Chapter 1: Attack on Ft. Loxley (Soldier Saga)

Coal Valley

Our story begins on a fair morning at Coal Valley, a small military outpost in the mountainous Kingdom of Ragness. The surrounding region was cluttered with forests and scenic cliffs.  

While the mountains appear natural on the outside, rumors spread of something vile inside the rockface. As the name might imply, Coal Valley managed numerous mines. However, the villagers have noticed a shortage of minerals over the last 20 years. Perhaps the mountains had gone dry. Maybe a real sinister force was pulling the strings. After all, if you dig deep into the earth, you’re likely to awaken something.

Mostly, the rumors related to the elementals rising and acting strange… or stranger than usual at the very least. The humanoid creatures had forms after the four major elements: wind, fire, earth, and water. They’ve enjoyed freedom from slavery for the last 150 years, but struggled to assimilate into the civilized world. People feared them. While sentient, most thought their  culture savage and unsuitable for peaceable living among men and elves.

The Unlikely Allies

D&D party pixel image

It was about midday as three soldiers were lodged cozy in their bunks.

There was the short, yet stoutly, wood elf. He snuggled his soft blanket and massaged his companion’s fluffy tail. He loved naps.

Next, a ragged, scrawny boy stood upright in his bunk and stared blankly at nothing. He rolled back his eyes slowly and began to mutter what sounded like nonsense.

Finally, a waterborne sat nonchalant reading a comic book, meant as a historical allegory for young children.

The boy’s mumbo jumbo became irritating to the others.

“Hey, kid. Snap out it!” The wood elf shouted loudly. He was rather grumpy.

“Whaaa… wha… what happened?” The boy gasped struggling to catch his breath.

The elf laughed back, “You blanked out… again! Eh anyway, you want to get some lunch?”

The boy took a moment to relax. He remembered to count to ten and do his stretches to bring back his senses. Then, the two soldiers set off to the mess hall of the barrack. The waterborne laid back indifferent to them. He was quite absorbed in the colorful pages of his comic.

As the pair strolled lazily through the stone hallway, General Argus abruptly stopped them. He led the outpost forces and commanded the region’s military. The land had been relatively safe from danger from a long time. The wars ended and the troops grew accustomed to peace. Now the general had a red face of flustered anger.

“You two! I need to speak with you in my quarters at 4 PM sharp! This is urgent!”

Both soldiers politely accept the invitation and saluted. General Argus passed hurriedly by and grunted orders to other men. Actually, high ranking officers rarely had contact with privates. The two soldiers felt rather awed and fearfully revenant at the opportunity of formally meeting him.

As General Argus left their sight, without saying a word they chuckled knowingly to themselves like geese. They were amused at his thick accent, which came from the highland region of a far away island nation.   

“So… who are you anyway? I forget,” the child, who looked about 16, asked his bunkmate.

“Listen kid… I am someone you don’t want to mess with. I am a dangerous fella. Name’s Xilo, rogue extraordinaire!”

“Xilo? Like a xylophone? I’ve heard of those!” The boy smiled like a dummy.

The wood elf growled back with stern eyes, “What! You better watch your tongue with me kid! I will end you!”

“Haha okay if you say so Xilo. My name is Thunder Crash… So what’s the fluff ball around your neck? It looks funny.”

“Fluff ball? You uncultured swine! That’s my air spirit,” Xilo snickered, “Althea, my faithful scout.”

Thunder Crash awkwardly extended his hands in an attempt to pet it, but retracted them when the creature suddenly hissed. The boy had no schooling, but he had an uncanny instinct for survival. He knew the bird was not docile, despite emitting a warm glow with a fuzzy cloud covering the body.

The two new friends, if they could be called such, patiently waiting in a queue for a slab of mystery gelatin with speckled red spots in it. They took their seats on a bench and ate silently for some time. The slop on their plates required a lot of attention to swallow, almost like you needed more energy to consume it than the actual sustenance it gave.

Also, the army didn’t provide utensils. With the metal shortage, they could not afford the luxury of forks and knives. Most of the barbarian and warrior classes didn’t mind the change. Thunder Crash saw silverware as an odd odd formality. After all, he grew up in a desert with about fifteen other savage boys.  

Xilo grew tired of the boy staring at him. The elf worried he’d spin his eyes and murmur more ugly sounds.

“Hey kid… Thunder was it? What you doing here?” He asked.

“I am eating lunch!” the boy smiled wildly in return.

“No, you idiot. I mean – why did you join the forces? What’s business a kid like you got in the army?” Xilo was genuinely curious, though still harsh in his tone.

“Oh! Well… I am on a mission! I am trying to gather ingredients for a special potion. I already have the goblin toes. I just need pixie dust, vampire fangs, and the tears of an angel. Figure adventuring with the military is the best chance I have of fulfilling my dream!” Thunder Crash raised his voice and jumped out of his seat in excitement.

“Hmm interesting. I think we can accomplish that together. I happen to be an expert at finding very specific things. I have a knack for thieving,” Xilo cheered.

Thunder Crash was still standing as he became wide-eyed and said with anticipation, “I heard there’s some weird stuff going on in those mines. You think there are vampires there?”

“I mean yeah, probably. All kind of nasty stuff out here.”

“And what about you? How did you end up in the army?” Thunder Crash slowly counted to ten in his head, touched his toes, and sat back down on the dirty bench.

Xilo looked to left and to the right and back to the left again. It was nearing 3 PM now and the mess had nearly emptied.

“It’s a bit of secret… but alright I’ll tell you kid!”

He grabbed him by the shoulder and leaned in close to whisper in his ear three simple words: “I was kidnapped.”

Thunder Crash understood the meaning and gave an agreeable nod. He would keep the secret safe.

They both were finished their meals now and felt a little bored. Thunder Crash suggested they kill some time exploring some of the village.

They stumbled outside and found their way to the smithy. Xilo figured he could use some more more weapons or other gear.

Outside the forge sat a young lady. She was working by an anvil shaping some copper beams.

Xilo wasted no time getting to business as he approached and sputtered out, “Yo lady, you got any cool looking shoes?”

“Oh ah, I am Wingall… and you mean horseshoes or people shoes?” The woman replied quite startled.

“People shoes! I might be wood elf, but I ain’t no faun!” Xilo snickered.

He browsed some display wares as Thunder Crash chimed, “So… you come here often?”

“Well I ah.. I do work here.”

“I see… are you doing anything later tonight?”

“Yeah, I am definitely busy. You know, have to work the forge and all!”

Thunder Crash wasn’t terrible interested in the girl, but he did enjoy the sight of her vibrant auburn hair. He thought he might need practice for after he brewed the potion. At least it didn’t hurt to try.

Yet, her last comment stung his confidence. He didn’t have a sly remark to continue the flirt. The child required more experience in charisma to charm the woman.

Besides, he knew the enchanted bracer around his ankle limited his options. The military forbid him to dally and run off with girls. The magical restraints made sure of it.

“Anyway, well you heard any rumors or stuff? Like for quests.”

“Everyone knows about the volcano that erupted. Some say it’s the cause of that elemental crisis,” Wingall said on cue.

Thunder Crash lit with excitement, “Volcano! Where? You think there are vampires inside the volcano? I need vampire fangs!”

“Oh I don’t know about that, but I am sure those no good elementals are the cause of it all.”

Xilo couldn’t find anything useful. He circled back to the blacksmith and blurted out, “Snap! Look at the time kid. We gotta see ole’ Argus. Lady, you mind sharpening this knife of mine? I’ll pick it up later.”

He tossed the blade her way. She fumbled her hands in the air and nearly dropped it.

Assembling the Party

Xilo and Thunder Crash filed into the war room. They settled quietly in seats around a marble table.

General Argus stood firmly at the end in front of a large map pinned to the wall. His worn face was scrunched like a old rag.

Seated to the left stared a large tiefling covered in a green overcoat. He had a serious look of determination. His ornate longbow and quiver was spread across his back.

For several more minutes of awkward silence, everyone waited. The general reviewed some notes and gestured on the map to himself. Xilo and Thunder Crash became antsy in their seats, unsure if they were in trouble. The tiefling looked menacingly forward.

Suddenly, the door flung open and a small boy rode inside atop a slender leopard. He had a cheery face, bright beady eyes, and long flowing purple dreads.

“Hi everyone! My name’s Esran. I am 12! This is my friend Baba. What’s your names?”

General Argus breathed a sigh of relief. “Ahh, now we can get started. Guess you should all get to know each other.”

“I am Thunder Crash. I ah… grew up in desert and I am the chieftain of a tribe… Hey! Is that tiger tamed? I wouldn’t think it’s allowed in here.”

“Tiger! No, silly! Baba is a leopard. And what a coincidence! I also grew up in the desert. Say! What’s your name big fella?”

“I am Warren, ranger of the north,” the tiefling answered.

“Well then! Man of few words. That’s neat. That reminds me…”

“Would you like to join my tribe back in the desert?” Thunder Crash interrupted. “I think you’d make a fine addition.”

“Oh yeah, definitely! That sounds super fun!”

“Ah hmm… Xilo here, rogue extraordinaire ready for adventure.” He circled his hands over his head to signal applause or cheering. Esren just laughed hysterically. He awkwardly died down the giggles when no one else joined him.   

General Argus eagerly cleared his throat to begin the meeting. “Now that you’ve all been introduced, let me bring you up to speed. We have a problem south at Fort Loxley. You’re all we can spare, so I’ll need you to take care of it. A fire primee is on the loose. It has burned down the fort structure and surrounding forest. Multiple casualties have been reported in and around the fort. Your mission is to enter the ruins and eliminate the threat. Any questions?”

“Ah yeah! Dumb question, but what exactly is a primee?” Esran timidly asked.

General Argus fumbled through his notes and read directly from one page. “The prime elementals, or “primees” as they are call them, are pure energy beings with an ungodly drive for destruction.”

“And… what do we get out of this exactly?” Thunder Crash challenged as he tapped his fingers and raised his eyebrows.

“I’d say 10,000 gold is a fair reward,” he declared.

“How about no? This is the army sir. You’re reward is food and a warm bunk. You’ll accept this mission because I say so!” General Argus wasn’t amused at the teen’s demands.

“Yeah… I guess we’ll do it. We should probably ready up and prepare,” Xilo suggested.

“I’ll buy rations,” Warren said stoically.

Supplies, Supplies!

D&D general goods store

The gang rushed out the office and down the village streets. Craving for action, they searched for the best store to stock up on equipment.

Xilo found a rickety shack with a sign labelled “DARWIN’S DELIGHTS”. He walked casually inside with Warren and Esran.

“Yo, Darwin man… you got any shoes?”

“Mhmm, yes I have the finest collection of footwear in all of Ragness. I am training to become the world’s greatest cobbler. Soon all shall know me as Darwin, the Shoe Master!” He had a squirrely voice and a short stature.  

“Yeah whatever… so, I’ll take some boots and a map of region,” Xilo snarked back.

“I would also like a pair of boots. You have any my size? I am a 7½. By the way, my name is Esran. Nice to meet you Mr. Darwin! Good luck on your dream to become the Shoe Master.”

“Rations, please. Rations for everyone,” Warren stated.

The shopkeeper hopping away humming to retrieve the requested wares. The patrons exchanged their copper for the requested goods. Darwin giggled with delight as he slipped the coins one by one into a glass jar. He was saving for a trip to the annual Royal Cobbler Convention in the capital.

Just then, Thunder Crash sprinted inside the building as he wildly wailed his arms and bobbled his head. He stopped and stood very still. His eyes grew bright black and the form of the body glowed with a vibrant black aura.

“THE GODS WILL BE AWAKEN!  THE BLOOD SACRIFICE IS UPON US! THE END IS NIGH MORTALS! BOW BEFORE SUPREME LORD VARTISLA, RULER OF…”

Xilo, who had grown accustomed to such outbursts, slapped Thunder Crash on the back of the head with such a great force that he collapsed facedown on the floor. Visible stars circled the boy’s head and his eyes became large spinning black swirls. If the you, the reader, looked closely, you would notice a red imprint of Xilo’s hand burned into the scalp.

“Ah don’t worry he’s a nice guy when you get to know him. Anyway, we should probably get some horses and ride out before sundown. Let’s roll,” Xilo suggested.

He swung his friend over his shoulders and led the party to the stables on the south edge of the village.

The horse master warmly greeted them. The young man proudly groomed his stout thoroughbreds. He reeked of feces and blotches of dirty stains covered his ragged clothes. His hair resembled a bird’s nest with actual twigs and straw mixed in the puffy curls of blonde. Still, he had a happy soul and felt content caring for his precious horses.

“Mhhh you come for horses… yes great journey needs a great horse. My babies are pretty. Mhmm to part with my dears… 30 gold coins for each of you.”

“Oh that’s not a problem Mr. Horse Master, sir! Let’s see here. I’ve got 100 gold coins now, so if I give you 30, that will leave me with 70 left. Plenty for our journey. My name is Esran! Oh, and I won’t be needing a horse for myself. As you can see, I have Baba. But I am feeling generous, so I’ll buy one for my new friend Warren.”

“Thank you, human child,” the tiefling stated with no emotion.

“Hmm do I need to buy a pony? It’s a bit expense,” Xilo said to himself.

The filthy horse master pleaded, “I apologize for the unusual price. Times are tough now with the coal shortage in the mines. Mhhh… inflation means you pay more for my pretties.”

All of sudden, Thunder Crash woke up, wobbled his head upward and shouted, “Actually, I am a small guy and we’re kind friends now, so Xylophone and I can share a horse. That’s good stuff.”

Xilo resented his nickname, but he agreed to the arrangement and paid the 30 gold. The horse master saddle a beautiful white mustang with brown spots for the wood elf. Warren received a larger steed of pure black.

They packed their bags full of rations, set the bridles, and rode off into the sunset.

The First Encounter: Bandits!

The party trotted cautiously between two cliffs in a mountain valley. They headed south according to the crudely drawn map.

The air felt eerily quiet. The shadowy night concealed the path forward.

“I got bad feeling about this…” Xilo said. He lead the procession.

Warren readied his bow and said, a matter of factly, “Indeed. I perceive something is amiss.”

“Oh yes! Something bad is definitely out there. Let’s be careful everyone,” Esran whispered.

“Well it’s a good thing I have my trusty pal Althea. Go my birdy! Tell us if anything is out there,” Xilo commanded. He guided the creature with his hand and it flew far away into the night sky.

“You see, she and I have a connection, an strong emotional bond. I can feel and sense everything Althea does. This special relationship offers us the unique opportunity to have an advantage over all incoming danger… YOU’RE welcome!”

“So… what does she see now?” asked Thunder Crash in a doubtful tone.

“Oh, absolutely nothing. She’s confident there’s no danger or anything out of the ordinary.”

“But that’s strange because, like I said, I feel something out there,” Esran declared confidently. He whispered again, “…almost like someone is watching us right now!”

“Perhaps we should set up camp. It is late,” Warren suggested.

Xilo said gleefully, “Right! Since there’s nothing out there, we don’t have much to fear… just in case, I’ll keep watch.” Althea returned to his shoulder. He gave her a menacing glance of disappointment.   

They spent an hour or so propping their tents and ruffling their pillows. Esran and Thunder Crash lodge together. Baba slept outside. Warren rest alone.

It made sense for Xilo to stand watch. Elves rarely need sleep and they usually have dark vision. Still, he suspected nothing of the impending attack. Overconfidence would prove his folly.

Then, a rustle in the bushes atop the eastern cliffs startled him.

Esran runs out of his tent shouted, “Hey! Look out! Those bad things are here!”

The perception of a mere child had exposed the bandits lurking in their cover. They rose up and fired a volley of crossbolts at Xilo. One bolt missed and somehow looped back into the cliff rock, while three others wisped by the two companions. Several men jumped down with swords drawn. Among them, a ravaging mastiff growled and snapped its nasty teeth.  

Thunder Crash and Warren leap up and rush to join the fray.

The night was dark and the criminals couldn’t clearly see Xilo. He used the darkness to creep close to one enemy and punched him violently in the chest, knocking the man out cold. Then, he threw a dagger across the air. It fatally landed between the eyes of another foe.

Esran attempted to draw his short sword, but got scared and couldn’t land a blow. Baba, his loyal protector, missed with her claws against the nearest bandit.

Warren launched a missile from his longbow. It missed the mark.

Thunder Crash, tapping into the evil spirit of his deity, summons a horrific undead illusion. While he intended to frighten off the crossbowmen still posed on the cliff, they chuckled, “Ha! Everyone knows ghosts aren’t real.”

Stinging bolts continued to zoom across the valley. The party anxiously ducked and weaved. Esran began to cry.

Then, Xilo rubbed his hands together and spoke some fanciful elvish words. Bright white light beamed out from his palms. He directed the rays into a cone of blinding flashes. The bandit staggered disoriented. They tripped and stumbled about the ground with their eyes closed tight.

Thunder Crash swung to stab one of the affected bandits, but he missed pathetically as would be expected.

The enemies were just a clumsy, though understandably so because the magical light. The dog missed a bite attack against little Esran. The rest of the bandits wobbled and wildly swung their blades. One of them hit Baba and she whimpered away bleeding.

But suddenly, a monstrous giant of a man leaped down from the cliffs. He stood seven feet tall. His muscles bulged and ripped his leather armor. Scars lined his face and a thin Mohawk style hair topped his enormous head.

He heaved heavy and gripped tight a greatsword in both hands. In one seamless action, he lifted the weapon high to his right and swiped wide across the valley.

Thunder Crash screamed in agony, but held his ground. Esran cried louder and ran back to snuggle Baba. The attack had sliced through their skin evenly across and blood gushed out the wounds.

Xilo brushed off the pain, applied pressure to the gapping cut, and stood before the giant. He was like feeble David opposing mighty Goliath.

The angry colossus laughed deeply and prepared for yet another strike.

Just as the sword came crashing down over the man’s shoulders, Xilo whispered some ancient elven magic in his clenched fist. Then, he extended his palm.

A blast of fire shot out his fingertips and burned the bandit chief to a crisp. After five seconds of the inferno blasting forth, nothing but ashes and charred flesh remained of the assailants before them.

Warren launched an arrow and killed the last bandit atop the cliff as he attempted to run. The party looked back in amazement, almost entirely forgetting him.

Xilo limped over the the carcass of the mastiff. He grabbed a chunk of the cooked dog flesh and proclaimed, “Dinner’s on me!” Then, he munched heartily on the meat.

The group applied medicine and bandages as needed for their injuries. Reluctantly, they ate the mut mixed in a stew of fruit from their rations.

It was now far past midnight. Their eyes were heavy with sleep and mind unsettled by the surprise attack. They slept soundly back in their tents… except for Xilo. He didn’t need sleep, and he had a mission.

As the other rested, he secretly tied to a tree the first bandit he had knocked unconscious.  

“So, punk! We can do this the easy way or the hard way. What’ll it be?” Xilo threatened in a bitter tone.

“I’ll tell you anything, just let me go! I didn’t mean any trouble, honest.”

“Hm alrighty then. Where did you come from? Who sent you?”

“We fled Fort Loxley this week. It’s destroyed. We just attacked for the money. Everything we own is gone. We wanted a fresh start, so we took to thieving.” The man was desperate.

“Why should I believe your lies? You’re just a nobody. Scum! I ought to slit your throat, right now…” Xilo pressed his dagger against the neck. The body shivered uncontrollably. Sweat beaded out the pores.

“Please, please! No! I am telling the truth. It was the primee! The primee burned every…”

Xilo interrupted, “Oh a primee! I’ve heard of this… tell me more!” He rolled the dagger tight against the skin and drops of blood oozed out.

“Yes… not like… other primees. It… ahh… had purple flames… and dark charcoal skin,” the man struggled to speak.

Xilo laughed and gave an evil smile. He released the pressure of his blade and stepped away from his prisoner.

“Will you let me go? Please, I told you all I know!”

“Hmm nah!”

Xilo picked up a large rock and smashed on the poor man’s head, knocking him out yet again, still tied firmly to the tree.

On the Road Again

D&D burned forest

The following morning, the party arose bright and early, mounted their horses, and tread slowly along the narrow path. They were drowsy from their restless night. Their wounds still stung. Pressing forward was their only option.

After several hours of travel, the path suddenly became wider and dense with oaks charred in ashes. Smoke rose from the singed bark. Life was absent from the forest.

Baba noticed the ashes first and roared to warn them. The party halted. They trembled in fear.

“While our surroundings appear ominous, I sense nothing of danger… and I am one with the trees,” Warren declared confidently.

Esran, who had an intuitive connection with his feline companion, protested, “Well, no offense Mr. Ranger sir, but Baba knows there’s at least four elementals inside the nearby fort. We should proceed with caution.”

“Elementals, huh? How do we kill those?” Xilo asked smiling. He took out his daggers and began sharpening them with delight.

Esran made an exaggerated frown face, squinched his eyebrows, and flustered out, “Umm… I think violence should be the very last resort! How do we even know they are bad? They could just be misunderstood. I bet we can talk nicely and maybe become friends! And, from what I understand, these elementals are from the deserts, just like Thunder Crash and me. So… since we can relate, why don’t we head inside alone and you guys hide outside… just in case.”

“I’ve never met an elemental, but if they like the desert maybe it would make a good ice breaker? It’s worth a try,” Thunder Crash said hesitantly.

The others gave doubtful glances and shrug their shoulders. They all leashed their steeds on the far end of the woods and walked cautiously on foot.

Xilo furiously sharpened his knives like a mad man as he walked, slowing down the party. He sent Althea away for her safety.  

They approached a large gate to the castle walls. The fortifications had black stains and crumbling holes like a stretched fabric. The iron bars of the portcullis had all but melted away into nothing. An eerie glow flashed from inside the threshold.

“I have a differing opinion from the small child. As you may know, I am a trifling. Thus, I am resistant to fire. I should take the lead instead of Thunder Crash,” Warren suggested with an assertive tone.

Thunder Crash felt somewhat relieved and said comically, “Ha! Fine, I’ll just summon my demon god to save the day!”

Then he sat cross-legged in the charcoal dirt, rolled his head back in a rhythmic pattern, and became to chant some cryptic words of an ancient tome he memorized from the unholy shrine of Vartisla.

Xilo continued to sharpen his tools of murder with utter glee. Baba perched nearby him.

Esran squeezed through the broken gate with Warren close behind him.

“Hello! Is anyone here? If someone is here, please make yourself known. We mean you no harm. My name is Esran. It’s nice to meet you!” He called out projecting with his hands clasps to his mouth.

The burning flashes walked closer. The fire elemental was not happy.

The Second Encounter: The Fire Elemental

D&D fire elemental

Both Esran and Warren tried various greetings and salutations to interaction with the creature. It did no respond, nor did it change its confused expression.

Instead, the fiery humanoid swung its arms and shoved Warren against the wall.

Esran turned pale in a nervous fit.

Trying his best amid circumstances to maintain optimism, the boy spoke softly, “Hey Mr. Fire Elemental, let’s talk about your behavior. What’s got you so angry that you need to act this way?”

Of course, the elemental did not understand proper speech. They spoke a gruttal dialect of the old primordial. Esran had an innocent spirit, but lacked common sense.     

Warren had no space to use his longbow in the dark and cramped room. The flames continued to pummel him. He ducked and weaved to dodge with little success. He missed a jab with a short sword and dashed away from the fight. The elemental disengaged to block the gatehouse entrance. The two soldiers had no escape.

Esran took some torches out of his coat and imitated a made up fire dance, hoping to coax their opponent. The creature just tilted its head perplexed.  

Suddenly, Warren thought he had a brilliant idea and ran into the next room. He laid out a hunter’s trap on the floor. However, the elemential never followed him and now focused its attention on little Esran. The child slowly ate some berries to calm his nerves.

“Do you want to share a snack? They’re fresh…”

The elemental creeped closer to the boy.

Intense heat blazed against Esran’s face like a hot oven. He struggled to smile with his outstretched hand. The fruit lit ablaze in his palm.  

Then, bursting out of the shadows, Xilo rolled up to elemental and plunges a poison blade into its molten form. The creature reeled away in shock, though the poison and stab itself had little effect on it.

Just moments later, Xilo again shanked the elemental through the chest.

Esran screamed in panic, “Baba come quick!”

He then tried to dance the traditional waltz of his people.

“Es! Stop being friends with everyone,” Xilo rebuked.

The elemental swung uncontrollably at the boy and burned his chest. He wailed in pain as the fire seared through the skin, like a hot iron pressing to the muscle.

Xilo pulled out a flintlock pistol hidden in his waist belt and aimed it squarely at the attacker. The fiery fiend know the weapon and attempted to grabbed hold of Esran in reaction. Thankfully, the boy dashed away to evade, screaming all the while.  

BANG! The shot rang out and landed perfectly between the bright orange eyes.

The creature wobbled and could barely stand. The injury on the head grew into white cracks that spread like spider webs over the magma flesh.

Then, Xilo had to reload the crude firearm, a task requiring meticulous attention so as not to jam or otherwise damage the device. Remember: the room was dark. The only light source was the elemental itself. Xilo cup a handful of black powder out of his satchel and poured it carefully into gun. Then, he reached into another bag and tried to pull out a bullet of lead, but, in his haste to murder, he spilled all the beads over the floor.

The ripple of metal bouncing across the stone floor irritated the elemental more than ever. Like a drunken sailor, it angrily jerked towards the elf.

Xilo jumped to collect the shot.

Hot flames erupted forth from the elemental like a hellish geyser. The bullets burned red over the floor. Despite the intense heat, Xilo reached his hand for the closest one.

The elemental, now covered in white veins, clutch his leather armor and yanked him off his feet. Then, it roared defiantly as an enraged lion.        

“THE END IS NIGH MORTALS! PREPARE FOR THE DOOM THAT IS VARTISLA. THE END IS…”

Thunder Crash, with eyes of pure black, crashed over the hot mess on the floor and badly injured his head. The immortal spirit within him faded as he suddenly lost consciousness.

The distraction provided enough time for Xilo to wiggle away from its grip, load the shot, and fire the gun. The lava chunks flickered across the air as the head exploded and the elemental’s body collapsed. The flames slowly died.

Leadership

Warren, seeing the light source had faded, stepped out of other room. He slapped Thunder Crash awake again.

“Oh ah… thanks! I got kinda bored outside. I forgot that summoning the full corporeal form of demon takes like eight hours for the ritual. You know, thought I should do something in the meanwhile. Guess I was gone too far already…”

“Nah don’t sweat it kid. You came at the just right time, so you proved useful after all. How’s the other kid doing? Es?” Xilo called out to him with no answer.

“He needs rest, as we all do. I believe we have learned an important lesson today. Sometimes, violence is the answer,” said Warren still shaking from the encounter. He carried Esran outside back to their camp. They had plenty of berries left over to recover and rejuvenate their strength.

Meanwhile, they noticed a bluish ethereal portal hovering above where Thunder Crash had previously sat chanting. A baby snake head peer through and hissed at the party as they laughed and joked around it. After another fourteen hours, it faded away into nothing.

Just before bed, Xilo announced, “I think I should be leader! All in favor say aye!”

And thus, by unanimous consent, Xilo assumed the role of leader.

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About the Author: Jonathan Crow

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