Return to Solitude

“Where.. Where am I?” I stammered. My head was spinning. I let my knees fall weak as I hit the soft dirt beneath me. I dug my fingers into the soil, closed my eyes, and tried to compose myself. The last thing I remember I was at sea. “I can’t be far from Duldrus,” I thought to myself, “I must in the mountains?”

Bonk! My face was smashed into the dirt by the end of a club. “Me eat you!” The giant grinned widely. He thought he found himself an easy meal. I rolled to the side, dodging the next blow from his club. “Come back here!” he yelled. I squinted through my helmet and tried to gather my surroundings. Another giant bashed me from the side. I stumbled back a few steps, gripped my katana and raised my shield into a defensive stance. Toe to toe with the two giants, I parried their blows. They retreated and yelled, “We be back soon!”

“I sure hope not,” I muttered to myself. I heard a trickle of water. Finally, I found myself able to take off my helmet and look around. I didn’t see a single path nor sign of civilization. I made my way toward the sound of the water. I saw several trees and, with the lack of sunlight, I asked myself “How are they even growing in here?” I found the water bank behind the line of trees and I made my way through a small clearing. I threw my raft in the water and sailed upstream. I found myself against more rocks. There was a little crack in which the water flowed out, but I was stuck. I sailed upstream, where the water collected into a small pond, surrounded by trees. Beyond the trees I can saw more giants roaming about. “Was this a secret camp of theirs?” I wondered.

I sailed back to the gap in the trees to assess my situation. I organized what little supplies I had in my pack, bandaged my wounds, and created a small fire for warmth. “Surely, there has to be a way out of here..” I doze off with my back against a tree and my mind drifts into what feels like a lucid dream.

A great wave of pain engulfed my body. “Aarrrgghh!” I screamed in agony.

“I’m fighting, why am I fighting?”

A lightning bolt streaked across the sky and struck me, it cackled as it seared my skin.

I felt myself chug a potion.

A dragon appeared at my side, cyan flames bursted from its breath. With a loud roar, I was taken away.

“I’m yelling something, what am I saying?”

I waved my arm in my sleep, knocking my katana into my shield, making a loud clang. I woke up and scrambled to grab my shield to stop the ringing. I looked up and a giant was already running my way. “Oh no, not this again,” I thought as I prepared to fight again, putting the strange dream I was having to the back of my mind.

I continued fighting. It seemed there was no other option. Every time a giant retreated, another one came storming in. I became wary of how long I could keep this up. I retreated back to the water, listening to their obnoxious taunts. Unable to swim after me, they lost interest and went back to minding their business. I pulled out my fishing pole, I didn’t realize I was starving. “At least that crack in the rock is big enough for fish to swim through,” I thought to myself as I graciously caught a few trout for dinner.

I finished my meal, and I started to figure out my options. “If I am to get out of here, I am going to have to defeat all these giants.” I thought. Quietly, I began chopping at the trees to build a couple more rafts. A life at sea was what I was used to, afterall.

Every day, I woke up, I slayed giants, I tried to navigate through this strange location. I began to think that there may be no way out, that the giants wouldn’t stop coming. I kept fighting.

Every night, I crafted, I built what I needed for safety, I made what little repairs I could to my armour and my weapons. I ate whenever possible and when the air was quiet from the giants’ taunts and cries, I made attempts at sleep.

The strange environment gave me a bit of insomnia, and when I did sleep, I still had unexplainable dreams. They felt so real. “Am I dead?” I wondered.

Many, many moons had passed and the giants seemed to be gone. I was alone. I began to search the… cave? I was able to find a couple of ancient tomes, a few roses, and a portal. The tomes were barely legible, but it seemed they were my only hope of figuring out how to work the portal and escape. I wondered who aided these giants, if anyone, would they come back and find me here?

I spent moons studying the ancient tomes. To keep my body in shape, I mined what I could from the walls of the cave. It seemed I wasn’t making any progress with these tomes. I stared at the roses that were left behind by the portal. “This must be a clue,” I thought, “left behind for any stragglers maybe?”

I grabbed the roses and made my way to the portal. “I can do this,” I told myself as I held the roses in different parts of the portal. After several hours, nothing. I was defeated. I was trapped in this place. I went back to my camp to settle my mind by fishing.

After a few more weeks, I decided to try my luck at the portal again. This time, I had several crystals I found at the bottom of the stream. I returned to the portal and prayed and I sprawled out all the items I had found, hoping for some sort of magical reaction. Moments later, I began to feel something. “Wha.. what is this?” It had been too long since I had felt a touch of magic and poof! I was no longer in the cave?

I couldn’t speak. My jaw dropped and my heart skipped a beat. This was not what I had expected. I was surrounded by four brick walls and a couple of ever-burning torches. No doors, no windows, just myself and the bricks that have devoured me. I couldn't believe where I was. “Was this a trick? Am I really trapped? Was the portal not strong enough? How did I end up here?” My mind raced at a mile a minute. “Breath,” I told myself, "this is probably another one of those vivid dreams." I sat down with my back against the wall and began to doze off.


  • I slept. I woke up. When I felt motivated I would get up and stretch my legs. Walking around only made the claustrophobia worse. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go. “Am I going insane?” I thought to myself. I sat down. I slept. I woke up. Whenever I had felt as though a day went by, I carved a tally into the wall. I never knew how long I slept or if I had even slept at all. Everything felt still. “Did time stop? Have I been reduced to just a thought?” I asked myself questions as if they made a difference, “I think, therefore I am? I have to exist.” I slept. I woke up. I sat. I thought.

    17 days. 17 was how long I was trapped in that box. At least, that was how long I thought I was trapped there, given by the tally marks on the wall. I got up, pulled out my katana, and made another carving. I began to feel sick, my knees buckled beneath me, before I could brace myself to hit the cold bricks, my vision blurred.

    I landed, surprisingly, on a soft bed of grass. It seemed all too familiar. This grass, these trees, those rocks. I was back in that cave. Someone brought me here? But who?

    I looked around and I sensed a strange presence. Something was different. The gap in the trees had been filled in by more foliage. It didn’t look as if it grew naturally. “They must have found my little camp,” I thought. I walked around the tree-line and saw a small building. Before I could approach it, I heard a loud thumping behind me. The hill giants had returned! “But who is bringing them here?” I asked myself. The thumping shook the trees and woke some giant bats that had taken residence here. I wondered how the bats could have gotten in; it seemed like the only entrance was that portal.

    I slayed the giants and made my way to the building, slightly nervous. “Maybe I’ll finally learn who is behind all of this,” I thought. Cautiously, I pushed the door open, and to my dismay, vacant. A forge and a chest were all I could see. I rummaged through the chest, hoping for any clues. All I found were sets of tools and a decent supply of food. “Either someone is living here and will be back soon, or whomever is in charge is expecting ME to live here? Am I a prisoner?” I mumbled to myself. I decided to leave the contents of the chest alone. 24 mugs of ale and 101 lobster soups - The delectable food was tempting, but I had grown used to my supply of dried trout. I went outside to search for more changes.

    To my benefit, a new opening had appeared in the trees surrounding the other stream that slowly trickled through the cave. I grabbed my raft and paddled downstream to find a new spot to set up camp. I didn’t want to be caught or seen as an intruder in that house, but I found it useful to repair my armor at the forge. The stream, again, subsided at another dead end. However, it was much much colder. In fact, I strangely enjoyed the eerie chilliness. The rocks had a natural brightness to them. I reached out to feel them; they were completely covered in ice.

    The newfound rocks struck me with something I had lost in that box - hope. I now knew that I was somewhere cold. Although a very broad description, I believed I was close to somewhere familiar. I felt it. I struck back at the rocks, but physically, and I began to mine. “This is the way out!” I felt excited. After several swings on each rock, I received the same outcome. The layer of ice cracked and crumbled, revealing a small amount of ferrite, and then it became much too frozen to mine through. My pickaxe broke. Dismayed, I headed back towards the building and continued investigating for changes.

    I went to see if the portal still remained. As I headed in that direction, another pair of hill giants came to attack me. “Where are they coming from?” I thought. I battled for what felt like hours, hill giant after hill giant. Occasionally, I would get surprised by a blink hound or another giant bat. I wondered how they found their way in here. Once the area seemed clear, I looked for the portal. The portal remained, but it seemed the rest of the area surrounding it had stayed the same. I found no other clues or changes and headed back towards my camp on the water.

    I wrapped my wounds in bandages and built a small fire. I still couldn’t tell the difference between day and night, but it felt like it was time to rest. I set my armor aside, repairs would be done when I woke up, and went to sleep. I drifted into a deep sleep.

    My senses heightened. Parry. Block. Swing. I heard a roar below from behind me.

    “I’m back in this fight, but why?”

    I focused my energy to try and visualize my surroundings. Green boots.

    On my side I saw a giant light blue claw… An ice dragon!

    I tried to look up and see where I was. There was fighting all around me.

    Mountains surrounded us?

    I woke up feeling slightly groggy, but better than sleeping in that box. I walked back over towards the building and saw a sign out front. I hadn’t noticed that when I first arrived back here. It read: “The Realm Between”

    I pushed the door open. Still, no one had been here. I began hammering out the dents in my armor and thought about the sign, “What could the Realm Between mean? What was I between? What realm was I in? Does this have anything to do with the dreams I’ve had?” I finished up my repairs and walked around. It all seemed the same, I slayed a few more hill giants and then retreated back. “Perhaps they’re guarding the portal? Waiting for someone?” I thought to myself, “there has to be something.”

    I retreated back to camp. There was nothing I could do except wait until I woke up in another strange place. I grew fond of being in this cave. To distract myself, of what could be months or years trapped here, I would work on my crafting abilities. “It’s a win win,” I said to myself, “I have something to distract me and maybe I’ll mine through one of these rocks and find an escape.” In silence, I created alternating shifts between mining, smelting ingots, woodcutting, and carving boards. Every so often, a hill giant would hear the hammering of ingots or the thud of a log on the soft ground and threatened to make me dinner. I always declined the offer and sent him off. I was capable of making my own food.

    I felt like a machine. The exact amount of ingots from every ore, the exact amount of boards from every log, they always fit perfectly together when I crafted. Day by day, or what felt as though a day went by, I continued to work. “Hard work pays off,” was what I was always told. Some days, I worked myself into exhaustion and slept in the building beside the forge. It began to feel like a home to me. More and more nights I slept there, I became sure that no one was going to return here, assuming someone was here once before. “Perhaps I will meet someone one day who can understand the ancient tomes I found,” I thought, “Someone must have left them behind.” My mind wondered some more of all the possibilities as I continued to craft.
  • I stood on a dirt path, surrounded by shops. I had been here before. “This is my dream,” I said to myself, “I’m dreaming again.” The dream felt more vivid than it ever had before. I looked up and saw the mountains, ice covered their peaks. I felt a cold breeze and heard the loud “squawk” of a harpie. I turned my head over my shoulder and lifted my shield as the harpie’s beak clanged against it. I grabbed my long sword and set the harpie fleeing in the other direction.

    “This can’t be a dream. This is real. I am here.” I told myself. I felt the adrenaline kick in as I explored the town. Duldrus, how I had missed it so much. I fought away the harpies looming in the treetops that hoped for an easy victim disoriented by a gaper. I turned the corner, behind the Hammer and Ingot, and the air crackled as lightning came hurling towards me. My skin burned. I remembered something. “It was the man in green, he chased me here” I thought to myself. I charged at the gaper, chopping its eyes off by the stalk in one clean blow. I entered the blacksmithing shop and searched around. I felt like I had been here before. I casually glanced behind the set of barrels in the corner, carefully opening them but not finding anything. The shopkeeper looked at me, gave me a nod, and I continued on my way.

    I looked out towards the mountain. There was a lot more snow on the peak than I remembered.

    I walked over to the local restaurant and Klevin smiled warmly at me, “Ah welcome, did you want me to teach you some more recipes?” I blankly stared back at him.

    Did he teach me recipes before? I scratched the back of my head, took a quick glance around, and replied, “Ah, no thank you, I must keep going.” I continued over to the armor shop. A bell chimed as I pushed the door open. Startled, the Quint nearly knocked his chair over when he stood up to welcome me. A faint glaze of dust seemed to cover most of the weapons in here. It appeared as though sales had been slow for some time. I saw a small pile of furs in the back of the shop, they looked sloppily skinned and poor quality. “How could he accept such atrocities?” I thought to myself, “I could bring in much better fur than that!”

    Interrupting my thoughts, Destin exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for you!” With a grunt, he lifted a weapon case off the floor and placed it onto the counter top. A cloud of dust filled the air. I coughed waiting for it to settle. I opened the latches on the side of the case, then slowly lifted the lid, revealing a brand new katana of durability. It had been a long time since I had seen one of these. “So,” the shopkeeper continued “you can go ahead and drop the furs in the back. I’ll handle the rest from there.” He stared at me. I stared back. Before I could respond, he realized I didn’t have furs on me and that he was out of luck. I could tell he was trying not to appear angry as he leaned forward and closed the weapon case.

    “Alright then, be on your way.” Quint took over, avoiding any conflict and gesturing towards the door. I nodded and hung my head, exiting the shop. All the years I delivered shipments of fur here and I never found out who this ‘Grand Explorer’ was that he worked for. Even after all the time I spent exploring the Ice Dunge...

    Vandrovic. I felt the chill of ice in my veins.

    The name rang through my head. I was flooded with memories. My friend. The dragons. I suddenly felt weak, weaker than I had felt in what came to be my home away from home - The Realm Between. There was too much to process all at once, I needed to focus. “I was taken away for a reason,” I thought to myself, “was it to save me? To protect me? To train me for something greater?” It was hard to know what to think. I didn’t even know what year it was. I remembered a strong connection with Vandrovic, that feeling seemed very faint to me now as if something had happened. “I have to find his treasure.”

    I grabbed my pick axe and made way for the mountains. I began mining at the rocks, chipping away at the ice. Vandrovic must have hid his treasures, his secrets, somewhere in these rocks. All the salvageable ferrite I could mine, I brought back to the forge and filled the stock barrels. When the weather proved too brutal conditions to mine, I stayed in at the warmth of the forge and mastered my craft. It was just like before, only now there was hope.
  • Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink. The sound of a hammer pounding ingots onto the anvil rang through Duldrus for many moons, though no one seemed to mind. As Wilem, the head blacksmith would say, “Blacksmith’n ain’t just a job. It’s a way of life.” The clinking continued day night and most certainly lived up to being a way of life. The mining town of Duldrus had never really experienced anything different.


    I roared, “In the name of Vandrovic, leave this place!” An immense power surges through me. “Attack!” I yell and point as my ice dragon leaps in front of me and begins to fight.

    I look down at my ring, it begins to glow. I look up as a cackle of lightning explodes from the ring, striking down the fighter in front of me.

    I feel a strange satisfaction. I look over and see Vandrovic, standing at the height of his glory, he gestures for us to retreat into the mountains.

    “It has to be up there!” I yelled from my sleep. “Aah!” I panicked as I saw Wilem staring disappointingly at me. I brushed off my robe and found my blacksmithing hammer on the other side of the room, broken in half and resting on a pile of dismantled black ingots. I sighed and handed Wilem a sack of gold for the mess and a new set of hammers. “One more try,” I mumbled to myself as I prepared to smelt more black ferrite into ingots.

    As I worked, I thought over the details of another vivid dream. I had begun to feel as though these dreams were distant memories. Flawlessly, I forged the ingots and began to hammer them into the shape of a breast plate. I thought about the mountains. “The treasure has to be here in the mountains, why else would we have fought so hard here?” I thought, “but what was I? What have I become?” I remembered the strength, the power, and the focus I held. I recalled my dragon, my dragon! I swung my hammer down and cracked the breastplate I was attempting to forge. “Gaaah!” I yelled in frustration and threw my materials into the barrel of scraps.

    I grabbed my mining axe and headed back up into the mountains to gather more materials and continued my search for Vandrovic’s treasure. “I will master this black material. I will find this treasure. I will regain my strength. I will find my dragon once again.” I told myself as I swung away at the rocks.

    As night fell, I gathered my materials and headed back into the Hammer and Ingot for another tiresome session of smithing.




    All night I hammered away. It was no wonder I was having such vivid dreams. I continued until I saw sunlight begin to peak through the windows. It was a new day. I felt confident.

    I grabbed my pile of black ferrite and melted it down to ingots. Easiest step completed.

    I grabbed my ingots and began heating them over the forge until they were hot enough to begin shaping my breastplate. From experience, I knew black metal didn’t heat the same. It was hard to tell when it reached the right temperature.

    I grabbed my blacksmithing hammer and started to shape the ingots.




    Success! I let out a sigh of relief. I carefully picked up the breastplate, set it aside to cool, and began to work on a shield to complete the set.

    I walked over the armor rack. Gauntlets. Helmet. Arms. Platelegs.

    I placed the breastplate on the rack, then the shield. It was complete. I stood in awe at the accomplishment of completing a set of black armor.

    As the sun continued to rise, the freshly made black armor glistened in its light. I realized I had neglected my sleep. I yawned, “I have so much more work to do.” I made my way back to my camp. “I must be close to finding his treasure,” I thought as I set my tools down, “I could ask Destin if he or the Grand Explorer he works for knows anything..”
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