So Many Maybes.

Part 1:


                Jax looked up at his mother, with a sense of defiance that could only have come at the very pinnacle of the argument.

                “You are not going. Jax, you’re just not going. And that is the end of it. You will not end up like Jori.” The overtone of anger was almost unbearable, except for the underlying sense of deep hurt that Jax saw in her eyes almost every day.

                “I can’t just stay, mother. I can’t just sit here! I have to make them proud!” he cried, way past the point of desperation. She should have known by now that nothing she could have said would make him stay. It wasn’t that Jax hated her for this. In fact, he pitied her.

                “I can’t do it, Jax!” anger turned to pain in less than a second. “I can’t lose anyone else!”

                “Father always told us that doing something is better than doing nothing!”

                “He was wrong! Jax, he was so wrong!” she turned and leant on the wooden kitchen worktop, knocking aside an iron pan.

                “He wasn’t. You know it.”

                Silence fell as Jax stood, reaching for his spear and shield, leant against the wall of the hut. There was nothing more she could have said. She said it all just by the way she looked at him as she turned, her beaten hands crumpled into one another, frantically.

                He wanted to say he’d write. He wanted to say he’ll be back by dark, like he did every day. But no matter how hard he tried, no words could stop the tears now rolling down her face. He crossed the kitchen and gave her one final hug. A hug that would have made him thought she’d not have let go if he’d pulled back hard enough.

                Jax left the hut, hearing the door creak closed accompanied by desperate wails.


                The town was quiet, especially for midday; the time when everybody usually escaped their homes to crowd the markets and taverns. The town of Gentel was small yet oddly famous for it’s market that stretched almost the length of the main thoroughfare. Jax followed the cobbled street, passing stall after stall of solemn market sellers stood behind boxes of exotic yet forgotten fruits, talismans and tomes.

                Of course, they all knew they’d probably lose a lot of custom today.

                Jax approached the sign-up office in the square. He’d never seen so many people in one place, and although the confrontation with his mother has left him in a sorrowful mood, the sight impressed him.

                He spied his friend, Grayson, stood at the edge of the square, beneath the balcony of a nearby tavern, to shield from the sun. The dwarf stood about half Jax’s height, however, the hammer his father had given him reached Jax’s head. As Jax got closed, he couldn’t help but smirk at his choice of clothing; a helmet that looked too big for him yet adorned with crystal spikes and iron armour that looked like he’d smithed it himself. Jax’s father had previously been a smith before he’d gone into the army and he couldn’t help but notice the poor welding and the flaws in the tempering. Grayson wore his bear in a plat with braids twisted around it and tiny crystal that poked out, catching the light of the son.

                “Gods, Grayson, what do you plan to do to the Dwergi, scare them to death?” Jax already felt his mood lifting.

                “Hey, this is traditional dwarf fashion!” he said from beneath his helmet. “And if dwarf fashion will make them shit themselves and die, then maybe it’s a good thing, too! Anyway, where’s your armour?”

                “I don’t have any.”

                “You’re a smith aren’t you? Couldn’t you have thrown something together this morning?” Grayson smiled, wryly.

                “I...didn’t have time.” Jax looked away for a second. “Anyway, you can talk about me not having armour, but by the looks of yours you won’t have any for very long.”

                “Hey! Made this myself, I did!”

                “I mean look at that welding! that an attempt at an insignia?”

                Grayson looked up, proudly. “I just wanna look the part. Anyway, c’mon, we better get in the queue.” He slapped Jax on the back and led the way.

                As they made their way to the queue, Jax couldn’t help but find the faces of weeping women watching their loved ones leave and wishing his mother was here. He knew it’d be hard without her, but the wailing women weren’t helping. He passed humans, elves, dwarves, face after face red with tears. The queue for Bayard’s army was a colourful image; humans carrying swords that must have been double their own length, mages in elegant armour with bare arms revealing black tattoos of glyphs, staffs, axes, helmets...

                And then Jax spotted the bright blue banner, the insignia of a hand splayed outwards with a crown over it embroided onto the front.

                He was actually doing this! He was actually standing where his father stood! Maybe he’d come back to Gentel marked a hero as his father was.

                The queue went slow, but Jax and Grayson managed to pass the time by wondering to themselves who else was joining up. They knew Graze was, the timid yet somewhat violent elf who favoured his one-handed sword was also signing up, along with Bo, the amateur Mage Warrior who liked to think she was trained in the Staff. The elf had always thought she was better than she was, and was always surprised when she found out she actually wasn’t a natural.

                However, there were no sign of these two, no matter how hard Jax tried to pin point them in the crowd of future-soldiers.

                As they neared the front of the queue, Jax spotted a lonely cluster of people stood behind the sign-up desk beneath the shade of a tavern balcony. He identified Mara, the owner of the local bakery, looking rather forlawn, and the tailor, Carva. Both of whom Jax had spoken to at one time of another. They had an air of sorrow about them that Jax could imagine on his mother’s face.

                How he wished he could say goodbye to her one last time...


                Jax looked up to the face of the grumpy looking dwarf sat behind the desk.

                “Jax.” He replied.


                “I’m sorry?”

                The dwarf sighed. “What is it you want to do in the army?”

                Jax paused. “Fight?”

                The dwarf rolled his eyes and put his head in his hands. “How?

                “Oh, er, Spear and Shield.”

                “Thank you.” He huffed, scribbling on a piece of paper.”Age?”


                “Thank you.” He motioned to the left, to where several large horse-drawn carts sat full of future-soldiers. Jax waited for his friend before proceeding. The cart smelled of sweat and was roomy at first. Jax sat opposite Grayson on the wooden benches built into the sides, but ended up halfway up the cart as more and more people were crammed inside. It was a couple of hours before the carts got moving. Jax twisted in his seat to look out of the window, only to see Gentel moving away from his as the line of about 30 carts made its way through the foothills.

                It wasn’t long before the town had disappeared all together, and Jax could only wonder how long it would be before he walked this path again, except in the opposite direction.




                Ubi sat in her room, gently flipping through the tome Sir Yester had given her to study. The tome, thick as it was, was about much of the things Ubi already knew, and lately, it seemed to her that her studies were no longer about learning as much as she could, and more about getting good at what she was already good at.

                In fact, her whole life had become rather boring every since she’d stepped foot inside the University. She hadn’t stepped off campus into the rest of Torbric in months, she hadn’t spoken to anyone not from the University in ages and the person and saw most often was depressingly Sir Yester, her tutor.

                She longed to be allowed access to the battle magic books in the library, or at least learn something she hadn’t practiced before. Like staffs. She liked staffs.

                Instead, she got to sit inside and study crystals. All day. Every day.

                She stood up and crossed the small room to the window. The University rooms were always small with students, but Ubi’s family were thankfully rich enough to buy her a room that was private and not some bed in a huge, shared hall.

                Ubi’s family were of course, rich enough to buy her a lot of things. Just not the things she wanted.

                She gazed at the view of Torbric from her window and sighed, finding herself thinking of all the soldiers going off to war. Many of the students of Mourning University had left to join; those studying Mage Healing or training how to be a Mage Warrior. This only left the scholars. And what joyful conversation they were. She looked down to the courtyard.

                Mages of all sorts, humans, elves and dwarves, all with differently designed staffs and pouches full of crystals filled out of the gates to go off to fight. In some ways, she wished she was down there with them. Off on an adventure! To fight Dwergi and slay the unfaithful! Actually using their abilities instead of reading about them.

                Ubi had practised actually using magic; on her own, of course, while no one was around. She could perform most of the basic stances with ease and some of the more advanced ones just as well. Of course it didn’t help that her staff was stolen from the stores and the crystals were limited. She had to be careful- if she returned them smashed she’d be in big trouble.

                Sometimes she wondered if she knew more about the physical use of crystal than the science.

                In silence, she left her room and strode down the elegant corridor, towards the great hall. The university itself was magnificent! The main hall was a trove of Elven architecture; pale bricks that caught the sun on their reflective surfaces and decorated with intricate statues atop each pillar. A huge statue stood in the middle, carved from Elven marble, holding a staff with a crystal carved from black stone at the top.

                Despite the University and most of Mourning being built by the Elves in ancient times, most of the students were human, very little of them dwarves. Racism had died out a long time ago.

                At the bottom of the grand staircase, Ubi turned back on herself and headed for the library; a huge hall mirroring the same design as the main hall, but filled with wooden bookcases which were, in turn, filled with books. If one wasn’t vigilant enough, one could get lost among the maze of bookcases!

                She made her way to the warrior section, making sure no one of worth was watching, before delving into staff magic and crystal types.

                At least an hour must have gone by, before the light of the day slowly faded into shades of deep blues and Ubi heard movement from across the library.

                She froze, listening.

                For a few moments there was nothing. And then footsteps.

                She stood, being careful not to make her book fall and thump to the ground. The footsteps were moving around her, to the right. Ubi backed down the line of bookcases and made her way to the back of the library.

                The footsteps got steadily faster, and there was a male gasp. Ubi paused. It sounded scared, terrified even. The footsteps stopped, and she could hear the muffled heavy breathing of someone who’s run a long distance.

                She looked to her right and glimpsed the door that lead to the stores. But, why would someone be scared, and moreover, why would someone even be in the library at this time.

                Then she heard it.

                Yelling, and thundering of heavy footsteps, not scared, but angry!

                “Get him!” a deep voice yelled, and Ubi ran to the door, racing down the corridor, her only regret was that is slammed behind her.

                She didn’t think until she got to the stores, where she stopped, gasping in front of the rows of staffs and crystal stashes. Stumbling to the back of the room, she sank to the floor, letting out exhausted gasps.

                What was happening? Who were those people who came storming through the library? Part of her mind scoffed at them for causing such a ruckus, but the fighter in her wanted to scream and charge with everything she had!

                The door opened suddenly, and she covered her face, squealing in fright.

                “Ubi! Be calm!”

                The voice of her father. Her father was here? She squeezed her eyes shut.

                “Ubi, it’s me! Come now child, there’s not much time!”

                She opened her eyes. How was her father here? He was supposed to be on the other side of Mourning! He was tall, like any elf, yet his long black robes rimmed with gold embroidery were soiled with dirt and...was that blood?

                He reached for her, picking her up by her arms.

                “No Ubi! You’re going to have to listen. Put these around your tattoos!” he pushed a wad of bandages into her hands. “Take a staff and every crystal you can manage and run! They’re after the mages! Keep hidden! Fight if you can, but you have to get to Fayland! They will help you there! Ask for Vod! He will know you!”

                Ubi looked at him. She’d never seen him like this before, and she could only wonder as he ushered her from the room and back into the corridor, pushing a staff and a pouch of crystals into her hands. She stumbled in the direction he wanted her to go, looking back.

                “Go! Don’t worry about us, Ubi! Me and your mother love you! We both love you!”

                She nodded, the feeling finally returning to her limbs as she ran down the corridor and took flights of steps sown to the back entrance of the university, where the kitchens were. She hastily tied the pouch of crystals round her waist, stopping only to wrap the bandages around her tattoos. As she reached the door, she hesitated, hearing voices outside.

                The kitchens were a series of large rooms that echoed, and Ubi was extremely wary of knocking a metal pot and causing an almighty clanging sound. She delved into the pouch of crystals, searching for a Stealth crystal but finding nothing of the sort.

                She sighed, listening to the voices. Dwergi. Lots of them. Their blue skin glowed in the moonlight and the tips of their spears and swords sparkled.

                She could fight them. But she had no defence, no armour. She had defensive crystals, but then she’d have no offence! She could sneak around and risk getting caught and killed. She backed out of the kitchens and carried on down the corridor, going up a flight of steps she didn’t recognise.

                Finding a spike fire crystal, she slotted it into the top of the staff watching the wooden prongs tighten around it, infusing it.

                The top of the steps led to a small, wooden door. Before pushing it open she listened for a second, before deducing there was no one inside the room beyond.

                The room which Ubi had happened upon turned out to be a large room filled with anvils, hammers and tools used in smithing. It stank of metal and dust and Ubi hesitated before crossing the threshold. She never knew that the university supported smithing! She never even knew this room existed, having been living at the establishment for several years! But, if there was a smithing department...then maybe there’d be...

                There was an archway that led to a room beyond. Ubi was right! Armour! Rows and rows of Elven mage armour! Prefect!

                Finding a fit wasn’t the easiest thing to do, and Ubi couldn’t help but let her guard down a little as she rifled through bit of unwelded iron, searching for something her size. Granted, women didn’t often train to be Warrior Mages, but every so often, there’d be a skinny twig of a girl, and Ubi was hoping there would have been armour to accompany her.

                After a while Ubi almost gave up, when she spotted a pile of steel, behind a rack of helmets. The armour was small, tightly fitting, but didn’t restrict her movement. She thrust aside her scholar’s robe, revealing the bandages on her bare arms, and tied her long hair back, grabbing her staff and crystal pouch and fleeing back towards the kitchens.

                The Dwergi were still there, and suddenly, Ubi felt terrified, her legs turning to jelly. She gripped her staff, replaying a basic stance in her head and stepped into the light. The Dwergi instantly fell silent as they saw her approach.

                There was 4 of them, two had swords and shield, two had two handed swords; her mind raced as Ubi forgot what was happening and completely focused on how to kill them. Focus on the offensive- the two-handers- then take out the shields. Iron weapons and armour. Easily melted with a fire crystal.

                She fell into a battle stance and watched as the Dwergi with two-handed swords followed suit. The moment before they lunged, she saw their evil smiles, and Ubi was spinning out the way, sending a wave of flame in their direction. She sensed movement behind her, and she turned, spinning the staff and placing a wall of fire between her and the oncoming Dwergi.

                She turned back to the two-handers, one of which was nursing a burned arm. The other was lunging towards her with his sword. She brought her staff up and caught the blade, feeling the strength of the soldier pushing against her.

                She pushed upwards with her staff, sending the swipe over her head and following it with red-hot flames. The Dwergi screamed and Ubi turned to see the two with shield hesitate, before backing away.

                There was an unexpected surge of anger from somewhere within Ubi, and she pushed outwards, flames dancing in all directions.

                The Dwergi screamed and ran.

                She breathed out. How long had she been holding her breath for?

                She slipped out, into the night, the cold air against her warm skin, disappearing into the darkness as she ran.




                The war camp outside Faylandel was almost big enough to rival the city itself! Jax marvelled at it as the caravan came over the top of the grassy hill that looked down into the wide valley. To his left he could see the tops of the towers of the Faylandel Keep and the dark shadow of the city beneath it, although mostly obscured by foothills. From what Jax knew, as more soldiers were called to arms, the bigger the camp got, and the bigger it got, the more taverns, whorehouses, bakeries and fight pits started to pop up, not only to aid the soldiers awaiting orders, but to support the camp itself.

                “Look at it!” laughed Grayson from beneath his oversized helmet.

                “Pretty spectacular, huh?” said Ban, the Elf, whom Jax had fallen into conversation with several times over the trip. He was a mage warrior from the East Bay in Loutaar; his family were all mage warriors and had mostly been killed or captured. He claimed he’d joined the army to find his brother. Somehow, Jax thought that would be easier said than done, but he didn’t want to undermine the guy; Ban was built like a tower and might as well have been made of bricks, yet his demeanour was far from intimidating.

                Jax looked to the far end of the camp as they got closer and spied several large, extravagant tents before the tops of them disappeared as the caravan neared the bottom of the hill. Bayard’s quarters? The legendary war leader who governed the Faylandel war camp and had defeated the rebels in the Old War!

                Jax pictured himself fighting among the ranks on the front lines, under the command of Bayard, battling hundreds of Dwergi.

                The caravan made it’s way through the centre of the camp, stopping in a large central circle where the ground was mostly dust and the edge was rimmed with tents holding what looked like weapons of all kinds. Maybe it was usually where tournaments were held?

                The rookies were ushered from the carriages, and Jax and Grayson found themselves gazing up at a commander on horseback.

                “Rookies!” he shouted. Every rookie turned and looked up at him, a little straighter than normal. “You are no longer at home. You are no longer part of a peaceful village community! You are here to train, fight, and kill Dwergi! My advisor does not wish me to say it, but most of you probably will not make it home again! This simple truth- that you are likely to die- is one you must come to terms with quickly.” The commander was an elf who carried a sword at his waist and a shield on his arm. His face was thin and old, yet something told Jax he was younger than he looked. Most elves also had extremely long hair, yet this commander’s was short, part of it tied into a bun. It was strange to see an elf with short hair, in fact, Jax was sure he’d never seen such an oddity before.

                “My name is Serran! You will train in my sector. Those who came here hoping for an easy ride, you may as well leave. Those of you who came in the hopes of becoming heroes, you may as well leave too. Those of you hoping for gold to be sent to your families, think again! Training will not be easy, nor will be fighting Dwergi, but you are here for one reason and one reason only. To give your life, for the well being of the five Kingdoms!”

                With that, Serran turned his horse and kicked it in the opposite direction, away from the new recruits, who clapped uncertainly.

                “Well, he’s a cheery bastard, ain’t he?” whispered Grayson.

                Jax ignored Grayson, gazing after the squad leader. He’d never met someone! despite the grim details he spoke of, to Jax, he made war sound epic! He watched the pale brown horse disappear down the gap between tents, its rider becoming nothing more than a dark shadow.

                “I don’t like him.” Muttered Ban.

                “But he was so...awesome!” scoffed Jax in response.  “He looks like he’s seen more bloody battles than meals.”

                “And he probably has, but there’s something dark about him.” Ban furrowed his brow. Well, whatever they thought, Jax hoped he’d grow to be a soldier, somewhat similar to Serran one day.


                Training was harder than Jax had thought it would be. The barracks were old tents that housed around 12 recruits, tents that had holes that let about every drop of rain through, and all kinds of unwanted insect friends. The food, Jax had soon discovered, wasn’t from the makeshift village near the centre, but in fact consisted of rations like meat that was unidentifiable, vegetables that had obviously passed their prime and some sort of brown slop.

                The training itself had Jax up before sunrise, running drills and practicing none-stop with other soldiers who used close-range weapons.

                The rough, straw mat that somehow passed for a bed was a welcome sight at the end of the day. And the days weren’t exactly easy for Jax.

                Each recruit was required to memorise and practise the five basic battle stances for their chosen weapon. Following that, they were expected to become fluent with these stances, and move on to the 10 advanced stances.

                Grayson’s brother had already completed his post in the army and had taught him much of what he knew. Jax however was struggling. His father had been fluent with the stances. His father had been amazing.

                Then why couldn’t he get these simple moves into his head?

                The designated training area was wide enough to fit Jax’s squad; a sandy area that had rails around the outside. Jax preferred to practice alone on the outside so he could concentrate, but more than once he’d been picked for sparring.

                Once, Jax had even looked up to see an elf carrying a two-handed sword smiling at him. “Look, It’s Kori’s son! What I wouldn’t give to fight the son of Kori!” Jax was impressed they recognised him, but not when he ended up face first in the sand with more than a few cuts and bruises. In fact, the regular beatings made him more angry at himself.

                “Jax!” Grayson appeared at his side, helping him up. “C’mon, what are you doing to yourself? You can’t keep agreeing to spar until you’re a lot better.”

                “Thanks Gray.” Muttered Jax, picking up his spear.

                “Aw, I didn’t mean it like that...”

                “S’ok, I just gotta keep going.” Jax pushed his way to the edge of the arena and decided to run through Attack Stance Two.

                Why was it the moves just wouldn’t stay in his mind? His father had been amazing at this! Hs father made it look easy! Why couldn’t Jax find it easy, like Kori?

                He moved his feet apart and swished his spear to the side, reaching 4th position, and then...

                Nothing! He ended up fishing a torn piece of paper from his pocket and checking the next few positions before carrying on.

                It he was in a battle he’d be dead!

                “Jax! That is your name, isn’t it? Jax!” Jax looked up to see where the familiar voice had come from. Serran sat on horseback on the other side of the railings in front of him. “I heard about your regular beat downs. I heard you were Kori’s son. Such a shame Kori’s only surviving son isn’t as...well, as spectacular.” An ugly smile appeared of Serran’s face, and a group of advisors in black robes laughed behind him. Jax bit on his tongue, trying to quell the already rising anger. “As much as I enjoy watching you get pummelled, I have to warn you,” Serran leaned closer. “You don’t buck your ideas up, you will get put on the front lines. And I’d hate to see good heritage go to waste.”

                With that, Serran kicked his horse around and rode off, leaving his advisors coughing from the dust.

                Jax looked down at the torn piece of paper. Whatever admiration he’d had for Serran at first was slowly disappearing, replacing itself with a new sense of determination.

                I’d hate to see good heritage go to waste...

                Jax kicked up sand as he started Attack Stance 2 from the beginning, letting the piece of paper gently float to the ground.




                Ubi wasn’t sure where she should go, but home seemed a good start. Dwergi had infiltrated the University, which must mean that they were now in Mourning itself. That, in turn meant that Fayland had fallen. But, why hadn’t she heard anything? She’d spent most of her life among scholars who edged round mage warriors as they practiced! Having close proximity to those who’d end up fighting in the war, she heard all kinds of news, but none as big as the Fayland armies falling!

                Or maybe it hadn’t fallen. Maybe the Dwergi had found a way to built boats, or maybe they had friends in high places.

                Lost in thought, Ubi made her way through the backstreets of Torbric. They were strangely quiet, apart from the odd nymph of goblin lurking ready try and rob her, yet when Ubi swapped the fire crystal for a light crystal, the shadows soon backed away from the white beams of light.

                Ubi’s family home was large; one of the noble mansions of Torbric and had a large, unfenced forest for it’s back garden, so sneaking in shouldn’t have been hard, except when she found Dwergi pacing in the space between her back door and the edge of the trees, she froze. She was so close! The pale walls of her house rose above the trees and the huge, oak door stood open behind a group of Dwergi!

                She turned, following her first instinct and placed her staff in its holster on her back, reaching for the branches of the nearest tree and pulled herself up. Her efforts to do it silently didn’t go so well, as when she accidentally rustled a branch, causing leaves to fall, the Dwergi looked round, going quiet.

                Ubi froze for a second, before heaving herself up onto the branch above her.

                The Dwergi turned, and went back to their business. From the sounds of their voices, Ubi could make out one scolding another for being foolish.

                Ubi felt at her pouch of crystals. She could fight. But if the Dwergi were here, that meant that the staff in the mansion were probably dead...and most likely her mother.

                The logic seemed simple enough, but no matter how much Ubi said to to herself, she wouldn’t let herself believe her mother was dead. Maybe they wouldn’t believe she was a mage. Maybe her mother had wrapped bandages around her mage tattoos too. So many maybes!

                She forced herself to think about the present. She could fight or...

                Surrender? If she ditched her staff, crystals and armour...but then she’d be completely defenceless! But maybe she’d live. She could take on 4 Dwergi, but if there were Dwergi below her, then how many ay waiting inside, ready for someone to scream. They’d come running and outnumber her. Take her down and execute her for being a mage!

                But...if she did surrender, surely they’d know she was from the Calahae family, and that she lived here? Otherwise, why would she be outside at the back door? And her dress! They’d know she was high born, and they’d probably know that most highborns in Mourning studied at the University to become some form of mage!

                But what if...

                She took her crystal pouch off and pushed it into crevice between two branches. She took off her staff and wedged it into the leaves, hidden. She did the same with her armour and then looked down at her dress. It was made from silk- a material worthy only of a high born scholar- had no sleeves but was tight at the shoulders and her bust and was brought in at the waist giving her shape. Ubi reached down and ripped upwards. She eventually ripped enough of it so it finished at her knees. She felt at her hair. It was already messy, but not messy enough for her to be low born. She pulled out the plats that kept strands out of her eyes, and felt her long, brown hair fall around her long, pointed ears.

                The piercings!

                Traditional elven fashion was to have lots of piercings, so she feverishly pulled them out, only stopping when one was left. A golden hoop. The golden hoop her mother had given her for her 18th birthday. There was a tiny crystal set into the dwarven gold. She had a hunch about that crystal. She might need it.

                Ubi looked back at the Dwergi. They seemed bored. She looked to the ground, where the soil was well trodden. Slowly, a plan started to form.

                She moved in the branches, teetering on the edge a little before dropping to the ground, making sure her body fell into the dirt, so her dress was good and dirty. She gave a yelp as she fell to alert the Dwergi.

                They immediately swarmed her as she sat up. She felt her arms get forced behind her back as she was pushed to her knees. The scraping of metal told her she was at sword-point.

                “What do we do now?” mumbled one of the Dwergi. Ubi looked up at them. They didn’t seem all that smart. One of them was shorter than the rest and more stout. The other three seemed average height and average intelligence. It didn’t help that all Dwergi were bald, even the women! So telling them apart came down to the braids with metal beads on the sides of their heads, where they’d allowed a small patch of hair to grow, and their beards. The Dwergi in question all had thick beards, yet one who his in plats, one had a moustache that looked a bit like an ale stain, and the last one had eyebrows that had grown out at the sides, so they were braided down his cheeks.

                “Idiot! We kill her!” spat moustache Dwergi.

                “Nah, we don’t even know if the boss wants her yet! She might not be mage!” cried eyebrow Dwergi.

                “Speaking of the boss, shouldn’t one of us go and get him?” asked beard Dwergi, who seemed generally concerned.

                Just as Ubi was beginning to regret her decision, a booming voice sounded behind them.

                “What in the name of the Gods is going on out here!”

                All five of them turned to see a Dwergi who was at least Ubi’s height (which was tall, even for an elf) and had a single, undecorated braid down the side of his head.

                “Shit!” the short Dwergi pushed Ubi forwards, into the dirt.

                “Caught yourselves an elf, eh? And what did you plan to do with it?” the large Dwergi asked.

                The four minions stammered, before the large Dwergi stepped forwards and forced Ubi to her knees. She looked into his face. Most of his teeth were falling out, and his skin was much bluer than other Dwergi. His eyes, however, were black and evil.

                She felt his breath on her cheek as he inspected her.

                “What’s with the bandages, elf?” he hissed.

                “ disease!” Ubi forced fear into her voice, thinking of her parents.

                “Is that so?”

                “Y...yes. Very contagious!”

                The Dwergi stood back. It seemed he was sceptical. “And what family are you from?”

                “I...I’m not, I’m from the city!”

                “Where about in the city?”

                “Gallows Hill!” Ubi spat the first place that came to mind. She’d actually never been to Gallows Hill, but she could see it from her window, and could see the fumes from the dwarven metal works there.

                “If you’re from there, then why are you here?” the Dwergi looked at her, raising an eyebrow.

                “I...I...I was stealing!” Ubi looked down, in mocked shame.

                The Dwergi remained silent.

                “Take her to Babzal.” She heard him say, before she was pushed to her feet and dragged through the doors.

                The interior of her home looked very different. She stifled a tear as she saw Dwergi everywhere, piles of burning positions and shapes wrapped in orange flames...

                What were those shapes?

                They were familiar. And the smell!

                But the Dwergi pushed her forwards, through the entrance hall and out onto the drive where a group of Dwergi stood next to a huge cage on wooden wheels.

                “Another for the slaves, I see?” asked a tall, thin Dwergi turning to where Ubi was pushed forwards. She couldn’t turn around to see which of the four Dwergi it had been, but instead was pulled forwards and forced through the small, cage door and fell to the wooden floor.

                She looked round to see a Dwergi she didn’t recognise lock the door.

                So that was it. Now she was a slave.

                Yet, would she have been better off if she fought her way out? Probably not. She’d probably be dead.

                Ubi looked round at the other occupants. Most of them seemed terrified. It amazed Ubi that she herself wasn’t terrified. There was a sense of deadly calm in her mind and had been there ever since she’d left her father to run down that hallway.

                She counted five elves and three humans, and only one of those people seemed to be as calm as her. A male elf in the corner sat cross-legged, one of which was bloody and bandaged. He was looking at her, a stare not with force behind it, but with curiosity.

                Just as Ubi was about to interact, there was a reverberating crash as a Dwergi swung an axe and thrashed at the bars of the cage, yelling something in another language, before the carriage juddered into movement, the occupants crying in fear.




                “Come on Jax! You can do it! You can take him!” yelled Grayson from behind him. Jax stood in front of Ban, the pair of them clad in iron armour clutching their weapons.

                Jax rubbed his tired eyes and focused. Staying up till the early hours putting in extra practice had taken its toll on him, but he refused to give up. Even when a group of recruits from another squad had watched him, shouting insults! It was hard going, especially as rumours were now spreading around the camp that Kori’s son was in training, and wasn’t very good. Serran had started calling him Runt.

                Ban made the first move, performing a basic stance and sending a plume of ice towards Jax with his staff. Jax dodged out of the way, clumsily, the ice clinging to his shield, as Ban raced towards him. Jax thrust with his spear, only to make contact with Ban’s staff.

                He knew Ban would go easy on him, but Jax had to show Serran he was improving. He had to end this! He had to show people he was as good as his predecessor!

                He tried to use Ban’s weight against him, but Ban pulled back flicking his hand, sending sparks of ice at Jax. He rolled forwards, but not before shards of ice nipped at his cheek. He leapt up and twisted behind Ban, thrusting with his spear, aiming for the ankles, but Ban was too fast and jumped, caught his spear in his hand and instantly froze the wood. Jax dropped it to avoid his hand from burning and brought his shield upwards in an effort to clock Ban over the jaw. Ban dodged and thrust with his staff, knocking the shield front Jax’s hand! Before Jax could lunge for his fallen spear, he found an ice-coloured crystal pointed between his eyes, sparkling in the sunlight.

                “Hahaha! Did you see his face?” came a shrill voice from the other side of the arena. Jax and Ban both straightened and turned to see Serran.

                “Runt couldn’t even get contact! OH! That was funny!” Serran looked down at his advisors. “Wasn’t that funny?” his advisors immediately burst into laughter. “I don’t know about you, but I for one, would like to see Jax fight someone like that!” Serran pointed as he walked forwards, to a soldier across the arena. Nearly everyone nearby turned to look at the over-grow human, around double the size of any dwarf and twice the height of any elf! He had one of those faces Jax imagined to be permanently grumpy and eyes that looked too small.

                He mooched forwards, using his hammer as a walking stick.

                He smiled. A horrific gesture that Jax thought was not possible from a face like that!

                “Now!” laughed Serran. “Keith, wouldn’t you like to spar with the famous son of Kori?”

                Keith’s smile widened.

                “Good. Off you go.” Serran took a few steps backwards, winking at Keith. Jax was still looking at Serran, when he felt the world spin, pain crashed through his shins and the sand came up to meet his face. Men yelled, some laughed, but all of them backed away as Jax flipped himself over to see Keith raise his hammer, ready to strike again!

                He hadn’t even given him time to find his shield and spear!

                Jax cursed as he rolled over, feeling the thump of the hammer hit the sand. He scrambled over the ground, looking at as Ban appeared in front of him.

                “Get up you fool!” he had something in his hand.

                Jax jumped up, pain sparking through his legs and twisting out of the way as Keith swiped at him again.

                “Heads up Jax!” yelled Ban, throwing something to him. His spear! Jax grabbed at it, rolling over and spinning out of the way of Keith’s hammer.

                Jax fell into a basic stance and continued to dodge. He spied his shield lying in the sand, and dodged in the direction of it.

                Keith yelled, and Jax danced out of the way, but as Keith’s hammer hit the sand, Jax saw an opening!

                He thrust with his spear, making contact with Keith’s ribs. He danced away, picking up his shield and turning, expecting to see Keith writhing in pain.

                Instead, he saw Keith racing towards him at full pelt! Jax tried to dodge, but felt something heavy hit his shoulder blade, sending him flying. Once again, he lost his shield and found himself face first in the sand.

                Somewhere in the distance, someone was laughing.

                Jax growled in anger. He stood, gripping his spear. His shield arm hung limp at his side. Pain was no longer an option.

                The only piece of armour Keith wore was a helmet, one that looked too small, yet did the job. There was a black mark in the steel. A weak spot? Jax looked around him; the two were in the middle of a ring of recruits, who mostly cheered, thoroughly enjoying the show.

                Keith looked Jax dead in the eye, before thundering towards him again. This time, Jax turned and ran, the crowd of people parting madly. He could see the railings before him, and a group of advisors beyond who looked terrified.

                There was only one chance!

                Jax jumped up, onto the railing. He could hear Keith yelling behind him as Jax leapt up again, turning and bring his spear around, thrusting it into Keith’s helmet.

                There was silence as Jax fell to the floor, grunting in pain. There was a clang, and a thud.

                And then cheering?

                Jax cradled his arm as he looked at Keith’s limp body and bleeding head.

                “Jax! That was amazing! God that was awesome!” scoffed Grayson who appeared next to Jax. “Was a bit more intense than normal sparring, but I think that’s what Serran had in mind.”

                “Serran?” Jax stood, looking at Grayson, sharply. “Of course, Serran wanted me humiliated.”

                “I’ve never seen anyone jump that high!”

                “What do you mean?” Jax raising an eyebrow at Grayson.

                “You leapt off that railing and ended up 50 feet in the air! Or that’s what it seemed like! But Keith looked up at you, and you shoulda seen the look on his face!” Grayson laughed.

                Jax looked around. Ban stood cheering with a group of recruits from the same squad, but other looked concerned. More than that...

                Confused? Not afraid, just unnerved.

                He hadn’t jumped that high, had he? He’d only leapt up so he could clomp Keith in the head!

                “C’mon, Jax!” laughed Ban, taking his shoulder. “To the medic tent, and then into town. I’m buying you a drink!”




                Calos stood in the shrine tent, gazing at the statue of Amarth. He counted the minutes before the others called his name, before the caravans were ready.

                He prayed, with everything he had, he implored Amarth to stop this! Dwergi had always been a peaceful people! Sure, one of their traditions was to not mingle with the other species, and magic did not run in their veins, but that didn’t mean the rest of the world had to be like them! Did it?

                Maybe, magic could come to the Dwergi, if someone would climb down off their high horse and marry a human, or an elf, or a dwarf. But it wouldn’t happen.

                Dwergi were too proud.

                Calos prayed that pride would be taken from the Dwergi. Maybe then, the war would stop. Maybe then, the Dwergi would return to their pacifist ways!

                “Calos! Calos!”

                Hearing the yell of his name sent goosbumps over his pale blue skin. He stood, pushing his single braid behind his ears and left the shrine tent. Hopefully Amarth, God of Tenah- the Psychic Realm, where the Mind was in place of the Body- would hear him.

                Outside, the Galantel capital spread out before him. Galant wasn’t the nicest of cities, but it did house the biggest shrine on the earth dedicated to Amarth. The mountain was where it resided, and Calos stood at it’s peak, looking down with disappointment. His mother had taught him the original ways. It was a shame no one upheld them.

                And now, he was being swept along with the current.

                “Calos!” yelled Falon. A group of Dwergi stood around the top of the mountain, where the ground gave way to a dark pit, the depths of the mountain. “We’re ready!”

                Calos approached. Some of them wore priest’s robes, but most of them wore traditional, Dwergi armour. Next to the pit was the dark heap of a body. Human, by the smell, and unconscious.

                “Do it.” Said Falon, motioning to the other Dwergi, who formed a ring around the pit.

                Calos pulled out his knife and knelt down, next to the girl. There was a rather bad wound on her head, but apart from that, she was still alive.

                Calos had no choice. What was he to do? Refuse to make the sacrifice and get killed?

                Damned if he did it. Damned if he didn’t.

                Despite what his mother taught him, this world was no longer about choice. He positioned the girl so her neck was over the pit. He looked up at Falon, who nodded, then slit the girl’s throat, watching the blood spill into the darkness.

                “God of Tenah! God of the Mind!” yelled Falon. Calos couldn’t help but notice the winds pick up.

                “We beg your audience!” yelled a priest. “And your assistance!”

                “The world has wronged you!”

                “We want to give back what the world took!”

                Calos looked around. Nothing happened. The world was strangely still.

                All of a sudden, a huge burst of light appeared from the depths of the mountain and shot upwards, stopping in their air a few metres above the pit!

                Calos stared at it. This was impossible! If this was what he thought it was, this hadn’t happened for years! Centuries!

                “He has answered us!” one of the priests gasped.

                “What do we do now though?” asked Calos. “We can’t just throw every mage in the entire world through this portal!”

                “Portal?” Falon raised an eyebrow. “You mean, this is...”

                “Of course it is!” Calos folded his arms. “You’ve only gone and opened the portal to Tenah! We could send magic back to the psychic realm by hurling all the mages through but how do you expect us to orchestrate that?”

                The Falon closed his eyes, thinking. “We open more.”

                The priests gasped. So did Calos.

                “What?” he cried. More portals. More sacrifices... more killing, more death! Mages all over the world were already being slaughtered!

                “We open them all over the mainland. You know what they say, if someone passes through the portal, their body become figurative. It’s destroyed, and all that’s left is the mind. Spirits. There’s no coming back.” Falon turned to look at Galant. “See to it!”

                The priests scattered, leaving Calos. “Are you sure, Falon?”

                “Calos. You are the best person for job I need doing. You know more about the Gods than any of the priests. Go with them. Go to Faylandel. I’m putting you in charge of the portals.” Falon turned and looked up at the circle of blue light, high above the mountain. “This is the only way send magic back to Tenah.”




                Jax sipped at his ale as recruits gathered round their tiny table, listening feverishly to the story that Ban told.

                “And then I thrashed him over the head, causing my wind crystal to smash. He lost of course, but...I liked that wind crystal!” soldiers all around them cheered, spilling ale onto the floor or the tavern.

                Jax cradled his arm wrapped in bandages as men jostled him on both sides.

                “How drunk do you think he is right now?” asked Grayson, leaning over.

                Jax smiled. “Well, they do say that elves are light weights. I mean, we’re on our third, what’s he on?”

                “His first?” Grayson raised an eyebrow, and both he and Jax fell into laughter. It was an old inside joke between the two of them, Graze and Bo. Bo, being the only girl of the gang could never keep up with their drinking.

                “Where do you think Graze and Bo are?” asked Jax.

                “Probably in another squad.”

                “But they signed up the same day as us, didn’t they? Or they said they were going to.”

                “There were so many people there, Jax, we probably missed them.”

                Jax looked down at his ale.

                “Hey, Jax!” yelled Ban, a little too loudly as he was right next to Jax. “Tell us your secret! How did you jump that high?” he put an arm round Jax.

Jax looked down at Ban’s hand that dangled over his useless arm. “Erm...I just jumped.” Ban burst into laughter, and the drunken soldiers around him did so too.

“That’s brilliant! Just brilliant!”

A sickening feeling suddenly overcame Jax, and he leaned forward, thinking he was going to vomit.

“You ok, Jax?” asked Grayson, pushing Ban’s hand away. Ban frowned, before turning back to the soldiers.

“Yeah, just need some air...” Jax stood and pushed through the crowd, making for the door. He caught Grayson following him, and Ban staggering after them too.

Once outside, Jax immediately felt worse. His head pounded and the world swam before his eyes. He fell to his knees at pain shot through his entire body. It wasn’t normal pain. It was the kind of pain that pushed its way through, causing his to writhe in agony.

Jax didn’t notice he was on the ground, or Grayson bending over him, or Ban calling for help. He didn’t notice the officials approaching them, looking terrified.

Jax continued to writhe, pain biting it’s way through his body, and ending up in his temples. There, it stayed, pulsing. And then he saw a face.

Not a normal face. This face terrified him. It was white, it’s eyes black, and something inhuman about it’s structure. It seemed a little too...perfect?

“Jax...” it whispered his name, and blue light appeared from behind it, blinding him. “Jax...”

“Jax! JAX!”

Jax jolted awake, finding himself lying on the dusty floor, Grayson peering over him. “Gods man, gave us all a scare!”

“What happened?” he asked, sitting up.

“Jax, son of Kori from Gentel?” Jax turned to see the officials in the blue uniform of Bayard.

“Yes...” muttered Jax standing, surprisingly feeling much better.

“You’re accused of murder. Earlier today you sparred with a soldier called Keith from Fayland. He is now dead. You are required to accompany us to the holding cells where you will await trial.”

Jax’s mouth fell open. Dead? How could he be dead? He only knocked Keith out! How could a blow like that, kill someone like Keith? It was impossible!

Jax back away a few steps as the officials produced shackles.

“Go, Jax, we’ll talk to Bayard!” said Grayson. “I promise, we’ll get you out of this. He can’t be dead!”

“But...but...I didn’t...I couldn’t!”

Grayson stepped in front of Jax. “Listen, everyone knew that wasn’t just sparring! Serran set this up and disguised it! We’ll go to Bayard and explain!”

“Gray...” Jax muttered, still in shock as the officials clamped shackles round his wrists and took him by the shoulder, walking him away.

...took him by the shoulder...

His shoulder? Jax looked down at his arm. He moved his injured shoulder in a circular motion. That was strange. It didn’t hurt, didn’t feel tight anymore. Was it healed?

How could it have healed?

What was going on?




The cage on wheels eventually joined a large caravan that slowly made it’s way out of Torbric and through the Dustlands. There was nothing in any direction for miles. Ubi had learnt about this place at the University, and could see the thin, orange line in the distance from her window. She knew from maps that beyond the Dustlands were the mountains separating Fayland from Mourning. The Sky Mounts, where monks who followed the One Religion devotedly went to pray and meditate. They said there were whole cities in the mountains that were hidden from view so the monks could preserve themselves and have peace.

The elf who’s stared at her had not moved since the caravan had started out. In fact, he’d remained cross-legged with his eyes closed the entire time. She thought about moving next to him, but to Ubi, that seemed a bit obvious.

The caravan came to a slow stop, dust rising around the wheels.

Why had they stopped?              

Ubi craned her neck so she could see down the line of cages, and saw Dwergi passing each carriage, reaching through the cages to give the prisoners something. She couldn’t see from this distance.

The elf opened his eyes and followed Ubi’s gaze. Ubi continued to gaze at the Dwergi, trying to see what they were passing through the cages, when she heard a clunk next to her. She turned to see the male elf.

“What’s your name?” he asked, making eye contact; a look that said trust me.

“Ubi. Yours?”

“Graze. Where are you from?” he looked over her head at the Dwergi. He had a hard face, one that had, maybe, seen too many battles or fights. Despite this, he was easy on the eye and well built.

“Torbric. They came to the University.”

“Sshh!” he hissed, sharply. “Don’t tell them that! Or let them hear you. They’ll think you’re a...well, you know. Not that you aren’t one, are you?” he lowered his voice so it was nothing more than a whisper.

Panic sparked within Ubi. “How did you...!”

“Bandages. I used the same technique.” he patted his leg with the bloody bandage.

She calmed a little, almost laughing to herself. “Where are they taking us?”


“So Faylandel has already fallen? I didn’t think things were this bad.”

“They’re not, I’ve been listening. They’re going to attack the war camps outside Faylandel. But Faylandel has no idea. They’ve managed to avoid Fayland by taking boats and such. They’ve effectively surrounded the centre and plan to totally destroy it.”

Ubi sank back. So things were pretty bad.

The Dwergi reached Ubi’s carriage as she sank back into silence and she got a clear view of what they passed through the bars of the cage. Leather goblets filled with water, poured from a leather casket the Dwergi held.

The Dwergi gave every occupant a sip or two, engaging anyone who tried to have more, or swipe the goblet from his hand with a large hammer.

The caravan was soon on its way again, and Ubi felt a little more helpless.

“So, where are you from?” she asked Graze.

“Fayland. A small town called Gentel.” He looked at her. There was something in his face, his eyes, that was not looking at Ubi, but seeing something else entirely. Something had happened to this elf...something really bad. “I...I was going to join the army with my friends, but the night doesn’t matter.”

He trailed off, still with that far away look in his eyes.




The cell wasn’t like any prison cell Jax had ever seen. It was built from sheets of metal, marked with grease at the sides and oil that dripped onto the metal bench. It was small, barely enough room for Jax to lie down, but he thought if he’d lie down, he might stick to the grease. The door was plain, with only a square window with bars where the guards dropped food through, onto the greasy floor.

He still couldn’t quite believe Keith was dead. He can’t be dead! Someone like Keith! Who was so big, so...overgrown, and probably didn’t possess a higher sense of intelligence. He kept going over that moment in his mind.

He’d only jumped a couple of feet or so, maybe not even that! And granted, he’d hit Keith ad hard as he could, but he’d hit Keith as hard as he could in his ribs, and his spear had just bounced off!

Maybe Keith had some, underlying health problem to do with his head. Maybe his head was extremely fragile. So many maybes!

There was a sound that echoed down the hallway, and footsteps. Someone outside his cell grunted and Jax looked up to see the orange glow of fire against the metal walls. Grayson’s face appeared at the bars.

“Jax! Pain in the ass these cells are! Had to stand on a bloody chair!”

“Grayson!” Jax cried, going to the cell door. “Tell me, what’s going on! Keith can’t be dead!”

Grayson looked down. “He is, Jax. Died from a blow to the head.” He fell silent.

“What is it Gray?”

“We...we tried to go to Bayard, but we couldn’t get to his quarters. Couldn’t even get far enough to look at his bloody tent! Guards everywhere!”

Jax’s heart fell. “What?”

“Ban says it’s not normal, that something’s going on...”

Jax looked at the floor, his hands gripping the bars. So he was going to die. Executed. All because of a silly accident. A mistake!

“It’s ok, Gray.” Jax said quietly. He wasn’t even going to see the battle field! Not like his father! No, Jax had gone and accidentally killed someone, months before he was supposed to be posted! And it wasn’t even a Dwergi!

“No, Jax, it’s not ok! Serran’s in the wrong, the whole squad knows it. But there’s something else too! Serran’s all but disappeared! Me and Ban tried to find him, but he wasn’t anywhere! Something’s not right!”

“It’s ok, Gray. Just, keep training. Keep going. I’ll be alright.” Jax turned and went to the bench, not caring that the grease was cold and sticky.

“But, Jax! We need you! What do we do? The officials are acting weird!” Gray slammed a hand against the bars. “Dammit Jax!”

Jax remained silent.

“Gods Jax, are you really going to give up that easily?”


“Screw you Jax!” Grayson growled. “Thought you were my friend. After all this time!”

Jax listened as Grayson huffed his way down the corridor; the orange lights danced away, leaving Jax in darkness.

All he could do, was stare into the blackness, thinking of the gallows, but thoughts of his father were never far away. He tried not to think of his father, however. The very sight of Kori’s face stabbed shame and weakness into Jax’s heart.

But strangely enough, he found himself thinking of Jori, his younger brother. His last thought was wondering what it was like to die at the hands of the gallows, before he fell to sleep.



Jax was awoken by voices. There were close, too close, and somehow familiar. He was about to go back to sleep when the word ‘Dwergi’ made him sit bolt upright.


“Tonight. Not long now actually.”

“Dammit Serran! You’ve doomed us all!”

Serran? Of course, that was how the voice was familiar! What were they talking about? Jax stood and went to the door.

“They’re here, now, there’s no going back. You will be rewarded. We all will.”

“What? You mean, they’re...where are they?”

“Can’t say. Bayard knows. But remember, you get in our way, you’ll end up like them.”

Footsteps. Rapid footsteps that faded into the distance, followed by a sigh and more footsteps.

That could have only meant one thing. Jax’s heart began to pound. The Dwergi were here? But where? And why? Unless...Serran was in league!

Jax suddenly remember what Grayson had said about Bayard’s quarters. They couldn’t get anywhere near his tent! Maybe...

He needed to get to Grayson! Like that was going to happen, he didn’t even know what time of day it was. But they’d said the Dwergi were going to come tonight! Not long now...

The Dwergi were going to come and invade! Oh god! And Jax was completely helpless!


Hours passed and there was nothing. Silence. No sign of an invasion. Maybe the soldiers had been wrong?

Jax had expected to hear screaming, running and yelling. The sounds of battle. But, if that conversation hadn’t meant an invasion, then what had it meant?

That was when the ground started to rumble, and the headache Jax had got outside the tavern returned with full force! His vision swam before his eyes.

The walls groaned, and suddenly the world turned black, the sound of rocks scrambling over one another, and metal bending and creaking...

As the world turned black, Jax’s body felt as though it was trying to squeeze the life out of him, as he slowly lost consciousness...



                                                                End of Part 1.



Tag der Veröffentlichung: 12.12.2014

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