Nesonna, Part 1: The Bounty

Nesonna, Part 1: The Bounty

A Story by Jona Vark

Nesonna, an inexperienced elven monk teams up with with a wandering mercenary band for fame and fortune.


Soft, dusty earth shifted across the forest floor as a small robed figure lowered itself to the ground tensely. Birds sung amongst themselves high in the trees above, oblivious to the figure as it began crawling on its stomach slowly towards a forest clearing; not that there was need for them to be weary, after all - the woman posed very little threat to them even before she started hiding herself clumsily under a bush.


Breathing deep Nesonna allowed herself to relish the smell of soft, dry soil for a few moments before turning her focus to the derelict fort standing proudly just over a kilometer away from the forest edge. Straining her eyes Nesonna grinned as she saw the fort had been manned by several tall, bulking humanoids - orcs - with crossbows held cautiously. She had been tracking these creatures for almost a week before she was sidetracked in a village to get supplies, but now she could relax a little as her quarry appeared to have settled down for a while.


Pulling out a notebook and pencil, Nesonna began taking notes on the fort’s defenders and possible plans of attack. Her elven eyes allowed Nesonna to make out more detail from such a distance than lesser races would be able: she could tell that the fort had seen its share of battles before its newest inhabitants arrived, its walls were torn and crumbling; and she could tell from their lowered posture and lacking patrol that her quarry was sure they were safe from assault.

The elf’s scribbling was interrupted, however, when a loud battle cry rang out from the forest - several hundred meters to her left - as a band of two dozen heavily armed individuals came rushing from the tree line - straight towards her quarry!
Nesonna tensed as she watched the group charging the full kilometer towards the fort with seemingly no opposition - she’d been chasing these orcs for several weeks, and now a random group of idiots was going to steal everything away from-


Her miniature panic-attack ended abruptly as a rain of arrow fire soared from the keep, skewering over half of the group as a squadron of armored brutes came sauntering out from the fort’s entrance, weaponry in hand. Any doubts Nesonna had over the futility of her journey subsequently evaporated while witnessing the ‘battle’ that followed as the survivors were cut down with minimal effort.

Shaking her head in exasperation, Nesonna finished the last of her notes and shoved them into her robes as she gingerly pushed herself from the dirt and skulked back deeper into the forest, towards the quaint town she’d visited a day before.



A bell rang cheerfully as Nesonna pushed open the door, signaling the shopkeeper to lower her book and smile toothily at her guest as she entered.
“Fancy seeing you again,” a friendly, southern voice drawled as Nesonna closed the door behind, “and here I thought you weren’t ever coming back.”
“Hi again, Amelia,” Nesonna raised a hand in an awkward wave at the woman, a thin blonde human in her early-to-mid forties who she’d met only a day ago - and yet had still been the only person to actually treat Nesonna non-aggressively in months.
“What brings you here again, Nesonna?” Amelia rested her head on the tips of her entwined fingers and stared tenderly at the elf.
“I, uh…” Nesonna averted her gaze from that of the human’s and stared at the wall as she stuttered, “I need a grappling hook and a rope - if you have any.”
Amelia gave an amused smile and rose from her counter, “I have some rope there on the wall, and a few hooks out back; just wait here while I go get one for you.”
The human left out a door leading to, what Nesonna had assumed was her living space, but now could have been a storage room for all the elf knew; and Nesonna took a rope of the wall and began perusing items around the room.


The bell rung again as Nesonna took a coil of rope of the wall and she instinctively turned to see several men and women enter the store, a man in a thick blue robe seeming to lead them.
“Looks like you’re ready for war” the robed man chuckled as he eyed the elf up and down, “where’s the action?”
Nesonna eyed the man and his multi-racial party and something inside of her decided they posed approximately zero threat to her, “I’m going to kill an orc chieftain” she answered matter-of-factly.
 “Oh,” the mage looked taken aback by her bluntness, “Do you want us to help?”


Nesonna eyed the mages’ companions as he waved a hand over to them - a true ragtag bunch of misfits if ever she’d saw them: there were two elves, one with a new-looking short bow, and the other with a lute of some sort; a halfling and a human both dressed in leather, swords at their sides, and… a half-giant just slightly too big to enter the building leaning on the window outside, looking into the store.  Nesonna took a step back as she saw the giant of a man, who in turn waved at her with a big toothy grin on his face.

“Why would I want your help?” she eyed the robed man cautiously.
 “Well,” the man started rubbing the stubble on his chin, “I’m guessing that you’re going after the bounty on those orc raiders that’ve been harassing the towns around the area, and I think you’d have a better chance at taking them down with us-” he motioned towards his group again “-than on your own.”
Nesonna swore internally: she’d torn the bounty off the board where she’d seen it, how did anyone else know about it?
“Alright,” Nesonna narrowed her eyes at the band, “but that doesn’t answer my question: why should I trust you?”
 “Well, because we’re nice!” the man exclaimed cheerily, as if that was all the argument he needed, then added “And we’ll let you hand in the bounty on your own - and keep whatever you can carry if you help us with the orcs.”
 A high-pitched voice butted in - the halfling fighter - for the first time since they’d entered “We’d bet there’s more than enough for all of us to take away from their camp, and we just want some gear and a little better experience in combat.”
Nesonna crossed her arms and began glaring at the group “None of that answers why I should trust you.
 “Well…” her would-be friend sighed in annoyance before smiling as seemingly an idea sprung to head, “well we’re going to assault the orcs ourselves anyway, so this is the best deal you’re going to get,” he put a hand up before Nesonna could respond “and as for why you should trust us: we’re telling you our plans and putting ourselves in danger if you end up being…” he began fumbling his words, “like, insane, or something.”
“Or a spy,” the halfling pitched as both she and Nesonna stared at the man in awkward disappointment.


Nesonna arched an eyebrow at the man as he stared awkwardly at her. Was this some kind of rouse, some twisted joke from God she had yet to understand? Erring on the side of caution she chuckled awkwardly, hoping to appease her god’s apparently twisted sense of humor, and then shook her head at the group, “Well, I suppose I have nothing to lose joining you, so…” she struggled to spit out the words, “so… I guess I’ll join you.”
“Excellent!” The man clapped his hands together as Amelia entered with Nesonna’s hook and a leather satchel in hand.
“I noticed last time you were round that you’ve been shoving everything in your robes,” Amelia eyed Nesonna amusedly, “So I figured you’d want to buy something to actually put everything into; it’s a very good quality, locally-made and it’ll only be 75 Silver!”
Nesonna eyed the bag carefully; she wanted to decline the sale, but she had lost her pen on the way here when it fell from between her robes, “I’ll take it,” she grumbled as gratefully as she could manage “thanks.”
With that, Nesonna paid the silver - which she’d had to fish from a pocket in her robes - and left with her new travelling companions.


Several pints slammed onto the table by one of her human companions as Nesonna worked with the strap on her new backpack until suddenly a mug was thrust in front of her.
“Drink up, kiddo!” The man, a human dressed in leather with several pieces of plate strapped on, laughed as Nesonna stared into the mug. He was Roderick; Nesonna only vaguely remembered his name from when he had introduced himself on the way to the tavern.
“There are reports around town of an orc band shacked up in an abandoned fort a day’s travel north of here.” Roderick explained as he jabbed a finger down on their map and fell into his seat.
“A fort?” the halfling, Jayne, piped up next to Nesonna, “Do you know how defensible it is - or how many orcs there even are?”
“It’s more of a small keep - stone walls about 10 meters tall surrounding it - with a good sightline on all approaches manned by at least 5 crossbows” Nesonna interrupted before the fair-haired man could respond.
The group turned their heads in unison at the elf, Agerius chuckling “Oh? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone resourceful enough to be travelling on her own would have done a bit of scouting beforehand.”
“Do you think it’s assailable?” a deep but feminine voice spoke for the first time Nesonna could tell - the elf ranger - Arlania if Nesonna recalled correctly - was staring at her from across the table.
 “Probably by a small force at night,” Nesonna’s face contorted in thought, “but I don’t think many of you are… dexterous enough to make the climb.”
“Do we all need to go?” Roderick spoke up again - to the robed man, Agerius, more than the group itself - “I mean, if a few of us sneak in and take out the guards then the rest of us can charge in, right?”
Nesonna shook her head as her companions began agreeing with the leather-clad man.
“My original plan was to sneak in on my own and confront the leader while he slept,” Nesonna eyed her companions, “but the more of us who sneak in, the less room we have to sneak around.”
Jayne spoke up from Nesonna’s side again, “Yeah, and I for one’d rather not be trapped in a keep full of orcs when the rest of you fail to get inside and create a big scene.”
“So,” Agerius pulled a map from the pack at his side, “We need to make a frontal-assault against an encampment of orcs: luckily I know of an abandoned site - that was said to have found an ancient vault of magical artifacts - just a few hours west of here.”
“Artifacts?” Nesonna cocked her head inquisitively, “What use are artifacts?”
“Well, they’re more of the magic sort,” the mage flashed the elf a toothy grin, “but the site never actually opened; it was abandoned shortly after they set it up-” he jabbed his finger down on the map, “-and I’m certain it has what we need.”
“What do we need?” Nesonna interrogated further; the site was a significant journey from the orcs’ encampment, and she didn’t want to lose their trail by going on a scavenger hunt.
Sensing her caution, Agerius explained; “Well, an archeological team from the university in Gandring claimed to have pretty solid evidence that this location was the site of an ancient vault, and…” he trailed off, “it’s really the best option we have to give us an edge.”
Nesonna exhaled in annoyance; they did need something to give them an edge over their foe, and like it or not this was their best option. “Fine,” she muttered, “I guess we’ll have to leave in the morning.”



Nesonna awoke early with the rest of her companions just at the break of dawn and the party began on their journey westwards to their target; the journey went smoothly - the woods around these parts weren’t known for their dangerous wildlife and the countryside was too poor to be of any worth to bandits - and they arrived at their destination well before noon.


Ahead of them lay what Nesonna could only assume was the excavation site they’d travelled so far for; a large cave entrance surrounded by long-abandoned digging equipment and discarded weaponry.
“I’m guessing this site wasn’t abandoned very peacefully.” Nesonna huffed while kneeling low to look over a shattered sword lying at her feet.
“Maybe not,” Arlania muttered, her almond-shaped eyes narrowing in examination of the site, “but then where are the corpses? Shouldn’t there be some sort of remains?”
Nesonna rose, tossing the old blade aside and crept to the entrance of the cave as the rest of her party discussed matters amongst themselves.
Poking her head inside, her eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness and allowed her to make out a long, empty hallway of stone brick and several large doors.
“I think it’s a bunker,” the monk called back to her group, still standing gormlessly at the outskirts of the site, “it looks empty, but there’re some rooms that look like they lead somewhere.”
Agerius was the only one with the wits enough to respond “I guess we should get exploring then?”
I can’t believe these are the… people I agreed to travel with Nesonna seethed internally as her ‘companions’ finally joined her and begun preparations to enter the bunker.


Entering the cavern, Nesonna and Arlania both seethed as their mage created a magical ball of light above them, destroying their natural dark vision at the cost of allowing the rest of their companions to see and Agerius shot them a sympathetic glance, “Sorry”.

“You girls stay behind us, okay?” Roderick, seemingly very serious, ordered the group as he and his half-giant friend, Apper, pushed ahead to act as a shield against whatever lay in the dark.
Nesonna opened her mouth to rebut with something witty, but stopped as she actually looked over her female companions - a ranger and a halfling - and shrugged instead; it’s not like the other two would actually be of any use in a prolonged melee - and Nesonna herself didn’t really mind letting her human “companions” take a few hits instead of her if they were ambushed.


Finally the group stopped halfway down the corridor to split off and open the doors around them; Roderick coughed hard as he opened his to a face full of dust, and Agerius shone his unnatural light into the room.
“I think it’s an office,” the mage leaned back and took a deep breath of fresher air before entering, robbing the hallway of his unnatural light.
“I guess we should keep within shouting distance then?” Arlania opened a door on the other side of the hallway and crept in as the rest of her companions, save Apper and Nesonna, followed her suggestion.


Apper tensed as he stared as he stared deeper into the dark hallway and took an unlit torch from his backpack to light the hallway in the mage’s absence. Seething as her night vision was destroyed yet again Nesonna glared briefly at the half-giant and leaned against the wall.
“So what brought all of you together?” she asked as the giant gripped his mace firmly in both hands.
“Uh,” he started in a deep but strangely unintimidating baritone, “Roderick, Castile and I were mercenaries, and we joined the mage and his friends after one of their tasks because it paid better than mercenary work.”
The giant man stared at Nesonna and shuffled, clearly not used to being spoken to or with. Nesonna shrugged at his discomfort and prodded further, “Why did you join them though? Surely the three of you would be better off on your own; you, Apper and…” she trailed off; she hadn’t quite cared to remember her bard’s name.
“Well, because they’re talented, and we have a better chance at adventuring with them then without.” Apper stuttered out slowly, uncomfortable with speaking in general it seemed - or shy around strangers.


Nesonna cringed as she heard several items falling, followed by a cloud of dust emanating from Arlania’s room before the elf strutted out triumphantly with a large tome in hand.
“Guess what I found”, beamed the ranger, continuing before anyone could answer, “It’s an encyclopedia on a bunch of flora and fauna native to the continent - something this old and knowledgeable has to be worth a fortune!”
Nesonna chuckled in spite of herself at the other elf’s seeming unnatural cheer and edged closer to examine the book. As she got close however, a deep, animalistic screech pierced through the air from deeper down the hall, drawing her companions back out of their respective rooms and draining the color from both elves’ faces.


“What the hell was that?” the lute-carrying man - Frederick? James? Nesonna was drawing a blank -glowered down the hallway fearfully.
“I don’t know, but it’s in our way.” Roderick unsheathed his sword and drew his shield from his back as he edged closer to the strangely large door at the end of the hallway.
“Wait, we don’t know what’s in there,” Apper whisper-shouted as he ran to Roderick as the human pushed open the ancient door with a loud moan.


Immediately a second screech filled the air, and both Roderick and Apper began battle with something further in the dark, scuttling on hundreds of tapping legs. Nesonna ran to her companions with fists clenched but paused when she saw what they were fighting; creatures she could only describe as termites each the size of a large dog,  alongside several dozen more pouring out of burrows in the walls.
“We could use a little help here, mage!” Roderick called as he pushed his shield into a termite’s face, ignoring Nesonna completely.
Agerius ran closer before closing his eyes and chanting some strange words Nesonna couldn’t comprehend - and suddenly an eerie, glowing green circle spread across the ground from his feet that engulfed his companions in an unnatural light.


Nesonna felt an incredible burst of strength seep into her body as the light engulfed her, and she leapt into combat beside her mostly-human companions, punching the closest termite in the face - or at least what passed for a face when it comes to gigantic termites - hard enough to send it spiraling back several several meters, skidding on all its feet; beside her Roderick brought his blade down into the skull of another, and Apper crushed the spine of a third before swinging to the right and caving in the skull of a fourth.
Suddenly an arrow whistled past the elf’s head and lodged itself in the eye of another termite - though to little affect it would seem; Nesonna gasped as she saw almost a dozen more gigantic insects emerging from tunnels dug into the ancient stone walls.
 “There’s more than we can fight here!” Nesonna yelled as she uppercut another multi-legged foe, sending it first upright onto its hind legs, and then on its back on the floor where it writhed feebly to get back on its feet.
“Maybe these are the only bugs in the hive?” Roderick asked in a dying hope as the flow of creeping insects seemed only to speed up. Without further prompt, the fighters unanimously began to edge back to the hallway as a wave of screeching bugs continued to crash into them.


“We’re going to need a little more than an aura, mage!” Roderick yelled shrilly over his shoulder as his shield was pushed ever further into him.
Nesonna dropped to the floor and kicked both feet hard into the face of an enterprising bug that’d had the vision thought to go under Roderick’s shield instead of straight through. A growing sense of queasiness grew in her stomach as monstrous screams filled the air as Apper’s mace tore through swath after swath of scuttling insect.

“Alright, you’ll all need to cover your eyes!” Agerius yelled as his companions continued slashing. Nesonna turned her back to the fight and covered her face as a bright, heatless light lit the entire catacomb accompanied by a deafening screech - or rather, dozens of deafening screeches and the dull thumping of several dead bodies. Nesonna turned as the light finally dissipated and bore witness to the mage’s spell; majority of the ‘termites’ were alive, but they all dragged themselves away and back into their burrows. Several other bodies lay dead in a heap, Apper and Roderick among them.
Oh well, Nesonna shrugged to herself; she’d survived at least.


A pained moan rang out from Roderick as he and his giant companion began writhing feebly on the ground; not dead, then.
“What did you do to us, Age’?” Roderick gingerly rose into a seated position on the body of a termite; his face was gaunt and dark bags had formed under his eyes.
“I cast a psychic spell,” Agerius said, mustering up as much sympathy as he could without actually doing anything, apologizing or actually changing his tone, “specifically, I pulled a trick I learnt back at school; the light psychically attacks whoever stares into it and causes severe headaches, concussions, vomiting and eventual unconsciousness.”
“How did you know it would affect the bugs, and not just them?” Jayne pointed at her downed companions and gave Agerius the side eye as she and Arlania finally reentered the hallway.
“Well, I-” Agerius sputtered petulantly, “Well I just knew it would!”
Unanimously the three women gave Agerius a look of severe, judging doubt while Castile stared at him in abject horror.
“Look, it’s over now; if we encounter them again then we know I can just use the spell again - can we just go?” Agerius whined as he hoisted Roderick to his feet.
“Sure,” Nesonna glared suspiciously at the mage as she stepped over a dead insect, “but if I get caught in the next one I’m tearing your eyes out.”



Now free to actually examine the room, the catacomb now appeared to be more of a cathedral: dozens of large, stain-glass windows stood intact around the edges of the room, rotting wood pews were scattered around the room save for a few that stood untouched in front of an altar whose markings have since been lost to time - though how it had been buried under several meters of rock and stone was a mystery seemingly only Nesonna noticed.


Agerius followed closely as Nesonna sashayed slowly towards the altar, examining the room; to the left was a small wooden door that had been left untouched for… some time - and to the right snaked another corridor, considerably taller and wider than the one opposite which also looked untouched by any living creature. In fact, the entire half of the cathedral from the untouched pews to the altar appeared to have been left free of the termite’s ravages.


“Wait,” Agerius grabbed Nesonna by the shoulder before she shirked away from his touch, “I think some sort of spell is protecting the altar.”
Focusing hard on the altar, Agerius whispered a new chant and began analyzing the room for something Nesonna could not see, and Roderick finally hobbled towards the two.
“I also feel something emanating from the altar,” the swordsman muttered as he walked past his companions and approached the weathered stone.
“There’s some sort of spell - I can’t identify it - but it appears to be covering this entire half of the cathedral.” Agerius spread his arms wide, as if that would prove his point better than the neat line of eroding pews left actually standing amongst the mess that was the other half of the room.
“It doesn’t feel like traditional magic,” Roderick muttered, more to his own focused thoughts than his companions, “It feels divine: like a cleric or priest placed it.”


Nesonna tensed - she didn’t understand much about magic, divine or otherwise (or even particularly that there was a difference), but she figured that if the termites hadn’t touched this part of the cathedral - and she and her companions had managed to enter through to it - then the spell must be reactive to something instead of... whatever else spells are.
Nesonna shuddered and took several long steps away from the altar and towards the scattered pews; whatever was going to happen to her human companions when they got to the altar was between them and it.
Finally reaching, and then actually touching the altar, Roderick completely relaxed and turned back to his cautious companions, “I think the magic was only supposed to protect the altar from non-human”- he paused and eyed his non-human companions, Nesonna specifically, and added - “Or human-ish creatures from approaching.”
Nesonna’s brow creased as her remaining companions crossed into the altar’s radius, “But you don’t know for certain that it’s not waiting on us to touch something before it kills us?”
As if to disprove her point, Roderick immediately crouched by the altar and began rubbing the old stone with both hands, “I’m pretty sure that if it did we’d be dead by now.”
Nesonna balked as none of her companions reacted to the swordsman’s potentially suicidal actions, but forced herself cautiously towards them nonetheless.


“Well then, I think it would be best to split up and take these two rooms separately.” Agerius pointed at the simple wooden door and the eerie, dark corridor both and then made towards the latter, reigniting the ball of light that followed behind his shoulder and creating a second that floated near the roof of the cathedral.


Almost unanimously the group split up and Nesonna was left to explore the corridor with Jayne and Agerius. The corridor wasn’t particularly long, however, and Agerius’ magical illumination made it significantly less eerie and just more… old. Cobwebs clung thick to the long arches above and dust shifted around as the three continued towards the giant metallic door ahead.


Suddenly the floor shifted under them, and the large stone brick the three were standing on fell slightly, releasing a cacophony of twisting gears from all around. The group tensed as the massive doors ahead moaned open and a cloud of thick dust poured from out.
Nesonna and her Halfling entered the room ahead of their group, weapons ready, and tensed when they found what lay inside; almost a hundred giant, metallic golems lined what appeared to be a massive workshop, lit by some unseen source and locked away far longer than the rest of the cathedral.


“Don’t touch them!” Agerius fumbled out as his Nesonna reached out to feel one of the stone goliaths, “they’re dormant.”
Nesonna returned to a ready stance as she analyzed the metallic monstrosities, “What are they doing down here?” she whispered, cautious as not to ‘wake’ the stone and metal giants.
“I don’t know,” Agerius returned to his normal, unimpressed baritone, “I guess this could have been the cathedral’s armory?”
“Then why weren’t they used when bugs infested this place?” Alaria asked, eliciting a vague shrug from the mage.
“Well, guessing this place has been locked away far longer than the rest of the cathedral.” Nesonna thought aloud as she stepped away and wiped a hand across a workbench covered in a thick sheet of dust; “Maybe the bugs came after this place was abandoned?”
“I think that might the case - the outside spell could have only been set to prevent such creatures from causing any damage.” Agerius muttered as he stepped close to a dormant golem and stared into its dead, stone eyes.

Jayne picked up a golden circlet lying on a workbench and blew a thick coat of dust away, “Look what I found!”
“Do you think we could use them to attack the orcs?” Nesonna, like Agerius, ignored her halfling companion and pressed her hands to the sleeping monstrosities and examined it hard, “Or maybe we could sell them for a tidy profit?”
“Selling - or using them ourselves would be dangerous; nobody knows how golems react these days, but they’re likely to be volatile…” Agerius trailed off.
“What do you mean by that?” Nesonna turned to the mage as he examined a golem of his own.

Before he could respond, a loud rumble filled the room, forcing both Nesonna and her mage jump backwards. Jayne hid behind Nesonna as she lowered herself into a fighting pose while a number of golems sprung to life.
“What the hell is happening?” the halfling shrieked as she drew her sword at the metallic creatures.
“It’s that circlet, you idiot!” Agerius snapped and swiped at the halfling as she dodged back; Nesonna turned to see the halfling clutching the solid gold crown to her head.
“It’s mine,” she cried, oblivious to the stirring golems, or perhaps sensing the mage to be the bigger threat - that is until two of the creatures began slowly stumbling towards the her menacingly.
“Erm, actually it’s yours!” Jayne threw the circlet with surprising swiftness and accuracy from her head into Nesonna, who caught it on instinct - which in turn caused the golems to face towards her instead.


Before Nesonna could react - throw the circlet, cripple Agerius and run away, punch the metal beast in whatever passed for a face - the closest golem suddenly kneeled and moaned out in a pained, booming voice that resonated from deep within its core: “Please… free us.”


Suddenly a wave of confusion washed over Nesonna, replacing whatever fear she had seconds earlier, “Free you?” she repeated.
The golem moved one large, groaning hand towards the golden circlet in Nesonna’s hand and moaned again “Destroy the disc and free us, please...”
Agerius stepped closer and examined the kneeling golem before turning his attention to the golden circlet in his elven companion’s hands, “I think this is a control mechanism of some sort.”
“What does that mean?” Nesonna stared dumbfounded from the circlet, to the mage, to the golems and then back to the circlet; this is too much.
“It’s, well…” the mage gave her a quizzical look, “A control mechanism. For the golems. Whoever created them made this to control them.”
Nesonna felt a strange well of remorse as she held the golden circlet and turned to the active golems - only a fraction of the total golems in the room - and asked, “How do we free you?”
The lead golem grunted in what Nesonna could only guess was fatigue, “You must destroy the control disc” it droned slowly.


That was going to be a task. Nesonna tried bending the metal crown in her hands and found it strangely unflinching against her assault; how was she supposed to destroy it if it wouldn’t break when she bent it-
“Then you destroy it,” Nesonna held the disc out to the golem, “Crush the disc yourself and destroy it.”
Agerius looked at Nesonna apprehensively as she handed the disc over and tensed; this could be a trap - or they could just kill the trio when they were free - but the elf stood with an otherworldly calm as the round stone and metal creature tenderly took the circlet from her hands.


Taking the disc, the golem held it tenderly in both hands before crushing it with all its strength. A loud buzz filled the air for several seconds before stopping, and suddenly all the active golems rose tall as though a weight had been lifted from them.
“Thank you humans,” the golem’s giant, smooth hand tussled Nesonna’s hair with surprising tenderness and began leaving the workshop with his kin.
Human? Nesonna frowned indignantly before a thought flashed through her mind;
“Wait!” she shouted as the 50-odd golems began leaving, “The least you can do for us freeing you
 is to help us with a task of ours!”
Half the golems kept moving uncaringly, though the other two dozen stopped, along with their ‘leader’ and listened; “We need some help in destroying an orc encampment a few hours away from here; once that’s done you can all go!” Nesonna blabbed out as a grin spread across her face, “You’ll be completely free and won’t owe us anything!”
Agerius glared at the elf dumbfounded, “Stop antagonizing them, you fool!”
Before he could smack the back of Nesonna’s head - or before she could punch him in the throat for smacking her in the back of the head - the golem leader groaned, “I will help you then.”
The golem turned around as the final golems who had not already left pondered amongst themselves; in the end an additional dozen stayed behind to help with the party’s task, and the rest left on their own journeys.



Returning to the cathedral proper Arlania, Roderick, Apper and Castile balked as they saw the dozen steel monstrosities mixed in with their companions.
“New friends, I hope?” Roderick joked nonchalantly as Arlania struggled not to choke on her abject horror and confusion at the metal constructs.
“Yep. They’re going to help us against the orcs, but that’s it” Nesonna answered with just as much put-on apathy.
“What did you all find while we were recruiting an army of golems?” Jayne raised a thick eyebrow at Roderick as Arlania went purple in the face from lack of air.
“We uh,” Roderick began slapping Arlania’s back supportively; “We found a door that we can’t open. It’s magic” he scratched the back of his head as his embarrassment rose.
Nesonna turned to glare at Agerius as he began shuffling awkwardly; “So, what he’s saying is that we came all this way for basically nothing, and that if I didn’t find and befriend these golems we’d have almost died with literally nothing to gain?”.
“Well, how do you know we can’t open it?” stuttered the mage, attempting to shift blame back to either the second human or the nearly-dying elf.
“It was-” Arlania breathed deep as she finally regained the ability to speak, “Roderick said it was

warded by the same sort of magic as the altar; and none of us here know how to dispel magic,” she stared at Nesonna, “do we?”
“Nope. I don’t, at least.” Nesonna shrugged listlessly, “Shame though.”
“Yes, well, let’s get going to the orc stronghold then,” Agerius mumbled in a weak, dejected attempt to reassume leadership over his group.



Nesonna stared at the fort from the forest outskirts and watched as several of her companions got into position on the other side of the forest. The elf wrung her hands together anxiously as Jayne waddled over and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Agerius has given the signal, and our golems are in position; we’re ready when you are kid.” Jayne playfully nudged the elf with her hip and stared forlornly at the keep.
Kid? Nesonna gave Jayne as much of a side-eye as she could manage for someone over a foot shorter than her; she was pretty sure that, save for the other elves, she was actually older than all of her companions combined.
Still, she followed the halfling’s gaze and glared in thought at the keep again: she had devised a plan for Agerius and Roderick to take eight of their twelve golems and draw the defenders’ attention by marching them to tear down the keep’s walls while Nesonna, Apper, Jayne and Arlania would take the remaining golems and attack the flank and take the orcs off-guard.


“Give them the signal,” Nesonna pushed away from the halfling and made towards her golems as the latter took aim with her crossbow at a set of trees close to their companions.
“Are all of you ready for this?” Nesonna caught herself feeling genuine concern for her metallic companions as she pressed a hand to the chassis of a smaller, stone golem.
“We. Are. Ready.” The tallest Golem boomed loudly in what it could manage as a whisper “We shall destroy these invaders!”
Nesonna frowned as all her companions began edging closer to the forest edge; she was so close to fulfilling her bounty, and yet still so much could go wrong. Staring at her golems and more… fleshy companions her anxiety only worsened. It would be one thing to finish this task at all, but it would be truly a feat to finish it without any of her companions getting killed - not like she cared at all; she’d be leaving this group as soon as her task was complete, but a feat was a feat nonetheless.


Suddenly a loud horn knocked Nesonna out of her thoughts, followed by shouts and the distant rumbling of running golems.
“Hey, monk: get over here!” Arlania yelled as she nocked an arrow against her bow.
With a nod, Nesonna jogged to the forest edge as her companions waited on the ranger to loosen her arrow.


Eyeing the ranger imperiously as almost an entire minute passed without a single arrow being loosed, Nesonna almost jumped when finally Arlania did decide on a target; an orc, smaller than the rest of his companions standing as the long rear guard against the flank. Nesonna and Jayne both watched, first in abject horror, and then side-splitting laughter, as the ranger’s arrow soared towards its target, only to miss by more than a foot - and then kill the orc anyway as he the shock of being fired at in the first place caused him to plummet off the ramparts into the hard ground below.


A group of orcs ran from the fort, weapons in hand, and made a beeline for Nesonna and her companions; Arlania loosed an arrow into the throat of one as Jayne and Nesonna both charged forward to meet the other half-dozen.
Sliding across the dirt Jayne sliced at the leg of the closest orc as she passed and rose to thrust both blades into her crouched foe’s back. Meanwhile, Nesonna leapt with as much strength as she could muster and pushed both feet hard into the chest of an orc who ran ahead of his host.
Rising in time to see a second arrow fly into the face of a green foe, Nesonna swept her leg around high to the head of an orc who’d paused between her and Jayne, clearly unsure of who to attack first.
Suddenly Jayne leapt over a falling orc and threw herself into the stomach of one of the two last charging orcs, toppling him over and saving Nesonna from a heavy tackle.


Nesonna dodged the final orc’s horizontal swing with a backflip and lowered herself to a defensive stance. She leapt to the side as the orc swung vertically, and peppered his unarmored chest with a flurry of punches.
Cursing in annoyance the orc began stabbing the at the elf with the thin blade above his axe, forcing the elf to dodge each precarious blow more and more clumsily until finally he thrust too far and too fast and left himself open - looking about halfway into hugging his opponent instead of impaling her.


Taking advantage of this position Nesonna kicked hard into the orc’s left knee, popping it out of position and dropping her foe to his knees; as he screamed in pain Nesonna slammed her palm down onto his throat then turned in time to see Apper crumple to the dirt a few meters away as a barrage of arrow fire tore into him; and several meters further a golem beginning to beat its fists overhead into the sharpshooter, crushing him gruesomely.


Nesonna tossed aside the orcish axe and charged at two orcs closing in on Agerius as he began chanting a spell. Closing the distance quickly, she jumped and used her considerable momentum to deliver a powerful kick into the lead aggressor; Nesonna rolled as she hit the ground and swiped the legs out from under the second attacker, knocking him clumsily down and entwining the two in an awkward grapple.


Nesonna glared up at her mage as she and her opponent began untangling themselves, “Are you going to do anything mage-”.
She was cut off as a familiar green light spread from Agerius’ feet, and an equally-familiar strength spread through her body.
As the orc cursed in an indecipherable Nesonna launched from her crouch and tackled her opponent fists-first, knocking the wind right back out of the orc for a second time; and as he wheezed on the floor Nesonna entwined her fingers and delivered an overhead blow straight down on her victim’s face.


“Get on yer feet kid!” a familiar voice - Roderick's -  shouted suddenly, a little too close to her ear, as he dragged the elf from the chest of her latest victim. Analyzing the battlefield Nesonna felt a well of hope for the first time in months; the orcs’ ranks were thinning, and thanks to the help of the golems only one of her companions had been killed - not like that mattered as long as it wasn’t her.


A sudden, thunderous, solemn moan knocked Nesonna out of her reverie; both she and Roderick turned to see one of their golems crash to the earth in a cloud of dust with a thunderous boom.


Narrowing her eyes, Nesonna could make out three brutish figures in the dust, at least a foot taller than the orcs they had fought so far; as the dust settled Nesonna could make out many intricate markings both tattooed and scarred across their hulking frames. Meeting the middle fighter in the eye, Nesonna let loose a cry as she charged the several tens of meters to attack him - she had grown quite fond of her stone companions.


Nesonna leapt the final few feet and threw a right hook into the leader’s face with considerably more strength than her small frame betrayed. With a grunt as her body collided with the thick wall of muscle that was an orc Nesonna spun and threw her elbow into the chest one of the remaining beasts - she would have hit the orc in the face if he were two or so feet smaller - or not an orc.


Suddenly Nesonna became acutely aware of the situation she was in: here she was an unarmed adolescent in the middle of a battlefield - more specifically, sandwiched between three seemingly very angry orcs each with weapons as tall as her - with the only potential assistance coming from a band of various lesser races on the wrong side of the assault. As the first orc rose from the ground rubbing his face, a bizarre wave of dread hit Nesonna in the stomach as she realized only now that her life may be in danger.


Pushing the fear aside was an onrushing sense of exhilaration as Nesonna spun a kick into the rising orc’s already-beaten face and lowered herself into a defensive pose. She could feel an impish grin spread across her own face as the orc she had yet to injure gaped at her abject horror and confusion.


Eying each other, the two remaining orcs nodded and began flanking the elf, mace and axe ready - until a whistle of air shot passed and an arrow found itself lodged in an already-bruised sternum. Grinning wider, Nesonna pushed from the ground and threw a hook into the remaining orc’s gut, eliciting a dull “oof” as the beast doubled over and presented his head for Nesonna to drive down two entwined fists with all her admittedly lacking weight.


As the brutish orc dropped unmoving, Nesonna turned and surveyed the field: her golems were busy gaily pulverizing their foes into strange new forms of orc/dirt hybrid of flower, Apper was gingerly rising from his injuries using his axe as a crutch, Agerius and Roderick were beginning to tend to the injured halfling and Arlania was loosening off arrows into the thinning few orcs. Speaking of orcs, most of their numbers had been culled, though few still stood, hacking away at mostly-unflinching golems, or dodging their angered blows; one though - a particularly brutish giant Nesonna had caught gracefully swinging an axe almost twice as long as she was tall in a single hand - began charging in Nesonna’s direction!


Nesonna grounded herself against a tackle as the giant axeman bellowed at her in his charge, and as he closed the final few feet she dodged to the right and extended her foot out to trip the orc, sending him hurtling across the dirt. Nesonna charged the orc as he attempted to rise with his axe, intending to knock him out for good; but as she charged close her opponent leapt from his axe and swung it in an arc with his off-hand as he fell.


A sharp, white-hot pain surged through Nesonna’s body and suddenly her eyes unfocused as the world began to spin around her; her face contorted in confusion as suddenly she was lying face-down in the grass and all sound dimmed around her and the pain in her stomach burned through her body as everything else went numb.
Her thoughts came sluggishly as she tried to will arms she could no longer feel to move and a deep sense of exhaustion fell over her.
These stupid creatures didn’t just kill me, did they?
A new confusion began gnawing at her mind, orcs? How could she have possibly been killed by orcs? Shame mixed with the numbness that had now consumed her whole body; she’d been training in hand-to-hand combat since birth and she’d been defeated her first real fight? How could -


A familiar pain tore again through the void of numbness as suddenly Nesonna was staring - or facing, as her eyes had started going glassy sometime over the last minute - the sky; she distantly felt something squishy seeping from her abdomen and heard her companions urgently whispering as they began to treat her. Just as her world began going numb again pain surged once more from her stomach as she was witness to Agerius shoving… something back inside of her split-open stomach before dabbing his hand in a green container and rubbing the contents across her wound. This brought a new kind of numbness; she could still distantly feel the pain of her injury, but a new feeling seeped from the wound that reminded her of mint: cold and fresh - she felt just slightly less tired than mere moments before.
As if that weren’t enough, a faint light shone overhead as Roderick began carefully hovering his hands over her wounds; once more she felt a faint surge of life returning to her body.
Great, she seethed to herself; I’ve been travelling around with a cleric.


As her wounds began healing - only partially - Nesonna felt a new tiredness creep into her body: one that felt nowhere near as cold or as empty as it did previous.
Nesonna stared around frantically - or as frantically as her eyes could manage as her mind grew more and more sluggish from blood loss - until she caught Agerius’ gaze.
“You need to rest now,” the mage’s voice warped quietly as he pulled white fabric from his pouch to press her wounds, “we’ll take care of you.”


Nesonna tried squirming as the mage began mending her wounds, but her body refused to move, either through blood loss or some arcane magic. Deciding it was easier to work unhindered Agerius hovered a hand inches from Nesonna’s face, and suddenly an overwhelming sense of sleepiness crashed into her like a wave. A feeling of vertigo gripped the elf as an inky blackness crept at the edges of her vision; before she could react, in what little way she could, she fell into oblivion.


© 2021 Jona Vark

Author's Note

Jona Vark
Please note I've had to go back and painstakingly work on the paragraph spacing; for whatever reason the paragraphs seem clumped together unless spaced twice: if this isn't the norm, or it comes off worse in the final product please tell me -- other than that please feel free to give me whatever feedback you can: grammatical issues, dialogue, structure, pacing, readability - anything.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on February 8, 2021
Last Updated on February 8, 2021
Tags: Fantasy, Fiction, Action, Adventure, Elf, Elves, High-Fantasy


Jona Vark
Jona Vark

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Attempted Alcoholic from age 19, creative writing has been my biggest hobby / interest since childhood. more..