This story has its origins in an earlier story I wrote for the Guild Hall... but with the release of Nightfall and Eye of the North, I felt compelled to break it completely down to the foundation and rebuild it. This construction bears little resemblance to its forbearer, but I hope it ends up just as good.
We shall see, I suppose.
The Throne of Pandemonium
It is sometimes said that there is no such thing as “pure” fiction; that even the most outrageous children’s stories contain within them even the smallest shred of truth. Perhaps that is a fallacy, but in this case, it is all too accurate, and once again, the world teeters in the balance. How many more times can Tyria face the end of days?
How many more times can I?
This was harder than it looked.
Devona was having an increased respect for the farmers that kept people fed. Her muscles were as sore as if she had just finished a prolonged battle… and this was only the first day of the first planting session of the year.
And to think that the farmers who chose to remain in Ascalon with their king had to work twice as hard and twice as long for half the yield that they received in the North Kryta Province… the warrior had to fight back a sympathetic shudder.
She had been exempt from the farm chores up until this point, having to put her talents to other duties in order to keep the refugee people of Ascalon safe from harm. But with the Abaddon dead, his subordinates either dead or scattered, as well as the Great Destroyer defeated and its minions mindless and hunted… there wasn’t much for a warrior to do to ply her trade.
Devona knew she had no one to blame but herself, after all. She was the one who insisted to the elders of the camp she do something useful. And so her hammer became a rake; her sword, a spade. Unfortunately, the pain and fatigue seemed universal.
“That’s enough for today, Devona.” The farm master declared from behind her, and her fighter instincts nearly introduced her rake to the elderly man’s face. “Ya did good for a first day. Get some rest, because we’re doing double tomorrow.”
“Joy…” She groaned, rolling her shoulders and ignoring the sore protest of her joints, slung her rake and spade up and steadily strode back to the humble settlement.
“Could I have a moment of your time?” A dour voice asked from behind her, causing the warrior to whirl about quickly… only to see nothing but air.
“Down here, bookah.”
If the prompting to turn her eyes downward hadn’t been enough of a clue, the nickname would have been. Just beneath her normal line of vision, the Asura genius Vekk was standing almost right on her feet, staring up at Devona with uniform black eyes that never seemed to blink quite enough.
“Vekk!” Devona yelped, trying hard to suppress her astonishment. “This is a… pleasant surprise.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’re positively charmed.” The Asura droned. “Please, spare the pleasantries. I am in plentiful amounts of haste.”
Devona had mixed feelings about Vekk in the time they allied to fight the Great Destroyer and his minions. On one hand, she liked his “to the point” nature; yet on the other… he could be so damned condescendingly obnoxious.
“Fine, then why are you here?”
“I need an audience with your king. I have the understanding you have the connections to make that possible.”
Devona blinked, wondering what would bring the Asura to make such a request. “My king?”
Vekk took a deep breath and sighed. What was it about humans that prompted them to ask stupid questions?
At one time, he had mused that humans spoke without really saying anything because they only had the intellect to either move their mouth or think, and if they stopped talking, their brains would start working… but eventually rejected that thought for being unnecessarily cynical.
“You’re Ascalonian, correct?” Vekk finally asked.
Devona nodded slowly. “Yes…”
“Then you should know who I’m talking about… unless the Kingdom of Ascalon has two kings; which I highly doubt from what I know of the land.”
“I see you’re gathering the thrust of the conversation oh so quickly.” Vekk drawled, his eyelids shifting, indicating he was rolling his eyes. “I need to speak with your King Adelbern as promptly as possible on a matter of great importance to both our people. I am told you have the ability to garner such an audience.”
“Even if I could… why should I?” The warrior asked, now beginning to sense that in a roundabout way she was being insulted.
“It would be more efficient to tell my story once with all relevant parties present than multiple times to everyone individually. I would hope in our time as allies you would have learned that I am not one to make such bold requests for trivial reasons.” The Asura straightened in a vain attempt to make himself look taller, and repeated, “I trust I can count on your assistance in this matter.”
Devona shook her head. “I think you overvalue my worth in the King’s eyes. I was a captain in his military, nothing more.”
“If by ‘nothing more’, you mean the consort and betro…”
Vekk felt Devona’s hand slap over his mouth, and his instincts kicked in, sinking his small yet dagger sharp teeth into the flesh.
The warrior yelped, and yanked her hand away. “You little beast!” She snarled, then noticed that Vekk was no longer paying attention to her; the Asura spitting and hacking while smacking his lips distastefully.
“That was vile.” He complained between spasms. “How do you humans bear being next to each other? What a horrible, putrid, and hideous…. Ugh! It’ll take me a week to wash the taste out of my mouth.”
“How in Grenth’s name did you know?” She demanded before nursing the now bleeding bite marks on her hand.
Vekk turned his gaze upward again. “I have my ways. The Asura may have been hidden, but we make it our habit of knowing things.”
“Nonetheless, that was a long time ago.” Devona answered, “And I’d rather you and your kin to not start spreading long dead news about. It means nothing anymore.”
“You sound so certain…”
At that moment, the farm master approached at a slow jog from the fields. “I heard a scream.” He said, his pitchfork at the ready and his eyes scanning for any threat, yet seemingly oblivious to Vekk as the old man’s eyes passed over three times. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh no, dear sir.” Vekk began, a mischievous grin beginning to spread across his face as he again looked up at Devona. The warrior caught the expression, and scowled as the Asura continued, “She was just a little surprised by my appearance. However, since you are here, I suppose that I should tell you that Devona is…”
“… Taking Vekk here to Ascalon for an important meeting with King Adelbern.” the warrior finished hastily, inwardly furious that she had been… guided… into that particular answer. “I’m afraid that it must take priority, and I will not be able to assist tomorrow with the harvest.”
The old farmer exhaled. “No offense, but you won’t exactly be missed. Half your load had to be discarded because you plucked it wrong. Go play hero… I know you’re good at that.”
Vekk started to chuckle, but Devona’s glare quickly silenced him. “Thank you, Farm Master Howell.” She said with a bow, even as her pride stung from being so casually dismissed by that dirty, simple old man. Vekk followed suit, then took stride behind Devona, having to pick his pace to a run occasionally to keep up with the human’s longer legs.
Nonetheless, it didn’t stop him from uttering cheerfully, “I do so love it when a plan comes together.”
* * * * *
When Devona was traveling and fighting whatever force of evil came her way, all she could think about was a time where she could be at peace and live a “normal” life.
And yet, after one month of that “normal” life, she couldn’t help but notice the spring in her step as she prepared for traveling once again.
“Are you ready yet?” Vekk asked from outside Devona’s hut, his voice reflecting impatience.
“Gods save you, Vekk. I’ve only been in here ten minutes.” She shouted back. On second thought, traveling with that Asura was quickly draining her excitement.
“Well, that’s ten minutes of my life wasted then. However, I wasn’t talking to you.”
Devona’s eyebrows turned downward, and her mind shifted in reverse. Hastily snapping her backpack shut and slinging it over her right shoulder, she took three strides to the door, flung it open, and began to ask, “Then who…?”
“You were going to go on a nice vacation, and you didn’t invite us?” Cynn’s teasing voice reflected her haughty posture. “We’re hurt.”
“Cynn! You can’t travel in your condition!” Devona protested. Being with child was a great responsibility not to be risked, and the road to Ascalon was perilous at the best of times, ironically much worse now then ever before since the Deldrimor abandoned their kingdom in the Shiverpeaks.
“I’m not giving birth tomorrow, for the gods sake.” Cynn answered with a roll of her eyes. “I’ve already had this fight with Mhenlo, and I’m not going through it again.”
“Yes, please… don’t go through it again.” Mhenlo said with a forlorn groan.
“Agreed, you wouldn’t want Cynn doing to your home what she did to theirs during their… disagreement.” Aiden answered. “After that, the village elders were about to demand Cynn leave before she set the whole settlement ablaze.”
Cynn grunted in disdain. “You light a few crows on fire to make a point, and people think you’re a menace. Isn’t that what the farmers want anyway? Besides, I wasn’t the one that animated their skeletons and sent them into the settlement center. That was Eve’s doing.”
“The screams were delightful… although I have to give credit to Adam. It was his idea, not mine.” The necromancer said with a voice that was bordering on wistful.
“At any rate, soon after our decision was made for us. The elders asked us none too politely if we could find somewhere more useful to be.” Mhenlo finished with a defeated sag of his shoulders.
Devona began to understand why the group was being asked to accompany her on her journey; the settlement wanted to get them out of the vicinity before they burned it to the ground.
“If it assuages your concerns any, my travel plans include an Asura Gate to just underneath what was once Thunderhead Keep.” Vekk added. “It will cut our travel time immensely.”
The young warrior sighed in surrender. “I suppose there’s nothing to do about it, is there? It’ll be like old times… for good or for ill.”