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Zoe and the Outcasted (3)

Machination

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Zoe and the Outcasted

Chapter 3

Metal Among the Trees

Chaff was cloaked in an old robe that once belonged to Zoe’s father; hiding his unique appearance. He and Zoe made their way through the streets of Pinevale without any notice at all. They had considered making their way around the city, but decided it would be faster to cut straight through. Also, they hoped that Pinevale’s magical energies would drown out the power of the gauntlets. The minions did not dare attack inside the walls of the great city. Their reasoning was sound, and nothing bothered them.

However, they had to travel through dense forest to get from Pinevale to Locwood, the home of the orcs. The major road was dangerous, as many displaced orcs sought easy prey. A fourteen year old girl and a harvester would be no match for a group of robbers. So, the duo was forced to take their chances in the pine forest.

Both Zoe and Chaff were amazed at how beautiful the pines grew. The admiration did not last long before the minions of Rainor stormed over them. It was as though they had been waiting for Zoe.

There were thirteen of the winged beasts, and they ranged from tamarin to gorilla. Chaff ripped off his cloak and raised his bladed arms. Zoe raised her magically armored hands. The rubies encrusting the gloves glowed red, and Zoe herself seemed to radiate heat. The winged minions hooted and screeched at the display of magical power. Their excitement was short-lived.

From each gauntlet sprang a flaming whip, ready to do the girl’s bidding. Zoe spun her new weapons around, getting a feel for their length. One of the gorillas attempted to take the gauntlets, but he was met with lash after fiery lash from the whips. The other minions hesitated before staking their claim on the magic item. Chaff was not interested in letting them regain their composure. The harvester sprang on them with his scythe-like arms cutting several of the smaller monkeys down among the pine needle floor.

A few of the quicker, smaller winged monkeys manage to escape the carnage. A large and hairy orangutan with tiny wings was not so quick. Zoe wrapped him in her burning coils as he attempted to flee into the forest. The dying creatures cries could be heard in both Pinevale and Locwood.

The battle with the minions was over as quickly as it had begun. However, there was a new problem. The dried pine was igniting from the flames of Zoe’s gloves. She dispelled the whips with merely a thought, and started trying to put out the flames. Chaff used the old robes to smother the blaze, and eventually all of the fire was out.

Zoe and Chaff were exhausted and covered in soot and ash. They needed to rest, away from the still smoking remains of their forest fires. Chaff led them down a small trail. The trail ended at a strange, vine covered tree. Chaff leaned against the tree, and threw his head back into it.

Doink

The strange tree wasn’t a tree at all. Zoe started pulling vines away, while Chaff cut, In no time, they had uncovered a large metal humanoid. The sculpture must have stood nine feet high and carried a huge axe, which was half buried in the earth. Its legs were wide cylinders, like an elephants. The arms and torso seemed to have giant springs cleverly worked into the metal frame. Zoe could not get a good look at the face, it was too high.

“I wish he would lean down so I could see his face,” she pouted.

Chaff’s heart dropped into his stomach as the metal giant slowly dropped down to one knee. It put its face down at eye level to Zoe.

“Stay back, fiend!” Chaff tried to sound brave when he finally gained his composure.

“He won’t hurt us,” Zoe stated with a certainty that the harvester felt was unwarranted.

“You don’t even know if it is a ‘He’ at all.”

The metal titan turned to Chaff and spoke in a voice that was deep and strong. “I am a he.”

Zoe and Chaff spent hours asking the creature questions. Most normal people would have grown weary of answering the non-ending barrage of questioning, but this was a machination. He was created by Rainor during the War of Hoarded Magic. This particular machination, which Zoe named LJ, was clearing a path through the forest for the orc army when the war ended. He was left with no more orders, so he had been sitting and waiting for someone to come along and give him a purpose.

Zoe and Chaff had no problems giving him orders. Once they had learned of his purpose, they asked him to cut down a large pine tree. LJ readied his huge axe and turned his torso. The great spring inside groaned under the strain, but LJ continued to turn. Finally, in a motion so quick and powerful that Zoe and Chaff hardly registered it, LJ let the tension loose and sliced through the pine in one chop.

“Yeah, he can stay with us!” Chaff stated and they shared a laugh. Even LJ seemed happy to once again have something to do with himself.

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Penn's Diary

 

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Zoe and the Outcasted (2)

Chaff

Zoe and the Outcasted

Chapter Two

Realizations

Zoe woke in her bed, covered in her favorite blanket. She had forgotten how much she had missed her missed her own things. The war had stolen the simple joys of life as well as taken her parents. Zoe remembered the gauntlets her father had left for her. She pulled her hands from under the folds of the blanket, but they were bare. Had it all been a dream? 

“Your gloves are safe, Lady Zoe.” The gentle breeze-like voice stated.

Zoe smiled and scanned the room for the straw groundling who had sworn loyalty to her. “Where are you? I thought it had all been a dream. I am so glad it wasn’t.”

“I am afraid that it may be more like a nightmare, my lady.” Although the voice was the same, the figure that slipped from Zoe’s closet was nothing like the jolly little halfling creature that had presented itself earlier that day. The girl could not hide her shock. “I know. I know,” he put up his smaller, more humanoid hands in a submissive manner. “I can only take the form of a halfling for an hour or so a day.”

“My father’s gift to you, in exchange for your loyalty?”

The groundling nodded. He had two long arms which ended in sickles. They scraped the ground as he made his way to stand in front of Zoe. “My name is Chaff.” As he got closer, the girl could make out the almost demonic look of his face. “I am a simple harvester, or at least I was before your father found me.”

 Chaff handed Zoe the gauntlets and a piece of rolled parchment. “What does it say?” the girl asked as she once again donned the gloves.

“I don’t know,” Chaff said ashamed of himself.

Zoe jumped off the bed and patted the groundling on the head. “We will fix that, in time.” She knelt beside Chaff and unrolled the parchment on the floorboard of her room. “It says that father wants me to seek out a mage. He wants one of these people to take me on as an apprentice.” Zoe pointed at the list of names. “Here it lists seven mages.”

“These are names?” Chaff tapped the list with his small hand. “Your father was teaching me how to write my own name before he…” the groundling cleared his throat, then quickly changed the subject. “What are the names?”

“All of these people are either dead or missing.”

Suddenly, a figure blocked the sunlight as it appeared in Zoe’s bedroom window. It was a small monkey, but it had large bat-like wings sprouting from its back. The beast gave a scream, and jumped down into the room. Chaff forced Zoe behind him, keeping himself between monkey and girl. The winged simian quickly moved its head from side to side, trying to get a look at the gauntlets.

It ventured too close to the groundling, however. Chaff cut the monkey into three pieces with his scythe hands. Zoe stifled a scream. There was so much more blood than she expected. Chaff turned to make sure that she was not harmed in any way. Once he determined that she was alright, he searched through the small bag which was slung around the monkey’s back.

“Trinkets,” Chaff stated as he closed the bag. “Former magic items that have lost their power. We can still sell them and get what we can.” Zoe had not moved since the attack. “Are you going to be alright?”

The girl nodded, but it was not convincing. “What was that? Why did it attack us?”

“It was a minion of Rainor. Your father warned me that this could happen.” Chaff walked through the house as he spoke. He was shoving clothes into a bag. “They were sent out during the war to steal magic items for Rainor. This little guy was just following orders.”

“But Rainor is dead!”

Chaff lacked Zoe’s certainty. “Still, orders from a dead man are still orders. They were never instructed to cease their searching, so they come.”

“Why now? The gauntlets have been here for years.”

“I kept their powers hidden. When you put them on, the magical energies called out to all of the minions.” Chaff grabbed Zoe’s hand. “We need to move. There will be more coming after you.” Zoe cringed. “It is alright; I will protect you.” The girl relaxed, but only a little. “Are there no mages left on that list? Anywhere that we go?”

“They are all dead,” Zoe said sadly. Chaff shook his head. “Wait,” Zoe said with excitement in her voice. “We can go and speak with Lanie of the Yellow Hand.”

“The orcs?”

“She will help us,” Zoe took the packed bag from Chaff. “I am certain of it.”

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Penn's Diary

 

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Zoe and the Outcasted

Zoe

Zoe and the Outcasted

Chapter One

The Safety of Straw

Zoe had finally been allowed to return to her home near Pinevale, but it was a bittersweet homecoming. Her Pa had been killed or absorbed or whatever the cruel Rainor did to the magic users of Delphia. Zoe’s Ma fought beside the brave men of Pinevale as they battled the orcs of Locwood. She died on the battlefield. Zoe figured it was probably best; she wouldn’t have been much good without Pa anyway. Strange how war could make a fourteen year old girl believe that death was somehow preferable to life, but war changed a lot of things.

For the past three years, Zoe had stayed in Dundersnuff. The quick thinking of her Ma had gotten her into the dwarven city before they sealed the gates. She was eleven when she watched the mountain gates seal her in. Zoe knew how lucky she had been not to be on the other side of that gate. How many children my age are out there being hunted by orcs, trolls, and therians? The only thing she was unhappy about in Dundersnuff was the complete lack of magical learning. In fact, the dwarves seemed to almost frown on the use of magic; unless it was poured into an item. 

Zoe had been home for two full weeks, and she finally mustered up the courage to go into her father’s old laboratory. It was the only room left to be cleaned and cleared. She was not excited about entering the room where her Pa had been taken. At least her Ma had died a glorious death; but there was no way of knowing how her Pa had gone from the world. 

Was he tortured? Was he even himself when it was all over? What had Rainor done to him? 

There were no answers in the empty lab; simply heavy dust laid over a neat work area. Ma had not gone in there either, apparently. Zoe played out so many scenarios as she stood in the doorway of her Pa’s room. A light knock on the floorboard caused her to sink down into a squatting position and cover her mouth to keep the scream from escaping. She scanned the room, looking for some kind of weapon to defend herself. Nothing. Had Rainor taken everything? Rainor; the name caused her even more fear. No! He has not been seen or heard from in two years.

A second knock. This time Zoe was watching closely and was able to determine exactly where the sound had originated. A third knock caused the dust to separate; clearly showing the outline of a small hidden door. Hope sprang up in the young girl’s soul. Pa? Could he have survived? Of course he could have; he was a mage! 

Zoe ran to the small door, dug her fingers into the crack and flung it open. Inside the hole was a pile of straw. Zoe plunged her hand into the straw; not even sure exactly what she hoped to find. To her surprise, the straw grabbed her back. Zoe threw herself backward from the hole, but the straw followed. Once the pile of straw was out of the hole, it started to take the shape of a halfling. The creature’s hair remained straw, and it flowed down his back. He also wore a chest piece of thick straw over his dirty brown clothing. 

“You must be Zoe,” the straw groundling said in a whispered voice that sounded like the wind blowing through the leaves. Zoe was so confused, and it must have shown on her childlike face. The groundling continued, “I am sorry about your father. He was a great man.”

You knew my Pa?” Zoe asked, although she realized how stupid the question was as soon as it escaped her lips. Of course he knows Pa; he didn’t get under his floor unknowingly.

“We were friends. He asked me to protect you.” The groundling lowered his head and continued, “If you have awakened me, then he is gone.”

“He is.”

“Then these belong to you,” the straw creature reached back down into the hole and withdrew a pair of ruby encrusted gauntlets. He handed them over to Zoe and stated. “I am now your servant, in accordance with the covenant I struck with your father. I will guard you until you free me of that duty.” 

The gloves were way too large for the fourteen year old girl’s hands. They were obviously her Pa’s. The thought made her smile as she slipped her hands into the gauntlets. Immediately, they shrunk down to fit her hands. Zoe could feel the magic flow into her hands and then burst throughout her entire body. Since the war, magic items were almost non-existent; yet here she stood with her father’s magic coursing through her. It was more than she could have hoped for, but it was too much all at once. 

The straw groundling caught her before she passed out on the dusty floor. 

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Penn's Diary

 

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