The Diary of the Centurion

They call me the Centurion, but I don’t think I’m Roman. Most likely, I think, I’m from Northern Africa. That was a very long time ago.

I remember a woman. She may have been my mother, or my sister, or an aunt, or even just someone from my village. It must have been a village, because I don’t remember cities. She seemed old at the time, but she could have been any age at all. I was quite young and everyone seemed older.

My first lucid memory, the first memory I have start to finish of anything happening, was in a city. I don’t remember what city, but there were tapestries and people. It bustled, people shoved me past. The buildings had pointed arches and pale stone. Perhaps it was Constantinople. I must have been four or five hundred years old. A man tried to stab me and take my purse. The blade was old, and broke on my chest. I took the knife from him and beat him. Someone gave me a melon. He must have been a nuisance for anyone to be grateful. I left that city soon after.

Men can only remember so much. A single lifetime is full of thousands of forgotten moments, even stressful and poignant moments can vanish given enough time. I have lived more lifetimes than I can imagine.

I wonder, sometimes, if that’s affected me. If my father was distant as a child, but I cannot remember him in any case, will it change how I act? Perhaps he was an important part of my upbringing. Perhaps I never knew him. Either way, I remember a man, bald and tall. He cut me, once. As I recall, it was ritualistic. I have never bled since then.

I was married three times. Once, she was a young woman who I believe was from my hometown. She is a vague impression in my mind, a shape and a color. Her face and her name are long gone. I don’t even know why I married her. My next wife was from the Middle East. She spoke fluently and was well-educated. She was killed in a battle next to me – I was pressed into service during one of the Crusades. By that point, I had seen enough people die that it made little difference to me if I took a few more lives (I am sure that that thought will be edited out if this journaling is ever made public. A flagship hero should not have had a period in which life was a pittance). I do not recall if I cried over her. My last wife was an old woman, in Europe. I married her in order to take possession of her property when she died, so that I could turn it over to her children without it being seized by whatever they were calling the local officials. She was a lovely woman, in spite of being abundantly foolish.

I came to America twenty years ago, landing in Ellis Island. The humanity stank from the ship. I don’t know exactly why I came here. Possibly I was afraid that I would be pressed into service in the war brewing in Europe. There is irony, there, given that I partook in that war with more intensity than if I had been on the front lines murdering every Axis or Ally – however the cards may have fallen – with my own two hands.

An Australian named Oliphant found me in New York. He’d followed a legend, tracked me down. He said that the Axis had been conducting research in every direction. In fact, there are rumors they even had a darkly superstitious branch that conducted research into the field of Nuclear Physics. What exactly they hoped to uncover is unguessable. But many of their most skilled researchers were defecting. It is known now what atrocities they were committing, even hoping that their camps of mass murder could fuel rituals giving them more power. Such senseless death – The Power is not a bloodthirsty god, who will return more if his thirst is slaked. The Power simply is. But they believed that I was the key, and they took me to Rochester to study me. I believe that they were considering, if the destructive capabilities took them by surprise, to transport the research to another facility located somewhere in the western states. That, though, is another world and not this one.

I briefly met Doctor Oppenheimer in my time. Many people ask about him, though I do not fully understand the fascination. He seemed pleasant enough, though shaken by the idea of the undertaking.

The research produced a number of humans who could exhibit a powerful array of abilities. Men who could tear through a stone wall in seconds, women who could burn down a building in a moment. In a way, they beat me out. I have no such ability on my own – they offered to grant me a measure of superhuman strength, or of speed, or any number of other spells. I turned them down. I had no desire for my one enchantment, and adding more for an eternity of living could prove a disappointment that I could not outwait.

Or so I told them. I don’t believe they know that I kept a few of the spells for myself. Just in case.

You have already heard of the assault on Japan. The fearsome power that rocked the world, horrifying with absolute destruction even as it captured the eye of the nations. The USSR has their own mages now, stocking them up with an eye towards the Western world. I do not much care for the conflict. But I am the symbol of Salvation Incorporated, held up as the premier hero: The Centurion. It’s a joke to them, really.

I must go buy groceries now. I shall pen again soon.


Magic, while bearing incredible potential, lacks applicability and safety. The required study to adjust the very laws of nature without unforeseen effects demands such an effort as to render it impractical for daily use. To attempt to fix a portion of an object in place leads to immediate effects as the movement of the world tears past, or indeed sometimes a too-precise working can cause an enormous explosion within an entire area.

The alternative, however, has been in place for a brief yet powerful period that has changed the very face of the civilized world. Myrmidons, a seed of creation that is grown and shaped into tailor made tools, infinitely adaptable given time and stimulus.

Properly, the Myrmidon refers to the seed, a singular collection of cells that works outwards into a guided shape. The initial growth proves rapid, though it slows considerably as the construct reaches larger sizes or more focused and difficult levels of specificity.

Once a seed has been established for a time, a craftsman is able to separate the seed from the growth, allowing another construct to be started from the seed. The seeds themselves, when carefully husbanded, can themselves be divided, though the process is traumatic to the Myrmidon, each portion will regenerate itself into a full seed. A skilled craftsman with a Myrmidon of sufficient hardiness and age can split a seed as many as three times at a stroke, multiplying the capacity of the Myrmidon for the future.

The attentive student witnesses, then, that generations of Myrmidons are, in fact, identical clones closer related than siblings. In spite of this, generations of Myrmidons depart from each other to greater and greater degrees, as a Myrmidon separated from its growth forever after displays a strong tendency to grow similarly. Thus, those Myrmidons dedicated to lighting the streets of Bran Tessen grow more specialized to give off a consistent light, while those employed in giving off flame and gas for military purposes put out more powerful and directed bursts, and those dedicated to covering great distances grow leaner and more efficient in their movement.

The crowning achievement of the Myrmidons and their craftsmen is the full suit; such a construct is an astounding display of mastery and dedication, creating a second creature that mimics the movements of the master until it surpasses them in skill and power. Indeed, Bran Tessen has begun to field the Westround Cavalry which, rather than being mounted as the other Cavaliers, each are outfitted with a Myrmidon. The constructs learn rapidly, and are put through their paces by Bran Tessens finest. Bran Tessen hopes to witness the impact of a Cavalier that can cover more ground on foot than his mounted brethren, demand fewer resources to maintain, and prove a formidable opponent should they have to prove their mettle.

The Posterli Myrmidon

The Posterli Junta – granted a monopoly by order of the previous Udor crown, though the grant is in danger of being rescinded by the newly ascended government of the Collective of Udor – stands out as a group that bears high hopes for the Myrmidons applicability to the trade of paper and spices (the two specific branches their monopoly covers, save for the exception of cinnamon, due to an adviser in the Crowns ear more interested in maintaining a competitive market than supporting the Posterli Junta). In spite of frequent experimentation, they have yet to discover a profound use for Myrmidons outside of lighting for travel in the darker hours, or the pack mules that load the cargo with more ease. The breeding of a Myrmidon to transport large quantities of cargo across great distances of water at a more efficient rate than that already provided by boats has proven to be a wall preventing the absolute use of Myrmidons throughout.

Even so, they have established the creation of a small warehousing center on the far side of the Whitening Sea, as well as a more central stock headquarters in an outpost of Udor, a quiet area taking in the shipments from across the Whitening Sea. The Posterli Junta maintains a tight hold on its secrets, allowing only the most cursory of inspections and largely demanding control over their own world without challenge. Even so, reports have filtered out of a Myrmidon in the employ of the Posterli Junta, used in the headquarters center.

Duke Arthur Tennenbaum, of Bran Tessen, authored a report after an inspection of the Posterli Junta for the purpose of expanding the Juntas monopoly to Bran Tessen.

The Wildlands

The Wildlands

Magic hovers somewhere between a biological source and an expression of will. The core of magic revolves around transmutation of laws. A single law of nature is rewritten in an area, leading to a variety of results. An adept mage, capable of following through on the ramifications of subtle changes, can create a significant effect. The less capable tend to result in explosions or meltdowns as the changes cascade together until they are covered over by the larger tendencies of the universe. In some cases, however, such areas become uninhabitable or unusable for vast periods of time.

Responsible magi take themselves to the borders of the Wildlands and conduct research there. While the research can be challenging – as each mage has to contend with the mistakes and leftovers of previous experiments – it keeps the largest portion away from civilization. Further, some of the more skilled and daring consider it their duty to venture into the Wildlands and to deconstruct the magical remnants left behind.

The Wildlands cover slightly more than twelve hundred square miles, but have been expanding for several hundred years. Many groups of researchers, however, have noted that the expansion is increasing in rate. Prominent theories are that the interactions of the various spells left throughout the area are beginning to work upon each other in more powerful ways, rebounding and affecting the world more and more strongly. A group of dedicated magi are redoubling efforts to dismantle the borders and attempt to slow the spread.

The Tulanne Expedition (347)

Dame Molly Comfort Tulanne funded and led the journey into the heart of the Wildlands, laboring under the belief that the key to the spread of the Wasteland borders lay not along the more recent spells, but among the older aegis within the heart of the Wildlands. Among the volunteers was a hedge mage, Aiden Wishheart. Unlike many of his colleagues, Wishheart did not come from an established family, instead working his way up from the streets of Bran Tessen, making his reputation purely on his own merit. As a result, Wishheart was held in high regard by the already established magi. Further notables on the expedition included Isham Junius Gunn, of the well-known Gunn family who had founded the Gunn College of Research and Mystical Studies; and Sir Abner Westley, representing the interests of the Crown in the matter.

Upon venturing into the Wildlands, the Stone of Communication that Dame Tulanne carried ceased to function almost immediately. Despite this, the group pressed on into the heart of the Wildlands.

When, six months later, they returned, they came bearing notes on the various interactions of the spells laid within, although their usefulness was mired in the hopeless cross-contamination of years of experimentation. Further, Elvira Styles, Instructor at Gunn College, had perished within the Wildlands. According to the notes carried out, she had been melded into the earth some twenty-three miles in, and though she remained conscious, she was unable to be extricated.

More urgently, the other members had undergone a marked transformation. While they had entered looking like any other of their species, they emerged with drastically changed proportions. Their bodies had elongated, and likewise their limbs, albeit to a disproportionate degree. Their faces had been stripped of much of their identifying features, leaving them with an alien look about them. Their skin had the tone drained away, leaving behind only a vague impression that once, this one had been fair and that one dark, without a strong assurance on whether the paler had been truly pale or merely lighter-skinned than his brother. Most profoundly, none of those so transformed required the foci usually demanded for the workings of a mage; the primary expense and difficulty of magical workings had been removed for them, without explanation. Each identified themselves and each other as members of the expedition. 

The only one that had not undergone the transformation was Wishheart himself. Indeed, coming back compared to the others he seemed grimmer and shorter than before, and he ever after kept the impressive beard that he had grown while in the Wildlands. Shortly thereafter, he became a recluse, rarely seen except for the most occasional speeches that his colleagues and students could wring out of him. While these speeches were at first well-attended, the public enthusiasm dropped when it became evident that much of his razor’s edge mind had been lost in the harrowing venture, and his speeches were more rambling than enlightening.


The original source of Vapor is thought to be a plant within the wildlands, or possibly some geological matter altered by the magical effects within. It’s original source is unknown, though it is believed that a mage by the nom de guerre of Lady Araminta Latimar, who returned from a three week journey to experiment in the Wildlands with the first raw source of Vapor. While under the greatly diluted effects of the unrefined product, she began the process of distilling a more potent form of the drug, eventually creating Vapor in its modern form. At any rate, the refined product vastly increases potential of a practitioner. Whether it be by increasing willpower, mental acuity, or merely the energy of the user, the end result is the same: a mage under the influence of Vapor is in a manic state, channeling magical energies in sporadic bursts as it swells to overflowing.

Those under the effects of Vapor display boundless energy, often stretching across multiple days of manic behavior. While they occasionally direct these efforts in a productive fashion, most typically there is a flurry of invention to no end, leading to an abundance of half-baked and questionably useful devices and spells that, when the fever releases its victims, prove to be difficult to use and impractical when they stay even remotely functional.

Three Siblings

There were, at first, three siblings. The first was the God of Iron, who valued strength and ambition above all else. The Second was the Goddess of the Hearth, who believed that love was the greatest of all forces. Last was the God of Wood, who prized even ignorance and lies as founders of chaos.

The three took it into their heads to create something together and leave a living mark on the world. The Iron God spoke first – what they created must be, first and foremost, strong. Its virtue would be might and commitment, force of will. What they deemed to be possible would be possible, and naught would stop them.

The Hearth Goddess spoke next. No, the strength of the creation would not be in personal might, but in the group. They would bond together, speak as brothers and sisters. They would not have to conquer the world, for they would live as one with the world.

The Wooden God spoke last. Neither of them would live in the world as it was. Virtue was not in might, for the day will come when age robs strength and a mightier opponent sees them. There was only one path to success, and it was a winding, twisting way. These creations would be clever above all, reliant on the strength not of their arms, but of their minds. They would work with the world, but only so those of cunning could climb up upon those of feebler mind.

They argued this for a time, until they fell to violence. The fury washed out in a terrible storm, until one of them was struck dead. Where the god died, the great Sea of Cerenaria broke open.

When the survivors saw what they had done, they were filled with horror. To cover the body, they filled the sea with the water of the oceans. This done, they decided to create a monument for the fallen sibling. Together, they wove the world. While they worked with diligence to create a being living to the ideals of the fallen sibling, they had nothing to work with save their own essence, and Humanity’s strain was purely their own, bent into a shape like that of their sibling. This done, the two hid themselves from all knowledge, becoming the Hidden Gods.

There exists, then, a schism. Which of the siblings was slain, and which of the siblings lived. Within that question lies the center of creation.

The Crossroads

Mainyu was a trickster.

When his nephew, The Seeker of Knowledge, started to map The Crossroads, Mainyu followed him at first, encouraging the discovery of new things. He knew that as The Seeker plotted out the movements of the planets, the tides and the seasons, that there would be a period of half-known facts. Further, he knew that The Mother would disapprove – she feared for The Seeker, even as she approved of his making the world known – and that The Breaker of Chains, The Wanderer would also frown. It delighted Mainyu to bedevil his brothers and sisters.

As The Seeker mapped The Crossroads, there were many tricks that Mainyu played upon him. When he convinced The Seeker that the tides were living things, and The Seeker spent many months trying to make trade with them; when he moved the stars so that The Seeker thought he awoke each night in a new place; when he taught The Seeker that the animals of the fields wanted nothing more to speak with him and to stomp through the forest with great loud strides, which made the Pits of Yan; these all happened on this journey.

But Mainyu realized once the world was mapped that his games were coming to an end. Once the world was mapped, and once Seeker of Knowledge knew the flights of birds and the paths of the skies, there would be nothing new to find and discover. Indeed, with such knowledge as this, The Breaker of Chains himself may shun the infant world.

Mainyu hatched a plan, then, and fled to the far reaches of the planes. He went to the elementals and found the creatures there, alien and strange.

First he spoke to the creatures of fire. He told them of the new world, green and ripe. Water, but the spirits therein were weak fey, not powerful elementals. He told them that if they went now, they could devour this new world without being paused.

The fire elementals distrusted him, but they followed. He led them through the other planes, taking a roundabout path that first led them through air. The air elementals were curious, and they asked where these were going, and what they were seeking. The fire elementals, being passionate and thoughtless, let it slip that there was a world without others there, and they were going to take it for themselves.

Mainyu ensured that those of air understood what was said. When they did, those of air begged to come along. Mainyu pretended to hem and to haw, to think and to ponder. They offered, then, that they would forever owe fire a debt, and would make sure that their descendants were forever strong if only they could come to this new plane. Those of fire relented, and they carried on.

Mainyu left the fire elementals, and he slipped away to the neighboring planes. He found those of water and told them that fire had moved to a new place. Water rushed faster than Mainyu could follow. He did not even try, however. Mainyu fled to earth and told them to come with him. Earth could barely be coaxed into moving, but finally Mainyu convinced them to follow him.

When they reached the planet, they found the world ravaged. A great desert was burnt across the Nibiru continent, and hot winds collided against the raging ocean. The elementals turned on Mainyu and demanded that he partition the world between them.

Mainyu called on Tasha – she born of The Mother and Mainyu. She was the judge, and she would be impartial.

Tasha decreed that water, wind, and fire had each been promised a place, but that they could not live together. She took them, then, and bound the three of them into forms, like unto the great Io. They were strong, clever, powerful, and they each touched their home planes and the magic of this plane alike. These were the first dragons.

Earth was divided. Some of them insisted that they deserved inheritance with the others, seeing that they were losing a place in the new world, while others retreated below to think and to ponder, until after eventual eons, the Dwarves emerged below to take their place with Elves and Hobs. 

. . . But that is another story.

Even Death

Bruce sat up out of his recently vacated corpse. Or rather, the portion of his corpse that was most Bruce-shaped.

He was, to his mild consternation, completely nude. It didn’t seem profoundly important anymore, hence the mildness. He looked around. The world itself was fast disappearing into a vague white haze, the shapes around him drifting away. Holes around him showed gaps in reality, and a moment later it occurred to him that these blank gaps were occupied by the living creatures whose world he was no longer native to.


Bruce turned around. He knew before he’d entirely faced the voice what he’d be looking at, but it was nice to get a verification.

It was, in point of fact, a skeleton in a black robe. It stood roughly six and a half feet tall and held an enormous scythe. In fact, the scythe appeared to be much larger than Bruce had envisioned. He’d seen large things, for many different values of large, but this was truly a large device. It made sense, he simply hadn’t thought about it.

Are you ready?

Bruce took a deep breath. Or something like a breath. He supposed he wasn’t breathing anymore. He spread his arms, closed his eyes, and awaited the reaping.

The reaping was not forthcoming.

What’s this?

Bruce opened his eyes.

“I assume that there’s a reaping?”

After a fashion.

“So. Are you reaping now, or do you wait a bit?”

You’ll have to walk.

Bruce raised an eyebrow.

Walk. Locomote yourself. The other side doesn’t come to you, you know.

“What’s the scythe for?”

The skeletal fingers adjusted on the handle. There was something unsettling about the way the fingers moved without any visible tendons or musculature. Protection. After a moment, the skeleton reluctantly added And style.


I thought you’d understand. The skeleton shrugged patiently. I have to explain this a lot these days.

“Do you?” Bruce tried to sound polite.

I do. What, Bruce Idle, do you believe my role in the cosmos to be?

“Er. The ultimate harvest, I suppose. The end of all things. Sort of.”

And in your opinion, the ultimate harvest of existence would look like a human skeleton in a robe?

“It sounds a bit vapid when you put it like that, of course.” Bruce slowly felt more self-conscious about his nudity and tried to subtly adjust his hands. The skeleton took no notice.

I am no more Death than you are Life. Or were, to make the metaphor more apt. You had an intimate relationship with Life, knew something about it, experienced it firsthand. But you were not the end and be all of Life.

I am, the skeleton turned and began to walk into the void. More of a psychopomp. You know the term?

Bruce followed at a mild jog. “Sort of an escort for the dead? Gets souls to the resting place and judgement.”

That much you do know. I am but a psychopomp. I have a task to conduct. I am your orientation to the afterlife.

“Is this something you’ve always done?”


“Ah.” Bruce stuttered. Not exactly the response he’d expected. “Just a hobby now?”

No. It is my purpose now.

Bruce nodded sagely.

I suppose you wonder why.


Charon works for money. Just a living, he says. I believe he thinks it is a joke. A few angels have it as their exclusive mission for existence. Some do it out of boredom.

Bruce waited an appropriate amount of time. “And you?”

Karma, I suppose.

“So. You sort of broke a soul or something and now you safeguard them?”

Of course not. Do you believe in the inevitability of justice, Bruce? I do not. But there are things that believe in justice. Well, not justice. But irony. And when my time comes, I would rather they find irony in my safe passage.

“‘And in strange aeons, even death may die,” Bruce muttered.

What in bloody hell does that mean?

“Well. You just said that you would. . . It seemed very apropos.”

I won’t die. One has to be alive in order to die. And many things that live will never die. Mortals keep showing up, though, so it seems that in no sense will Death die. Nonsense.

“But your time?”

Everyone has to go sometime.


The skeleton paused in his steps and nodded. His expressionless skull turned on Bruce.

“Go where?” Bruce managed.

If I knew that, I wouldn’t be doing this, now would I?

Bruce shook his head.

Now come along. I expect you’ll have a reward of some kind to get to.


Once, there was a dragon.

There are many kinds of dragons: Great dragons, terrible dragons, ancient dragons.

But this was just a dragon.

He slept on a pile of trinkets (as shiny objects feel warm to dragons, and make excellent beds) and was, if not precisely content with his lot in life, was happy to collect more trinkets and sleep in a larger bed and slowly get a little bigger and older and more dragon-like every day. And then, he met a maiden. All wise men can tell you that this is where the trouble began.

The dragon fell in love with the maiden. But the dragon also knew that in a kingdom like the one he dwelt in, a powerful reptile was far from the ideal mate. He couldn’t help himself, however, couldn’t ignore the maiden, and sometimes he lay on his warm bed and stared at his cave and thought how large and empty it was without a maiden, and how if there was a maiden, it would still be large and empty, but it wouldn’t seem quite so.

And so he spent more and more time lurking on rooftops that happened to be near where the maiden was going about her business, happened to be just across the street when she left her home for the day, and then happened to always be looking for trinkets close enough that – even if no-one else knew, or would have said so – he knew that she was nearby.

There is only so much that a dragon can do, however, before he attracts attention. A Prince rode down, his armor shining in the sun like a polished mirror, with fine silks tastefully draped here and there.

“Ho, dragon!” The Prince hailed. It wasn’t a friendly sort of hail, either.

The dragon tried to creep back into what he thought was a shadow, but was actually a dark patch in the tiles over the blacksmith’s shop.

“Dragon.” The Prince put a hand on his hip.

“Eh?” The dragon shook his head.

“I can see you, dragon.”

The dragon hesitated. “You can?”


“Oh. Damn.” And then the dragon pulled himself up and shook his head as if he had merely been stretching himself.

The Prince, for his part, watched the dragon stretch himself out across the rooftop and flex his wings. In that instant, he realized just how small a thing a prince was, and how large a thing a dragon could be. He laid a hand on his sword and cleared his throat.

“Dragon. The time has come for you to cease threatening this humble village.”

The dragon raised one eyebrow and looked about for help.

The Prince, meanwhile, watched the monstrous beast lift his head back and eye the village and the little man before him.

The Prince drew his sword as little as he could and tried to look menacing. “I’ll have you know, dragon, that this is a vorpal blade.”

The dragon scratched his tummy and tried to remember if he’d ever heard this before. “What’s ‘vorpal?'”

The Prince watched the dragon rasp his claws over his hide and slyly whisper at him. He drew his vorpal blade entirely – and he felt a little bit pleased that it glimmered in the sun like a proper vorpal blade should – and prepared to opine that it meant ‘especially deadly,’ or at least, that this was the impression he got.

“Prince!” The maiden cried. “Dragon!”

Both of them froze in place at the call. Then, together, both cried, “You know him?”

The Maiden clutched onto the Prince’s arm. “Prince, this is The dragon. He’s quite a nice dragon.”

The dragon, for his part, had never before been glad that he could not blush.

“And this, Dragon, is the prince, my love.” And she planted a kiss on the Prince’s cheek.

The dragon realized, then, that she was not so much clutching the Prince’s arm as holding it. And when she looked up at the blond locks of curling hair and the neatly trimmed beard, it was with a wide-eyed wonder.

Dragon snorted, once. He was feeling a great many things at once, which is never good for a Dragon.

The Prince flinched at the snort, then put himself forward, thrust his vorpal blade towards the dragon, and cried something challenging.

When a Dragon feels a great many things, they try to grab one that will help them, something that they understand to get their feet beneath them once again. This dragon was bewildered at the array of thoughts, and when a simple sword-thrust (something all dragons are used to) came at him, the Dragon seized on the one thing he understood. Dragons, you see, quite understand anger.

The Dragon snapped at the Prince. It was, to another dragon, an irritable sort of snap, like someone who wouldn’t stop bothering you when you were trying to read a very good book. But to someone the size of the Prince, it was a terrifying snap indeed.

The Prince threw the Maiden one direction, his vorpal blade another, and he himself fell back into the dirt. The Dragon snorted, once, great loud snorts that ruffle the Prince’s golden locks.

The Maiden shrieked, and suddenly the village came rushing out to the streets to see what was going on.

Once the Maiden had shrieked, the Dragon froze in place with his eyes opened wide (or would, if a dragon could open his eyes very wide). The townsfolk, then, stopped and took in the sight before them. On the one hand, the Dragon was terrorizing a Maiden and a Prince, and the steps that any good village should take were fairly clear. On the other hand, they had all seen the Dragon creeping about and carefully not destroying any of the buildings, settling on rooftops as gently as possible, and generally being quite thoughtful for a dragon; besides which, he didn’t seem to be taking any particular interest in hurting either the Maiden or the Prince at the moment. In fact, he seemed to be quite still and not at all threatening.

Except, everyone reminded themselves, that he was still a large dragon, and possibly a large, fire breathing dragon, and his teeth were quite sharp, and his eyes were particularly glittery. It was all threatening, but not to other people.

The Dragon, meanwhile, had a sudden hold of himself. He knew better than to snap at people. They didn’t like it, and the Dragon never wanted to hurt anyone. There was no point, when such little and squishy things tended to hurt themselves easily enough. Most of all, though, the Maiden sounded distressed, and he knew that it was all because of him.

Someone in the crowd immediately realized that there was an answer that would leave everyone happy. Or rather, wouldn’t cause a fight, and for most people, that’s simply all that’s needed to smile and say that everything’s OK.

“The Prince was trying to show off, and he fell.”

And within a single whisper, a guess became a fact, and everyone knew that the Prince had fallen trying to show that he was braver and stronger and more skilled than a great dragon, which everyone knew was very silly, and only seemed more silly when you knew that he couldn’t even stand upright long enough to do that properly.

“I didn’t,” The Prince said hotly, his face quite red, just as soon as he realized what everyone was saying. “The Dragon bit at me.”

Which everyone knew couldn’t be true, because if a dragon bit at you, you weren’t able to tell people later that a dragon bit at you.

“He did!” The Prince picked up his vorpal sword, which went a long way towards calming the population. “He bit at me for no reason!” And he looked to the Maiden for help.

The Maiden was very quiet, and only lay in the dust for a moment before the Prince thought to help her up.

Meanwhile, the Dragon swallowed a few times – a deep and rumbling sound somewhere in his chest. He thought that perhaps he should say something, but knew that immediately after trying to take someone’s head off (not meanly, only angrily) was not the time to try and smooth things over. Instead, he spread his wings out and beat them a few times, hovered for a moment (kicking up billows of dust that nearly blinded many of the people in the square), and then swooped off with a snaky swoop that only a dragon can really manage.

Inside the shop, the blacksmith began doing battle (metaphorical battle, though, you see) against an enormous billow of sparks that a breeze coming down the chimney flung out of the forge, choking on smoke. Actions, you see, sometimes have consequences you don’t foresee.

After the square, the Dragon decided to become a hermit. It wouldn’t be hard, he thought to himself, as most dragons are already hermits of one sort or another. He would creep about at night and collect his bedding and food, and sometimes a villager would see him and tell stories, and the wizened old man would nod and stroke his beard and say that yes, there were stories about a dragon that lived in the area, that had had his heart broken and so he pined every day since, still strong and fierce but somehow, inside, being something kind hearted and really deserving of love.

And so for a week, the Dragon stayed inside, sleeping on his pile of trinkets (which no longer felt quite so warm as they used to) and growling at his shadow and thinking about the Maiden and the Prince, wondering what they were doing now. Then, he would snort and go back to counting his money.

Soon, though, the Dragon encountered the banes of everyone who has sworn that they would become a hermit and only creep out at dusk. His cave was large, but not so large for a dragon, and he grew very restless. He didn’t speak with the villagers (for he was, after all, still a great and terrible dragon) but he did miss seeing the goatherd on the side of the hill, and the old blind woman who never seemed to know that he was a dragon and not a very large dog, and the sun had felt so good on his wings, and would feel especially good after a week of nothing but darkness. And besides, if he was too good at creeping about, no-one would ever see him, and if no-one ever saw the dragon, how would they know he was being a hermit?

With this reasoning, the Dragon ventured out one day, minding that he looked as unapproachable and angry as possible.

“Oh. Dragon.”

The Dragon tried not to look surprised, or – he noted with a sort of odd twinge – pleased. He tried to pretend as though he was thinking hard about who was talking to him before he answered. “Maiden?”

He turned to look at her, wishing that he knew more about the kind of expression dragons who have exiled themselves tend to wear. He imagined that it was quite a stern expression, something that would take away the breath of anyone who saw it and make them think “My, what a grave and stern dragon that is.”

Seeing the Maiden, though, removed any thought in his head about his expression.

Her long golden hair was mussed, her cheeks had marked blotches, and her ordinarily clear features had little rings below her eyes.

“Maiden?” The Dragon said again.

“I found you,” The Maiden repeated.

The Dragon shuffled in place a little bit, which, because of his great size, put large furrows in the soft earth. “Maiden,” The Dragon finally said. “Are you well?”

The Maiden made a listless little move that was probably a shrug. “Everyone is making fun of him.”

The Dragon frowned. “Making fun of who?”

“Of the Prince.”

And all at once the Dragon remembered why he was a hermit, and that he didn’t want to see anyone ever again, and that maybe he should have just waited to creep about in the night – after all, someone would have seen him eventually.

He didn’t leave, though.

“Why? He’s brave and strong and has a vorpal sword. Why make fun of him?”

“Because they say he couldn’t even show off to a dragon.”

The Dragon mentally objected to the word ‘even’ for several reasons.

“They think he’s a fool, and a clumsy ox, and even the butcher pretends to swing his knives like swords and drop them every time I walk by.” The Maiden sniffed and gathered herself up taller. “Dragon, he’s so kind and brave, they shouldn’t make fun of him.”

“He shouldn’t have been showing off, then,” The Dragon grumbled.

The Maiden looked so hurt that the Dragon instantly regretted having said anything. He tried to look away – so as not to stare – and to look directly at her at the same time.

“I mean, he was showing quite well,” The Dragon added, then scuffed at the ground again. A farmer somewhere was going to be pleased with how well his field was plowed. Or would be, if it wasn’t a meadow.

“He wasn’t,” The Maiden whispered. “He was trying to confront a big, scary dragon who tried to bite him.”

The Dragon froze in place. “I’m not scary.”

“You’re very scary when you try to bite off someone’s head.”

“I didn’t!” The Dragon cried, louder than he intended. A flock of birds burst from a copse of trees.

“You certainly looked like you did.” The Maiden stuck out her chin, which only made her lower lip quiver more strongly. “And he can’t be blamed. He tried to save me.”

“I wasn’t even. . . But he. . . It was vorpal.” The Dragon felt a little desperate, which was a feeling that he absolutely did not understand. Dragons do not, as rule, feel desperate. They make other people feel desperate. He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”

The Maiden looked up at the great dragon, his head bowed nearly to the ground, his eyes fixed upon the ground, and she reached up one of her small hands and laid it on the Dragon’s muzzle. “You didn’t mean to?”

The Dragon shook his head, miserably.

“Not at all?”

“Not at all.”

The Maiden fell silent. “You are a nice dragon.”

The Dragon shook his head. “No.” And then he was quiet again. There are two different kinds of quiet thinking. There is brooding – which is when someone is thinking about what has happened – and there is thinking – which is when someone is thinking about what they’re going to do next.

The Dragon, at first, seemed to be brooding, and then he reached out one of his clawed back feet, clutched the Maiden around the waist, and with a pair of wing beats lifted straight up, then swooped forward.

The Maiden shrieked the whole time.

“Dragon!” The Prince cried. He had a shiny helmet, now, one that matched his gleaming armor. His sword was out of its belt, glimmering impressively in the sun. On his horse, he cut a very fine figure indeed.

The Dragon growled from inside his cave. It echoed and came out much louder than he’d intended, and the Prince shook in place, just a little bit.

Then, the Prince got off his horse and walked inside, his chin up and his sword ready.

“Feeble Prince,” The Dragon hissed. “Why have you come to my cave?”

“I’ve come to save the Maiden,” The Prince said. His voice shook a little bit, but he stood with a manly determination.

“You cannot save the Maiden, feeble Prince. Not from a great dragon.”

The Prince could hear the Dragon moving about, shuffling rocks and slithering from shadow to shadow.

“I am still here to save her.”

“Noble, prince, noble.” He huffed and several sparks shot out. In the light, the Prince could see the Maiden tied to a standing stone.

“Maiden!” The Prince cried, then started towards her. He then stopped as he remembered the Dragon who was quietly putting out sparks. “Dragon. I will slay you!”

“Well, get on with it.” The Dragon charged from the shadows, a loping trot that barreled at the slim Prince. He took in a great breath and spewed flame in a circle about the Prince’s ears.

The Prince ducked down from the heat of the blast, his armor beginning to glow, and he stabbed up at the Dragon’s vulnerable stomach.

The vorpal blade scratched off of the hide and nearly fell out of the Prince’s hand.

The Dragon paused for a moment, then circled around the Prince and snapped at him. The Prince swung, and the blade bounced away again.

“Ow,” The Dragon said, his eyes crossing.

The Prince swallowed. “Oh, dear.”

“I thought you had a vorpal blade,” The Dragon said, rubbing the miniature cut on his snout.

“I do.” The Prince wavered.

“What’s the point of that, then?”

“It’s. . . It’s especially deadly.”

The Dragon stopped rubbing his nose. “Not a special dragon-slaying sword?”

The Prince shook his head.

“What’s ‘vorpal’?” The Dragon asked

“Especially deadly?”

“Oh.” The Dragon slumped. “I thought it meant ‘Dragon-slaying.'”

The Prince shook his head. “It doesn’t.”

“Just a regular sword.”

“An especially deadly sword.”

“It’s a sword,” The Dragon said, a bit crossly now that his nose was itching. “If it wasn’t especially deadly, it’d be a a rubbish sword, wouldn’t it?”

The two of them fell silent, each feeling especially silly.

“Now what?” The Maiden said.

“I suppose I let you go.” The Dragon clomped over to the stone.

“That’s it?” The Maiden and the Prince said together. “That’s all?”

The Dragon harrumphed. “That’s it.”

“You’re not a very good dragon, are you?” The Prince asked.

“He’s a lovely dragon,” The Maiden said. “He’s just not very good at being a dragon.”

“Aren’t you going to kill me and leave my bones and armor as a warning to others?” The Prince said.

The Dragon gave him a look. Unfortunately, Dragons do not have eyebrows, otherwise he would have raised one of his.

“Well, what was the point of all this, then?” The Prince started to walk towards the stone where the Dragon was fumbling with the knots.

“So that you could slay a dragon and be a hero.” The Dragon very carefully studied the ropes, not looking up.

“But. . .” The Prince cut the ropes with his sword, without even seeming to think about it. Then, he swept the Maiden up in one arm. “But why?”

“So that you could be a hero,” The Dragon repeated. He sounded even crosser than he had when he was rubbing his nose. “Just tell everyone you slew the dragon, and I’ll go away.”

“Why would I say that?” The Prince said. He seemed, all in all, somewhat in wonder at the situation. He’d heard many stories growing up, and he couldn’t quite recall paying attention to any of the ones that would have helped him in this particular situation.

“Because then nobody will think about you falling down trying to show off. They’d just think about you slaying the dragon, like a very brave man.” The Dragon slunk a little ways away and began scraping his trinkets back together.

“Dragon,” The Maiden said. “What we want to know is, Why would you want that?”

The Dragon was very quiet, then, as he’d found several trinkets that needed a good deal of attention paid to them.


He dropped one of the pieces on the top of his bed. “Because you’d both be happy, then.” Which was only a sort of a lie.

“Dragon, you are not very good at being a dragon.” The Maiden left the Prince to give the Dragon a hug around one leg. “But you are a very lovely dragon, though you are a bit stupid.” And she said it so nicely that the Dragon didn’t even think to agree.

“Well, Dragon.” The Prince came up beside the Dragon. “We started wrong, didn’t we?”

“Did we?”

“You’re a bit stupid–“

It didn’t sound nearly so nice from the Prince.

“–but you mean well, don’t you? I think you’re Alright.”

The Dragon snorted and looked away. Perhaps he did like being told he was Alright, but being told by the Prince, it was somehow a little bit more shallow, and the Dragon just wanted to explain all the reasons he wasn’t All Right. To begin with, he’d stolen some of the trinkets he slept on, and he wasn’t even sorry about that.

“Dragon, if you ever need a friend, we’ll be here.” The Maiden said.

The Prince shifted, a little uncomfortably. The Dragon was perfectly content with that. “Or, perhaps, just a good word. I understand: it’s really a very complicated thing. Feelings, I mean.” And the Prince sounded so compassionate and understanding that the Dragon almost took another snap at him.

The sun was going down early, now, around the frost and the snow all around these days. It was exactly the sort of night to spend with a warm drink and a cozy fire. Everyone was doing that by their own fires in a very pointed way; everyone but two.

The Prince sat amidst a pile of mugs serving as a little fort, some of them stacked up, but not very well. His head bobbed like it was on string as he sloshed drink across the table, very wastefully.

Next to him, the Dragon’s head lay on the floor, the rest of him not being quite able to fit into the tavern. Most dragon’s eyes can’t manage to look glassy, but the Dragon gave a very good impression of someone who would have glassy eyes, and he licked his lips, very slowly. Beside him were fewer containers, though they were much larger, usually the sort one could use to drown several mules at a time.

“Damn women,” The Prince said. Or tried to say, as he fell off his seat.

“Damn them,” The Dragon agreed, a bone-rattling agreement that knocked pictures from the wall on nearby houses.

“And damn blacksmiths.” The Prince managed to fall off the floor, now, and fell on his back.

“And double damn women blacksmiths,” The Dragon muttered, as one fellow to another. Though he wasn’t aware, his aside could be heard across the street.

The Prince began laughing until he couldn’t breath, then he wiped his eyes, and cried just a little bit (which did not make him less of a man. Just a very drunk one). “It doesn’t make sense, does it?” He said.

“No.” The Dragon agreed. “Was she even a character?”

The Prince stopped and thought. “Dragon, Maiden, Prince. . . No. No, she wasn’t.” He laughed again.

“Well, then, why does she get the girl?”

The Prince shrugged, then tried to make a rude sound with his lips.

“Damn women.”

“Damn them.”

The Dragon idly scraped a few coins together and rested his head on them. “This is cozy.”


“You know, smaller than my cave. But it’s cozy.”

“That’s the beer, and the, the. . . angry.” The Prince said with authority.



And they must have fallen asleep, then, because the pictures stopped falling off the walls then, and the innkeeper had to politely ask the Dragon to take his head out so he could cut out the draft, but that’s all that can be told.

Because sometimes, the story isn’t quite right, and sometimes, it isn’t entirely wrong, either; sometimes, it just happens about your ears and you have to put it together after.

And that’s the end.

The Duke’s Report

Duke Arthur Tennenbaum, of Bran Tessen, authored a report after an inspection of the Posterli Junta for the purpose of expanding the Juntas monopoly to Bran Tessen. 

The Posterli Junta’s reputation as capable, resourceful, and determined is well earned. Their product is considered to be of the highest priority, and the sacrifice of individuals to ensure the success of the company is well within their methods of doing business. I have personally witnessed Posterli Junta employees throwing crates of goods from wagons sliding from cliffs; even as the wagon itself plunged over the edge the man threw one more box, while his compatriots seized not his arms, but the cargo at risk with him. One can only speculate as to the nature of the power that the heads of the Junta hold over their subordinates.

While the Posterli Junta would seem to be an unfeeling beast, devouring all before them, they have done more in the service of exploration and good trade than any two entities besides them. The Whitening Sea would remain utterly impassable were it not for the exact qualities that make some nervous of the Posterli Junta’s personal power. The channel through the Whitening Sea was found specifically that large quantities of Jade could be brought into Udor. . . 

. . . The recent upheavals in the newly christened Collective of Udor have been less than friendly to the Posterli Junta. While their philosophy bears a distaste for any power bloc of such independent strength, they can ill-afford to supply themselves without the imports of the Posterli Junta. Further, the Junta may yet have the personal strength required to maintain their monopoly by main force. . . To further their own interests, the Posterli Junta is attempting to establish a relationship with the Bran Tessen government, particularly for the supplies of Jade. While valuable in Udor for its beauty and mild rarity, it is in much higher demand in Bran Tessen as a material for the creation of rough magical foci. The Collective of Udor, meanwhile, considers it largely impractical to outlaw jade, while remaining wary of the consequences of the availability of such a material. Further, to outlaw jade would cut a very profitable portion of income from the Junta, and so the Collective finds itself further between unsavory choices. . . 

During my inspection of the Headquarters of the Posterli Junta – known to most readers as existing on the borders of Udor, looking across the Whitening Sea and allowing for straightforward receiving of the jade and spices from across said body – I glimpsed an image of the future.

Imagine, if you will, the operations of a typical warehouse. Stevedores and laborers of all flavors move boxes, construct storage areas, provide a brief moment for the ships to be cleaned and prepared for their return journey. Managers oversee the bustle, employing years of experience and a precise eye to direct the power of the hundreds of men into a singular purpose.

Not so within the Posterli Junta’s headquarters. I did not see it fully, merely catching the most passing visual through the door as my guide was unfortunately pulled away in order to take cover of some urgent business. But throughout the door, I witnessed the sight. In the streets of Bran Tessen, the lights glow with an incandescence that, were we not accustomed to its nature, would seem eerie – not least of which because of the twitching mass that lies at the heart of the glow, providing its source. The quality of the light streaming from within was not augmented with the unnatural glow of gaslamp or flame, but had the pure quality of the light shed from the Myrmidons bred for that purpose. Shed from this light, I witnessed an entire gaping floor filled with these same twisting forms. My experience with the Westround Cavalry had granted me such familiarity with the variety that Myrmidons could take and I was thus able to immediately identify the structure as bearing hallmarks of the artificial creatures. This, however, would be far and away the largest of any structure that I have ever witnessed; I am unable to imagine the age of such a creature. While it must have extended throughout the entirety of the warehouse, I cannot readily fathom such an existence. The entire training of experienced stevedores and operational managers subsumed into a being dedicated entirely to the efficient storage, holding, and passing on of product is a truly remarkable vision of the future. Indeed, one can foresee that if the Posterli Junta was able to go this far, it is impossible to imagine where it might end. . . 

My guide was a man by the name of Philander Necket, most distinguished for his participation in the Tulanne Expedition. While I confess that to be in his presence was, at first, an uncomfortable sensation in which my stomach crawled when attempting to interact with his faceless, distorted being, he soon won me over with his charming, gracious manner. His manners were impeccable, and there was even a casual mention of his partaking in Ilaclosm, which was at first surprising but which I quickly understood when I saw his fluid grasp on the intricacies of interaction with his fellow creatures. In sum, it was easy to forget, save when he had to lower his head to step through a doorway as if entering a cave, or on the occasion in which he summoned a quill to his hand without the use of any form of focus; while it was rougher and less graceful than I could have managed with the aid of my own fine silver-and-jade focus, the fact that he was able to perform the feat with a movement of his hand alone was enough to astonish me. . .