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    From the Mists

    Herein is story of the 2017 Adventurer's Crown.

    PROLOGUE

    Unknown ships have been sighted near the southern coastline of Corone. They fly a flag not associated with any known country or group. Various types of ships have been identified ranging from freighters to fully armed frigates, but no one can recognize their exotic make or origin. To date, no ship has made land. Leaders of the major coastal cities, including Serenti, Gisela and Akashima, are uneasy and have sent for experts to gather what information they can on these unknown vessels. Where do they come from? What do they want? Are they friendly or hostile? The answers to these mysteries could be world shaking.
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  2. #2
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    CHAPTER 1

    “Well what do you expect me to do? I’m a scholar, not a linguist!”

    Three days ago, one of the freighters that was haunting the southern coast of Corone ran ashore 10 kilometers west of the town of Gisela. The ship was badly damaged, clearly the victim of a canon assault at sea. Its hull was lined with two meter holes and it had split in two when it hit the rocks lining Gisela’s white salt cliffs. The surviving crew took refuge on the cliff above the crash site, building a makeshift camp from the derelict sails.

    The Corone Rangers, who were previously called to the area by the nervous city governments, immediately quarantined the area and attempted to make contact with the survivors. However, the they did not understand the common tongue and spoke an unknown language. Unable to establish meaningful communications, the Rangers sent for a translator. Instead, they were sent Ceidon Lore.

    “This is a diplomatic crisis, and you’re all we have at the moment,” a Ranger replied.

    “Ugh, well let the world know that when Corone stood on the brink, you called a librarian. And a poor one at that…”

    The truth was Ceidon was far from a simple librarian. Indeed, he was likely Althanas’ foremost authority on ancient cultures. The fact that the Rangers asked him for help was entirely coincidental, but it was a smart move. While studying the ancient dwarfs of Corone, Ceidon took a temporary job at Gisela’s library to pay for his living expenses. His research took longer than he expected, causing him to be a common sight among Corone’s plains. He was well liked and well known by people who frequented the library, notably the Rangers. Despite his experience, these refugees left him baffled. Based on what he was told, it was as though they simply appeared on Althanas. They had no ties to the area in appearance, language, or culture.

    It took approximately an hour to arrive at the camp. After passing through a small security checkpoint, Ceidon was escorted to a tent near the middle of the camp. There, he was met by a fantastic creature. This creature looked like a bipedal cat, but with less hair. Indeed, but for the narrow snout, yellow eyes, and whiskers, Ceidon might have classified it as a chimpanzee. The cat creature was clearly sentient. It was keenly aware of the scholar’s presence, and, Ceidon suspected, it knew he was there to establish meaning contact. It came forth from its tent and stood face to face with Ceidon. The cat wore a tattered sailors uniform, one like a Corone merchant might wear, but it was green. Around him were several other felines, but they all cowered under their tents. It was clear to Ceidon that they were uncomfortable on the hot Gisela plateau.

    “Erm…hello.” Ceidon eventually said. He extended his hand in greeting.

    The cat creature sneered, replying in a coarse click-like language. “Cal chuck, na duck.” It exclaimed, bearing it’s teeth.

    Ceidon immediately withdrew his hand, feeling that he must have offended the feline with his actions. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Ceidon.” This time he pointed at his chest. He repeated his name.

    “Cal chuck, de rino na tuck” the creature growled.

    This back and forth continued for several minutes. Ceidon did his best to pick up on its mannerisms, verbal cues, and language, but each time he felt like he was gaining, the creature would eventually react in a hostile manner. Minutes eventually turned to an hour, until one of the Rangers eventually pulled Ceidon away from the tent.

    As Ceidon turned to leave, the cat creature grabbed a small twig from the ground. He grunted and then drew a small symbol in the dirt. “Wait,” Ceidon said to the Ranger, glancing down at the image. The librarian studied it for a moment, but didn’t recognize it’s intricate shapes. He pulled out his journal and copied the symbol on an open page. “Well, I guess that’s progress,” he quipped.

    Eventually, the catman retreated to its tent and Ceidon followed the Ranger across the camp. However, just before they reached the security checkpoint, a loud bell erupted from Gisela. “What’s that?” Ceidon asked the Ranger.

    The Ranger did not immediately reply. He motioned for silence and listened. Clearly the sequence of the bells was some type of code for the initiated. Eventually, he said, “Ships. Three ships. On the horizon outside harbor. Unknown flag. Appear to be war ships.” The Ranger pulled a periscope from his belt. “There,” he said, handing Ceidon the device.

    Intrigued, Ceidon turned his attention to the sea. There were indeed three ships appearing over the horizon. Their flags were orange, a color unused by any known country or faction in Althanas. Immediately, the demeanor of the camp changed. The cats, once huddled in their tents, were on the move. They gathered whatever items they could and make their way towards the checkpoint. It was clear these creatures feared whatever was on the horizon. The Rangers, dutily sworn to protect Corone, held fast. They drew their weapons, preventing the creatures from leaving their camp.

    “You!” The Ranger who was escorting Ceidon called to a compatriot. “Quickly, send word out all defenders of Corone. We’re under attack.” The other Ranger nodded and then ran off towards Gisela.

    This action caused Ceidon to raise his eyebrow. Was Corone really under attack? All he knew is that three ships were bearing down on Gisela and the refugees were spooked. Hundreds more questions invaded Ceidon’s mind. Who do these ships belong to? What do they want? Why are the refugees afraid of them? Then the reality set in. If they really were under attack, would help come soon enough to save them?

    Code:
    From the Diary of Ceidon Lore
    
    Strange symbol:
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    CHAPTER 3

    The cliffs of Gisela ran red with cat blood. Those who weren’t killed by the warrior Amari and her accomplice Gum were quickly felled by the Giselaen Army. All that remained was a litter of hairy, rotting corpses and the pools of blood below them. Despite the slaughter, two groups of cats had managed to escape. The first was a group of refugees. They were given passage on a merchant cart north with a man called Leoric. The second was a group of the silver furred attackers. It was unclear how they escaped, but they were last seen outside of Gisela traveling towards Underwood.

    In the center of the battlefield, the original symbol drawn by the lead refugee was left untouched by the carnage around it. Kneeling beside it was Ceidon Lore. He had only recently returned to the scene. When the bells rang out, the Rangers ushered him to the library in Gisela and missed most of the fighting. He was only allowed to leave after Gisela reopened its gates the following morning.

    Around him, the remaining Rangers were gathering the corpses to be buried or burned. The plain smelled vile, like rotting flesh combined with wet fur. However, Ceidon pushed the smell away and focused on the task at hand: deciphering the symbol.

    “What on earth could it be,” Ceidon mumbled out loud.

    “It’s a map,” a voice said from behind him. The voice belonged to Terrence Edim. The two had been briefly introduced. “It led my colleagues to a magical artifact in the Jagged Mountains.”

    “What?” He said, surprised.

    “I just received word from my commander. They found an artifact that can cause a tidal wave.” Edim replied. “Crazy, right?”

    “That’s…unlikely.” Ceidon was the world’s foremost authority on magical items, and he knew for a fact the Jagged Mountains had been purged of ancient artifacts. Indeed, he had led the expedition. Still, Corone was a big continent and it was possible this particular item did not resonate of the tap. “But thanks for the tip.”

    “Suit yourself,” Edim replied before wandering off.

    Ceidon stared at the symbol again. When he first viewed it, the first thing he thought is that it could be a map; however, it didn’t align with any known features. Upon further review, Ceidon could see why Edim and his commander might have mistaken the swiggles for the Jagged Mountains. It did have a large “X” after all, and X always marks the spot. Then he saw it. The top line matched perfectly with the shoreline below the cliffs. That would mean the swiggles were water, and the line was pointing to…

    “A new world…” Ceidon said out loud. “Shit this is big…” A look of horror appeared on his face. Had they just unwittingly taken sides in a civil war? He quickly took off towards Gisela. He had to report his findings immediately.



    “What do you mean, a ‘masquerade to liberate Akashima?’ Ceidon called out. Despite the urgency of his news, it had taken three days to meet with the baron of Gisela, Lessli Ormandet. “That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.”

    “Ceidon…” Baron Ormandet started…

    “So what? There are mysterious cat people settled in Akashima. That doesn’t automatically mean any new cat person you see is automatically here to liberate their brothers. Have you even been to Akashima?” The adventurer was histrionic. “The cat people don’t even look the same. Nekojin are bipedal tabbys. The refugees and their attackers were anthromorphic lions.”

    “Ceidon, just stop.” Ormandet finally interjected. “We have it on good authority that the Nekojin could speak all along and are planning to use Akashima as a base of operations to move on all of Corone.”

    “That doesn’t even make sense.” Ceidon retorted. “Why come ashore in Gisela?”

    “Because a splinter group broke from the main pack and were trying to warn us.”

    “But our mercenaries slaughtered them…” Ceidon replied. It came out as a whimper.

    “Mistakenly.” Ormandet added.

    Ceidon retreated, trying to find a different way to reason with the baron. “Look, I just don’t understand why you’re trusting this ‘Azaranth’ over me.”

    “It’s not that…Look it’s out of my hands, Ceidon. Senator Fordstein and the council have already ordered my army to Underwood to protect from an invasion. Likewise, the navy has been ordered to blockade the eastern shore to prevent more cat ships from helping the cause.”

    “Your grace. It’s not Akashima we need to protect. The threat is coming from the south.”

    “For the last time, there is nothing to the south. Just the open ocean.”

    “Fine,” Ceidon finally gave up. “Please, just give me one ship. I have to investigate my theory.” Ormandet hesitated, but the scholar doubled down, “How many times have I saved your city. At least four times. You owe me this.”

    Ormandet furrowed his brow, but relented. “Fine. Take one ship, and god save our souls if you’re right.”

    “Thank you,” Ceidon said, a rush of excitement back in his voice. “You won’t regret this.” He hurried out the door to make preparations.



    Ceidon had acquired a ship and a crew, but there was one more loose end that he needed to tie before departing. This required travel back to the encampment. When he arrived, the soldiers were gathering their things in preparation for their march to Concordia. The Rangers were still burning bodies. They owed no allegiance to the Coronian government, a result of the truce that ended the Coronian Civil War, and were only tied to their own locality.

    The area was cleaner. The scent of burnt flesh was starting to recede. It was not difficult to find his target, Terrence Edim, wandering about the camp. “Edim!” Ceidon called out. He ran over to the grizzled warrior and came to stop with a huff. “I wanted to apologize about earlier.”

    Edim looked confused, so Ceidon continued, “About that artifact. Do your men still have it?”

    “I assume so, unless they gave it to the cats. Or sold it…” he added.

    “Sold it?” Ceidon inquired.

    “Yeah. Shortly after I received word of its recovery, there was another message. A buyer, willing to pay top price for the device. Though we are generally good people, it would be really hard for Phyr to pass it up. We’d be set for years. Plus, the rewards high enough that I reckon people might come after it as well.”

    “How much was offered?” Ceidon asked.

    “2500 GP.”

    “I’ll double it.” Ceidon replied. “I trust you’ll let your compatriots know?”

    Edim was taken a back. He looked Ceidon up and down and laughed. “Right. You look like you picked up those clothes from a junk pile. Where are you hiding 5000 GP, in your hat?”

    Edim was absolutely right. Ceidon didn’t have that kind of money, but if the artifact existed, and it acted as described, it could lay waste to the soon to be defenseless city of Gisela. With Ceidon at sea, he had to make sure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

    “You forget that I’m the official ambassador of Baron Ormandet.” He pointed to his chest, where he was wearing the baron’s seal. He used it to obtain the ship. “Consider this an official state request.”

    “Interesting…” Edim replied. It was clear he knew something Ceidon did not. “Fine, I’ll put out the word on the baron’s line.” Ceidon cringed, but did not interrupt.

    “Edim,” Ceidon said. “I’m leaving the country for a few weeks. You’re my escrow. Once you’ve got the artifact in your possession you must keep it, even if that means…”

    “I got it,” the veteran replied.

    “Oh, one more thing. Who was the buyer?”

    “Well, buyers like to stay anonymous, but the source was an agent of Senator Fordstein.”

    “Forstein” Ceidon repeated. That’s odd, he thought. Why wouldn’t Corone government just exercise imminent domain if they wanted to safeguard the artifact? That was a matter for another day. He had to hurry back to the docks.

    As he started to leave, he turned back to Edim. “Oh, and one more thing.” Edim lifted his eyebrow. “How do you know these things?”

    Edim laughed, “I keep an ear to the ground, and an army of ravens in the sky.”
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  5. #5
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  6. #6
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    CHAPTER 5

    Ceidon Lore woke with a start. A flood of sensations rushed through his body, culminating in a stinging migraine. The scholar grabbed his head and his hand immediately fell on a massive knot. Slowly, everything came back to him. The trip was uneventful until, as Ceidon expected, the travelers found a new land. This land was unique. Aurora’s danced through the skies, constantly being interrupted by lightning, and the air buzzed with some type of unknown energy. Then, just as Ceidon began to make heads or tails of their situation, that bitch Saieda had knocked him out. If she was trying to kill him, she failed. Ceidon was very much alive in what seemed to be a basic mud brick home.

    The scholar sat up and tried to look around, but his vision was blurry. He slowly felt around his pocket and was relieved to find the Shards of Dreniak were still in his possession. With a grunt, Ceidon moved the stones to his forehead and focused on their rejuvenating effect. Unbeknownst to Ceidon, the air around him began to crackle and one of the aurora seeped through an open window. “No!” a voice cried out. Before Ceidon could react, a silver coated cat leapt at the scholar and knocked the shards from his hands. When the shards landed, lightning erupted from the aurora and struck them. The ordeal started a small blue fire that extinguished as fast as it started.

    “Do not use magic here!” The cat, clearly a woman from her tone, hissed while pressing a cold handkerchief along his forehead.

    Ceidon was flabbergasted. “You speak the common tongue?” he asked, pushing the handkerchief away.

    “No,” the catwoman responded. Ceidon lifted an eyebrow, perplexed, so she continued, “Well not exactly. You clearly can perceive the tap. Its magic allows us to communicate.”

    “But,” Ceidon hesitated, “the tap was…”

    “…destroyed,” the cat woman finished. “Yes, I’m well aware. I am A’lia, you’re savior. You must leave now, before the Tribe discovers you’re here.

    “The Tribe?” Ceidon repeated.

    “Yes, the ruling house of our land. If they find you, they will torture you and kill you.”

    “Why?” Ceidon asked.

    “For information about the northern world.” With this, A’lia hurried to a closet, pulling out Ceidon’s cloak and his weapons. “The tap has resonated to me. Our mission to the place you call the Jagged Mountains has failed. Our friends are dead. Now, you are the last hope for your people. You must warn them of the invasion.”

    “Invasion?” Ceidon repeated. Even without a migraine, this was an incredible amount of information to take in over a short time.

    “Yes” A’lia hissed. “Our land is no longer hospitable and the Tribe blames the northern world for our plight. Accordingly, they plan an invasion of your Corone. Preparations were made and the full armada sails at first light.”

    “But you…why help me?”
    “I am a member of the resistance. I...we believe this,” A’lia motioned to the sky, “is a product of our own making, caused by years of irresponsible experimentation on the tap. Life cannot survive under this constant barrage of magical energy. What is left clings by a thread. We heard rumor of an artifact created in the first era by the Goddess Am’eleh that could balance the effect of the tap. A form of anti-magic, if you will. We hoped that it we could find the artifact, we could use it to bring life back to our land without needing to invade yours. However, our expedition failed. Now, you must warn your people.”

    “But if I warn my people, yours will die…” Ceidon stated.

    “Yes.”

    “Then why not stop the invasion?”

    A’lia sighed, “That time has passed. As I said, our plight is of our own making. If fate demands these are our last days, so be it. I…we will not allow our sins to mean the destruction of your people as well.” A’lia strapped Ceidon’s cloak across his chest and handed him his weapons. “You must go, now. As I saved you, you must now save your people.”

    “No!” Ceidon replied forcefully, starting A’lia. “The tap, the auroras, the artifact. None of this makes any sense. I feel like I’ve stepped back to the first era.”

    “The longer your stay, the more you endanger your own people, but I will provide the answers you seek.” A’lia cleared her throat. “You have been taught that the source of magic in this world, the tap, is a single well that was destroyed in your first era, but this is inaccurate. The tap is everywhere, and there are wells throughout the world. When yours was destroyed, magic in the northern lands was weakened, but here, it became stronger and more concentrated. This is why the Tribe blames the north for the sky. However, magic always seeks balance. Overtime, we disrupted this balance by drawing more and more magic to this land in an attempt to control it. Magic begets magic, and as you could tell from your stones, even the air here reacts to it.”

    Things were beginning to fall into place, but Ceidon allowed A’lia to continue.

    “When magic began to kill flora and fauna, we knew our time here was at an end. There was a great civil war in our country between the Tribe and the resistance over the fate of our country, of our legacy, but as you probably guessed by now, we lost. The rest is essentially as I told you before. We sought the artifact, but failed to recover it. Now there is nothing to stop the Tribe from carrying out their invasion. I’m sorry Ceidon.”

    “Wait, how do you know my name?”

    “The tap whispers your name like a curse, Ceidon Lore, and a curse against magic is our redemption.”

    “The artifact,” Ceidon asked tangentially, trying to avoid thinking of the burden that was just placed on his young shoulders, “Do you know of a Senator Fordstein?”

    “I do not know that name,” A’lia replied.

    “Then I should go.” Ceidon said, taking his weapons. He walked over and grabbed his now dormant Shards of Dreniak from the floor.

    “A ship, one of the fastest interceptors, has been prepared for you in the docks. The remainder of the resistance will accompany you as proof of your claims.”

    “Will you be coming?”

    “No,” A’lia replied. “My fate is tied to these lands.”

    Ceidon nodded. “Thank you for saving my life,” he said, as he exited the home. Outside, the sky crackled. In his haste, he realized he never asked A’lia how to get to the docks. However, he was pleased to find that A’lia, in fact, lived on the docks. The ship was directly ahead of him.

    As Ceidon approached, the captain introduced himself, and the two made pleasantries, but just when they were about to board, bells rang out from the east. The main harbor was under attack. Ceidon grabbed a pair of binoculars from the captain and raced to the front of the interceptor. He peered through the lenses, and his jawed dropped. Corone’s navy was attacking. At the head of the party was a frigate carrying a new flag. The red of Akashima’s eagle was surrounded by Fordstein’s black snake. A new baron had been named.

    “Fucking Saieda,” Ceidon yelled before rushing back to the crew.
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