lardeth, at this time, was examining his nails.

“…He’s not…bored, is he?” asked Delselii.

“Very bored,” remarked Foresna as he saw what the trial was about.

“Even now, you prove my point!” laughed Nedola as she pointed her paw at Lardeth. “So focused on something so unimportant! Blissfully unaware of the danger because it keeps you safe!”

“…Could someone get her to stop spewing cowardly rhetoric?” asked Lardeth in a bored tone.

“…Say that to my face!” hissed Nedola, her smile dropping.

“Oh, and someone tell her that she’s not worth the effort of me talking directly to? I don’t really associate with dull, unoriginal idiots who want to weaken men so badly.” That did it! Nedola pounced on Lardeth.


“WRONG!” shouted Lardeth as he kicked her over him. That was when she landed headfirst outside the ring! Nedola recovered, then saw where she was.

“Wh…wh-wha?! How?!” She couldn’t find an answer until Lardeth spoke.

“Do you have any idea how many times I heard such things in my life? Let me tell you. I lost count; it was that much. The reason we wear dresses is because we’re not afraid of being judged! The most arrogant of us Zephyr men laugh at the men of other races because, and I use THEIR words, ‘Other men are all concerned about their absurd muscles and their misplaced pride in looking tough’! They’ve done this while fanning themselves and laughing like the corrupt lords they are! We pride ourselves on how we bear these words and dress as we do despite their words. For they are just that, words! You use them too much…and that makes you the worst kind of coward of all. You’re too afraid of any change or outliers. …That’s why I said you weren’t worth the effort of talking directly to.” Lardeth then left the arena.

“…You…damn…outsider!” snarled Nedola. “DON’T THINK YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH THAT REBUKE!” She flew upwards, then dove down onto Lardeth. After pinning him, her stinger strikes his backside, flooding his insides with venom. The Manticores roared in outrage. Boltuk pounced onto Nedola and slashed her face with his claws.

“COWARD!” he roared. Manticore doctors then rushed to Lardeth’s aid and whipped up anti-venom. They injected it into Lardeth, and he stopped convulsing in pain.

“He’ll get better,” reported one of the doctors. “He’ll just be in an uneasy sleep. One of you needs to stand by him.”

“Will dream-weaving help or harm him?” asked Falnii.

“It will help. The more restful his sleep, the quicker the anti-venom will do its job.”

“Then I’ll stand by him.” Falnii then chanted.

Dream your dream with me.

Tell your woes to me.

Show your troubles to me.

Dream your dream with me.

As she chanted, Lardeth’s face became more at ease. Her chanting stopped and they were both in a deep sleep. Boltuk then turned towards Nedola. “You coward!” he snarled.

“What did I do to warrant that?!” protested Nedola.

“What did you do?! You let his words affect you, that’s what! You could have just let him leave with the grace that was due to him since he won, but thanks to you stinging him, you’ve ruined your chances of ever rejoining your sisters!”

“I can gain those chances back!”

“…No, you can’t.” Boltuk then leapt onto her and scratched a mark onto her forehead. “As the senior in this gathering, for displaying cowardice, I hereby strip you of your rights as a Hunter! Return to your parents and show them how much of a coward you really are!”

“You will regret this!” roared Nedola. “Mark my words, you will pay for this slander!” She fled from the arena.

“Sir, I…” began Arsha.

“She’s the one who broke the law,” interrupted Boltuk. “Justice has been served. Because of this, however, we need to conduct the third trial here. That will require fixing the ring up to accommodate it. Wait here while we do so.” A company of engineers and builders then set to work.

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The Manticore led Arsha’s team into an arena. Thousands of Manticores roared as if they were ready to see bloodshed. “…One of the trials of strength?” asked Arsha.

“Correct,” replied the Manticore. He then took up a position in the center of the arena. “I am Boltuk Bloodwing!” he shouted to the crowd. “I come to you today to announce that outsiders claim they can pass the trials!” A lot of jeering met this statement. “We cannot let this claim go unchallenged! I have granted them only one concession! One person must pass each trial! If and when they do, another person must take their place! But, we all know that no outsider, not even Oyed, has gone past the first trial!” Everyone in the stands roared their agreement. “Let us see if they can even get past my brother, Teknar!” A cage door opened up from beneath the stands and a rather beefy looking Manticore with a darker mane than Boltuk’s strode out, filled with confident swagger. “Whomsoever beats my brother, either by killing him or by ring-out, shall have completed the trial of physical strength! Outsiders, pick your combatant!” Arsha and her team then huddled.

“Guys, I gotta be real here,” muttered Malnar, “the only one who stands a remote chance against him is Gorfanth.”

“Me?!” hissed Gorfanth.

“I have to agree with him,” remarked Lardeth. “Minotaurs are lovers, not fighters!”

“Do we really have much choice?” asked Foresna.

“I can’t believe you and Malnar!” snarled Falnii.

“Can you honestly name anyone stronger?” asked Arsha.

“Captain, are you sure that’s wise?” asked Bashoon.

“I don’t know if it’s wise or not,” muttered Arsha, “but what I do know is that we ARE pressed for time.”

“…If and when I die, I’m haunting your nine-tailed ass!” grumbled Gorfanth. The team then broke up the huddle and Gorfanth stepped into the ring. The crowd roared in laughter.

“Looks like we’re gonna be having beef tonight!” laughed Boltuk. “Ready yourselves!” The two combatants sized each other up and got into their respective ready stances. “BEGIN!” Teknar rushed along the side, catching Gorfanth by surprise and forcing him to roll out of the way. The Manticore Champion then flew into the air and dove straight down, paws first and claws out! Gorfanth ran to the edge of the ring, but Teknar was able to change direction quickly! The sudden shift in the wind generated by the flapping of his wings kicked up the sand of the ring, flinging it into Gorfanth’s face. Gorfanth stumbled backwards…and his foot missed the floor of the ring! He was about to fall backwards out of it. Teknar then rushed at Gorfanth, then put his paw to the back of his opponent’s head…and shoved him back into the ring. The crowd roared in confusion. Arsha and her team were equally perplexed. Gorfanth then picked himself up and gave Teknar his attention.

“Why?” he asked. “You had me!”

“You stumbled,” answered Teknar.

“…I don’t follow.”

“To defeat you in such a manner would be lacking in honor. I would not have EARNED the victory.”

“…I see, you see this as a duel of honor.”

“Exactly, and to take advantage of that would mean I would have been a coward. There’s only ONE true way to finish such a duel, head-on…and BRUTALLY!” Gorfanth then leapt out of the way of the Manticore as he dove down with a bloodthirsty expression on his face. He then grabbed Teknar’s wing and twisted it in a way that there was an audible snap. Teknar went silent for just one second before he was on the ground, roaring in pain caused by a broken wing. With that distraction, Gorfanth grabbed the tail, his hands under the bulb of the stinger, and spun around before flinging Teknar into the walls outside the ring. Teknar fell to the ground, groaning in pain, while the crowd sat there, stunned at what had just occurred. Gorfanth then stepped out of the ring and walked up to Teknar. Teknar then managed to look up at the Minotaur in fear and pain. “…There is a knife carved from an elephant’s tusk,” grunted Teknar. “Use it on me. At least make it quick.”

“…What?” asked Gorfanth.

“You defeated the strongest Manticore. Not only did you pass the trial, but, by law, you must take my place as Champion. And the only way to do that…is to end my life.”

“…Does that law really apply to outsiders like me?” Gorfanth then turned to the audience. “Are outsiders required to take a Manticore’s place?!”

“No,” replied Boltuk. “In his agony, my brother has forgotten that non-Manticores are forbidden from taking a Manticore’s job, regardless of circumstance.”

“And didn’t you say I had to win by either killing him OR ring-out?”

“I did. And all evidence says you picked the latter option.”


“AND I DON’T WANT AN INNOCENT MAN’S DEATH ON MY CONSCIENCE!” Gorfanth roared back. The arena was silent for a minute. Gorfanth sighed before continuing. “You were doing your duty according to the laws of your people. I don’t kill people that dedicated to their kingdom. I don’t want to kill you! I never did! …But, I couldn’t allow you to kill me either. Tell me, how would either of us gain? If you killed me, you would serve Oyed, and it sounds like you lot don’t like him. If I killed you, your King would hear about this and be less receptive to us. I’m tired of killing unnecessarily and fighting strangers when I should be making friends. …We’re going to the next trial and, if you insist, we can continue this fracas to its final, stupid end, or you can side with us.” Teknar appeared to consider Gorfanth’s words as Manticore doctors came to set his wing so that it could mend itself.

“…If you and your fellows pass their trials with the same amount of honor, then I will consider fighting with you against Oyed,” the Manticore Champion finally answered. “Otherwise, I am duty-bound to follow King Velkor’s commands.”

“Having passed the first trial and being the first outsider to do so in a long time,” remarked Boltuk, “follow me to the second trial. Be warned, it will test a different kind of strength. Let us pray you can endure it.” Boltuk then led Arsha’s team through a door leading to the second trial.

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“The elephant is…dead?” gulped Arsha.

“By multiple claws, teeth, and giant scorpion stinger wounds,” confirmed Aldarval. “The distinct warped soul signature confirms Revenant activity.”

“That’s no coincidence. There must be Manticore Revenants.”

“We’re moving out now. Arsha, prepare your team.”

“Aye, Admiral.” The call ended and Arsha left her ready room. “We’re moving out,” she announced to the crew. “Have the infiltration team ready on my command. Nazay, take us up.”

“Aye, aye!” confirmed Nazay. Shalvey then got a signal.

“Captain, Merrim’s hailing all ships,” she reported.

“Merrim?” asked Arsha.

“She says she has information that can help the infiltration team.”

“Can it wait? We’re about to launch.”

“She claims it’s vital information that can’t wait.” Arsha sighed. She really didn’t have time for this.

“…Make sure the channel is secure, get the infiltration team to the conference room, and have Aldarval listen in on this.

Arsha’s infiltration team consisted of herself, her lovers, Orthena, Delselii, Bashoon, and Patrica. Merri was on screen as she explained what she learned. “It turns out,” she began, “the Manticores were the ones who gave the Sphinxes’ ancestors the designs on the barrier at the behest of King Velkor’s advisor, Overseer Toonsar Lortem. He used the barrier for his own ends in an attempt to satisfy some twisted debt. The more immediate way is to find the key to lower the barrier.”

“And that’s where we come in?” asked Malnar.

“From what I’ve heard from my spies,” continued Merrim, “there are six trials that you must pass, trials of physical strength and impeccable intellect. The Manticores were the original masters of riddles before they passed it onto the Sphinxes.”

“…Can we even afford to go through the trials right now?” sighed Gorfanth. “We may have an impressive fleet, but what if the trials turn this whole thing into a siege? We don’t exactly have the manpower OR firepower to make such a thing possible.”

“The other option is to kill King Velkor and that would enrage the Manticores something fierce. I don’t know about you, but I DON’T want to start a relationship with Manticores on that note if we’re trying to get them away from Oyed’s influence.”

“And it would keep the Sphinxes trapped in the barrier or kill them if we use the wrong key,” sighed Arsha. “Looks like we have no choice. We HAVE to complete the trials. All right, thanks for the information. We’ll do what we can. Arsha out.” The call ended and Arsha received a message saying that Aldarval heard the whole thing and authorized the completion of the trials.

“Dammit, this ain’t gonna be smooth,” grumbled Patrica.

“Understatement of the millennium,” replied Malnar. “Oyed could get wise really easy!”

“We don’t have that many options,” remarked Lardeth.

“What’s our move here?” Bashoon asked Arsha.

“We enter the Manticore kingdom as planned, but we try to assure them that we come in peace and declare our intentions to pass the trials.”

“Because a foreign power entering a kingdom while its forces are sieging said kingdom is SO peaceful,” snarked Foresna.

“Do we really have much choice?” asked Delselii.

“Not really,” replied Arsha.

“All ships ready,” reported Denstra as the fleet hovered over the sands where the Manticore Kingdom dwelt underneath.

“Admiral, my people are MOST excited to begin,” called Reb.

“Then let’s do so,” declared Aldarval. “I’m transmitting the different coordinates. Fire on them at my command.”

“Here we go,” muttered Arsha as she and her team entered a cave. They arrived at what looked like the end of the cave and were confused. “That…that doesn’t…”

“It might be a concealed entrance,” remarked Orthena. “We need to tap around.”

“You and I might have a better chance at finding the right sound,” mused Bashoon.

“Everyone, find the entrance,” ordered Arsha. “We’re on the clock.” Everyone tapped the rocks and felt around for any hidden levers. Orthena then stopped as her hand felt something. She lowered her hand near the floor and felt a breeze coming from behind the wall.

“…Bashoon, come here for a minute,” she called. Bashoon headed over to her. “Put your ear to the wall.” Bashoon did so and Orthena tapped it. Bashoon’s eyes went wide.

“That’s a hollow echo if I ever heard one!” she called. “There’s a way in behind this wall!” Everyone heard her and joined her and Orthena in locating an opening mechanism. Delselii then felt his hand sink slightly into the wall and part of the wall slid aside to reveal a tunnel.

“Good work, you three!” praised Arsha. “Now, let’s…!”

“NOT ONE STEP FURTHER!” roared a voice from inside the tunnel. Everyone drew their wands and waited intently. After a few seconds, Bashoon’s ears flicked.

“Someone’s coming!” she warned. “Someone with four feet and said feet covered in something soft!”

“A Manticore guard?” guessed Falnii.

“Most likely.” Bashoon’s confirmation was made more solid as a male Manticore with a lightly-colored mane stepped towards them.

“I am the Mouth of Velkor!” he introduced himself. “I am his emissary, his ambassador, and his means of communication with the outside world! Through my words, you will know my King’s intent! Why are you here?”

“Sir,” began Arsha, “my team and I heard rumors that your people have six trials which will determine whether or not those that take them can be trusted both in body and mind.”

“Such rumors are true. You wish to take them? If Oyed himself could not pass them, what hope do YOU have?”

“We wish to show you that Oyed’s plans will only lead to ruin.”

“There are ships bombarding the circumference of our kingdom!”

“Only so we may prove ourselves with no interruption from Oyed’s forces.” The Manticore snarled at Arsha’s counterargument.

“You consider your actions appropriate to treating with us?! Know this, we EAT those who are unworthy of our trust!”

“And you trust someone who has not passed the trials?”

“Be warned! Oyed has power beyond your capabilities!”

“Our decision is made! Lead us to the trials! We will pass them and prove we are worthier allies than Oyed and his followers!”

“…Very well, you may take them. Ordinarily, only one would take all six, but I will allow you to send one per trial. However, once that person has completed the trial, they will not take another!”

“We’ll accept this.”

“Then follow me!” The Manticore then turned and led them into the tunnel. As they walked, the secret door shut behind them. “There are three trials of various aspects of strength and three of intellectual pursuits. Choose your people wisely. There will be no do-overs. Fail even one trial, we will kill you.”

“…No pressure,” muttered Foresna.

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Padding across the sands covering their underground kingdom, five Manticores were struggling to catch their breath. They couldn’t summon enough energy to fly to a shady spot, after their whole squadron was viciously annihilated by the elephant Realmfleet sent. “Too…too…brutal!” panted one.

“Must…must keep on!” encouraged another.

“Dad…Dad won’t…” The third couldn’t keep his energy up as he and his brothers fell. Their wounds were too great, and the heat was intense. The five manticores passed out, ready for death. It took only a few minutes for them to succumb. After an hour had passed, a small Realmgate opened and deposited Dr. Borg and Oyed. Dr. Borg set up the Revenant equipment around the Manticores and started chanting. “Shanwey yat talyen falunar. Shanwey yat talyen falunar. Shanwey yat talyen falunar.” The Manticores then gained the glowing veins and screamed. “Shanwey yat talyen falunar! Shanwey yat talyen falunar! Shanwey yat talyen falunar! TEL!” The Manticores then stopped screaming and opened their eyes.

“Whu…what…I’m alive?!” asked the first Manticore.

“Alive and…a little glowy, by the look of it,” remarked the second.

“That’s thanks to the good doctor,” explained Oyed.

“My Lord!” yelped the third Manticore. The whole group then lowered themselves, putting their stomachs to the sand and extending their paws while declining their heads and lowering their eyes. Their tails extended behind them, putting their stingers to the ground and their wings folded against their bodies.

“Up, please,” directed Oyed. The Manticores then rose.

“My Lord, it’s been too long since you graced our people with your presence,” chuckled the fourth Manticore. He then sensed the impropriety of his statement. “Er, not that we don’t understand, of course! We know how busy someone like you is!”

“Ease yourselves,” assured Oyed. “As it stands, I need to collect on a debt someone owes me. Someone I think you five are familiar with.”

“…Wait a minute, Dad’s always talked about a deal with someone,” muttered the last Manticore. “Was that you?”

“He’s been the master of your people’s ruler for a long time, in exchange for his soul.”

“He hasn’t been doing a good job of it,” remarked the first Manticore. “Someone’s tried to take his position one way or another.”

“Have they now?”

“How much is Dad’s soul worth to you?” asked the fourth Manticore. “I think we can be used as adequate…” His sentence was interrupted by an elephant’s trumpeting. “Oh no!”

“Steady yourselves,” assured Oyed. “Dr. Borg, now is a good time for observations.” The elephant arrived and went wild at the sight of the Manticores. They were at full strength again, so they took to the air. Two landed on the elephant’s back as the remaining three slashed at the elephant’s sides with their claws. The result…was unusual for a Manticore. The elephant trumpeted in pain! The Manticores on the elephant’s backside blinked, then the one nearest to the rear sunk his teeth into the elephant’s flesh. The one near the head readied his stinger, then plunged it right into the skull, flooding the elephant’s head with venom. The elephant thrashed around before the venom took effect. It collapsed and all its organs shut down. The Manticores blinked.

“Wh…what changed?” asked the first.

“I think it’s the veins,” answered the second.

“Wait a minute, weren’t we dead?” the third asked Oyed.

“You were,” answered the Titan, “but she brought you back to life as Revenants.” He pointed to Dr. Borg.

“And it looks like Revenant Manticores CAN kill an elephant where a mortal one cannot,” mused Dr. Borg. “I will have to study this in greater detail.”

“Revenants?” asked the last. “So, we’re undead?”

“Yes,” answered Oyed. “Now, what was your proposal concerning your abusive father?”

A silver-maned Manticore was cleaning himself lazily. He felt good about his life so far. His King and Queen were nothing more than puppet rulers and he was the one pulling the strings. His pride was digging into the scraps of the recent kill after he had the literal lion’s share. A female Manticore then approached him before bowing to him. “Yes?” he asked.

“Visitors have entered the Sanctum!” gulped the female. The male then fixed her with a stare.

“If it’s King Velkor, please get rid of him,” he grunted. “I’m far too busy with Overseer business.”

“It’s not a Manticore!” replied the female. “It’s…It’s…!”

“Spit it out!”

“It’s your master!” boomed a voice. Realm Trinity soldiers then sprang from the shadows and leapt onto the Manticores, beating them back with the Revenants having more success.

“WHO DARES?!” roared the male.

“I dare,” answered the voice as its owner, Oyed, stepped from the shadows. “Overseer Toonsar, how fares the kingdom?” The male, Toonsar, then recognized the face and was seized by fear.

“Lord Oyed!” he squeaked. The five Manticore Revenants then stepped out from behind Oyed.

“Don’t forget us, Dad!” snarled the first. “Or have you already forgotten that you sent us and our platoon to die at an elephant’s feet before Lord Oyed’s Lieutenant resurrected us with greater power, power that KILLED the elephant!”

“Enough!” boomed Oyed. He turned to Toonsar. “You have a debt to pay!” He advanced on the terrified Manticore. “You’ve been pulling Velkor’s strings during the entire time of hiding! THAT was our agreement! Your soul is mine now!”

“Technically, I was pulling the strings for only half that time,” gulped Toonsar, “then I was viciously mutinied upon until I regained my status just recently.”

“Then you were a poor Overseer, but an Overseer nonetheless! Have you not introduced yourself all these years as Overseer Toonsar Lortem?!” The Realm Trinity Empire laughed.

“Look, you have my payment. You have it five times over. Our original price was one soul to serve you and you’ve got five.”

“One soul is not equal to another, much less five!”

“Ah HA! So, we’ve established that my proposal is sound in principle. Now, we’re just haggling over price.”

“…Price?” Toonsar thought he had him.

“How many souls do you think mine is worth?” Oyed appeared to be calculating just how many.

“…One hundred twenty souls,” he finally answered. “You must present forty to me each day.”

“So, 120 in three days?” asked Toonsar.

“That’s the general idea.”

“Splendid.” Toonsar turned to his sons. “Boys, Daddy has a…” The fourth son swatted his father in the face, leaving claw marks around the left eye.

“I keep your sons,” declared Oyed. “A good-faith payment. That leaves only thirty-five for today.”

“Have you not met my sons? They’re noble, heroic for our cause, terrific singers, worth at least four souls each. …Maybe three and a half.” Oyed gave a look of consideration.

“…I keep your sons. 35 more to go for today, one hundred fifteen altogether. But, I wonder, Toonsar, can you live with this? Can you condemn innocent cubs, YOUR cubs, to a lifetime of servitude in your name while you roam free?” Toonsar looked back at his sons, then back to Oyed.

“…Yeah, I’m good with it. Shall we seal it in blood?” Oyed then grabbed Toonsar’s paw and burned a mark into his pad.

“Three days.” Oyed and his company then faded into the shadows and vanished.

“I think Dad may have oversold us,” muttered the first Manticore.

“Undersold, actually,” corrected Oyed. All five Manticores perked up their ears. “By willingly joining my service, your souls became worth a hundred.”

“…Our lips are sealed,” promised the first Manticore as he and his brothers grinned wickedly. Their father was going to fail no matter what.

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“So, Reb’s working for us, huh?” mused Delselii as he and Bashoon got their food at Barmek’s. “That’s neat.”

“The woman who kidnapped the entire ship while I was an Ensign,” replied Bashoon, “is currently going through a petty squabble with another Protectorate Pirate. ‘Neat’ is not the first word that comes to mind!”

“Petty squabble?”

“Who’s gonna be the Head Protectorate for the mission.”


“I tell you; pirates can act childish at times.”

“You’re not wrong. I mean, the pirates I dealt with threw a tantrum when things didn’t go their way.”

“…YOU dealt with pirates? Isn’t the Vorsholstein Estate somewhat isolated? I mean, you only installed that landing pad 20 months ago.

“I foolishly hosted the Rum-swiper Pirates a few days after its installation.” Bashoon snorted.

“Th…those guys?!” she asked, trying to hold her laughter back.

“Yeah, not really as scary as Reb is.”

“You know, I wonder how her argument with Patrica is gonna play out.”

“I see you’ve kept the GAPING hole in your quarters,” Reb mused as she looked at the Sailing Patch.

“I think it’ll catch on,” replied Patrica. “For me, it airs out the villainous smell of the previous commander.”

“I’d hardly call myself your commander if you were so VILE in betraying me after one job!”

“Yes, because kidnapping is SO profitable in the long run! You would have traded all that money away for zap-spice.”

“…My PREVIOUS crew would, yes.”

“Who was it who got them addicted to the stuff?”

“A HORRIBLE mistake I refuse to repeat with my new crew.”

“Reb Rojam,” called another voice. The two women looked to see Denstra come forward.

“Dear Denstra, we are in the middle of a VERY important discussion,” Reb waved off.

“This won’t wait, Reb,” answered Denstra. “Tell me the truth about this whole Privateer charade.”

“Charade?” asked Reb.

“Let me hazard a guess, you just want revenge against Dr. Borg.”


“Come on, Reb. If you really felt sorry for what you did, you would have stayed in Realmfleet Max, not joined Remsu in the breakout. Privateer, coat, new ship…cheap theatrical façade. I’m not buying it.”

“You weren’t there that night.” The two Cecaelia women then looked at each other, noticing that Reb didn’t emphasize ANY word or add one in that sentence. She was going to tell the truth of what happened, according to their experience.

“…When you were arrested?” asked Patrica.

“When we begged for help! Being arrested was merely a condition to ensure our safety at the time!” Denstra and Patrica were now captivated by Reb’s story. “It was a month before the Siege of Realmgate City. We were at the western coast of the Grilthan Forest, me, Melgem, and Jargoon, when we came under attack from one of Dr. Borg’s cousins, a Revenant Sprite man, no provocation, or warning, or offer of parlay! The three of us were peppered with magic blasts! …The ground beneath us roiled as if it were the sea during a violent storm!” Reb’s face betrayed the fear she felt that night. “Borg’s undead cousin then made one gesture…and the jungle came to life, thirsty for flesh! The trees tore Jargoon’s dorsal fin off, their vines tangling us, wrapping around my companions like crazed snakes…and wrapping around my legs! But my arms were free, and I had something that may have cost me my legs a week later but saved me in the long run. I only used zap-spice to keep my slime from eating my legs. Slimes of all types hate any form of electricity…as do plants. So, I did what needed to be done. I chucked my last remaining dose of zap-spice at the trees and fired a magic blast, causing lightning to strike the plants. The resulting actions caused the plants to release us, so we stole the shuttle Borg’s cousin came in on, our minds set on putting distance between us and the monster that perverted the natural world like that! We then arrived at the southeastern port of Realmgate City and surrendered.” Denstra and Patrica were stunned at the story.

“…So, the whole thing about revenge for Melgem, that’s not motivating you?” asked Denstra.

“We both agreed that revenge for the damage he suffered is his vendetta. I care not for the All-realm Royals or their rewards…but I’d give my right eye to see to it that ALL Fae remember the rules they have set for themselves to not pervert the natural world.”

“Not your left?” joked Patrica.

“I need my good eye to make sure my blade strikes Borg’s wicked heart!”

“Well then,” Denstra then poured some rum for all three and raised her shot-glass, “here’s to revenge against those who would attempt to take the laws of the natural world out of nature’s hands.”

“Here, here,” agreed Patrica.

“…I’ll drink to that HEIGHTS-BORN promise,” replied Reb.

A few minutes later, Denstra approached Arsha’s ready room. She rang the chime and was let in. “We’ve got our Head Protectorate, Captain,” she announced.

“And it satisfies both Patrica and Reb?” asked Arsha.

“Yep. Reb’s going to be part of the external assault while Patrica joins the internal team.”

“Patrica? I thought Reb would join us.”

“Reb’s more interested in making Dr. Borg hurt for perverting the laws of nature.”

“She told you this?”

“And the fact that she dropped her usual verbal tic told me that what she said was the truth.”

“That was her usual tell?”

“In all the years I served under her, it was.”

“…We’ve clearly dithered here for long enough. Tell everyone to return to their stations. I’ll tell Aldarval we’re ready.”

“Aye, Ma’am.” Denstra left the ready room and Arsha opened a channel with Aldarval.

Dr. Borg examined the new base. It was quite spacious. “Have to admit, the retreat DID have a bright side,” she mused to herself. “And I never really lived in a desert before. This would be a nice change of pace from the…” something then flew past her face from out of a room. She jumped back and examined the object once it hit the ground. It was a box, white, square, and advertised “Mama Alazina’s Pizza Parlor”. “…Yulduk!” she hissed to herself. His pizza addiction was starting to annoy her. She looked into the room, then at the pizza box, then got an idea. She checked the box’s weight, made some calculations in her head, then threw the box into the room. She then got proof of the results as Yulduk called “OOF!” He then stormed out of the room with a slice of pizza in his hand and looked out to see Dr. Borg sticking her tongue out.

“…Very cute. REAL cute,” he muttered.

“There IS a trash can in your room, yes?” asked Dr. Borg.


“Use it!” Dr. Borg stormed off and Yulduk rolled his eyes.

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As the Endeavor waited for marching orders, Denstra looked out the window of her quarters. One of her spouses, Twansa the Succubus, was cooking and humming to herself. Their husbands were busy with their own jobs on the ship, so it was the two of them alone. Twansa’s tail was swinging from side to side slowly, a tell that she had something on her mind despite her happy humming. “…Do you ever worry about your past?” Denstra asked.

“What brought that on?” replied Twansa as she added some spices to the meal.

“Just…thinking about my own.” Twansa thought about the question as she stirred the pot of noodles.

“…I used to. I thought me being an orphan would turn people away from me. Heck, I thought me WANTING to be a Second Age Housewife would turn people away from me. Thank goodness you and our favorite boys proved me wrong on both counts.” She then started plating up the spaghetti and meatballs. “Lunch!” she called. Denstra made her way to the table and sat down while grabbing the cheese and shaking it all over her meal. She then handed it off to Twansa. The Succubus shook only a small amount, compared to the mountain of cheese on Denstra’s plate. “Something about your past bothering you now?” asked Twansa.

“…Someone, actually,” answered Denstra. “A woman that mistreated me is now a Privateer!”

“And under YOUR command, strictly speaking.”

“She hadn’t been punished enough, as I was! After I parted company, I turned myself in to Realmfleet, in some form of penance for what I had done. After that, I reconnected with my parents. When I came home, my other relatives were there! They screamed and heaped abuses at me, despite my parents trying everything in their power to stop them! They refused to stop, even ordering my parents to disown me! …As you can see, my parents refused, at the cost of their reputation. No one wanted to associate with someone with a daughter that was a pirate. So…I joined Realmfleet to continue my penance. I’m the master of my life, not Reb Rojam! …I’m the master of my fate, not Reb Rojam!”

“…Forgive me for sounding this way, but it sounds to me that, as long as you say nothing to her, she IS master of both.” Denstra looked in shock at Twansa. “I made the same mistake, believe it or not. Remember when you and the boys found me? I allowed the orphanage to make me believe that choosing to act as a Second Age Housewife makes me worthless and cheap. I only revealed my choices two years into our marriage, remember? It was when I opened up that I REALLY became the master of my fate and life. If you don’t do say something to Reb, she’ll ALWAYS control you.” Denstra considered her wife’s words as they ate their lunch.

“Approaching the island,” reported a Vampire helmsman.

“Set us down,” replied the helmsman’s Captain, a purple legged Cecaelia woman with a patch over her right eye. The ship set down near the Endeavor and deployed a landing ramp. Arsha approached the woman and shook her hand.

“Great to see you again, Captain Looden,” she greeted.

“The pleasure is all mine, Your Highness,” returned the Cecaelia woman, Patrica Looden. “I heard there was another Protectorate Pirate on their way here?”

“Indeed. And…here she comes now.” Patrica’s smile vanished as Reb approached them. She then curtsied.

“Good afternoon, Arsha,” purred Reb. “My apologies for this HEINOUS delay.”

“Arsha, if I might be so bold,” hissed Patrica, “why is that woman not in chains?! She should be manacled!”

“Your thoughts match my First Officer’s,” remarked Arsha.

“Denstra’s right! We both once served under her!”

“…You served under Reb?”

“Only for ONE job!” snarled Reb. “Quite frankly, I’m amazed her TATTERED ship is still flying. The last I saw of the Sailing Patch, she was on fire, a CHARRED hulk sinking beneath Over-realm waves.”

“A soldier from the Regalin Sea Merfolk kingdom found the ship,” answered Patrica, “saved my entire crew, and got the Royal Family to organize repair efforts to make it sky-worthy again.”

“We had a deal, she and I. I contracted her to deliver VALUABLE cargo on my behalf and she chose to dump it!”

“Liberate it! People aren’t cargo, Reb! I won’t be part of a kidnapping ring!” Patrica was looking at the ship Reb came in on.

“I don’t have the Black Money in my possession, DEAR Patrica.”

“Then what’s become of that ship?”

“It MUTINIED against me when it came to life!”

“It’s a Mechanica?”

“Aye! A Mechanica that threw in his lot with that VILE Dr. Borg! All thanks to what you did! Your ‘Good Deed’ cost me MIGHTILY, Patrica.”

“And you have spared me ANY possibility of being anything other than what I am. And, for that, I AM grateful.”

“Captains, I get that there’s bad blood between you two,” interjected Arsha, “but each second we spend here arguing gives Oyed more time to permanently outdistance us. Now, I have every confidence that we will prevail and you two will be rewarded with the high station you so desire.”

“Nay, to serve doth suffice, Your most GRACIOUS Highness,” replied Reb.

“You’re looking a little sick there, Rebby,” muttered Patrica.


“Yeah, a real bad case of Brown Noser Disease!”

“ENOUGH!” Arsha’s sudden shout startled the two privateers. “…Now, here’s what we’ll do; Reb and Partrica, you two are to remain here as backup for the external fight against the Manticores while I take a team inside their defenses to see why they’re pressuring the Sphinxes into serving Oyed and how they’re doing it. Aldarval has told me that I’m leaving the position of the mission’s Head Protectorate up to you two.” The two rivals looked at Arsha in horror.

“Er, my DEAR Arsha, is that REALLY wise?” asked Reb.

“Reb and I would probably kill each other over the position,” supplied Patrica.

“That is forbidden, both by Aldarval and I. You are ordered to settle the matter peacefully. No physical combat. Not even a small catfight is permitted. Understood?”

“…Understood, Your Highness,” grumbled Reb and Patrica. They then took one another’s hand and smiled while shaking them, but the smiles did NOT reach the eyes.

The Three Realms The Three Realms World Building


Dragons, easily one of the most powerful of races in the Realms. Most connected to the elements of the Realms, they once started as mindless beasts. Elves then taught them how to speak and think. After that, they became some of the most advanced species in all the Realms. Unlike Elves, Dragons DO have different species. There are 10 species among Dragons, all of which have different characteristics.


  • Two legs in back
  • No tail
  • Wings for arms
  • One horn on forehead


  • No wings.
  • Serpentine body
  • Two grasping hands in front
  • Fins for propulsion through water
  • No horns


  • Pair of stag-like horns
  • Turtle-like
  • No wings
  • Four legs


  • No legs
  • Wings
  • No horns
  • Long whiskers


  • Fluffy
  • No horns
  • Moth antennae
  • Paws with claws
  • Long ears


  • Pair of curved horns joined in middle of forehead
  • Serpentine
  • Four taloned feet
  • Wings
  • Crocodile mouth


  • Beak
  • Feathered
  • Two legs
  • No wings
  • No horns
  • Peacock tail feathers


  • No horns
  • Wings line front legs
  • Four horns
  • Tail for locomotion


  • Small horns
  • Dog-like muzzle
  • Serpentine
  • No legs

Shadow (Recently rediscovered)

  • Branched horns
  • Horn on nose
  • Wings
  • Tail for locomotion
  • Grasping hands