3D Art Made Butt-Simple

Yes, these days, even if you’re relatively computer-illiterate, if your good enough to use WordPress and Windows easily, you can make professional-looking 3D art. And it doesn’t necessarily even cost any money. You can find lots of free content on various sites like ShareCG.com. The program I use is even free.

The key is “presets”. Presets allow you to practically click a character into a scene, click a building into the scene, then click the character into place, place a whole light set (just like in a photography studio but using your mouse instead of lugging equipment around) with just one click, and clicking in any props you may want, such as a car or helicopter, then clicking the “make art” (“render” it is technically called) button which tells the computer to make the final image.

I sell certain kinds of presets. Mainly poses, the most recent of which you can find here. So without knowing anything except how to click on stuff, you can put your character into a pose like below with one double-click. I hope to get more people doing 3D art because really, if you suck at drawing but still want to “art” somehow, 3D could be your answer.

Diva

For more information, you can see this cheesy little demo I made while ago: http://takoyakida.webs.com/videos/RealityDemo.htm

So, if you want to make great 3D art but don’t want to get too into the technical side of things, just get a bunch of presets, whether from a free site like ShareCG.com, or from my publisher Daz 3D, or any another online marketplace.

Here’s to making your vision a reality.

-Justin aka Tako Yakida

______________________________
Suck at drawing? Why not try 3D? My DAZ 3D store

Button Grunge – Free Stock Image!

Button Grunge

Hello folks! I was fooling around in the digi-verse and discovered this uncharted asteroid composed entirely of buttons! Free for personal or commercial use, but please do credit me as the original creator of the image. You can alter it as much as you please to suit your projects.

Thanks!

-Justin aka Tako Yakida
Suck at drawing? Try 3D instead!
My DAZ 3D store

My supernatural pose set is out!!!

It’s been a while but I’ve just published a new 3D product at DAZ 3D!!!

Check it out!

Whether its sleeping on the ceiling, alien abduction, angry spirits out for revenge or a powerful sorceress commanding the elements, this set of highly detailed poses has you covered.

25 DUF poses for Genesis 3 Female and 25 DUF poses for Arabella 7

  • 13 Flying/floating Poses
  • 1 Laying Pose
  • 3 Running Poses
  • 3 Crouching Poses
  • 1 Standing Pose
  • 4 Wall Crawl Poses

A few samples:

  

Get it here!

Cheers,

Justin
My DAZ 3D store

The Hall: a dark fantasy short

Hall

A long dark hallway stretched before her. Once upon a time the dark would scare her, threatening an unknown something that pierced her to her very core. As the shadows clung ever tighter, seeping through her body like a virus, she grew to accept the darkness. The whispers, the fear, it all blurred together into a haze of something resembling a morbid euphoria. If this was all she was to know, then this is what she must come to master. She must become one with the darkness and pain, and through such suffering, forge a heart of steel that no force on Earth could shatter.

Opening her eyes, she peeked out from the tattered curtains piled in the corner of a disheveled room full of old furniture and cobwebs. In the distance shone a dim, hollow light, reminiscent of a specter’s spindly fingers stretching out into the black void of the nothingness of an afterlife not quite attained. Rats scurried across the hall now and then, searching for anything to sustain their emaciated frames.

Taking a deep breath, the girl braced herself for another attempt to reach the light. Three times before, she had tried, and each time had failed. A mysterious force smothering her out of consciousness before she could reach it. Her guide had warned her of such a force, stating that to make it though the other-worldly gauntlet, she would have to use what would only come to the surface in her time of greatest need, a time which he could not elucidate further, except only to offer the dubious reassurance of, “When it is time, you will know.” So much for guides.

Each time she lost consciousness, she would then find herself back in the room she started in, under the same tattered curtains, watching the same rats wandering by, with the only difference being the layout of the hall and adjoining rooms. Each time, something was different, out of place. Hidden pitfalls abound and she had to be careful where she stepped, what she grabbed for support. One moment she could be leaning against an old bookshelf, and the next find that bookshelf was replaced with a gaping maw of broken teeth, ready to make her a meal. No matter what the injuries she sustained, the next time she awoke, she would be whole again, not a scratch to be found upon her slender frame. Prometheus kept coming to mind every time she awoke. As if she was being punished for something she could hardly recall. Like waking up from a bad dream only to be cast into a deeper nightmare.

Sitting up, she braced her feet against the wall behind her. Taking one more deep breath, she eyed her target intently. The light danced and glittered provocatively, as if daring her to make a move.

Half a heartbeat later she burst forward towards the light. As soon as she made it past the threshold of the first room, she felt a cold tingling sensation throughout her body. The hairs on her neck stood on end. The air around her seemed to begin to thicken in places, and she smoothly dodged the solidifying areas without ever taking her eyes off her objective. Bounding forward, she passed the next series of rooms leading off from the hall. Crackles and flashes of light emanated from the depths of the chambers, accompanied by the smell of burning flesh. She could feel the energy cutting into her body but she continued onward, her goal growing ever closer.

At last the end of the hall was clearly in sight. In her excitement she did not notice the final barrier in her way, and by the time she heard the snick of a metal spring being released, it was too late, the trap had been set in motion. Time seemed to slow at this point, and she could see the teeth of the device closing in around her, then darkness once more.

Well, there’s always tomorrow, she thought grimly….

Cheers,
Justin
My 3D Store 

Long dashes for my eBook

Alpha Six - All dressed up and stranded with nowhere to go!

Alpha Six – All dressed up and stranded with nowhere to go!

Well, I decided to lower the price of my eBook, Alpha Six after spending a week editing it upon noticing some interesting punctuation anomalies. For whatever reason I had not thought of changing the double hyphens to those nifty long dashes, for example. Those aren’t the only edits but it makes such a difference in the look to have real punctuation.

So today I am announcing that my edited eBook is now live in Amazon with the new price of 99 cents. If you thought about buying it before, but thought it was too expensive, now is your chance to get it! All those that have read it so far (that have been in contact with me, at least) have told me it is a great read. I just have to get them to write an actual review on the site. Maybe I should offer to bake them cookies if they do!

In any case, please do check it out if you like sci-fi action/adventure and don’t mind some romance thrown in.

Cheers,
Justin
My 3D Store | Alpha Six

Alacia: A Fantasy Tale – Chapter 1

Clouds

Two thousand feet high, floating above a turbulent sea in endless foment, arose a massive structure of foreign design. Unlike the rest of the buildings in the land of Alacia, this one stood out in alluring defiance. With curving walls that appear as if they were waves rising from the sea to it’s branch-like spires it was indeed a grand site. The tower had been there since the beginning of time or so it was said. Clouds constantly hovered around its peak, stirring as if tired of their long vigil.

Turning his head nearly upside down to get a better look at the edifice, Elion Macar eyed it with awe. “Who built it?” he asked of his dark companion.

Slowly the hooded figure turned to regard the elf with an almost sardonic air. Even though his face could not be seen from underneath, Elion could almost feel his amusement. The voice was cold and steady as usual however. “No one knows. Some say the Gods themselves built it. Others say Darius….”

Here he paused. Not many people could say that name without remembering the Old War. It was thirty years ago, when Darius, just a Liuetenant in the Vorian army at the time, decided to name himself Emperor of Alacia. It was quite an unsettling event for those who had not the foresight to save a few gold pieces lest such a disaster were to occur. The King and his followers fought Darius’ faction long and valiantly.

It would have been a short-lived rebellion, but Darius had something up his sleeve that not even his closest officers knew. He had Solaris. This was his key to victory. Rumored to have come from an alien race that has been hiding on the face of the Sintra for millennia, it was indeed not of this world. With it he burned the King’s loyalists to dust and every major city of Alacia as well. Elion and others of Helix 568 were commoners and nobles alike who had decided that Darius had been playing emperor long enough and that it was now time to put him to bed for good. Their mission, find Solaris and turn it on its master to finally end the thirty year plague across the land.

“Yes,” the elf prompted.

“Others say Darius built it,” Menri spat the words. “But I doubt he’d have the patience. No…but I believe we will find out soon enough.”

Elion pawed at his tunic nervously. “But how will we get in? And will there be anyone there who is willing to help us in our quest?” Scratching his pointed chin, he eyed his surroundings nervously. The sun was setting and the forest seemed to be growing eyes as the light began to fade.

Shrugging, Menri Sentari hopped effortlessly atop his riding horse and galloped off. Elion sighed and followed suit.

****

After about twenty minutes the trail was beginning to fade into dense underbrush. Slowly the dusty ground gave way to lush vines and scraggleroot, the thorns of which could paralyze a horse for a few hours. And by that time the local scavengers would probably have finished off the job. So at this point Menri and Elion dismounted and began hacking away at the growth with their swords. Looking above, Elion noticed a dark shadow pass over them quickly.

“Don’t move,” Menri said sharply. Elion froze where he stood. Again the shadow passed with a rustling of leaves. It was a wyvern, fifteen feet in length not including the five-foot long tail tipped with hooked, venomous barb dripping in eagerness for a kill. Slowly it circled its way down from the pall of grey clouds to land but a few yards from the two.

Why doesn’t it attack? the elf thought anxiously. It just sat there preening its leathery wings. Then he saw. This particular wyvern was not looking all that great. Indeed, it looked as if it had just escaped some vicious battle. With its cracked beak and tattered wings, it hardly appeared a challenge for even the most inexperienced of adventurers. But Elion knew better. For its stinging tail packs a punch whether dead or alive. It appeared to still be reeling from recent events, so had not noticed them.

Suddenly a large crash from behind caused the beast to whip around in a fear-crazed frenzy. Peering behind them, man and elf gaped in awe as five trolls each the size of a giant broke through the trees. Neither of them had ever seen trolls of such stature before. Elf and man quickly dashed for a nearby fallen log as branches and rocks flew about them in a hail.

“Looks like these trolls are here for the wyvern,” Menri said, pulling Elion behind the fallen oak. “Let’s not be noticed, shall we?”

Howling like banshees, the trolls thrashed through the trees like they were toothpicks. Debris flew in all directions, partially blocking the sun. Almost weeping, the wyvern lay down in pathetic apathy as the trolls surrounded it. Again and again they pummeled it with their fists until it was no more than a bloody pulp. The sound was sickening. Elion desperately tried not to lose his lunch. Bone cracking gave way to muted soggy thuds as it was crushed under their brute strength.

Using nothing more than their fists and claws they had turned the beast into shreds and bits which scattered across the ground like a butcher’s slaughterhouse. The largest of the three, bellowed in harrowing victory. It was gray and battle-worn, missing an eye. It appeared to be the leader, motioning the others to follow as it stormed off in a cloud of blood and dust. The others ran after without hesitating.

In the stillness of the afternoon sun, the lanky elf slowly approached the massacre. Reaching down, he picked up what appeared to be a feather, but this was no feather he had ever seen. It appeared so out of place amongst the carnage. It certainly didn’t belong to the wyvern. Brushing it off on his lavender tunic, he eyed it intently.

“Do you know what you are looking at?” the hooded man asked. Elion started. He hadn’t noticed the man walking up behind him.

“Looks not of this world…,” he said, his voice trailing.

“Indeed.” Menri said matter-of-factly. “Have you heard of the story of the Jeruts?”

“Alister the Sage speaks of them in his books. He was known to be a tippler though.” Elion smirked. “The Jerut’s were said to be elves that had lived their full lifespan on Alacia and had crossed over,”

“And what did he say about their bodies?” Menri walked around the elf to face him.

Elion was getting uncomfortable. “They had the bodies of their mortal forms,” he replied as he nervously ran his fingers through his hair. “And had the arms and feet of golden eagles.” Indeed, as he eyed the feather with growing wonder he could see the sparkle of gold amongst its fibers. “But this can’t be true–.” His voice caught as he looked up to see a light shining from the mysterious tower ahead of them. In all their days neither of them had heard of any signs of life coming from within this dark and mysterious place.

“It looks like we are being called Elion!” Menri proclaimed, walking quickly back to his horse. “Let’s not keep them waiting.”

Elion thoughtfully stashed the feather in his leather knapsack and mounted his steed. “What do you think about the trolls?”

“I guess we shall find out soon enough,” Menri answered, pulling a cloak from his saddlebag and wrapping around his shoulders. “Looks like rain. We better move.” Peering out into the forest, his face took on a curious expression. “Elion, take a look around you.”

Astonishment crept across his cherubic face. “What–.” Turning to look behind him he saw nothing but pine trees. “These aren’t the same trees… And the path behind us is gone.”

“And a new one has opened up before us. We are definitely being called.” Eyeing the path intently, Menri rubbed his bearded chin. The path was made of obsidian. Black as night one would swear he was looking into a neverending abyss. So convincing was the illusion that his horse was reluctant to even tread upon it. Slowly with a firm but gentle grip the woodsman coaxed the beast onto its shiny surface. Surprisingly it had little trouble walking upon its mysterious surface, as if the path itself was pulling the horse along. Even Menri’s own feet felt like they started to walk of their own volition. “Well let’s be off then.” And with that he mounted his horse and spurred it ahead.

Slowly Elion mounted as well. As he turned to follow Menri, he thought he noticed a glint behind a nearby pine. Must have been my imagination, he thought tiredly. Then he too was off.

****

The Gods must be angry, the hooded Menri thought as they plodded along the now flooded obsidian path. Never once foundering, both horses seemed not even winded despite the tedious journey. The tempest roared with the voice of a thousand men and barraged them with a volley of water. The clouds were reminiscent of a giant gash upon a dragon’s flank, pumping out its vital lifeblood. On either side of this gash the sky had turned an eerie green.

“Looks like we’ve wandered off the Continent of Zi into one of Cyr’s crazy dreams!” Menri bellowed over the noise.

“I just hope they’ll let us in once we get to the tower!”

“They’ll probably eat us!” Menri laughed at the thought. “For all we know we are walking right into the belly of a dragon!”

The wind was such that the nearby pines were waving to and fro with such violence that their branches began to form yet another hail, adding to the volley of wind and rain. However, the two companions seemed to be protected by a mysterious force, for none of these, save a few twigs came into contact with their bodies. Hazy as it was, the horse’s sense of direction remained true. Menri could see the tower slowly begin to loom ahead, then without warning he stopped his horse with a sharp pull on the reins. It neighed in protest.

“Oh no! I’m too young for this,” Elion cried as he saw what awaited them. Two robed figures stood in their way. And from their bags and other bric-a-brac hanging from their belts he knew right off to be Magi. Elion himself was only an apprentice from the city of Veden, the Elven capital of the land of Kwae. He’d never had to use it in the field before. His stomach bunched up. He wished he were back home with his mother. With his friends and his pet chameleon bird. That fey creature could’ve come in handy now. Why couldn’t Mother have let me take it with me? he thought in regret. He should have explained his need for it more carefully to her so she fully understood. She would have, too. But no, he had to cower behind his hands like a baby. Like he always did. He missed his quiet sedentary life. He missed the spring where he would lie in the meadow near Macar Manor for hours at a time where all he would do was drink his duneberry juice and think about slaying dragons. That was heaven to the youth. Not to mention the local seamstress’ daughter who would come by every day after lunch to flirt with boy. Leaning like she always did over the low wooden fence that edged the meadow. Letting her blouse slide down just enough….

Suddenly Elion was broken from his reverie when the figure on the left spoke. “The tower is off-limits by Darius’ order!” he boomed. He sounded a lot bigger than he looked.

Menri shook his head dubiously. “Tower? Oh no, we were headed to Timerus. I have family there and it’s been ages since we last visited.”

“Bah,” the other spat. “If you were going to Timerus you would have taken Oksa Road like all the rest of the travelers!”

“Well, we were taking a shortcut. Is it illegal these days to want to save time?” Menri asked, sounding offended. Elion stirred nervously in his saddle. The one to the left noticed this and shot him a suspicious glance.

“You elf, why are you traveling with this scraggly human?”

“I-I am his friend good sir. He saved my life from some vicious bandits in the Plains a few years back and we’ve been traveling together ever since. And I–.”

“Silence!” The one on the left said peremptorily, slowly reaching for something on his belt. Menri anticipated their ploy would not be believed and he had the foresight to ready his whip, which he always carried in his saddlebag. Quickly his hand shot out from the bag to strike the mage in the hand. Howling in pain the gray-robe wrenched back, his hood falling from his head. He looked about fifty, with silver gray hair to match his drab robes. He looked cadaverous and fevered, as if drugged. The other muttered some incantation and threw a handful of seeds into Elion’s horse. It reared up and threw the elf heavily into the flooded path, knocking the wind out of him. He watched in horror as large vines grew out of the horse’s body, rending it before his eyes.

Quickly Menri vaulted off his horse and went to strike the second mage. Caught offguard the man tripped on his robe and fell into the water. Pulling his sword from his sheath, Menri plunged it deeply into the man’s chest. The mage choked the last word of his next spell and Menri was knocked with a mighty force into the trees behind him. Dazed, he sat up and blurrily saw Elion and the other mage grappling in the water. Menri noticed that during the battle the wind had died and the storm abated, which gave everything an eerie sharpness to it. The two engaged figures stood out starkly against the contrast of the sky. Suddenly there was a bright flash and he heard Elion shriek, the accompanied smoke blurring the man’s vision.

“Elion!” he cried, jumping up. Another force ball slammed into his body and again he went flying. Where’s my sword? he thought frantically. This can’t be…. Not…now….. He was losing consciousness. In his last moment of awareness he saw another flash. This was different and was not accompanied with the smell of sulphur. This one was bright blue, hardly making a sound. Then there was nothing but darkness.

****

“Menri….”

Rolling on his side, the young man twisted his head a peered out from under his hood. Blue shadows danced frantically all around him. The floor was cool and and pulsing to the touch. He could not see the ceiling. The walls were covered in silver molding vaulting up like frozen waves into the dark. Menri felt like he was at the bottom of a massive whirlpool. Either that or the belly of some massive sea creature.

“Menri…” came the voice again. Smooth and musical it chimed his name. Menri couldn’t tell if it was male or female. “My dear boy…. Come all this way… To visit my humble tower…” Feeling a gentle swish of air on his neck, the man tried to whip around but only succeeded in giving himself a sharp stabbing pain in his chest. “Here, let me help you with that…” Soft blue light materialized from the non-existent ceiling to slowly cover Menri’s entire form. Like light fingers playing upon his skin, he felt the light enter his body, rejuvenating him. He watched in amazement as his scratches and scrapes healed, and gasped as his ribs moved back into place. Then, as soon as it had come it was gone, leaving him in the twilight of the swirling shadows once again.

“Who are you?” Menri asked with a yawn. An unnatural sleepiness was creeping over him.

“I am Selvaion…. The master of the Tower of Ages… Sleep now my child….” Darkness again overtook him.
Dazzled by the viscous tunnel before him, Elion plummeted to the depths below. It seemed like he had been falling forever. One minute he was grappling with a gray-robe, and the next, he was falling. Falling in, out, up and down, he could not get his bearings in the swirling abyss. Purple and violet swirls abounded. Reminds me of the sweet-tarts my mother used to make, the elf thought dully. This was indeed one of the strangest situations he had ever found himself in. This even tops being captured by marauders out in Solanus and promptly sold as a slave to some rather ornery Field Gnomes. Ah memories, Elion sighed. He promptly coughed and spat as some interesting pink smoke flew up his nostrils.

Swirling forms floated gently passed the elf as he wafted through the misty medium. They were solid enough to the touch, his fingers soaking in a few inches before reaching the spongy filling inside. Mmmmmm, Elion thought. Various fruity desserts filled his mind. This place really is reminiscent of a large cherry pie. Maybe I’ve been eaten by a pie! Goodness! Wouldn’t that be quite the tale to tell my friends back in Silvandale! Twouldn’t be that bad. Alas, how am I to get out of here.

A rather massive pink cloud, larger than the rest looked to be on a collision course for the elf’s head as he languidly peered up from gum encrusted glassy eyes. He tried to blink the blurriness away and then squinted at the oncoming form. It’s coming in rather fast… Maybe I should try to get out of the way, he thought, abhorring the idea of expending any energy. The cloud suddenly blinked. And Elion could see this one was no cloud. Four legs on each side slowly extended from it’s wispy body. The thing had a mouth too. An odd, plicate one at that. Zigzaging at odd angles with equally zig-zagging teeth. It was about the same size as himself he was grateful to see as it came within sling range.

This place had the odd phenomenon of ruining any depth perception one may have had. He could barely tell the pink clouds from the strange ambiance even at their slow gentle pace, streaming endlessly through and infinity of strawberry jam and tarts. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled his willow sling from within and quickly loaded it with some explosive smashers he’d purchased from a local Dwarven arms dealer. He only had about ten in his pouches so he waited till the thing was in spitting distance so as not to miss. As it reared up before him, oozing noxious gas which made him want to throw up, he loosed his load upon it’s slimy dessert-reminiscent body. With a pop and hiss the smasher struck its belly and the powder inside detonated, instantly tearing a hole and sending the thing a few yards back. Pink blood oozed from it’s gaping wound as it twisted to get right side up again. Elion could smell the blood. It smelled like something familiar.

Opening his mouth he inhaled the nearest stream of the stuff and swallowed it with relish. It tasted just like his mother’s tarts. This is indeed a glorious find, he thought, pulling some string from his pouch. Smoothly and easily he tied the string to a large fishhook from the bag and loaded it on his sling with another smasher. “Here fishy fishy fishy!” he cried as he loosed his next shot. This one hit it in the neck, catching it off gaurd as it pounced in his direction. The explosion wedged the hook deep into it’s body. The pink thing let out a bellowing squeal before it died. Elion pulled it in and began to poke at it’s “skin” with his dagger. The body came apart easily and soon he had his fill before casting it back out into the colorful void to drift away in a caricture of burial at sea.

I wonder what other denizines inhabit these waters! Elion mused dreamily, not at all affected by the fact that he had just eaten a giant pink cloud that tried to attack him.

Minutes passed, hours, and more hours. Well, I’m still “here”, he thought dreamily. After the first couple of hours the lanky youth seemed to begin to hallucinate. Slowly he noticed the purple and violet “walls” of the tunnel began to coalesce into familiar faces of long-gone friends and enemies. Orcs, dwarves, other elven playmates of old. But one stood out in particular. Slowly it sharpened until it was as though Old Weasal was actually there, smoking his smelly Cragweed cherut like he always did. Corpulant and clumsy, he looked like a beached walrus leaning back against his favorite chair. It hovered around in front of Elion’s tiny face and grew to full size. Old Weasal was a dwarf in fact. With a beard down to his feet, unkempt and reminiscent of one of Aunt Mauger’s New Year’s parties, (they were always very messy) he was not the most attractive dwarf in the continent of Zi. But he had his advantages, not the least of which was his pungent breath, which was rumored to have killed a pack of Ogres on contact, but that is neither here no there.

“Ahoy there my childish gimp!” he said with his usual tact. “Looks like ye be lost again!” Chuckling, he held out his hand. “Look,” he said. Elion squinted hard, but it was difficult to make out much. There was something in his pudgy hand, it was green…

“My good luck charm!” he sqealed. “Where did you find it?”

It was a simple-hewn jade image of a dryad. It was this dryad that had saved him when he was a little boy. He was on a camping trip with some friends in Valerian Forest just north of Shreven where he lived. It was rathy windy that day and his map had been blown out of his hands. His friends, Eil and Dien were off playing tag somewhere nearby. So intent had he been on his map that he didn’t noticed he had wandered off from his campsite. He had looked around in dismay as he saw the strange defile he had nearly wandered into. He was lost. Then a strong gust blew in from the rocky crevice, tearing the parchment from his hands. He chased it along the foot of the crinkled hill to a slow moving stream. It had looked shallow enough. The map had blown onto the surface and was getting away. So without thinking, at least nothing beyond “It doesn’t look that deep,” Elion plunged in after it. Instantly he was pulled beneath by a suprising undertow. Grasping for the surface, kicking hard, Elion prayed to his God, Drevin. And he answered with her. Her hands were warm and smooth, like living water. She pulled him up to the surface and brought his water-logged body to shore. Putting her lips to his, she drained the water from his lungs. Lunasavoran appeared like an angel, bathed in golden sunlight which looked of a halo to his burning eyes. She was a Forest Keeper, one of The Shepard’s servants of Nature, whose job it was to protect those that worship His Benevolence. She almost looks like one of those bonnie Zi’an models I’ve seen once at that Burlesque house at Avani I sneaked into once, he thought. No wait, couldn’t be, that one didn’t have blue hair…

“Ahem,” Elion, broken of his reverie looked up. Old weasal appeared solemn from beneath his bushy brows as he handed him the jade figurine. Fear welled up inside the boy. Rarely was Old Weasal solemn. “Back at the glen… Your mother… I was working in basement on some woodwork that needed to be done for some locals when I heard it. There were so many of them…” Here he choked and took a deep breath. “Darius’ soldiers-”

“What!? This can’t be!” Elion cried. Anger, fear and hurt all welled up inside him like a geyser, making him dizzy.

“By the time I got upstairs, it was all over. I never got a chance to even take out one of ’em.”

Agony. Elion had only felt that emotion once before. That was the day his old cabin burned down in the Great Fires that plagued his elven land but twenty years ago. When the earth was bathed in magma. Images of burning houses and charred bodies filled his mind. He lost many friends in that fateful day. He recalled as well the sight of his mother’s shawl flapping in the hot air like a dying bird upon the windowsill of his former abode. His heart had raced, like it was now. He thought he had lost her then. And now….

“Your just my imagination!” he screamed in disbelief. ” I-I’m just dreaming! I never left home! Soon I’ll wake up in my nice warm bed-”

“Listen to me boy! If you don’t believe me, ask her yourself.” Old Weasal replied.

There was a moment of silence. Then Elion felt something. A gentle hand came to rest upon his shoulder. Turning slowly, he burst into tears as he beheld the image of his mother.

Lesnera Macar of Shreven Town she was called. Years of being in the quiet town had not dampened her sprightly outlook on life. She was always smiling. Even now, supposedly dead, she was still smiling. Dressed in a simple silken tunic and leather skirt, she reminded him of a pirate. She loved the sea and had gone on many a cruise with the young elf in search of new places and adventures. She was adorned with only an elegantly hafted obsidian dagger and a pouch full of herbs at her belt, she generally could make her way with the least of provisions. The Macar clan was known far and wide as being very resourceful. She had long blonde hair that curled every so slightly to give her hair a wavy quality that most men could not resist. It sparkled oddly in the purple light. Her creamy skin seemed to cast its own light, reflecting blue in her green eyes.

“Are you a ghost?” Elion asked with a sniffle.

“In a way.” she replied. “But I am well. It has been imposed on me by our God Revin that I assist you on your journey. Things averse await for you in the near future. I am here to make sure that your journey remains auspicious.”

Suddenly Elion found himself sitting at a familiar oak table attractively set for what appeared to be an average elven dinner. Salad plates and doeskin placements placed evenlt along the table, coupled with long cream-colored beeswax candles materialized in front of him. Gone were the pink clouds and fuzzy ambiance, replaced by the playful flicker of candle-light. The elf turned to see Old weasal in the back of the room sleeping in his favorite chair as always, snoring like a kangaroo rat he saw once. Elion was indeed sitting in his dining room. There at the end of the table sat his mother, slowly sipping at some mulled wine. Warms sweetness filled his nostrils as a basket of warm rolls and a plate full of butter appeared to his left. Quickly he began to inhale all he could, his knife whipping out and cutting and spreading like a hailstorm. To his right appeared his favorite drink, chilled Mulberry juice. He squeled in glee and reached for the new born glass beside it. “I was-slurp-so hungry-slurp.” he mumbled, spitting bread as he talked. His mother laughed effectionately at her son’s unceremonius manner.

“I’m glad you like it,” she said gently. A couple minutes had past and by now Elion had eaten a leg of mutton, two plates of fried shrimp and a cup of ice cream. “Done?” Lesnera asked amusedly.

“Oh yeah,” Elion burped the reply. And with that the food, crumbs, stains and all dissolved away, leaving no trace with the linen tablecloth of having ever been eaten on. “So… How’s Jezra been? And what about Lui Shen? She was always up for a game of Pin the Tail to the Goblin….” He was rambling and he knew it. Maybe I can distract her enough to forget about this being dead business, he thought anxiously. But it was to no avail. She just looked at him with those loving eyes of hers. An expression of sadness on her face. Choking his words, he was afraid he would start crying. He bit his tongue and fumbled with his dagger. Shutting his eyes, Elion prayed to Revin that he would awake to the sounds of the bustling town where he grew up. Even if it meant having to go back to school. But, as fate would have it, nothing changed. During his brief attempt at communion with his god, Lesnera had quietly gotten up from her chair to stand at her son’s side. Slowly she began to stroke back his long black hair.

“Elion, I wish it didn’t have to be this way. But take my words to heart: There will come a time when things are again as we would have them. But-” Here she stopped, as if unsure of how to continue. Her hand began to feel shaky on his head. Quickly she removed it. “I’ve not much time. Here, take this,” she thrusted a wrapped parcel into his hand and pulled a necklace out of her pouch. A blood red pendant that looked of fire held in suspended animation hung from its golden loops. “Put this on. It’s a Fire Opal. It will protect you and is also good for… other convenient purposes…” Elion caught the enigmatic tone in her voice and looked at her curiously as she encircled it around his neck. But she ignored the look. “Now, I must be off. I’m being called. But I’ll see you again soon!” With that she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and holding his hand to her face.

There was a bright flash of light and Elion found himself once again in the role of flotsam in Fruity Dessert World.

To be continued….

Best,
Justin
My 3D store | My amazing sci-fi ebook

A Kender’s Wanderlust

Forest

A Kender’s Wanderlust
by
J. Littler

The air was mild for late fall, there hadn’t been a cloud in the azure sky for weeks. “A perfect time for me to travel back to Kendermore. All my friends have been killed by ogres anyway.” Edmund Barkwood muttered happily to himself as he stuffed his pouches full with what he could find from his late friends’ broken down wagon.

He was tall, rich and well dressed (for a kender), with his well groomed topknot, high black boots, pale green pants and silk shirt. His hoopak was even made of silver and rosewood. Numerous pouches were draped over his thin form. And, luckily for him, he was even educated.

At age thirty-nine he has (as most all kenders have) traversed most of all Ansalon. From Palanthas on down to Tarsis and across the continent to the Blood Sea, he had journeyed. His knowledge of Krynnish jails was vast. He had, a few years ago, attempted to join that Conclave of those interesting wizards as a red robe, but when it comes down to it, he’s still a kender and, well, they said no. Oh, well, he had thought, I could still be a bard.

He and his friends from the Thieves Guild (they told the kender that they were actually borrowers and didn’t really steal, which was why he allowed himself to join up and was travelling with a bunch of thieves at present) were traveling away from a small village they had cleaned out two nights ago. There was in the village, a black robed wizard’s residence. The leader of Edmund’s group, named Darm, hadn’t liked this, and so he had all of them leave the village immediately after. “If he caught us wit’ his stuff he’d prob’ly turn us all into lizards and eat us!” he had told them.

For that very reason, they had been riding two nights straight. Two nights, riding down a bumpy dirt road with no one in sight, nothing to worry about. That is, until now. This was the night the ogres came.

It had been foggy and cold, an hour after the darkness covered the sky, and as luck would have it, their wagon had broken off it’s back wheels tumbling into a ditch. “Damn! Now what are we gonna do?” Darm had said. No one answered, his men stared around sullenly. This was certainly not turning out to be an easy getaway they had expected.

After a minute or so of silence, the mens’ thoughts were abruptly pulled away when the horses started to wildly strain against their harnesses, whinnying and pawing at the ground. All of the thieves were just standing and staring around in confusion, out in the open. Completely unexpecting, as five ogres jumped out of the darkness to surround them.

Luckily Edmund had not been in the wagon (he had dropped one of his pouches out of the back while it was still moving and, while no one was looking he jumped out to look for it, but soon fell in a hole). And so, he was the only survivor. But the kender did get an excellent view of the action safely hidden in the ground.

The next day, after awakening in the same hole, he found the wagon in even worse condition than last night.

Peering around, he began to make an inventory of all the things left in the wagon, “Gee, I don’t remember this thing. How’d that get there? What’s this?…..” Soon he could barely move for his pouches had accidently slipped down around his knees and his arm got stuck in between two drawers that hung halfway out of one of the stolen, massive chests.

After a minute he managed to free himself and fix his pouches in their proper positions. Finding nothing else he could take with him, Edmund decided to find out where he was (he’d forgotten). The kender stuck his little head out the doorway and was disappointed to still find himself on a long, flat empty plain. The ground flowed out endlessly to the east and west. Far ahead, to the north, the flatland gradually gave way to hills. All was quiet and peaceful. And for that very reason, extremely dull. “Oh well, maybe those ogres’ll find me again and tear my limbs off. I’ll bet that would be interesting!”, here he sighed, “Seems those hills are the only things different around here,” he said, eyeing his surroundings, “and since any way I go is as good as any other, I guess I’ll head there.”

Starting off in that direction, the kender began to pass the time by looking at all the goodies in his pouches. A silver candelabra, a small flute, someone’s left shoe, a few necklaces and several gold steal coins where among some of the kender’s newly acquired possessions. Taking the flute, he began to play an impromptu piece, skipping merrily over the tall grass.

The sun had just risen over land, Edmund saw. The sky had streaks of pink and purple stretching across it. Few clouds were present to mar the striking beauty that was the sunrise. Looks like ink spilled over a huge map, he thought, looking up. Still walking, his eyes above him, he soon tumbled down a deep hole. “Drat!”, he mumbled, “This is the same hole I fell in last night. Watch where you’re going!” he waved a finger irritably at the hole, “You could hurt some one ya know!”

After thoroughly admonishing the aperture, he got up. Picking up the flute and crawling out, there was a flash of metal to his right. Going over to it, he crouched and picked his fingers through the dirt. Finally, his hands hit the something that was the source of the beam. Lifting it from the loam, he discovered it to be a necklace.

An oval sapphire pendant outlined in silver dangled from it. Sunlight reflected off its mirrored surface, striking at his eyes, dazzling him. Edmund could tell instantly that this was no trifle, but a rare and valuable piece of jewelry. It was fairly heavy for its size and felt unusually warm to the touch. Probably just the sun’s doing I guess, he thought as he put it on. He didn’t know why he did it, his arms and hands seemed to move of their own volition. Just as the metal touched his neck the hair there bristled, but he didn’t notice.

Edmund snapped his fingers. “I know where I am!” He pulled out a clump of maps and hurriedly looked through them. “Ah ha! I’ve found it!” Edmund put the map down and stuffed the rest back in his sack. After staring intently at the remaining map for a second he said “I’m just north of Silvenesti. Good thing I remembered.” He smiled smugly. “Hey, I just realized I sure talk a lot to myself when I’m alone.” Here he shrugged, “Well good, at least I’m not to far from home—”

Edmund tried to rise, but his legs began to feel wobbly and he collapsed back to the ground. Grabbing his stomach, he began to feel queasy. A drowsiness quickly assailed him and, to top it all off, his left leg hit a rock and throbbed painfully.

Rolling onto his back, the kender stared at the rising sun. A fuzzy ball of color was all Edmund’s eyes could make out.

Lying there in the grass, Edmund tried once again to stand up. But to no avail, his body feeling stiff and heavy.

After a minute, though, he started to relax, the strange sensations somewhat abating.

The wind rose, blowing strongly from the east. The grass by the kender’s head danced wildly in the breeze. Hair blew in his eyes but he was too tired to brush the strands out. The air felt very comforting. Then, his vision started to blur severely. A prodigious yawn escaped his lips. An adjacent copse of trees waved to and fro, all being very calm. The kender felt his eyes close.

A copse of trees!? Abruptly he sat up, all torpidness gone, staring around at a forest that just materialized out of nowhere to arrive at his feet.

“How’d these trees get here?” he wondered. All around him were trees, tall oaks in fact, all around except directly behind. Edmund turned and saw he stood upon a tall knoll. There were many other lower ones around it. And off to right, the bumpy land ended and a plain began. It was the same plain he had just been traversing he realized. The expanse seemed endlessly long from up here, he could barely make out the collapsed wagon in the golden morning light.

He looked down and saw he was uncomfortably close to the edge of the steep hill. And while he was curious about how it might feel to tumble all the way down into the jagged rocks thirty feet below, he really didn’t want to get his clothes dirty, and so he backed away, grasping his hoopak tightly. He had just been starting to contemplate how in the Abyss did he suddenly find himself in the hills when only a minute ago he was at least half a mile away when he heard voices. The kender ducked down (in case it was the ogres) and crawled toward the sound. He heard deep gruff voices. They seemed to be arguing,”Weaddfiveeggs andtwograpefruitsthenaddthelivecrab.” one said. “Nononono! Twoeggsthen thecrabandfivegrapefruitsyoudummy!” another argued. Edmund decided this certainly looked interesting enough to continue listening, and the voices didn’t seem likely to stop for the moment, so he made himself more comfortable. They just kept on speaking quickly together, arguing over grapefruits and eggs and something called the helmet of intelligence or some such thing. Soon he became bored. Why all this fuss over a salad and a helmet, he thought.

He decided it best to hop out from behind his bush and tell them how to make a much simpler salad. Right when he got up and peered over it, he was astonished to find, not two people standing around a salad bowl full of eggs and grapefruit, but several gnomes sitting in a circle around a gully dwarf with a metal bowl over his head. Two gnomes that were standing fit the voices he heard. One had a tablet full of scribbled figures on it and was petulantly waving it in the other’s face. The rest were either muttering to themselves staring at there own tablets, writing furiously, or just plain sleeping. He had just opened his mouth when there was a loud boom and a blinding flash of light. Gnomes, eggs and grapefruit flew everywhere. One particularly large egg yolk hit the kender right in the face. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet. Voices shouted “Save the helmet! Save the helmet!”

Then all was quiet. The egg seeped into Edmund’s mouth and onto his tongue. Pretty good, he thought smacking his lips, although it needs a bit more salt, and I really don’t enjoy it in my eyes. I can’t see! He got up and wiped the yellow goop from his eyes.

Taking one step forward, he promptly tripped over the unconscious gully dwarf. As he picked himself up he heard a groan to his right. Edmund (somewhat bedraggled but too overcome by his kender curiosity to notice) walked over and found a gnome laying face-up on the ground, one of the same gnomes he saw arguing. “Hey you. Get up.” Edmund said happily, kicking the little man on the foot. The gnome sat up groggily and groaned again. “Toomanyeggs…” he mumbled to himself. At the sight of the kender, he jumped backwards four feet clutching his backpack to his chest. “Oh! You’re awake, good.” Edmund said, “My names Edmund, and who are you?” The gnome shook his head and mumbled weakly “Thoughtyouwereagiantegg—”

“Enough ’bout eggs!” screeched the half-dead gully dwarf in the distance. “Me?”, pondered the kender, not hearing the dwarf, “Well no, I’m not. But I bet that would be pretty fun! Have you seen any around? I’ve always wanted to meet one. Well not always, but since just now I did. Hey, have you met one? What was it like? Did it slither around muttering how it was gonna cook you?” By this point the gnome fainted. “Hey! not again!” The kender sighed and picked the gnome up onto his feet. He started to shake him. Then he heard a strange squeal directly behind him. Edmund whipped around, dropping the gnome, to see what new wonder awaited him. Unfortunately, it was only the gully dwarf awakening. He put his attention back on the gnome.

“Ohwhatadaymymynextimeweshouldusesomeparsely—” The gnome was jabbering on even before he was totally awake. Still talking and now fully conscious he shuffled over to where the other gnomes lay stirring dazedly. My my, the cheerful kender thought, what a peculiar group I’ve stumbled upon. But, then again, all gnomes seemed peculiar to him.

For the rest of the day after all of the group awoke the gnomes explained to Edmund that they were in the process of perfecting a device that would make anyone a genius. Gnill —the gnome he met after the explosion— told the attentive kender that they still didn’t have the ingredients precise yet, as the kender first saw with the explosion. The gnome said something about referring it to the committee (whatever that was) and asked Edmund if he wanted to help. He gladly said yes but was later disappointed to discover that he wouldn’t be doing any of the technical stuff, just gathering ingredients and wood from the forest. “Safety precautions” was all Gnill answered for the kender’s questions of why. “Probably get us all killed.” he had muttered under his breath. But Edmund thought they could kill themselves easily enough without him, for every day it seems the gnomes would be saying “We’ve finally got it!” only to have their hopes get blown away with the puff of smoke after the explosion, gnomes shaking their heads and muttering “There’s always tomorrow.” and, “Lose more test subjects that way.”

After that first day, the gnomes inquired about his name, being that it didn’t sound kenderish at all. “Well”, he had said, “my name—my first name anyway—was given to me by a human lady. Some one had stolen her purse and I found it. Can you believe that! How could anyone steal anything! It’s awful what the world’s become these days. Anyway, I had found it lying in some guys backpack lonely and forgotten. So I decided to keep it company. The next day while I was rummaging through it, this lady comes over to me and says that’s hers and asks me how I got it. I told the truth, that I found it lying in some forgotten pack. I gave the purse to her and we started talking. She asked me about my family and I told her that they all got burned alive after my father decided to find out what it would feel like to have his arms burned off when the fire accidently started a conflagration. The whole house was ablaze! It was great! Anyway she then asked what my name was and I said that my parents must’ve forgotten to give me one because I couldn’t remember it so she named me Edmund.” He took a deep breath.”She was real nice. Anyway, then I went to look at some nice maps lying on a table and when I looked behind me she was gone. I wonder where she had to run off to.” He shrugged and went into the forest to get some wood.

After a couple of days the group had traveled north to the Bay of Balifor and set up camp out on its southwestern coast. The gnomes had finally gotten some progress in their research of what they called “nylon” which they were using to make “umbrellas” (the helmet of intelligence being stuck in committee) Edmund, not particularly interested anyway, would wonder up and down the coast looking for any other people who could tell him some stories about dragons or other equally intriguing subjects. Asking questions like, if they knew any dragons personally . But, unfortunately, none whom he met were that talkative. Usually he would receive answers such as “Please! Go away!” and the like. Every now and then his neck would experience a burning sensation and some dizziness would assail him. He dimly recalled that the feelings started after he acquired the knuckle, but he never gave it much thought.

One starry night Edmund was lost, and bored. It was a nice night. Cool and breezy. The kender had been thinking about how nice it would be to get lost at sea, dying of thirst, eating raw fish to survive, when a strange sound disturbed his thoughts, the same sound that he had been following. He was getting tired and decided to try to find his way back.”Hmm, let’s see,” Edmund said aloud, twisting his topknot around his fingers, “I was on my way back to camp when I heard something. I followed it for a while to see why it was wandering around in the forest in the middle of the night. Then I got sick of walking around so and I sat down to rest. Then-” there it was again, louder this time, a kind of scrape, scrape, crunch, shuffle, scrape that was coming from, well from right behind him! The kender whipped around, and was confronted by an army of hobgoblins.

At least, that was his first impression. They actually numbered in about twelve, all carrying shortswords and maces with leather armor. “Well hullo!” Edmund said cheerily, and it seemed a few of the hobgoblins grimaced in disgust before a coarse hemp bag was thrown over him and everything went dark.

The sound of flapping feet brought the bedraggled kender to reality, that and the bucket of cold water that was splashed over him. He sat up dizzily to find himself in a cage full of people, all of them weak and sickly. His hoopak was gone, but strangely enough, he still wore the necklace. Hobgoblin and human guards stood around the cage, weapons unsheathed. He appeared to be in a large cave with overhanging stalactites like massive teeth preparing to crush them all. He coughed, the whole place reeked with some putrid odor. Probably coming from the hobgoblins and that pile of bones covered in green fuzz, the kender thought. The dim cave was about thirty feet tall and endlessly long, the torches burning on the sides of the grotto only illuminated a limited area.

Brushing wayward strands of wet hair out of his eyes, he saw a heavily cloaked figure appear out of the darkness and come up to the cage holding a key. Edmund started getting a severe burning sensation around his neck and as the figure opened the door it increased to the point where he was overwhelmed and he fell back. “Get over here kender!” the man growled and reached in. At that moment a bright blue flash shot out of the necklace’s pendant and enveloped him in deadly, dancing sapphire flame. There was a loud whooshing sound and a squish as the cloaked person fell into the guards. All that was left of him was smeared all over the floor and those guards. One of the humans retched.

Edmund got up, eyes wide with wonder. “I did that! Wow! I thought about splattering that guy and Bang! it happened.” Staring at the grisly sight, he realized he wasn’t home free just yet. The kender decided to try out his necklace, so he thought about being invisible. The hair stood up on the back of his neck, and then, he was invisible. I better look around and find out how to get out of this dark cavern, he thought as he quietly left the cage, making no more noise than a mouse. Now, where to go from here.

Past the cage, after about an hour of walking with nothing but dark rock around him, he finally could make out a small shack in the dim torchlight coming from the walls. It looked to be a guard room. Coming closer to it, Edmund could hear snores and groans emanating from within. He passed around that.

On and on he walked, desperate to find an exit. After what felt like several more hours did Edmund sense a change in the dull monotony that was the cave. And that was only the floor getting steeper. After a moment, the air began to get more humid as he went ever lower. The walls began to glisten with the moisture. Farther and farther, step after step, he kept on.

Why he could see so well, he didn’t know, the torches having ended long ago. The light had an odd pink cast to it and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t name its source.

He just kept walking and walking. The cave going on forever, and finally, Edmund forgot where he was, not really caring anymore, and got to thinking about his necklace. “So, it’s magic,” he murmured to himself,”I do love magic. I guess that’s the reason it always felt so hot around my neck, and why I just appeared on that hill! Man, I wonder what else it can do,” he continued, grasping the pendant,”When I get back, I’ll be the most popular kender in all of Kendermore!” With fond dreams of using it to save his homeland from legions of vicious and ruthless dragons, having a statue made in his honor, he kept going.

He had just taken a breath when he rounded a corner; and gasped in amazement at what he saw. Edmund had just stepped into the most interesting place he had ever been in his whole life! He stood in a humungous cavern. Lined with glowing pink crystals and strange plants, it looked more like some distant moon than a cave. The air was so heavy with moisture now, that a thick fog permeated the area. He could barely see his feet, yet at the same time everything else stood out with vivid clarity. The soothing drip, drip sound could be heard easily in the distance. Across the great expanse, a bright blue lake could be seen, glowing with the same weird light as the crystals.

That’s why I could still see, the kender thought in amazement as he ran to one of the many pink minerals. It was about three and a half feet tall coming to his shoulder, others were up to ten feet, looking like solidified waves of frozen liquid. He could feel a strange aura of energy around them whenever he got within three feet of one. Feeling its surface, Edmund was thoroughly delighted to feel the thing pulse beneath his fingers. It convulsed rhythmically, like the beating of a heart. He stared hard at the surface, thinking he saw faint eyes staring back at him. Nothing, he mused. Just my imagination.

He turned to study the top of the cavern. Long, wide vines hung from the expansive ceiling. They swirled and rocked, as if a strong breeze assailed them, yet the kender couldn’t fell any wind, seeming to whisper to one another as he passed them on his way toward the lake.

The whole area was bowl shaped, the top of the bowl made of hard bedrock, while the sides of the depression seemed to be layered in clay. The walls around the lake looked mirror smooth, reflecting the light of the lake directly back, creating an almost palpable looking wall of brightness. Which ended at the end of the lake itself, the rest of the cavern floor being moderately dim. Blind crickets hopped here and there, being stalked by equally colorless and eyeless geckos.

The ground started softening as the lake loomed ever closer, Edmund’s footfalls starting to make squishing sounds. After a few seconds, his feet slowed. His legs beginning to have a tough time pulling out of the ground, this part of the cave floor being especially sticky and gooey. He was practically panting with the effort. After a few more minutes of this, he stopped. Looking down, he realized for the first time that he was sinking. Edmund hadn’t noticed it before, but now that his attention was directed to it, he could see his feet sink just a tiny bit with each step he took. Looking around, the kender was beginning to get worried. The nearest solid ground was twenty yards away now, and he noticed that those strange vines were a lot lower than before, almost touching the ground. It looked to Edmund that exit was now not an option. They slithered and writhed as he watched. He decided to continue on, not really wanting to find out if the vines were friendly or not.

He barely reached the lake. The spongy ground had swallowed him up to his knees by the time he finally saw the sandy coast that surrounded it. Edmund crawled gratefully onto that sand and collapsed into a soggy heap.

The kender sat up and rubbed his scum filled eyes. Peering hazily around the grotto, Edmund decided he was hungry. After a few minutes, he found a piece of reasonably clean rye bread in his vest pocket. Immediately, he began munching. A few minutes later, he finished and prepared to stand. With a yawn, he pulled himself off the gritty floor. I need a bath, he thought eyeing his brown spattered clothes, (he did look like he just came out of a fight with a Minotaur), so he jumped in the lake.

The water felt strange to him as his skin made contact. It was as if the liquid began poking and prodding at him with invisible fingers. Well, everything’s strange around here, Edmund thought, so he ignored it.

He was about to yawn when, for some reason, everything went blue. He was being sucked under! Swallowing a mouthful of water, his hands tried to grab whatever was pulling him, but they felt nothing. Frantically, he kicked and paddled, hoping to get to shore, yet it was far out of reach now. Down and down he went seemingly for hours, his hair streaming out behind him, yet strangely, he did not drown. The bottom came into view and he saw where the suction was coming from. A huge hole rent the smooth crystalline bottom of the strange lake.

Suddenly his speed shot up and he whooshed down the hole, then up, where the water ended. Edmund found himself flying through the air to land head on a rock wall.

After resting face first on the warm stone floor for a moment, he rolled onto his back. Dazed, and seeing stars, the sopping wet kender looked about him. He saw he was in a perfectly rectangular room with walls of granite. Fifteen feet high, twice as wide and fifty long, lined with green globes of light, smelling like ogre vomit, Edmund was thoroughly delighted. This is the most adventure I’ve had in years! he thought merrily. Edmund sat up and went to remake his topknot, which was spewed all around his head and face, when he realized it was dry! And so were his clothes! Must be the searing heat coming from that wall, he thought. And the searing heat coming from that wall must be originating from that evil looking rotting head that just appeared right from that crevice above my head, he realized staring dreamily up at the ceiling. The heat was making him feel giddy, accompanied by his headache and what not, it sure made a strange combination. Like drinking an entire jug of wine.

The kender blinked, looking up again and quickly returned to reality. The head of the creature, he saw, was about five feet long and two feet wide, not counting the neck that tapered away into the crack, for which Edmund could see only part. It stared at him malevolently, steaming liquid bubbling from it’s decaying jaws. The thing reared it’s head back, and the kender knew that he had seconds before it would attack. I wish there was someplace in here where that thing couldn’t get to me, he thought. And just as he thought that, the monster attacked. Edmund dived under the creature, a mere scant three feet from it’s jaws which crunched loudly as they slammed into the stone floor. The beast roared in pain, deafening the kender and shaking the very foundation of the rock itself, rubble tumbling in his face.

The creatures saliva burned to the touch, and he was being drenched in it. Suffocating from the heat, Edmund looked behind him and was surprised to see a long tunnel stretch before him. Quickly, he ran for it. More liquid pouring in waves behind him. He gagged as the stuff entered his mouth. The taste as well as the heat making him feel nauseous. He entered the entrance and quickly rounded a corner.

Panting, he practically fell to the floor, he was so tired. “Reorox! What a day!” he huffed, and passed out cold.

Edmund awoke to a hard floor and moist hot air. Looking around, he at first didn’t recognize where he was. Then it dawned on him. “Oh yea. Right. Trapped in tunnel.” he said groggily, struggling to force himself up. Brushing himself off, he leaned against the wall of the tunnel.

For a few moments, all he could do was stare at the wall in front of him, his mind reeling with the events that have been transpiring recently. Finding a powerful magical necklace, getting trapped underground, almost drowned and almost being bitten in half, he was already having one spectacular week, and he still had more to go! And he was still alive! Suddenly energetic, he jumped to his feet and started down the hall.

After about fifteen minutes of walking, he was beginning to get bored. The ceiling was about ten feet tall and lit with lanterns every five feet or so apart. Edmund slipped now and then for the floor was uneven and slippery with moisture. Never diverging, seeming to go on forever in the dim light, the environment was fairly uninteresting. No holes in the walls or pits in the floor for monsters to jump out and eat you from. This was certainly one of the most dull and uncomfortable places I’ve ever been in, he thought drearily. Now the lake on the other hand… He kept on walking.

After a bit, Edmund’s pace began to deteriorate. Then, “Now this is something different!” he whooped. Looking ahead, the kender could see a strip of large rents marring the surface of the floor, much nicer than the monotony of smooth cobblestone. They zigzagged drunkenly, sometimes winding up the wall. A few of the largest even cut through the ceiling itself. Walking to the edge of the first pit, he looked down and couldn’t see it’s bottom. Must be deep, he surmised. It was too wide to jump over, and Edmund wondered how in the Abyss was he to cross all these clefts. Sighing, he tried to reason it out. “They’re probably too deep to just jump into and climb out the other side (I probably would be smeared all over the rocky bottom if I jumped), and they’re too wide too just hop over, so that leaves, the ledge.” Squinting, he could see a bit of the floor extending out from the left wall. Just wide enough for a kender.

Grimly, Edmund stepped upon the slippery, debris filled path. He inched his way forward, arms trying to grip the wall as he felt his way along. After a while, the kender’s confidence rose. Then without warning, his left foot missed its mark and dangled in empty space for a few terrifying seconds. Yanking hard, Edmund got his foot back upon the ledge. Breathing heavily, he started off again.

As he inched forward, his hands and feet began to feel numb. This proved to be a great annoyance, for Edmund now really couldn’t tell if he still held his grip upon the wall or not. Also, he didn’t no for how much longer he had to go. And he was already exhausted! The kender didn’t even know if the ledge beneath his feet might end in the next step or so, for that matter. With that thought, Edmund forced his head to turn in the direction ahead of him. He could barely see the narrow area stretch into the distance. It continued without break until lost in shadow at the end of his vision. Good, he thought, at least I still have some ground.

One hour passed. Edmund felt a cool updraft spill over him as he wormed his way on. He could hear waterfalls below him. It sure seems a long way down now, the kender thought tiredly. I bet if I fell at this distance, I probably could take a nap and then wake up in time to see the ground rush up to meet me!

Another hour passed. And thankfully, Edmund’s feet landed on firm ground. Peering behind him, he looked to see all the treacherous ground he had covered. After all that work, oddly, he wasn’t that tired anymore. His necklace was feeling hotter than usual, he noted.

Edmund sensed it had been weeks since he last saw the sun. Indeed, he even felt his memory of what it looked like, seem to fade. Around here it was so very dark. The kender swallowed hard. He was so very thirsty! What he wouldn’t give for a nice drink of water. His mind going back to the waterfalls he had heard beneath him on the ledge. Grabbing his swinging pendant, he asked, “You know, I’m really thirsty. Could you poof up some water or something—”, a light rain appeared over his head. A cup materialized in his hands and Edmund drank gladly. And when he was done, they both vanished. Cracking his fingers and smiling cheerfully, he turned and left the scarred path behind.

After a while, Edmund found what he had been waiting for. He saw that the tunnel ended gratefully in a door. Walking up to it he observed a golden doorknob protruding from glossy rosewood, a cast of a writhing golden snake wrapped around the knob, glaring balefully into empty space. What a curious looking statue, he thought. It seemed to the kender that whenever he stared into its eyes, they twinkled with life. He shrugged off the notion, reaching for the knob. Then, the kender was taken aback to see the snake move! He withdrew his hand just in time from being bitten. “Wow!” Edmund breathed, staring at the snake, which seemed to oddly be growing larger every second. It slithered to the floor and hit it with a clank, the snake’s metal scales scraping across the stone floor. Edmund took a step backwards, and, for some reason, couldn’t move back any further. The snake started to move toward him. Slowly, almost leisurely it approached. It was about twice his size now, And moved to rest five feet in front of him, lifting it’s head to the kender’s eye level. Edmund grasped his magical pendant “Quick! Do something. I’m going to be eaten in the next five seconds if you don’t.” he told the device sternly. He said this under his breath (so the snake wouldn’t hear of course, if it could hear. Edmund wasn’t sure).

The pendant finally did do something. It began to glow blue accompanied by the now accustomed to burning sensation on his neck. The snake suddenly backed away, as if afraid. Edmund, seeing this, boldly took a step forward, forcing the snake against the door. “Ah, ha! Now who’s running, mmmh!” he said, taking the pendant and hitting the snake over the head with it. There was an instantaneous explosion as he did this. Metal odds and ends flew around him as he himself flew through the air until he splattered against the wall. At least he thought he splattered. Waiting a few seconds for the sparks to settle, he stood up slowly (in case anything was broken) and cracked his knuckles. Finally!, he thought, things have gotten interesting again! Gleefully he strode to the door, and before he opened it, he patted his pendant lovingly and placed back around his neck.

Finding the door not locked, Edmund opened it, and almost fell straight down a dark spiraling staircase. Catching himself just in time, he stood directly at the edge. It was carved directly out of the floor, he saw, which was made from brown cobblestones, unlike the tunnel from where he had just come. Stale, dry air wafted up from its shadowy depths. Grasping the pendant, he said, “Hey! How ’bout some light!” In acquiescence, dull blue light spewed forth from the crystal. The kender started on down the steps. There were not many of them, it didn’t take long until he had reached the end. Edmund was now in what looked like a very large room. So large he couldn’t see any walls, only a floor and ceiling were visible. Even with the glowing pendant, he was surrounded in shadow.

As he stared into endless space, not deigning to go any further, a strange sound became discernable to his pointed ears. At first, it was a low ringing that seemed to come from the kenders own fevered mind. But he soon realized that it was originating from the room itself, as though it were annoyed at having an uninvited kender tromping upon its sacrosanct halls. Edmund felt frozen. Even as he began to pick out things in the darkness, which seemed to be receding with the droning sound’s appearance, even when he could sense that horrible presence rising, which caused such a shiver of fear that no kender should feel, he still couldn’t move. He could barely breath.

The room suddenly fell silent. And with the silence came light. Decaying visages hovered all around the gaping kender. Connected to those heads were shambling mounds of ancient bones. Gray tatters of what must have once been clothing hung around their crumbling bodies. A musty smell spread out from their forms. Like mold, suggesting that they must have been dead a long time. There must have been dozens, all carrying rusted and blunted swords. And behind them was a figure much more dark, a sense of superiority and power flowing from it. Carrying a staff in its left hand, swathed in black robes, was, of all things to run into on the face of Krynn, a lich.

An abomination of nature, chilling the blood to even look upon its ghastly visage. Edmund, faced with it, was having trouble standing. His legs turned to butter and his stomach felt like it were to leap out of his mouth. But he shook the feeling off and tried to stand tall.

Speaking with a surprisingly clear voice for one whose vocal cords had rotted away centuries ago, the lich pointed at the kender’s neck. “That necklace has been lost from me for three hundred years. And now as fate would have it you kender, have run into one of my hobgoblin search parties unwittingly bringing it back to me. Now I shall escape my subterranean prison and return to the world which banished me.”

Edmund couldn’t think, he was being slowly dragged across the expanse to be thrown at the lich’s feet. So, I’ve found the owner to the necklace, he thought. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. The lich began to grasp the chain and prepare to pull it off, the kender flinched as the fingers bit into his skin. I’m probably gonna die, Edmund thought, probably—

Struck with an idea, he rolled out from the surprised lich’s reach and grabbed the pendant, his pendant After all, he’d found it. Mentally commanding it to attack the lich, he jumped behind a fallen pillar (in case the lich felt inclined to reciprocate his attack, which he probably would). Just as a blue fireball of flame sped forth from his sapphire, as he expected, a nice counter of raining needles of white light shot out from his opponent’s dead hand. He dropped to his knees. But not in time to prevent two of the needles from piercing his left shoulder.

Screaming, he felt like a thousand wasps had stung him in the same spot. Then, his entire left arm went numb. He peeked around the column to see with satisfaction that the lich had been damaged as well. Edmund was amazed with how the events of his life had taken off. I’m battling a lich!, he thought with ecstatic pride. And I’m still alive!

His reverie was broken when he heard low chanting. I need some shielding, the kender mentally told the pendant. Just as he was surrounded in a bubble of energy, a great wave of boulders flew at him. He was swept backwards into a wall. Standing up, he again commanded his necklace and again the magical fireball shot out to strike the ancient mage. Fragments of bone and cloth spewed out over the floor behind him.

Getting to his feet, the archmage spoke. “I’m impressed, a kender gaining control over such a device.”, he bowed to the speechless Edmund, “My name is Olron.” he added. Edmund came to his senses and responded, “Well, hello Olron! I’m Edmund Barkwood.”, he bowed to the lich, “You know, I’ve never met a lich before. And well—” Olron cut him off, “You have equaled my magic with your magic. We seem to be at a stalemate for the moment. And being so, I would grant you safe leave of this place, to return to the surface. But only if you relinquish my necklace.” Edmund stared at the glowing sapphire that felt so warm in his hand, and said, “But if I give you this, than you’ll be free of here to cause more trouble above. So, I’m sorry but I’m keeping it.”

Sighing, the lich pointed at the ceiling above the kender and commanded it to bury him. “So then it must now come to a dual. The one who survives escapes.” the lich replied. Stones gave way instantly as the voice which was too alive for such a being ended. Edmund charged ahead, centering all his thoughts to make his shield stronger. It became so bright it should have blinded him, but didn’t. He heard bones crunching under the falling boulders and saw the army of skeletons retreating into large rents within the walls.

Looking ahead, he saw Olron flying at him, surrounded by writhing firesnakes, all hissing and spitting. With a resounding boom, wanderer and sorcerer connected. The force of magic and velocity sending the two forms about fifty feet back.

Edmund spun through wall after wall, until finally, he skidded to a halt. Opening his eyes, he saw he was lying in an underground stream, now running red with his own blood. Looking closely at his chest, he saw ten finger wide slashes run down it about three inches. Prodding them gently, he realized they weren’t too deep. He’ll live. Then, he realized something else. Something very harrowing and distressing. The magical necklace was gone. As he stared more intently at himself he thought he could see a fine blue powder completely covering him. The remnants of the pendant, his mind registered. And slowly as he watched, the grains infused themselves within his wounds. They began to glow with a familiar sapphire glow, and then the light was gone. And with it, went his wounds.

Edmund crawled down the tunnel, feeling the cool water flow around his hands. A light wind touched his forehead, revealing to him that this must be a way out. Yes, a light appeared as he rounded a bend. The kender saw that weird pink glow. He saw the lake with its overhanging vines, knowing now where he was. Standing up, he tried walking.

Without warning, a loud wail emanated behind him. He twirled around as fast as his tired body would let him. There, in torn black robes, was the lich. Missing about half his skull and walking on one leg, he didn’t look all that threatening. But still, Edmund felt the look in his red eyes that could well freeze the blood. Olron fell to his one knee. Opening his cracked maw he forced out the words, “Well, kender, you were lucky to have such a powerful device in your possession. Else I would have defeated you before the battle even begun. But now, I’m free!” He laughed, or tried to, but instead his jaw cracked and he choked. It seemed to Edmund that Olron was disintegrating before his very eyes. Then, the lich collapsed into the stream where his bones were washed away by the splashing water.

Edmund Barkwood (still alive) walked across the mouth of the old cave, cheered to finally see the sunrise once more. He’d been underground for about a week! As walked down the path, he listened to the sounds of the surface world. Birds chirping amiably, squirrels jumping from tree to tree after each other, the wind. It was all so inviting.

“Well, I guess I’ll be heading back to Kendermore,” he thought aloud, “Wonder how I’ll afford a ship to board on though. I’m awfully tired of walking.” His thoughts were interrupted when a flash of light caught his eye . Looking in that direction, he spotted something lying in the shadow of a great oak, glowing faintly red. Trotting over, he lifted the object to his eye.”Hey, a ruby!” Pressing into his palm, it felt strangely warm. The kender smiled. Stuffing that hand into a pouch, Edmund was not startled when he pulled out a fistful of gold coins.