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Untitled By Dundrak, 01/06/2006
Encouraged by my hot, sweaty horse, and my aching posterior, I dismounted and stopped in from of the village. I had read about many great towns and villages in the annals of my MUD school diploma, but had never heard mention of this place. It was in the forest, along a path, marked only by a sign that read 'To Barry, who disappeared in the mountains long ago. '

Immediately questions flew forth from my mind. Who was Barry? Why did he disappear? Which mountains? That sensation in my burning posterior... When will it ease and allow me to walk normally again?

Many questions, all remaining unanswered, until I entered the village to the south. The fist question was answered easily. Barry had fled this village after realizing those he shared with were all the same... All in perfect health, either male or female. Barry, being the rambunctious and happy chap that he was, needed something new in his life. He didn't want to be immersed in a world of perfect people; he wanted a scandalous hoe. A woman that would take a smack and give back a punch. He wanted Jane.

Jane was different. Sure, she was in perfect health, but she was a lovely girl, and she wandered! She did not stand idle in one spot as the world swirled around her. No, she was a rebel. She wandered around the village, from room to room; being lovely and secretly shunning her unimpressive and perfectly healthy peers.

After entering the village and seeing Jane being lovely near the garden, I gave her a love tap. Alright, maybe it was more like a full blown punch to the kidney. Regardless, she appeared to enjoy it on multiple levels: The first being that it allowed her to fall quickly into the scented flowers, enjoying their sweet aroma all the while. The second, the realization that being something other than in 'perfect health' was fun, even daring!

I probed Jane roughly, and she told me of Barry and his exploits among the neighboring bear population, in the forests to the north. I gathered from her quivering lip and large bump on her forehead that she had fallen hard on a rock upon being sent to the flowers, but I also learned that Barry was not a normal boy.

In a world of perfection and happy little trees, Barry was a dissenter. He didn't stand in one spot his entire existence, nor did he remain bound to a little town that lacked diversity; and he sure as hell wasn't going to be perfect. No, he was going to do the business with bears. Big, furry bears.

Jane saw it in his eyes from an early age. In their long and isolated visits to a nearby stream, Barry would be hell bent on clawing at struggling salmon instead of Jane's threadbare and poorly constructed clothing. At first Jane suspected that she was ugly, but then she looked within herself and remembered that she was in fact lovely. So she didn't change. She kept on wearing the threadbare clothes. She kept on smelling the flowers. She kept on trying to get into Barry's pants.

But Barry's pants were unconquerable. There were tight, a fine knit; sewn by the most perfect tailor, and they lacked a zipped fly. Instead, Barry had to lower them full tilt, regardless of whether it was number one, or number two. Jane, having always struggled with numbers, was easily lost when it came to 'the business. ' While Barry struggled in the bushes with his numbers, Jane smelled the flowers and wandered. Alone, but lovely.

And then it happened. On a warm spring morning just after the sun's rays had christened the morning dew, Jane wandered too far. Instead of stopping and going back upon reaching the towns gate, she continued north, through the forest. She passed generic surroundings, and trees that were nothing special. Where there a lot of exits? No, just two: The way ahead, and behind. Even Jane could handle this journey.

As Jane rounded an abrupt turn, she saw them in the distance. Barry, recognizable by his large, and pleasurably erect, ears; the bears by their thick, slightly sticky and moist, fur. Together they were there among the wildflowers and shrubbery, doing the business. Together, one, then the other, they squatted. Alternating grunts, clawing at the moist earth with their concerted efforts, before finally letting forth a great bellow. As they stood, they looked back approvingly. Their eyes met, they touched, and then they did the business again, in another spot, this time inspecting each other's in classic 'You show me yours fashion.

It was at this point that Jane lost it. She yelled. No, she screamed! She simply could not bear it. To see the man she may have loved doing the business with such a large, furry creature, out in the open, and without pants, was too much. She turned around and fled. Not south, but instead to a Journey Too Far.

Jane did not want to be perfect; she may not even have wanted to be lovely anymore. But she knew she wanted one thing, and that was Jake, the big cat.

Jake never knew he was always Jane's cushion. He thought the love was real, when in fact, he was just appreciated for being a large and well endowed pussy.

Despite the linear and childishly simple path from the forest to the town, Jane almost lost her way back. She had Jake on her head, and she couldnt think straight. Left was right. Down was up. The business was, well the business. And she needed to get away, fast.

So Jane ran to town as quickly as her loveliness would allow her. She fled past the newly erected sign that spoke of Barry's departure. And then she stopped. She looked at the sign, pondering its newfound meaning. And then she gave it the business.

Jake was there, in the basement, waiting for her. She rushed through the house, not even stopping for a crumpet, before descending into the basement. She didn't bother using the stairs, but instead jumped down, past all fifteen of them. She landed hard, on her head, but Jake was there, lying in wait. He threw aside the garden utensil and pointed to the corner. He winked his eye, clicked his tongue, and flapped his wings like a chicken, but Jane knew. He was a cat; a big cat. And she wanted pussy.

But instead, Jake pointed down, to the trunk. It was long, and black, sleek in the dim light. Jane stroked it and appreciated its girth, wondering if she could lick it. As she bent down to give it a lick, Jake punched her hard, in the kidney. She fell, banging her head on the corner and causing the lid to come ajar.

Jake howled and kicked Jane, again in the kidney. She shivered and clutched once more at the massive trunk, trying desperately to stroke its length. Jake howled again, being limited by his species lack of a developed vocabulary, and threw the trunk open. He dove in, rolled around a little for effect, and then came out, covered in silky white, cotton pants.

He stepped out of the trunk and hovered over Jane's form. Her hand was clutching her body, hoping it was near the kidney, but having lacked any advanced medical training, was in reality clutching her ankle.

In this prone position, Jane looked helpless, frightened, clueless, discombobulated, a little overweight, maybe even chubby, but she didn't look lovely. And Jake liked his women lovely. So what Jake did was he took the pants. He grasped the waistband tightly, and he untied it, slowly, to make an already dramatic moment even more enthralling. He paused throughout, almost as if he were doing the robot, but then he stopped. He let go, the pants falling down, past his sharp knees, down to his weak and bony ankles. He stepped out of the two newly created holes, and he picked up the discarded gardening tool. He admired its craftsmanship, its contoured handle and remarkably sturdy blade. He even tested it against the earthen ground and grunted like a child when it neatly poked Jane in her kidney. She yelped, and he looked closer. Examining the fine grain that could be seen in the tools head, noticing that the handle was sculpted as if for use by him and him alone. He held it up into the light and made digging motions, as if he were culling a field in spring. And then he looked down at Jane, as if noticing her for the first time. He squatted down, taking a lock of Jane's hair and stroking it gently, like a piranha. He stepped closer still, squatted lower, causing the muscles in his leg to strain and resist. He started to claw the earth and moan aloud, while Jane shifted towards him, closer and closer. He took her hand gently and started to shake. He bellowed loudly, causing the pot boiling upstairs to clatter off the stove and to the floor. He bellowed loudly, causing the sign with Barry's inscription to shake lightly on its hinges. Jane exalted, excited and aroused by Jake and his manly moaning. Jake thrust his body upwards, thrusting off Jane's prone form, and giving her, in one primal and fully concentrated effort, the business.

Jane stirred and I ceased probing the area I thought to be her kidney. Her tale had come to a close, and I had heard enough. Jane may be a wanderer, and she may be lovely, but she lived a boring life. A life filled with normal people and kinky pussys. I felt that I had been wasted, my time expired. I had passed the sign in search of explanation, but instead had found taxation.

As Jane cried on my shoulder and begged for medical attention, I focused my energies elsewhere. I hopped onto my toes, swung my arms like a monkey, and beat my chest. Jane wavered and reached desperately for my trunk. I countered, grabbing her arm roughly and forcing her elbow down, into her kidney, and beyond. She yelped and fell hard into the flowers.

I turned and I left. Lumbering, slowly, like a gorilla this time. As I left the village I passed the sign stating ''To Barry, who disappeared in the mountains long ago. ' I pondered the sign, its meaning, and where the elusive Barry may be now. I debated stealing the sign, but concluded that such a mystery was best left unsolved, and the sign left unstolen.

I read the message on the sign once more, aloud this time; raising my voice to mimic that of a mother that had left her baby in a burning building. "To Barry, who disappeared in the mountains long ago."

The sign swayed in the breeze, as if in recognition. I too swayed, as a result of all the prunes I had eaten in the days past. And then I clutched the sign tightly, leaning fully against its form. And I gave it the business.

Untitled by Kirby 01/06/2006
The sun had just begun to set as I stumbled upon the Iron gates of Prospero, I was travelling homeward after my adventures in Gerasis and searching for a place to rest, and escape the bitter cold. A Gatekeeper met me at the gate, giving me a frightened look, and refusing to let me in. After some small chatter, I persuaded him to open the gates, bribing him with a hefty bag of gold. Rather pleased with his new wealth, he gave me a masque in hopes that I could pass through the mansion undetected. He told me of Prince Prospero, and the masquerade party he was holding for special friends only, and also warned me of the Red Death, which he described as a very hideous plague, matched by no disease or illness. I proceeded unafraid but only to find the tall front door to the mansion locked. A knock to the door gave no reply, and I made my way through the landscape, searching for another entrance. Spotting the stables to the east, I investigated further and found a rather disturbing fellow, Harpo the unstable groundskeeper. Covored in blood and wearing the skin of a horse, I felt no guilt taking this mans life, and removing the misery he must have lived with. Among other strange objects, a large key to the tall mansion door was on his person. I made my way into Prosperos exciting event, doning the masque the gatekeeper gave me. A huge ballroom followed the entranceway to the mansion, filled with dancers, masqueraders, and musicians. I thought back to the gatekeepers warning of the red death and gave a small chuckle, to me this seemed nothing but a rich mans party enjoying the night. It was quite an irregular place, the color scheme and random decorations were unique to any mansion or palace I have ever seen. I walked about as any other friend of Prospero, making small chatter with the other guest as I made my way throughout the huge mansion. Upon the hour of eleven, A gigantic clock of ebony struck with a loud and deep note, eleven notes. And such peculiar notes, that the company ceased, the musicians froze, and all fell silent in a confused meditation. As the last tone rang, and no more follow, a light laughter could be heard throughout the assembly, and the smiling musicians continued their harmonic play. Feeling curious and somewhat bored I made my way towards the host. Prospero was indeed a charming, and entertaining man, with a strange love for the bizarre. He was laughing it up with a few ballroom dancers as I gazed around a short distance from his throne. His throne sat in the eastern center of the ballroom, elaborately designed, having two gargoyles stationed on the top of the chair supposedly protecting the prince from all evil. From here the prince could observe the whole party, and have a listen to the band. I decided to move about before the prince detected my unwanted presents, so I made my way to the ebony grandfather clock that had stole the attention of the crowd before. But before I could make my way through the dense crowd, once again, the clock rang the deep peculiar note, and all fell silent. And before the final chimes of the clock could announce the midnight coming, a mysterious figure arose from the shadows, masked in a horrid face describing the results of an unspeakable disease. Arresting the attention of every guest present, with a deep convincing voice the figure announced, "The hallways shall flow forth with scarlet! '". And to that the Prince rose, standing stern with his fellow friends. "Who dares?" He damanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him, "who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him, that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!" . And with the effect of Prospero's command, the company begin to move toward the mysterious figure, but in their cowardice none put forth hand to seize the mysterious figure; so that, unimpeded, he passed witin a yard of the prince's person, and made his way through the halls uninterrupted. It was then however, that the Prince Prospero, with rage and knowledge of his own momentary cowardice, drew a dagger and rushed down the halls, while none followed. There was then a sharp cry, and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the carpet as the figure confronted his pursuer, and the Prince Prospero fell prostrate in death. Startled by the whole scene, I sat silent, refusing to move or calm the terrified guests. But as the gatekeeper had warned, within a few moments the Red Death had begun to plague the members of this cursed masquerade. Terrified and confused, the jesters, dancers, musicians, and already enraged guests became a horrid and pathetic sight. One bye one they began to drop, coughing uncontrolably and choking to the point of suffacation. Watching this terrible episode, I decided to search around for the source of this terrible epidemic, and my search brought me to a small trapdoor above the dark and mysterious seventh suite of the mansion. Few of the company set foot in this unpleasant suite, the stained glass windows were a deep scarlet color, and black tapestries hung from the ceiling along the walls. A short rope fell from the ceiling, connected to a small attic door. I pulled the string down and climbed the wooden ladder up into the attic. With no surprise, as I reached the top floor of the mysterious mansion, in the far corner of the room hovored a sparkling scarlet aura, silent and and mesmorizing. I drew close to it, examining it and contemplating its existance. It began to cloud the room, as if aware of my presence. I stepped back Slowly, as the mist began to flank me. Puzzled and feeling nervous, I brought about righteous storms throughout the room, and blazing fireballs in an attempt to stop the plague which would shortly consume me. But nothing, not even my most powerful spells could disintegrate its presence. And as I brought forth my magic the disease slowly flanked me, and surrounded me with the thick fog, suffocating and burning my skin. Panicking, and in utter confusion, I ran to a small corner of the room and raised magic walls to barricade myself from the unstoppable evil. I sat and rested, feeling exhausted and dazed from the previous experience of the plague. Still feeling confident I thought back to all my training as my magic wall was slowly corroded by the plague, searching for an answer that could save my life, and put in end to the horrid torture the Red Death has caused. But as I sat, throughout the halls I heard the echo of the same powerful, convincing voice of the mysterious figure, "One by one, you will all die! Nobody can escape their fate! The hallways shall flow forth with scarlet! ', and as the voice slowly faded, it brought with it my last bit of courage and hope that I would survive the night. I sat against the back wall in shame, feeling discouraged and defeated. This would be my end, after all my adventures into the depths of the most dangerous lands, I was met with a power that even I could not challenge. I thought back to all the great times I had travelling the lands, and all the great people I had the privilege of meeting. The wonders of the hidden valley of the gods, the dangerous caves of Nosgoth, the great pubs spread throughout the towns. And as I sat, I looked down out my most precious treasure, the golden heavenly hammer I aquired from the plains of heaven. It began to glow, shining a beautiful gold aura in the dark and misty room. Such a magnificent sight it was for me in this depressing moment, that all shame and fear of death faded, and a new sense of encouragement came over me. I have lived a great life, conquering many challenges that even the most powerful warriors would refuse to attempt. If this was to be my end, then so be it. I grasped my hammer and stood up with dignity and pride, awaiting my fate.... And the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Fire and Nice By Jerbear, 01/01/2006
Many seasons ago the hero Jerbear went forth from the gates of Midgaard. After a journey many days from the gates our hero wondered into a mountain that was home to a group of evil fire newts. Jerbear being a righteous hero decided to end the villiany of the newts, so he descended into the mountain to come across all manner of evil. The newts didn't take notice of our hero until he started his righteous massacre. Many guards and member of the newts somewhat organized army came forward to try to stop Jerbear from completing his task. But our hero was protected by his god and had his divine power on his side to rid the world of these evil creatures. After many hours of fighting and seeing no end in the battle and being somewhat fatigued, our hero retreated to a small castle near the entrance to the mountain of the fire newts. The castle had been abandoned for many years. Jerbear decided that this would be his base from which he would strike out against the fire newts. After a days rest Jerbear ventured back into the newts home and begin anew, after another fight that lasted many hours Jerbear agin retreated to the castle. Seeing that he hadn't got much further into the fire newt's lair then before Jerbear faith was shacken. Jerbear prayed many nights to his god before he regained his faith and made the extermination of the fire newts his quest in life. He would rid the world of the evil newts once and for all. With that he started working on the castle to make sure it was fortified incase the newts discovered it while he retreated to regather his strength from a battle with the newts. In his explorations around the mountain he came across an ancient dragon that had seen the light of good. He presented a bargain to him, protect the castle from which he would release righteous fury on the evil newts in the area. The dragon agreed to help as he had been wanting to get rid of them from sometime but was unable to enter thier home as the hole was too small for him. At this point the dragon finally gave Jerbear his name, as to dragons a name is a very important piece of information and not given freely. The dragon introduced himself as Nicol Bolas. Having gotten himself a worthy guard for his base of operation, Jerbear next set out to locate a mage with a great deal of knowledge of the arcane to aid him in his quest. After a long search he found a wizard to his liking, and invinted him to his castle to assist and informed him of the presence of Nicol, the wizard jumped at the opportunity to study a dragon. With his second companion ready to assist him in dealing with the evil newt problem Jerbear decided he was ready for a daily battle with the newts. He now battles the newts on a daily basis, and has yet to lose his faith again, knowing that with each day a small portion of evil is removed from this world. He wakes up each morning looking forward to his fight with the evil newts, on those days when the previous days battle was not in his favor, he looks forward to a day of training to better be able to deal with the newts in the future and to heal his wounds. The newts have yet to discover his castle bet with each passing day they seem to understand his strategy, and it will not be long until they discover his castle and his friendship with Nicol and the mage will be well afforded. Until that time the newts population is lowered each and every day. Soon there will be none left and Jerbear's quest will be complete.

Do you smell what the Bach is cooking? By Redauerbach, 02/14/2013
Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach was born in a small castle on the south easterly shore of the Karachian Sea on the Day of the Sun, 34th the Month of the Great Evil in the year 2006 to Nester and Cherron of the Imperium Clan. While growing up, Red traveled around a lot with his parents and watched his father spam transport thousands of mobs to load rare and socketed gear from throughout the realm. During his teen incarnates, Red left the Imperium clan and began living with the Nosferatu clan where he really began to cut his teeth as an up and coming necromancer. In 2007, Red suffered a back injury which cost him time in the realm, and laid him up for several years. He then signed a 3 year deal to return to the Imperium clan in 2012. After returning to Imperium in 2012, he refused to acknowledge the "Red Auerbach" name, instead referring to himself in the third person as "The Bach". He insulted the other inhabitants of the realm in his chats, as well as realm immortals, once calling Lenny an "ugly hermaphrodite". The Bach left after a few months to pursue a life as a loner. He made his return to leveling debut in 2012 tearing apart the Cask of Amontillado area. In 2013, The Bach joined the Havoc clan under the leadership of the globally feared Barbarian, Maxim, the Barbaric Barbarian.

He’s been dubbed The Great One, The People’s Champion and The Most Electrifying Man in All of Netherworld, but mere words fail to capture the essence of the most charismatic Balrog of all time. Although the catchphrase “boots to asses” comes awfully close.

The former Imperium and current Havoc standout showed promise early when he won the Flaming Boots of Speed Relic within months of first setting foot in the realm. He later lost the relic to the Shaolin clan in a botched pkill. From there, The Bach's momentum never slowed as he laid the smackdown on rivals like Verchiel and Tiana while spouting off endless catchphrases that immediately became part of national conversation. With one eyebrow cocked, The People’s Champion would warn jabronis to “Know your role and shut your mouth” or “Just bring it!” before delivering his devastating necromancer spells on the way to victory.

The Bach 'N' Sock Connection formed when Kirby and Verchiel attacked The Bach, leading The Bach to challenge both of them to a fight. At the time, it was considered "suicide" to face a team as deadly as Kirby and Verchiel. With this in mind, Gongar (who used a smelly sock named "Mr. Socko" as part of his garbage equipment) asked his former enemy if he could help with his fight against Kirby and Verchiel. The Bach reluctantly accepted, and later that night, the two killed Kirby and Verchiel relatively easy.

Several days later, Gongar helped NetherWorld achieve some of its best comedy ever with a chat segment featuring himself and The Bach in a segment Gongar called "This is Your Life. Gongar brought out former Imperium leader Torrance, and Red’s previous alias, Kokey the Barbarian. The Bach told Gongar that he was tired of him, did not like the whole Bach 'N' Sock team, nor did he enjoy Gongar stealing his catchphrases on chat. Gongar begged The Bach to team up with him for one more night, but he did not tell The Bach who they would be fighting.

They ended up challenging Kamil and Pachomius. That night, the Bach 'N' Sock Connection won fight, meaning they would have to continue teaming together to prove their dominance over the realm. Four days later, before their fight against Salterra and Vladimir, Gongar gave the Bach an autographed copy of his all-time best notes, but later found it in the trash. Gongar confronted The Bach and cursed him out for throwing away his life's work. Later that night, during their fight, a crushed Gongar refused to participate as he sat despondently at MG healer, facing away from the East gate, as Vladimir and Salterra (with outside interference from Kirby) beat The Bach. The Bach and Gongar began a feud with each other, until Gongar discovered that it was his close friend, Stryken who threw the notes in the trash, since the notes contained many Stryken stories.

Untitled By Wiegraf, 02/14/2013
Wiegraf looked up at the collossal white wall and the city of Gondolin. The infernal Questmaster had sent him here yet again to retrieve some meaningless item from the city of elves. Hefting his spear over his shoulder, he hovered forward towards the gates, he smirked and thought that surely the elves had replenished their ranks since his last "visit". No sooner than he finished that thought, a troop of elves in their ridiculous gold armor tried to ambush him before the first gate, how they almays managed to hide with the bright polished plates he could never guess. Being of the sls'thra race the elves ambush failed before it began, his insect reflexes allowed him to counter their ambush with a vicious attack of his own and his spear cut down all but the captain as quickly as the melee started. "kill me if you will, more will be come to oppose you!" the captain screamed. Wiegraf let out a chuckle and replied "I certainly hope so, it has been so long since i've tasted elven blood!" Wiegraf crouched for a moment then bounded forward lightning quick and caught the captain in his mandibles, and ripped the poor captain apart. Wiegraf screeched in glee, his yell echoing in the walls within Gondolin and heralding his arival. Wiegraf the insect scourge had returned.

He fought his way through the seven gates of Gondolin, summoning storms of clerical fire while the defender's blows bounced off the protective spells he placed upon himself before entering. The path to the town lay before him, low trees lined the path making a magical scene of breathtaking beauty. The sls'thra laughed at the thought of making the slight improvement of elven body parts in their bright armor as ornaments for boughs. Dominating the view behind the town was the castle, it stood tall and regal with its white brick spires and impressive parapets. Wiegraf sighed in lament, he wouldn't be going to the castle to see the nobles on this trip, he was interested to see if they had improved their defenses since the last time he was here. "No" he thought "for all their splender and magic, the elves of Gondolin seemed content with the same defense every time." Making his way towards the market place and impailing any unfortunate citizens that got in his way. Wiegraf then encountered a lone castle guard who charged him from behind. Spinning with his spear, shocked filled the insect lord as his spear not only missed but the elf also got inter his guard and wrenched the spear out his grasp. Rage and wrath filled Wiegraf, that such a lowly creature could not only get into his guard but disarm him at that filled him with no end of madness. Wiegraf picked the frightened elf up in his mandibles and brought out his stinger which made the elf's eyes go wide in horror, a cry may have escaped but the mandibles were crushing the elf's body and forcing air from his lungs. The elf was tossed into the air and out flashed the stinger and caught the elf, pinning him against a wall, with one final push a stream of poison rushed into the elf's body setting his viens on fire and slowly turning his brain to mush. Hefting his spear over his shoulder he continued up the path, leaving the elf to rave and scream and eventually perish.

At the crossroads Wiegraf ran into something he didn't expect, his target the elven warrior Galfir was waiting for him. In his usual platinum and gold armor Galif was a sight to see indeed, his winged helmet making him look like a holy warrior of great might. Wiegraf knew better however, after many life times he had learned it took more than some flashy armor to make a true warrior. Galdir raised his sword and pointed it at the large insectoid and yelled "Back monster! Your rampage ends here!" Wiegraf bowed and replied "Why my friend, had you only let me in we could have avoided all this. After all i'm only here for you, my patron has asked for your head." Galdir shook with rage and simply stated "what demented patron would ask for a goodly creature's head I know not, I only know that you will have a hard time taking it!!" Galdir raised his sword and charged, Wiegraf screeched and made a charge of his own. Wiegraf not wanting to make this too quick, brought out his shield and played a defensive game with the elf. A song of dings, clings and clangs resounded throughout the white city followed by roars of fustration by the elf. Using his speed Wiegraf parried, blocked and hovered over Galdir's blows always keeping one step ahead of him, counterattacking with mock blows fairly fequently. Suddenly bored with the affair and eager to get on with the rest of his quest, Wiegraf used his enhanced vision to study Galdir's armor and pinpoint its weakness. Galdir was one of the mightiest warriors the city of Gondolin could muster and he was downed by a single spear thrust from an insect monster.

Wiegraf the sls'thra paid a great price to get his name, he sacrificed part of his power to gain it. This was but the first step in the journey to reclaim that power. He would play the Questmaster's game for the time being and once he was free the world would suffer his wrath.

Aatakinty and the Giant Mango By Aatakinty, 02/14/2013
In the year 2013, Aataknity is a young barbarian who lives with his parents by the Karachian Sea near the village of Ashungar. On Aatakinty's birthday, they plan to go to Solace and visit the High Tower of Sourcery, the tallest building in the world. However, his parents are later killed by a ghostly rhinoceros from the sky and Aatakinty finds himself living with his two cruel uncles, Wiegraf and Torrance.

He is forced to work all day and they threaten him with beatings to keep him in line and taunt him about the mysterious rhino and other hazards if he tries to leave.

While rescuing a spider from being squashed by his uncles, Aatakinty meets a mysterious man with a bag of magic green "mushrooms", which he gives to Aatakinty to make his life better. The soldier warns him not to lose the "mushrooms" and disappears. When Aatakinty is returning to the house, he trips and the "mushrooms" escape into the ground.

One mango is soon found on a withered old tree, and grows into immense proportions. Wiegraf and Torrance use the giant mango as an attraction, making lots of money as Aatakinty watches from the clan hall, not allowed to leave. That night, Aatakinty is sent to pick up the garbage. While doing so, he grabs a chunk of the mango to eat as one of the "mushrooms" jumps into it. A large hole appears inside the mango and Aatakinty crawls inside, where he finds and befriends a group of individuals who also dream of an ideal home (Gongar, Stryken, Maxim, Cherron, Ouroboros, and Jacob. As they hear the uncles search for Aatakinty, Cherron manages to cut the stem holding the giant mango to the tree and the mango rolls away to the Adreyatic Ocean with Aatakinty and his friends inside it, seemingly squashing Wiegraf and Torrance's clan hall as they try to chase it.

Remembering his dream to visit Solace, Aatakinty and his friends decide to go there. They use Jacob’s dreadlocks to capture and tie a hundred seagulls to the mango stem, while battling against a giant robotic shark. They escape just in time. While flying, Aatakinty and his friends eventually find themselves hungry and soon realize that "their whole ship is made out of food". After gorging most of the inside of the mango, Jacob, while using his dreads to tuck in Aatakinty, reveals to him that he was the mage he saved from Wiegraf and Torrance. Aatakinty then has a nightmare of him as a frog attacked by Wiegraf, Torrance, and a spray the uncles used that resembles the rhino. When he wakes up, he and his friends find themselves in The Arctic, lost and cold. Stryken has fallen asleep while keeping watch, resulting in them further away from their destination than ever. After hearing Maxim wishing they had a compass, Stryken jumps off the mango into the icy water below and searches a sunken ship. He finds a compass but is taken prisoner by a group of skeletal pirates. Aatakinty and Cherron rescue him and the journey continues.

As the group finally reaches Solace, a storm appears. A flash of lightning reveals the rhino approaching towards them. Aatakinty is terrified but faces his fears and gets his friends to safety before the rhino strikes the mango with lightning; the dreadlocks keeping the seagulls attached to the mango are cut and the mango falls to the city, dragging Aatakinty with it. Aatakinty coughs up the green mushroom as he reawakens, transforms back into his normal form, and emerges from the mango realizing it has landed right on top of the Administration Building.

After being rescued by the townguards, Wiegraf and Torrance arrive, supposedly having paid some dumb jerk named Lyle to take them across the seabed, and attempt to take back Aatakinty and the mango. Aatakinty stands up to Wiegraf and Torrance, and they attempt to kill Aatakinty. Using the remaining seagulls, Aatakinty’s new friends arrive in Solace. They tie up Wiegraf and Torrance with Jacob’s dreads and they are taken away. Aatakinty introduces his friends and allows the children of Solace to eat up the mango.

The mango stone is made into a house in Solace, where Aatakinty lives with his friends. Maxim runs for Solace mayor, Stryken becomes a professional violinist, Gongar becomes a mascot for a new cream, Jacob becomes a nurse, Cherron lights up the Statue of Cinnamon, Ouroboros owns a club called "Grunting Boar Inn", and Aatakinty celebrates his 6215th birthday with his new family.

Untitled By Grok, 02/14/2013
My name is Jacob the Wise. I long ago retired to the shores of Crystalmir Lake on the outskirts of Solace where I idly wait for a tired soul to pass my hearth, that I might bake a hasty pot pie, and so fuel this brave adventurer onward! A magi by choice, I was a healer by duty. And so, would recite an ancient incantation for a would be conqueror, and bless the torch that might one day illuminate his battlefield and save my transitory visitor from certain death.

Many years I would sit in my humble chair, though it contained all the ornaments of a king, namely the king itself, and warm the hearts of those whom I was lucky enough to encounter. In the time that has come to pass there is but one vagabond, nay, pilgrim, who still haunts my memories, and provides me hope that the warrior spirits, once so frequent on these shores may soon come to populate this land again.

It is the fate of all great warrior spirits, spirits at war, that they have no time for what some consider to be the finer arts: poetry, song, literature, philosophy. Great stories must be told, great hero’s remembered, great warriors honored, though they may have transitioned to villains at last. And so this is my charge, that I might impart to posterity, the Iliad of a warrior too great to write his own. I had never met, and suspect shall never meet again one so brave, so honest, so humble, and so tortured, as Grok the Strong. This is his story.

I had spent the evening, over bread and tea, with a friend of mine who was the proprietor of a local shop. Losing track of the conversation, I lost track of the time as well. In haste, I said farewell, expressed my gratitude, lit my torch, and begin my walk home. At the end of the stone bridge that led out of town I noticed a trail of blood that crept up from below.

I followed these small pools of blood, perversely excited to help an injured soul. As I approached my cottage, for the trail of blood led me directly home, I began to hear what I assumed to be a wild beast of some sort. The blood led around the side of my house, towards a small path, that I have trampled down over time, in the trees that quickly climb up the mountains.

I had taken one half of a step into the tree line before I saw him, indeed, a wild beast, and he saw me. Leaping from the carcass he was devouring, and which was the source of our bloody trail, a youth wearing only a few skins, and armed only with a small club, had such ferocity, and fear, in his eyes, I had no choice but to tranquilize him with a spell.

At dawn, I had prepared a pie, and poured some wine. His eyes opened, already looking at his breakfast. He consumed in silence. When he was finished, I began:
“Where have you come from?”
He slowly looked up. He had a scar that ran from the corner of his left eye and down across his lips. “huRT.” He said, but in a language that was memorized and distorted; not known, not understood. A hurt like his, I would soon come to divine, perhaps, transcends language.

“I am a healer.” I slowly walked over to him, looked into his black eyes, and placed my hand onto his head of knotted hair. He was young, but he had lived a full life, and as I read his mind, I knew he could not be helped by the likes of me.

The spawn of a local loan shark he was born in a small village, northeast of Midgaard, past the mountains, to a lady of ill repute. She abandoned him behind the billiard hall. A baby, he fed himself on garbage. Nine months passed and he stood up, left the village and wandered into the wilderness.

Years went by: he learned to hunt, to be silent, to be quick, to kill. One night, for the greatest predators are nocturnal, he was crossing a cart-path in the woods, when he was beset upon by a highwayman. A rapier, meant for his neck, sliced across his face. On the backswing, the thief knocked him cold with the butt of his dagger.

The child awoke in chains, sold to nearby king, known to hire the undead for defense. His face still bleeding, he howled, “GRROOOOOK! GROOOK! GROK!” He shook his chains, fastened too well to the dungeon walls. “GROK! GROK!” he screamed again. Until he had fully exhausted himself, he roared into the morning, his haunting call echoing through the castle.

When he had passed out, one of the king’s warriors entered his cell carrying a bucket of water. He woke his victim with an icy splash, and before a reason could be discerned, swung his war hammer into the side of the young boys chest, shattering his ribs. The prisoner grew limp, and hung, semi-conscious, on his chains.

The guard removed his cuffs, attached a ball and chain, and dragged the youth outside. He was loaded onto a cart and driven to the cliff face whence the stone for the construction of fortresses was chiseled. Here he was pushed from the cart and chained to a few dozen other slaves and was informed of his mandate.

The warrior reaver looked down on the child, threw him a hammer, though not as weaponized as his own, and with darkness in his eyes, and a void meant for a soul, said, “Work!”

Our hero had, could only have had, one reply: “GROK!”

But words of resistance mean little when spoken from chains and a broken vernacular. The soulless reaver laughed as the Devil and swiftly put a boot to the child’s head, knocking him to the ground, blood dripping from his split lip, crusting the dirt on which he was stooped. Again, the reaver demanded, “WORK!”

Months went by. A child who had taught himself to be nimble and quick was soon labored into a powerful and brute beast. A hammer is good for learning this at least: that to break stone, one must become stone; that to hammer is to be forged in the furnaces of hell fire.

Those to whom this young slave was chained, learned to fear and respect their comrade. There was none among them, save our subject, who would dare to question the authority of their reaver masters. Though daily, when it was time to drop the table scraps of the castle’s feasts onto the ground before the slaves, a rock or hammer would fly from the fists of this young prisoner towards the source of his incarceration. And daily, in response, he was beaten.

As the days work went on, one could always here the low growling of a beast, more or less, as it were, than a human, working at the chisel, though certainly plotting revenge. “…grr….ok…ok” he would grumble. “gRoK! GrrROK! GROK,” in time with the clink, clink, clink of his hammer. Occasionally he would throw down his hammer, lift his head high, and declare to the entire natural world his intentions. “GROK!”

His fellow inmates began to honor these daily acts of resistance, and would shout, when the inevitable beatings came, the only words of support he might understand, “Grok! Grok! Grok!” This solidarity irked the slave masters, and in the castle, it was decided that this young rebel, this fearsome brute, must be got rid of.

The next night, sleeping on a bed of broken stone, the young man was brought from his slumber by the clumsy footsteps of would-be assassins. One cannot live in the wilderness and not learn to discern the difference between feet and wind. Our hero, lied silent, waiting for their approach, ready at last to die, so ready at last to fight.

Breathless, and peeking through closed eyes, he saw the boots of an executioner inches from his face. A whisper, he overheard “Is this the one? Is this Grok?” It would seem consistency procures a name, and a name procures fear.

An ambiguous thought, a vague but burning desire for identity, this doomed prisoner in an instant became conscious of himself, his history, and his future. “I,” he thought, “Grok. I, strong.”

As the assassin raised his axe, though hardly in silence, the hero knew this would not be his last day on the continents of the Nether World. The axe fell.

Grok, assumed to be asleep and so surprising the posse, raised his shackled arms towards the axe, “shiiiink” and his chains were cut by the blade meant for his head. He howled, “GROK!” At this, the other prisoners awoke. Our hero quickly disarmed the reaver, and cut the ball and chain from his feet, then turned the axe towards his slave masters. Before a warning could be sent, he had killed the party meant to kill him.

He started towards the castle, bent only on vengeance, when he began to hear the chants of his comrades behind him, “Grok! Grok! Grok!” Intelligence is not a necessary component of empathy, and despite his blood thirst, Grok quickly returned and set free his fellow prisoners.

There they stood, after a lifetime of slavery, lost as to what to do next. Grok turned away from them, and continued towards the castle. They followed.

The soulless reavers saw the mob approach, and no mercenary compensation could buy their loyalty. Soon, chaos ensued everywhere. The reavers turned on their masters, as the prisoners had turned on theirs. Grok heard the king in the distance, “How many more have to die tonight?” and thought to himself, “one more.”

By now, the riotous mob had set the castle on fire, the reavers killed anything that moved, as they are wont to do, and the king’s personal bodyguards drew close. Grok deftly moved through the tumult, and headed straight for the King. His childhood spent as a wolf, he knew how to hunt. With a stolen blade, he slashed the throat of a giant, stabbed the heart of another, and with disturbing passion, he threw down his sword and beat the remaining bodyguard with his bare fists. The king looked on, horrified, motionless.

When Grok had satiated his blood lust, he turned to the King. With death and fire all around, he paused and noticed a tapestry that hung behind the throne. It showed a young child, in a crib, with a woman, a goddess, leering over him. Hundreds of snakes were all around her and beginning to slither into the babes crib. He had never seen, never mind been moved by, a work of art before, and perhaps may never again. He leaped behind the throne, in which the King still sat, tore off the section of the tapestry that depicted the baby and without hesitation, choked the King to death with it.

Before the riot was over, Grok stood atop the throne, over the lifeless body of a fallen king, held his torn piece of the tapestry in the sky, and shouted “Grok! grOK! GROK!” At this, the halls resounded with the cries of the mob, “Grok! Grok! Grok!” and the reavers screamed a blood curtailing war cry. Grok fled the scene, his solidarity to his fellow inmates worn thin, and ran into the forest.

At this, I removed my hand from his head, filled with images of suffering and pain. Grok looked at me knowingly. He reached into one of the skins he wore for armor and pulled out the tattered piece of cloth, still dripping with royal sweat, which reminded him of his own childhood, so full of snakes as it was, and handed it to me. He spoke, “Whuut this?”

I told him the story of Hercules: how he was a bastard child from the gods, how a jealous women had tried to kill him, how he had killed his own wife and child in a blind rage. I told Grok of the Herculean labors ordered by the Gods as punishment.

He looked at me; the ferocity in his eyes had turned to hope. It was still early; the sun had just breached the mountainous horizon and was beginning to stream long rays through the window on my eastern wall. Birds were singing. Grok reached out his hand to ask for the torn piece of cloth that would steel him onward, and make a Hercules of him at last. He tucked it back into his ragged armor and stood up.

As he turned towards the door, I knew this would be the last I saw of him, and I knew I could offer no advice. A great warrior creates his own path, and while I was grateful that it had crossed my hearth, I was saddened that it would never do so again. I stopped him.

“Please, one moment,” I said, and went to the chest where I stored my own memories. I opened it, reached inside and removed a gift, given to me by a Lieutenant in the Army of Solace. It had a black hilt and seemed to glow with the sunlight. I walked over to Grok, kneeled, and held the blade up for him to take.

With hesitation, and learned mistrust, he took the blade, nodded his head, and turned away. Before he crossed my threshold, I called upon my gods to provide sanctuary for this lost soul, though in my mind he had been found. A silhouette in my open door, he turned his head back to me and said “Grok, thank.”

I bowed, speechless, and he was gone.

Indeed, in the years that have passed since that memorable night, I never again did see him around the shores of this lake. There were heard in the town, rumors of a man so fearsome, and so skilled in the ways of war, that the Gods themselves had lifted him to immortality.

On an excursion to Midgaard one summer, I was sitting at the bar of the local tavern. Intoxicated, I told the story I have just relayed to you, to the barkeep. After I had finished, he informed me of a man he once met, who had relieved the town of a highwayman that terrorized the community for a decade or more. He wore a full lion’s skin over his body and wielded a black hilted sword, which he called Shieldbreaker.

At this, I smiled, sighed, and praised the gods for Grok the Strong: a son of immortality, a keeper of the warrior spirit, a Hercules among men.

The Great Below By Drucilla, 02/14/2013
As the sun fell, shadows swept across the wooded landscape, and touched the base of an enormous mass of tangled trees. Another night, hot, clenched in the jaws of a drought-ridden summer. The third year straight, with heavy impact that none could have predicted. Mighty forests trembled, weakened by their unquenched thirst. What little energy the cities could muster was often wasted on riot and dissent. Even the wealthiest of Lords have had a hard time keeping water for drink, let alone their crops. Hard times. Hard times with no obvious end.

Strained creaking and crisp snaps filled the dead silence as the roots of the mesh of trees unhinged themselves from one another, snaking about, synchronically diving in and out of the ground, kicking up no dirt, leaving no divets behind, and carrying this towering amalgamation of twisted roots and branches in a hurry. A large city lay out in the distance. This was Midgaard.

As the being approached the city, much of its stubstance burried itself beneath the surface of the ground. As it did, it was replaced by a system of much finer plant material, filling out the a shape resembling an Elven female. Intertwined roots and vines driving up out of the ground created the form 2 legs, conjoining into a slender body, and out again in the image of arms. Her face looked to be carved from oak, yet ever-changing, expressing her as well as flesh could ever hope to do. Fine grass fell from her head in light waves, laying softly across her breast, and wisping softly in the wind. Gently adorned by the tiniest petals and foliage, she was in detail every bit as beautiful as one draped in skin. She was a Cylenchar.

Through the gates, she swept. It was nearly sun-up, and the first bit of the morning workers had already started their day. She had been here before, yet even those familiar with Cylenchar could not resist another chance to fill their eyes. Today she had no time. Today she ignored.

Twisting and turning down roads, she eventually came to a large building of stone and wood. 3 stories high, it stood out on this road, there was not a building of comparable size and stature for quite a ways. 2 large pillars held up a canopy which covered a raised platform outside the building. Tables and chairs arranged neatly on top of it. Behind them, lay windows, framed in thick, deep-brown wood, and embedded into walls of patterned granite and onyx. A large doorway was emphasized by a twisted rope of gold and silver which outlined where a massive oaken door stood.

As she came to the stair, her connection with the ground ceased. The vegetation broke off at her "feet" as she stepped up onto the raised platform. Without hesitation, she pushed the door open.

"I'm sorry we're not - Oh, Drucilla. Please, come in"

As all good buildings have a way of doing, this building seemed even larger on the inside. Many tables and chairs filled the room, all exquisitely detailed, by a master hand. A large bar spanned almost the entire length of the back wall, save for a doubledoor entryway. A spiraling banister dropped thick wooden rails down to meet a matching staircase climbing up to a second floor, to a doorway exactly above the one on the ground. Also, a floor ran along the outer edges of this level, providing extra seats in the main room. Three chandeliers hung from the ceiling, adorned mostly with diamonds, having other rare gems dispersed throughout. The aromas from the kitchen lingered in the air. Though, in spite of everything, her attention was fixed on the source of the voice. A man, nearing the end of his middle age, standing behind the bar, filling up shelf with bottles of wine.

"At this hour, I ought to have known it was you. We've known each other so long now." the man stated, in a firm, warm tone.

A small smile touched her implied lips as she spoke, "Your entire life, so far."

The smile passed to the man as he leaned onto the bar and reached up to stroke a short beard. "Hmm, yes, and nearly two of yours, if I'm not mistaken".

Drucilla drew closer to the bar, as her wooden expression shifted inwards. "Tell me you have good news."

He stopped polishing a bottle, setting it down and sighing. "I wish I had better, old friend. But things get worse. I have visitors from further and further away with stories of lost crops, dying herds, and unease, and nothing but theories and heresay to suggest why. Some blame the Gods. Some claim it is Lenny himself, punishing the world for his own sick enjoyment."

Drucilla's expression did not change, and the blank stare garnered a nervous swallow from the man. He spoke.

"There was one thing though."

Drucilla's eyebrow raised, yet she remained silent.

"Yes, well. There was someone a month back that came through here, curious about the problem. Even mentioned you by name. Resembled a huge snail, with... dragon-like wings..Are you familiar with this type?"

No reaction was evident, yet Drucilla's mind was racing. She knew exactly who it was. One of the most ancient, and famed Druids. The Snahhan, Porcelina. It had to be. Said to have been raised to the ranks of the Gods, much of what happened to Porcelina remained a mystery. But this had to be something.

"I believe I know who it is. Did they say anything else?"

"Nothing worth noting. There was something left for you though.."

The man disappeared into the back for several minutes, and came back with something bundled in a fancy kitchen towel, with "G23" embroidered on it, the chef's trademark.. Setting it on the bar, he unfolded the material, revealing a small inscribed rune.

"I haven't been able to figure out what it says, but -"

"And best you shouldn't. Thank you old friend, I must depart at once. Tell your chef that it smells absolutely amazing in here, as I've come to expect. Until next time, my friend."

And with out wait, Drucilla was up and heading towards the door, with intent. The rune clearly had sufficient meaning to her. As she exited, she heard the voice of her friend trail off. "Gongar? Gongar! Whatever you're cooking back there.."

Several days had past since leaving Midgaard, and Drucilla strode forth, fully determined. She was now in the form of a hill, quite literally rolling across the landscape. Through a quiet woodlands, towards the ocean, stopping only once to admire a holy grove, spotted from the distance. Continuing on, she made her way to a small fishing village. Without stopping to change form, she plowed through the village as a hill. Taking no heed to the folk of the town, she changed her path for no one, and those villagers and patrolmen who failed to get out of the way were flung in all directions. "Nothing a good cleric couldn't fix", she thought, justifying the action to herself.

Approaching the docks, she slowed her pace, until reaching a halt. Her hilly form trembled softly as it sunk back into the ground, pushing up a form very closely resembling an average tree. One not having witnessed the transformation would likely walk right past her, completely oblivious. Then, mumbling a word, she rose above the ground, roots dangling, just barely making contact with the ground. She floated down the docks, and beyond, meeting the ocean.

Soon enough, she switch direction, making landfall to the north, at some mud flats. Adjusting her form, leaves fell from her branches, and she resembled a half dead bog tree, mumbling another word as she dropped into the mud, roots fastening themselves as if having been planted there for hundreds of years. And as she moved along, no trace of her path could be seen. And having a bit of knowledge about the area she travelled, she would not want to leave any.

It was not long before she heard horrible screams in the near distance. Taking no chances, she froze, and attempted to analyze the situation. She scanned about, eventually catching sight of the source of the commotion.

A small fairy was darting about, desparately attempting to evade the huge axes wielded by it's opponent. A grotesque creature, very much resembling an exaggerated orc, had spines protruding out of its body, even through some of it's impressive armor, was grinning and gnashing it's teeth, as it effortlessly had the fae struggling for it's life. They fought amidst the body of an enormous serpentine creature with great fins and metallic scales, half glimmering, half covered in blood. It lay near motionless, nearly coiled around the grounds of battle. It appeared to be in an awkward state of living while being dead.

Backing the fae up, the orc unleashed a string of careless blows, it appeared to be toying with it's prey, as the small fae desparately attacked with magics that the orc barely seemed to notice. Wounds festering, the fae was clearly losing its energy fast, occasionally spewing vomit midst battle. The orc seemed to take great joy in this, halting the onslaught momentarilly to take in being splashed in the evacuations of the fae's stomach. And then, with a carless backhanded swing, the orc slashed horizontally at the fae, the fae blinked out of existance, and just as it reappeared, it had caught the end of the orc's second hand, a downward slash, entering the top of the creature's skull, and scooping outwards, exiting somewhere near the creature's left hip, completely severing the body.

Within an instant, the orc was calm, returning its massive axes to their places on either hip, and replacing them with a small skinning knife. Crouching over one half of the fae's corpse, he began cutting at the creature's wrist, until the hand was completely separated. He then stuffed the hand into his pack, and calmly stood up and headed over to the huge Wyrm, still barely breathing, anxious eyes following the orc's every move. It seemed to maybe breathe a little faster as the orc approached. Ice cold, the orc walked right up to the face of the massive Wyrm, which still clutched tightly on it's bow, arrow still nocked, but hanging hopelessly from the string. Slowly reaching towards the wyrm, the orc, with a sudden swift motion, grabbed ahold of the orc's eyelid and pulled it out, before bringing the blade to it with the other hand, and sawing it off, with no sign of rush. The process was repeated for the other eye. Somehow, while not moving, or making any sound, it was clear that the victim was feeling every bit of this torture. And the rest of it. Ripping out claws, peeling off scales. The orc seemed to take particular delight in gripping the wyrm's largest teeth with one hand, and them smashing it off at the gum with the hilt of his blade in the other. This went on for quite some time, Drucilla some how looking on the whole time.

She didn't start to worry until it was all over, as the orc's path apparently ran in her direction. She knew she was disguised, yet, after witnessing all of that, it was difficult to not feel a little bit uneasy as the gruesome killer sauntered along towards her. As it came near, details came into being. A sickly necklace of trophies hung proudly around it's neck. Ears, fingers, genitalia, eyes, bones, and more, all hung from a cord. It carried a rotten odor of many things, most notably, feces. Drucilla watched nervously as the gap between them shrunk, and calmed as it again lengthened. She watched it's back as it moved away, still in no hurry, meandering along, ignoring a strange green orb that floated past. Drucilla began to wonder what that orc could possibly be thinking, after unleashing that carnage and violence, to be just strolling about nonchalantly. Shaking the thought off, she turned her mind and her sight to her destination. She had lost enough time in this ordeal and couldn't afford any more distractions. She nearly wept as the object plunged into her. Looking down, the detached horn of a some creature protruded from her about halfway up her body. She looked up to see the orc charging at her. How did he know? He lept several feet in the air, weapon raised in the air. roots and branches sucked inwards as she desparately attempted to take humanoid form, but he caught a thick branch in time, nearly breaking it off of the tree. Her arm would suffer the injury.

Shaking the wound off, she turned to face her opponent, who was once again rushing towards her. In a breath, she let off a spell, and a thorny bramble shot up from the ground, entraping the orc, who fought viciously as thorns ripped at it's flesh. Wasting no time, she began reciting spells. She started to look healthier, thorns popped up from her skin, and she once again took flight. She was halfway through another spell, when the orc broke free and made it's way to her before she could finish. It barely seemed to notice the lacerations it had received, and lost no step, bashing Drucilla to the ground and spilling the contents of her bag everywhere. Laying on her back helpless, she looked up at the axe raised above the orcs head, and could do nothing but wait for it to come down upon her. And she waited. The axe seemed to lower in slow motion. Infact.. it WAS lowering in slow motion. She looked at the orcs face, but his gaze was fixed elsewhere. Following the path of its sight, she looked off to her side, noticing her belongings scattered everywhere.

"Where did you get this?" the orc hissed, as it picked up the cloth that the rune had been wrapped in. Drucilla was surprised it could even speak. "Answer quicker."

"I received it from a friend, to help me on a mission." Drucilla spoke, as she hoped to be containing the fear in her voice. "The mission which has landed me in this unfortunate position.".

"A friend... the person who gave you this is a friend?"

Slightly overwhelmed, and a little bit confused, Drucilla looked again at the piece of material that the orc was fixed on. G23. And it clicked. "Yes, a friend. Gongar. You know of who I speak?"

"I do." the orc spoke, seemingly less enraged. "Gongar was once like a brother to me. We were of the same tribe of barbarians. I helped raise him, we fought many battles together, but he eventually lost the will to fight, and went on to persue other.... passions." The orc snorted as he spoke the last bit. "But my battle brother he still is. What mission do you speak of?"

Drucilla could barely believe it. How she came to be so lucky as to know a barbarian chef, and get attacked by a blood-thirsty murderous psychotic orc with a sense of honour and loyalty, no one will ever know. "I've been told the spirit of an old woman resides in this swamp, by the name of Maggy. She has something I need."

"I know how to find her. She is strong. But, we will rip her limbs out and cover ourselves in her entrails." Drucilla did not reply, and the two marched on.

The travel through the estuary was not as awkward as she'd anticipated, but Drucilla couldn't help but feel just slightly nervous at times. Did he have to kill EVERYTHING they came across? It was strange, the way he could flip from being a raging, murderous fiend one second, to having a civil conversation the next. There was a strange level of sophistication to this barbaric orc.

Their route closed in on to a pool of murky water. A patch of thin, dull weeds floated near the middle, next to a claw-like branch. "In there." spoke the orc, gesturing toward the water. "Come." Drucilla uttered a few words, and fish-like gills slashed from nowhere on the orc's neck. He took a second to prode at them before they floated over the center of the pond. Almost immediately the branch quivered, and shot up, clutching at the orc, who laughed, being dragged underweater as a gleam touched his eyes. He reached for his weapons. As he went under, Drucilla followed.

As she got under, she got a better look at their assailant. A frail looking old woman, nearly skeletal, with stained skin, moved with no hesitation under the water. The orc appeared to move slower, but was still able to hold his own. She dashed towards him with surprising agility, swiping at him hastily with one of those clawed hands, which was met with an upward swing of one of those massive axes. Despite being slowed by water, the contact looked like it should have crushed her thin, boney arm, yet it was merely deflected to the side as another swipe came from the other side. the orc dove forward and rolled under the blow just in time, but not quick enough to avoid a bite from the emaciate jaws of this woman, landing on his shoulder. It looked painful but received no reaction. As she made a stabbing motion towards his downed body, a rush of water forced it's way towards her, knocking her off balance, and she seemed to disappear.

The battle stopped for a moment, as Drucilla recited a spell to tend to the orc's wound, as well as a few others. Several images of her manifested themselves, mimicking all of her actions, arms motioning as she set up more spells. Once again covering herself in thorns, she produced a white, murky potion, quaffing it hastily, upon which a white glow surrounded her every image. Several other auras appeared as she swept through her spells. Suddenly, an image disappeared as the old woman, stumbled through it, flailing and biting at nothing, and then turned to another in the same motion, causing another mirror of Drucilla to flash out of existence. Quickly, the old woman turned to the corporeal Drucilla, not missing a step and dove towards her, her horrible, rotten teeth grinding, and opening up, and was met with the an axe, crashing down in her back, sinking her in to the mucky floor of the pond. her spine flexed up around the sides of the axe. When she stood up, her entire body was disgustingly crooked, yet she limped with the same speed and dexterity. Another axe sliced through the water toward her, as she spun around the blow, connecting with one of her own in the same motion, sending the orc slowly, toppling to the ground. Again setting her sights on the Cylenchar, she swung and bit at her, making several connections and putting Drucilla heavy on the defensive. The orc struggled to reach his ally, yet he was stuck in the mucky floor of this place. The woman leaned in and grinned, flashing her foul teeth as she opened her mouth as if to devour Drucillas face. She was knocked back as a rooty hand quickly sprouted from the Druid's side, swiftly batting her away, and as the lady flew backwards, she again disappeared.

Drucilla's spare limb stretched over to the orc, giving him some leverage to pull himself from the muck. "Thank you. She grows weak, the battle is almost over." he spoke, in the calm manner that violence seemed unable to preterb.

"I need her alive, at least briefly." Drucilla requested, and a grin flashed across the orc's face as he replied "Of course, I wouldnt have it any other way." Drucilla groaned inside, sure that she knew what that had meant.

Suddenly Drucilla was knocked forward, as something struck her back, drove her down, and bounced off of her, all at once. All of her images flashed out of existence. Face down in the muck, unsure of what had happened, she looked up to see her comrade in battle with a new opponent, a huge red and yellow wasp-like creature, stinging the orc and slashing him with a great weapon, while the orc's attempts to attack were met with the shield of the insectoid. She'd heard of the Sls'thra. The orc seemed to be in trouble, the Sls'thra's speed was too great, and seemed to not be able to be struck. The orc tumbled out of the way and began to run swiftly towards Drucilla. The Sls'thra bounded towards the orc and just about landed an ovipositor in it's back, as suddenly, a great mass of vegetation sprung up and entangled itself around the legs of the bug, freezing it in it's place. The orc continued to charge towards a downed Drucilla, her eyes opening wide as the orc readied its axe and swung upwards, she watched as the blade grazed the muck in front of her face and rose toward her. She closed her eyes, and felt a rush as liquid quickly filled the space it had been displaced from. Opening her eyes, she saw bits of her own hair floating in front of her. The orc stood over her, frozen, with arms stretched upwards. She rolled on to her back, looking up at the writhing body of an old lady, dangling by the chin from the massive bladed axe. The orc looked down with that fiendish grin and said "She's not dead. Can we torture her now?" This time even Drucilla laughed.

As she stood up, she gestured towards the entrapped Sls'thra. Knowing her magic would soon wear off, she spoke, "And what of this thing?". The orc turned to face the giant wasp, and planted the but of his axe into the muck, still gouged into the brittle looking old lady's jaw. Just as he licked his lips and smiled, the vegetation entraping the wasp suddenly loosened and floated lifelessly on the water. The wasp hissed and took two steps towards them and suddenly bounded away, up and out of the water. The orc let out a heavy sigh and spoke.

"That 'thing' is known as Wiegraf. A worthy adversary. You'd be best to avoid it."

Needing no more warning, Drucilla decided to take the orc at his word. Returning her attention to the old woman, Drucilla narrowed her eyes and drew nearer. "You are to tell me everything you know about the powers of water."

Her wrinkled face lit up, as best a face can light up with an axe driven into your chin. She even mustered a gasping, raspy laugh. "I must do nothing, druid. You will learn nothing from me! Nothing!" She ended her sentence with another attempt at laughter, which sputtered off into a gag. It was met by a far more hearty, and sinister laugh, as the orc once again, unsheathed his skinning knife, and creeping towards the old woman. Drucilla turned away as the bone-chilling shrieks began.

The pair climbed out of the pool, appearing polar opposites. The orc seemed somewhere between calm, and giddy, while Drucilla, just having witness some extreme attrocities, looked as if she was about to either vomit, or faint. "Wasn't that great fun, druid? I particularly liked the way her eyes bulged out when I-" And vomit she did. Apparently Spinal Orcs have a wonderful sense of humor after committing crimes against life. It was a wonder he did not hop about in the puddle.

"So what now? Do you seek the Sea Hag? Be sure to have a little bit of fun with her for me when you find her. Would you like to borrow my knife?"

Sighing, Drucilla managed some words. "No, thank you orc. I think I can manage on my own."

"Here is where we must part. If you see Gongar again, send him my regards. It was fun hunting with you. I must go find that Sls'thra."

Drucilla nodded, unsure if she should turn her back on this orc, but as the thought crossed her mind he turned and started again on his way. She watched him as he attached his new trophy to his neckless. A separated jaw bone, cleanly split halfway up, and then broken in a jagged formation. The sight reminded her of the orc twisting his axe into the old woman's jaws, cracking and splitting it up the middle. She heard the orc laugh again, as the sound of vomit splashing on the ground rippled through the estuary. "Oh, druid, by the way. My name is Maxim.." Drucilla looked up, palms resting on her thighs, as she breathed heavilly. The Orc turned his head back over his shoulder and looked at her as he finished his sentence. ".. and you'd do best not to assume that I'm friendly next time we meet." And he continued on his path.

Drucilla shuddered, forcing herself to not think about being in the position of the old woman. Nothing left in her stomach. She was able to push the thought out of her mind completely, by thinking about her task. She pulled a wad of algae from her sack. An artifact of water she had taken from the old woman. It flowed and swirled through the air, just like it had underwater. She replaced the hoop of thorns she donned, and felt a different energy about her. She was off to hunt the great Sea Hag of the Adreyatic now. Restoring the world of drought may have been her mission, but it was now second to becoming the most powerful wielder of water magics the world had ever seen. A mad grin touched her face briefly as she took the form of a hill, and began rolling towards a nearby lake. She knew of one more artifact to collect before dealing with the Hag. She felt the ocean pulling at her, whispering in her ear. She chose her own destiny, and it was all becoming clear.