Fiction Status/Replies

Aust Tales

Aust pulled a piece of parchment from his desk and uncurled it. Before settling in, he rose to toss another log onto the fire. He had wanted to pen this letter all day and he wasn’t going to allow the cold to drive him to bed early.

It had been a rather long day, filled with the tedium that accompanies the job of fort-master. But he didn’t mind the tedium, now did he? He had seen so much death in his adventuring days. His current boredom was almost a welcome break from a life of danger.

Still, he would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy revisiting memories of those days. All of his friends were dead, save for a few who he’d lost track of. Luffy the bard had left long ago without so much as a goodbye. Aust had tried to do his due diligence to find her before starting his memoirs. But, it seemed his detective skills were lacking.

No one else from those days remained, so Aust decided that it was up to him to tell the stories of those fallen. He’d written the whole thing up within a fortnight and sent it off to Slateholm for publishing. However, the printing company was rather particular about the content which they published. Aust had already had a bit of a back and forth with them over it and their latest criticisms needed addressing.

So he set aside the worries of the day, dipped his quill into the ink pot and set it to parchment.

I received your most recent letter. While I certainly appreciate the feedback on the latest chapter, I do take issue with your reluctance to accept my account as true. You were correct to point out that no one remains to corroborate my tale. But I would be remiss to point out that using such logic as the sole reason to discount my reports is fallacious.

With that said, I do understand the publishing world is not my trained area of expertise. So I shall make an effort to revise my accounting in a more understated manner. Perhaps then, the veracity of my claims will be harder to call into question. I’ve attached the first chapter of this newly revised document to this letter.

Yours truly,

Commander Aust Raveren


Aust grabbed the mug and headed back to the table. The dwarf had just witnessed the brutal slaying of a fellow adventurer, the barely infamous Jean-Locke Keyes. Aust had narrowly escaped the same similar fate. He and his group had ventured into a nearby dungeon and were beset upon by a hoard of skeletons on their way out.

He took a swig of the ale to soothe his nerves and winced. He feared the rancid drink set out to finish the job the skeletons had begun.

“The worst drinks I’ve had in the Western Lands so far,” Bregedur said. His normally enchanting voice now sounded tired and shaken. Aust hadn’t even noticed that Breg had joined him. It was quite the feat to miss the purple-haired elf. His nerves must have been more shaken than he realized. “Luffy wants to go back tomorrow,” the elf continued. “Personally, I do as well. But I’m not keen on her leadership abilities.”

Aust took another drink of the ale. “I hadn’t realized she considered herself a leader.”

“Well, she gathered us all together,” Breg replied. “And she’s the most experienced adventurer of our group. She seems eager to get that treasure, for which she needs us.”


“Anyway, I plan on taking charge of this thing. I’ve already spoken to a few of the others and they support me.”

Aust regarded the magenta-mage with a cool stare. He was bold…but smart. He lacked experience but exuded an aura of confidence. “Aye, then you’ll have my support as well.” He conceded. To be honest, Aust had no reason to doubt the elf. In fact, he did like him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to return to the scene of their near demise.

The party descended into the darkness, remaining cautious. Their torches were all that lit the room but it was enough to reveal the pile of bones on the floor near the foot of the stairs.

“Oh no,” Eliana cried under her breath.

“Picked clean.” Luffy said.

Aust felt a little sick to his stomach. He’d never actually seen death firsthand like this. His short stint at the necromancer school hadn’t involved any live practice, just the study of old tomes. Somehow, he’d never realized that the first step to practicing the art involves killing something. Or someone.

The group fell silent, perhaps out of reverence. But the young dwarf believed the silence was born out of fear. Surely they all felt the same fear he had upon being back in the place.

He sought to relieve their tension and bring forth some levity. “Hey, Jean! How the hells have you been man!” Aust shouted jovially while approaching the pile of bones.

“Ohh,” he heard Luffy murmur in horror. Was she disturbed by Jean’s passing or Aust’s joke? The dwarf couldn’t tell.

“Hey y’all! What ya doing down here!” A thick accent interjected the silence. It caused Aust to fall onto his rump and elicited a scream from Eliana.

“Who the hell are you!?” Bregedur exclaimed.

“The name’s Jim-Bob Jacobson,” came shadowy figure’s drawl. “I saw your group up on the surface and decided to follow you down.” He dropped the pleasant tone and looked down at his feet. “To be honest with you folk, I’m rather hungry. I thought you might know where I could find something to bring home to my family. The soil’s not been too kind to us this season.” He said the words deliberately as though we had coerced him into revealing a secret shame.”

“I like the name Jimmy better” Aust said. He spat on the ground.

“Oh…kay,” Jimmy answered in confusion.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Quinnan, our replacement thief, had returned from scouting for danger.

Jim-Bob!” Jimmy’s voice had regained the pleasant lilt it had when he first introduced himself.

Bregedur stepped forward, his torch illuminating the newcomer. He was indeed the very image of a farmer, even down to the dirt on his breeches. Though, his oversized clothes hung off his malnourished frame like rags on a skeleton. “I’m sort of the leader,” Breg said. “You can come with us, but you’ll need to fight. What sort of equipment are you familiar with?”

“I’m pretty good with a plough,” Jimmy answered.

“He’s sort of the what now?” Luffy’s delayed response didn’t interrupt their exchange

Bregedur handed him a hatchet, “Fighters usually go in front Since they can take a hit better.”

Jimmy looked at the sword and furrowed his brow. “I-I’m not really a-”

“Look guys, we were so upset about Jean, but now we have two new recruits to take his place!” Aust’s attempts at boosting morale fell on deaf ears.

“Oh right, Jean!” Eliana exclaimed as she stooped down at the pile of bones. “It’s Important that we take something of him back to bury!” She gathered a few of his bones and placed them in her back.

Jimmy watched as the elven woman stood up. “Are you saying…that used to be one of your friends?” He pointed at the bones.

“Hardly a friend. We’d just met him.” Bregedur said coolly.

Aust threw his arm across Jimmy’s shoulder. “And we’d bury your body parts too, if something happened to you!””

Eliana laughed awkwardly, “Goodness Aust. Don’t frighten him! I’m sure nothing is going to happen to any of us. We’re prepared now.”


I hope this letter finds you at peace. As I understand the pressures of managing a fort cannot be few.

In regards to your most recent and earlier submissions to our agency: I didn’t mean to call into question the bulk of your work. It is a simple yet unfortunate fact that those that choose the career of adventurer are oft dead before their tale can ever be told. Your attempt to honor your fallen comrades at all is one we at the Slateholm Slate admire.

It was instead the claims made that are easily verified as fiction that we wished to bring to your attention. I do not wish to bring forth some traumatic memory, but we cannot in good conscience publish your work with the ‘About the Author’ segment as it is written. Perhaps you did not consider this, but when our reporter first visited you at the fort, he took a rather detailed accounting of your physical features. And, at least according to all known medical research on the topic as well as current census data, there has never been and likely never will be a dwarf that measures one point nine meters tall.

Further, after receiving your short biography, we investigated the Necromancer College you claim to have attended. You might imagine our surprise when we learned that it is not an accredited school at all. The address led us to the home of a pair of elderly dwarves who did confirm their familiarity with you. Beyond that, they would answer no other questions however, and instead spent the entire visit attempting to hide (quite badly, I might add) superficial evidence of necromantic practices. The dwarf woman threatened to turn our investigator into a worm thrall, despite much evidence to suggest he was not dead. Regardless, she performed the ritual anyway. And upon learning that the man had in fact not become her zombie servant, she grew quite angry and tried to set him on fire.

I did say that the content of your epic was not at issue. However we did pass along part of it to one of our consultant scholars. They confirmed that, outside of magical influence, it isn’t possible for a prone individual to fall face first onto an arrow that is mid-flight. This is particularly true if the person is trapped under a table. To put it simply, the scene, as you described it, is not possible.

Whatever your involvement is with the Dwarven couple, I recommend you excise that segment from your bio entirely. The Church of Tah is quite influential here. And I worry that any work written by a professed necromancer would be subject to extra scrutiny.

Regardless of all this, I look forward to your next revision.

Markus Strongarm,

Slateholm Slate Publishing Company

The flask bounced off the hard shell of the giant ant. It clattered to the floor, broke open, and spilled oil out onto the floor. The ant immediately ceased moving and its antennae began wiggling.

“Do it, Aust!” Bregedur commanded. The elf leader had grown more daring as of late it seemed. With each passing day it was as if he tempted the fates with their very lives. Still, he had carried many of them this far without harm. The same could not be said for the ones who had not survived of course. But it would be a disservice not to recognize the accomplishment. “Do it,” he chanted again.

The dwarf half-elf reached down into his bag and gave Jimmy a soft pat, “Let’s hope we make it out of this one, pal.” When Jimmy died on his first adventure, Aust remembered the promise he’d made him. But it would have been too much of a burden to carry his body around. So instead the party had opted to remove the poor farmer’s head and take it back with them to be buried.

However, Aust had felt rather sorry for the fellow, having seen him die on his first night with the group. He was determined to enable Jimmy to soldier on and accompany them on the rest of their adventure. So he drew upon knowledge taught to him at the College of Necromancy Grurid & Ethel’s Academy for Homeschooled Necromancers. He first removed the innards from Jimmy’s head and buried them. He then boiled the outer skin. This preserved Jimmy’s head into a form that would not decompose as well as made it much more convenient to carry around.

Jimmy had been much more jovial ever since. The little fellow had never ceased to keep Aust entertained even during their most desolate of journeys. There was no danger so frightening that Jimmy could not bring levity to with one of his well-timed wisecracks. It was such a shame that the rest of the party always seemed to miss the jolly fellow’s jokes. Perhaps it was because he was always stored in his bag. Aust had first cinched Jimmy to his belt, but other members of the group claimed that the sight of him was too morbid. Aust didn’t understand what they meant.

But here they were, facing an all new danger. And, although they did not know it, it was the toughest fight they would ever face.

“Alright,” Aust said. He abandoned all reluctance and tossed his torch forwards. It arced gracefully before landing in the oil at the feet of the giant ants.

Aust thought the fire would blind him as it roared up. The ants, on the other hand, did not seem to mind the heat or the light, as they charged right through the flames. It appeared that their hardy carapaces protected them from the fire.

“Hey, that didn’t really work.” Eliana said.

“That’s weird,” Bregedur scratched his head. “Fire’s never failed me before.”

The ants breached the flames and approached the arsonists who had invaded their home.

“Run!” Bregedur shouted. Aust wasted no time and climbed over Alain, who stood behind him.

“Watch it!” Alain complained. But Aust didn’t listen.

The ants reached Bregedur first. Aust could hear his screams even as he exited the room they were in. He glanced over his shoulder to see the elf lying on the ground, bleeding out.

To Aust’s surprise, he also saw Eliana running alongside him. She had made it out of the room. Unfortunately, Alain had not been so lucky as he was the very next to go. Aust saw one of the ants snap his head off with its giant pincers.

The dwarf half-elf felt guilty and almost turned back. There were so many perfectly good body parts going to waste. But no. He did not wish to join his companions in death that day. He would do something to commemorate them, if he made it out alive.

As they reached the outer hallway he felt Eliana thrust something into his palm. “Here,” she said through huffs of air. Breg tossed me this before he fell. You should wield it.

It was Burst, Bregedur’s sword. It was a fine sword, both beautifully crafted and enchanted with powerful mage. If its wielder exclaimed ‘Burst’, the blade would be lit afire. Such a weapon could amputate any body part one desired as well as cauterize the wound. Not that Aust ever took parts from the living, of course. But he still had to admire the functionality of the sword.

After some time it seemed the ants had retreated deeper into the dungeon. And when the pair met back up with the rest of the group, they had to report the sad news.

Luffy was silent for a long moment. After exhaling, she said, “Well, we shouldn’t be surprised.””

“What?” Aust felt shocked.

“We let ourselves blindly follow Bregedur,” Luffy swallowed hard. “And he led us off a cliff.”

“That’s not true!” Eliana said, fighting back tears. “Bregedur was a great man. A great elf!”

“Eliana…” Aust began. He searched for the right words. He was hurting too, but it was hard to miss the truth in Luffy’s words. “Eliana, he got people killed.”

Eliana shook her head. “If he failed, it’s because we failed him.”

Luffy sighed again and walked over to the grieving elven woman. She placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Eliana,” she began. “He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great elf. But in the end, he was a bad captain.”

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