Needle Ash – Chapter 17, “A River Running Swiftly,” part 2

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents The Tallaros picked up substantial speed as it went south through the city, eventually becoming a narrow choppy waterway. By the time they found themselves drifting through the open country around Calasora, the river had pushed them miles and miles ahead of any pursuit. The difficulty became not outstripping the chasers, but keeping the boats upright and men onboard as they passed over rough white patches. The first of these rapids had waked Michael, but even the few short hours seemed to have refreshed him. The sun rose in the east, lighting the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 17, “A River Flowing Swiftly” part 1

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents Chapter 17: A River Flowing Swiftly In order to reach the temple section of the citadel, Michael, “The Badgers,” and the fifty-odd loyal men had to run through the second ward, a narrow “U” shaped space of dirt and grass that housed the stables, barracks, smithy, and general workshops. In the dead of night, the area was deserted save for the barracks. With as much speed as they could muster on foot, the troop ran past the entrance to the Barracks, which were manned by a pair of night guards. These saw the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 16, “The Ends of Victory,” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 16: The Ends of Victory Michael moved silently through the halls, followed closely by Nit, Langelo, Aarne, and Mondal, who had covered his face once again, along with another mercenary, a young half-orc named Peterus. Clad in mail, the dark elf somehow did not jingle. The rest of them wore only gameson. Michael held up a hand, and the group stopped silently. He pulled a hand mirror from his pocket and held it past the wall. He pointed around a corner at a guard, who was talking casually with a female servant, dusklight streaming through the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 15 “The Gambit,” part 2

Back to Contents The boat rocked slightly as they drifted into part of the city where its shores became lined by stone retaining walls, creating small eddies. Michael stood on the prow, watching for guards and hoping they all reached the citadel before the sun rose. Thokar was sitting down on a bench beside him, his cloak covering his ashen face, like all the other orcs. His old attire was gone, replaced by a gambeson and a coat of plates, similar to what Michael knew the citadel guard would wear. It wouldn’t fool anyone when they got close, but with…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 14 “The Conspiracy” part 2

Back to Contents Michael stood on the balcony, watching the vineyards and fields in the valley below. He rested his sword on a wooden rail, richly oiled, and worked the edge carefully in the bright sunlight. It was an old ritual of his, one that most officers and knights foisted onto their squires or other subordinates, happy to give up the tedium of maintaining equipment. Michael, however, knew that his equipment was his last and best defense. A dull sword could mean an opponent living long enough to kill you. Poorly oiled armor could limit your range when you needed…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 14: The Conspiracy, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 14: The Conspiracy The Dolanari Estate was a wide stretch of land at the base of the gold mountains, composed of rolling, grass-filled hills dotted with trees that gradually transitioned into a hardwood forest. Farms stood out among the sparse oaks and wild olives as either cleared patches, irrigated most often by channeling a stream from uphill, or neat orchards of fruit trees. The vast majority of these belonged to Freemen, former enlisted soldiers and other citizens, who owned their plot and payed a direct tax to the family Butler Dolanari. Closer to the estate proper,…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 13, “In the Shadows” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 13: In the Shadows The way down was easy going, though slow, for the path took many switchbacks from the pass, descending into a rolling rocky highland. A few scattered farmhouses stood watch over the empty wastes, manned by free men and women and their children, who took little notice of the travelers except to wave from their work. Plots of wheat and barley were ripening in the new sun, fed by the previous night’s brief rain. The road was muddy as it wandered the hills, and the horses would occasionally do a stumble-step over a…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 12 “Shards of Reality” Part 1

back to contents Chapter 12: Shards of Reality   Shadathal led them through the mists, a shining bauble of silvery glass in his upraised hand providing light to the path below them, dirty and drifting. The trees above were not aglow, even faintly, like the rest of the realm, but were dark and contained many brown leaves that would not abandon their purchase. The black limbs writhed around and into each other, like many finger of uncountable hands. Pinholes of star and moonlight drifted through here and there, lighting motes of white dust like tiny rods of white light. The…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 11: The Schism, part 2

Back to Contents Turns passed, the endless cycle of the strange realm healing Michael beyond what he thought possible. He felt stronger than before, and took to practicing with his sword. He wished to go riding, to break in and train the horse he had acquired from Batoli, but Shadathal cautioned him not to go afield, afraid he would lose his way back. “The paths do not run always straight here. You may return along the same path and end up somewhere else, since you are not from here,” Shadathal said one day, as Michael rode the horse around a…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 11 “The Schism” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 11: The Schism   Michael saw a light approaching, not from the softly luminescent trees, or a lamp, but from many sets of eyes and glowing baubles of glass, hanging from tall elven figures or fitted on staves like magic torches. The approached slowly. The men were clothed in robes or in trousers and simple shirts, the women in long dresses of many colors. Their hair was a variety of colors, Michael saw now, of dark brown and red and umber, and their eyes too were of odd shades. “I never got your name,” one of…

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