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PathfinderTales

The Gem

The crocodile's jaws looked as big as Jiri. Its huge tail pushed it with the flooded river's current, angling toward the drift of brush that Jiri clung to. It would slam into that loose pile of logs and knock Jiri, Fumo, and Boro into the water.

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PathfinderTales

The Gem

Outside, the children of Thirty Trees laughed and their parents talked, monkeys chattered in the canopy and birds sang to the morning sun. But inside the little house that Jiri shared with Oza, the only sound that mattered was the muted clicks of the clay pots her teacher was packing into his bag.

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PathfinderTales

Diamond in the Rough

"He's resting, although not comfortably," Chakori said. She'd taken Anandi into the foyer outside Ravi's room, although they left the door cracked open. "I've done what I can for him. The rest he's going to have to do on his own."

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PathfinderTales

Diamond in the Rough

An hour's walk took them to a small cave along the rocky shoreline, one exposed by the low tide and grown brown and slippery with algae. Anandi followed Ravi inside, careful of his footing. "Well?" he asked, impatient.

Instead of answering, Ravi curled his hand around the back of Anandi's neck and pulled him close. The kiss tasted of wine and pesh. Anandi let it last longer than he should have, surprised by how much he liked feeling the firm body pressed against his. Gently, Anandi pushed him back. "Is this your price?"

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PathfinderTales

Diamond in the Rough

At sunset, Anandi returned to the captain's villa where a few silver coins to the doorkeeper saw him inside. The party had already begun, made lively by the musicians and acrobats in the ballroom. The human man seated in the chair covered in velvet and gold filigree was obviously the captain. A thick brown beard trailed down his chest, resting lightly on the blue brocade coat studded with golden buttons and trim. The jeweled goblet in his hand was already filled with wine and a servant stood by with a bottle at the ready.

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PathfinderTales

Diamond in the Rough

No sane person would leave Jalmeray to venture to the small, lawless island of Veedesha, which lay just off the coast, but Anandi had business there on behalf of the thakur.

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PathfinderTales

The Patch Man

"So where do we go?" Blit pulled the hood of his cloak over his head. He wasn't used to being out at sunset. He felt exposed.

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PathfinderTales

The Patch Man

Before Blit could reply, the worm-eaten door crashed open. An enormous green man with incisors the size of tent spikes ducked and stepped inside. Odim and two other Banshees walked in behind him. Gedrak carried nothing—he didn't really need to—but the other three held clubs and torches.

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PathfinderTales

The Patch Man

Blit crept toward the body, fingering two vials which, when mixed, would create an explosive powerful enough to separate a person from their more important appendages.

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PathfinderTales

The Patch Man

Seven silvers and a copper. Pesh, grit, and other drugs tossed like bread flour. One dead body, bled out on the floor of the abandoned hostel. Blit sighed. The Banshees hadn't even tried to hide this mess. They relied on him too much lately. Blit set down his pack and got to work.

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PathfinderTales

A Knightly Mission

Everything was black. Awareness crept back into Marra, and with that awareness came pain. Even before she dared to open her eyes, she felt it in her ribs every time she sucked in air. It took her a few moments before she realized that she could in fact breathe, that the pain was not so unbearable that it would kill her. She eased her eyes open, trying to make sense of the hazy blobs of color around her. It was green and brown with flecks of blue. As her vision cleared, she realized she was looking up at the tree cover and the clear sky beyond.

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A Knightly Mission

Marra sat back in the saddle and pulled on the reins, bringing her horse to a stop. She slid her hand forward to rest on the saddle in what she hoped looked like a natural movement. The truth was she wanted to get her hand closer to the sword.

She looked up and saw two men stepping out from under the tree line, both holding loaded crossbows. They were dressed in leather, distinguishable as high quality even from this distance, and each wore an emblem of the knights of Lastwall over the left breast. Marra swallowed, trying to slow her pounding heart and hoping her voice wouldn't tremor and give away her nervousness.

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PathfinderTales

A Knightly Mission

Marra paused the work she was doing: attaching a new leather strap to the inside of the pauldron that wasn't frayed and was small enough to fit her arm. She looked at Eron through strands of dark hair that had managed to work free from the leather thong she used to tie it back. Sweat coated her face from the effort of working on the armor, but even though her muscles ached for relief, she couldn't keep the grin from her face.

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A Knightly Mission

Marra crept forward, easing her weight from her heel onto the flat of her foot, making sure that no branches snapped underneath her weight and betrayed her presence. She held her bow at her side, an arrow nocked in place and locked under her forefinger. It was too early to bring the weapon to bear; the distance was too great. She needed to be closer to make an accurate shot. In front of her, an elk reached down to rip up some grass with his teeth, blissfully unaware of her presence. The animal snorted and jerked its head up.

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PathfinderTales

Armored

Sunlight dripped from a tiny window into her cell. Brea lay on her doublet atop the cold ground and tried to remember how many days had passed. Four? Seven? A dozen or more? She had seen no one, heard only the moans of distant neighbors, and received no nourishment of any kind. The dungeons of Deagan's Hold were not a place to keep prisoners for questioning or before a trial, but a place to forget they had ever existed.

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PathfinderTales

Armored

The pyre burned for hours. Its flames seemed to lick the sky, and Brea turned her horse and troopers away from the carnage. They rode for home, though she wasn't sure what that meant anymore. Smoke rose behind them, a dark reminder of her lord's betrayal.

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PathfinderTales

Armored

Farnick rode at her side, the squadron of troopers behind them. His head was cleanly shaved. No trace of stubble lined his chin. Brea's armor hung heavy on her shoulders, the gorget tight against her throat. All was as it should be.

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PathfinderTales

Armored

The tip of her longsword carved a channel along the beachhead of Lake Encarthan. She dragged the weapon, held it listlessly in her hand. Hers were dark, dirtied hands that knew the weight of good steel, the heft of a man's heart. She remembered a time when she was clean, though she could not recall the feeling of pristine boot soles, nor of a soul unstained.

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PathfinderTales

Winter's Wolves

Jendara moved through the dense forest, following Irlu as the tracker floated through the bracken and brush. Jendara was an able tracker; the dark-haired Blackraven made her look like a novice. Despite the hill giant's size and ungainly burden—Lugh stood six and a half feet tall—the creature had left little spoor. It might be huge and ungainly, but the giant clearly knew the woods.

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PathfinderTales

Winter's Wolves

The hill giant stepped over the smashed remains of the trees. It wore a vest and skirt made of filthy hides, and a necklace of raccoon skulls dangled between its two drooping and half-covered breasts. Its hair hung in clumpy strands the color of dirt, damp and clinging to its jowled cheeks.

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PathfinderTales

Winter's Wolves

Jendara dropped onto a fallen log and eyed her companion. "Are you ready to give up?"

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PathfinderTales

Hunter's Folly

At the warning cry, Aberny looked back and noticed the crude frame of branches that propped a large rock pile above the tunnel they'd emerged from. Even as he did, a scrabble of talons alerted him just before the beast burst upward, jaws snapping every which way. It clamped onto the ledge with one claw and swept the other out.

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PathfinderTales

Hunter's Folly

The trio hiked along the base of a scraggly knoll under the midday sun. Tali had at least stopped complaining about the dirt soiling her dress, and now joined Aberny in eyeing the skies for any sign of their foe. Ralynn kept an easy, if steady, pace ahead, one blade always out as he scanned the wild brush and every dip and curve of the earth in case the chimera crouched in wait.

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PathfinderTales

Hunter's Folly

Aberny gaped at the body for a moment, blood staining the earth at his feet. Then the scene around the campfire snatched his stare away.

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PathfinderTales

Hunter's Folly

Aberny chuckled at the sight of the gnome squaring off with the half-elf, paintbrush crossed with a short sword. The campfire cast the dueling partners into bronze-and-shadow relief. Ralynn glowered down his sword, while Tali glared back up at him, both as riled as if one had slandered the other's parentage.

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PathfinderTales

The Cloak of Belonging

Mortil spun only just in time to let loose a spell. Colors ravaged Gull's eyes, and he felt dizzy, as if a full drunken night were compressed into one heartbeat.

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PathfinderTales

The Cloak of Belonging

Old Cassomir was like a stately anchorage of petrified ships, and in the case of Madame Velm's domain, one strewn with harbor lights.

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PathfinderTales

The Cloak of Belonging

Gentlemen adventurers needed to mind their steps, especially on roofs. Gull discovered that hard lesson—as well as that cold, wet, and muddy lesson—when he slipped off the mist-slick summit of Skua Croon's Curiosity Shop and toppled into the mud.

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PathfinderTales

The Cloak of Belonging

The clank and whir of infernal machinery called Gideon Gull back from the music of the spheres. At first he thought the din was dragging him down to Hell, but in a way it was worse. He woke up on the Dog's Teeth.

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PathfinderTales

Inheritance

The camp's last remaining healer had died two days before, infected by some foul colony of demonic parasites. Learning further details prompted Zae to add "never pray barefooted" to her list of life lessons.

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PathfinderTales

Inheritance

The next town, Bladswell, wasn't so much a town as a ferryboat station that happened to have an inn and some farms attached. Still, the inn had vacancies and Zae appreciated spending a night in privacy, in something resembling a real bed, after days on the trail. They treated themselves to something resembling a real meal and then a real bath, as well.

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PathfinderTales

Inheritance

Zae took care of cleaning Keren's home and procuring supplies for the journey, while Keren trained Appleslayer to be a riding hound. In just a few busy days, bags were packed, and homes and infirmary were closed up. Keren secured permission to ride along with a party of crusaders patrolling the Virlych border. Zae had wanted to strike out on their own and "rough it" through the Hungry Mountains, just the two of them, but Keren had been resolutely against that plan. It was just as exciting, Zae conceded, to be riding with a squadron of five knights. It certainly made her sit up straighter in her borrowed white-and-gold military saddle.

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PathfinderTales

Inheritance

Keren Rhinn, Knight of Ozem and Vigilant Defender of Lastwall, stood sputtering in the doorway, her face turning fascinating shades of crimson.

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PathfinderTales

The Fencing Master

As Vencarlo Orisini led Orkatto's men on a noisy chase, I strolled out the front doors with my "bodyguard." In the darkened museum, and without his mask and cloak, which I carried folded under my arm, Master Raneiro did somewhat resemble the younger man who had accompanied me into the museum. I placed my hope in the bravo's topknot and the noisy diversion behind us.

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PathfinderTales

The Fencing Master

Vencarlo retreated, turning to free his blade. I stepped behind him, pulling the scabbard and sword out of his grasp.

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PathfinderTales

The Fencing Master

A Chelaxian by birth and breeding, Domina had come to Korvosa to rule. Her earliest proclamations had halved both the city's bureaucracy and its coffers. As part of her civic improvement efforts, she had reversed the ban on trees planted within the city walls—the result of a predecessor's shortsighted reaction to the destruction wrought by windstorms over a century earlier.

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The Fencing Master

Several onlookers cursed the driver as he forced the Red Carriage into their midst, but the crowd parted. My footman opened the door, and I stepped out.

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PathfinderTales

The Weeping Blade

Larem raised his hands to shield his face from the stone and bone fragments that were sure to hit him—yet rather than the satisfying crunch of an undead monster smashed to bits, there came only a muted thud and a hiss of displeasure.

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PathfinderTales

The Weeping Blade

The Weeping Blade by Josh Vogt Chapter Two: Touch of the Grave Larem hissed and dropped the silver piece, yet his fingertips burned from the frigid contact. ... The person remained before him, and Larem could sense its silent mockery. He reached for his dagger. ... Who are you? ... His tormenter shifted with a creak of leather. Its every movement groaned and crackled with age. ... No, not age, Larem realized as he caught another whiff of grave dust. Death. An undead creature leered at him,...
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The Weeping Blade

Larem winced as Dargley spouted his usual gibberish. He leaned over and nudged his fellow beggar.

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Best Served Cold

Marcov spotted the modest hut to which the priest had directed him, spent a moment invoking the haunting spirits, and broke into a sprint. He leaped, hurling his whole weight against the shuttered window nearest the front door. Wood burst inward, splinters flying—all in utter silence, for the ghosts of that long-dead village had spread their intangible substances through the surrounding air, muting all sound.

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Best Served Cold

Loursa moved to Draeven's side, limping, sword dragging point-first through the dirt. "I thought you said there'd only be a few of them!"

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PathfinderTales

Best Served Cold

The faintest shower of sleet, scarcely more than an icy fog, began to fall over the battlefield that had been the town of Kelbran. Just another instance of the peculiar freezes and unnatural weather afflicting eastern Touvette in recent months, but this time—as visibility grew cloudy and the churned muck of the earth thickened—it almost seemed a harbinger of the oncoming stranger.

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PathfinderTales

Best Served Cold

Rattling shutters and gaps between the wooden slats of walls allowed a faint breeze into the store. The establishment smelled of dust, mildew, and the acrid aroma of burning leaves that kept the ubiquitous mosquitoes and flies from riding the weather inside. It wasn't that much of a store, all in all; but then, it wasn't that much of a town, either.

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PathfinderTales

A Matter of Knives

Boots went, hastily.

From her hiding place behind a stack of shipping crates, Tantaerra leaned forward, trying to get as close to the conversation as possible without being seen. Bendrar was Loryn Garldrake's son, and the woman giving orders had to be Semdeira Sarpent.

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A Matter of Knives

Tantaerra hastily transferred her hands to just the bottom edge of the crate-lid as she backed away—and the first slashing blows fell on it, numbingly hard.

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A Matter of Knives

The citizen looked down his nose at her, dubiously. It was unusual in splendid and sprawling Canorate to see a slave openly armed, but this one had daggers that looked like they'd serve her as swords strapped to her arms and legs.

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PathfinderTales

Stargazer

A nondescript wagon creaked down a dark street of the Inner City, the back piled high with canvas-covered wares and the caravaneers perched on the seat and rails. A single horseman rode beside the wagon, looking ill at ease in the saddle. The wagon stopped just before entering a wide, curved avenue, across which loomed an impressive stone mansion. To the casual eye, it looked just like one of the dozens or hundreds of wagons that passed through Katapesh each day.

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PathfinderTales

Stargazer

It was late, and the doors of Gozreh's temple were closed, but it was not so late that a bit of judicious knocking didn't get a response. A young acolyte cracked the door and squinted at Torius dubiously.

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PathfinderTales

Stargazer

He scanned the crew and nodded his approval. Though they still bore weapons, they looked little like pirates. Their dark leathers and bandanas had been replaced by loose vests, colorful pantaloons, and varied desert headdresses. As captain, Torius wore a dazzling white kaftan that was subtly enchanted to keep him cool in the blistering heat. Only Grogul still looked menacing, stripped to the waist and showing his impressive array of scars. He'd traded his axe for a pair of long kukris tucked crosswise under his sash at the small of his back.

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PZO8500-Celeste

Stargazer

Black sails tore out of the moonless night, all but invisible as the corsair Stargazer swooped down on her prey. Even as the merchant galleon's crew recognized the danger, three ballistae cracked in perfect unison, and their steel heads bit into the planks of the ship's hull.

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PZO8500-CaptainSturgeon

The Irregulars

They moved silent as breath through the empty tunnels, tucking charges into crevices and butting them against wooden support beams. The devil's scent of saltpeter made the caverns smell like Hell, ready to burn with a single, ragged spark. Fairy lights danced in the deeper darkness where the Lieutenant and Trilaina licked wicks and set fuses, making certain everything was perfect. Up near the ore doors, Garm and Chaplain laid their casks with held breath. They were so close they could smell the sweat of the Molthuni regulars on the other side of the barred doors.

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PZO8500-Chaplain

The Irregulars

The assault was precision-perfect, and quiet as a greased whisper. They charged into the blackness, teeth bared, ready to bring permanent silence to the dark places beneath the mountain. Instead they found an empty hallway, the door flanked by dark lanterns and lonely-looking chairs. A deck of cards sat on a scarred tabletop, dog-eared and forlorn. The air tasted stagnant, and cold as second-day stew. They lowered their weapons, and Chaplain pulled the door closed.

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PZO8500-Gunner

The Irregulars

The Irregularsby Neal F. Litherland ... Chapter Two: Scouting Party The place looked more like a kicked anthill than an iron mine. Built of heavy bulwarks of timber and stone, its arms curved out from the mountain like a mother's arms around her belly. A hundred eyes peered out of the crenelated sockets, sweeping the land. The gate was simply a drawbridge that spanned a dry moat filled with dust and splintered stakes. Pitch or filth lined the bottom—it was impossible to tell from so far...
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PZO8500-Trilaina

The Irregulars

They marched like human cattle through the arid throat of the mountains. Men and women, old and young, were all subsumed into a single, shuffling, iron-bound mass. They walked with their heads down and bodies slack, broken through and through. Men wrapped in leather and steel rode snorting horses and shepherded the herd like overzealous hounds. Lashes snapped, the loud cracks of cruelty that made words unnecessary. Dust rose from bare feet and shod hooves, and the hot wind reeked like the breath of Hell welcoming new pilgrims. Just more meat for the grinder of Molthune's aspirations.

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PZO8500-Hyrm

Bastard, Sword

Rodrick nodded, smiling, absorbing the not-so-subtle reminder that Manius knew he was a thief, and would be watchful. Manius handed the sword off to Rodrick and strode out of the room, a busy man with big plans.