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 In which we learn the fate of Samuel.

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Map of the western continent: 

Chapter Ten

Dalanian Waters, Eastern Sea. April 8, year 788. Time instance 483Z.

“So.” Zekara sat down with the others in one of the chairs on deck, resting an elbow on her leg and placing her chin in her hand. The boat sailed gracefully through the waves, the winds pushing into the sails as the world they knew shrank to a green line behind them. “What happened after I died? Everything around that last battle is a little hazy.”

Vengeance and Nessy exchanged glances before Nessy sighed and spoke. “We went into that final battle not sure how we would win but knowing we had to. What we didn’t know was that Nia had picked up a rock in the skettisren tunnels that happened to have Kaltaerion’s spirit bound within. He had been corrupting and manipulating her for weeks, and it ended in him making her shoot you for whatever reason. She immediately collapsed, Arra tried to kill her and got decapitated by Nak, then Specterveil showed up and killed her.”

Zekara nodded slowly. “I heard this, but that’s where the account ended. Nia didn’t exactly see much after she died.”

“I’d figure not.” Nessy swallowed a few times before continuing, thrown off by the mention of Nia’s departed spirit telling Zekara of what had happened. “Our ancestors, a group of worldbuilders called the Mindcrackers, descended then. One of them was Vechs Davion, the man who created Dalania and apparently the guy that Iirkolav was an ‘alternate’ of, so there were two Vechses. That was a little confusing, but some Creators woke up, the corruption was destroyed, and we rebuilt Dalania. I went to live with Mokdal and his mate, Danven, in the Dragonlands, so I wasn’t there for a lot of the Dalania stuff, but I visited often. Onai and Axid got together and had this really cute son named Raspen, he ended up being a really powerful darkness elementalist.”

“One of my forefathers,” Endira noted. “I am descended from Onai.”

“I could have guessed,” Vengeance mumbled.

Nessy looked at him and drummed her fingers in an anxious pattern on her leg. “I think you should tell this part. With you and Samuel and…”

Shit. “Okay.” Vengeance pushed down every what the fuck makes you think I want to talk about this and took a deep breath before speaking, feeling the pain of losing his friends hurt his heart all over again with each word, his eyes glancing at Ujhin before looking at the floor.

“During the Hostile fiasco, I made friends with a kid called Tim. He died of an illness a little over a decade after we rebuilt Dalania, and that was hard, but we got through it. Tranpar- a fucking genius that you took in, Samuel, you were practically his dad or older brother or something- just vanished one day. We think he went to the moon but we don’t really know whether or not he was successful, but knowing him, he probably was. So we’d lost them, but you still had Shred, and I still had Kaepravah, and you and I had each other, our best friend.

“Kaepravah offered me immortality, but I turned her down. I couldn’t deal with the thought of you growing old and dying while I endured, forever. I told you about it and you chewed me out about turning down immortality with ‘the only one who could stand you for eternity’ as you phrased it, but you understood my reasoning and it was fine. But then…” Vengeance shut his eyes, taking a shuddering breath. “You and Shred decided to have a child. And that’s the worst mistake you ever made.” He opened his eyes once more, trying to banish the visions that talking about this conjured up.

He had been avoiding thinking about it for over two hundred years. And now...

“There were...complications, during the birth, and I don’t know what happened but even you, Skera, and Mitven working together couldn’t save Shred. Your daughter was born dead and in one single fucking day you had lost everything you had left, except for me.” Vengeance’s voice shook and he shut his eyes again, trying to fight the stinging in his eyes. I am Tarsen Harvex. I don’t cry. I don’t cry. “You went...you went mad with grief and ran off into the woods. I tried to follow you but you shouted for me to go, to leave you alone, to take Kaepravah up on her offer of immortality and to be happy where you couldn’t.”

Vengeance’s fingers dug into his forearms, nails biting into his skin. He tried to forget how Samuel’s face had looked, then- eyes puffy and red and furious with grief, the pain dulling his irises and constricting his throat to make every word a hoarse scream. How his hands had clenched into tight fists, looking for something to lock around, something to blame, and finding nothing but his inner being.

“You wouldn’t let me help you. You left, ran away to die. I had nothing left but Kaepravah, so I moved out of Dalania and took her up on her offer. I’ve lived with her ever since.” Vengeance bowed his head, trying to hide how his shoulders shook as he struggled against the maelstrom within. Breathe. Breathe.

“Of all the things to take out Shred,” Zekara whispered. “I didn’t think…”

Ujhin looked at his hands, slowly closing them into fists and opening them again, looking up at the sky. “So that is my tale,” he mumbled. “As for how I became what I am…”

“Vallor’roth.” Endira leaned forward in her chair. “You had a rotting potion. I don’t know how, but you had one in your bag, and he drove you to drink it, creating what you are now.”

Vengeance snarled and sat up in his seat. “Damn them! That was fucking Velloh’s potion, that fucking Niel got and gave to Trymdas. Your bag got stolen so when Trymdas died you took his bag! The fucking bullshit that potion has gone through is...is…”

“Fate willed it.” Endira leaned back.

“Oh, fuck you and your fate talk,” Eclipse mumbled. “You sound like a seer.”

“I talk to the shadows. They’re vague. I’m vague. Nothing to be done.”

Ujhin carefully got to his feet and stepped over to Vengeance, putting a hand on his shoulder and waiting for him to look up before speaking. “I know seeing me is painful, and I’m sorry that I don’t remember you. I’m not the same person you remember, but I’ve got to be here for a reason, don’t I? I can never be the same, but I hope that I don’t hurt you too much to talk to.”

Vengeance shook his head and stood up. “No. You’re the same man I knew. You just don’t remember anything is all.” He stepped forward and hugged him tightly. “And I won’t let you hurt like that again.” I won’t let either of us suffer like we have. Never again.

“I’ll try not to run off on my own.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

They sat back down and Zekara cleared her throat, sniffed once, and turned to Nessy. “What happened after that?”

Nessy sighed. “People started fading away. I lost track of most of them, and heard news of others’ deaths over the years. I thought Tarsen had died along with Samuel, and I assumed Baltbee was dead when he was really just fucking around with an evil dead guy.”

“He was what?”

“He has Kaltaerion in a necklace,” Vengeance explained, clearing his throat and raising his voice to be more confident. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m...not fine at all, am I? “He’s how we got into the Nether to get you.”

“Convenient. Anyone else alive?”

“Not that I know of.” Nessy crossed her arms. “We’re the only four left. Samuel’s lost his memory, you’ve been dead, and Tarsen and I…”

“You’ve seen it all,” Zekara finished. “You’ve been through the most. Creators. I’m so sorry.”

“It hasn’t all been bad, though. I do have a mate and children back in the Dragonlands, as well as some grand-”

Vengeance stared at her, surprised. “You have children?”

Nessy shot him a look. “I’m two hundred years old and have had a mate that entire time. I’d be shocked if I didn’t. Don’t you?”

Vengeance crossed his arms. “One, that I know of. He and I don’t talk often. I’m not a big fan of him and I never wanted to be a father. I was there, sure, but I wasn’t any good at it. He was mostly raised by Kaepravah and her siblings. That’s probably where he is, if he hasn’t gotten himself killed somehow. Always wanted to be like his aunts and uncles despite the fact that he’s not anywhere near as strong.”

“Oh.” Nessy paused. “That’s...okay. Could have been worse.”


“Well, I learned something about myself while I was dead,” Zekara said, breaking the awkward moment. “I’m half-Skullblade.”

Everyone stared.

“You’re what?” Eclipse demanded.

“My father was a Skullblade. I had no idea! But when I died, Ishtillion said something about being surprised that Vallor’roth didn’t claim me, figured it was because I had never actually joined a clan, and sent me on my way to Mezeron.” Zekara grinned. “Isn’t that neat?”

Eclipse looked conflicted but Nelvethia yawned, awakening as Zekara spoke. She squeaked happily and stretched, stumbling over to Zekara and rubbing against her legs.

“I wonder how much they understand,” Nessy mumbled. “Mira always seemed to know, and yet, she also had no fucking clue.”

“That seems to describe her knowledge base,” Eclipse mumbled, reaching over and picking Nelvethia up. “Stay with me.”

Nelvethia tried to escape for a few seconds before realizing that Eclipse’s lap was very comfortable and curling up. Eclipse smiled and hummed happily, making Vengeance roll his eyes.

“Skullblades get so goofy about the valk’vanor.”

“It’s a baby dragon,” Nessy protested. “Who doesn’t get goofy about baby dragons other than heartless sex maniacs?”

Vengeance looked offended. “I’m not a heartless sex maniac anymore! That was two hundred years ago! Now I’m just heartless.” That earned some laughter amongst the group, even from Endira.

Vengeance felt the smile on his face die, though, when he looked at Ujhin and remembered the story he had told them minutes before.

He wondered if he’d ever recover from that. He doubted it.


“And thus was the fate of Shred and Samuel,” Paul mumbled, sitting back in his seat. “I had always wondered what happened to them. Blame’s orb broke so early, I’d thought it was strange…”

Vechs sighed and leaned against him. “I can’t believe I’m feeling bad for Tarsen, but I am. He’s been through a lot since we last saw him. I mean, hell, last time I saw him he was playing a board game with Baltbee, who...had...Kaltaerion.” Vechs groaned. “Kaltaerion was right there and I had no idea. I can’t believe this.”

Anderz patted his shoulder reassuringly. “You couldn’t have known. Kaltaerion’s a sneaky bastard.”

“You have no idea,” Skera muttered, glancing around the room. “Wait. Where are Blame and Iirkolav?”

“Getting some sleep, Iirkolav said,” Paul told her. He sighed. “Vechs, I can tell you’re wiggling your eyebrows. I don’t even need to look at you.”

“You’re no fun,” Vechs complained, sitting up. “I didn’t even get to make the joke.”

“I don’t think you need to.”

“No,” Vechs sighed, “probably not.”


Blame ran his fingers over the amulet again and again. He was sitting on his bed, having taken off the amulet, and was looking it over once more. Iirkolav sat down beside him and raised an eyebrow. “Still unnerved by that thing?”

“Yes. I can tell that it’s a legitimate Skullblade artifact, and that it has protection magic, so it’s not like Nightmare is tricking me, but…” Blame trailed off, flipping it over and looking at it closely. “It seems familiar. But I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

A familiar note in a piece of times past.

“Worry about it later,” Iirkolav suggested. “We’ve got other things to worry about. Like Norazdomu and the whole plague thing.”

“Shit always happens at once,” Blame mumbled. “Everything bad all comes at once.” He paused. “Iirkolav, don’t. Don’t. I know what joke you’re going to make.”

“You’re no fun.”

“I don’t know how I’ve survived two hundred years with two of you assholes to deal with.”

“You love me?” Iirkolav suggested, leaning against him.

“I can’t fathom why.”


Blame grinned at him and set the amulet down.

“Changed my mind, we should be worrying about this relationship.

“Clearly.” Blame shifted to kiss him. “It’s in jeopardy.”

“Oh, absolutely. Total ruin dead ahead.” Iirkolav nipped at his neck. “Irreparable.”

“It will be irreparable if you don’t stop leaving marks where your other self can see them,” Blame grumbled irritably, crossing his arms.

“I’ve done it for two hundred years.”

“He’s been a jerk about it for that entire time. Longer, even.”

“He was a jerk to you long before that.”

“I was a jerk first.”

“Yes, well, we forgive you.” Iirkolav hummed. “Now either go to sleep or start stripping because if I’m staying awake a minute longer it had better be for a damned good reason.”

Blame laughed at him.


“I’m going to lose my mind,” Eclipse announced. “I’m stuck on a boat for possibly months with you all.”

“I can’t believe we brought a teenager,” Vengeance mumbled.

“I can’t believe we brought three,” Nessy agreed.

“I may be physically nineteen but I was born two centuries ago!” Zekara protested.

“I’m an adult by your standards!” Eclipse crossed her arms. “I’m nineteen.”

“I’m a teenager,” Endira put in helpfully.

Nelvethia squeaked and flared her wings.

“And a baby,” Vengeance added. “Three teenagers, two assholes, a zombie, and a baby.”

“Are you counted as an asshole or a baby? That could really go either way.”

“Shut the fuck up, Zekara.”

“No,” she said cheerfully, “I don’t feel like it.”

“I don’t remember you being this chipper,” Nessy admitted, looking at her friend oddly.

“It’s probably because I’m alive again and out on the ocean once more. It’ll wear off once we reach our destination and people start dying.”

“We’ve only got six people and a baby dragon, discounting the crew. We can’t really lose anyone,” Eclipse protested.

Zekara shot her a look. “Fate doesn’t care how many of us there are. When you’ve seen what we’ve seen, you know that people don’t get cut down for a reason. It just happens.”

Nessy and Vengeance nodded assent and Eclipse once again wondered why she had such terrible judgement in her life choices.

“Captain!” Zekara whipped around at one of the crew’s shout. “We have a problem!”

“Define ‘problem.’”

“There’s a giant fucking monster to the starboard side of the ship!”

Vengeance groaned. "Well, shit."

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