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Chapter 1: Strange Starts + What's ahead?
Here is the first chapter of Frontliners and below we explain what's coming up ahead.
Welocme to Krisodoris. Krisodoris is divided both by its jagged terrain and political tension. Towards the eastern boundary of the land lies the kingdom of the Orthage Dynasty. The kingdom started as an unlikely alliance of few cities and has extended its rule till the River Tyr. Towards the north lies harsh winter wastelands controlled by the council of Alpine Crown. This council controls the trade and commerce of the twelve towns of Fronting Dave and is a trustworthy ally to Orthage Dynasty.
Further north is the Ten Pen Peaks which are the most savage and uncharted landforms in this continent.
Beyond the river Tyr, lie the pinnacle of both justice and injustice. Locked by River Tyr, River Nib and the Mollylick Sea is Tyrsberg, a temple mega-city dedicated to Forsetti, the God of Justice. Beyond this lie Napid, Strabs and Viecen, three cities that were once ruled by powerful rivel counts who disappeared along with all inhabitants on one eventful night. The new inhabitants of the city are ruled by the clergy of Forsetti. Towards the north is the kingdom of Aronkhem ruled by an unjust dictator with his own ideas of peace, justice and purity. In the south lie a patchwork of small principalities who bow down to one king, who despite his better judgement, has made allies with Aronkhet.
The far west houses multiple small islands ruled by chieftains under the triarchy of Plume. The triarchy is an alliance of three cities housed by different races, ie: Dwarves, Elves and Humans. The triarchy also controls Greenest, a forest town and important centre for trade and Mythral, a city considered the start of civilization and now in its ruins. Following the flow of the River Luxon, one reaches the city where this story begins.
Lumise, the Crown of Krisodoris and the City of Splendors is the largest and most massive city on all of the continent. Ruled by a Democratic setup, Lumise is the start of the future. However, Lumise is also the centre of the present political conflict. Change isn’t acceptable to all and sometimes people revolt in the worst ways possible. A war is brewing and it has all the denizens at the edge. However, our story starts on a much smaller scale. In the lower Lumise, a wooden building shaped like a large humanoid with tasteful stone statues placed around it, on the head of the building, with metal chains holding a black iron sign saying, “The Sleeping Giant”
In this humble tavern, a handful of wandering destines meet and combine to weave an epic that won’t be forgotten for the many years to come. Our story starts in the early hours of the morning, when the wooden door opened, the noise of happy patrons playing cards while sipping sugary, milky tea filled the ears.
A whiff of tea and coffee fill the air and the busy yet greeting face of the bartender comes in view. The bartender is almost half human and half dragon. Her red scales and large size may bring her prejudice in some places but in metropolitan cities like Lumise, the race doesn’t matter as much. She is a Dragonborn, when a dragon shapes a humanoid out of a pure will to spread its name far and wide. A goliath of towering height, in common clothes, steps out of the room. His left shoulder is pinned with numerous medals, an insignia of his rank as the commander of the Orthage army. His hair may have greyed, and while still an imposing 6' tall, his later life has caught up making him a little more rotund. His Amber eyes still shine with determination. Sir Reginald Stuart Lane walks up to the Dragonborn bartender, “Yelenda, 1 coffee.”
Yelenda knew his specifications and had already prepared the coffee for him. He was a man of the military and valued discipline and justice above all. In the one and a half tenday she had spent with him, she had learnt the value of order and the importance of time. As she served Commander Reginald his coffee her attention was procured by another frequent visitor. A human male who was dressed in blue robes lined with gold borders and inlays. He carried a leather-bound spellbook which he banged on the table to attract the attention of the patrons along with workers. “So who is the lucky one who gets to serve Octavius his morning tea?” he shouted. If it were up to Yelenda, Octavius wouldn’t be drinking this comfortably at her tavern but she had taken certain favours from him and this was her way to pay him back. ‘Very soon, very very soon I would have the personnel honour to throw him out’ she optimistically thought.
While on the poker table, sat a colourful oversized bird-humanoid. She was a masterful gambler and had been winning most of the games since the morning. “Ape takes another pot.” the dealer announced. The curved black beak of Ape Hoot appeared to morph into a smile as he smugly turned over his cards to reveal that he had nothing but a two pair. All the other players looked irritated and angry and decided to play just one more round to show this bird his place.
While outside the tavern, a humanoid who was shorter than the shortest one whom you would find, an adult halfling of height above 4ft was considered exceptional, the one outside was hardly more than 2 feet 8 inches. Despite his small height, one look at him tells you that this is a person of bigger stature than those higher than him.
Durm Dunerider wears very practical clothing with nothing exceptional about it. His hands are adorned by one copper bracelet of the intricate design per hand and one oaken bangle on the right hand and one metal rope with a pendant on the left.
He enters the tavern and casually walks to Yelenda, “The fire whisky barrels will arrive till the evening. I am so sorry for the delay, here this is for you.” He flirtingly hands her a bouquet of fresh flowers and winks at her. “What is this?!” Yelenda asked embarrassed and confused. “Oops, sorry.” Durn jumps and snatches the flowers from Yelenda’s hand and pulls out a sticker from his pocket. He slaps it on the wrapping of the bouquet and hands it back to her. The sticker read ‘with deepest apologies, Hobbit Co. CEO Durm Dunerider.”
Yelenda blushes and walks into the kitchen where she burns the flowers down by breathing flame on it. The place no longer smells of the calming jasmine or the passion roses and instead smells sulphurous. Durm had sensed within himself the burning of his flowers and now wished for the presence of the woman whom he had met at the flower shop. She was a human and was dressed in a wood fibre gown. While walking past the flower shop, her pet bear cub bit a flower bouquet much to the flower sellers dismay. She walked up to the stall and waved her hands over the bitten off stems and her hands started to shine with a stary glow. All of sudden the stems grew back into buds and the buds popped to form flowers, fresher than those her bear had eaten. She then walked away. Just before she would totally fade out of view, Durm had stopped her and handed her his business card and asked her to meet him in The Sleeping Giant later in the morning. She had yet not come.
A few minutes later, the door flew open and banged wildly, the lady Durm had met, Prima Hornblower had come. Everyone looked strangely at her and her bear, she realized that there is a certain way to open doors in the big cities and maybe people don’t find pandas cute over there. She apologized and walked to Durm, “You wanted to meet me?” she asked. “Yes, sit down. What’s your good name?” Durm replied, pulling her a chair. “Prima Hornblower. By the way are there any bad names? or is it like people have one good name and one bad name?” she answered sitting down. “You aren’t from around here?” he asked. “You got me. I have lived in part of deep forests for the last 17 years. I don’t understand why you city folk have a strange way of speaking and very very strange rituals.” She replied. “What strange rituals?” Durm asked. “Oh! I saw a man drawing a Mandala with his blood a few meters from here. It had curved horns and fangs in its centre. Strange artistic choice, huh.” Prima replied. Durm’s smile faded away and Ape’s attention was away from the game. “That’s the symbol for Assmodius.” Ape blurted out. “So that guy might have been summoning a devil.” Octavius interrupted. “Everybody, What is that mist?” Sir Reginald asked. Everyone looked towards the card table where one of the cigarettes which was kept on the table was fuming grey smoke in extraordinarily large quantities. The room suddenly started smelling of acid and the temperature dropped. The smoke split into two parts, one acid black and another snow white.
“Everyone who cannot defend themselves leaves, now,” Reginald shouted. Everyone rushed through the doors while some jumped through the windows. Now the place had only five people: Sir Reginald, Octavius, Ape, Prima and Durm. Octavius flicked his wrist and closed all the doors and windows as the smoke solidified into hideous devilish dragon humanoids. The black smoke turned into an acid black devil who held a scimitar with its edge covered in an intricate inlay of silver, depicting the five-headed dragon queen, Tiamat. The white smoke consolidated into a phosphorus white devil who held a long sword with similar depictions of its fiendish overlord, Tiamat.
“These are Abishai. They are the emissaries of the dragon queen. The black ones are normally assassins while the white ones are reckless berserkers.” Octavius explained.
Durm pulled out his wooden bracelet which turned into a longbow. Sir Reginald unsheathed his handaxes and Ape pulled out his rapier.
Octavius and Prima positioned themselves away from the attacks and stood back to back. Octavius had opened his spellbook and held it in one hand while his wand was in the other. Prima pulled her staff which had started to turn starry as her magic flowed through it. Her bear was also ready to attack, which she wouldn’t allow by the way.
The black Abishai pulled out his split tongue and licked the black liquorice off his wings, he then breathed it on his sword turning it pitch black. Suddenly all the illuminations in the tavern faded away. The whole place was filled with an uncanny darkness. Sir Reginald felt something move towards him, he was a goliath and could only discern shades of grey in darkness, what he saw might have been white sunlight or maybe any of his allies but it scratched him and they hit him with a sword, a long sword. If it were not for his shield, he would have been wounded badly. He swung his handaxes in return and slashed the white Abishai's wings, as they fluttered down he used the axe in his other hand to block the incoming bite by the unwinged dragon. Ape on the other hand could see perfectly in the dark. He was standing face to face with the Black Abishai. The black Abishai was overconfident that he was the only one seeing in dark, and didn’t realize the unfair advantage he had given Ape. Ape pulled back his rapier and sent it straight through the acid devils chest, the Abishai coughed acid as Ape pulled back his trusty rapier. The hole in the chest of the heartless devil healed itself and new scaly skin spawned where the stab was. But Ape knew that he had caused harm to the black devil even though the physical signs said otherwise, the attack had broken the fiend's concentration ending the darkness. A silver thing blazed across Sir Reginald’s head as an arrow hit the white Abishi piercing its heart. Sir Reginald looked behind to see a smug smile on Durm’s face. The body of the white Abishai was not restoring itself as it normally would, the arrow was coated with sterling silver and had dissolved every living cell of the white dragon. Its black companion, however, showed no remorse, in his eyes, his companion had not been slain by a halfling businessman, he had died bravely defending the interests of their great queen. This was something he would also be willing to do if the time came. Prima was nowhere to be seen, where once stood a human dressed in eco-friendly clothes now was a grey wolf who bared its fangs and jumped violently on the black Abishai. The Abishai used his scimitar and slashed the wolf and tried to wrestle it away when a beam of crackling, blue energy lanced out toward it, forming a sustained arc of lightning between Octavius and the fiend. The fiend cried mercifully as its entire body became petrified. It gathered its will and ran towards Octavius who had become his number one target. He attacked him with his scimitar forcing blood out of his slashed torso. He then bit the arm of the wizard and ripped it in such that exposing a gross view of the human bone structure. This was possibly Octavius’s last stand, he smiled at the incoming death and said, “Boom.”
Suddenly the entire body of the fiend sparkled with the current. Its blood started to boil and it exploded into a million pieces. Sir Reginald walks to the almost lifeless body of Octavius and says, “May your soul reach heaven, comrade.”
“Uh-huh uh, Not so soon, Commander Rest in Heaven. With Durm Dunesrider in town, his comrades die in a warm cosy bed thinking about their happy lives. This is not the death you shall receive.” Durn said as he pulled out a bunch of berries from his pocket and forced it into the lifeless wizard's mouth.
Octavius woke up in a room. A tidy room with a white bedspread, the room smelled of Tequila or maybe he smelled of Tequila. It was not the first time his memory was failing him, he remembered casting Witch Bolt on an Abishai, then he saw a sword and after that, he saw something explode and that's all. He didn’t know what had happened. He picked up courage and shouted, “Where am I?”
The door opened to a towering figure sipping port, Sir Reginald said, “You almost died. We were not expecting you to be awake this soon.”
“What happened, Captain Lane?” Octavius asked feebly.
“Commander. Commander Reginald Stuart Lane. About what happened to you it's a story for another day, but you should thank Durm and Prima. If it were not for those healers, you would’ve been in paradise.”
“You wish.” Octavius regretfully said.
“What was that?” Commander Lane asked.
“I have made some big mistakes in life. Somethings which I cannot be forgiven for, not even by myself. I don’t deserve paradise.” Octavius told.
“Forsetti, the all-judging, he forgives all. Today you have saved many lives, my lord will see that when he assigns you to the afterlife. Also, there is someone who wants to meet you.” Reginald said filled with hope.
“Who?” Octavius asked as a man in his mid-fifties walked into the room. He sat next to the hurt wizard and said, “I am Sybil Slantongue, the watchmaster of the Eastward and I have a quest for you and your group.”