Will be posting all the other stories here , with no names attached.
3rd place winner - Loc0
Lord Ulric, the Valiant
Dawn, on a quiet south summer day, Ulric sets out from his domicile after gathering the supplies he needed to fulfill his quest. He had not been back in town long, arriving only mere hours after midnight. As he is leaving town, he is met by Issabella. “Where are you heading today, Ulric?” she asks. “North. I need to go North.” grumbled Ulric, in a gravelly voice. His pace does not slow as he passes. She quickly felt perplexed as he had never acted this way before, but she watched as he marched out of town, wondering why he seemed so troubled, until he disappeared into the darkness that was the Wandering Woods.
Days have passed since he left town, but he keeps walking. Through the wandering woods, past the Leinsters, he keeps walking. He has made this trip numerous times before, usually with his Lord Father, Sir Godfrey of Asgard. They would stop in West Leinster, ramble into the Gnarled Leg Tavern and enjoy some ale, have a few laughs with the locals and listen to the Jester. It was the perfect spot to break up the long journey, but not on this trip. This trip was about something else.
He pushed past West Leinster up into Emerald Forest. Once he saw the rubble of what was left of Caer Fandry he thought to himself, “I’m not far now.”
The forgotten town, way up North, had been ransacked by gargoyles. Two weeks prior, he was up here with his Lord Father hunting and gathering supplies when a horde of gargoyles, marched South from the Crystal Mountains and invaded Caer Fandry, slaughtering everyone. They did their best to assist in the defense of the town, but the vast numbers of the gargoyles made the difference. Sometime during the battle, Ulric had separated from his father and with his battle axe in hand, he pushed through the town to the East, severing a limb here and decapitating a gargoyle there. If only they had enough time to prepare for this attack, it may have turned out differently. No matter how many gargoyles he slayed, there were 5 to 6 humans or elves to go with it. Aside from some minor cuts and scrapes, Ulric survived the battle unscathed.
In the battle on the West side of the town, Sir Godfrey was mortally wounded. Even with blood spouting from his wounds, he kept pushing forward, out into Emerald Forest, taking down at least 6 more gargoyles in the process. With his energy depleting, along with his blood, he knelt on one knee and lowered his head to the hilt of his sword. Mere seconds after, a gargoyle came swooping in from above and with its long, sharp claws, impaled Sir Godfrey through his back.
When Ulric made it back to the other side of town, there was nothing but death that lay around him. Not one human, gargoyle or elf left breathing. He searched every corpse, looking for his father, following the trail of bodies and blood out into Emerald Forest. He found him lying face down, atop his blood-stained sword. He stopped. He did not go to him, nor shed a tear. His face became expressionless. It’s as if nothing mattered anymore, like everything and everyone was gone, and he was alone in this world.
As Ulric passed the rubble, the bodies were still there starting to decay. Crows and vultures were perched in the surrounding trees as he walked past. The town of Caer Fandry, now, reek of death. Crystal Mountains is where he is going… his quest, to kill the Gargoyle King. An hour later and he arrives at the Northern Steppes, a vast open marshland mainly inhabited by basilisks. He peers out over the marsh looking for gargoyles, but they seem to have all withdrew back to the mountains. He then continues his trek.
Once through the marsh, he starts up the mountains, looking for any trace of the gargoyles. A short while later, he sees a cave entrance about 50 paces from him, off to his right. Before entering, he grasps his axe, aptly named “Wig Splitter” and unsheathes it. He treads lightly as he starts through the cave as to not lose the benefit of stealth. Around the first corner, a gargoyle stands on guard. Ulric spreads his feet to get his stance as to not lose balance and with one quick strike, his axe slices right through the gargoyles head under its eyes and lodges into the cave wall leaving the top half of the gargoyles head on the blade while it’s body drops lifelessly to the floor. Continuing down the path lead him to an open area in the cave. As he looked around, there were only a small number of gargoyles here. “Only 3? Where are the rest?” he thought. The small group of gargoyles see Ulric and start to attack. The first arrives swiftly but Ulric evades his attack easily and as he flies by, he swings his axe and strikes it in its back. The other 2 take a more cautious approach as to surround Ulric. The first charges but Ulric front kicks him back and then gracefully transitions into swinging his axe at the other, landing the blade into its chest. He quickly resets and swings his axe overhead to strike down on the gargoyle now laying on the ground.
The Gargoyle King stands at the other end of the room and starts approaching Ulric. As he gets closer, it becomes clear that the King is almost double the size of a normal Gargoyle. He spreads his wings out as to intimidate Ulric. The King lunges, Ulric evades and swings his axe severing the Kings right leg clean off and while the King falls to the ground, he continues with his momentum swirling the axe until he brings the heavy, dual-bladed “Wig Splitter” deep down into the top of the Kings skull.
2nd place winner - Daniel Picaro's Alacrity: Coins of the Dead
As a Knight of the Scepter, I have pledged to maintain balance within the Realm. To that end, one of my duties is to combat the forces that terrorize areas surrounding our communities. While at home in Asgard, word reached me of a dangerous mad man raving and shrieking in the Barrens, the vast desert that stretches past the elven village of Drune. I sheathed my long sword - an elegant weapon, the mighty Save the Queen - adorned my armor, and set out on the long trek across the forests and fields, from west to east, to both subdue this lunatic and restore the peace.
In truth, our fight was short and uneventful. While the man's rage was formidable and stoked by the blistering sun, his manic energy was no match for my fabled steel. Following our battle, I trudged southwest to the hamlet of Silverbrook for an evening meal - and to clean the sand from my gear. Upon entering the White Rabbit Tavern (also known as the Cock's Crow), the pub's proprietor, Meego, gave me a hearty smile and nod. The bar was nearly empty, save for a group of four elves clustered around the hearth.
Suddenly, one of the elder sprites belched violently and stammered at his compatriots.
"Have- have I, ever regaled you fools, with the limerick of Picaro's Alacrity?" the white elf yelled, ale dribbling down his chin.
Meego rolled his eyes. "Only every darn night Artemaus, you old goat!"
My ears perked at the name, 'Picaro.' That notorious vagabond, a diminutive blue elf, had been my oldest and dearest friend. We were once childhood comrades in Leinster, collecting pebbles and hunting Artic Ratlings in West Havenwood before the Great Smiting. In our cosmopolitan capital, friendships between elves and humans were not uncommon and despite his small stature, Picaro was a cunning lad and deft with a throwing dagger. As we passed into adulthood, my knightly orders took me away to Asgard, and Picaro and I gradually lost touch. However, I continued to hear tales of his exploits, from Murias to Usk, as he had become renowned as one of the Realm's most skilled pickpockets. I half-expected to encounter his blade and banditry during my many journeys between towns.
I have not heard it, elder white elf," I shouted. "Could you perform it?"
The old elf's light eyes brightened and he seemed to possess a moment of sobriety. "Very well, traveler!" he announced, before another loud burp erupted from his lips.
Behind him, the visibly-annoyed Meego sighed
loudly and dismissively, while continuing to wash jugs from behind the bar. Artemaus rose from his chair, stood on the table in front of him, and recited the following:
"There are many who wonder,
how that azure absconder,
developed his dexterity.
While born quick and nimble
and short as thimble,
from magic came alacrity.
One day the young rogue,
his tongue thick with brogue,
was whistling on Leinster/Kurz Road,
when a grey ghost appeared
from mists which had cleared
over a brook that bubbled and flowed.
The quick-witted thief
(to avoid any grief
that comes with crossing a specter)
jumped in the blue stream,
and thought up a scheme,
while lurking below the ghost's vector.
'If phantoms have pockets,
holding diamonds or lockets,
could I steal while stealthily below?'
And just as he guessed,
he was able to wrest
gold lest the ghoul could know.
Once the wraith floated on,
he admired his con
while clutching the coins in his fingers.
But that purse of the soul
the cerulean stole,
had witchcraft that stains and lingers.
Those bits gave him quickness -
new, unrivaled slickness! -
and other abilities untold.
And now we all suffer
Picaro the mugger
from the Shire to the cold Winter Wold."
His poem complete, Artemaus proudly swayed and performed a deep bow, receiving half-hearted applause from the other elves in his company.
"Beyond agility, what other gifts did Picaro receive from the stolen coins of the dead?" I inquired.
"Nobody - [hiccup] - knows," Artemaus slurred, clearly on the verge of slumber.
"I have one final question, master elf: what does Picaro do with all the loot he plunders?" I asked. "I have heard tales of his thievery, but not his opulence."
"That is . . . that is also a my-mystery," the drunken elf replied, before collapsing on the sticky, barroom floor in a stupor.
"Ugh, not again!" Meego groaned. "Alright, I'm closing up-my apologies, but you'll need to find food and accommodations
It took me many moons to return to Asgard, as I became sidetracked by quests to defeat a bloody banshee haunting the Wild Beyond and conquer a strange lich lurking within the Killing Fields. However, as I approached my once-humble cottage, I was shocked to find my front yard decorated with an incredible shrine. Fountains and flowers staged a beautiful garden, adorned with statues of the gods, Despothes and Finvarra. I found a simple note pinned to my front door, affixed with a Fury Point dagger. It read:
"Daniel: I took the liberty of adding a bit of color to your home. I hope you do not mind. To answer the question you posed to that old cogger in Silverbrook - I share my bounties with my band of brothers. (You, of all people, should know I have eyes and ears across the Realm.) As for my other powers bestowed by the coins of the dead . . . you'll see for yourself when I happen upon you on the trails. And when I do, guard your wallet.
I set the parchment down and I smiled to myself. On one hand, given my sacred oath to Despothes, I would be tasked with restoring order and returning all the loot pilfered by my mate.
On the other hand . . . I was touched by the generosity of my friend (however ill-begotten), and I thoroughly enjoyed his landscaping!