All posts by Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.

Character Art – Emmett and Angus

Hey there folks.  Today we’ve got a special treat for you in the form of a set of characters who haven’t quite had their chance in the spotlight yet.  Emmett and Angus are a pair of characters that had a chance of getting their own tales thanks to the Tellest Legends Kickstarter we ran last year.  Unfortunately, we ran just a little under their stretch goal.  That’s not to say we’re giving up on them.  We just need to get around our other goals first.  Still, that’s no reason not to show off the characters right now!

 

As always with Hozure’s collabs, we started off with some sketches. You’ll see here that our characters are a man and a dog.  This is the first time we’ve had a pup done up (not including Dirk, mind you).

We chose to go with something a little more stoic than runny or playful.  Emmett is a proper highlander—not an immortal who is going to behead you, but someone from the highland, that is.  He’s got a very gaelic look to him, and Angus is always by his side.

After some more details, our heroes were complete.  I love the layers/tufts on Angus, and Emmett’s gear and outfit are fantastic. Hozure really outdid himself here.

A nice background makes it pop that much more.  Here’s to hoping we get to see these two in their own story soon enough.  We’re just about halfway done with the books we committed to last year.  Then it’ll be time to start some new tales!

Quantum Quest, Fourth Chamber Set

Hello, dungeon divers!  We’re almost done with our look at the various dungeon chambers in Quantum Quest, but we’ve still got more to show off.  Take a seat, and look at the dangers the living dungeon will throw at you:

Lich’s Lair

One of the more attractive cards, for sure, the Lich’s Lair is especially damaging to clerics and mages.  And this particular lich is no joke.  He’s willing to take both casters on at once, just to prove he’s tough!

 

Lightning Spire

The Lightning Spire is a card that’s changed a lot since its inception. Originally, it was kind of like a proximity shock.  Whenever the player who owned it passed it, he could put a token on it that would shock a passing player.

We’re not quite ready enough to make the game that complicated, so we did something a little different.  Now it either deals two damage or drains two mana.  Still brutal!

 

Lingering Apparition

Yet another undead fiend!  This one is a bit of a pushover if you’ve got a warrior in your party.  If you don’t, and you don’t have a cleric who can claim the room, he can deal a decent amount of damage to one of your adventurers, especially if its owned by a player who haunts the chamber!

 

Mana Burn

This was a strange journey for us.  We’re actually going to take you backwards…

…because…

…we ended up…

…using…

…the very first version of the art that Sergei did for us.  We should have known better than to question him.

Mana burn ends up burning up your mana.  Simple enough concept!

 

Mimic Chamber

Here’s another truth for you: thieves can’t resist treasure!  We ended up liking the way this looked, but had to concede that it looked a little too out of place, and not enough like a proper sprite.

We went with this instead.  Sure, it looks a little cartoony, but it fits the bill that much better, I think!

 

Necromantic Aether

Rounding out this set is a card that’s pretty brutal, but not entirely unforgiving.  This is one of the very rare cards that won’t leave you completely screwed as it damages every one of your adventurers. Though it hits hard, it also allows you to bring a dead hero back to life with a single hp.

 

That’s it for this set, but we have one final look at our basic cards coming up next month.  Stay tuned!

Character Art – Azura

Hello folks!  We’ve got a quick, bite-sized treat for you today.  It has been over a year since we’ve had the opportunity to show off some of the work we did with Barnswallow.  Today, she’s doing a character debut for us.

Azura is a character that was introduced way back in the first iteration of my debut novel, when I was seventeen.  A lot has changed since that original write-up, and a lot is changing still.  But the look I’ve had for her in my head has never really changed.

Azura is classy and mysterious, and she’s been a figure in Kaos Kreegan’s life before.  There are definitely going to be some twists and turns in her story going forward.  She deserves a bigger role in the world of Tellest, and we’re going to make sure she gets it.

Fantasy Promo – Fariidinus book 3: Battle Queane

Hey there folks, and welcome to the Otherworld.  We’ve been on a crazy L.E.Parr kick lately, and that doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.

Today, our focus is going to be on the third book in her Fariidinus series, Battle Queane.  It effectively wraps up the original trilogy of her lethal fairy books, but it leaves enough room open for the books that followed.  Kirin is much more on the level with highmother Letal here, which comes to a point that you’re sure to enjoy.

The war in the Heartland is in full swing with Letal sending legions of radicalized fariidinus against Kirin and Stone’s undermanned army. It’s a valiant fight with more losses than victories. Kirin, already a converted battle queane, is changing again. She has developed a poisonous venom in her wings that can kill Letal but to deliver the poison, Letal must be in her arms.  As Kirin continues to become stronger as a weapon, her physical body is weakening. The inevitable face to face confrontation with Letal is terrifying Stone and their loyal supporters who question Kirin’s ability to survive such an encounter.  But, everyone knows that there is no other way to defeat Letal.

Battle Queane was a wonderful ending of the first books.  There were real stakes, and it looked like it could have wrapped things up with a little bow, but L.E.Parr is nothing if not incredibly diligent.  She’s set to work on another trilogy, and the fourth and fifth books are already available. Those books follow new protagonists though, and there’s nobody quite like Kirin.  Show the Fariidinus your love.  Be sure to check out Battle Queane on Amazon today!

Fantasy Promo – Fariidinus Book 2: Sisters of the Blood

Hello folks!  We’re back today to take another look at L.E.Parr’s lovely lethal fairy series, Fariidinus.  The second book, Sister of the Blood, raises the stakes in every way, and Parr delivers a wonderful tale that’s full of world-building, character development and tense moments.

Parr is a storytelling force to be reckoned with, so it stands to reason that she knows how to write a fierce, compelling heroine.  Kirin stands up to her enemies in this second book, and lays claim to the Heartland in order to save it.  If you liked the first Fariidinus book, you’ll love this sequel.

Kirin and Stone have returned to the Heartland where she has been given sanctuary by the wyrMaster in the Red Valley. Her unprecedented return from exile has polarized the great Houses and enraged the evil HighMother. A divided Heartland quickly becomes embroiled in a fiery civil war with Stone leading the combined armies with their new ally–the winged telepathic bloodcats. Kirin becomes the deadly weapon she was resurrected from exile to be.

Since we first started working with L.E.Parr, she’s poured her heart and her words into several more books, and this remains one of her best.  If you enjoyed Wings of the Exile, you simply must return to the Heartland to read Sisters of the Blood.  Check it out on Amazon today!

Character Art – Kaiyonani

Folks, it’s that time again.  We’ve worked with Hozure enough to know that it’s probably going to be a permanent thing, and we’re happy to show off the latest of our collaborations.  While he’s mostly done humans and elves for us, we have had one of our anthro races show up.  Today, let’s make that two.

Kaiyonani is arguably one of our more popular characters.  People love cats, people love dragons, and people love powerful females. There’s a lot of boxes that get checked by Dragonspeaker.  But to make sure she looks as awesome as possible, that’s why we go to people like Hozure.

Kaiyonani has a very particular flavor to her.  Most of our characters have a very feudal Europe feel to them, but Kai comes from almost the Sahara equivalent of Tellest.  It wouldn’t make much sense to see her in heavy armor or anything like that.  Hozure captured her essence here perfectly.

With his next change to the character, Hozure added some awesome details to her.  The staff, her spots, the fabric… Everything just pops here.  I like the attention to her fur as well.  You’ll see a lot of smooth areas, but you’ll also see sproingy little tufts as well.

And there you have it.  Our Dragonspeaker from the Kehara in all her glory, captured by a very, very talented artist.  Thanks so much to Hozure for lending us his gifts!

Fariidinus Book 1: Wings of the Exile

We here at Tellest have had a pretty consistent opportunity to work with some amazing people.  Among them, we have L.E.Parr, who is a phenom when it comes to writing.  She’s been launching book after book for the last few months, and isn’t showing any signs of stopping.

Parr’s major series is Fariidinus.  It takes place on and beyond the reaches of contemporary Earth, and revolves around a fairy realm—but these aren’t your prim and proper, delicate little garden loiterers.  No, these fairies will give you a run for your money, since they’re both beautiful and deadly.

In honor of a great fantasy ally, we’d like to highlight the first of the books in that series.  Check out Fariidinus, Book 1: Wings of the Exile:

A heart broken exile will do just about anything to have her wings restored including returning to her homeland to start a war.

Kirin, a young fariidinus fey, is judged and condemned to the knife. After her wings are removed, she is exiled to the mainland where she is rescued by Stone, a young man who is part of a group of Heartland expatriates. The expatriates have long had a plan to restore the wings of a fariidinus with the right gifts in order to send her back into the Heartland as a weapon against the evil Highmother, Letal. Kirin is bitter and angry and not sure she wants to be part of the plan until Letal brings her war to the mainland and there is no other choice but to fight back.

Parr is consistently releasing new content, so you’ll have a lot to read if you put her on your radar.  With that in mind, it’s a great time to check out this first book on Amazon.

Fantasy Promo – Sirenhawk Book 1: Misborn of the Snowy Reaches

Hello again, fantasy fans!  I’m so happy to say that this year has been awesome for us and our collaborators.  We have a handful of the most awesome allies, and they’re continuing to write stories that are beyond enchanting.

About six weeks ago, we had the pleasure of showing off L.E.Parr’s new series, Sirenhawk.  Misborn of the Snowy Reaches is an awesome Shapeshifter tale, but it’s only the first book in a series that Parr has already put a lot of work into.  The sequel is right around the corner.  It’s good to know where to begin, and Misborn of the Snowy Reaches is one heck of a start.  With a wonderful medley of adventure, humor, and sexual tension, this opening tale will get you ready for the other books in the series to follow.

Iceria, Ice, is a hawk-human shapeshiifter. It’s Ice’s job to protect the Northern Corridor from the hereditary enemy of the sirenhawks, the deadly she’ravens. Iceria’s sisters consider her a little odd. She is a literal thinker, she loves shiny baubles and jewelry and her favorite book is an old English dictionary. In human form, Ice and all her kind are sirens of myth and legend. As the battle against the deadly she’ravens escalates, Ice discovers two things about herself. The first, she has a warrior’s heart and the second, she’s capable of falling in love in a very human way.

The Sirenhawk series is certain to delight fans of shapeshifters and urban fantasy.  Parr does an excellent job of bringing these new characters to bear, and instantly has another win on her hands. Don’t forget that the second book in the series, Misborn of the Wildling River, is right around the corner.  There’s no better way to get prepped for it than to bury your nose in the first book in the series.  Check out Sirenhawk Book 1: Misborn of the Snowy Reaches on Amazon today!

Quantum Quest, Third Chambers Set

Greetings, Quantum Questers!  We’re back with another look at some of the assets that make our upcoming tabletop card game such a nice breath of fresh air.  Although the artwork is sure to have you going through some bouts of nostalgia, I think you’ll agree everything looks beautiful as well!

We’ll get right to it:

 

Guardian of the Void

 

Our Guardian of the Void is supposed to be a pseudo reference to one of the characters in the short story Keeper of the Void, which sort of bookended the other stories in Tales of Tellest.  In that tale, a fellow named Vedas with cobalt skin and golden armor led the thief Rhys through the Void, which is a central place where time flows through.

Unfortunately, our description ended up making the game’s guardian look a little too much like the Night King from Game of Thrones.

We decided to make this guardian a different color, and we messed around with some of the colors a few times before we landed where we wanted to.

Because the guardians aren’t necessarily evil, we decided to go with a bit of white along with the copious amounts of red.  Above all else, they’re supposed to protect the stream of time.  With all those heroes coming from all over Tellest, and from different points of time, this fellow has a lot of work ahead of him.

 

Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate is one of our special cards.  It isn’t one that can be owned, and it has some game-changing effects.  It essentially removes one of the heroes from the living dungeon, and swaps them out with another one from Tellest’s vast timeline.  It can be incredibly helpful if you’re doing poorly, but if you have a tight, well-functioning group, losing one of you more important pieces can be a real pain!

 

Icy Aetherite

Tellest’s aetherites are a magic-based race that essentially make up the genies and a few lesser known people.  We may see these characters crop up as playable adventurers way down the line, but for now, there are a few who have been trapped in the living dungeon for far longer than they would have liked.  That kind of isolation and punishment can drive you mad, and this poor fellow has no problem letting out his frustration on the adventurers who want to control the dungeon in order to ensure their survival.

 

Ironbark Arborescent

This was another one of the chambers that we ended up changing a little bit.  The arborescents are Tellest’s treefolk, and it makes up things like treants, dryads, and so forth.  This particular tree person is a big, mean sentinel in the dungeon, suffering the same madness that our poor aetherite is.

We needed to make a few changes to this dendroid, however.  He has his face a bit lower than what I would have expected, and he’s got a little bit of a butt on him.  As it stands, too much of his head is in his torso, so we ended up asking Sergei for some changes.

He ended up touching up the arborescent nicely, and thinned him out as well.  The change ends up making him look a little peeved off, too, which just ended up helping us with the feeling we were trying to convey.

 

Libra’s Scales

Somewhat in line with that Hand of Fate chamber we showed you earlier, Libra’s Scales is kind of a lite version of that.  While you don’t switch out heroes here, you do harm one for the benefit of another. This can be a huge burden if you’re down to two heroes, and one only has a single health to his name.  On the other side, if you’ve got an adventurer who is replete with life force, he can lend a hand to a flagging ally.

 

That’s it for us today, but we’ll be back in about three weeks to show off our penultimate set of chambers.  Stay tuned!

The Littlest Kobold, Read Along – Part Five

Ladies and gentlemen, the finale of The Littlest Kobold is just below. I wanted to say thank you once again to Cristina for lending us her voice on this piece.  We’re excited to get her take on a couple of other Tellest stories soon—lend us your ears again when our next tale is adapted for audio!

Note: we’re aware that Miss Cristina said Part Four in the intro.  Just didn’t get enough time to clean that up!

 

 

The Littlest Kobold
A Story by Michael DeAngelo
-Part Five-
Narrated by Cristina Cruz

 

“And you’ve been with them this whole time?”

Leah nodded, averting her gaze from Gwendolyn’s sympathetic eyes.  “Every time I try to get away, one of Faroon’s people brings me back.”  She turned to Camille then.  “We shouldn’t be here.  It was bad enough involving you and your family, but if they come here and think Aspica was involved…”

“Nonsense,” Gwendolyn said, standing up straighter.  She circled around to the front of the counter and gestured for the children and the kobold to follow her.  “This is a noble cause, and I’m sure the rest of the folks who live here would be happy to lend their hand.  I can’t do much for you, but maybe we could fashion you a better disguise.  No offense to your sling – or to you, Leah – but that won’t hide the fact she makes for one unusually hairy baby.”

Leah opened her mouth to speak, raising her hand, but hesitated.  “Actually, I was a pretty hairy baby.”

Gwendolyn laughed as she led her guests to the front of the shop.  “So obviously you’ve seen my hobby.  I love to make dolls.  My husband and I have been trying for a baby, and when we started, I began working on these dolls.  Still no baby, but my collection’s pretty impressive, no?”

“You made these?” Camille asked with wide-eyed wonder.

“Well, not all of them,” Gwendolyn clarified.  “I purchased the porcelain ones from Sungarden a few years back.  But the clothes they wear and all the other knitted dolls… Those are all mine.”

“It’s incredible,” Abraham remarked.

“Thank you very much.  And now, if we’re ready, I’d like to prepare an outfit for Miss Leah.”

“An outfit?” the tiny kobold repeated.

“We can’t have you out and about while Faroon’s lackeys are looking for you.  Not without a proper disguise, that is.”  Gwendolyn reached high up on one of the shelves and pulled down a doll she had purchased, removing its clothes and placing the naked doll on the bottom shelf.  Finally, she turned about, proudly displaying a dress that would have been fit for a girl of high regard.  Though it was simple with an auburn-tan color, it was bolstered by a lace bodice and sleeves sewn into the top.  It splayed out at the bottom in ruffles as well.  Gwendolyn held it out next to Leah.  “Just your size, too.  What do you think?”

The kobold looked up at the shopkeeper with moisture building on the rims of her eyes.  She spun on her heel and looked at her young rescuers.

“That’s beautiful, Gwenna,” Camille said.  As she finished, she bowed her head, letting her eyes fall upon the pouch that rested on Abraham’s belt.  “My father gave us some gold, but I don’t think it’s enough to pay for that.”

“Nonsense,” Gwendolyn said.  “I’m not charging you for this.  This is a gift to commemorate our friend’s emancipation.”  She held out the dress again, delivering it into Leah’s unsteady hands.  “Why don’t you try it on?  We’ll all look away so you can change out of those nasty rags.”

Nodding, the kobold took the outfit and turned around the corner of the shelves.  They could see the light casting the shadow of her body as she removed her cracked, old linens.

“So your parents know you’re here?” Gwendolyn asked.

“Yes,” Abraham answered.  “Papa would really love this shop.  He really appreciates craftsmanship.”

“Back at home, he carves pieces for games of lords,” Camille said.

“He’s much better at making the pieces than he is at actually playing the game,” Abraham snickered.

“Does this look all right?” the three of them heard.  Turning about, they saw Leah in her new dress, its color complementing her dark fur.  “I look silly, don’t I?”

Both Camille and Gwendolyn brought their hands to their mouths, but Abraham took a step forward.  “You look beautiful,” he said.

“That you do,” the shopkeeper confirmed.  “Now we just need the finishing touch.”  She kneeled down in front of the kobold and placed something on her head.  Abraham stepped around and noticed as Gwendolyn tied the bonnet around Leah’s chin.  “There we are.  Your look is complete.”  She stepped out of the way, letting Camille see her more clearly.

Her mouth opened wide, but it quickly transformed into a smile.  “You look like a princess, Leah.”

“This is incredible, Gwenna,” the kobold said.  “You’re sure this is all right?”

“I insist,” she replied, dropping to one knee.  Leah graciously accepted a hug but averted her gaze when the gesture had ceased.

“Cami, have a look at this,” Abraham said.  “I can’t tell… Is that our carriage?”

The young lady cut across the shop and glanced out the window.  Sure enough, her father sat in the driver’s seat, and Rion leaned out of the side.  “That it is,” she said.

“What opportune timing,” the shopkeeper declared.

Abraham ran to the door and swung it open.  “Papa!” he called out.

“Now, you take care of each other,” Gwendolyn said.  “You’ve been given a chance to make something wonderful of yourselves.”

“I hope we meet each other again,” Camille said.

“I’m sure we will,” she replied.

 

Leah exited the doll shop with her hand in Camille’s.  Virgil swung the carriage about, and Rion was just finishing leaning out of the other window, much to the dismay of his mother.

“Up and about, kids,” the Destrite patriarch said.

“We wanted to introduce you to Gwenna,” Abraham pressed.

“I’m afraid we don’t have time,” Virgil protested.  “Faroon’s voice can still be heard in the northern woods.  I don’t want to miss our chance to escape with the little lady.  If it’s meant to be, I’ll meet this Gwenna another time.”

“Yes, Papa,” Abraham said as he opened the carriage door.

Jerrick hopped out of the cabin and gave a nod to his siblings and the kobold.  As Camille lifted the well-dressed stowaway into the wagon, the eldest boy hopped up next to his father.  Abraham squeezed inside, and he and his sister sat on either side of Leah.  She looked at Nika, who shared a warm smile with the kobold.

“Nice to be meeting you, ma’am,” she said.

“You’re a precious little thing, aren’t you?” Nika replied.  “Even more so up close.”

Leah flashed an awkward grin.  “Thank you so much for taking me in.”

Virgil flicked the reins and urged the horse forward.  The brother and sister who had ventured to Aspica saw Gwendolyn in her shop, waving them and the kobold farewell.  Camille beamed and nodded to her new friend as the wagon pulled out of sight.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Rion had fallen asleep against the wall of the carriage, and seeing him in that relaxed state enticed a yawn from Leah.  She sat between Camille and Abraham and across from Nika.  The children’s mother caught the last moment of the kobold’s yawn, and Leah shied away in embarrassment.

“Whoa,” they heard Virgil say.  At once, the carriage drew to a stop.  Everyone in the cabin heard some incoherent mumbling outside.  “Can I help you?”

“I hope so,” another voice in the woods assured.  Leah’s ears perked up, and her eyes widened at the familiar-sounding man.  “Earlier today, one of my friends went missing.  I was hoping you might be able to give me an idea of where she might be.  Have you seen a kobold running around these parts?”

“A kobold?” Virgil repeated.  “This far from Warus?”

“Part uh our circus troop,” another voice snarled.

“Fergus,” Leah whispered.

“Shh,” Camille hushed.

“Sir, I hope you won’t mind, but I’d like to check your carriage for our friend,” George went on.  “She has a habit of disappearing into strange places.”

“It’s just my family back there,” Virgil assured.  “And we have a newborn that’s just fallen asleep.”

“Don’t make this harder on –” Fergus began to say.

A brief pause interrupted him, followed by the agitated bark and growl of a dog.  Leah shivered against Camille’s body.  The young lady scooped her up and held her close.  Nika leaned forward and grabbed her daughter’s hand.

“The seat lifts up,” she whispered.

Outside, George stepped closer toward the carriage.  “I assure you, sir, we’ll be quick and quiet.”

“My little brother is scared of dogs,” Jerrick piped up.  “One of them bit him on the hand once.”

“We’ll leave this fella outside then,” George conceded.  Not a moment later, the door to the carriage swung open, and he was there upon the ground.  “Good evening, folks.  Sorry for the interruption, but my… employer would have my head if I didn’t take adequate measures to make sure our friend wasn’t stowing away without your knowledge.”

Nika smiled, cradling Kira against her chest.  “Of course.  Just us five, though,” she softly spoke.

Taking a look about the compartment, George didn’t see anything amiss.  It was just the woman and her four children, as she had said.  He began to take his leave when his eyes settled on the seat Camille and Abraham were upon.

“Ma’am, I don’t mean to intrude, but does that seat open into another compartment?”

The briefest of pauses was all Nika would allow.  “Why yes, it does,” she said.  “Children, would you give the man some room?”

“Thank you,” George said.  “You wouldn’t believe how wily this kobold can be.”  As he moved into the carriage, Camille lifted the seat.  “Thank you,” he said again.  He was affronted with the sight of the ruffled dress with the lace bodice.

“That’s just a doll I bought for my sister,” Camille said.  “I know she’s too young to appreciate it yet, but I don’t know when we’ll be back this way.”

The circus guard passed a wary glance at the girl, his brow furrowed.  He reached into the compartment, moving some clothes aside, and pulled the dress down over Leah’s protruding tail.  After a light squeeze on the kobold’s back, he patted her and stood back up.

“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here,” he said.  George looked at the Destrite family members, meeting their wide-eyed stares.  With an appreciative nod, he displayed a halfhearted grin.  “Thank you,” he offered, his voice cracking just a bit.

As he disembarked the carriage, Abraham shot a surprised and curious glance toward his mother.  She shook her head but remained quiet.

“Wait a minute,” Fergus snarled.  “Hold Rufus for me.  Something doesn’t smell right.”  Without warning, the skinny, short fellow hoisted himself into the carriage.  He took a quick look around, but his gaze lingered on the baby held to Nika’s chest.  He squinted and stepped toward mother and babe.

“You touch my mother or my sister, and you’re a dead man,” Abraham insisted.

That promise stayed Fergus’ hand, but he turned on his heel and peered into the open seat compartment.  He saw the dress and bonnet atop the supposed doll.  Camille swallowed hard and passed a pleading glance to George.  He stood outside, his hand grasped around Rufus’ leash.

Fergus pivoted, bracing his hands on the carriage’s doorframe.  “You stupid idiot,” he seethed.  “You brought us the wrong way!”  He hopped out of the vehicle and approached the circus guard.  “I’m sorry, Georgie.  The pup must have lost the Hare’s scent a ways back.”

Over the sound of the waking newborn, his companion sighed.  “No matter.  We always find her,” George replied.  “I’m sorry to have interrupted you nice folk.  Please be careful as you head up north.  It’s getting dark.”  He turned to the tracker and his dog.  “Let’s go, Fergus.  Maybe she went into the town.”

“Good luck,” Jerrick called out.  Beside him, Virgil snapped the reins, urging the horse on.

Camille reached over and swung the door shut while Abraham lifted Leah from her hiding spot.  When they had travelled a ways, she ventured a glance outside.  Turning back, the Destrites noticed the tears that matted the fur beneath her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Camille asked.

With a sniffle, a weak grin, and a shrug, Leah looked up.  “I’m free.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

The darkness had lulled them all to sleep.  Only Nika was still awake, gently stroking her baby’s soft hair.  Crickets outside hummed their tune over and over, so often that it melded together with the silence.  When the carriage stopped, the two children opposite Nika shook forward, and Leah nearly fell to the floor from between them both.  She stirred and instantly shivered at the thought of the stopped carriage.

A whistle cut into the night, and Virgil cleared his throat.  The kobold gave a slight nod and hopped down from her seat.  She took off her bonnet and placed it on the seat beside the young lady who had rescued her.  A flashed smile was the only communication she shared with Nika before she gave the door a gentle, silent push forward.

Virgil looked down as the kobold came up beside the horse.  Together, they looked at the road in front of them.  It forked north and east, trees on both sides.  Each road seemed weathered and beaten.

“I thought you should know:  This path here leads through southern Raleigh,” Virgil said.  “If you’re looking to get back to Warus, that’s the road you’d want to take.  We’ll be taking that one north to Viscosa.”

“Thank you, Mister Destrite,” the kobold said.  She moved along toward where the two roads diverged, each into their own lane of darkness.  She gazed down both paths, her eyes unable to see far beyond where she stood.

“Leah?  What are you doing?” she heard.  When the kobold turned about, she saw Camille standing there beside the carriage.  “Where are you going?”

A shrug lifted her shoulders.  “I’m safe now… away from Faroon and his intentions.”

“But that doesn’t mean you have to leave.”

All those who were awake heard the door to the carriage shut.  When they looked, Nika stood there, Kira still held against her bosom.  She nodded and shot a grin to her daughter.

Camille spun back around and faced her new friend.  “No one is forcing you to go back to Warus.  I know you want to see Brighton Beach again someday, but there will be plenty of time for that.  We’d be more than happy if you came home with us.”

The kobold’s eyes brightened at the offer.  When the young lady dropped to one knee, she ran to her side.  They shared a warm embrace that let her know that even though Warus wasn’t her destination, she was still headed home.

Scooping her up, Camille walked back to the cabin.  Nika swung open the door and let her cheerful smile show.  As the rest of his family settled in, Virgil gave his sleeping son a gentle squeeze before he snapped the reins.

The Destrites continued along on their journey.  And with them was the littlest kobold.