Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Tallisandre peers at my dagger.
“That’s a wicked stick you have there. I’ve never seen the like.”
I hold it up so the light from the forge catches the square end of the blade, showing the third edge and double point where the single-sided long edges meet.
“It’s called a Wedge. Made by a smith near where I last served.”
“They close? I’d like to discuss methods,” she grins, “and get me one like it, if I’m being honest with you.”
“Sadly, I think Besh fell during the battles on the Vile Plain.”
Shut that query down hard: no-one can get to Earth from Candelstadt anymore.
The smith tilts her head to stare at the blade from either side.
“It’s like it defies my sight, for all that it’s naught but cunning crafting.”
“Not best suited for penetrating armour.”
She idly waves a hand, indicating the small town about us.
“You mentioned the Vile Plain. I’d wager most of the forged armour in this rakenland went to blue blazes when the invaders loosed their balefire, or more likely it escaped the bonds they’d placed so they could draw upon it for their vryld.”
No, lady, they didn’t need it to power their ‘magic’. Someone used a nuke against what you call a ‘Raken’. Human folklore calls them dragons. You consider them the benign rulers of your lands. General Dwayne A. Smith vehemently disagreed, and soon afterwards discovered they’re immune to nuclear weapons – unlike everything else on that battlefield. Which is why the place is now called the Vile Plain.
She continues.
“That’d be my bet. Their mages slipped up in the heat of battle. No other reason stands for letting so many of their own die along with our finest.”
I can’t be sure, having deserted to roam this world a week before that, but I’m guessing the sight of a gigantic dragon scared everyone silly. They just threw everything they had at it, collateral damage and consequences be damned.
She gives me another querying look.
“They say Grugandine stormed through and destroyed their portal, no matter that it could never return.”
Seems a likely enough cause. The chaos it must have caused on Earth… Think on it later. I nod.
Tallisandre frowns.
“You’re taloren.”
Fuck. I hesitated too long – considering things a local couldn’t know.
Humans here call themselves ‘noren’. We’re rudely named taloren: ‘tal’ means ‘little’ or ‘lesser’. They’re also far more observant than us – guess it’s because of the faeries. Apparently their illusions are never perfect… Against taloren, they were usually close enough.
I run a quick visual check of my kit. Should be able to scoop and run without losing too much this time.
She waves me down.
“No fleeing. You don’t have the hunted feel of a survivor. You’re one of those who quit their vile cause before the balefire?”
I nod.
“Our vryldan found Candelstadt by accident. The raiding that followed was presented to the populace of my world as peaceful exploration and trading.”
She snorts in disgust.
“I’ve heard of rulers like that over here.”
“Your wounded told us about Candelstadt. Made me doubt. Atrocities on top of lies decided me. One night, I walked away naked.”
“Except for the stick.”
“It’s more a part of me than anything else.”
She smiles.
“I’m minded to make money selling others of it.” She grins. “Could do with more hands at the forge, though. Such work comes with lodgings.”
A place in this strange land? I’ll take it.
“Works for me, working for you.”
“Then we’re agreed. Welcome, Mikala.”
Close enough.