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Thera Awakening

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Chapter One

A caravan of a dozen armed men and four pack mules failed to return from their trading expedition, a patrol had been dispatched from Stonekeep to look for them. They found a two-day old track — and then lost it. Watch-Master Hoth ordered ten soldiers of Stonekeep to find any tracks.

It is mid-afternoon and it is raining in a forest trail. A woman named Tam and the Watch-Second named Rathe are in a muddy track between huge oaks and birches. Someone startles them. It is Orvig the Dwarf, sent by Hoth to tell them to get back to the Fort Thunder before dark. Before obeying the order, Rathe thinks examining a nearby law hill 300 paces distant half masked by a stand of junipers. He things that the party should have fled there in case of danger. Indeed, they ascend the hill and find a dozen of butchered bodies beside mules, mutilated beyond recognition, including Master Trader Seth and his deputy Lara. At first they believe it was the job of mutant beasts, but the goods, and their weapons, are looted.

They rejoin Hoth's team an hour later than ordered. They are brought to the hill-top. The rain has stopped but flies buzz around the bodies. Hoth reprimands Rathe for being late. His men are sorting and burying the bodies, but there is no sign of the Dwarven representative, Jhen Stonemelter, Orvig's clan-sister. Hoth insists that savages made the work, marked it as an attack by mutant beasts, but Rathe is not convinced. Hoth says that Stonekeep will launch a retaliatory attack against the savages and Rathe will be a part in it. The burial took almost 2 hours. Rathe tries to comfort Orvig before setting out to camp some miles nearby.

They marched in single file. Rathe, Loric and Calvert were in the rear guard with Orvig beside them. After walking for some miles, an hour had passed and it was too dark to go on. They camped on a grassy knoll beside a stream a few hundred paces from the dirt road, and ate cold trail rations. Rathe noted that Loric had a cough and relieved him of duty. At night, under a light rain, Tam woke Rathe for his watch turn. She reported that the night was quiet but Rathe heard some slithering. He drew his sword and saw a wild woman, named Kel, who came to warn him. The caravan was butchered by the Tse'Mara, the Whispering Death, who would arrive against them at dawn. Dren, the other sentry, heard the voices and came to check. The girl fled without be seen.

The two soldiers woke Hoth who showed disbelief to the girl's story. Then, winged figures showed up from the sky and killed Hoth. Rathe ordered a circular formation and cover with their shields. Warren and a woman also fell. Tam and other who did not have the time to do so, were in the center. Rathe managed to kill some of the dozen insectoid flying creatures. One cut Dren's hand off and some entered the circle. Rathe cut one's head with his shield, but was hit on the head severely.

Rathe is walking in a dark echoing space, a huge columned hall, with stars above an altar. A female voice calls his name in his thought. He notes a pattern etched in the glass floor that glittered, leading to a doorway. The lines form an intricate rune. The voice tells Rathe that he is dying, but he must live and help her. She is trapped Outside. Then everything shakes and crumbles, stones fall. Rathe runs towards the door. A crack opens between him and the door and grows bigger, splitting the rune in two. Rathe makes a leap.

Chapter Two