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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:11:14 
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Chapter 15: Paxotassia

Two days later, Galina rejoined the other four.
“Aeolus has given us the word to continue on to the Ionized Ionian Islands,” said Galina. “It will be another two days before Erebus emerges for another attack, but by going there now, we’ll be in striking range.”
“Where to?” asked Rouvin.
“To Paxotassia,” answered Galina.
At the sound of this, Valerius’ eyes lit up with cheer. It was many days since he had returned to his home island.
“I would be honored to show you around there,” said Valerius.
Governor Apalivrochi approached, saying “I shall let you use one of our special motorboats. It is one of the newest makes, with a special motor that has covers so it would not injure the manatees and other marine life.”
“Thank you very much, Governor Apalivrochi,” said Galina.
Macario and his parents led them to the craft, which was docked on the eastern side of the island.
Some elf sailors helped them aboard and brought the luggage into the safe cargo hold.
“Safe journeys, heroes!” cheered Macario as the ship began to shove off.
The elf sailors sang wonderful sea shanties as the motorboat went off… and within fifteen minutes, the ship docked onto the harbor of Paxotassia Town.

Paxotassia Town was a moderately small town, but was much larger than its early years as a quaint fishing village.
In the center of the town was the shrine of Pontus and Thalassa, the sea gods and the patron deities of the town. The shrine also had a lovely fountain—albeit freshwater, of course—in its front courtyard.
And it was not long until a woman familiar to Valerius approached the five.
The woman was pale peach in complexion, with crimson hair and pale green eyes. She wore a gown that was black with pink highlights in some areas.
“Valerius, my son!” said the woman. Indeed, it was Valerius’ mother, Magaera Magnitis.
“Mother!” Valerius said, embracing her for the first time in many days.
After releasing her grip, Magaera looked and said, “These must be your friends, are they not?”
“They are indeed,” answered Valerius. “Mother, these are my companions—Nauplius Sideras, Rouvin Koukounari, Zanthe Sfendami, and Galina Thyella.”
Each of the companions nodded as they were called by name.
“I am pleased to meet you,” said Magaera. “My name is Magaera Magnitis, the mother of this fine man.”
“We are honored to meet you,” said Zanthe.

Magaera then sighed, “If only we could’ve met in more peaceful times. I too know of that fiend Erebus Tonadi, and how he is causing trouble in our empire.”
“The Wind God Aeolus,” explained Galina, “told us that Erebus will resurface in another two days, but at least by being here, we will be in striking distance.”
“Good,” said Magaera. “It is always best to try to get the drop of an enemy if at all possible. But until then, why not come explore our fair town while you are here?”
“All you had to do was give the invitation!” chuckled Nauplius.

The two explored the town.
After having a brief drink from the fountain of Pontus and Thalassa, the two followed Valerius to the town cemetery to the north. It was there that they visited the grave of Valerius’ late father, Fedor Magnitis. Fedor Magnitis was one of the empire’s bravest heroes back in the day. During one of his adventures, he rescued Magaera from a mad cult of Hecate. They married in the town of Emerald Kavala, and decided to settle in Paxotassia, where Valerius was born. But it would be a magical malady that would end the life of Fedor, the result of a spell cast on the Hecate cult leader before the hero slew her. Nevertheless, because of his brave acts, he was given access to the Elysian Fields in Hades.
“Your father was quite a great hero in the day, eh?” said Nauplius.
“Indeed he was,” replied Valerius. “Thank you for your kind words.”
After the visit to the grave, the five followed Magaera to some other key areas of the town, before heading to the Valerius villa within the east end of town.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” said Magaera. “There’s plenty of room.”
“Thank you, Mother,” said Valerius.
“Yes, thank you, Mistress Magnitis,” replied Rouvin.
“Please, call me Magaera,” replied Magaera. “The formality isn’t necessary. Since you are friends of my son, let’s have it on friendly terms.”
Valerius was grateful for his mother’s hospitality, but he also had a bit of unrest in him—he was concerned for Delphinia’s life, and did not like feeling helpless. The two day wait was almost torturous for him.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:12:02 
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Chapter 16: Tyranny in Keferrousa

Two days after the party had arrived in Paxotassia, a wind pixie sent by Aeolus flitted about the town. The pixie had bright white skin, pink hair, and glowing golden eyes. She wore a pale blue stola with slits for her wings, and was carrying a postal messenger bag over her shoulder which rested near her opposite side hip.
The pixie soon arrived at the Magnitis house. She panted and found Magaera.
“Excuse me,” said the pixie, having finally caught her breath. “Is Valerius home?”
Magaera said, “Why yes, let me take you to him.”
The pixie rested on Magaera’s shoulder, and they soon arrive in the dining hall. The five had just finished breakfast and were currently sipping on some coffee.
“Son,” said Magaera. “A messenger pixie just came here.”
The pixie flitted down to the middle of the table. She reached for her messenger bag and pulled out a hologram. A visage of Aeolus, the King of Winds, emerged.
“Valerius,” said Aeolus. “Erebus was last seen on the island of Keferrousa. Even if he has long since left by now, there are clues to where he traveled next there, as well as the people there need your help.”
The vision of Aeolus soon vanished.
“Thank you, friend,” Valerius said to the pixie.
The pixie curtsied politely and then, after receiving a gold drachma coin from Magaera, flew away.
“Son,” said Magaera, “please be careful. The ruler of Keferrousa has had a history of being, to put it mildly, underhanded. How he stayed in power is anyone’s guess. But in the past few weeks, he’s become… well… violent.”
“No doubt Erebus had something to do with it!” said Valerius. “It will be all right, Mother.”
The party then gave their thanks and farewell to Magaera and left the house. After the party left, Magaera went to her bedroom and prayed to Tyche, goddess of good fortune, for Valerius’ success in his journey.

The group soon got on a boat that was heading for Keferrousa. The trip to Keferrousa Port only took fifteen minutes, since the craft was also a fast boat. Now Keferrousa Port was only slightly larger than Paxotassia Town. As the port part in its name implied, it was an important center for trade and commerce.
And it would have more commerce if it weren’t for the island ruler’s ridiculous embargoes and tariffs that made the people practically pay through the nose.
No sooner did the five get off the boat than did some soldier surround them. These soldiers were like the ancient Spartan warriors, except their right arms were mechanical. Some of them had flamethrower weapons, others had rifle arms, and some even had chaingun arms. Their shields had on them the capital Greek letter Kappa (same as our capital K), and between the right extensions of the letter were the letters “Fe”, the symbol for iron.
“Our master wishes to have a word with you five,” said one of the soldiers.
The five did not want to fight, for even though they would have the ability to survive, fighting in the town would’ve run the risk of injuring innocent bystanders.

They soon arrived in Keferrousa Stronghold, a large stronghold on the north end of the island. Keferrousa Stronghold was built like a mix between a Greek fortress, a Roman fortress, and a medieval Crusader castle as it would appear in Israel back in the Crusades.
The five were forced to kneel before the Tyrant of Ferrousa, a bloated pig of a human named Lycomedes Nkritsali. Lycomedes was bald, had brown eyes, and his large dark gray pants and green-gray boots were barely able to contain his extremely obese form.
“Master Nkritsali,” said the soldier who addressed the five earlier. “I have brought forth the five you asked us to bring.”
Lycomedes laughed, and his belly seemed to jiggle as he did.
“Well, well, well,” said Lycomedes, “What a pleasure it is to meet you! You must be Valerius Magnitis and company, am I right?”
“Indeed, sir,” said Valerius. “I must be blunt that your welcoming committee leaves much to be desired.”
“Ha, ha, ho, ho, ho,” laughed Lycomedes, again jiggling like gelatin. “You humor me! Heh, heh, Erebus told me you’ve been giving him quite the run around. Well, I’m afraid you’ve been getting too close for his comfort. So, he needs me to get you out of his way for a while. Besides, he’s put a lovely bounty on your head and the heads of your friends.” His eyes narrowed and he gave a sadistic smile, and he continued, “A bounty I intend to collect!”
Lycomedes then pointed to his soldiers and said, “Take these five to the dungeon. I shall prepare an email to Erebus so he can tell me what to do with them next!”
The soldiers saluted their liege and hauled the five off.

The dungeons of Keferrousa Stronghold had new fluorescent lights and some average security alarms and traps, but otherwise it remained unchanged as it did in classical times. The dungeon hallways were cave-like and the bars of strong metal.
At least, they were strong when they were first forged. The bars and the cement holding them grew old. Most prisoners didn’t dare to hit them for fear of getting the guards’ attention.
But then again, they did not take Valerius and his companions into account.
Zanthe didn’t have her staff with her, but she didn’t need it to cast some simple spells—the staff was only needed for more powerful ones. With one simple spell, she was able to unlock her cell once the guards were elsewhere. As quickly as she could, the elf nature magician freed her friends and got their equipment back.
“Thanks very much, Zanthe,” said Valerius. “I think it’s time the island got a new ruler, wouldn’t you say?”
“True,” said Rouvin. “Once we bust out of this joint, our first step is to find a communication place to notify the people—this will definitely discredit Nkritsali, and perhaps even trigger a revolution! Then we can really teach him a lesson!”
“Agreed,” said Galina. “I recall seeing one on the way down to the dungeons.”
“Lead the way,” said Nauplius.
Hiding whenever they heard guards coming, the party soon got out of the dungeons.
The five got out, and it was about nighttime when they escaped. They walked across the parapets, being careful not to attract attention.

Back in the dungeon, one of the guards passed by the cells the five were originally in—as they were the only five incarcerated at the time.
“Oh, no!” said the soldier. “Master Nkritsali will have my head if they’ve gotten far!”
The soldier soon ran to his barracks and activated the alarm!
The five heard it as well.
“Looks like we’ve been found out!” said Nauplius.
“The guards will surely shoot first and ask questions later!” said Galina.
“I guess we’ll have to fight our way to the communication post!” said Valerius.
The party got their weapons ready.
Indeed, the party had to fight the soldiers that were in the stronghold. The flamethrower ones were outdoors, away from anything flammable so as not to cause a fire hazard within the fortress itself.

After Nauplius sent some guards flying with his hammer, he rejoined the others.
“Friends!” said Galina. “I found the communication post!”
“Send out an announcement to the public!” said Valerius. “We’ll buy you some time!”
At once, Valerius and the rest fought off any guards that were approaching.
Inside the post, Galina typed the following:

“Attention, people of Keferrousa.

“Let it be known that Nkritsali is a traitor. He has made a deal with the Warlock, Erebus Tonadi, which will therefore put the rest of Keferrousa in jeopardy.

“Nkritsali is unfit to rule the island any further!”

Galina then pressed the “Send” button online, which sent the message to the electronic billboards and other news posting areas in the port city.
As predicted, the people soon heard the news and took up arms to revolt.
“Attention, soldiers!” said Nkritsali’s voice on the intercom radios. “The people of Keferrousa are declaring revolt and surrounding the stronghold. Counter immediately! I repeat, counter the revolt immediately!”
Most soldiers ran out to fight the resisting townspeople.
Now only a few soldiers remained within the stronghold that Valerius and friends needed to fight.

The stone halls of the stronghold echoed with the running footsteps of the five heroes as they made their way back to the throne room.
The fat traitor Nkritsali was there, with his battle axe ready.
“I should have known you caused this,” growled Nkritsali. “I may be quite round, but I am a fighter in my own right. I won’t need to hire an executioner, since I will take off your heads myself!”
“When we’re done with you, Nkritsali,” said Rouvin, “you’ll be roasting on a spit!”
Nkritsali was enraged to be compared to a pig, and ran toward them. The five scrambled to avoid the downward swing of his axe.
“Come over here, porkster!” mocked Valerius.
Nkritsali roared in anger as he ripped the axe from the floor. But as he approached, Rouvin shot a few arrows into his obese physique.
“Dang!” said Rouvin. “This guy isn’t giving up that easy! I bet the fat must’ve blocked the arrows’ path to his vital organs!”
“SHUT UP, YOU TRIPES!” yelled Nkritsali as he swung his axe wildly again.
In his rage, he made his axe get stuck into part of the throne room wall.
As he struggled to get his axe out of the wall, Nkritsali didn’t notice Valerius approaching.
The fat tyrant got his weapon loose, but it was too late to use it.
Valerius smiled and said, “Game, set, and match… fatso!”
After saying that, he made one quick swipe across the tyrant’s belly, disemboweling him and making other bodily substances flow out as well.
Nkritsali fell over into the pool of his own gore, dead.
One of the soldiers saw his leader dead.
Horrified, he ran out, saying “It’s all over! Master Lycomedes Nkritsali is dead!”
As soon as the news reached the battlefield, the fighting stopped. The soldiers who were loyal to Nkritsali surrendered. The people of the island cheered. At last they were freed from the tyrant.
Some of the surviving soldiers, willing to make any amends necessary, provided guest rooms within the fortress—a far cry from the dungeon cells they were earlier in.

The next day, Rouvin and Nauplius gathered together with some people with Keferrousa Port to aid in preparing elections for a new ruler.
“Thank you again for setting us free,” said one townsperson.
Another townsperson said, “We saw someone fitting the description of Erebus going toward Ingot-Menitsa Island.”
“That is where we shall go next,” said Valerius.
Once the new elections were underway, the party of five soon got on the ship and prepared to sail off for Ingot-Menitsa. The people of the island cheered and gave their farewells as they set off for their next adventure.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:12:52 
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Chapter 17: The Ingot-Menitsa Festival

It was about an hour when the five made it to the island of Ingot-Menitsa.
Ingot-Menitsa City, which was in the middle of the island, was quite large, yet was still a good place to live.
The city’s major claim to fame was its special way of making light yet very strong steel. The combination of science and magic made the steel extremely lightweight, yet can take a lot of tonnage before beginning to fail. And it was from this steel that many of its own skyscrapers were built.
Valerius and his crew soon entered the city itself. But soon, the governor of Ingot-Menitsa emerged to greet them, having heard of their victory over the tyrant in Keferrousa.
The governor was a human with peach skin, almost tan. He had brown hair and dark gray eyes. He wore a light gray leisure suit, but was still quite in fashion. His name was Markos Ingotoni.
“Welcome, heroes!” said Governor Ingotoni. “I have heard of your victory in liberating Keferrousa Island! I am Governor Markos Ingotoni!”
“Thank you for your warm welcome,” said Valerius.
“It is very well-timed, your arrival,” said Governor Ingotoni. “For tonight is the Ingot-Menitsa Festival!”
“Wow!” said Nauplius. “I hear your festivals are quite the lively ones!”
“What good festival isn’t?” the governor chuckled.

The five stayed at the governor’s penthouse, which was just below the roof of the tallest tower—the topmost portion contained a miniature Parthenon.
The governor then sat down on a part of the couch, and the five took some places around him.
“I have heard word of that troublemaker Erebus looking for the Forbidden Ritual components,” said the governor.
“Yes, Governor Ingotoni,” answered Galina. “He is trying to make himself a god in his own twisted right.”
“It would be terrible if he succeeded in that,” the governor replied. “Ah, but you’ve just gotten here, and already I am thinking troubling thoughts. Let us just get ready for the festival to come!”

The sun had set, and lanterns carried by various fairies soon were lifted up to the highest points.
Parade floats and people in silly costumes soon went down the street. After an hour-long parade, the five decided to show some skills.
Valerius showed some of his skills with a prop sword, and the people applauded.
Nauplius brought out some large photographs of things he and his Dwarf fellows forged from his town.
Rouvin and Zanthe danced about, with another elf from Emerald Kavala, who had been visiting the island at the time, playing his panpipes.
And Galina showed off some of her air magic, using various flower petals and confetti in her small, safe whirlwinds.
With each showing, the audience applauded.
However, no one noticed an intruder approaching some of the warehouses.

In a warehouse with some robots, Erebus transported in, with Delphinia with him. He held her hand tight to ensure against escape.
“Where are we now, Erebus?” asked Delphinia.
Erebus chuckled, “We are inside one of the robot warehouses.” After a brief moment, he asked his captive, “Do you hear the cheers and sounds outside?”
Delphinia replied, “Yes, it is the Ingot-Menitsa Festival.”
“It sounds cheery, does it not?” Erebus said with obvious sarcasm. “But way too boring for my tastes. That’s why I wanted to come here.”
Delphinia’s eyes widened. She knew what he had planned.
“No!” cried Delphinia. “You wouldn’t!”
“Oh, I would and will!” laughed Erebus. “Let’s just say the festival is going to get even more exciting!”
Erebus then waved his staff, the orb glowing evilly again, and laughed as he sent out spheres of magic into the robots within that large room. The robots’ eyes, or what one could consider eyes, lit up as the metallic creatures stirred to life.
One such mechanoid blasted open the front garage door and the robots soon marched out.
As they metallic monstrosities marched forth, Erebus again warped away with Delphinia.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:13:35 
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Chapter 18: The Mad Robots

The parade continued on, until it reached the town center square.
“Now,” said Governor Ingotoni, “we shall launch the fireworks!”
But another explosion went off, and it wasn’t the “fireworks” that the governor intended.
The mechanoids soon emerged from the warehouse, with weapons—both actual and makeshift—in their hands.
“What in blazes is going on?!” Ingotoni asked in shock.
“It must be Erebus’ doing!” said Valerius.

Galina soon prepared her staff.
“Lead me to the highest point in the city,” she said to the governor. “From there, I should be able to cast a low level electrical spell that should turn them off!”
“Follow me!” said the governor.
“We’ll stall for time!” said Valerius.
Valerius then got out his plasma blade. Nauplius, Rouvin, and Zanthe got out their respective weapons as well. While they didn’t like the idea of damaging robots the city needed, they knew they had to fight them to protect the people.
Some of the welding robots activated their blowtorches and started shooting flames about. Rouvin shot a few arrows, severing the tubes connecting the fuel to the ignition and rendering their tools useless.
A few drill robots were starting to run at them, with their drills spinning and intending to skewer the people. Nauplius hammered the streets to open a pit to the sewers and made them fall in.

While the chaos was continuing on outside, Galina followed Governor Ingotoni into the tower of the miniature Parthenon.
“Good thing the elevator works!” the governor said in relief.
The two entered into the elevator and rode it up.
“What is going on with the carnage?” the governor asked Galina.
“The fiend Erebus,” explained Galina, “he is gathering up items to perform the Forbidden Ritual!”
“The Forbidden Ritual?!” repeated Governor Ingotoni in disbelief. “The ritual that could make a man into a god without the official gods’ consent?!”
“The same,” sighed Galina. “It also ties in to why he kidnapped Delphinia, the healer of Olympalantis.”
“That is dire indeed,” said Ingotoni. “Obviously, this robot chaos is something to stall for time.”
“He won’t get away with misusing your city’s robots,” replied Galina. “That I promise you!”

Valerius had just taken down a robot that looked like it was about to pick up a small car to throw at innocent bystanders.
“Good think I took it out just in time!” he said, wiping some sweat from his brow. “How are the rest of you?”
“My arrows are hitting them quite well, strangely enough,” answered Rouvin.
“To me, they’re just nails that need hammering in!” joked Nauplius.
Zanthe finished casting some ground-morphing spells to restrain a few.
“Whoever said nature can’t trump technology never asked me!” cheered Zanthe.
“I just hope Galina can reach the high point in time,” said Valerius.

The elevator soon made it to the roof of the tallest building.
An image of Apollo soon appeared. Galina and Ingotoni knelt before him.
“Ho, there!” said Apollo. “My fellow gods see your city is having a little trouble.”
“Yes, great Apollo,” answered Ingotoni. “The fiend Erebus has caused our robots to go crazy!”
“Sounds to me like you need our special lightning rod!” chuckled Apollo. “Here, let’s get things set up!”
With that, the god put his two fingers into his mouth and whistled. A chariot with silvery winged horses soon rode down.
“Come on in!” said Apollo, motioning to the chariot.
Galina did so, and the door to the chariot closed. Apollo then walked up to the horses.
“Take this woman to the lightning rod platform,” he said.
The horses nodded and flew the chariot up. Strangely enough, it was a relatively comfortable ride, despite the circumstances.

The horses and the vehicle soon landed on the platform surrounding the large lightning rod. Normally this platform was used during calm days to do cleaning on the rod. And it could also be adjusted to reach particular heights.
But now, it would be used by Galina for a specific spell.
Touching the lightning rod with her own magic staff, Galina chanted in koine Greek to cast a low-level Thunder Spell.
Electricity soon flowed out from the highest point, and small sparkling electrical balls fell down, striking the robots.
The robots soon became still as statues.
Calm had returned to Ingot-Menitsa City.
The people rejoiced that the heroes had saved them.
The chariot soon escorted Galina and the governor back to the others.
“Thank you, heroes,” said the governor. “Especially Galina in this case!”
“We had to, governor,” replied Zanthe.
The governor soon approached Valerius.
“Galina told me of Erebus’ plot, friend,” he sighed. “And I too fear the worst for all the empire.”
“Where could he have gone?” asked Valerius.
“Apollo’s messengers are now looking into it,” answered the governor. “For now, it is time for a bit of respite.”
Valerius still feared for Delphinia, but they did need time to rest, as well as find out where Erebus was next.
The five heroes soon traveled to the governor’s penthouse again, and slept for the night.
While the party rested, one of Apollo’s servants soon saw where Erebus had gone next—on the island of Magnisi.
And he was aghast at what he had done. The warlock had cast a spell on the island’s famous Magnetic Ore Mine. Without the mine, the island would head into financial hardships.
“I must return to the mini-Parthenon!” the messenger said, and he flew off back to Ingot-Menitsa, as fast as his wings could flap!

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:14:09 
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Chapter 19: The Glowing Lodestone

Day soon dawned, and after the party had a light breakfast, they soon got a visit from the messenger of Apollo.
“Friends,” said the messenger. “I have found where Erebus is!”
“Where?” asked Rouvin and Zanthe.
“On the island of Magnisi,” answered the messenger. “The place is known for its magnetic ore. But he’s cast a spell on the ore mine to cause trouble.”
“If I remember right,” said Valerius, “one of the items for the Forbidden Ritual is a Glowing Lodestone, and that’d be as good a location as any to find one!”
His attention returned to the messenger, and he said, “Thank you for telling us. We shall go there as soon as possible.”
Valerius then turned to the governor, and added, “And thank you, Governor Ingotoni, for your hospitality!”
“It is I and my people who should thank you,” replied the governor. “I shall prepare a fast boat to get you to Magnisi Island as soon as possible!”
Some officers of the governor escorted the party to the fast boat, which was at the docks, and it soon set sail to Magnisi Island.

Aside from the occasional forests and small mountains, Magnisi was mainly an island of open fields. The two main points of interest were Magnisi City and the Magnetic Ore Mine.
The city was about the same size as Ingot-Menitsa City. So much so, that it was almost a sister city. It was also a center of science and technology, and in the heart of the city was a tower with a temple of Athena at the top.
However, when trouble arose at the Magnetic Ore Mine, business soon slowed to a crawl, and the economy began to suffer because of it. The price of products and services that required magnetic material doubled.
Soon, a depression set in.
Valerius and his party soon arrived, and saw the effects of the depression.
Very few business remained opened and with their prices, but otherwise, all the people felt the effects.
“That Erebus!” Nauplius growled. “He just had to ruin things for everyone!”
“Indeed he has,” said a voice of a person approaching.

The man approaching was a half human, half elf government leader. He had peach-tan skin, dark brown hair that was almost black, cobalt blue eyes, and wore a fancy suit in various tones of gray and light blue.
“Welcome, travelers,” said the man, in a somewhat saddened voice. “I am Governor Vanko Polosis. I am sorry you had to come to our city in a time of crisis.”
“It is all right,” replied Valerius. “It is Erebus’ fault this crisis has come upon us. But we shall be the ones who shall resolve your crisis.”
“Really?” Governor Polosis said, his voice regaining some cheer.
“Yes,” replied Rouvin. “Just lead us to your Magnetic Ore Mine, and we’ll remove the curse Erebus put over it!”
The governor admired the party’s courage. He then looked behind him and motioned with his hands.
Some elf officers emerged. They were dressed in modern Greek defense force attire, similar to America’s SWAT team, but in the Grecian style.
“Take these five to the mine,” said the governor. “They will help our island regain its prosperity!”
The soldiers nodded and soon they all went to the mine.

The entrance to the Magnetic Ore Mine was similar to other cave-like mine entrances, with recently-replaced timbers framing the entrance. Except there were some pieces of iron and steel sticking to the lodestones. It is because of this that either metals other than the metals that are attracted to magnets, or any metals coated with special magic, are permitted near them. Valerius had his plasma saber, and Nauplius his hammer, so they definitely would not be affected. Rouvin’s arrows were not affected, since very rarely, if ever, were they headed with any metals that magnets would pull towards them. And Zanthe and Galina’s staves were enchanted to resist magnetic pull.
“Here we are,” said one of the island’s defense soldiers. “This is the entrance to the Magnetic Ore Mine.”
“Thank you for the escort,” said Valerius. “We’ll take things from here.”
The soldiers saluted the five as they entered within the cavern.
The inside of the mine had some recently replaced and relit lanterns, despite the fact that Erebus’ presence forced it to be abandoned. The light showed that the caverns had the semblance of a rock quarry, aside from it being underground. More timbers and even some metal frames kept tunnels from collapsing. And if it was too risky to replace timbers or metal bars manually, some spells refreshed and renewed them.
“I sense a powerful evil force,” said Galina. “No doubt it must be Erebus. Follow me.”
The party soon followed the Air Magician down the tunnels. But soon, in a larger chamber of the cavern, four giant human-like Golems made of lodestone emerged. And because of the magic, the magnetism could be channeled into bolts of electricity, or they could form boulders of lodestone to try to crush the five.

“I have an idea!” said Nauplius.
After dodging one of the boulders, the dwarf then swung his hammer and the large rock rolled like a giant croquet ball. The ball then hit one of the golems, destroying it by knocking it over; the impact of the fall caused it to break apart with a large crash.
Zanthe giggled, “Great idea, Nauplius! I’ll conjure up another!”
Tapping the ground three times with the bottom tip of her staff, Zanthe created another lodestone boulder. Nauplius then swung his hammer again, and the boulder was lucky enough to hit the remaining three golems all at once. The combined crash was so loud, it stopped just short of causing hearing loss.
“That takes care of those bruisers!” said Valerius, after the ringing in everyone’s ears stopped. “Now let’s go find Erebus!”
The five soon made it to the following room of the mine, where Erebus tightly held Delphinia with one hand, and the other hand reached for the Glowing Lodestone.
“So, you are here,” grumbled Erebus.
“Valerius!” said Delphinia.
“Hmph, it doesn’t matter,” said Erebus. “The golems have done their work—they stalled you long enough for me to get the Glowing Lodestone!”
And after saying those words, the evil warlock grabbed the item in question and put it in his robe’s pocket.
“Farewell,” laughed Erebus, “until our next meeting!”
“Valerius! Help!” cried Delphinia as both vanished.

“Blast it!” said Valerius. “He escaped again!”
“We’ll catch up to him soon!” said Galina. “For now, we have made the Magnetic Ore Mine safe again.”
“Right,” replied Rouvin. “Let’s return to the surface and tell the people.
The party retraced their steps back to the surface. The Defense Forces saluted as they emerged.
“The dark force has been driving from the mine,” said Valerius. “It’s safe for use again.”
Everyone soon returned to Magnisi City and told Governor Polosis.
“That is wonderful news!” said the governor. “At last, Magnisi City will prosper again!”
“Erebus had fled shortly after snatching a Glowing Lodestone,” said Zanthe. “Where do you suppose he went next?”
“I am not entirely sure,” said the governor. “But if I were to take a wild guess, he may have traveled to Zincnathos, or at least close to it. Even if he isn’t there, that place needs your help, as it has some major trouble as well and is in need of heroes!”
“Then we shall go there next,” said Valerius. “We still have daylight left, so let’s take the fast boat to Zincnathos!”
The people of Magnisi City bade the travelers fair winds as they left to head back to the docks.
Zanthe used some nature friendly fuel to refuel the fast boat and they all got in to set off to the next destination—the island of Zincnathos.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:14:41 
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Chapter 20: The Cult in Zincnathos Mountain

The island of Zincnathos was mainly the base of Zincnathos Mountain, an extinct volcano. The island’s terrain is mainly a rolling plain with a few trees and small orchards about.
On the western tip of the island was the city of Zincnathos. It was mainly a city where technology and agriculture merge to really help in the olive oil and other agriculture in that part of the Ionized-Ionian Islands and abroad. This city, like Emerald Kavala, had a temple to Demeter.
However, when the five heroes made it to the city, the situation was tragic. Black cloths were about, and the people were in mourning.
Galina approached one person and asked, “What tragedy has befallen this city, friend?”
The person, a female Dwarf, replied, “The soon to be death of our governor’s son. The evil cult which dwells within Zincnathos Mountain had long taken children from our city as sacrifices to the twisted deity they worship. And now, the governor’s son has been taken as the most recently demanded offering.”
“We have to help this land and stop this cult!” said Zanthe.
Rouvin said, “You and I can take on the cult! We must try!”
Valerius replied, “Nauplius, Galina, and I can defend the city if any cult members return!”
“Where is the cult located?” asked Zanthe.
The dwarf lady said, “They are in a cavern in Zincnathos Mountain. The cave entrance is on the southwest part of it. Be warned—even the trail upward is greatly guarded, and even its’ lowest-ranking members are skilled in magic.”

The two elves ran across the plains and made it to the extinct volcano that was Zincnathos Mountain. The gray and tan rocks that made up its mountain walls glistened in the mid-afternoon sun. A pale yellow-tan trail led up to the cavern entrance, which was two-thirds of the way up the mountain.
But as the dwarf lady warned, cult members guarded the trail well. The moment Rouvin and Zanthe got within sight of the first slope up the trail, three cult members, dressed in pale green robes and black robe belts, emerged from smoke, with orbs of magic in their hands ready to fire at them.
“Looks like the welcoming committee!” joked Rouvin as he got his bow out.
“We’ll teach them a lesson!” said Zanthe as she prepared her staff.
Rouvin shot one of the cult members before he could fire off his magic ball. The other two were able to fire their shots, but Zanthe summoned up a giant stone hand which caught the balls and crushed them back into sparkles. Then Zanthe returned fire with her own magical bolts.
However, this scuffle then triggered a couple more cult members to come down the mountain, firing at them as they ran.
Rouvin said, “I guess this is going to be harder than we first thought!”
“We can still take them!” replied Zanthe.
At that, Rouvin shot a few of them running down, while Zanthe summoned some mud golems to march up and swat away the enemies. The few that remained retreated into the cavern.
“We must warn the high priest!” said one of the cult members as they ran.

Back in the city of Zincnathos, Valerius, Nauplius, and Galina soon met the governor of the island. He was a human with tan skin, black hair, and brown eyes. He wore something that looked like the attire of a Roman governor, but with hints of modern Greek.
“Hello there,” said the governor. “My name is Governor Thessalos Psevdargyros.”
Valerius replied, “I am Valerius Magnitis, of Paxotassia. With me are my friends Nauplius Sideras and Galina Thyella.”
Galina explained, “Our friends, Rouvin Koukounari and Zanthe Sfendami, have gone to Zincnathos Mountain to confront the cult and save your son.”
The governor’s face lit up with cheer.
“That is good news indeed!” said Governor Psevdargyros. “Soon, my son, Brontes, will be returned to me.”
“Why is this cult constantly stealing your city’s children?” asked Nauplius.
The governor answered, “Because they were needed for their dark rituals to Hecate—well, a distorted version of her magic side. Since children were often seen as full of energy, they would drain the life out of them and convert them into magical energy for their power.”
Valerius was stunned to hear this.
“Rouvin, Zanthe,” whispered Valerius as he looked afar. “Be careful out there.”

The two elves soon made it to the cavern. Both old-style torches and new-style electrical lights were in the cavern to light the way. The statues and carvings—made to look like a version of the underworld—were so ornately made that it was difficult to tell what was natural and what was man-made. But both cases showed that it was meant to represent the realm of the dead within the land of the living.
The two heard some chanting, followed by a child’s cry for help.
“That voice!” whispered Zanthe. “It must be the governor’s son!”
“We better hurry!” replied Rouvin.
The two ran down the tunnels. It was strange that there were no guards, but this mattered little.
Soon they arrived in a large chamber. The two gasped to see a young human boy chained to a large idol of Hecate. The young boy was in a gray t-shirt and black shorts, but was barefoot. He was light tan in complexion, with black hair, and heterochromatic eyes—his left eye was gray, and his right eye was tan.
“We must act quickly!” said Zanthe.
“I’ll distract the cult members,” said Rouvin. “You save the boy!”
“Got it!” said Zanthe.
Rouvin loaded an arrow and started shooting random cult members.
“We’re under attack!” said one of the members when he saw some of his brethren struck.
Zanthe quickly cast a teleport spell while everyone was distracted.
She motioned with her mouth for the boy to stay quiet. Then, tapping each shackle on the boy’s wrist, she freed the youngster. Finally, she carefully picked up the child in her arms and cast the teleport spell out again.

The three were about to leave the cavern, but the cult leader soon appeared near the entrance. And he was very angry.
The cult leader wore an emerald green robe, to distinguish him from his underlings, as well as a black and gold rope belt. With his hood down, he was seen to be a dark elf with a pale gray complexion, was bald, and had glowing violet-red eyes.
“Hold there, interlopers!” said the cult leader. “You will not stop us from replenishing our power over this island. In the name of Hecate, we will stop you!”
“Your distorted form of Hecate does not convince us!” said Zanthe, with her staff ready. “We WILL return this boy to his father!”
The cult leader laughed and prepared a large sphere of energy to aim at them, but Zanthe prepared a special spell.
When the leader launched the sphere, Zanthe pointed her staff at it. A large hand with a stone tennis racquet appeared from the cavern floor and swatted it back at the leader!
“What the Tartarus?!” yelled the leader as the orb returned to him. It would be his last words, as the orb consumed him and disintegrated him.
The cavern soon rumbled. Zanthe again picked up the young boy, and the two elves carried him out of the collapsing cavern. It was doubtful many cult members got out in time. But what mattered was the turmoil they caused was over.

Valerius looked into the distance and saw Rouvin and Zanthe carrying the child into the city.
“Governor!” said Valerius. “Our friends have returned with your son!”
The crowd cheered as Rouvin and Zanthe brought the governor’s son back him.
Governor Thessalos wept with joy as he ran to his son.
“Brontes, my boy!” the governor said as he scooped up his son in his arms.
“Daddy,” said Brontes. “These two saved me.”
“I am forever grateful to you,” said the governor. “I’d say this calls for a celebration.”
“Indeed,” replied Rouvin. “Not only is your son safe, but the cult has been stopped for good. Your island is now free of their bane.”

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:15:19 
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Chapter 21: Chaos in Chlemousodium

A great celebration was held to welcome back Brontes and to rejoice in being free from the cult. Even the governor’s wife, Halette Psevdargyros, got to participate. Halette had a slightly lighter tan skin, medium brown hair, and purple eyes. She wore her blue-gray gown and slippers, and played a tambourine as she danced and sang a song of praise to the pantheon for the good tidings that have returned.
Soon, the day neared its end, and the five got to go to the governor’s mansion, which was on the northeast edge of the city.
The five joined the governor and his family around their table.
“So,” said Halette, “I have heard from some of the city folk that you are searching after that vile fiend, Erebus Tonadi.”
“Yes, Mrs. Psevdargyros,” replied Valerius. “He took my beloved Delphinia captive, and he plans to gather ingredients of the Forbidden Ritual.”
“Forbidden Ritual?!” asked Brontes. “I’ve heard many of the teens in town discuss that legend. I can’t believe it’s actually real.”
“Sadly, it is,” replied Galina.
“I’m not yet certain if there’s another ingredient in the Ionized Ionians,” said Thessalos, “but there is trouble in Chlemousodium that needs a hero’s attention right now.”
“Chlemousodium?” asked Rouvin. “Isn’t that the place with the trouble with the gang of thugs?”
“The same,” sighed the governor. “It is not yet known who the actual leader is, if they even have one at all, but they are constantly harassing the town and the island. Even the governor there can’t hold them back for long before the next crime wave hits.”
“They must be very skilled criminals indeed,” said Valerius. “We shall gladly do our part to counter them.”
“Thank you,” said the governor. “Tomorrow, I’ll prepare a ship to take you to Chlemousodium.”

The next morning, the crowd cheered and gave their well-wishes as the five got on a boat to sail to Chlemousodium.
The sailors sang hymns to Poseidon as the craft soon traveled to the next island.
Rouvin had started getting a little queasy again, so Zanthe quickly prepared another of her seasickness remedy to help her friend get his sea legs back again.
Valerius stood near the human captain of the ship.
“How long has this criminal gang been harassing the island?” he asked.
The captain replied, “About a decade and a half, but it’s been long enough to drive the people crazy with fear.”
“We’ve saved Zincnathos from the cult,” Valerius said with confidence, “so saving Chlemousodium from a criminal gang will be easy. I mean, my friends and I dealt with another criminal syndicate earlier in Fog-Gandros—”
“So you were the ones who defeated that godfather!” the captain interrupted in surprise.
“You’ve heard, I take it,” Valerius chuckled.
“Who hasn’t by now?” the captain replied, also with a laugh.
Before the conversation could go any further, the lookout saw land drawing near.
“Land ho!” the lookout’s voice cheered.
“We’re nearing Chlemousodium Island!” said the captain.

The craft soon docked just north of Chlemousodium Town, which was about the same size as Paxotassia Town, just arranged in a different layout. It started out as a simple farming village which grew into an agricultural powerhouse despite the small size. Their patron deity was Persephone, and the temple to her was within the center of the town.
However, all was not well with the town. As Governor Psevdargyros warned, the gang of thugs were harassing the people within the land. There were human, elf, and dwarf members of the gang, and they all wore reddish brown biker outfits. Some held classical weapons—short swords, spears, clubs, and hand axes. Others held crowbars and wrenches. And some even had plasma sabers like Valerius held.
“Hey, we got some jerks muscling in on our territory!” said one elf member.
A human member replied, “Let’s rough them up a bit!”
“There’s too many of them to fight, friends,” said Galina. “I’ll handle this.”
The elf Air Wizard stuck her staff into the ground. Then she motioned with her hands and chanted in her ancient tongue. A large whirlwind grew from around the staff.
“Go, whirlwind!” commanded Galina. “Take these troublers out of this town!”
The whirlwind obeyed, as it grew large enough to scoop up the entire gang, yet magically left the innocent civilians alone, and carried them out of the town and off the island. It was not yet known where they were taken, but they would no longer harass Chlemousodium.
“Well,” giggled Galina. “That was easy.”
The people cheered as they gathered around the heroes.
One of the people, Mayor Idas Natriou, emerged to speak. Mayor Idas Natriou was a pale-peach skinned human with graying hair, brown eyes, and wore clothing that was a mix between a higher-wealth rancher and a city official.
“Good visitors,” said Mayor Natriou, “thank you for driving away the criminals that held us in their grasp for so long.”
“We had to,” replied Valerius.
“We wouldn’t want you to suffer any longer from them,” added Nauplius.

Soon, there was motion in the crowd, and another person emerged to meet the five. This person was not of Chlemousodium, but of the neighboring island of Ithacobalt. This was indicated by his slightly dimmer attire, as well as the style—it was attire of a fishing village.
“Please,” said the stranger, “I need you to come with me! My home island of Ithacobalt needs your help!”
“Ithacobalt?” asked Mayor Natriou.
“Yes, Mayor Natriou,” replied the man. His tan-hazel eyes looked up, as his blonde hair matted with sweat was brushed aside.
“Good heroes,” said the person. “There is a ghost ship constantly troubling Ithacobalt. Our fishing boats will not dare go near the northern side of the island, since that is where reports say it materializes at night. Even during the day, its influence unsettles sailors there. Please! You must help us!”
“But of course, we will help you,” said Valerius.
“We’ve dealt with supernatural threats, as well as regular ones,” giggled Zanthe.
“Follow me,” said the stranger. “I’m a representative of Ithacobalt, so I’ve been given a good craft to get you to the island quickly as well. Once we’re there, I’ll introduce you to the baron, and he will explain more!”

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:15:56 
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Chapter 22: The Ghost Pirates of Ithacobalt

The representative’s boat soon arrived on the western docks of Ithacobalt Island, and it was a short walk to Ithacobalt Village, the fishing village of the island. And being a village that was tied to the sea, it had a temple to the god Poseidon.
The representative soon escorted the party to Baron Zale Kovaltiou. The baron was an elf with blue-grey skin, blue-black hair, and blue-green eyes. He wore attire worthy of a man of the sea, as well as a government official.
“Baron Kovaltiou,” said the representative, “I’ve brought the five as you have requested.”
“It is good that you are here, friends,” said the baron. “And thank you for bringing them, Representative Kalchas Vathyble.”
“It was a pleasure to serve our land,” Vathyble said with a bow.
“I have heard you’ve been having troubles with a ghost ship,” said Valerius.
“You have no idea how much so,” replied Baron Kovaltiou.
The baron cleared his throat, and then explained:
“Long ago, that ship belonged to a group of ferocious pirates. Even before the empire was united, they would harass any who would sail near them in the Ionized-Ionian Islands.
“One day, during the 150th year of the empire, my ancestor and his army soon led an attack that overpowered all the pirates in battle. He himself captured and hanged the captain. All the people thought the troubles are over… it seems the ghost ship proved us wrong.”

“I shall face these ghost pirates,” said Valerius, “for Delphinia’s sake!”
“Yes,” replied the baron, “I have heard of Erebus causing you grief. All I can suggest is to please be careful. They haven’t lost their prowess after death.”
“So this ghost ship appears at night,” said Valerius. “I shall gladly wait till then.”
Valerius remembered what he heard of the ghost ship appearing on the northern coast of Ithacobalt. Some of the fisherman prepared a rowboat for him to go there.
The sun began to set. Valerius fought the drowsiness as night would soon set in.
Finally, the night had come, and it was a third-quarter moon that night.
Black mist-like clouds gathered together in the sea, and they merged into a galleon shape. The mists soon solidified. Surely enough, this was the ghost ship.
The human hero got into the rowboat and rowed the craft as fast as he could paddle. The glowing chain of the anchor was sturdy despite it being incorporeal. Thus Valerius climbed up the chain to get onto the ship.
The ghost pirates looked like human-like glowing specters, in the attire they wore in life.
“Ahoy!” said one pirate. “We have a stowaway!”
“Let’s send this person to the underworld!” said another.
At once, they got their ghost swords out and raced toward him.
“It is YOU who shall return to the underworld,” said Valerius as he got out his plasma saber.
The pirates soon lunged at him. Some went alone, some went in pairs, others in groups of three. But all of them soon became dissipated by quick strokes of the plasma blade.
While this was going on, another craft was slowly approaching the ghost ship, but there didn’t seem to be anyone on it.

Eventually, the numbers of ghost pirates dwindled.
“Now,” said Valerius, “tell me where your captain is.”
“Right here,” said an eerie, low, angry voice.
Valerius looked toward the direction the voice spoke. The ghost had the same glowing complexion of the other ghost pirates, but wore an ancient Greek naval captain’s helmet—with black plumage. He also wore a mix of ancient Greek navy clothes, modern navy clothes, and a vest indicating a buccaneer, similar to what one might see in the Caribbean back in the day.
This was certainly the ghost captain.
“So,” said Valerius, “you are the captain.”
“Indeed I am,” the ghost captain replied. “I am exacting my revenge for the island who brought my mortal life’s end.”
“In the name of that man’s descendant,” said Valerius, “I shall send you back to Tartarus where you belong!”
“You are welcome to try!” replied the ghost, getting out his scimitar. The scimitar looked new, despite not being used for so long. And an eerie green ghostly fire coated the blade.
Valerius dodged the strikes as best he could, looking for an opening to strike back.
Then he noticed that despite being a ghost sword, the scimitar would get stuck in the rotten timbers of the ghost ship, and the ghost captain would struggle getting the sword out for a few seconds. Now Valerius could go on the attack.
“You couldn’t swing a bilge mop!” mocked Valerius.
“You little land-lubber!” roared the captain as he charged for him.
At the last possible moment, Valerius rolled out of the way and got the captain to miss.
This was the moment he waited for.
Valerius thrusted his plasma blade across the ghost captain’s neck.
The ghost screamed, which was odd, since ghosts shouldn’t feel pain. But the neck was, after all, where the mortal blow was struck when he swung on the gallows at the end of his life.
The head rolled off for a brief bit, and then both the head and body dissolved into sparkling dust.
“Game, set, and match!” said Valerius.
But soon, he noticed the ghost ship beginning to fade.
“I need to get off, quickly!” Valerius said.
When he looked about, he saw a fresher sloop coming near, albeit empty. But he knew better than to look a gift horse—or rather, a gift boat—in the mouth.
Valerius took a running start and leapt onto the deck of the sloop. He then noticed some various nymphs controlling it, making themselves visible.
“Hi,” said one nymph with a giggle. “We’ve been sent by Zanthe to help!”
“Yeah,” said another nymph. “Your friend saw your need, and was afraid the rowboat might’ve been the destroyed in your scuffle. So we came here.”
“Let’s get you back to shore,” said a third nymph. “You’ve had a tough battle!”
The sloop soon made it back to the northern shore. The nymphs then escorted Valerius back to dry ground.
“You can have the ship,” said the first nymph. “You’ll need it to go on further in your adventures.”
“Take care,” said all the nymphs as they returned to their respective domains.

Valerius soon returned to Ithacobalt Village. Baron Kovaltiou gladly welcomed him back to the mansion, knowing that the mission was a success, for one of the nymphs had visited earlier to give the news.
The next day, the people declared a celebration, now that the ghost ship would trouble them no more.
Representative Vathyble said, “I’ve had some magicians and nymphs soup up your sloop. Rumors are saying that Erebus was seen in the Trideconese Islands now.”
“The Trideconese?” asked the baron.
Some people heard this.
“You must be careful,” said one human woman. “One of the islands is just teeming with monsters of all varieties.”
“Yes,” said a male elf. “And there are reports of a mad scientist in that trio of islands.”
The baron then said, “The only know city, or any settlement for that matter, is Archapalopolis, on the island of Archapalaia.”
“I guess we’ll go to that island first to know our next move,” said Galina.
“The gods protect you always,” said the baron.
After a few more hours of celebrating, the party then left to their new sloop.
Before getting on board, Zanthe prepared another helping of her homemade seasick remedy as a preventative measure to help Rouvin.
“Much obliged,” said Rouvin with a soft chuckle.

Since this was not a fast boat, the party would have to spend the night out at sea, so at a calm spot, the ship dropped anchor.
During the night, Valerius had another dream.
In the dream, Valerius saw Delphinia wounded.
The darkened sky in the background showed Erebus’ evil face laughing. Between Delphinia and the Erebus-filled sky was the same mountain and tower Valerius saw in the previous dream.
Valerius soon awoke in a cold sweat. The sun had started to rise as he looked out the window.
The sailing soon continued, and Archapalaia Island soon came into view.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:16:25 
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Chapter 23: Entering the Trideconese

The boat soon arrived on the docks of the southwest side of Archapalaia.
The party soon disembarked and soon hiked up the trail to the large city of Archapalopolis.
The city of Archapalopolis is a large city, and is the only known settlement within the Trideconese Islands. It is a high tech metropolis not unlike Olympalantis, the imperial capital. The only known difference was it being much smaller. In the heart of the city was the temple to Hermes, who protected those willing to do commerce there.

“Well, we’ve arrived,” said Valerius.
“Now we just need someone to point us in the right direction,” added Galina.
That request was soon answered, when a group of people approached the party.
The group consisted of some guards and government officials, of human, elf, and dwarf races.
The one leading the group was the prince of Archapalopolis. He was an elf of gray-tan skin, blue hair, and green eyes. He wore attire that looked like a modern Greek government official, but with a fantasy twist, as well as it being a bit jungle green. This prince also wore a gold and silver crown shaped like a laurel crown of antiquity. His name was Prince Palamedes Archapalas.
“Welcome, travelers,” said the prince. “I am Prince Palamedes Archapalas. I have heard you were coming this way.”
The party of heroes knelt before the prince.
“Yes, Your Excellence,” replied Valerius.
“I have heard also you are pursuing that scofflaw Erebus, are you not?” continued Prince Palamedes.
“That is correct, Your Eminence,” replied Nauplius.

“Then surely you can help us,” said the prince, “because that villain has been giving my island grief as well.”
“Has he?” asked Rouvin.
“Yes,” answered the prince. “Please, follow me to my palace and I’ll explain more.”

The palace of the prince looked like a large crystal pyramid with four slightly smaller crystal pyramids near its corners. Yet there were special designs to allow privacy for those within. Inside was more of the high technology gadgets and gizmos that were about in the city, but ones befitting the ruler and his followers within.
The party joined the prince and some of his officials in the grand hall. Prince Palamedes cleared his throat as he sat down on his throne, and explained:
“A few days ago, before you arrived in these islands, Erebus had entered the Crystal Cavern northeast of here.
“Now, this cavern is known for a very fine grade of colored and clear crystals that we use in the construction of our gadgets—as well as the fine jewelry—but there were monsters growing in numbers there lately, no doubt because of that warlock’s meddling. And just yesterday, there were rumors of a blue crystal dragon!”
“What?!” gasped Nauplius.
Valerius added, “Part of the Forbidden Ritual is the heart of a Blue Crystal Dragon! Perhaps—”
“Forbidden Ritual?!” the prince said in horror. He too knew of the legends of that rite. He then continued, “This makes things all the more dire. We kind of have a Catch-22 situation. If we slay the dragon, Erebus might go to collect its heart. But if we let the dragon live, it will have the cavern for itself, and we might end up in a depression similar to Magnisi island a few days prior.”
“No matter what happens,” said Valerius, “I WILL stop Erebus and save my beloved Delphinia.”

“You are brave and determined,” Prince Palamedes marveled. Then he clapped his hands and said, “Soldiers, escort these heroes to the Crystal Cavern. I have faith the gods will protect them and aid in their victory.”
Some human and elf soldiers soon joined with the party and led them to the entrance to the Crystal Cavern.
The outside looked like a regular rocky entrance, but the party could see the crystals forming inside, and they knew even more would be discovered further down.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:16:57 
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Chapter 24: The Blue Crystal Dragon

Once inside the crystalline cavern, Nauplius stepped forward.
“Follow me,” he said. “I’ve been through these caves long before these events, so I know them like the back of my hand.”
The dwarf guided his friends through the glittering cave, as some of the crystals glowed to give light, as did some of the mushrooms and lichen. Magic in them gave some luminescence to provide light for those visiting.
But there were creatures in the caverns that wanted to put the adventurers’ lights out permanently. Some bats flitted down from the ceiling—their wing fingertips having some of the crystals infused in them to either give them extra cutting power when they flew by, or aim light at them. Some light was made as a flash to disorient them, while others were focused into laser beams that could do serious gashes to them.
Also, some skeletons of past travelers rose up. The bones of these skeletons had crystals growing on to them, and some even have crystal spikes growing on their knuckles. No doubt Erebus was here, and had raised these skeletons to “life” to cause the heroes trouble.
“Looks like the welcoming committee!” said Valerius as he got his plasma blade out.
“Leave the bats to me!” said Galina as she whipped up some small whirlwinds to send the bats spiraling away.
Valerius and Nauplius turned the skeletons back into dust.
Valerius then chuckled, “Rest in peace—or in this case, pieces.”

The five soon entered a large crystal chamber, and they soon beheld a giant blue crystal dragon. The large reptilian had a large hawk beak on its mouth, and straight horns that looked like crystal spikes. Its wings looked very organic despite being made of hard minerals. There were even more crystal spikes running up its spine.
The dragon opened its mouth and spat out a cyan and cerulean beam of energy. The party just got out of the way in time. When the beam hit the floor, a large flash of energy resulted.
“Maybe I don’t want to know what happens if a target is hit!” said Zanthe.
“We need to stop this dragon no matter what!” said Nauplius. “Even if it means risking Erebus getting what he wants from it!”
“Right!” replied Valerius. “We can still try to stop him from completing his plan! For now, let’s deal with this overgrown lizard!”
Rouvin shot a few arrows at the beast. One got lodged in its left nostril, the other in its left eye. Combined, they caused enough pain for the beast to rear back and roar.
“Get it now, Valerius!” yelled Rouvin.
“I’m on it!” Valerius replied. He then ran up and made a quick diagonal slash at the beast. The blow was enough to cause the Blue Crystal Dragon Heart to fall out.
The beast then fell over to one side, still. After about a minute, it “melted” into blue crystal sand.

The group then went to see the Blue Crystal Dragon Heart. It was shaped like the heart of a Komodo dragon, but was made entirely out of blue crystals and gems. It was as though some very talented artist took a crystal garden set and arranged it so the crystals—and gems that were added just right—could form into such a strange shape.
“This must be the Blue Crystal Dragon Heart,” said Zanthe.
“It is indeed!” said a frighteningly familiar voice. It was Erebus.
A beam of light shone down on the heart, driving off the heroes. Erebus appeared, with Delphinia in his grasp.
“Thank you for going through the hassle for me!” said Erebus with a laugh. “I woke up the long sleeping dragon to get everyone’s attention, but I waited for you to slay it for me and spare me the trouble. I’d have fought it myself, but even I’m not THAT crazy!”
Valerius growled, “Erebus, you coward!”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” mocked Erebus. “Anyway, to help you prepare for a possible confrontation with me, you should check out my soon-to-be army in Rhudis when you get the chance!”
Erebus then warped away, with both Delphinia AND the Blue Crystal Dragon Heart.
“Erebus!” snarled Valerius. “You will pay for your troublemaking! Mark my words!”
“Calm down,” said Zanthe. “We’ll help you save Delphinia and the rest of Olympalantis.”
“Remember,” said Rouvin, “you have your friends with you.”

The five soon returned to Archapalopolis. The escort then allowed them back to the palace of the prince.
“You’ve survived!” said Prince Palamedes. “Thank the gods!”
“Erebus still got the heart of the Blue Crystal Dragon,” sighed Valerius, “despite our efforts to prevent it.”
Nauplius added, “He mentioned something about Rhudis.”
“Please rest in the palace for now,” said Prince Palamedes, “for it is starting to get late. Then tomorrow, I’ll prepare your sloop for travel to Rhudis.”
Valerius thanked the prince, as did his friends. But he was feeling uneasy. He knew he needed to rest from time to time, but knowing his beloved was in peril made it hard to relax.

The next day, the prince soon stood near the ship as the last bit of supplies was being put on.
“So you’re off to Rhudis,” said Prince Palamedes. “Be very careful. That island is said to be teeming with monsters of various varieties.”
“No doubt Erebus has something to do with it,” said Rouvin. “He did say they were his soon-to-be army.”
“Most likely he plans to use them once he completes the Forbidden Ritual,” added Zanthe.
“Rumors have it,” said Prince Palamedes, “that someone even used a mix of science and magic to augment the monsters. Take every precaution necessary.”
“We will, Your Excellence,” replied Valerius.
The party soon got on the sloop and set sail.
The people soon gave their thanks, farewells, and prayers as they sailed off to their next destination.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:17:53 
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Chapter 25: The Mad Scientist of the Trideconese

The bark soon made it to the western cove of Rhudis, and there were piers there for the sloop to dock, since they were built by sailors who wanted to explore the island in the past.
However, the warning Prince Palamedes gave would soon prove true, for no sooner did the party leave the ship than they saw a few goblins emerging. The green skinned, small mockeries of dwarves, while slightly different from races seen in the Emerald Kavala forests, emerged in high-tech battle armor that would make a science fiction movie director proud. Some had laser pistols, others had plasma blades similar to Valerius’, and others had slightly older weapons like Tommy guns. And there were even others with makeshift weapons such as crowbars and chainsaws.
“I think we’ve been expected,” said Valerius as he got out his own plasma blade.
The ship crew also got out some laser guns and other weapons to fend off any who would attack the ship.
The two sides battle for about ten minutes, but the remaining goblins soon retreated to warn the other monsters on the island.
The only wounds on the good side were some of the ship crew, and thankfully none were fatal. Zanthe used some natural medicines and some magic to heal up the wounded.
“I get the feeling that more of those baddins will be deeper within the island,” said Nauplius.
One of the sailors, upon recovering from his injuries, spoke: “I hear tales of monster caverns on this here island—the one entrance I could think of is on the east side of this island.”
“And that’s where we’ll go,” said Valerius. “Let’s get to the bottom of this monster infestation!”
The other heroes cheered their agreement, and they soon entered the thick forests of Rhudis.
When the party began entering into the forests, the sailors soon began their prayers to Nike, the goddess of victory, on the heroes’ behalf.

The forests of Rhudis were not unlike forests found on islands in the Mediterranean islands in the real world. Some were like date palms, others like various evergreen trees, and some were deciduous.
But there was no time to enjoy nature and see which trees were which. More goblins, some of which were survivors of the first skirmish, emerged. Along with them were other monsters. And some of the monsters had ancient weapons, while others had the futuristic weapons.
The first of the monsters encountered were Lynxmen—anthropomorphic lynxes that wore armor that was a mix of metal and semi-organic alloys. Some of them had traditional spears, whereas others had spear-like rods that shot energy shots from their tips.
The second of which were orcs. The Rhudus variety of orcs looked like portly elf-like sentinels, but with the heads of wild pigs. Their armor looked like wood grown from genetically modified trees—the wood grain was totally something that could not have come from nature—and their weapons ranged from handheld traditional crossbows to various laser rifles.
And finally, some Golems emerged to provide the heavy attacks. Some were made of rock, others of various metal alloys. And of both groups, some of them used just their fists to try to pound their victims into pulp. Some of the rock golems had cannon arms to shoot boulders at the intruders. Some of the metal alloy golems had laser guns installed instead of hands.
All of these monsters were determined to ensure the intruders didn’t reach their destination alive.
“Looks like those goblins survivors brought some friends,” said Galina.
“Well,” said Valerius as he prepared his weapon again, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall!”

Zanthe soon cast a few nature spells, summoning the forest trees to deal with the golems. Some trees used their roots to open up pits to trap a good number of the golems. Other trees used thicker branches to plug up the guns, since these thicker branches can sustain the blasts with little damage to themselves.
Rouvin shot his arrows at some of the orcs and Lynxmen. The arrows hit their marks before they could use their projectile weapons to damage the team.
Galina cast a few lightning spells to fend off some orcs and short-circuit some of the metallic golems easily.
Nauplius and Valerius fought some of the Lynxmen and goblins easily.
In about half an hour, the fight was done. Zanthe and Rouvin then tended to the wounds of the team before they all continued to the cavern entrance.

On the south end of the island was the start of the trail up the wide mountain that made up most of the island. It was not as high an elevation as some of the mountains in the empire, especially the mountains that would eventually be their final destination (but then, I, the author, am getting ahead of myself). However, it was wide in surface area, as far as the island itself goes.
Compared to the forests of Rhudis, going up the trail was easier, as they only needed to contend with an occasional goblin or orc. Most of these encounters were just one such monster at a time. Only once up the trail did they face a small group of goblins, and once further up did they encounter a decent-sized group of orcs.
About three-quarters of a mile up the mountain (the mountain was about four-fifths of a mile in total height), they soon found the cavern entrance.
“I’m willing to bet the leader of this would-be army is inside this cavern,” said Nauplius.
“Time to break up this army before it has a chance to overrun the empire!” cheered Rouvin.
The party soon went inside the caverns, eager to face what was inside.

The caverns inside Rhudis’ mountain had tan to medium brown rocks that make up its walls, ceilings, floors, and outcroppings. The columns had been retrofitted with various devices to protect it from collapse as well as from erosion and the advances of time.
But some devices could be seen on its unfriendly denizens. The caverns were home to dragonfolk—anthropomorphic dragons of various varieties. And they did not take kindly to strangers of any shape or form. While some of them used their breath powers, as any self-respecting dragon would take pride in doing so, others had various weapons—from the ancient to modern to futuristic—and some had even cybernetic implants to augment their skills.
“Why do I get the feeling this is a clue to who might be calling the shots here?” asked Galina.
“In any case,” said Nauplius, “let’s fight our way through and find the big cheese!”
Once more, the five used their weaponry to fight their way to their objective. The caverns echoed with screams, battle cries, and the sounds of weapons being used in one way or another.
The machines on the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns prevented the caves from caving in as the battles progressed.
Some of the tunnels were narrow, forcing the party to change their tactics and use extra caution.
Other parts of the caverns were wide despite being underground, and this gave the five heroes more liberty in their battle style.

Eventually, the five made it to the center of the caverns.
They looked to see a very large anthropomorphic dragon. His body had almost a giant human shape, but was unmistakably a black dragon. He wore a large stone and crystal crown, and armor of various dark colored gemstones, hard metals, and dusky-toned crystals, with parts of the back exposed to show his wings.
“Well, well, well,” said the large beast. “You must be the five that Lord Erebus spoke of. I am the Black Dragon King.”
“So you are the leader of these monsters,” said Valerius.
“Well,” answered the Black Dragon King. “Me and another person. But it won’t matter, since I will soon turn you into the dust from which the gods first formed you.”
At that, the Black Dragon opened his gaping mouth, releasing his powerful acid breath. The party got out of the way just in time, as the cloud of acid ate away at a nearby boulder.
“This guy can definitely hold his own!” said Rouvin. “And that armor probably covers up any soft underbelly!”
“If I can get a clean shot,” replied Nauplius, “I can probably break the armor!”
“Zanthe and I can use our magic to defend against his breath!” said Galina.
Rouvin started shooting arrows toward the Black Dragon King. Two were fortunate enough to hit both eyes, blinding the giant brute.
The Black Dragon King roared in pain and anger, spewing acid breath everywhere. Galina used some Air spells to clear the air, while Zanthe used her nature magic to restore any worn-away rock to prevent the room from caving in.
“Now’s your chance, Nauplius!” said Rouvin.
The Dwarf soon reached for his hammer and started wailing away at the armor. Just as persistence would wear away rock, Nauplius soon wore away the armor enough to expose some underbelly in the abdomen.
The Black Dragon King, blinded as he was, swatted Nauplius away, but the damage was enough for Valerius to race up with his Plasma Blade. With one well-placed thrust, he pierced the diaphragm and swung upward to sever the heart as well.
The giant reptilian roared in agony one last time, and then fell backwards. The beast lay dead.

“Well,” said Zanthe, “there may still be monsters on this island, but without their leader, they’re going blind.”
After a half a minute, a portion of the cave wall moved to reveal a computer monitor, which turned on.
A strange human face appeared. He had a pink-peach complexion with gray-green hair, include his mustache, and dark-blue—almost black—eyes behind his goggles. And he wore an outfit that would befit a mad scientist in a horror film.
“I sense the device I implanted in the Black Dragon King has been destroyed,” said the strange person. “I gave him a pacemaker-like implant so that if something or someone killed him, I would alert my boss Erebus!”
“You were making these monsters for that madman?!” Valerius said in horror. “You are just as insane as him!”
“Be that as it may,” replied the scientist, “I, Dr. Tantalus, will NOT be denied my recognition as best monster scientist in the empire, even if it means making a deal with Erebus or someone else with great ambitions!”
“By great ambitions,” retorted Rouvin, “you mean someone trying to endanger the known world!”
“If I’m in the wrong,” said Dr. Tantalus, “prove it to me! Come to my lair on Tilosyrna Island, if you dare!”
Dr. Tantalus laughed maniacally before turning off the monitor.
“We dare!” the five said in one voice before leaving the caverns.

The five heroes soon got back to the sloop.
The captain said, “Where to next?”
Valerius replied, “To Tilosyrna. The person responsible for the monster infestation is dwelling there.”
“Understood,” said the captain.
Then he gave the command to raise the anchor and sail off.
The island of Tilosyrna came into view after a forty-five minute ride on the sea, but something else came to meet the ship.
A purple-skinned ogre with military clothing and an energy cannon for a left arm shot at the ship, blasting a hole in the hull.
All got on the lifeboats safely, and some mermen soldiers escorted Valerius and his allies to Tilosyrna. The ogre had already retreated back, thinking the task was finished.
Once the five were on shore, and the rest of the ship’s crew were on lifeboats as well, Poseidon emerged. The five bowed before him.
“My mermaid servant girls will escort this crew back to Archapalaia,” said Poseidon. “You five go and teach that blasted mad scientist a lesson! He’s been polluting my nice clean Cretegean Sea with the byproducts of his insane experiments!”
“Will do, great Poseidon!” Galina said cheerfully.
The five then left and entered the forests of Tilosyrna. Poseidon then returned to the depths of the sea, and the mermaids, as well as some mermen, helped the sailors return home.

The five soon were within the southwest part of the forest, and the ogre who shot at them earlier saw that he wasn’t as successful as he had first thought.
“I thought you sank with the ship,” growled the ogre. “I guess I’ll just have to finish what I started!”
“An ogre THINKING?!” wisecracked Nauplius. The others in the party soon laughed at his joke.
The ogre growled in anger and started shooting at him. The party dodged as the shots knocked some trees down and made pits in the ground.
“No wonder he was successful in sinking the ship!” said Valerius.
“Leave this putz to me!” said Zanthe as she cast a nature spell. A hand of clay emerged and threw a mudball into the cannon, clogging it. It soon exploded, taking the ogre down as well.

Deeper into the forest, the party followed Zanthe as she made sense of the trails. But there were other monsters with cybernetic implants, no doubt the result of Dr. Tantalus’ experiments, dwelling in the woodlands as well.
Some Rhudus goblins emerged with cyborg arms, legs, and even eye implants emerged. The legs that were specially fitted gave them a boost in running and jumping, as well as the occasional kick. Their arms could house either plasma blades or other energy weapons, as well as give them a boost in strength.
Nauplius swung his hammer and sent many of them sailing.
“Even with those extra parts,” said Nauplius with a laugh, “they’re still pushovers.”
But some more goblins, as well as ogres, emerged, also with various cybernetic parts.
There were even giant spiders and giant wasps, also a result of the mad Dr. Tantalus’ experiments. Some were just giant bugs, whereas others had cybernetic implants, or were giant robots made to look like lifeforms. All of them were a hazard.
“Leave the bugs to me!” said Galina.
Valerius, Rouvin, and Nauplius began fighting the giant ogres, and Zanthe used her nature magic to deal with the lesser goblins.
Galina made good on her promise, as her lightning, tornadoes, and even the occasional simple gust of wind took out the arthropods in a couple good hits.
The ogres gave the most grief, as some of them had energy cannons as well, as well as some heat axes—axe weapons that had parts that could heat the blade to cut through solid steel—and other wild armaments.
Nevertheless, they were able to fight their way through the madness. All the enemy forces in that attack were downed.
Zanthe again created some healing potions and ointments with the natural ingredients of the forest.
It was late afternoon, just before sunset, but a building was seen to the northeast—near the cove of the island. It wouldn’t be too long till they would arrive at their destination.

The lair of Dr. Tantalus looked like a Greco-Roman domed temple, but with various wires, lights, and gadgets inside and outside.
The cameras looked at them, but no traps were activated.
“I guess Dr. Tantalus is expecting us,” said Valerius.
“Well, let’s not disappoint him,” Rouvin replied.
The doors opened up, and the five entered.
The hallway was relatively short, but it soon emptied into a large laboratory.
The center of the room was a large column-like computer. The monitor faced the southeast side of the room—well, it would be called a “corner” if it were not for the fact that the room was circular. Various tubes with liquids of all colors pumped to and from the laboratory, and other tubes contained robots currently under construction.
Other smaller monitors in the laboratory showed the data for the experiments, mirroring whatever experimental data and code was in the main computer that was appropriate for that particular project.
A door soon opened in the northeast portion of the room. Dr. Tantalus emerged with a large laser rifle in his hand.
“Welcome, visitors, to my humble abode,” said Dr. Tantalus with a chuckle.
“Dr. Tantalus I presume,” replied Valerius.
“You have guessed correctly,” the doctor said. “You caused quite a bit of damage here and in Rhudis. But once I deal with the likes of you, I’ll start rebuilding the master’s army.”
“Assuming you’re alive, or conscious, before then,” said Nauplius as he got out his hammer.
Dr. Tantalus shot a beam from his rifle that hit the head of the hammer. It was on low power, but the impact was enough to startle the dwarf into dropping it. Luckily, none of his feet, nor the feet of his comrades, were under it at the time.
“Let me deal with this troublemaker,” said Rouvin as he got his bow out.
Dr. Tantalus touched a button on a device on his belt. Something from the column computer emerged and let out a strange sound that made him drop his bow—the sound caused him to be dizzy.
“Surely that Valerius isn’t going to attempt anything, is he?” mocked Dr. Tantalus.
“No,” said Zanthe, “but I have a trick up my sleeve.”
Zanthe said something on koine Greek. At first, it seemed nothing happened.
“What was that?” laughed Dr. Tantalus. “A prayer to your patron deity?!”
But after a few laughs, he stopped when he heard the window on the northeast crash. A Treant had been summoned. And with one well-placed thrust, it impaled the mad scientist with a sharp branch.
“Thanks, friend!” said Zanthe.
The Treant saluted Zanthe as it carried the corpse of the slain maniac out of view.
Night had set in after the battle.
“I wonder what became of Dr. Tantalus’ body,” said Valerius.
With a sly look, Zanthe replied, “The Treant told me in my mind that it’s now providing nourishment for the forest.”
“Hopefully he hadn’t taken too many artificial drugs,” said Nauplius, “or the forest might look a bit wonky.”
Everyone laughed at the dwarf’s joke.
“Now that Dr. Tantalus is no more,” said Valerius, “let’s use this place for rest. Then tomorrow we can try to find some way to get back to the mainland.”
The party then looked for some rooms for sleeping. The men found one room with various places for sleeping, and Zanthe and Galina found another room.

The sun soon rose again.
After a small breakfast of some of their rations, the team looked about the laboratory. Since it was near a cove, there had to be a sea craft of some sort.
And there was—a high tech yacht was found tethered to an underground dock beneath the laboratory.
The yacht even had an autopilot feature of some sort.
The team boarded it and got it out into the open.
“The nearest shoreline,” said Nauplius, “is near the Thracecadian Forest.”
“Then that’s where we’ll go!” said Galina.
“Good,” replied Nauplius. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been back in my home town of Gray Corfu. I’d like to introduce you to my people there.”
“I think it would be a rather interesting learning experience,” said Valerius.
Galina soon typed in the coordinates to the nearest dock on the Thracecadian shoreline and activated the autopilot of the craft.
The engines soon set off.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:18:31 
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Chapter 26: The Terror in the Thracecadian Forest

It did not take long to reach the docks of the beach near the Thracecadian Forest.
And it was a half-hour before noon when they had arrived.
The five soon anchored the yacht near the pier, and they soon got off the ship.
“Follow me!” Nauplius said jovially. Let me guide you to my hometown!”
The other four followed the dwarf through the trail. After stopping halfway for a small lunch with their rations, they soon arrived in the city of Gray Corfu.
For it being a city of Dwarves, one would at first expect the buildings to be quite small. But the buildings were decently sized enough for humans and elves to visit as well. They were buildings built surrounding the trees, just as the people of Emerald Kavala have.
The largest tree in the middle of Gray Corfu held the temple to Hephaestus, who was the city’s patron god, as many of the dwarves of Gray Corfu pride themselves in smithing.
A familiar voice soon called to them.
“Nauplius!”

The party soon turned and saw the Dwarf calling to them. Nauplius recognized it as the Dwarf they met earlier in the Cumumilos Catacombs, but couldn’t see who it was because it was dim there.
“Rhoecus Touvoxiti, my fellow smith!” cheered Nauplius as he ran up and hugged his fellow Dwarf. “So you were the one we met in Cumumilos Catacombs! I couldn’t recognize you at first because of the dimness.”
“It happens, Nauplius,” replied Rhoecus. Anyway, King Granadanano sent me to escort you to the palace. He has something important to tell you!”

The five followed Rhoecus to the palace of the Dwarf King, which was just under the temple of Hephaestus—they were around the same tree. They soon knelt before the Dwarf King, Radamanthos Granadanano. The king wore a golden crown with a garnet in the centerpiece. This was appropriate since “Granadanano” is derived from the Greek for “garnet dwarf”. He also wore other attire similar to a medieval Greek ruler, but at the same time shown he was with the current times. His gray-peach skin, thick black hair and beard, and violet eyes completed the appearance of a firm but fair Dwarf leader.
“It has been a long time, Nauplius,” said the king. His voice indicated good favor, but at the same time exhaustion.
Nauplius knew that something has troubled the king, to make his voice sound so tired.
“What troubles my lord so?” asked Nauplius.
“I’m willing to bet Erebus or an ally has something to do with it,” said Valerius.
“I do not know about that,” said the Dwarf King, “but the Thracecadian Forest is indeed suffering. Someone has shown disregard to the empire’s environmental laws and created two golems to poison the forest.”
“How terrible!” gasped Zanthe in horror.
“So far, the damage is to the far north,” continued King Granadanano, “but it is only a matter of time before they reach here.”

“We’ll save Gray Corfu, sire,” said Valerius.
“Zanthe and I can seek the cause of the poison,” offered Rouvin.
“Nauplius, Galina, and I can guard Gray Corfu from any attack that might come here,” added Valerius.
“If you would,” the Dwarf King said in a sigh of relief.
Other Dwarf soldiers soon surrounded the party. The large Dwarf army split into two groups. One group joined Rouvin and Zanthe in their task, while the other group supported the trio defending the city.
Rouvin and Zanthe, and their army, exited the city to travel north, since that was where King Radamanthos Granadanano said one golem was located.
While they were traveling north, Valerius and the other two friends were with the defending army.
“When did this trouble first start?” asked Nauplius.
“Three days ago,” said one Dwarf soldier. “Someone from outside the empire’s boundaries sent these abominations to sicken the forest.”
“It’s hard to tell if he’s an ally of Erebus, or just some outsider wanting to cause us trouble,” said another Dwarf soldier. “All we know is he’s breaking imperial laws involving the environment.”
“We’ll find out who it is if Zeus wills it,” said Valerius. “For now, we just need to deal with this problem at hand.”
Nauplius aided in forging the traditional weapons mixed with some futuristic fashions.
Galina enchanted some of the weapons with her magics—the electricity of the Thunder spells could short circuit them if the monstrosities were anything like androids.
And Valerius aided the captains in training new recruits. They knew there was a possibility of invasion of at least one of the golems, if not both.

Rouvin and Zanthe’s army soon went further north, and there they found their target.
A mechanical monster, about twelve feet in height, lumbered through the forest. It looked like a large decaying giant, with half a face—the flesh side was on its left, and the skull exposed on the right—some parts muscular and others skeletal. But it was indeed a golem. On its skeletal arm was a sprayer that spritzed out the poisonous chemicals that made the forest sick.
“Let’s shut that thing down and save the Thracecadian Forest!” cheered Rouvin.
The Dwarves made a battle cry and approached the sickening behemoth.
Some Dwarves threw some throwing hammers to make dents in the “flesh” portions of the golem.
Others approached with their own battle hammers.
Despite this, the golem still moved, albeit a bit slower from the damage.
Rouvin loaded some arrows into his bow and shot at the head and the spraying apparatus.
The sprayer soon broke and became inactive.
Zanthe then cast some nature spells, causing a small quake and softening the earth so the golem would sink and get stuck.
The Dwarf army soon proceeded to beat up on the golem. The golem swung back and forth trying to hit the small attackers. Some were injured, but no injuries were life-threatening—the wounds were at worst moderate.
Eventually the giant hulk broke down and deactivated. The Dwarves soon gave a victory yell.
“When we get the chance,” said one of the Dwarf soldiers, “let’s take it apart and recycle this monster!”
“Yeah,” said another Dwarf soldier, “waste not, want not, after all!”
The Dwarf army sang a victory song as they and the two elves went back to Gray Corfu.

While Rouvin and Zanthe were fighting one golem in the northern part of the Thracecadian Forest, another golem was invading the city of Gray Corfu. It too looked like a decaying giant, but the flesh features and skeleton-exposed features were reverse of the other golem. It was almost like a mirror image of the other. Otherwise, it too had a poison sprayer on its skeletal arm.
The defending Dwarves tried to fight off the hulk, but it just kept going, and it seemed more resilient than the golem Rouvin and Zanthe faced.
“It’s heading toward the Temple of Hephaestus!” cried King Granadanano.
“Not if we can help it!” said Valerius. Nauplius and Galina soon followed.
Valerius, in a daring move, threw his Plasma Blade into one of the golem’s ankles. It severed the wires that made the leg work properly. The beast tipped over. The dwarves nearby wisely ran for it and got out of the way.
The golem then moved its arm to spray the poison toward the tree-temple, but Nauplius leapt in the air giving a Dwarven war cry. With the extra momentum of falling from the jump, he swung his battle hammer and smashed the sprayer, preventing it from spraying the tree.
“You will NOT blaspheme our patron god!” yelled Nauplius.
Galina then approached and summoned a small thunderstorm. Her staff guided the lightning bolt to strike the golem, finishing it off by short circuiting it.
“Glad THAT’S over with,” panted Nauplius.

However, while both armies were dealing with the two golems, no one noticed an unwelcome presence in the Gray Corfu Armory.
Erebus, holding Delphinia by the wrist, walked down to the secret vault.
“There it is!” hissed the warlock as he found the Black Steel Dagger.
It was called the Black Steel Dagger because the blade was indeed black, created from a special form of smithing and magic. The handle was made of a wood covered with a pale tan-gray leather.
Delphinia, in a desperate move, kicked over an old suit of armor. This alerted one guard that was still present in the armory.
“Who’s there?!” said a voice.
“Blast you, wretch!” said Erebus to Delphinia. “I’ll settle with you later, but for now, we both need to get out!”
The guard arrived just a few seconds after Erebus and Delphinia warped out. He looked in horror to find the spot the Black Steel Dagger once lay was now empty.
“I must warn King Granadanano!” said the guard. He then ran out of the armory to tell his sovereign.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:19:17 
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Chapter 27: From Bad To Worse

The heroes were wiping the sweat away from their brows.
So were the Dwarven soldiers who were part of the mission.
“Well, that takes care of those two biohazards,” said Rouvin, catching his breath.
But soon, the armory guard emerged.
“King Granadanano,” said the guard, panting. “The armory had been invaded! The Black Steel Dagger had been stolen!”
“WHAT?!” the king said in horror.
“It is true!” the guard replied. “The perpetrator had gotten away before I could identify him!”
“It must be Erebus!” said Valerius. “And isn’t a Black Steel Dagger part of the Forbidden Ritual?!”
“Indeed!” said a voice from the wreckage of the golem within the city.
A holographic image emerged from the remains, resembling the head of Erebus.
Erebus explained:
“I needed some way to keep the Dwarven populace distracted, so I contacted a terrorist group outside the boundaries of the empire, who made these two golems for me.”
“So this attack was all a diversion!” the Dwarf King said.
“Yes,” said Erebus. “And now, I am about to obtain the last part of the ritual, but before then, a little surprise for Valerius!”
The warlock laughed again as the image vanished.

A large monitor near the tree of the Hephaestus temple (as well as the Dwarf King’s Palace) turned on. A news reporter soon spoke:

“This just in—The capital city of Olympalantis has been under attack! Erebus Tonadi has been seen leading an army of monsters from the mountains to ransack the city!”

Valerius’ face turned pale with horror.
“Friends,” said Valerius, “we need to return to Olympalantis quickly!”
“The gods be with you,” said the Dwarf King. “As for us, we shall search the golem remains for where they came from, so we can contact the authorities there. Perhaps they can ensure the ones who committed the atrocities are justly punished!”
“Thank you!” replied Valerius. “And farewell.”

It was midafternoon when the party left Gray Corfu.
A few more Forest Imps, similar to the ones encountered in Emerald Kavala, ambushed the travelers, as well as a few gray-skilled ogres with energy axes.
By the time they were halfway between Gray Corfu and Olympalantis, it was twilight.
The party set camp, had a small supper of their rations, and then turned in for the night.
For Valerius, sleep came hard—he did not like having to stop for rest when he knew his beloved was in danger, even though he knew it was necessary to rest from time to time.
The next day, they resumed their trek to Olympalantis.
It was an hour before noon when they reached the city limits. But nothing could prepare them for the horror that awaited their eyes.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:19:56 
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Chapter 28: The Final Part of the Ritual

The once magnificent city of Olympalantis had been badly damaged.
The tall towers had been completely toppled, half-gone, or at the very least badly wrecked.
Streets had holes bored into them by monsters of the underground.
Bridges and overpasses were either completely severed or at the very least damaged with a few gaps here and there.
Many people were either killed, injured, or had fled when the attack happened.
“The noble city,” said Valerius with terror and anger, “the crown jewel of the empire—RUINED!!!”
But more grief would arrive when a soldier emerged, weeping.
“Oh, great sorrow…” mourned the soldier. “The damage of the city is but little compared to… to…”
“Good soldier,” said Valerius, “what sorrow has befallen that would make the scars of this invasion look small in comparison?”
The soldier, sobbing again, replied, “Emperor Constantinus… is dead!”
“WHAT?!” the five said in horror.
The soldier, sniffling and blowing his nose on a hankerchief, said, “Erebus used his magic to create a supernatural blade and kill our beloved emperor! His firstborn son, Theodorus Constantinus, as well as his widow and other children, still live… but…”
Valerius burned with rage.
“Mark my words, friend,” he said to the soldier, “Erebus WILL pay for what he has done! My allies and I will ensure he faces justice!”

A few seconds after Valerius made his declaration, the group heard a female scream. It was a voice Valerius recognized.
“It’s Delphinia!” he said. The five heroes and the soldier soon ran to where the scream came from.
Delphinia was on her knees, clutching her wounded left arm. Nearby was Erebus.
“Ah, Valerius,” Erebus said with a sadistic tone. “About time you showed up.”
Erebus then reached into a pouch in his robe and showed a vial containing a red liquid.
“Behold,” he said. “The final ingredient of the Forbidden Ritual—the blood of a pure-hearted healing woman! I didn’t need to kill her on some altar. Merely wounding her to get a sample of her blood was sufficient.”
The warlock then put the vial back into his pouch.
“Now,” he continued, “to go to the best place to perform the ritual. This place is a perfect spot to declare my status as a new god!”
Once again he laughed with sadistic glee as he vanished again.

Valerius soon ran up to his beloved Delphinia.
“My love,” said Valerius. “I am here.”
The soldier also arrived with some gauze and ointment. He quickly gave them to the hero. Valerius then put some healing ointment onto Delphinia and bound up the wound in the gauze.
“Thank you, Valerius,” said Delphinia.
The heroic man then scooped up the woman in his arms and carried her to her home. She guided him to where her home was above her healing shop.
Very gently he placed Delphinia onto her bed.
“I’ll be fine, my love,” said Delphinia. “I just need to rest to recover. You need to do what you can to save Olympalantis. If you hurry, you can still stop Erebus.”
“Yes, Delphinia,” said Valerius. “I shall do it.”
The two kissed one more time before Valerius left Delphinia’s home and healing shop.

Theodorus Constantinus awaited Valerius as he emerged. He wore attire similar to his late father’s. He also had the same complexion and eyes as the former emperor, but had tan-blond hair.
“Valerius Magnitis, I presume,” said Theodorus Constantinus.
“Yes, sire,” replied Valerius. “My deepest sympathies to you and your family.”
“Thank you,” the new emperor-to-be said. “I have seen where Erebus had traveled to.”
“Please tell us,” said Zanthe.
“He has gone to the Frigid-Phrygia Mountains to the northeast,” Theodorus replied. “It is also where he got the monsters for attacking the capital city.”
“Leave the rest to us, Emperor,” said Nauplius. “Erebus will pay for what he did to your father and to this city.”
The party soon started to head to the northeast.
“The gods be with them,” said Theodorus.

Near the edge of the city nearest the mountains, Galina conjured up a chest for warmer attire, since as their name implied, the Frigid-Phrygia Mountains were cold all year round. The chest magically contained the same cold-weather attire they each would wear under normal cold-weather circumstances.
Valerius donned a winter coat, pants, hat, and gloves there were all dark powder blue, but he wore the same stormcloud gray boots he wore before.
Nauplius got on some Phthalo green coat and winter pants that were much thicker than his usual clothes. He also wore some timberwolf gray mittens, yet they still allowed his hands to hold onto his battle hammer when need be. His earmuffs were also timberwolf gray.
Rouvin got on a parka which was Hunter green and Tiffany blue, with winter gloves that were Palatinate blue and thick Persian green boots.
Zanthe also wore a parka that was all mint green, with the exception of dark goldenrod belt, mittens, and boots.
And Galina wore a parka that was sapphire, with lavender blush boots, mittens, and belt.
“Friends,” said Galina, “I remember legends of a mountain taller than all the other mountains, called Silver Artemis Mountain. Atop that mountain is a tower, which is said to be the closest point to which humans can reach the realm of the gods.”
Valerius’ memory of his past dreams kicked in.
“I’ve had at least two dreams of this tower,” he explained. “It would only make sense he would perform the Forbidden Ritual there—it’s practically a shortcut to that realm to him.”

Nauplius went a little bit further.
“Follow me,” he said. “I’ve been through the mountains many times in the past, and I’ve even seen the tower long before these events. My Dwarf people and I know the trails well, since sometimes we need to do trade with lands outside the empire.”
“You have aided us in the past, good Nauplius,” said Valerius. “I know we can trust you further. Lead the way!”
Nauplius nodded and went on. The others followed.

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PostPosted: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 - 18:21:27 
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Chapter 29: Journey Through the Frigid-Phrygia Mountains

The five adventurers soon made it to the northwest edge of Olympalantis, and already the cold breeze of the Frigid-Phrygia Mountains began to touch them. Even with their winter clothing on, they could still feel the chill, albeit slightly.
“Which route should we take to get to Silver Artemis Mountain?” asked Valerius.
“Well,” said Nauplius, “thanks to Erebus, ALL routes are dangerous, but I can take you to the most direct route there.”
“We’ll have our weapons at the ready, then,” said Rouvin. “Lead us, Nauplius.”
The dwarf nodded with a smile.

The first trail was tame enough, as the only danger here was hypothermia for the unprepared explorer.
Eventually, though, the adventuring team encountered some Ice Goblins. These cyan-skinned picayune pests wore armor made of marble, and wielded pickaxes made of the frozen water.
Galina prepared a tornado spell to blow away most of them, but a few held their ground by picking into the rocky path and holding on until the wind subsided.
Nauplius said, “I guess some want to go the hard way!” At that, he swung his battle hammer and sent them sailing.
“You’d be a menace in golf!” wisecracked Rouvin.
“I may have to play a few rounds of that game when this is all over,” chuckled Nauplius in reply.
After a good laugh, the party continued.

They soon made their way to a mountain pass. It was wide enough for all to see the tower and the mountain it rested on in the distance.
“There’s our destination,” said Nauplius. “Just a few more miles to go and we’ll be entering the tower.”
“Combining the mountain and the tower,” said Valerius, “we’re in for one beast of a climb.”
“I’m sure there are some elevators to help cut down the hassle,” said Zanthe. “Even the tower had to have had some renovations over the years.”
The dialogue was cut short, when the five heard large rumbling footsteps, and felt the tremors that went with them.
They then looked and saw a Frost Cyclops. This one-eyed giant had lavender skin, armor that was made of ice and stone, and had a large ice hammer that would even give Nauplius’ stone hammer some competition, as far as damage goes.
“Who dares enter my mountain pass?!” roared the Frost Cyclops in a medium-low pitch roar.
“We are just passing through to get to Silver Artemis Mountain,” explain Valerius.
“I don’t care if you’re trying to reach the moon itself!” said the one-eyed titan. “This is my pass, and no one passes it without my consent!”
“Obviously one-eye here won’t be reasoned with,” said Rouvin.
The party got out of the way of an ice hammer swing. One would be surprised to see how hard ice can hit, but the crater of the resulting swing showed just how strong the hammer was despite its makeup.
When all five travelers got back up, Rouvin, in a desperate move, shot an arrow into the Frost Cyclops’ eye. It was lucky enough to hit its mark. The Frost Cyclops roared in pain and began to glow cerulean before turning into a statue of ice.
“I must’ve pierced its brain as well!” Rouvin said in amazement.
“Well, we had to do what we did,” sighed Valerius. “He just couldn’t listen to reason, so we had no choice but to fight.”
Everyone else nodded as they continued through the pass. It was a miracle the fight didn’t trigger an avalanche to block the pass.

The mountain pass protected the party from much of the cold breeze, save for the occasional gust that went through.
Most of the howling sounds came from the wind itself, creating an eerie song as they walked through.
It was noon, but that meant little in this nearly Arctic-like area.
A different howl was soon heard when they neared the end of the pass, and it wasn’t the wind this time.
The five looked and saw what looked like the three-headed hellhound Cerberus, only this was made of ice, snow, and various magics that held it together. It was an Ice Cerberus.
The Ice Cerberus didn’t speak, but it did not need to. Its barks, growls, yips, and howls conveyed a message that it was made by Erebus to stop the party in their tracks, or at the very least stall them for more time.
“Time to teach this bad doggie to play dead!” said Nauplius. He swung his hammer at one of the heads, but the central head retaliated by breathing a cold mist that froze his legs in place.
“I better move before it makes Nauplius its personal chew toy!” said Valerius as he swung his Plasma Blade at the head to stop it. He then used the Plasma Blade in just the right spots to thaw his Dwarf friend out.
“Much obliged, Valerius,” said Nauplius.
Zanthe then cast some spells that summoned her own golems to attack the Ice Cerberus. The strain soon cause cracks in the ice.
Nauplius then made another swing at the beast. His hammer cracked the ice shell further, exposing softer snow portions.
Galina cast a lightning spell that not only wounded the beast even more, but paralyzed it so it would be exposed to one final hit.
“Finish it now, Valerius!” she yelled.
“Right!” replied Valerius. He then plunged his Plasma Blade into the exposed snow. The heat quickly channeled through the icy body, cause the Ice Cerberus to melt into slush. The magic that gave it life quickly dissipated.
Zanthe then joined her magic with Galina to create some warmer airs to dry off the party, so they would not get severe chilblain from the moisture resulting from that battle.


A few more miles, and the team soon got to the foot of the trail of Silver Artemis Mountain.
“Here we are, my friends,” Nauplius said, with a voice that was cheerful yet cautious. “This is Silver Artemis Mountain.”
“Let us prepare for anything,” said Valerius. “Knowing Erebus, he doesn’t want us to reach him too easily. And even some of the neutral monsters might get in our way, if the encounter with the Frost Cyclops taught us anything.”
“Yes,” said Galina. “These are interesting times, as well as dangerous. We must expect the unexpected.”
“Tyche be by our side,” said Rouvin, as he joined his comrades up the trail.

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