Elements of Revenge
Copyright © 2016 By Jandar Tyr
It was a cold stormy night as Jandar and Rage dropped down out of the storm clouds over Heimdel castle. Their destination was a cave where the leaders and generals of many Keannian cities awaited them. As Rage flew closer to the cliffs, Jandar pointed to a cave where light seeped out from the entrance.
[There.] He sent to his mate. Rage nodded and angled his wings to glide in that direction. In less than three minute, the pair were walking in pass sentries who watch the hills for anything suspicious.
The cave corridor was long with torches placed every twenty feet or so to light the way. At the end there was a large cavern where the meeting would be held and the nine waited for them. As they entered the great cavern, the nine talked quietly in small groups. When King Philibar of Pelordra saw them, he called for attention in the room.
"Can everyone take a seat." He said. "It's time we begin."
Taking Jandar's hand, Rage led him to the chairs beside the king, their honored place. At the tables head sat King Philibar Windstar of Pelordra the cloud city of the Sky elves. Next to him on his left sat General Vibius Gauis Herkalus and Captain Manius Regulus Pius military leaders of Sorrowdown. Then Asam Arynn from the golden Phoenician city of Casthor. In his red and gold robes, the Phoenix nodded a greeting to Jandar and Rage.
Sitting quietly staring at everyone, Kranko Fearfist was next. He sat there looking annoyed in his dented armored decorated with small skulls and bones. On his head he wore a long lock held tight with rabbit skull. Being the only Goblin there, his hand never left the hilt of his knife. Beside him sat the representative of the Vampires. Tomz Acros. Jandar and Rage knew him very well from Yadessa's last battle with Lord Larin and Queen Talsara. It had been him who carried Tayor Larin's cursed object into Prafa to bring the city under their spell. Ever since the defeat of Lord Larin, Tomz had sworn to his king to be Yadessa's protector. And he had been doing a good job. When the Sorceress Raven attacked, it had been Tomz who went in and forced her out into the sunlight where she burned. He had also found and saved the young Vampires that had been taken by the hunters and brought them home. So now with Bram Thorn attacking all over the countryside. Tomz had taken it on as his job to stop him. So here he was at the table to discuss strategies on defeating the elemental warlock, Bramble Thorn.
Next to Tomz looking snobbish and regal sat Eldar Mystwinter. Second to the throne of Mystwinter in the Halador forest. Eldar was a tall proud elf who usually did not like to associate with anyone but those of his forest people. But since his city had been captured by Talsara Darkshade, he had asked for help to free his people and was now indebted to those who fought and died to free Mystwinter. So here he was ready to lend a hand against the menace Thorn.
The last two places at the table were held by Bly Sharpwing and Leda Redhelm. Bly Sharpwing of Ammath was one of the most dangerous types of fairies Jandar had ever seen. She was short in her human form, no more than five foot four inches with dark shadow features. Her skin had the dark hue of a plum with blazing red hair. Her eyes yellow slanted up in the corners and her fangs looked sharp giving her an evil visage. She had the slender figure of a fairy maiden with what looked to Jandar like razor sharp fairy wings on her back. She wore a dark gray cloak and underneath a short dress covered with magical symbols. Jandar wasn't sure what type of fairy she was, but he could tell she was a warrior, and a deadly one. Next to her sitting high in her chair with a dagger in her hands cleaning her nails sat Leda Redhelm. A very muscular dwarven female. Dark hair and high browed with the looks of a woman who had fought her way through many, many battles. She wore leather pants and a bodice breastplate with intricate small gems set in it. In front of her on the table sat her favorite weapon, a mace which Jandar could tell was worn from constant use.
Here at this table sat the twelve convened for the express mission of decided what was to be done about a threat that had been raging in all their lands, Bram Thorn. As King Philibar stood and cleared his throat, the room grew quiet.
"I have called you all here to discuss a monster that has been plaguing all our lands." Philibar gazed across the table at each of his guess. "Something must be done about Bram Thorn."
Voices were raised all around the tables as their anger erupted around the room and people jumped to their feet.
"That bastard came into Sorrowdown and burned half our city!" Vibius shouted. "Four schools and a whole section of the market place was lost! Do you know how many people died? Over two hundred burned. Fifty of them children!"
"He flooded parts of our forest." Eldar slammed his fist into the table. "Nymphs, elves and fauns drowned along with many elves. The trees will take years to heal. My people may starve while our magic is so badly weakened."
"Be calm all of you!" Philibar held up his hand to quiet the shouting. "I am aware of all the things Bram's done in all our homes. I've heard about the mines he tore down and the dwarfs that were buried. And you, Kranko. His men hunted your people, killed your females. I know the horrors Bram cast on all of us. That's why we're here. To decide what to do about it."
"This Bram sounds almost like Polan." Jandar whispered to Rage. "Should we get involved here?"
[Bram Thorn is just as dangerous as Polan Dressek.] Tomz sent from his seat. [I'm surprised you aren't already involved. Valkar didn't tell you anything about the warlock?]
[Valkar told us about this meet.] Rage told Tomz. [He said it was something we should attend. He never said why.]
[Valkar sends his apology and asked me to explain everything to you.] Tomz looked deeply into Jandar and Rage's eyes. [There's a small village north of Prafa called Shadowbreak. It only houses about fifty vampires but they are loyal to the crown and someone in the village is close to a member of the Zlenka house.]
[Is there a problem there?] Jandar asked.
[Yes.] Tomz nodded. [The village is missing.]
[Missing?] Rage sat forward looking curious. [What do you mean? The people are missing?]
[No. the whole village is gone.] He explained. [There's nothing there but a large whole in the ground. No cottages, no barns, nothing. Everything's gone.]
Jandar looked at Rage. He knew it would take some great magic to do something like that. Not beyond him, but way beyond most warlocks and mages that he knew in the area. Could it be like when the Academy vanished?
[Have you consulted Insa at the Academy?] Rage asked.
[He told us of the troubles with Bram and advised we come to you.]
[We'll do what we can.] Jandar agreed to help. [ Yadessa has had enough trouble in the last few years, we'll see what is to be done.]
[Thank you.] Tomz sent to them.
As Jandar and Rage turned their attention back to the meeting, Bly Sharpwing had just finished telling everyone about the troubles Bram had forced on her lands.
"Like the Elves, my people’s lives depend on magic." She explained. "Without magic, we weaken and will fade out of existence. We are elemental and Bram siphons the magic of all the elements when he works his magic."
"I can work elemental magic too Bly." Jandar said. "All my brothers in our clan can. It's never hurt the nature of the fairy or the elves before. I don't understand."
"As Dragons, you are part of nature." She said. "And your elemental powers don't take from nature like Bram. He's a destroyer, his magic isn't in harmony with nature, it goes against the principles of life as we know it. He must be stopped or many more will die."
"We have another brother." Rage stood to address the group. "He's not a dragon or a werewolf or really even human. He's something different and if you agree to put this Bram in his hands once we catch him, the dragons will help. But we won't be party to any posse or witch hunts. If you want our help, then you do this our way. "
Rage pushed back his chair and he and Jandar walked to the entrance of the cavern.
"We'll be out watching the storm. Call us when you have a decision."
As Jandar and Rage left the room, it erupted into chaotic conversation. Leda, Vibius, Manius and Kanko wanted to refuse the dragons help. They thought they had enough troops to move in and beat Bram on their own. But Asam, Tomz, Bly and Philibar knew magic was not to be under estimated. They might have enough force to storm the castle, but what happens when Bram fights back? Do they have the magic to defeat him without the Dragons? So far elven magic, fairy magic, not even phoenician magic had worked. Maybe the Dragons were what they needed.
Outside on the balcony, Jandar and Rage watched as lightning flashed through the stormy skies. Fierce winds whipped Jandar's cloak making it wave like some majestic flag. Rage walking up behind Jandar and enclosed him in his arms and kissing his neck.
"What's on your mind?"
"Just a feeling." Jandar leaned back into him. "I don't think this will be as easy as we think."
"At least we don't have a war to fight this time."
"Not yet we don't." He said. "And right now is not the time for us to be involved in a war. Shayn and Ono are away visiting their friends from Pentanthin and Quynn is just beginning to shift. Ranjer makes a great sitter but he's going to need our attention now more than ever."
"I know love." Jandar squeezed his hand. "Maybe this Bram thing won't be as bad as they're all saying."
"I hope not."
Just then a guard came out to tell them the decision had been made. Pulling his cloak tight around him, Jandar led Rage, hand in hand back in to find out what the council’s decision would be.
As Vibius Herkalus, Manius Regulus, Leda Redhelm and Kranko Fearfist sat at the foot of the mountain and watched the others fly off, Vibius turned to the others with a frown.
"This isn't right." He said. "Bram destroyed half our city and I'm supposed to just hand him over to them for judgement? I can't do that."
"The Emperor won't like it." Manius agreed. "He'll want to have a chance to sentence him for his crimes."
"I don't care about your stupid king thing." Kranko spit to the side. "I want to crush him. I want his ears hanging on a string around my neck! I wanna chew his bone!!"
"Then it's settled?" Leda stopped her horse in front of the others. "We take Bram once he's defeated. We show him our brand of justice."
"Agreed." Vibius nodded looking to the others. "The Dragons can have what's left after we're done."
"I will see you all in two days when we storm his castle." Leda kicked her horse into moving. "May the gods be with us."
"No!" Bram screamed. "That's not what I wanted from you at all!! Your father's crown is what you were supposed to return with. Without it, I'll have no control over anything in Fay Shrea! Why can't my own wife do a simple task I set before her? Is that too much to ask?"
"I tried." Jamerld Thorn cried as Bram raged through the room throwing everything he could grab. "Getting in and out of the Hollow isn't so easy. My father doesn't trust us anymore."
"Then make him trust you!" He turned and faced his beautiful wife. "You have charms, use them on him!"
"It's not that simple my husband." Jamerld moved closer and put her hand on his over the five rings on his right hand. "Father thinks I'm dead. He ignores me when I visit the Hollow. He ordered everyone to ignore my presence, it's like I don't exist to him anymore. I can't get near the crown jewels."
"Your father is a Fool!" Bram pushed her hand away from him. "Very well. If he won't give me the crown, we'll just have to take it! I'll take everything he has and grind it into the ground right before I bury him alive! I was going to spare his kingdom of anymore pain, but I think not. I think I'm going to make him wish he never got in the way of Bram Thorn!!"
As his mad laughter rang out, his emotions forced the storm outside to a fever pitch. Thunder and lightning crashed into the trees and hills outside Heimdel castle setting off small fires in the forest. Just inside the line of trees, nine men and one dwarven female waited for their fairy spy to return from her reconnaissance mission.
Her task had been to check Heimdel castle to find out what kind of forces Bram had there to back him up. If there were troops, how many and where were they stationed. Were there guards at the gates? Was the castles barracks full of fighting men asleep or awake. Where there and innocents in the castle being held captive. If there were troops, Vibius and Manius was to lead the assault once Jandar and the others had Bram engage in a mystical battle. If not, there's would be the task of taking Bram into custody once they had him overwhelmed with magic. There were many variables to be checked and Jandar and Rage insisted everything be done right to keep everyone as safe as possible.
"The night air is hard on this warrior’s bones." Vibius said pulling his cloak tighter around him. "I wonder what takes the fairy so long?"
"Heimdel castle is no small cottage." Rage said from his place next to Jandar. "There are many halls and rooms to be checked. We don't want to charge in to find and army at our backs do we?"
"I don't think the mad warlock could have an army there with him." Manius said. "He's way to paranoid. He doesn't trust anyone to work for him."
"There are other types of troops a warlock can command that trust wouldn't be an issue you know." Tomz pointed out. "Bram has magic which means he can do almost anything he wants. What's to stop him from building his army from stone? It is possible."
That thought shut Manius up and sent a chill through his bones. As an elemental, he could create an army of fire and send it against them. Manius prayed Bram wasn't that imaginative or this might turn out to be much harder than they thought.
As they talked quietly, a small magical light appeared from out of the forest and started towards them.
"She comes." Asam pointed. Like a star falling from the sky, Bly sailed on over the forest through the storm. The closer she got to the group, the brighter her light shined until she was right over them. Swirling down, she gently came down to light on Jandar's shoulder. Folding her wings to her back, she shook the few drops of rain off and started her report.
"I went from room to room searching for any soldiers he might have hidden and found nothing. Bram is in the main study raging furiously. We won't need any troops to attack him."
"No troops?" Rage asked. "But doesn't that mean he's alone? Who's he raging at?"
"He screams about my father." Bly told them.
"Your father?" Jandar held up his hand for her to settle on. "I don't understand. What's he got against Valerian Sharpwing?"
Bly looked away not wanting to answer. Jandar looked at each of them one by one for an answer. No one spoke up.
"Ok Bly." Jandar lifted her up to look closely at her. "What is it? There's something you're not telling us. Out with it."
"Bram may not be alone in there."
"Fine." Rage walked over to stand with Jandar. "Who's in there with him?"
"His wife?" Rage stepped back surprised. "Bram's married? Are you sure she's in there?"
"She has to be there." Bly insisted. "He never goes anywhere without them."
"Wait, them? Who else is in there?"
"Their daughter Mya."
"Tomz!" Rage grabbed him by the shoulder. "Did you know about this? Why didn't you tell us?"
"We didn't know." Tomz had a look of surprise on his face. He obviously didn't know his enemy as well as he should.
I'm going in to get them out." Jandar started towards the castle.
"Wait!" Bly buzzed around and hovered in front of him. "Let me go. I can get them out."
"No." Jandar shoed her away. "It’s too risky. You might get hurt."
"I don't care.!" Bly screamed as she flew up to confront Jandar. "This is my responsibility. It's my fault. I have to get them out!"
"BECAUSE SHE'S MY SISTER!!"
Jandar stopped and turned back to find Bly there in here normal larger form with tears flowing from her eyes.
"It's my fault he has her." She cried. "I was supposed to protect her, but he caught me off guard and took her away. We searched but by the time we found them, he was too powerful for me. Jamerld was already with his child. Now I have to get her out and away from that monster!"
Reaching out, Jandar took her in his arms and hugged her tightly. He knew she was right. She had to be the one to free her sister. Jamerld would never trust anyone else.
"Are you sure you can find them?" Rage asked.
"I will get them out." She wiped her tears. "I have too."
"Go." Jandar smiled. "We'll give you half an hour before we attack. Get them out while we hold Bram in battle."
"Thank you." In a flash she shifted back to fairy size and shot off into the darkness.
"We wait thirty minutes then we move in." Jandar explained. "Asam and I will go in first to get his attention. Once we have him engaged, Rage will wait and attack only if we need him. Eldar and Philibar will wait just in case we need the extra magic."
"What about us?" Vibius asked. "What are we doing?"
"You're going to sneak in and take him once we have him in binds and powerless." Jandar looked at Rage. "Ready?"
"Call me when you’re ready for me Love." Rage kissed Jandar then ran off into the storm.
"Twenty minutes and we go."
Madness ruled Bram Thorn's mind as he paced back and forth across his study floor. His anger was out of control as a voice he knew to be one of his five masters screamed in his head.
[What do you think you’re doing? You can't possibly think you can beat Valerian Sharpwing? His magic is beyond your understanding.]
[You’re a foolish boy who never could do anything right.] Another said.
[Just give up.] A third voice snickered. [Defeat is all you'll ever know.]
Bram grabbed his head pressing his hands to his ears to silence the voices. But they wouldn't stop. They rambled on and on and on.
[Listen to me boy. Kill yourself.] A fourth huskier voice laughed. [It's all you are good for!!]
"NO." He sent a bolt of lightning from his hand at the table blowing it to bits. "I am Bram Thorn! The greatest elemental ever born! I beat all of you! No one can defeat me!!"
[We'll see.] The fifth voice was female. [We'll see who defeats who. Right now outside they're lining up to come in here and put you in your place. What will you do now?]
Bram's eyes darted from corner to corner as his mad mind raced for an answer.
"Fight!" He ran to the window and threw it open. "Yes I'll fight all of you! And I'll win too! None of you can beat me!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!"
He raised his fist and sent bolt after bolt out into the darkness. "Come if you dare! I'm ready, I'll kill you all!!"
Moving with amazing speed, Bly went from room to room searching for her sister and the baby. She started on the first floor checking the dark kitchens and stables. From there she went to the servant quarters and first floor guest rooms. She checked dining halls and the armory, the larder and the throne room. No Jamerld. Finding a stairwell, she went higher into the castle. On the second floor she found the royal bedrooms of the royal family and more guest quarters for higher ranked guest. The library and offices of the king’s advisers and the head of the guards were in one section and still she hadn't found any sign of Jamerld anywhere.
As she turned a corner, Bly could hear the ravings of the mad warlock. Time was running out. She had found Bram but her sister’s whereabouts were still a mystery.
There were still two possibility's left. She could be locked in one of the castles towers or she could be in a cell somewhere in the dungeons. Bly didn't have time to check them both. She had to pick one and hope she had the right area and Jamerld and the baby would be there waiting.
With lightning raining out from the castle window, Jandar called for his staff and signaled the others it was time to move. Closing his eyes, Jandar reached inside himself and called upon his magic to surround and protect him. As Jandar and Asam stepped out and rose into the night sky, a golden glow spread out from Jandar's body making him light and airborne. Beside him, opening his cloak, Asam threw himself into the air. Flames erupted all around him setting him in the center of a phoenix made of flame. With wings of fire, Asam followed the glowing mage high over the castle. Once there, Jandar raised his staff and roared out his challenge to Bram.
"HEAR ME BRAMBLE TIBERIUS THORN, ELEMENTAL WARLOCK BANISHED SON OF SORROWDOWN. FOR CRIMES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF KEANNA. WE ARE HERE TO BIND YOUR POWERS AND TAKE YOU INTO CUSTODY. WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY IN YOUR DEFENSE?"
A blue streak of lightning cracked from the castle window and sped up into the sky towards Jandar and Asam barely missing them. Behind it Bram, surrounded by a mystical blue glow, rose up to meet them.
"I say power gives me the right to do anything I want!" His gray jet black hair waved in the storms mighty winds as his mad eyes glared to Jandar and Asam. "You call me a weak incompetent fool unable to cast a spell correctly! I'll show you who's incompetent!!"
With clenched fist, Bram swung his arm out at the pair. Lightning blasted out of the clouds and struck Jandar like a hammer knocking him back. Rolling away, he quickly recovered and sent his own blast at Bram which he easily shrugged off. With a loud squawk, Asam sent a series of fireballs out at Bram which he batted away while laughing hysterically.
"Is that what you call magic?" Spittle sprayed from Bram's mouth. "How's this?"
He swept his arm up. From below, two huge boulders sprang from the ground and like missiles, flew at Jandar and Asam.
Closing his wings, Asam waited for the last possible second, then swept them open sending heat vibrating out to crash into the one coming at him shattering it into dust that rained back towards the ground.
With a wave of his hand, Jandar made the missile aimed at him completely intangible and let it pass right through him. As he reached out, he collected the dust and debris from Asam's boulder and formed it back into three smaller rocks and tossed them right back at Bram.
From below, Philibar, Eldar, Leda, Tomz, Vibius, Manius and Kranko watched the magical battle as it flashed through the sky. Every spell sent was countered and defected causing awe in the unmagical watchers. Philibar and Eldar chatted on the side about different types of attacks and what they could do if the battle came their way.
"And you thought a simple attack by force would have caught him." Eldar laughed. "Bram is way beyond force now. Sorrowdown’s whole army couldn't stand a chance against him."
"But four warriors just might be able to surprised him at a weakened moment." Vibius nodded to Manius, Leda and Kranko. "You three, follow me."
"Where are you going?" Tomz asked.
"To do what we were told to do."
Climbing on their horses, the four rode off towards castle Heimdel. Behind them, Philibar, Eldar and Tomz watched as they rode off.
"Why do I get the feeling something stupid is about to happen? Tomz asked.
"I know why your here!" Bram screamed as blue energy surged from his hands at Jandar and Asam. "Your here for my rings! You want my power, you always did. Well you can't have it! It's mine!"
[What in Rimnar's name is he talking about?] Asam forced his shield into a better position to deflect the blasts.
[I have no idea.] Jandar sent. [He's been rambling nonsense ever since the battle started. We have to find a weak point then I can call Rage in.]
[Be ready. I'm going to try something.]
Folding his wings, Asam went into a dive. His flames burned brighter as more air was fed into the fire. With a quick shifting of his weight he turned and flew straight at Bram. Bram screamed and hammered him with his blue bolts. Taking the blows on his wings, Asam pulled up and at the last minute brought his tail flames up and smacked Bram right out of the sky.
As Bly reached the top of the tower stairs, she stood in front of a huge door. Shifting to her larger form, she reached out and grabbed the door knob and turned it. As the door creaked open, a foul smell came out of the room and choked the breath from Bly. It was a horrible smell that once you smell, you never forget. It was the smell of death. As Bly pushed open the door, she noticed she was in a sparely furnished room. There was only a bed in the room with something in it. It looked like someone was sleeping. Quietly Bly floated over to the bed praying she didn't just found who she had come looking for. Reaching out she grabbed the sheet and pulled it back. As she gazed down at the bodies in the bed, her heart screamed out in horror. Just then something huge came crashing through the roof and tore through the room. Without even thinking Bly shifted to fairy and took off dodging bricks, lumber and debris. She didn't stop to even think about what she had seen until she was clear of the castle.
As Bram crashed through the floor of the tower, He twisted and came down flat on his stomach stunned. It took him only seconds to recover, but by then, Jandar and Asam had dropped down lower over the hole in the ceiling and were ready with the binding spell. From high above they began to chant.
POWERS OF EARTH.
POWERS OF WIND.
POWERS OF FIRE AND SEA.
WE STRIP THESE POWERS FROM THEE.
NO LONGER WILL THE WIND BLOW.
OR THE EARTH MOVE, WATER FLOW
OR FIRE BURN FOR THEE.
WE BIND THE ELEMENTS
AWAY FROM THEE.
As Bram screamed his outrage, nine rings slipped off his fingers and rolled away from him. With great effort, he climbed to his feet and turned to grab for his rings. Just then, the door to his study was kicked open and Vibius, Manius, Leda and Kranko rushed in with sword in hand. As Bram stepped back, the four dived at him and started stabbing down into his body. Blood rained all over the room as the mad warlock screamed and fell to the floor.
"This is not over!" He screamed. "Even death cannot hold me! I will be back, and I will make you all pay. I will make your children pay! So swears Bramble Tiberius Thorn!"
It was freezing cold as the mist parted and Bram sat up. He shook his head and looked around unsure of where he was. All he could remember was his anger. Someone had done something to him that caused him pain. As he sat thinking he remember who he was. He was Bramble Tiberius Thorn, master of the elements. He was a warlock of the highest caliber, standing up, Bram looked around and noticed the room he was in was completely white and empty. It wasn't a room; it was more like an alcove that opened into a hall. Walking on into the hall, he saw it was lined on both sided with marble columns and laurel trees. Down the center of the hall, a golden carpet leads him on further into a pair of great intricately carved doors. From the looks of all the splendor here, Bram knew he could only be in one place. If he was right, he knew what would be waiting for him on the other side of the doors. As he reached out and grabbed the handles of the door, he pulled them up. Sweet music made by lutes, lyres and pipes flowed out from the door. Heavenly sounds. Standing tall, Bram made his way in through the doors to face whatever this place was.
The chamber he had entered was wide with a high ceiling. Everything in the room was made of marble accept the ivory furniture and the many silk tapestries that hung on the walls. Two thrones sat on a dais at the top of a set of four stairs. This was someone’s palace home. Bram wondered who's.
As Bram turned, a tall man dressed it a pure white toga with a black tunic underneath came walking out from the side entrance. He had very tan skin, a dark beard and mustache and deep blue eyes. He looked very royal to Bram.
"Welcome Bramble Thorn." He said. "Welcome to your eternity."
"Where am I?" Bram asked. "And who are you?"
"You’re in my home in the realm I am master of." He smiled and walked down to the throne and sat down. "And I am Nestor, lord of the underworld. Welcome to your after life."
Bram gazed at the beauty of all the marble and ivory. The silk, satin and bowls of fresh fruit. The sweet sound of music and the fragrance of fresh flowers in the air that calmed his exhausted nerves. He thought he had finally found peace from all the torment of his life.
"Eternity here won't be so bad." Bram smiled and relaxed. "I can finally have peace in my life."
"Yes." Nestor smiled. "This is lovely isn't it? But I'm afraid you have it all wrong. This isn't your heaven. This is so you see what is to be denied from you. You've been judged and I'm afraid to say the judgement for you is torment for the rest of eternity for your crimes."
"What?" Bram couldn't believe what he was hearing. "My crimes? What about all the crimes against me? Years of abuse at the hands of my father and the Sorrowdown senate. What about all the beatings I took from my so called masters? What about the looks of fear and all the rocks and things thrown at me every time I tried to find a place to live? How many times have I been burned out of my home?"
"Those are crime yes, but none of that ever happened to you." The room darken as Nestor stood and walked down from his throne. "It was all in your mind. Do you have any idea of the suffering you have caused? Men, women and children dead all because of you. Humans, elves, dwarfs, fairies, all dead! Even the dead have suffered because of you. What have you to say for yourself?"
"I say." Bram looked up at Nestor defiantly. "Good. Why should you even care? I've filled your halls and ranks. You should thank me for what I've done."
"Thank you?" Nestor couldn't believe his imprudence. "Does life mean anything to you? Do you care about anything or anyone? What of your wife and daughter? Do they matter at all?"
"Jamerld and Mya?" He spit her name as if it caused a bad taste in his mouth. "That fairy bitch is the one that betrayed me. She's probably back in her father’s home. Why should I care about them? They mean nothing to me!"
"Such a sad little warlock." Nestor shook his head. Going back to his throne, Nestor sat down and took his staff in his hand. "Bramble Tiberius Thorn, for crimes you have committed against Keanna, I sentence you to Shounda Island where you will suffer at the hands of the elements you once controlled so expertly. Get off the island on your on, and you will have your peace. If not, you will suffer there forever with the voices screaming in your head!"
"Take him away!" Nestor slammed his staff down on the floor. Behind Nestor's throne, a door opened and five dark shadows came flying out. They grabbed Bram by his arms and legs and dragged him back towards the door.
"I will be back lord of the Underworld and I will make you pay just as I made Keanna pay for abusing me." He screamed. "Not even you can hold me in here! I WILL MAKE YOU ALL PAY!!"
When Bram woke up he was laying on a beach on a tropical island. He reached up and brushed the sand from his face and hair then sat up. He looked out at the land around him and saw it wasn't really a beach. There was sand but it stopped about twenty feet from the water then there was nothing but sharp rocks all the way up the shore as far as he could see, Steam rose from the water telling Bram it was hot, boiling hot.
Bram stood up and looked out over water and saw that not far away there was another island, but this one looked a lot more pleasant then the island he was on. Overhead, Bram saw storm clouds all gray an nasty and ready to drop its storm right on his head.
Remembering Nestor's sentence, he guessed this had to be Shounda island and he was still deep down somewhere in Nestor's underworld. This was a hell created specific just for him. Turning back into the island, he realizes tropical was the wrong word to describe Shounda island. It was more desolate and deserted. But since it had been made just for him, of course it was deserted. There were no trees, no grass, no vegetation at all. There was nothing here but a great rock, and a boat. Somewhere on the island there had to be a boat. Nestor said it would be here, so Bram knew it had to be here.
As Bram started his way up the rocky shore, the storm opened up and rain poured down on him. Freezing wind whipped across the island making the rain sting at him and beat at his face. Then something happened that sent chills through Bram's body. He started hearing voices in his head again. It wasn't the voices of his old masters, these voices were different. They made no sense at first. It was just gibberish. Then they started berating him and accusing him of murder and rape, some of the most horrible crimes. Bram dropped to his knees putting his hands to his ears but that did nothing. The voices just kept talking and screaming, rattling his mind.
Getting to his feet, Bram tried his best to ignore them and close his mind as best he could and go find the boat. With them hushed, he made his way further on up the shore. Steam rose from vents in the rock as he fought against the storm for every step. At one point the ground shook so much, he had to stop to keep from falling on the sharp rocks. But eventually it stopped and he went on until he found what he was looking for.
Of all places, high on a hill, Bram found his boat. It was a small single seated craft made of wood with oars to steer with. Now that he found the boat, he had to find somewhere safe to launch it from. He couldn't just drag it down to the water, without a safe spot on the beach. The rocks would just tear the bottom from the boat and he would sink and drown. Bram stopped said out loud.
"I'm dead. How can I drown?" In his head, an answer came from one of the many voices.
[It can't kill you. But you won't enjoy the feeling.]
"Shut up." He told himself and continued on up the shore.
It took him half an hour of walking until he came to what looked like a small cove. The water looked calm and this was the only place Bram had seen with trees and vegetation. It looked nice. Now all he had to do was go back and get the boat.
As Bram turned, his leg slammed into something. He looked down and there was the boat.
"Of course." He said. "This place is magic."
[Of course it is you idiot.]
Bram ignored the voice and reached down and grabbed the boat. Lifting it high he carefully made his way through the rocks and down to the tree line. Somehow the storm had settle making it easy for him to get down to the beach.
"Almost there." He said.
The voices in his head started laughing at him. Called him a simple stupid fool.
"SHUT UP!" Bram yelled. "I'm almost there!"
[You think it's going to be that easy?] A voice laughed. [Just wait.]
Ignoring them, Bram carried the boat down to the clear blue water and dropped it in. Climbing in, Bram used the oars and pushed his way out, then started rowing up away from the island.
[Wait for it.]
Looking out he could see the second island. It was close, so close. He was going to make it. Then as if he had done it himself, a storm raged in rocking the boat on the high waves. The wind picked up and steam burst into geysers from the ocean bottom.
[Here it is!!]
Like a bit of flotsam in a puddle, the boat was grabbed by a wave and dashed back to shore where rocks had suddenly replaced the sandy beach he had launched from. Like an egg the boat crashed into the rocks and Bram sank drowning to the bottom of the ocean.
As Bram scrambled to swim to the surface struggling to breathe, he slammed his head into the rocks, and down he sank. The last thing he heard in his head before he blacked out was.
[I told you. See you in the morning. Welcome to hell.]
Day after day, week after week, year after year, Bram struggled with the boat. Everyday a different place on the island, every day the same screaming voices in his head and every day the same results. He goes out in the boat, sometimes he almost makes it to the second island but every day he gets smashed back into the rocks to drown and Death wakes him to start all over again. Sometimes he drowned and sometimes he burned. Sometimes the ground opened and swallowed him and the boat and sometimes a tornado picked him up and dropped him on the jagged rocks. But in the end, it was always the same. Bram would die and come back in the morning. That was to be his eternity. Even if he didn't try, still it would end the same. He would die. Even if it meant the island sank, he would die.
As he opened his eyes this morning, a beautiful white haired woman in a long flowing gown stood over him. Bram sat up and said good morning to the goddess of death.
"Ready to start again?"
"What do you want from me Angela?" Bram sat up and glared at the goddess. "Leave me alone and let me get on with my mission."
"Mission?" She laughed. "Don't you mean punishment?"
"You want me to be sorry for the things I've done." Bram stood up. "But I'm not. The world deserved all I did and more. In fact when I escape here, I'm going to show Keanna what fear really is."
"Then I'm afraid you will never leave this island." Angela frowned down at him and started to fade away. "Enjoy your eternity. You deserve it."
"Just wait and see!" He screamed at the sky. "My time will come!!"
[Times a wasting Useless.] One of his voices said. [Get moving before something drops out of the sky on you.]
This was one of those rare times in Bram's hell when there was no storm. The sky was clear but gray since this wasn't really a sky but a dimension where Lord Nestor had control over everything. It was hot and as Bram walked the island he began to sweat like mad. First he went north to search but found nothing so he circled around to the west where it started getting hotter and hotter. Kneeling down, he put his hand to the ground and realized the heat was coming from underground. That meant volcanic activity. He would have to be careful. He didn't want to get burned by lava again.
Continuing on, Bram came to a hill. A rather large hill with smoke rising from the top. This must be the volcano. He wasn't surprised. This volcano hadn't been here yesterday and it won't be here tomorrow. That was how often the landscape changed in his hell.
[Can't let you get used to it around here can we.] The voice said. [That would be too easy. But since you'll never be leaving, we'll think of something different every day to torture you with. Won't that be fun.]
[So what will it be today?] Another voice said. [Fire? Lightning? Maybe we'll flood the island again. We always enjoy watching you drown.]
"If I had my powers, it would be different." Bram mumbled as he walked around the volcano.
[But you don't, so why do you just climb the volcano and jump in. Make it easy on yourself.]
"I won't give up. I'm getting off this island."
[Fat chance of that.] A voice said smugly.
So on Bram walked. He stumbled a few times and fell bruising and skinning his knees, but he got back up and kept going. As he reached the other side, he saw the boat laying there at the bottom of the hill.
Good he thought. Now that he had found it, all he had to do was find his launching spot and get himself off this damned island. Just then the ground started to shake as the volcano began to erupt. Bram looked up to the top just in time to see the top explode and go flying into the air. Without another thought, he took off running down the side of the volcano to keep from being caught in the flow of lava he knew would soon be coming down at him. All around him huge rocks rained down. Dodging left then right jumping out of the way of lava bombs as they fell he ran. With a quick look back, Bram stopped when he saw one coming he could dodge. It was so big there was nowhere for him to hide. This one would crush him no matter what he did. Raising his hands over his head, Bram screamed and did something completely unexpected. He pushed out with the power he had no idea he had and opened a great gape into shadow that swallowed the lava and saved his ass. Shocked at what he had just done, he looked at his hand and realized he still wore his ring of shadow.
Running on Bram smiled as an idea how to get off the island came to him. Laughing with madness he went on to the beach to find his launching area and the way off the island.
The memory of searing pain brought Bram back to consciousness. He sat up and screamed from the memory of being swallowed by an underwater volcano. With his burned eyes healed, Bram opened them and stared up at Angela who like every morning, was always there to taunt him.
"Aren't you tired of all this yet?" She asked. "You could end your torment with a few simple easy words. All you have to do is ask for forgiveness and it'll all be over."
"Forgiveness?" Bram laughed as he climbed to his feet. "I'm not the one who should be asking for forgiveness. The world should be begging me for forgiveness. But it doesn't matter anyway. That was my last death here. I'm leaving today thinks to you."
"Me?" She looked at him confused. "I have no intention of helping you leave here. And even if I wanted to help you, I couldn't. I don't rule here, Lord Nestor does."
"Yes." Bram smiled raising his hand and fingering his ring. "Lord Nestor, lord of the Underworld and your father if I'm not mistaken."
"So?" Angela took a step back. She didn't like the way Bram looked at her. He was up to something. "What would happen if you disappeared my lovely goddess of death? What would your father do to get you back?"
"You have no power here Bram Thorn." Angela pulled her cloak close around her shoulders ready to be gone. "Get back to your punishment and threaten me no more!"
"It's true I have no power in the Underworld." Bram raised his hand and pointed to Angela. "But I can do this!"
With a wave of his hand he projected a shadow behind Angela. Without looking she stepped back and was swallowed into his dark abyss. Snapping his fingers, he closed the shadow as the death goddess fell screaming into the darkness.
"Now we'll see what the life of a goddess is worth."
With Angela missing, all death on Keanna stopped. Hunting became impossible, the animals didn't die. Executions didn't work and no one died of murder or accident. Nothing could die. It took Lord Nestor all of two hours before the constant line at the gates to the Underworld was empty. Seeing no one on line for judgement, the spirit gate keeper sent word to the palace to tell Nestor something was wrong.
As Nestor wandered out through the outer gate, Zemos his chief justice came to meet him and stand at his side.
"How is this possible?" He asked waving to the empty road that led into the living dimension. "How is it that no one has died in the last few "
"I don't know my lord." Zemos said with fear in his eyes. "But this must be fixed. The world cannot go on without death."
"Without death?" These words rang something in Nestor’s heart. "Death. Where is my daughter? Where is Angela?"
"I haven't seen her since she came in to make her morning visits." Zemos watched as fire crept into Nestor's eyes. "She should have returned by now. Could there be trouble?"
"Bramble Thorn!" Nestor turned as flames began to surround him and leaped into the air and make his way to Shounda Island where the warlock waited for him.
In less than two minutes, Lord Nestor ruler of the Underworld was hovering over the shores of Shounda Island all ablaze with hellfire.
"BRAMBLE THORN, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!"
"Aiya Lord Nestor." Bram called up to him. "I have been expecting you. Please come down and make yourself comfortable."
Streaking down, Nestor landed with and explosion and towered over the lone warlock. Bram back up to keep from being burned by Nestor's fury.
"Where is she?"
"Somewhere safe that only I can bring her back from." Bram said as Nestor's heat became overwhelming. "You can search if you want, but you would be wasting yours and Angela's time and her sanity is in danger. You won't find her without me."
"What is it you want." Nestor asked calmly.
"I want my life back." Bram knew he had him. "I want my powers back and I want revenge against the ones that put me here."
"And you think you know who put you here do you?" Nestor folded his arms across his chest. He hated having to give the warlock what he wanted, but then maybe he could give him what he deserved.
"You want your life back?" Nestor's flame dissipated and he shrank down to normal size. "Granted. You free Angela and I'll give you a year to catch and kill who you think is responsible for you being in this hell. If you fail, you come right back here and your punishment goes on forever. Is it a deal?"
"What about my powers." Bram asked suspiciously. "Do I get them back?"
"Then you have a deal." Bram waved his hand and opened the portal to darkness and Angela fell out shivering to the ground. Nestor rushed to her side and held her in his arms to soothe her and assure her she was alright. Bram laughed as he watched the father and daughter. Nestor looked up at Bram.
"Go now before I change my mind." With a wave of his hand, Nestor made Bram disappear.
"Father." Angela whispered. "You shouldn't have let him go."
"He'll be back." Nestor held her head to his chest. "You can count on it."
In the high hills of Valturn in the nation of Hernborim sat the home of the most honored Battle mistress Leda Strongarm Redhelm. Leda was the daughter of Olin Hardfist Strongarm and the holder of Erdus the Silver mace. She held the highest rank of all warriors in Herborims warrior guild. Her attacks on the Dark elves in Tarsap and the taking of the fjord castle of Vandor were legendary. Songs were still to this day sung at festivals of her bravery at Heimdel castle against the element warlock Bram Thorn. How she single handed defeated him against his strongest spells and legions of warrior. After her return from Heimdel, Leda was put in place as the General of all Herborims armies. She was given lands and a home almost as splendid as the royal palace of the king. She would for the rest of her days sit second at his table at all honored event. Leda won all this and riches for her family name. She did all this with a lie.
It was late and Leda was tired from all the drilling and marching she had put her warriors through on the fields outside of Valturn’s walls. It had been her way to always march and practice with her warriors and today was no different. She put them through drills in hand to hand combat, storming towers which meant climbing and heavy weapons drills. Leda would have her warrior at their best. Being the holder of the silver mace, she had her pride and her name to protect.
"Fight to win." She told her warriors. "And win to fight on."
That was her motto and any dwarf who failed would face her and maybe never fight again.
Today with sore muscles, Leda rode in from the practice fields deep in thought. Gromor the Grim had come into Valturn two weeks ago and insisted on challenging her to a marriage battle. He did this at least twice a year hoping that she might accept or that he might be lucky in battle and win her hand. The thought of marriage really angered her. She needed no man for anything other than a few hours of lusty pleasure and to watch her back in battle. And none would ever be as good as her dead mate and father of her children Egon had been. He had been her one true shield mate partner in life. The one dwarf who would always be at her side until his death at the hands of a raiding band of Trolls. How she missed his dark eyes and feverish touch. He always knew what to say and how to keep her level headed and from jumping into battle before all the facts were known. But he was gone now and she was alone. She had no one but herself and a few she trusted to stand at her back. Unfortunately, tonight, that wouldn't be enough.
As Leda rode on, her mind was on how she could again keep Gromor at bay. Was she going to have to battle him again? She was tired of all this and just wanted it to stop. Year after year, battle after battle. Was she to cripple him or cause him permanent damage to stop his advances. What would it take for him to realize she would never under any circumstances commit to being his shield mate? No matter how prominent he was or hard he fought.
The road through Redhelm to the manor was dark at this time in the evening. All miners were home enjoying they're night’s dinner and all of her family would by now be assembled in the hall huddled around the fire waiting for her and to go in for the evening meal. Her sons would be boasting about today's challenger and her oldest daughter Strella would probably be teasing young Warwick about how undwarf like using a bow was.
Urging her horse on, Leda rode through the cobbled torch lit lane heading home, when she saw something in front of her that shouldn't be there. It was a wagon, and not the wagon of a dwarf, it was too big. It was the wagon of a human. Strange Leda thought. She hadn't given permission for any humans to pass through her land. As she strained her eyes she noticed strange writing on the sides. Mystic letters and symbols. Reaching to her saddle, Leda unclasped the strap holding her mace to the horse’s side just in case there would be trouble here, then rode on up to the wagon.
As she got closer, she could smell burning incense in the air. It was sage if she wasn't mistaken. Closer. Leda had a better look at the wagon. It was more of a small hut on wheels with windows and a door on the side. Other than the mystical writing, there was a large eye on the side. The markings of a fortune teller. Leda had seen them before in her travels through human cities and ports. Mostly gypsy beggars trading fake fortunes for coins. Well there was no need for anything like that here. She didn't want any human or dwarven magic practiced on her land. Whoever it was, they had to go.
Climbing down from her horse, Leda grabbed her mace and walked out to the wagon. Just as she approached, the camp fire suddenly burst into flames in the campfire. Surprised, Leda jumped to the side.
"Aiya warrior maiden." As Leda turned, she saw an elderly man with long grey hair and beard stepped down from the wagon. He was dressed in black pants, sandals and a grey tunic. There was a red sash around his waist and he wore gold in his ears. "What brings a fine warrior like you into my camp?"
"Your camp?" Leda looked at him with raised eye brows. "I don't think you know where you are. You are in Hernborim, Dwarf lands. This is the city of Valturn and this is my home. You are trespassing here."
"I like to think wherever I can lay my head is home." He shrugged. "It's more peaceful that way."
"That's a good way to find yourself in someone’s dungeon thinking like that." Leda walked around the wagon looking at the strange markings. There was a Pentagram, swastika, ankh and the mystical eye of power. Leda didn't know exactly what most of the symbols were, but she knew magic when she saw it and she didn't like it. She had fought many sorcerers, wizards and warlocks in her day and it was never good. She didn't want one anywhere near her home and family.
"You have to go." She fastened her mace to her belt. "Tonight, now."
"Oh an I came so far to be here." The fortune teller looked at her slyly. "Can't I just stay the night and rest?"
"No! Wait! You mean you knew you were in Hernborim? Who are you?"
"I like your ring." He smiled pointing out the ring on Leda's hand. "Where did you get it?"
"Spoils of war." She answered suspiciously.
"Then you won it fairly in battle and took it as a trophy?"
"Something like that." She said. "Who are you stranger?"
"Just a stranger here looking for something I lost." He shrugged. "Something you seem to have taken from me."
"Something I what?" Leda grabbed her mace and started stepping back away as the gypsy started laughing hysterically. Suddenly lightning started to flash and the wind picked up and began to howl. Hurricane winds came whipping out and through the trees bending and snapping some of them in half.
"Surely you remember me my dear Leda Redhelm." The wind picked him up and held him in the air as Leda grabbed on to a stump to keep from being blown away. "I am Bram Tiberius Thorn and you and your friends came in and attacked me! You killed my wife and baby, then when I was at my weakest point, you all fell on me, you killed me and sent me to hell! Now I'm back to repay all of you for my years of torture in hell starting with you!!"
As Leda screamed the winds picked her up and held her in midair. Like knives, wind beat at her and cut into her stripping her flesh from her bones. When Bram was done, the ring was back on his finger and her bones lay scattered all over the ground below. As Bram's laughter drifted on the winds, the wagon disappeared and the wind settled down leaving her armor and weapons there among her bones on the road.
The sun was just setting behind the mountains as Quynn Tyr, the true born son of Rage king of the Keanna dragons and his mate Jandar flew on towards home with his cousin Prince Ranjer Zlenka Tyr on his back. As his wings pumped the air to rise higher, his mind was in deep turmoil. He had failed his final test on summoning again. This was the third time he had failed to bring the dove he had summoned to him. Try as he might, all he could get was a single feather. Cutter had shook his head and just moved on to the next candidate for evaluation. Quynn just moved out of line ignoring the snickering of his classmates. He was embarrassed. He was the son of one of the greatest master mages on Keanna and he had fail not once but three times. His fathers would be so shamed he thought. He was to be the next master mage of the Dark wolf clan, but he couldn't even summon a common dove out of the nether realm. Something he should be able to do with ease.
He had passed all his other classes. Spell casting, enchantment, gesture magic, even curses and hexes. But summoning for some reason was beyond him. Jandar drilled and practiced with him for hours to make sure he knew the procedure, and he did know it. Every move, every word and gesture had been planted in his mind, but the second it was time for him to do the summoning, his mind went completely blank. His mouth would dry up and he would stumble over the spell then either nothing happened or it would go completely wrong. The first time he called for the dove and got a one-winged bat. The second time, nothing happened and this time, all he got was the one feather. A total failure.
After class, Cutter had taken him back to his office in the Academy for a talk. Quynn had shuffled along behind him with his head down, his brown hair with grey streaks covering his handsome face.
"Is there something on your mind young Dragonwolf?" Cutter sat down behind his desk waving Quynn to a chair up front. He looked into Quynn's golden eyes, the eyes that so reminded him of Rage. "I know you know this. You should be able to do it in your sleep. What's stopping you?"
"I don't know Master." He sat back looking away from the teacher. "Everything gets jumbled in my head every time I try. I can almost feel it there just out of my reach, but I can't get it."
"What about when your alone or practicing with your father?" Cutter leaned forward. "Does it work then?"
"Yes, sometimes." Quynn said. "But sometimes I think it's really my father guiding what I'm summoning to me. I know he just wants me to succeed."
"He means well." The teacher nodded. "But this is something you have to learn to do for yourself. Listen Quynn, I won't fail you yet. The summer break is just beginning. I'll give you until autumn class begins before I give you your final grade. Take your time and rest and relax and practice on your own. Come see me on the first day of the autumn solstice and you can take your final again."
"What if I fail again?" He asked. Quynn looked scared. Summoning was a great part of his mystical family heritage. Every mage of the Dark wolf clan had to master it before he could reach the rank of Master and this was all that was holding him back.
Cutter stood and led Quynn to the door to his study. "You are young Dragonwolf. Much younger than your father was or any of the other Tyr ancestors were when they reached the rank of Master. You have time to live before you have to take the responsibilities of a Master. Go out and enjoy the summer. Time will always be your friend."
Quynn had no idea what he meant by that that, by it did ease his mind a little. Bowing to Cutter, Quynn left his study and hurried through the halls to the transport stone to head to the lobby of the Academy.
There, his tall blond cousin Ranjer waited for him while talking to Mera Serban. When he saw Quynn coming they waved to him.
"Well?" Ranjer asked impatiently. "How'd it go?"
Looking somber, Quynn stopped and looked up at him. Ranjer frown and sighed.
"You couldn't do it?" Mera said.
"No." He shook his head. "I failed. He's going to kill me."
"No he won't!" Ranjer threw his arm around his cousin’s shoulder and they started out of the Academy doors. "Uncle Jandar's never raised his voice at you in your life and you know that. Now Uncle Rage is gonna kill ya."
Quynn groaned. He hadn't even thought about his other father. He was much more one for discipline.
"Oh relax." Ranjer laughed. "They'll understand. Your fathers are two of the fairest people on Keanna. It's not like you can never test again. You can, right?"
"Yeah, I just have to practice and wait until the autumn solstice."
"Good." Mera said. "I know you'll get it eventually. I have to go; I'll see you guys late."
They both waved to her as she climbing into a coach on her way home for the summer. "Do you want me to come back to New Keanna with you? I have plenty on time. I want to go see Uncle Ono anyway."
"Sure." Quynn smiled. "They like you, they won't yell if your there. I'll give you a ride."
Rain poured and lightning flashed as Bly sped her way over the border out of Fay Shrea and into the free lands outside of New Keanna. There was trouble and she had to get too New Keanna to warn the Dragons before it was too late. Zig zagging her way across the land, she remembered back two days ago when it all had started.
It was late in the night when Bly stepped out of her small house in the underground city of Ammath. She looks across to the time tower that stood in the middle of the square. It read almost midnight. Her father should be done with all his city business by now and be ready for her. Spreading her wings, Bly lifted off and sailed on through the dimly lit corridors of Ammath. She passed the homes of the common faeries who went about their business like any other day. They opened shops where they worked on all the jewelry they made and sold in Human, dwarf and elf cities. Then on to the higher ranked members of their society. Owners of mines and the generals of the Ammath warriors, the council of elders that served as her father’s advisers. All their homes were close to the king great house. Then in the middle on the hill sat the palace of Valerian Sharpwing, king of the Ammath faeries.
As Bly made her way through the gates she noticed something strange. The guards that were always here on watch, were gone. That she thought was odd. The king had his own personal guards trained just to protect him. She couldn't think of any reason why they wouldn't be at their post except.
Suddenly a cold feeling crept up through her stomach. Bly quicken her speed and hurried on. From there she entered the front hall of the palace. She stopped abruptly when she saw the devastation all around her. It looked like an earthquake had torn through the palace. The floor had completely buckled and was now nothing but a great open pit. Walls were down and the beautiful furniture of the palace was trashed. Fearing for her father’s life, Bly flew in ready to fight. From room to room she saw nothing but carnage. Bodies of palace staff and the king’s guards lay everywhere dead, ripped apart.
Horrified, Bly flew on to the king’s throne room. In the hall to the king’s throne room, Bly stopped, landed and ran to the doors. From inside she could hear a maniacal laugh echoing through the room.
"You thought me dead, didn't you!" She heard. "You thought you were safe but you were wrong! You, your damned daughters and the others thought me dead and in hell, but not even hell can hold me! Nothing can stop Bram Thorn from getting what is due to him!"
"You won't win you monster!" Bly know that voice. It was Bram Thorn! But that wasn't possible. He's dead and in hell. She had to get her father out of there.
"Kill me if you want, just like you killed your wife and child. But your evil will be destroyed. Someone will send you back to hell."
"NEVER!!" Bram laughed. "After I kill and take back my rings I will live forever. Even Death fears me!"
[Father!] Bly sent. [I'm coming to save you!]
[No! Go Bly. You’re the only hope. Get to the Dragons. find his rings and send him back to hell. I'm already dead.]
[No father! Let me help you.]
[It's to late.] She could feel his life slipping away. [Go, save yourself. I love you my daughter. You’re the only hope to stop him. Aiya Bly.]
Suddenly there was a great crash and a blinding flash of light from inside the room. At that moment, Bly knew her father was dead. Now it was up to her to stop Bram. She had to find help and get the rings to put an end to Bram's threat and she knew where she had to go. She had to go find the Dragons. They were her only hope.
As Quynn and Ranjer walked into Jandar and Rage's suite in the Manor, Rage rushed by bumping into them. He looked at his son, hugged him and put their foreheads together in their usual greeting.
"There's food in the kitchen." He said rushing out. "Rose will make sure you have whatever you need while we're gone. Have a good summer Dragonwolf. Hurry Jandar, every one's outside waiting."
"Wait!" Quynn called as Rage ran out. "Where are you going?"
"There's trouble overseas." Jandar said as he finished putting things in a small bag and put it over his shoulder. "We're taking everyone except Ariel and Toric since her baby is due any day now."
"We want to come." Quynn said eagerly. "We can help."
"I'm sure you can." Jandar kissed his son’s forehead. "But I'd rather you stay here in case Ariel needs help. Toric is going to be a basket case so she'll need someone to help keep him calm. I don't know how long this will take but we'll try and keep you informed if we can. If you need us, you call understand?"
As Jandar started to leave, he stopped and turned back to Quynn and Ranjer.
"I'm forgetting something." He looked back at the two handsome young men. "There's something I was supposed to ask you."
"I have no idea what you mean." Quynn give Ranjer that look that said don't open your mouth. Ranjer looked away innocently.
"Whatever it is I'll remember and send to you." Jandar waved as he left. "Have a good summer boys and don't destroy the Manor while were gone. I love you both."
"Aiya Father." Quynn waved as he left.
"Now what?" Ranjer asked.
"Now we have the whole Manor to ourselves." Quynn smiled. "You know what that means?"
"A party." Ranjer clapped his hands in anticipation. "Who should we call first?"
[Quynn!] Rage sent. [Don't do it.]
[I know what you’re thinking.] He sent. [And it's out of the question. You can have a few friends over but absolutely NO PARTY. Do I make myself clear?]
[Yes father.] He turned to Ranjer. "So much for that idea. Want to go for a swim in the bay? There should be Mermaids down there. We'll have company."
"Sure." Ranjer smiled. "That sounds like fun."
The water was cool and the sun was hot. It was a perfect day for a party in the bay. Mermaids swam along while in Dragon and wolf form, Quynn and Ranjer dived in and out on the waves. With a basket lunch on the shore waiting, the two had a fantastic day together in the surf and sand.
By the time the sun had slipped to the west, Quynn sat up and saw something strange in the distance. It was a dark spot on the ocean boiling and rumbling towards them. Quynn sat up and pointed.
"Look. What's that?"
Ranjer sat up and put his hand to his brow to shield it from the sun.
"I don't know." He said. "A storm maybe?"
"That size?" Quynn stood up. "A storm would be much bigger, it would cover the whole horizon, not just one spot."
"I don't know what it is." Ranjer jumped to his feet. "But it’s coming this way."
As Quynn and Ranjer stared out into the bay, the spot came in closer. Little flashes of light bounced off and on through the disturbance. Then, it looked like some kind of storm cloud, but as they watched, they realized it was a water elemental. And it was fighting something.
"What is that?" Ranjer asked confused. "There's something flying around it."
"It's a Fairy!" Quynn ran down to the water’s edge. "And it's in trouble!"
"What kind of fairy moves like that?" Ranjer stepped into the water getting ready to swim out to help.
"Ranjer." Quynn dived in and surfaced. "Stay here. I can swim much faster as a dragon then you can. Be ready in case it makes it to the shore."
"Ok." Ranjer agreed. "But you better hurry."
Diving in, Quynn concentrated and started to shift to his dragon form. His body stretched and more than tripled in length until he was over fifteen feet long with a tail that trailed behind him another five feet. His handsome form grew wings and scales and he took on the black and gray colors of a timber wolf. His snout grew out and his teeth and claws grew long. Now Dragonwolf glided through the water like an arrow through the air.
As his eyes fixed on the water elemental, Dragonwolf saw the fairy fighting for her life. She sent mystic blasts again and again at the elemental with no effect other than to annoy it. As it reached out with a hand formed of water, the fairy blasted it apart, but that didn't stop the water monster. As fast as the fairy blasted hands away, another reformed to take its place. Eventually it grabbed her and pulled her down into the water,
Dragonwolf dived down going deep after the fairy. With a swipe of his claw, he broke the spirit apart and grabbed the fairy and pushed his wings to drive him to the surface. Flying out of the water, he looked back just in time to see the elemental dive up out of the water at him. With a mighty blast of his breath, flames flashed out and blasted into the elemental. With a loud screech the elemental fell back and dissolved back into the water. With the fairy in his arms, Dragonwolf turned and flew on back to the beach where Ranjer was waiting.
Back on the beach, they moved to a shady place under the cliffs where He laid her down and shifted back to his normal self. The fairy had dark blue skin and blazing red hair and wings. She was huge for a fairy, over five feet tall. There were some pretty formidable talons on her hands. They know this fairy was meant for fighting. But who was she and where did she come from?
"Is she breathing." Ranjer asked as they stood over her.
"I think so."
Suddenly she coughed and threw up water she had taken in. Then she lay back and they could see she was breathing normally.
"What kind of fairy is she?" Ranjer asked. "I've never seen one so big."
"I don't know." Quynn said. "I guess we'll have to wait until she wakes up to find out. I'll stay here, why don't you go back to the manor and get some food and blankets. We'll stay here for the night."
"Ok." Ranjer turned and moved away then shifted to his condor form and took off for the Manor. [I'll be right back.]
As Quynn waited he gathered wood from the forest and built a fire to keep them warm. With a simple snap of his fingers, he set the pile he had built a blaze. Unsure of exactly what the fairy could eat, he decided to get a little fishing done. Quickly he dived back in the water and scared up a few fish they could roast on the fire. As he climbed back on the beach and dropped his catch, the fairy moaned and opened her eyes.
"Aiya." He said as she sat up. "How do you feel?"
"Like I should be dead." She moaned as she looked up at him. "Where am I?"
"You’re at the base of the Cliffs of Kolvar." He told her. "New Keanna is just over the top."
"New Keanna!" She tried to get up and fell back down. "You mean I made it!!"
"Easy!" Quynn helped her to sit back up. "Relax, get your strength back before you get hurt. I don't know if you made it. Depends on where you were going."
"I'm looking for the Dragons. This is their home right?"
"Yeah." Quynn smiled. "We live here and you found one. I'm Quynn Tyr, son of Kings Rage and Jandar. Can I ask who you are?"
"My name is Bly Sharpwing. I knew your parents long ago. I've come to warn them of desperate trouble ahead. I must talk to them."
"I'm afraid my parents aren't here." Quynn told her. "And I have no idea when they will be back."
"Then we're all in deep trouble because Bram Thorn is alive and he wants all of us dead!!"
Battered and bruised, Niro Herkalus lay exhausted and in pain on his bunk in his single cell. It had been a torturous year in Sorrowdown. He had been beaten and used in unspeakable ways since he had been condemned to slavery. He once had everything. He was the son of Sorrowdown’s most decorated general. They had a beautiful home, a wonderful family. Niro was tutored by one of the best teachers and the family had the respect of everyone including the Emperor. But all that fell apart because of the betrayal of a friend.
It was a beautiful day in Sorrowdown. Niro had spent most of it studying in the garden and sparring in his father’s gladiator pits. As much as Niro loved sparring, wrestling and practicing with the swords, he really hated this place. All his father’s gladiators were slaves. They were brave desperate men battling for their freedom which Niro knew his father would never grant them. They could win every match set before them and it wouldn't matter. Vibius Gauis Herkalus would never let his prize stable of fighters go free. Not in a million years. Niro knew their only chance was for him to inherit the gladiators, and then he could find some way to set them all free.
But to do that, his father would have to die. Vibius was getting up there in years, but he was still strong as a bull. He would live many more years and see a lot more fighting before he died. Niro was sorry, but there wasn't anything he could do about it, so he learned all he could about fighting. He learned to wrestle and to fight with his fist. He learned sword play and how to fight with every weapon from a quarter staff to defending himself with nothing but a dagger. While learning to fight, his tutors taught him history and the maths. He learned to grasp numbers and to add and subtract.
Though Niro enjoyed his classes, he always wondered what it was his father was preparing him for. It wasn't to be in the military. Vibius was very strongly opposed to that idea. Somewhere in there, Niro knew there was a mystery. There was something his father wanted him to do. He often saw him watching him practice from a distance, but he couldn't tell whether he approved or not. Niro figured one day, Vibius would tell him what it was all about. Then came that beautiful day that everything changed.
After a long day of study and a tiring session sparring, Niro had spent an hour at the baths relaxing. He had his muscles massaged and had a nice soak in a warm pool, then dressed to head back to his father’s house. As he stepped out of the baths, he saw many solders on the streets hurrying out towards the estates of the nobles. Someone was in trouble. Niro had seen this before when someone fell out of favor with the Emperor.
Not giving it another thought, Niro wandered on into the market place where he purchased fruit and flowers for his mother. Just a little something to make her smile. She deserved it. As he left the fruit stand, he noticed two soldiers standing near a baking stand watching him. As he passed Niro nodded to them. They nodded back with a strange smile.
As Niro walked home, more and more soldiers kept running by. Whoever they were after must have a villa near his parent’s place. He wondered who it could be. The two closest were a senator whose villa was to the left of theirs and a second cousin to the Emperor who lived to the right. But as he came to the split in the road Io the three estates, he realized they were heading to his father’s house. Scared Niro dropped his packet and begin to run home.
At the gate to his father’s estate, soldiers had gathered. The gate had been torn down and the bodies of some of his father’s house staff lay all around the compound dead. Niro strong armed his way through the gate and made it to the front door before he was overcome by soldiers and stopped.
"Niro Herkalus?" A solider in bright shining armor with a long blue feather in his helmet stepped out. "You are under arrest."
"What is the meaning of this?" Niro yelled at them. "By whose authority?"
"By the order of the Emperor." He unrolled a scroll and began to read. "For the crime of sedition against the empire and disobeying a direct order, Vibius Gauis Herkalus, his family and all that he owns is now the property of the empire. All properties will be sold and the profits forfeited to the empire. All members of the family will be sold into slavery with the exception of Vibius and his wife Helen who will be held for execution."
"Nooooo!!!" Niro screamed as he tried to fight his way loose. With a smart crack on his head, Niro fell daze to the ground.
"Your mother, Helen has been taken into custody." The captain tucked the scroll under his arm. "Your father however is still at large. He will be hunted down no matter where he hides, brought back and crucified. You, Niro Hekalus will be sold as a slave at the slave market in two days. Take him away!"
As Niro was dragged away, he saw wagons pull up and the soldiers started emptying the house and loading things into the wagons. All his families’ prized possessions were gathered and taken away just like he was. Away to the market to be sold.
Tortured and abused, Niro slept uneasy while outside of his cell, Grimmer Protorius watched with a wicked glint in his eye. Grimmer had been there the day Niro was put on the auction block. He had been there checking out prospects for the pits of Gladicus Moreo, the highest winning house of all the gladiatorial camps.
Grimmer had seen him chained being beaten and kicked by the guards. Niro had been ordered to never look up into the guard’s eyes, but Niro was no common slave to follow orders. He had been a citizen of Sorrowdown, one of high rank and obedience was not something that came easy. Grimmer had seen the rebellious look in Niro's eye. The look of a real fighter. He liked what he saw and decided to talk his owner into buying the boy to fight under his name.
Niro's short close cut blond hair, blue eyes and handsome form had been what caught Grimmer's eye. Standing there naked with sweat running off his muscled body, Grimmer couldn't take his gaze away from him. His thick muscled legs and broad back and the angel tattoo on his shoulder. The golden hair on his chest and the long cock that swung from side to side when he moved made Grimmer's mouth water. He would cost a great deal of coin, but Grimmer promised he would bring many victories to the house of Gladicus.
From the first day Niro arrived, Grimmer knew his training would not be easy. He refused to accept his new role as a gladiator slave. Grimmer could tell from the way he carried himself that fighting was not alien to Niro. With wooden sword in his hand, he fought his way through slave after slave until his whole body was black and blue and he was exhausted. But still Niro fought back against his master and trainers. If he was told to be silent, he talked. If he was told to stay still, he would keep moving. If he was told to keep his head down, he held it high and stared right back at his oppressors. And yes, Niro was punished. He was whipped and he was tied down, He was put into seclusion on many occasions and he was even denied food for a time. But Grimmer would always make sure the punishment was never too harsh. And that was not out of friendship or pity. Grimmer wanted something else from Niro. And he knew he would get it.
It had been over a year since Niro had been purchased by house Gladicus. He had won every match they had set up for him and made a lot of money for Gladicus, but he was just as defiant today as he was the day he arrived. He had endured beatings, some torture and isolation. He had been starved and made to watch as others were being tortured, but today Grimmer had something different for him.
Niro had won his last match. He had beaten three fully armed men while he had only been given a single dull sword with very little armor. Niro was a very smart fighter. He had learned to never allow his opponents to attack en mass. He had taken them one then the next two at the same time and beaten all three. But once he had them defeated, he refused to kill or bow to his owner in the stands.
Frustrated, Grimmer sent in the guards with lassos and clubs who beat Niro down and tied him up. When Niro woke up he was in a room tied standing naked from the ceiling. He pulled and tugged on his bindings trying to get himself free but they were way too strong for him to break. Then he heard the creaking sound of a door opening and someone walked out in front of him where he could see him. It was Grimmer Protorius, his sadistic trainer.
"Niro Herkalus." Grimmer walked up to stand right in his face. "Haven't I given you everything a slave could ask for? You get all the best foods, you train every day and we don't make you work the fields. Why do you still show us disrespect?"
"Because I'm a free man." Niro shouted. "You killed my family and put me here. I hate you all and I'm going to get out of here."
"Not before I'm done with you." Grimmer ran the small baton he was holding down from Niro's nipple to below his scrotum lifting them up. "Nice."
"Stop what?" Grimmer ran the baton down the length of his cock making it respond by growing and swelling. As blood began to pump into Niro's manhood, his erection grew longer and thicker until he was fully hard. Grimmer smiles looking into Niro's eyes. "Well look what we have here. You like when I touch you here?"
"Get away from me!!" Niro pushed and shoved but Grimmer had a good hold on his special part and he wasn't letting go.
"I will teach you to have more respect for me and your owner." With his other hand Grimmer untied his loincloth and let it drop to the floor. "You belong to me now Niro. You’re mine forever nothing will stop me from getting what I want!!"
For the next week, Niro never left that room. He was tied and hung from the ceiling for Grimmer to use whenever he wanted and Grimmer did use him. He used Niro's body like his own private sex toy. He would have him hand fed once a day and cleaned, then at night Grimmer would be back for what he called another private training session. He said the object was to break Niro's spirit and teach him respect, but all he really did was teach him how to hate. And Niro did learn to hate. It wasn't the sex. This wasn't the first time he had sex with a man. It was Grimmer. He hated him and every time he touched him. This was not what Niro thought sex should be. He would never touch anyone else and force himself on them, man or women. This was rape and that was a crime against another person’s body and mind. But Niro being as strong minded as he was, gritted his teeth and suffered without giving Grimmer the pleasure of hearing him scream.
After the week was over, Grimmer cut Niro down and had him taken back to his cell and cleaned up and fed a proper meal. He would need some rest for his next fight. As Niro lay in his cell he made the decision that this was it. Once he had a weapon in his hand, this time it would be either he escaped or he died trying to be free. And he was right, for in two days, Niro would be free again.
It was later at night and the crowd roared as two gladiators battled each other for the nights win. In an alley to the rear of the coliseum a hooded figure slipped from shadow to shadow as he entered a side entrance to the arena. With skill and precision, he made his way to the center dungeon where the fighters all waited their chance in the hot sands. As he entered the gladiator pens, two guards stood watch at the doors of the pens to the two houses that battled tonight. On the right, house Gladicus and to the left the warriors of house Appius. Staying in the shadows, the hooded man crept out and around the corner to stand right behind the guard to house Gladicus. He reached up and grabbed the guard by his mouth and put a knife through his heart. As he fell, the guard on house Appius heard him hit the floor and saw the intruder. Reaching for his sword, the guard jumped and went to attack the intruder. As he dived in to attack, something hit him in the chest. Falling to his knees, the guard watched as the intruder approached him and pulled a dagger free from his chest and pushed his corpse out of his way.
At the door to house Gladicus cells, the stranger reached up and grabbed the lock. With a quick twist he snapped it and tossed it to the floor. Opening the door, the intruder went in calling out a name.
"Niro Herkalus! Where are you?"
"Over here." Came the answer from a cell to his left.
As the hooded man ran to the door the rest of the gladiators jumped to their cell doors calling for their freedom.
"Who are you?" Niro asked. "What do you want?"
Pushing back his hood, Vibius Gauis Herkalus reached down and broke the lock to his son’s cell. He pulled the door open, grabbed his son and hugged him.
"It's me Niro." He said. "Your father. I'm here to get you out of here."
"Father!" Niro hugged him relieved to see him alive. "I thought they had killed you."
"It's not that easy to kill this old war dog." He smiled. "But we don't have much time. They'll be coming for you soon. Take this, it's called Stormfury, it'll help you get out of here. It's very special, don't lose it.
Vibius pushed his ax into Niro's hands.
"I want you to free all these gladiators." Vibius told him. "With their help, you can fight your way out of the coliseum. There are horses waiting at the north gates of the arena. Get out of Sorrowdown."
"You’re coming with me right father? I won't go without you."
"You have to." Vibius took a ring off his hand and placed it on Niro's hand. "I have a score to settle with the Emporor. He killed your mother. Don't wait for me. I'll keep them busy while you escape."
"Please father." Niro begged him. "We can do this together. Don't go alone."
"Niro." Vibius held his son at arm’s length. "I knew something like this was going to happen. I had you tutored by the best teachers in Sorrowdown. I'm proud of you and you have to live. I can't let Sorrowdown destroy you like it did me. You have a future. A great future fixing one of my mistakes. Go, fulfill that future."
With that, Vibius turned and ran out of the cell. Niro didn't know what his father meant by that comment about his future, but if he could get out of Sorrowdown, he would at least have one.
With keys from the body of one of the guards, Niro opened the cells from each house and let all the warriors out. Grabbing weapons and armor, they all crowded around the entrance to the arena ready to go in and get their revenge for all the years of abuse at their master’s hand. From the other side of the door, they could hear the cheers of the crowd. The mad lust to see a warrior be butchered in battle. Well they had seen the last contest for this night. Now it was their turn and each man swore he would die before going back in chains.
As Niro hushed the men, the door opened and three guards came in to get the next set of gladiators. Hands reached out and grabbed the guards and beat them down into unconsciousness. Quickly they were stripped of their uniforms then dragged into cells where they were tied and locked away.
"The only way out is through the northern gate." Niro told them. "Together we go out and we don't stop until we're out of the arena, agreed?"
With nods all around, Niro threw open the door and they all started out into the sandy arena. As they stepped out, the crowds went wild. Everyone jumped to their feet surprised to see so many gladiators come out into the arena. There were many favorites here from both houses and it looked as if there was about to be some kind of battle royale. As they moved across the floor, Niro looked high up into the stand above the northern gate where Emperor Midoa Pontius Paratus and the owners of house Gladucus and Appius sat. The two owners leaped to their feet knowing this was not a planned event. Something out of the norm was happening here. Shouting orders, guards from both houses leaped into action running down to intercept the gladiators.
"NOW!" Niro yelled as he pulled his father’s axe from his side and ran at the crowd of warriors coming at them. When the first man faced off with him, Niro stopped and planted his feet. The warrior charged raising his sword to slice down at him. Niro gripped Stornfury's handle with two hands and let the sword come down hard on the shaft. Then he swept up catching the warrior in the chest piercing his armor lifting him up and threw him to the side. For a second Niro was amazed at his strength. He had never been that strong before, but now wasn't the time to ponder such miracles. More warriors were on the way.
Slashing and cutting, Niro and his warriors fought their way to the balcony above the north gate where the Emperor and the owners stood screaming orders at the warriors. Suddenly from behind a curtain behind the Emperor, Vibius jumped out and in seconds put his sword through the chest of Gladicus and Appius. As he pulled his sword free and advanced on the Emperor, two more warriors rushed in between him and the Emperor.
"So Vibius." Midoa sneered. "I killed your woman and your son fights below in the arena. Now I have you. Just give me what I want and maybe I'll have mercy and allow you to live."
"Why?" Vibius asked. "I was always faithful to you and the empire. I would have given my life for you. Why did you and Manius betray me?"
"Because you are a fool!!" The Emperor spit at him. "And you failed me!!
"How? I killed Thorn just as you ordered. You ordered him dead and we killed him."
"Yes you killed him fool." Midoa said. "But you and the others took something from him before he died didn't you. You took his rings but you did not turn them over to me."
"So Bram Thorn is alive again you idiot!" Midoa screamed at him in a rage. "He is alive and he will be coming for me! I need his rings to protect myself from his power!"
"That is not possible." Vibius didn't believe a word the Emperor said. "How can he have survived his wounds?"
"He didn't survive. He died and went to the Underworld. But you underestimate his power. He found a way back. I've seen him in my dreams. He comes for me and his revenge!"
"You betrayed me over a nightmare?" Vibius couldn't believe the Emperor could be such a superstitious fool.
"It was no nightmare Vibius! My dreams are special. He will come and destroy Sorrowdown to get to me! Only his rings can save me. Give it to me now!"
"I will give you something Midoa." Vibius lifted his sword. "But you won't have to worry about Bram Thorn killing you. I will have that pleasure myself!"
Scared for his father’s life, Niro leaped to the platform and was ready to jump in to fight at his father’s side.
"NO!" Vibius yelled at him. "Get out! This is my fight! Go to Fay Shrea and find the elven King Philibar Windstar in Pelordra, he'll explain everything! Then go find Manius Regulus, he's the one that betrayed us. Get the ring from him! Now Go!"
As Niro watched his father fight and parry sword thrust at him. Emperor Midoa slipped up behind him and stabbed him in the back.
"Nooo!!" Niro screamed running to leap into the balcony box. With a mighty backhand, Vibius slashed out at the Emperor ripping his face open from his cheek to his forehead. With a last burst of energy, Vibius plunged his sword through the Emperors chest killing him.
"GO!" Vibius yelled holding his sword high for the next attack. "Go get our revenge and fix my greatest wrong for me. You’re my only hope!"
With a quick nod, Niro jumped down and ran for the northern gate followed by what was left of the gladiators. Once in, they slammed down the gate and barred it.
"Hurry." Niro said to the gladiators. "We have to go now!"
"Not so fast." Said a voice from the shadows. Grimmer stepped out sword in hand smiling. "Is my puppet leaving without saying good bye? I can't have that. I'd miss you way too much."
"Go." Niro waved the others away. "Get out of Sorrowdown and leave him to me."
"They don't matter." Grimmer said as the escaping gladiators ran pass him. "They'll be caught. You’re the one I want."
"I don't think you're going to like our little play session this time." Niro advanced on Grimmer slowly waving his axe from side to side. "I'm not so helpless anymore."
"Doesn't matter." Grimmer smiled holding his swords ready. "When you lose, this time I won't stop fucking you until you're dead."
Like two wild elephants they clashed with Grimmer being thrown back against the wall by Niro's great strength. As Grimmer scrambled to get to his feet, Niro stepped up on him holding Stormfury's head at Grimmer's heart.
"Don't like it when they can fight back, do you?"
Stepping back, Niro let Grimmer get to his feet and retrieve his swords. With a grim look on his face, Grimmer tried again slashing down at Niro and stabbing with his short sword. Unfortunately for him, Niro just smiled and again knocked him back knocking the swords from his hand.
"Wait!" Grimmer cried. "It wasn't me! I only did what I was ordered to do!"
"Then die like a good little soldier."
With a single swing, Niro slammed his axe head straight into Grimmer's heart. He screamed and fell back against the wall then slid down dead at Niro's feet. Looking down at his rapist, Niro spit on his corpse, pulled his axe free then turned and ran out up the ramp to freedom.
He knew his parents were both dead now and there was nothing here for him in Sorrowdown but chains and enemies. It was time to go out in the world and see what was out there for him. First stop, King Philibar of Pelordra. Maybe he would have some answers.
As Bram stood in the ruined study of Castle Heimdel, the voices in his head wouldn't stop talking to him. Each of the five voices bullied him. Tell him he would never succeed in his plans. How he was a failure and would end up right back on Shoudra island fighting to get that boat to the next shore.
"SHUT UP!" He screamed beating at his head. "I am not a failure! You'll all see! I'll crush my enemies and take Jamerld back. Once I find the rings, her and the baby, I'll bring back them back here where they will be safe in our home. Then Keanna will suffer for all it's done to us!"
"You’re mad!!!" The voices laughed. "You are a mad crazy fool and all you have to look forward to is an eternity in hell!!"
"We'll see." Bram shouted at the empty sky over head. "We'll see who has the last laugh!"
As Quynn, Ranjer and Bly sat in the kitchen of the Manor, Toric helped Ariel in and led her to a comfortable seat. Pregnant, she sat down and placed her hands on her stomach then looked at the three young ones.
"Now what's this all about?" She asked.
"It's about someone from the past." Bly explained from her seat on Quynn's shoulder. "Have you heard of Bram Thorn?"
"Vaguely." Toric handed Ariel a cold drink. "I remember Jandar telling me something about a crazy warlock Valkar sent them to see about. Something about an Elemental I think. But if I remember it right, he's supposed to be dead."
"He is." Bly said. "Or he was. Somehow he's returned from the underworld and he wants revenge on all of us who sent him there."
"And by us." Ariel put down her cup. "I'm guessing you mean Jandar and Rage?"
"Yes." Bly nodded her head. "Jandar, Rage, all the Dragons and everybody responsible for his death and their families."
"That's a lot of people." Toric whistled. "Is he that powerful?"
"I believe he is." She said tearfully. "Three days ago he came to Fay Shrea. To Ammath where my father was the king. We are a warrior race of fairy. One of the most powerful of all the fairy kingdoms. He killed my father and everyone else in Ammath and destroyed our home. I am now the last Ammath fairy on Keanna."
"By the gods!" Quynn said in shock. "We're so sorry. What can we do to help?"
"I need your fathers to help me send him back to the underworld." Bly explained. "If we don't stop him, he'll be after all of us."
"You better warn them." Toric told Quynn. "Have then return as fast as possible."
"I've been trying." Quynn said. "I'm not getting any kind of response."
"Nothing?" Ariel asked. "Can you feel then at all?"
"I can feel them." Quynn stood and went to the window to look out. "I can always feel them. I feel my dad’s, Ono, Shayn and all the others. I just can't reach them."
"What about Jax?" Toric asked. "Can you reach him?"
"Nothing." Quynn shook his head. "He's not answering either. Maybe it's me."
"No." Ariel shook her head. "I'm not getting anything either. Looks like for now, you’re on your own."
"Me?" Quynn turned surprised at what he had just heard." What's that mean?"
"As much as we would like to help." Toric said. "We can't go. The baby’s due any day now. She can't even fly right now. It's up to you and Ranjer to help, if he agrees to help you."
"Of course I'll help." Ranjer stepped up. "We're family. We can stop and tell Tof where I'm going. I'm sure he won't mind."
"Valkar too." Ariel cut in. "Go there first. He might have more information on this Bram. You do know who else was involved in Bram's death right? You know who he'll be hunting?"
"Yes, I know who he'll be after." Bly told them. "Your right. We should go to Yadessa next. He'll be after Tomz Acros of Prafa."
"Then you should get going." Toric helped Ariel up. "This Bram may be crazy, but I don't think he'll be wasting anytime."
"Keep trying your fathers." Toric shook Ranjer's hand as Quynn hugged his aunt Ariel. "We'll keep trying too and get New Keanna ready just in case Bram tries to pay us a visit."
"What if he does?" Quynn stopped worried. "Maybe we should stay."
"Don't worry about us." Ariel smiled. "New Keanna has its own defenses and we're not weaklings with magic. There are others here who can help should he show his face here. You go warn the others and stop him from killing anyone else."
After collecting a few things from the pantry, Quynn, Ranjer and Bly stepped outside the gates of New Keanna. Quynn handed the bag to Ranjer and stepped out to shift to his Dragonwolf form. Climbing on his back, Ranjer give him word he was ready to go.
"Next stop." Bly said as she took off into the sky. "Vasagi, city of Vampires.
As the sun went down behind the Ryk Mountains behind Prafa, Tomz Acros woke up and pushed the lid from the cold box he had slept in. He hated sleeping like this, but this was the price he had to pay for his time as a Nightwalker. That and he lost the ability to be up during the day, and he now had to tend with the thirst. Jandar and Valkar had done all they could for him, but he had drunk human blood. There was no way around that. He now had to live with the failings of the Nightwalkers until they found some way to lift the curse.
Though Tomz had been excused and pardoned for his treachery and he had shown his bravery in the fight with Lord Larin and many difficulties afterwards, he was still watched by many in Prafa. He was still a Nightwalker after all and Baron Gaelich did keep a close eye on him.
His diet was now purely cattle blood and he had to swear a magical oath to never drink human, vampire, or any other intelligent beings blood again. And that made him cranky a lot. He also suffered from headaches but with powders and potions from apothecary's, he got along day by day.
From his window while sipping his daily supply of blood, Tomz watched the last wisps of the sun go down. Today was to be a busy day. All the repairs were finally finished in Prafa and Adam and Athene had invited him to go with them to inspect the new city wall. Gorak's cave had been turned into a tomb for all the Nightwalkers that had been killed in the final raid on Prafa. It was his job to check on it to make sure that the seal was still intact. This job he would do alone for no one else in the city wanted to go near the place. Not with all the protection spells Jandar and Gannon on placed on the site.
Dressing and combing his hair, Tomz took a final look in the Necro mirror that sat on the wall over his dressing table. He looked at his image. The redness in his eyes was all gone. All traces of Lord Larin's spell were gone from his body. But he was still a little transparent in the mirror. Another effect on his Nightwalker curse. Grabbing a cloak from the hook by the window, Tomz donned it and through open the window and breathed in the cool night air.
"Well, on with it." He said as he made the shift to his condor form and leaped into the night sky. As the cool air ripple through his feathers, Tomz once again thanked the gods for his reprieve. He couldn't help but think if it wasn't for Athene, he too would have been staked out outside the wall and burned with the rest on the Nightwalkers. If he hadn't saved Adam and Athene's life, he would be dead. There would've been no mercy shown him in the Underworld and he still might have a price to pay when he finally died.
From Prafa manor Tomz flew on over the city. Over the newly renovated market place to the new houses built in the western part of the city. From there he flew over the new wall. It was twice as high as the old one with a walkway around the top and a ramp that spiraled around from the ground with entrances to the three levels in the wall. The wall had covered look out post placed in six alternating spots on each level which gave them a view of the area all around the city with no blind spots. Adam had designed most of the improvements to the city and done a very good job. But the tomb had been all Tomz and Valkar. Valkar wanted the place demolished. He wanted the cave destroyed and the remnants scattered to the winds. But Jandar and Tomz knew that wouldn't do it. The remains could still be resurrected if you knew the right spells, and there are many out there who knew what to do. Tomz convinced Valkar that it would be better to salt the ground and keep watch. That way anything that rose from the mass grave would be too weak and deformed to be much of a threat to them.
So from the wall, Tomz flew on into the hill to where the tomb was. From the air he could see all the bands of magic that surround the tomb. Red and green bands of energy with purple bands that covered the entrance. Tomz came down to land just outside of the magic ring in front of the cave. After shifting he cast out with the spell that allowed him to get close enough to inspect the seals on the cave door.
Once close he checked the spells and found nothing there had been disturbed. Relieved he stepped back and out of the magical ring.
"Aiya." Came a voice out of nowhere. Tomz turned to see a short dark haired man walking towards him out of the forest. He was dressed in dark pants and a gray tunic. He looked familiar. As Tomz looked at him, he realized this was not a citizen of Prafa. He was not a vampire. What was he doing here?
"Aiya stranger." Tomz looked at him suspiciously. "Are you lost? This is a forbidden place. You should not be here."
"Forgive me." The strangers said as he bowed. "I have been away for quite a long time. Things are so different from when last I was up and around."
"Have you been sick?" Tomz asked as he came closer. He looked in his eyes. There was something there. He couldn't put a finger on it but there was something about this man that made Tomz uncomfortable.
"Not sick." He smiled. "No. I was a prisoner in a horrible place."
"I understand." Tomz said. "Prafa and Yadessa has had some experience with being trapped lately. But freedom can always be found if you look hard enough."
The old man laughed hysterically. Tomz stepped back further not sure what this crazy man had on his mind.
"You don't understand." He said. "I was in hell and you helped put me there!"
"Who are you?" Tomz asked. Now he knew this was no random meeting. He was in trouble.
"Don't you remember me Tomz Acros." The man raised his hands and flames erupted in bursts. "You and your friends came to my home and destroyed me! You killed me and sent me to hell. Now it's Bram Thorn's turn to destroy you!!"
Hearing that name, Tomz reached and grabbed for his sword. He dived into the air with vampire speed and attacked Bram. But the speed of a vampire was no match for Bram's fire. Like a flamethrower, intense flames enveloped Tomz's body and set him a blaze. He screamed from the searing pain that ripped through his body. As he opened his mouth and scream, flames went in and seared his lungs from the inside. Tomz fell to the ground and rolled trying to extinguished the flames, but it was too late. Fire was the mortal enemy of all vampires and he burned to his death. His last thought in life was a screaming warning to his king. All he could send was one word.
In his royal bedroom in Shadowvyn, Valkar slept and dreamed of days long ago. Velusia was still his queen and the boys were all still young. Rejek was practicing sword play with one of the guards while Azeal played with his little brother Ranjer. Valkar and Velsia watched and talked with members of the court while musicians played soft music in the background. From the side, Valkar saw Velsia's father watching and whispering something into someone’s ear. It gave him shivers. There was something cruel about that man that Valkar didn't trust. He waved him forward for questions he needed answered about how things were going with the Werewolves. As he approached Valkar he stopped and bent forward to speak. That's when he heard it.
Valkar jumped up in his bed with the voice echoing through his mind. He knew that voice. It was Tomz and he sounded like he was in pain. Valkar threw off his blankets and got up out of bed. He tried calling out to Tomz, but there was no answer. He would have to check with Arturus or Athene to have them go find him.
Just then there was a knock at the door. Valkar slipped on a robe and went to answer the knock. It was Amar the butler.
"Pardon Sire." He said bowing. "But there are guess here from New Keanna who say they need a word with you. They say it's urgent."
"Dragons?" Valkar stretched. "Show them to the breakfast table. I'll be right there."
Quickly Valkar dressed. He hadn't seen Jandar or Rage in a few months since Azeal and Tanis had left to visit their friends from Pentanthin on the island to the east. He wondered what had brought the Dragon kings to Yadessa today.
Dressed and ready, Valkar went down to greet his guest. As he stepped through the door and saw Quynn and his son Ranjer, his heart filled with joy.
"Ranjer!!" He grabbed him in a huge hug wrapping his arms around him. "It's good to see you. What are you doing here?"
"Hi Dad!" He felt so comfortable in his father’s arms. He hadn't been back to Yadessa to see him since before Azeal left. "We came to see if we could get your help with something."
"Have a seat." Valkar waved to chairs for them all. "I thought it was you fathers Quynn. How are they?"
"I don't know." He said as they sat down. "I can't find them."
Valkar stopped and looked up at him. "What do you mean?"
"Right now they aren't answering my calls." Quynn explained. "I'm not worried. I don't think it's anything serious. But that's not why we're here."
"Then what is it?" Valkar was curious now. He picked up his fork and lifted some eggs to his mouth and started chewing.
"Do you remember someone named Bram Thorn?"
At the sound of that name, Valkar choked on his eggs spitting them out. He dropped his fork and looked at the three sitting across from him.
"How do you know that name? What's going on?"
"You do know Bram Thorn?" Bly said. "I have something to tell you.
With that she explained what had happened back at her home to all her people. When she was done, Valkar called out for Tovar Orsa. In less than two minutes Tovar was there to answer his king.
"Tovar, call Baron Gaelich and Athene." He ordered. "I want them to go find Tomz Acros right now. I think he may be in trouble."
"Yes Sire." Tovar went to the window and stared out into the morning clouds. "No one's seen Tomz since last night. Adam is going to check the tomb. That's where he said he was going. He was supposed to meet them last night to inspect the wall only he never showed up."
"That's not like him." Valkar pushed his plate away and got up. "Tomz is very punctual. Yes, I know Bram Thorn. He's a crazy elemental warlock that's supposed to be dead. Many years ago that crazy bastard started a rampage all around Taggitia. He attacked fairies, elves, humans and anyone else that got in his way. We sent a group to bring him down."
"I was a part of that group." Bly said. "It didn't go as planned."
"Yeah I know." Valkar said. "He wasn't to die. We had plans to take care of him without killing him but a few in the party took it in their own hands and stabbed him to death. Now somehow he's back and we have to deal with him."
"We found him." Tovar called out.
"Good." Valkar relaxed.
"No." He finished. "It's not good. Tomz is dead. He's been burned to death. It looks like the sun killed him but it was the middle of the night."
"Damn!!" Valkar stood up and kicked his chair. "The warlock did it."
"What do we do?" Ranjer asked looking at the vampire king. This was all becoming a little too serious for him. All he wanted to do was to take his cousin home and forget all this craziness.
"You find him and put an end to his madness."
"US?" Quynn jumped up. "You mean me and Ranjer?"
"And Bly and the others." Valkar sat down.
"Bly?" Valkar turned to the fairy. "Do you understand?"
"Yes your majesty." She nodded and turned to Quynn and Ranjer. "There were eleven of us in the original party. We have to find them and they will help us to defeat Bram and send him back to the Underworld."
"There's something you don't know." Valkar leaned forward to explain things to them. "When Bram was killed, he had been searching for the eight Elemental rings of Tamalon. Tamalon was a lost city of incredibly powerful magi that legend says lived thousands of years ago. Not very much information can be found about them, but what we do know is that they had total control of the eight elements of magic. They could control the land and sea, and fire and water with ease. But to them, that wasn't enough. They had to learn to control it all, so in time they learned how to work with sound, shadow light and energy. Chief among the Tamalon warrior magi was a man named Abras Grazar. Abras Grazar was one of the most powerful of Tamalon. He had a set of eight rings that could control the elements of Tamalon magic. Like I said, not much is known about Tamalon, but through the memories of a few of the elder dragons we know that Tamalon was destroyed by a thousand-year war and Abras Grazar fell when his castle was overrun by their enemy. I'm not sure how Bram Thorn figured it out, but he found five of Grazar’s rings and learned how to control them. Before he died he had been searching for the other three rings. I don't know if he knew where they are, I hope not. Anyway when he was defeated and killed, his rings disappeared. He wants them back. Find who took the rings and get them back and find the three lost rings. Then you can destroy both him and the rings and end all this madness. Are you up for the challenge?"
Quynn looked at Ranjer who looked completely overwhelmed. He shrugged passing decision back to Quynn. He didn't have to ask Bly; she had come to them to start the whole thing. Well if this was to be their quest, then bring it on.
"Where do we go next?" Quynn asked.
"Pelordra." Valkar smiled his approval. "Go see King Philibar Windstar of the sky elves. He'll know who took the rings and how to kill Bram. Be careful boys, Jandar, Rage and Tof will kill me if anything happens to you."
All hell had broken loose in Sorrowdown. In every large house, every palace, the slaves were in revolt. They grabbed knives and pitchforks and whatever they could to fight their way to freedom. Sorrowdowns troops went from street to street trying to quell the fighting but there were more slaves in Sorrowdown then there were troops. Fires burned all over the city and rioting ran through the streets. The market place had been ripped apart and the slave block burned to the ground. You couldn't tell free man from slave on the streets and soon Emperor Midoa would be found hanging from his palace balcony. The coliseum was in flames. There would never be another gladiatorial game there and Niro had made it to his horse and was riding out of the dying city.
Without food or water Niro rode as far as he could to put as much distance as he could between Sorrowdown and himself. After a while he stopped got off and guided his horse off to the side of the road. He looked back and saw a huge cloud of smoke over where Sorrowdown should be. He swore he would never again walk the streets of his home town again. He would find a new life of adventure out here somewhere. But first, he had to figure out what his father had been talking about. He had said something about a great future. Doing what? Fixing what mistake? And how did Regulus Manius betray him? Niro looked down at the ring his father had given him on his finger. It was a silver ring with a green stone set in its center. It had some kind of intricate writing on it in a lovely design. As Niro stared into it, a spark seemed to gleam in the stone and he felt a slight shake in the ground. His horse bucked feeling the trembling in the ground. Niro held the reins calming the horse until the ground stopped shivering. As the ground calmed, he looked again at his ring. He had a feeling it had something to do with that quake.
Looking around, Niro realized he had ridden out and away from the human settlement and had entered into Ashgrove the first of the Elven lands in the area. In front of him was the beginning of Fay Shrea, the enchanted elven forest that went on for hundreds of miles to the north and the west, home of elves, fairy, goblins, leprechauns and many other magical folks. Vibius had told him to go find King Philibar Windstar of the Sky elves in Pelordra. Niro had never heard of Pelordra or of sky elves, but there his experience outside of Sorrowdown and with the other races of Keanna was very limited. He had been taught about elves and dwarfs, he had even seen trolls and a dark elf in the games. He had been a pale vicious fighter defeated only by a gladiator with something special on his side. It took magic to bring down the dark elf. Magic stronger than his own.
Now as he looked into the forest he realizes he would come face to face with some of these creatures. He pulled the axe his father had given him and looked at it. It really didn't look like much. About two feet in length. It had a wooden shaft with a red and blue band just beneath the silver axe head. What made it special was that when he held it in his hands, Niro could feel it filling his body with strength. Back in Sorrowdown, he had stabbed a man through his chest then lifted him like a rag doll and threw him more than twenty feet. But that would've been just adrenaline. There was only one way to be sure.
Walking over to the side of the road, Niro found a set of huge boulders sitting off in the grass. They looked heavy. He couldn't possibly move any of them. Planting his feet firmly, Niro pulled the axe from its hook on his belt. He could feel the strength rippling through his arms. He raised it over his head then slammed it down on the boulder. With a mighty crack like thunder, the boulder split right down the center into two pieces. Niro stood back and smiled. No ordinary axe could have done that. It might have chipped off a piece, but no normal axe could split that rock it two. Now he had one more test. Clipping it back to his belt, Niro bent down and grabbed the second boulder.
"There's no way I should be able to lift this." He said. "But let's see what happens."
Lifting with his legs, Niro easily picked up the boulder and held it for a minute, then tossed it to the side. As it hit the ground, trees shook and there was loud noise.
"That was easy." He looked at his hands turning them over. They looked perfectly normal, not even dirty. Pulling the axe from his belt, he placing it to the side, Niro rubbed his hands together then reached down and nudged the next boulder. It had to weight hundreds of pounds and it wouldn't budge. Picking up and re attaching the axe to his belt, Niro again tried moving the stone. With ease he flipped it over and rolled it back further into the grass.
"Now that's some kind of magic." He smiled. "Now my only problem is how to find King Philibar. I think I'm going to need some help and I guess I'm in the right place to find it."
Moving on, Niro found a lake where he watered his horse, did some fishing and got himself the first peaceful sleep he had in over a year. He would need it. From here on things were going to start moving very fast.
Today was one of the worst days in the life of Rowyn Syndra Windstar, princess of Pelordra. It had started easy. Simple as a matter of fact. She woke up, dressed and greeted her father King Philibar Windstar. They had breakfast on the balcony of his palace in Pelordra. Philibar was the ruler of an elven nation of sky elves. Sky elves were a race of winged elves created in the early days of Keanna when Aramis went by the name of Vitale. They were created as forest elves but were favored by Alee the sun god after he fell in love with a beautiful elven maiden. As a gift, Alee granted her and her descendants with the gift of flight and certain avian attributes.
Sky elves were tall, thin and strong with different colored feathers on each elf. Rowyn had blue feathered wings with black stripes. On her head she had white hair with light blue feathers. Lovely elven features, the long ears, red lips and bright eyes. She wore a pretty blue short dress with lace up sandal.
Sitting at a backless chair, Rowyn ate a lite breakfast of fruit, breads and vegetable while she waited for her father to come down to eat. All around her birds of all types flew in and ate the crumbs she spread out for them.
Hearing a rustle overhead, Rowyn watched as her father sailed down from his tower to join her. Closing his wings on his back, King Philibar smiled, kissed his daughter and sat down pushing his plate away.
"I've been up for hours." He said. "I'm really not hungry."
Rowyn looked at him surprised. Sky elves were always hungry. It took a lot to power the wings on their back. Something must be wrong.
"What is it father? I can tell when something’s bothering you."
Rowyn looked into her father’s brown eyes. He looked exhausted. She wondered if he had gone to bed at all last night. Philibar looked up at the cloud beneath the rim of the city. Pelordra was called the cloud city, but it was actually built into the side of a mountain where they could fly in and out easily. The city had been established here centuries ago after a war with a nation of Dark elves. There were no roads that led to Pelordra. They wanted the city to be someplace walking or marching troops could never reach again and they found the perfect spot.
High in the southern mountains of Fay Shrea on one of the highest extinct volcano peaks, there was a catacomb of caves. Over the years these caves were expanded and molded into a towering city few other than the sky elves who lived there had ever seen. This was Pelordra and the city called Windstar. Its elven people lived in the caves and all around the mountain top with very little use for anyone else. There they worshipped Alee and tended to Lanayh, the little forest valley that sat in the volcanic bowl where they lived in harmony with nature. As all elves drew their magic from nature, trees, lakes and the land, Sky elves drew their power from the birds and other animals that lived in their forest. They shared their life force with the life of the forest.
As Rowyn watched Philibar he stood and went to the balcony and looked out at the mountains around them. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue with cotton clouds hanging all around the mountain. But Rowyn was sure her father hadn't seen any of that. He had a distant look in his eyes; she wondered where his mind really was.
He just stared off into the sky not hearing her.
"Father!" She called louder. "Where are you?"
"I'm sorry Blue jay." He turned smiling at her. "I have a lot on my mind today. A king's life is never easy."
"Neither is the life of a princess." Getting up, Rowyn went to stand with her father. "I know something is bothering you, I can help if you share it with me."
King Philibar frowned for a moment looking into his daughters’ eyes. She was very wise for her age and capable of some amazing magic. Maybe she could help.
"We have a problem." Philibar pulled two chairs from the table. He pushed one over to Rowyn and sat down on the other. "Three days ago while flying through Lanayh, Daylor and I found something that disturbed me to my core. We found a dead unicorn. It wasn't just dead, it had been butchered, it's horn removed and not by an animal. Nothing here would dare kill one of the sacred animals. The cuts were to even, too precise. Someone had somehow made their way into our forest to hunt. A few days later, Daylor and I again went out to check the forest and found two dead satyrs with another dead corn. They looked as if someone had chased them down, cornered them and hacked them to death with swords. We searched for hours, all night but found nothing. Then last night Daylor went out by himself to see what he could find. I found his body this morning, dead like the satyrs. Something has invaded our home and I need to find out who it is."
"Daylor?" Rowyn cried. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had known Daylor all her life. He was the one who taught her to ride unicorns. They had been promised to each other for marriage since birth. "How can this be? He's dead?"
"His body is below wrapped and ready for the funeral rite." King Philibar told her sadly. "I'm sorry Blue jay, I know how much he meant to you. I'll have his armor brought here so he can be prepared to go into the Life tree for his final rest. But I need someone I trust to investigate the killings. I can't send warriors in; it would violate all our laws for Elven warriors to fight anything in Lanayh. But you’re not a warrior. You have magic that can help find out who's behind the killings."
"And once I find out who it is." She asked. "What do I do?"
"I don't have to tell you what to do." King Philibar leaned forward to look her in her blue eyes. "You are the royal princess of Pelordra. Our family has lived and ruled here since Alee showed us our new home. You do what you have to to protect your home. Just do not break Alee's law and kill in Lanayh."
"I understand Father." Rowyn stood and kissed her father’s cheek. "I will not disappoint you. I will make Pelordra safe again."
"Rowyn." King Philibar place a hand on her shoulder. "There's one more thing. I found this with Daylor's body."
He reached into his cloak and pulled something out and handed it to her. It was a silver dagger. It looked old and used. In its hilt on one side there was a cracked sapphire and one the other side the stone was missing. It didn't look sharp at all. She touched it and ran her finger along its dull edge. Whoever owned it could only use it for stabbing but it could help her find its owner.
"Thank you father." She smiled. "This will help."
Spreading her wings, Rowyn leaped off the balcony and into the sky. She let the wind fill her wings and flew back up through the towers back to her bed room. There she collected her bow and quiver, a healing potion just in case and a cloak to wrap around her to hide her wings. Sky elves were unique, not seen very often and you can never tell how someone might react to the unknown. With her things collected, Rowyn went to the royal kitchens and gathered some rations. Not knowing how long this might take, she took enough bread, vegetables and wine for four days, then flew off into Lanayh to begin her search.
The forest of Lanayh was beautiful filled with oaks, maples, elms and fruit trees. There was a small pond and a lake with water nymphs that played every day. Being enchanted, almost every flower and plant could be found in all forest lands in Fay Shrea and Pelordra was no exception. Roses, lilies, pansies and snap dragons of all colors filled the fields and glades. There were two different temples in Lanayh. One to Alee and the other to the earth goddess Rhea who helped create this haven for the elves. This was one of the most peaceful elven places in Fay Shrea like the glades of Eventide and Aspara Bough, the home of the fairy queen. Each with its own different magic and enchantment.
As Rowyn set herself before Rhea's temple, she bowed to show her respect, then walked out onto the beautifully tended lawn. She sat down, folded her wings to her back and took out the dagger and looked it over. It was an old weapon made for a much bigger hand then hers. Bigger than a Human or Elf, maybe an Orc or a Goblin. There was writing along the edge of the dull blade. Rowyn looked at it closely. She knew this language.
"Rega ut kil, uruk ut e'ga" Rowyn read. "Love to die, kill to live."
This was the language of the Orcs. Rowyn would know it anywhere. That meant, Orcs had somehow made their way into Pelordra. But how? There were no roads that climbed the mountain and as far as she knew. Orcs couldn't fly. The only way left would be some kind of transport spell and Pelordra was supposed to have wards to keep such spells from working. Could Pelordra's magic be failing or could the Orcs have found some way to override their wards? Whichever it was there was two ways she could go from here. She could either wait to see if they returned or, she could try a location spell.
Waiting would mean they would be back to hunt again. She didn't want anything else here to be hurt so she would have to try locating the owner of the dagger.
Placing the dagger on the ground in front of her, Rowyn sat back and began to concentrate on the spell she would use. There were two ways to go about this. She could just try and transport herself straight to the Orc who owned the dagger. But that would be dangerous. Besides the fact that the transport might kill her because of the wards, suddenly appearing in the middle of a group of deadly Orcs would not be the smartest thing to do. But what if she cast the spell to lead her to the owner instead. Then she could find out exactly how they were getting in to Pelordra. This seemed the wiser of her choices.
HERE TO THERE, WHAT'S LOST IS FOUND.
THERE TO HERE AND ROUND AND ROUND.
LEAD ME ON TO THE OWNER RIGHT.
LEAD ME ON, SHOW ME THE LIGHT.
As sparks of magic gathered around the dagger, it rose up off the ground and hovered in front of Rowyn. Getting to her feet, Rowyn gave it the final command to start its search for its owner.
"Go find your master."
Spinning around, the dagger took off and flew out into the forest. Spreading her wings, Rowyn leaped into the air to follow keeping the dagger well in view.
Over Rhea's temple it flew on pass Alee's temple. From there it went out and over the lake and into the fruit trees. Maneuvering through the trees it flew on into a set of hills and the ridges of the extinct volcano that housed the elven city. As Rowyn gazed down, she saw the side of the mountain with its crags and ridges. It was spotted with many dark spots she knew could only be caves. They were not caves dug out to house the populace. If elves lived here, the whole ridge would have been carved in a decorative fashion. No, no one lived here. In fact, it didn't look like anyone had ever been here before.
Dropping down into the floor before the cavern wall, Rowyn gazed up at the walls all around her. There were walkways and ledges all along the ridge. And each ridge was dotted with dark areas. Leaping up, Rowyn flew up to a higher level. There she realized the dark areas were caves. Hovering in front of a cave on the second level she saw the dagger spinning while it waited for her to catch up. As she approached the dagger, point first it streaked down into a dark cave. Adjusting her pack on her back, Rowyn looked back at the sun and said a little prayer to Alee and flew on into the cave of darkness.
As Alea made her nightly ride across the dark sky, Niro lay under a huge oak and dreamed haunting dreams of fighting in Sorrowdown’s arena. He tossed and turned as he fought battle after battle in the hot sands. Then after the fighting was done, he would be chained and beaten and raped by a laughing Grimmer. He dreamed of screaming in the night from the pain and the hate he had for the city that was once his home. Then in shining armor his father charged in and ripped him loose from his chains, gave him a weapon and fought with him side by side in the arena against unbeatable odds. Just as they thought the fighting was over, a spear came out of the shadows and pierced Vibius heart and he fell as Niro woke screaming. Jumping up with his axe in his hand, Niro looked all around for an enemy to kill. Finding nothing in the quiet night, Niro sighed and sat down to relax. So much had happened to him in the last year of his life. He lost his home and his family, he had been made a slave and his body had been tortured in unspeakable ways. But he was free now and all that was behind him in horrible memories and an exciting future stood before him.
The first part of the future was to begin here somewhere. He had to find Pelordra, an elven city here in Fay Shrea. But where in all of Fay Shrea was Pelordra? He had never heard of it before. Niro knew it was here somewhere but where? North, east, west or south? Should he head deeper into the forest, up to the mountains, to the coast or underground? Were they dark elves, forest elves or sea elves? Niro had no idea. He had to find someone who could give him a clue as to where Pelordra would be.
Climbing to his feet, Niro tucked Stormfury into his belt and went to get his horse from the field where he had left it grazing. It was a beautiful tan horse with a white mane and socks.
"Aiya my friend." Niro reached up and stroked the horse’s forehead. "We may have a long journey ahead of us. I think you deserve a name. Something strong with meaning. How about Akhrua. It means warrior."
Akhrua neighed and stomped butting his head into Niro's hand searching for a treat. From his bag, Niro took one of the apples he had picked earlier and fed it to Akhrua. While the horse munched, Niro placed his bag behind the saddle then climbed on and urged Akhrua back out on the road deeper into Fay Shrea.
It was dark as Hodgodde Fearfist quickly picked his way through the forest outside of the entrance to the underground Dark elf city of Katar. He had taken a commission from Midoa, emperor of Sorrowdown to steal certain elven jewels from the royal house and get them to Sorrowdown. Hoddie had made his way in through the dark underground tunnels past many monsters, guardian beast and warriors to the gates of the city. With stealth and skill, he slipped into the city pass many guards and city citizens, through the dark cobblestone lanes to the walls of the palace. Looking left then right to be sure he hadn't been seen, Hoddie donned special gloves and a cloak made by dwarven magic to camouflage himself. After stretching, he started climbing the wall to the first balcony. These would be staff quarters. He peeked over the rail to make sure the apartment was empty. It wasn't. In the bed slept a young maid. Quietly Hoddie hopped the railing and made his way to the door, opened it a crack and looked out. The hall outside was dimly lit by glow orbs. From what Hoddie could see, whoever lived here had to be very rich. The hall was very richly furnished with silk and satin drapery. The chairs and tables were made from highly polished oak and mahogany. On the floor there were rugs woven of a golden colored spun wool. He smiled. This was not what most Goblins lived with but he could get to like such surroundings.
His next move was to get out of the staff quarters and to somehow get to the royal treasure chamber. He knew there was no way a Goblin could make it that far. Somewhere between here and the chamber, there would be guards and if he was spotted they would be on him in seconds. He would need a disguise and that was what the cloak was for.
Moving back into the bedroom, Hoddie went to the sleeping girl. He took off his cloak and carefully laid it over the sleeping slave. Triggered by the warmth of the sleeping girl’s body, the cloak began to glow. Satisfied that the magic was working, Hoddie carefully took it off her and slipped the hood over his head and wrapped it around himself. As he gazed down, he saw that he now had the appearance of the girl. With dark hair and pretty brown eyes, she had a very sensual figure and a sweet smile, Hoddie hoped this human female could get him where he had to go.
Opening the door, Hoddie stared out. He passed a few girls who looked at him strangely. As they moved on he watched the way they moved, the swaying of their hips. That must be what attracted their stares. He walked like a Goblin. But Hoddie had been using the cloak for years. He was use to imitating others and mimicking their ways.
Like the maiden he now resembled, Hoddie made his way down the hall swaying his hips in a seductive way. From the slave quarters he went down the hall and up the stairs to the floor to where the offices and throne room was. As he looked in on the master of this house, Aeson Revsen sat surrounded by elves in noble attire and argued over some piece of land somewhere in the underground city. Nothing to concern Hoddie. His objective was on the next floor where the valuables would be found.
Moving on, Hoddie made his way down the hall to the next set of stairs passing by two elven guards talking in the hall. One stopped and turned to look at him. For a second Hoddie was afraid he was going to reach out and grab him. That would mean trouble. While the cloak could make him look exactly like the person who last wore it, it could do nothing for his voice if he had to speak. That was why the girls form was so dangerous.
With a smack on his back, the guard turned his attention back to his conversation and Hoddie quickly moved on. Finding the staircase, Hoddie looked to make sure there was no one behind him then he started up the stairs. Quietly step by step, he slowly made his way up. There were no voices coming from above which meant no more guards which he thought to be strange. He knew this floor would hold the treasure vault so there should be guards up here somewhere. But if there were no more guards, then Lord Revsen must have some other kind of security up there.
As Hoddie reached the top of the stairs, he looked around. There were two glow orbs set for light on each side of a circular room with two doors. There was only one way up or down, that meant if somehow his presence was detected, he would have to get out the way he came in, and he would have to pass the guards coming to find him. His cloak would be no protection for even a maid would be stopped.
The entryway to the treasure room had no furniture. No tables or chairs, no tapestry or wall hangings. Just two great steel doors. All Hoddie had to do was get across the room and somehow get the doors open. But that wouldn't be as simple as it sounds. Between him and the door, there had to be at least twenty feet. The floor was covered from the stairs to the door with a pattern of lines like a maze. As He stood there thinking, Hoddie realized the pattern was more than just decoration. He reached down and touched the floor and felt heat radiating up from the pattern. It must be elven magic. Elven magic is a lot stronger than most Goblin magic but some Goblins were still very sensitive. Closing his eyes, Hoddie switched to a more sensitive mode of vision. As he opened his eyes he gazed down and looked at the pattern. Nothing had changed, no magic showed in the lines but he had a feeling that one touch and his raid would be discovered.
Stepping lithely on the first line, he felt the magic run up his legs. They tingled like a thousand pin pricks stabbing into him. Carefully he went on moving down the line through each turn and twist. As he moved, each step became harder and harder until the sweat ran down his back. He knew he couldn't stop, if he did the magic would overtake him and he would be caught.
Pushing on, Hoddie made the last turn and stepped off the pattern right between the two doors. Dropping down, he sat for a minute to rest. He listened for any sign that he had been discovered. There was nothing, no bells or alarms, no sound of armed elves rushing to the vault. After taking a rest, Hoddie stood and examined the two doors in front of him. They were large steel doors. Hoddie knew they had been built by Dwarven hands. That meant a completely different magic if any. As he examined the lock, he realized they weren't magical. With the lock picks from his kits, Hoddie carefully worked on the door until he heard the sound of the lock clicking open. With a sigh of relief, he pulled the door open and stepped into the vault.
All around him in the vault, there were piles of gold, diamonds, rubies and almost every kind of gem ever mined. There was armor fashioned from silver and gold, rings, bracelets and tiaras. There were cups and dishes made of precious materials and all kinds of riches spread all over the room. Hoddie smiles and rubbed his hands together. He had done it! He had broken into the vault of one of riches elves in Fay Shrea. Now all he had to do was find what he had come for and get out of there.
Emperor Midoa had hired Hoddie to steal for him three jewels called the Stars of Fortis. The Stars of Fortis were three gems. A diamond, a ruby and an emerald the size of a fist. It was said that the man that could control these gems could even control the gods of Fortis. Only the superstitious would believe that tale but he didn't care what Midoa believed as long as he paid him the price they agreed on.
Digging through mounds of gold and chest after chest of jewelry, he finally found a silver box the size of a loaf of bread. He sat down on the floor and took his picks and started working on the lock. In his expert hands, he had it open in less than a minute. As he opened it, light shined out putting a glow on his smiling face. One by one he took out the three gems and held them to examine them. Just as he thought, they were flawless. Placing them carefully back in the silver box, he put them in his pack and turned to leave. As he took his first step out of the vault, his foot made connect with the pattern and he started his way through the maze and freedom.
Covered with sweat and exhausted, Hoddie took the last step and started down the steps back through house Revsen. As he walked, he thanked the gods for his luck. All he had to do was make it down one more floor and back in to the slave quarters where the ropes for his escape still hung.
As he passed the throne room, Hoddie heard great laughter. With no one watching, he stopped to listen at the door to see if there was any more secrets he could learn. After all, gossip was a thief's best source of information. They just might be talking about something that interest Hoddie.
"So the city burns you say." There was almost joy in Lord Revsen's voice. "What of Emperor Midoa? Did he escape?"
"Midoa is dead." Someone said. "I saw him die by the hands of Vibius Herkalus, one of his old generals. He was stabbed in the heart and his body was thrown into the pit to be trampled in the escape of slaves."
Lord Revsen burst out in laughter and ordered wine.
"Bring wine!" He shouted to one of his maids. "This is a cause to celebrate! Midoa and his land of degradation is no more. All the Elves, werewolves, vampires and humans that died as slaves in his barbaric games can now rest in their graves. Let's pray no one like Midoa ever gets to turn another Keannian city into a center of slavery. Here's to freedom!"
"Damn" Hoddie started away from the throne room. This was bad news. With Midoa dead, he would have to either put the Stars back, or find himself another buyer for the gems.
Sneaking down through the house, he made it easily to the room of the sleeping maid. He took a gold coin from his pocket and pressed it into the girl’s hand and he was gone out of the window. With Midoa dead, he would have to find another very rich patron to buy the Star. In all of Fay Shrea, he could think of only one place to check. The one human city in Fay Shrea, Black Hallow. The city of thieves.
As the silver dagger sailed through the dark cave, Rowyn stayed close behind following every twist and turn the dagger made. She dodged between stalactites that hung down from the ceiling and passed pillars the reached high. She saw underground waterfalls with pure clear sparkling water that ran into deep rivers and crystals that glowed brightly the caves darkness.
It wasn't long before Rowyn saw some kind of soft light coming from ahead of her. Slowing down she reached out with her magic and grabbed the dagger before it could get to far away from her. With gentle fluttering of her wings she turned a corner and found herself in a great domed chamber. Looking around she saw a huge light in the center of the chamber. Such beauty shined all around her from the crystals that looked like stars in the night sky. But what was the light? Where was it coming from? Flying in closer, Rowyn hovered over the glowing orb to examine it.
Whatever it was, it had to be some kind of magic because it wasn't fire. She didn't feel any heat coming from it. She knew it couldn't be a star. Though it did look like one, she knew this wasn't what she saw shining down at night. It must be some magic she had never seen before. As she looked at it, she felt the dagger in her hand trying to pull away. It wanted to go to the light. Could this be some sort of magic door? Could this be how the Orcs were getting into Lanayh? There was only one way to find out.
Stuffing the dagger into her sash, Rowyn said a prayer to Alee then opened her wings and dived straight into the light. As soon as she entered the light, sun shields dropped down over her eyes to keep her from being blinded. A warm feeling spread through her entire body making her feel stronger than usual. In just a few seconds she felt the coolness of the night around her. She had made it through the orb and come out, somewhere else. As Rowyn looked back, she noticed the orb she had passed through was much smaller now. Instead of being the size of a door, it was now less than half a foot in length. Too small for her to pass through. She wondered how the Orcs could possibly make it through to get in to the cave. And where was she?
Looking around, Rowyn knew this wasn't Ardia, land of the Orcs. She saw tall oaks and elms. There were huge mushrooms and beautiful gossamer willows that could only be found in on place. She was somewhere in Fay Shrea. That was the only place gossamer willows grew.
Spreading her wings, Rowyn took off into the night sky with the dagger at her side to lead her on her search.
In a camp to the east of the gossamer grove where the orb of light sat, Bruego D’aruk fitted the last horn he had collected the night before from Lanayh onto the ornate handle he was crafting. It had taken him a few visits and many dead unicorns to find the exact right unicorn old enough and strong enough for what he wanted. And what was it he wanted? After years of trying to take control of Ardia, Bruego was now convinced he had been wasting his time. Even if he could do battle with Yagar E'mrak and win, he would have other enemies lined out and waiting their turn at him and sooner or later, one of the would defeat him. It would be much better to seek out somewhere else he could rule with little or no competition at all and he had just the perfect place to start. Goblins. They were not as strong or as smart as an Orc. Their lands held riches far beyond that of the Orcs, and it wouldn't matter to anyone if he used them in his battles to take as much of Fay Shrea as he could get. All he would need is a weapon powerful enough to bring the Goblins to their knees in front of him.
Bruego knew no physical weapon would do. There were magical swords and other weapons that could be of use, but getting them would be near impossible. None of the Salvation weapons would be useful to him. By their nature, they couldn't be used for conquest. And like all the Dragon talismans, they were in the hands of the Dragons and their allies and out of his reach. So what other magical item could he get? Queen Nuala's wand would be perfect, but the army that protected her home, again was more then he could hope to handle. Lord Larin’s cane? He wondered what had happened to that after his defeat. Its magic of coercion was just what he needed. If he had it, a simple spell might turn the Goblins will right over to him. Unfortunately, Bruego had no idea what had become of the cane. The Dragons might have it or King Valkar or the Werewolf king Tof might have it. Wherever it was, it was lost to him. His only other choice was to make his own magical weapon, and to do that, he would need something powerful to start with like the ashes of a phoenix or a unicorn horn.
Bruego, having spent years being taught by Gorak Ra 'Enar and he knew that a unicorn’s horn like a dragon tooth or bone held great amounts of magic and could be used to fashion a very powerful weapon. Deadly spears and daggers had been made in the past with the tip of a dragon’s fang or talon and wands of enormous power from unicorn horn. With the right horn, he knew he could make such a weapon again. It had taken him a number of trips into the last sanctuary of the unicorns, Pelordra to kill the right unicorn. A male older than one hundred years of age with a horn that looked as if it were made of pure moon light. Legend had it that such a horn if taken at night under the right moon could be made into a devastating weapon for good or evil. It had taken him weeks. He went in under a new moon, a half moon and a crescent moon and killed. His first was a young unicorn with a pearly horn. His second was older and male but the moon must have been wrong because as soon as he took the horn, it crumbled in his hand. His third trip he ran into trouble. That was the night he met the Sky elf and surprise him with a bolt to the back. Anger at being discovered, Bruego slashed and cut the elf to pieces, just like he had done to the satyrs that tried to protect the corn on his second trip.
On his later trip, Bruego had a feeling that night would be different. The moon was full and shined down on Lanayh almost giving it a glow. Wisps of the will floated around giving everything a ghostly appearance. Bruego stalked into the night staying quiet to keep from giving away his presence. He saw nymphs dancing at lake side and satyrs chasing after them in their nightly games. Bruego wanted to raise his bow and send shaft after shaft into them, then howl at the moon but they were not his target tonight.
On a hill just beyond the lake where the nymphs danced, he settled himself down to wait. He knew the unicorn would be attracted by the innocence of young nymphs, and he would get his chance at his prize. His wait wasn't long. As the mist slipped in to cover the grounds around the lake, a beautiful nymph danced across the surface of the silver lake. Her frail dress was almost transparent made from the spray of the splashing waves. As she danced back and forth weaving her hypnotic spell on the satyrs that watched from the shoreline, a proud buck of a unicorn came walking through the glade to the lake. He stopped for a second as he caught the scent of young innocence in the air. He turned toward the lake and got his first glimpse of the natural beauty of nature. Stepping out towards the lake, the unicorn started humming a mesmerizing tune to go with the movement of the nymph’s dance. With his eyes and his mind focused on the nymph’s dance, the unicorn trotted out to the edge of the lake where he continued his song. Everything in the forest sat still as Bruego watched and listened to the scene at the lake. It was like some hypnotic wonderful sight out of fantasy right there for the world to see. Then suddenly a strange sound cut into the song of the unicorn. A whisper, a whistle as the bolt from a Orc crossbow streaked through the air and ripped into the chest of the unicorn. It reared up on its hind legs and screamed out its pain and last dying breath, then fell dead at the edge of the lake.
As Bruego leaped out of the forest to the dead carcass of the unicorn, the nymph dived down into the water. The satyrs watching on the shore all scattered back into the forest and the only sound left was the sound of laughter as the Orc slit open the unicorn’s head and ripped out its horn. Seeing the glow of the magical horn in his hand, Bruego kicked the dead unicorn out of his way then went back to the orb and the safety of his camp.
Now with the horn ready, and the mystical carvings all set, Bruego was ready for the last step in his preparations. He stepped out and placed the horn down in the center of the intricate diagram he had drawn in the clearing. Backing away he waved to Nurm Greyrot his Goblin aide to come to him.
"Yes Master?" He said. "Is all ready? What should I do?"
"All is ready." Bruego sneered. "All I have left to do is cast the spells to make the wand my own then Kranko Fearfist nor any other will be able to stop me from ruling over all the Neither’s in Fay Shrea. I will be master of Fay Shrea!"
"Yes Master!!" Nurm hopped around in glee. "And you won't forget your faithful Nurm when you kill that nasty Kranko. You will make me the leader of my own clan."
"You just make sure I am not disturbed." Bruego kicked at Nurm. "If anything breaks my concentration, I won't be able to cast this spell again until the next cycle of the moon."
"Yes Master." Nurm moved away to let his master work his magic.
It had been three days Hoddie had been on the road to the Thieves city of Black Hallow to find a buyer for the Stars of Fortis. He was tired and hungry, he needed rest and something to eat. After stopping and setting up camp, he went off in the forest to hunt. With three fat rabbits in the bag on his back, he headed back to his camp to eat. Hoddie knew he was deep in the forest far from any roads, there shouldn't be anyone else out here but him. He pushed his way through to the edge of a clearing where he could get some sleep. Suddenly off in the distance he heard something. Someone was there. Sneaking out to peer through the bushes, he found an Orc and a Goblin he knew to be a sniveling weasel talking by a fire. Being a thief and a trader of information, Hoddie listened in on what was being said. That's when he heard a name spoken that he was very familiar with and found himself interested in what the two were talking about. The Orc spoke of Kranko Fearfist, the overlord of all the Goblins in Gaymere, the land of Goblins and Hoddie's own father. Kill Kranko? Hoddie was pretty mad with his father over his objections to his profession, but he damn sure wasn't about to stand by and let and Orc and Nurm Greyrot murder him.
Taking the bag off his back, Hoddie reached to his side and slid his sword from its scabbard. He watched as Nurm walked around to the other side of the clearing, then pulled his cloak over his head for camouflage. Nurm was a sly untrusting rat of a Goblin who had fought with Kranko many times, but he was also a very dangerous fighter. Hoddie knew Nurm would use any dirty trick he could to fight him. If he wanted to live through this fight, he would have to be very careful.
As Bruego started his spell, something in the shade of blue fluttered down to land lightly on a tree branch. With the dagger tugging in her hand, Rowyn dismissed the spell she had put on it and stuck it in her sash. As she watched the Orc, his hands moved in arcane circles over something laying on the ground in front of him. As Rowyn looked down, she was shocked to see what it was. It was the severed horn of a unicorn. She saw red as anger filled her heart. She had found the one who had killed Daylor and the unicorns of Lanayh. From what she saw, he was a mage. Good she thought. He better be a damned good one. As she listened to the Orc and his Goblin talk, she learned of some strange plan he had to take over the neither races of Fay Shrea and make himself some kind of king. She knew if he was able to finish the spells he was working on the horn; he would have a weapon that might just be powerful enough to make his dreams come true. There was only one way to stop him. She needed to stop his spell and get the horn away from him.
Like a thief in the night, Hoddie stepped out with his sword in hand. His hope was to sneak up on Nurm from behind and strike him down then put his dagger in the Orcs back. It wasn't a very honorable plan, but for now it was his best hope.
Slowly and carefully, Hoddie crept out towards his opponent. He was just about there, three more steps and Nurm would be taking his last gasp of breath. As Hoddie raised his sword, something dropped out of the trees and made Nurm turn.
"Master!" He screamed. "We are under attack!"
Throwing off his cloak, Hoddie dived in to jab at Nurm's chest. With his rusted sword, Nurm deflect the blow and sent his own series of thrust and jabs at him.
"Hodgodde Fearfist!" Nurm snarled as they circled. "You cursed son of a jackal! How fortunate I should meet you here."
"And a good thing to Nurm Greyrot." Hoddie snarled. "I heard your plan. My father should have killed you when he had the chance,"
"Yes he should have." Nurm laughed. "But worry not. I will thank him when I stab this very blade through his chest when I take his life from him."
"I think not!"
As Hoddie rushed in, his sword weaved and spun at Nurm pushing him back into Bruego as they fought.
With her hand raised, Rowyn sent a blast of magic at Bruego interrupting his spell casting. He looked up just as she flew down sending another blast at him.
"Murderer!!" She screamed as her feet touched the ground facing Bruego. "You invaded my home, killed the sacred unicorns and killed my fiancée! You will pay for your crimes!"
"Damn you fucking elf!" Bruego grabbed Nurm and pushed him at Rowyn then grabbed the horn. "You interrupted my casting. Now I must wait and start again!"
"Not if I can help it." Rowyn stood next to Hoddie with her hands raised ready to send a bolt at the Orc. "Give me the horn."
"You want this?" Bruego held it out for them to see. Quickly he stuffed it in his belt and made a gesture over the head of Nurm as he tried to get to his feet. "How about I give you this instead."
Raising his hands, Bruego grabbed the Goblin in his power then thrust him out flying at them. As Hoddie and Rowyn ducked, Bruego slammed his hands together forcing his magic all through Nurm's body causing him to scream as he body began to expand then explode sending his blood and body parts flying all over them.
"We will meet again." He said cackling with laughter. "This is just the beginning."
With that, the Orc disappeared in a flash of lightning.
"Damn!!" Hoddie wiped the gore from his face and looked around for the Orc. "Where did he go?"
"Who are you Goblin?" Rowyn backed away from him. "Are you with them?"
"Of course not." Hoddie re sheathed his sword. "I was trying to kill them before you so boldly interrupted. The Orc has plans to kill my father. Now he's gone and I'll have to go after him damn it!"
"I have a debt I owe the Orc." Rowyn held out her hand. "I'm Princess Rowyn Windstar and I'm coming with you."
"This will not be an easy road Princess." Hoddie looked at her with doubt. "Are you sure you wish to do this? There will be killing involved. That is not something a princess should dirty her hands with."
"I can manage." Rowyn looked at him with mistrust. "I may be a princess, but I'm tougher then I look."
"I'm Hodgodde Fearfist." Hoddie reached out and shook her delicate hand. "Son of Kranko Fearfist of Gaymere. We should get some rest. We have a long way to go and not much time. We have to get the horn back before he completes his spell. And if that means killing him, then that is what I will do."
Far to the west of Sorrowdown, Fay Shrea and Tir Na, at the foot of the mountains of Meir sat Parandor Keep. Parandor Keep was a fortress settlement established over a hundred years ago by the senate and emperor of Sorrowdown during its last great bid at expansion. To the east of Sorrowdown was the land of the Yadessa. The Emperor didn't like Baron Valkar's land being so close to his, but war with them might possibly devastate Sorrowdown and the vampires would not be an enemy easy to defeat. To the south of that was Fay Shrea and Tir Na with the Elves and Dwarfs below that. All three like the vampires magical, and a war Sorrowdown wasn't sure it could win.
To the north was the city of Winterhaven. Peaceful and it didn't have much of an army but its magic was beyond compare. From the walls, the Mages of Winterhaven could curse or blast Sorrowdown's army into dust, so invasion there was out of the question. But to the west lay open lands and human settlements that could be absorbed into the empire so, west it was. After many years and battles, everything from the gates of Sorrowdown and west to the Meir mountains became a part of the Sorrowdown Empire.
It was late in the evening and the moon was high as a lone exhausted rider led his tired mount the last few steps to the gate of the keep before collapsing. From a post on the wall, a guard watched and saw the rider. When the stranger fell, the guard called down and alerted the gate watch of the stranger’s presence. The gates were opened and two guards came out and carried the man in while another led the exhausted horse limping to a place where it would be watered and rest.
In the gate house the guards recognized the uniform of the rider as that of Sorrowdown. This guard most have ridden all night with some important message for Manius Regulus, governor of Parandor and the towns and villages around it.
At his desk in his study, Manius Regulus sat going over the city's daily reports. Work had to be done on the city's water system. Crops this quarter were down from last year and the arena floor needed repair. All boring everyday problems that faced the governor in running a city on a daily basis.
As Manius picked up the sheet concerning the monthly taxes, he rubbed his eyes and stood up. Pushing his chair aside he walked over to the table and picked up the decanter of wine and poured himself a glass. After taking a sip, he frowned. The wine was warm and not to his taste. Well that would be easy to fix. Placing the glass and decanter back on the table, Manius reached out and waved his left hand over the wine. A blue glow emanated from the ring on his finger and a wave of icy cold chilled the wine to the perfect temperature.
Just then there was a knock at his door.
"Come in." He called as he sat back down sipping his wine. At the door a young dark haired man of about eighteen dressed in a white toga trimmed in purple the color of the Pius family entered. "Caius, I'm busy. What is it?"
"We have a visitor." Caius Aurius walked to his fathers and dropped the helmet of the rider on the desk. Manius stared down at the helmet.
"What does Midoa want now?" He pushed the helmet off the desk to roll across the floor. "More men for his games? Taxes, what is it now?"
"I don't know father." Caius picked up the dented helmet. "But whatever it was, he rode his horse to death to get here."
"Interesting." Manius folded his hands in front of him while twisting the ring on his finger. "Where is this visitor?"
"In the gate house."
"Come with me." Manius got up, grabbed a cloak and left the study. It was a short walk through the keep to the gatehouse where he found the guard laying on a bunk looking like he was at deaths doorway.
"Everybody out." Manus commanded. "Caius, you stay."
One by one the guards in the room filed out and Caius shut the door behind them. Manius grabbed a stool and went and sat beside the wounded guard.
"You have something to tell me." He said. "What is it?"
"Midoa is dead." The guard moaned.
"How? How did my cousin die?"
"He was killed by Vibius Herkalus in his viewing stand in the arena."
"Damn!" Manius cursed. "Midoa was supposed to kill that bastard."
"He failed." The guard told them. "But Vibius is dead now. Dead by the Emperors own hand."
"And he sent you with a message for me?"
"Yes." He tried to sit up. "He said to tell you that Bram was back and that he would be coming for you, the ring and your son."
"Message received." Manius pulled a dagger from his belt and plunged it into the guard’s heart.
"He's nothing." Manius walked to the door and pulled it open. He talked to the guard on the other side then pulled Caius out. "We have things to do."
Without another word, Caius followed his father from the gate house. He had seen that look in his father’s eyes and knew better then to ask any questions. From the gate house they went back through the city to Parandor’s old senate building. Since the Emperor had abolished the senate, the building was now used for offices of officials Midoa or Manius had appointed. After issuing orders to one of his generals, Manius called for Malipius, Parandor’s head of the Mage guild then took Caius to his office suite.
"Father, what is going on?"
"Trouble." He told Caius. "And opportunity if what that guard told us is true."
"What do you mean?".
Just then there was a knock at the door and Malipius Didius Otho was let in. Malipius was not an old man, but his use of the dark arts has sipped his youth until he looked almost ancient and crooked. He was dressed like most dark mages in dark robes and he had an air of mystery about him. Using a cane, Malipius hobbled forward to stand in front of the seated consul and his son.
"Hail Midoa." He weakly lifted his hand in salute. "You sent for me?"
"Yes." Manius looked up at the Mage. "You are the most powerful mage that serves me here. I have a few questions for you."
"What can I do for you Sire?"
"Sire?" Manius looked at him lifting an eyebrow. "Why do you call me that?"
"Sorrowdown is in flames." He said with a faraway look in his eyes. "Midoa is dead. You and your son are now all that is left of the Pius line. That makes you the emperor if you make the move now. If not, the empire will crumble. The time you have been waiting for is here."
Manius smiled. These were just the answers he was hoping for. He had the men and forces to pull the empire back together under his name. There was just one more question.
"And what of Bram Thorn?"
As Malipius heard that name, all the blood drained from his face. His body began to tremble and his mouth opened with a groan. That faraway look in Malipius's eye turned into a crazed glare then a cold cackle rang out. Manius jumped to his feet and pushed Caius behind him as he grabbed a sword from a rack on the wall.
"Sorrowdown empire will never exist under your pathetic role Manius Regulus. You and your son will either be puppets under my control or you will be dead like Midoa. This is your only warning. I, Bram Thorn am coming for my revenge!!"
Suddenly Malipius laughter turned into screams of pain. Malipius fell to the floor as his body began to contort. Bending backwards, a loud crack echoed through the room as the Mage's back snapped and Malipius died with a final scream.
"Father! What was that? Is he dead?"
"That was just what I was afraid of." Manius threw his sword down at Malipius body. "He was possessed."
"Not what." Manius looked at his son. "Who. Bram Thorn to be exact. The craziest warlock that ever lived, and died."
"I don't understand."
"Sit down." He walked back to his desk. "I have a story to tell you."
It was early in the morning before the sun rose over the horizon when the smell of fear drifted out through the air. Fear and something else. Hunger. As Sima padded her way through the forest, she smelled something was on the hunt and it had caught the scent of prey. Like the hunter she was, Sima followed the scent. It was a familiar scent. One that was always there in Lanayh, the scent of an elf and it was scared. Sima cocked her head and took in the second scent. That of the hunter. It was a wild scent. One that wasn't usually found in Lanayh but there were a few here. She knew that smell well. It was one of her oldest enemies. An enemy she had battled many times before and never an easy battle. it was a Garmr out hunting in Lanayh.
With the hair on her neck raised, Sima slowly made her way through the bush. The smell of fear burned her senses driving her on. Garmr were ravenous hunters that once on a scent, never turned until they they had fed and their bellies were full. They were huge black dog beast usually kept by goblins as trackers because of their great hunting skills.
Finding the trail left by the Garmr was easy. They had a scent like no other beast. Sima followed it into a heavily thick area then heard a sudden scream. Gathering herself, Sima leaped over the bushes to find the Garmr advancing on a young Sky elf who's wing hung down from his back looking damaged. With one look at the scared elf, something in Sima's heart said no. She would not allow this innocent elf, one of the many who lived their lives just to protect this forest and every animal in it from harm. She had seen them help and care for everything in the the forest from a sick and diseased trees to a wounded mad bear. she would not let the Garmr hurt the elf in any way.
Gathering her strength, Sima roared and made a mighty leap which put her right in between the advancing Garmr and its intended prey. With the way barred, Sima roared her challenge to the great dog beast and held herself ready for its attack. Surprised but unfazed by the big cat, the Garmr attacked. It came in snapping at Sima's throat for a quick kill. But Sima was no novice to battle. She twisted under the attack and leaped on the Garmr's back as it tried to turn back at her. Her claws ripped wide and deep scratches as she bit into its neck. The Garmr howled out in pain as it shook and tried to shake the cat off its back. Diving to the ground it rolled trying to crush Sima. With lightning speed, she jumped off and was ready when the Garmr got back to its feet.
As it stood snarling at Sima, she pawed the ground sharpening her claws for the next attack. Sima's eyes never left the Garmr as she paced in front of the scared elf. Her muscles were tight, then they jumped at each other. As Sima and the Garnr clashed, Sima's teeth went right to the Garnr's throat and she bit down crushing its windpipe. It shook struggling to shake her off and get breath into its lungs but Sima held tight. It wasn't long before it gasped its last breath. Sima had won.
Dropping the dead Garmr, Sima turned to the elf as it drew itself back. As Sima tilted her head, she laid down and began to clean her wounds. Surprised that the Puma wasn't attacking, the elf stood up and carefully held out his hand to Sima. After taking a sniff, Sima began to lick the elf's hand.
"You just saved my life Sima." The elf sat down in front of her as Sima looked back panting. "I knew you had the heart I was looking for. I have a reward for you."
The Elf stood up and in a flash of blinding light it disappeared and a handsome blond man in glowing golden robes appear. Standing in front of the big cat was now the sun god Alee. He reached out and touched Sima right between the eyes. Suddenly her mind became sharper. She looked up at Alee and knew something in her had changed. She had grown bigger, stronger and faster and much clearer in her mind.
"How do you feel Sima?"
[Strong.] She stood wondering where that had come from. How was it that she now understood everything he was saying? [Who bright man?]
"My name is Alee." He said. "And I have something I want you to do. I want you to find someone for me and help him. Be his guide. Will you do that for me?"
[Yes Sun man.] Sima didn't know how, but she knew exactly who the bright man was and what he wanted. She would help him.
"Good." He ran his hand through the tan fur on her head. "Find Niro and be his guide. Help him be the hero I know he can be."
At the edge of Sorrowdown, Bram Thorn stood and watched as the city burned. He could sense that what he was looking for wasn't here. The Emperor was dead, he knew that. Someone had beaten him here so he couldn't get his revenge on Midoa Cassius Pius, the man who had ordered his death. But the men who had carried out the order were still out there and so was their families. He would make them suffer for what they had done to him.
As he watched the flames blow in the wind, a wagon of people who had made it out of the city pulled up along the road.
"Aiya Stranger." Called a man from the front seat. "If you seek Sorrowdown, you can see it is no more. It was burned to the ground by escaping slaves. We gave them shelter and food and this is how they repay our kindness. I pray a pox will fall on every last one of them and shrivel their manhood. We head for Parandor keep for safety. What say you?"
Bram barely looked at them. He just raised his hand and sent a blast of fire at them and incinerated them screaming. As Bram looked at the smoldering ashes, the name Parandor kept running through his mind. He began to laugh and disappeared.
In the freezing land of Aerola, far to the west of Kensor, the sun shined brightly on the snowy dunes of the plain. A great white arctic caribou stepped out from behind a huge snow mound and stopped to take a scent of the air. Sensing no danger, it bent down and started scraping at the ground to get to the tender leaves of grass beneath the snow. Off to the left, hidden among the dunes of snow, Yarden Pek watched and waited for his chance to attack. Yarden was young, pure white furred Yeti of the Mada clan from the nearby Mohn Mountains. He had been out all morning tracking caribou and had finally managed to get one separated from the herd. He was being very careful. He knew that the slightest sound or hint of his scent would alert the beast of his presence and it would bolt. He had to be slow and take his time making his approach if he was to make a kill today.
Slowly he inched his way out of the dunes keeping the wind coming from the north. He prayed to Kearn the winter god to keep the winds in his favor for just a few more minutes. All he had to do was make it a few more feet to his prey and with his icy touch, he could send his ice running through the caribou's blood and bring the beast down with a frozen heart.
Hugging the ground, Yarden merged with the snow and ice and crept inch by inch forward. His claws were exposed and ready. He had blocked out everything around him except for the caribou. He didn't see the polar bear that watched from the distance and he didn't hear the rumble coming from behind him until the ground began to shake. Then the caribou lifted its head sensing danger and bolted away. Yarden dropped back into solid form and sat up and watched as the caribou trotted off across the field. That was when he felt the vibrations in the snow and looked back to see smoke rising from the mountains. As Yarden put his hand to his brow to shield his eyes from the glare, he realized the smoke was rising from just where the entrance to the clan caverns were. Something was wrong back at the Mada Caverns. He had left mother and his younger brother there sleeping when he went out to hunt. He wasn't sure of what exactly the smoke meant, but he knew it wasn't coming from any cooking fires. They used the heat from the mountains heart to cook and forge weapons and other metal objects. And since the Yetisans don't need heat, a fire in the mountain could only mean one thing. Trouble.
The closer Yarden got to the caverns, the thicker the smoke came billowing out. He could smell the smoke as he ran and something else. He smelled fear and blood in the air. Yarden quickened his pace leaping from cliffs edge to the next trail as his fear grew. Moving at his top speed, it took him less than ten minutes to make it up to the cavern entrance. As he came around the trails bend, the smell of blood filled his senses. He hurried on to the hidden gates, then stopped when he saw two smoking bodies lying by the gate. Horrified, he looked down at the two smoldering heaps. It was Zuri and Kenton Pah. Two brothers that had been standing watch at the gate for years. Their fur was scorched down to the flesh and there was a look of absolute horror on what was left of their faces.
Fear pushed Yarden on. Something powerful had done this and whatever it was, it had gone into the gates and down to the city.
Hurrying on, Yarden couldn't help but wonder who could have done this. It couldn't have been the Snowmen who so frequently tried to get into the city. They were made of snow; they couldn't handle fire. It couldn't have been the Kensi, those savage beast men were afraid if fire too What about the Humans? Could they be responsible? Yarden couldn't see how that would be possible. The Yetisan had been friends with the people of Torcin for over one hundred years. They traded with them and their children even attended their schools. There was no reason they would attack; it just didn't make any sense. But if not them, then who could it be?
As Yarden hurried down the tunnel, he made the turn and went down and enter the main cavern which housed the people of the Mada clan. It was hard to see anything, smoke filled the cavern burning his eyes but Yarden did see the burning bodies of Yeti warriors everywhere. Scared, he ran on screaming for someone to come tell him what had happened here. As he searched, he went from the market area to the homes further back praying he wouldn't find any of his family. It wasn't long before he found himself on the lane where his family lived. He stopped at his open door afraid to go in. Afraid of what he might find.
Slowly Yarden pushed the door open and stepped in. The homes and shops in Mada cavern had all constructed from a series of chambers in the caves. The ceiling was all of different heights. Some homes had three or four rooms, some had more. Orbs of light glowed from high up casting low levels of light through all the chambers and halls. As Yarden stepped into his home, he could see things scattered everywhere. Chairs knocked over, broken plates and mugs on the floor and a bowl with the vegetables his mother had been preparing for tonight's dinner crushed and trampled. Fear for his family turned his stomach as he searched each room afraid of what he might find.
He went from room to room searching closets and under beds and found nothing. There was no one there. Yarden stopped, he looked down and at his feet there was a sketching of him with his mother and his two brothers. He picked it up and hung it back in its place on the wall. Where were they? He tried to think. Where would they go if there was trouble. His mother would take the boys and go to Levin the Elder. He would know what to do.
Running out from his mother's apartments, Yarden dashed through the streets. He went up the lane and made a turn four blocks up passing dead and burning warriors along the way. At the fountain in the center of Mada, Yarden heard a huge explosion that shook the cavern raining debris down from the upper levels. Looking up, he saw smoke pouring from the hall of Elders. Whatever had attack them, must still be up there.
Yarden was scared. He knew he was no match for whatever had attacked the clan, but if there was any way to avenge all the dead Yeti, he would have to find out what had attacked and why. Merging with the ice, Yarden stepped into the ice wall and made his way up to the higher levels. He stuck to the walls not going to deep into the ice so he would have no trouble seeing who the enemy was. Once on the top level where the Hall of Elders was, Yarden stopped before he entered. He said a quick prayer to Kearn to give him strength and luck, then slipped into the hall moving very slow.
What was once a thing of beauty and pride, the hall of Elders was now in total ruin. Where once the walls were made of beautiful gleaming ice crystal, shining like diamond, now black soot and ash covered large portions on the wall. The twin rows of statues of the elders had been smashed and lay in pieces all around the chamber. Only one statue was left standing. In the front of the chamber, front and foremost of them all stood the statue of Rocca Kah the first elder and the Yeti that brought the clan to the Mohn mountains. As Yarden moved in for a closer look, something moved out beyond the ice wall. There was someone in the room. It was a human, he looked strange, he wore tattered black robes and he had long gray scraggly hair. Yarden knew right away this was a wizard of some sort. As he watched, he could see he was talking. No, he was screaming but there was no one else in the room but him. No matter how hard he tried, Yarden couldn't hear what he was saying but he was obviously mad and looking for something.
As Yarden watched, the Mage shook his fist at Rocca Kah screaming something then stopped. He stepped closer looking up into the statues eyes, then sent a bolt of energy that blew its head off. It shattered into a thousand pieces and fell all around the mad mage. He through back his head laughing hysterically kicking through the derbies until he found something. A ring, it had been set as one of Rocca's eyes. Satisfied with his find, the Mage turned and faced Yarden. Afraid he had been found, Yarden moved further back into the ice ready to dive into the glacier if he had too. As he looked back the Mage made a gesture with his hands and disappeared in a flash of darkness.
With the Mage gone, Yarden slid out from his icy hiding place and looked around at the devastation he had caused. Who was the mad Mage and what was it that he had found? Where were the rest of his people? Yarden needed answers and only a human could give them to him. He had to go to Torcin, he had friends there. Maybe Xander Cordan could help him find his family and friends. Maybe he could help figure out who the Mage was. Torcin was about a day’s run away. Yarden returned to home and packed what he thought he might need then left sealing the caverns gates behind him. As he looked back at the snowy gates to Mada, Yarden remember someone he had met while hunting a few years ago. Someone not too far away. Maybe there was someone else up here on the tundra that could help. Maybe he should go to Casthor.
From his tower in Casthor in the frozen tundra of the Athtar ice plains, Asam Arynn stared intently into a blazing pyre. All day long he had this nagging feeling that something was wrong. He felt there was disaster reaching out and trying to touch his soul. He had tried reading the bones of his old Naga enemy but they kept telling him the same thing. That danger was near and getting closer every day. Frustrated Asam looked for more information. He dug through his chest and found his Ouija board and decided it had always served him well, he would to give it a try.
Drawing a six pointed star, Asam placed the board in the center and sat crossed legged to ask his questions. His first was what was the danger? There was no answer. The question was to direct to be answered. His next question was could Casthor be attacked. With his hands folded in his lap, Asam watched as the planchette slowly slid across the board to the YES in the top left corner. With that answer, Asam wonder who it could be that would attack the city. Was it their old enemy the Naga? It moved to the opposite side to the NO. Was it the Snowmen or the Kensi? The planchette didn't move, that meant no. It could take all day going through the list of possible attackers. This was the wrong line of questioning. Maybe he should concentrate on how to stop it. With that thought, the planchette slipped across the board to the YES. Now he was getting somewhere. So the answer was to somehow stop an attack on Casthor.
Alerting the king at this stage was a waste of time since, all he really had was a feeling and the answer of the Ouija board. He would need some kind of proof of danger for him to take action. Maybe the board had an answer.
"How do I get proof of danger?" He asked.
As Asam looked down, the planchette slid down to the letters and started spelling something out. It moved down to the M, then to the Y and over to the O and then the R and stopped.
"Myor?" Asam stared down at the board in shock. How could this be? Myor was his oldest son, his apprentice. He had strong magic, possibly even stronger than his own, but how could he possibly stop whatever was coming. Especially since even Asam had no idea what the trouble was. He needed more information. He needed to know what this was all about before he let his son get involved in it. There had to be someone, one of his friends or allies that knew what it was. It was time he reached out to them to learn what he could.
Getting to his feet, Asam walked out to his study where his altar to Aramis had been built. The fire was low so Asam mumbled an ancient spell and made it burst out to flare up and blaze high. He stared into the fire thinking back on the allies he had made in the past three hundred years. He knew many of his oldest friends had passed away, but there were still the Elves, Vampires, Fairies and a few others still alive. The first person that came to his mind was Valerian Sharpwing, king of the Ammath fairy's. Valerian was on old trusted friend for over two hundred years. If anyone knew anything, he would know.
Closing his eyes, Asam concentrated on Ammath. He visualized the beautiful fairy community with its azure bluebells, bright yellow sunflower and daffodils, white, pink and red tulips and many different wildflowers all flowering around the city. As Asam opened his eyes, he was shocked to see the city in total ruin. All the flowers were dead and the city had been crushed and burned. In his mind he called out for Valerian but there was no answer. Asam couldn't find anyone there still alive, and was horrified to find bodies of dead fairies everywhere. Whatever had destroyed Ammath had to be the danger that threatened Casthor.
After Valerian, Asam tried his friend Tomz Across of Prafa with no success. Then he tried another friend, one that always answered. He tried reaching Jandar Tyr, one of the two kings of the Dragons. In his mind deep down he could feel his presence, but again there was no answer. This worried him. The Dragons were the protectors for all of Taggitia. If there was danger in the lands, they should be there to fight it. There had to be someone he could find that could help.
Panting with exhaustion, the white shadow dived from snow dune to snow dune as fast as he could. Only minutes behind him he could hear the growls of the Kensi as they gave chase coming closer and closer by the minute. He dived into the ice as one took a swipe at him and resurfaced a few feet away right in the path of a huge Snowman. As it swings its great ice fist down to smash him he dived back down into the ice. Pain speared through his leg as the fist clipped his descending foot as it slipped into the ice. He dived deep breathing shallow twisting and turning as he looked for somewhere safe to emerge and get away from the enemies chasing him. To the left the Kensi howling tearing at snow dunes looking for him. To the right, Snowmen waited pounding the ice sending painful ripples of vibrations down trying to drive him back to the surface. The pain tore through him pounding like a hammer. He needed to surface out of the ice. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stand staying down merged in the ice. His mind was screaming out in pain. He needed help soon or he would die down there.
As Myor sat in meditate, waves of fear and pain suddenly stabbed into his head. He felt like he was suffocating deep down in the ice of the tundra while Snowmen and Kensi stood over him hunting him. But Myor Arynn knew it wasn't him that was buried in the ice. It was his friend Yarden Pek, and he was in serious trouble. He could feel Yarden getting weaker by the second.
Jumping to his feet, Myor ran to the window and opened it and dived out. As he fell he spread his arms and triggered the change and shifted his form from human to his Phoenix form. His arms stretched and powerful fiery red and gold wings formed. His body become bird like with talons, a beak and a long blazing tail. Like a star he shot out across the tundra to the west where Yarden was trapped beneath the ice.
As he approached, Myor gazed down and saw the Kensi hauling Yarden from out of the ice. Exhaustion must have taken its toll until Yarden had no choice but to surface. Being too weak to fight, they were able to grab him and haul him out onto the open bed of ice.
With his friend in danger, Myor let loose a call that rattled the snow caps. As the Snowmen looked up at him, he fired a series of fireballs down to rain on them. Like cannon blasts, the fireballs came searing down and blasting the first two Snowmen into pieces. Surprised by the attack, two Snowmen howled and raised their fist and charged Myor. With his wings out stretched, Myor flew right at them letting the heat of his wings burn right though them.
As Myor touched down on the tundra, he shifted back to his human form to face the Kensi. Myor Arynn stood a little under six feet, he was thin about 125 lbs. dressed in black trousers and tunic with a long red and gold coat. His hair was wild and spiked streaked in red, black and blond looking like flames that crowned his head. Myor was very handsome with strong features and pointed ears. His face was framed with the spots common to the men of the Phoenician race.
Between Yarden and Myor there were five Kensi, each armed with a club and the strength of a wild beast. Myor stood ready. He flexed his Phoenician muscles and sent flames flaring out from his hands.
Snarling the Kensi attacked. Leaping into action a Kensi charged in snarling and snapping reaching out with clawed hands to grab Myor. Raising his hand, Myor sent a burst of flame right in its face. The beast man howled in pain and blind, it ran off with its fur on fire.
With three more Kensi facing him, Myor formed a sword of flame and attacked. Holding the sword with two hands, Myor charged swinging up slicing into the lead Kensi from groin to its chin. Its stomach split open spilling its gut on the ice. The second Kensi came in with its club swinging for Myors head. Countering, Myor's sword came up and met the club and cut right through it. Spinning around, Myor sank his sword into the beast chest searing a smoking hole right through its heart. In shock the Kensi fell back and was dead before its body hit the ice.
Standing over Yarden, the last Kensi looked at Myor then back down at Yarden and growled. From the look in its eyes, Myor knew what was about to happen. It had one enemy there in its hands and if it was going to die, it would take Yarden with him. Sneering it raised its club over its head ready to deliver a death blow.
There was no way Myor could make it to Yarden in time to stop the Kensi from crushing his head. But with his powers, he didn't have to be close to stop the beast. His only problem was that Yarden was very close and could get hurt, but he had to take the chance.
"Yarden!" He yelled. "Get down under the ice!!"
Still groggy, but aware of what was going on around him, Yarden heard his friends warning. Reaching in for his last bit of strength, Yarden phased himself and slipped down into the ice. With Yarden out of the way, Myor sent a blast of fire and heat at the Kensi turning it into a burning pyre. As the Kensi breathed in the fire, heat seared its lungs. For a few seconds it staggered about trying to get air, then it fell smoldering to the ground.
With the Kensi and the Snowmen out of the way, Myor scanned the horizon for any more threats. He wanted to be sure there was no one else to fight before he called Yarden back up to safety. Once he was sure, he signaled him it was safe to come up. Still weak from the chase, Yarden's hand slowly came trembling up out of the ice. From the way it moved, Myor could tell he was too weak to pull himself back up to the surface. Reaching down, Myor clasped hands with Yarden and pulled. Slowly his arm came free, then his head and shoulder. Soon his entire white furred body lay on the ice and Yarden gasped for air. As he opened his eyes and recognized Myor, and made the shift back to his normal form. Yarden like all his people was very tall at six feet six inches and muscular. His skin was pale almost as white as his long flowing hair. From living in the dimly lit caverns, his eyes were yellow, able to see very well in the dark.
"Breathe easy." Myor helped him to sit up, then checked him over for any injury's and healed his cuts and bruises. "They're all dead now, your safe. What are you doing all the way out here, you could have been killed?"
"Looking for you." Yarden said feeling stronger. He took Myor's hand as he helped him up. "I need your help. Something really bad has happened."
Just then, they heard a howl from not far off in the distance. More Kensi had caught their scent and were rallying for an attack. Yarden could smell them on the wind, they were getting close.
"We should get out of here." He said. "More Kensi are coming."
"Can you run? Casthor isn't that far away."
"Go!" Yarden made the shift to Yeti. [I'll follow you.]
Turning east, Myor started running, then he spread his arms and shifted to his Phoenix form and took off into the sky and flew east with Yarden running right behind him.
At the gates to the city, Asam waited for Myor to return. All the scrying and searching had led him to one answer. He had no idea how, but his magic had told him somehow, his son would have the answers he was looking for. He had gone to Myor's study expecting to find him deep in meditate, and discovered he was missing. A simple locations spell found him out on the frozen tundra surrounded by Kensi and Snowmen in the middle of a battle. For a second Asam thought he should go help him but a few Kensi and Snowmen should be no trouble for his very capable son. What was he doing out there? Asam looked a little closer for an explanation. That's when he noticed the young Yeti laying behind the Kensi. He must be a friend. It was just like Myor to rush out to a friend’s rescue. This shouldn't take long. He would meet him at the gate when he returned.
As Myor and Yarden reached the golden gates of Casthor, the sentry bowed with recognition and let them in. The golden city of Casthor with its high spires and towers was a magnificent place. The roads were all made of marble as were the many beautiful buildings. Palm trees lined each street reaching high to grab the magnified sun light of the crystal domed city.
As Myor led Yarden into the city, Asam made his way down from the wall that surrounded the city. He caught them just after Yarden took his normal form dressed in nothing but a loincloth.
"A friend Myor?" Asam looked him up and down and frowned.
"Yes father." They stopped to greet him. "This is Yarden Pek. He's Yetisian from the Mohn mountains to the west. It seems he needs my help with something."
"Aiya friend Yarden." Asam bowed. "Welcome to Casthor. I think we should find you something to wear. We can't have you walking through the city like that."
With a snap of his fingers, a white linen tunic and cotton pants with gold trim appeared on Yarden. Yarden spread his arms and looked down at himself pleased. He had never had real clothes before.
"That's better." Asam smiled. "He looks very handsome; don't you think so Myor?"
"Yes father, He is. But I don't think he came all this way for a new suit. Yarden has something he wants to tell us."
"Yes,yes,yes." Asam said. "And I need to talk with you about something very important. Let's go home where we can be more comfortable and Yarden can talk in private."
Back in Arynn Tower, Asam led Yarden to a lounge where he could rest while Myor made them a pot of gingerberry tea to help him relax. With his tray in hand, Myor stepped in, sat it down and poured Yarden and Asam a cup.
"Sip on this." Asam said as he blew on the hot drink. "It has magically qualities. It'll help you relax and focus your thoughts."
Myor grabbed a chair and pulled it over and sat down. Yarden's face had a calm glow as he sipped his tea.
"Now." He asked. "What's so important you braved the tundra alone to find me?"
Slowly and calmly, Yarden told them about his day and what happened in the caverns. He told them of the smoke he saw rising over the mountains then what he found when he reached the caverns. He recalled the bodies of the Yetisian warriors and all his dead people. Then he told them of the old mage that had caused all the death and destruction.
"And you have no idea who it was?" Myor asked.
"None." Yarden shook his head. "There are a few mages in Torcin, but this man was crazy out of his mind."
"Many warlocks are a little mad." Asam told them. "It comes with the profession. It can't be helped."
"No." Yarden cut him off. "You don't understand, He wasn't a little mad, he talked, no, screamed at himself while tearing the place up searching for something."
Myor opened his mouth to speak but Asam held out his hand and stopped him.
"What was he looking for?" Asam asked. Now he was very interested. "Did he find it?"
"It was small. A ring I think, hidden in the statue of Rocca Kah. Why, is that important?"
"I need to see this old warlock." Asam put down his tea. "This could be very important. Myor, you can find the image in Yarden's head and show it to me."
Myor stood up and pulled his chair out and placed it in the center of the room. "Sit here Yarden."
"Is this going to hurt?" Yarden took his place in the chair looking nervous and fidgeting around.
"Relax." Myor smiled placing his hand on Yarden's forehead. "You won't feel a thing."
Closing his eyes, Myor held out his hand palm up aimed at the closest wall and started his spell.
FROM YOUR MIND TO MINE.
MY THOUGHTS TO YOURS.
THE PAST TO SEE.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THY.
With a snap of his fingers, Asam doused the lights and darkened the glass dome overhead. From Yarden's mind his day’s experience flowed into Myor and he projected the image on the wall. First they watched as Yarden stalked the caribou out on the snowy plains. Then the scent of smoke caught Yarden's attention and he saw the smoke coming from the mountains. Yarden shook his head and the scene changed as he ran through the caverns and tunnels of the Mada clan. They saw the dead and burned Yetisians scattered all through the village. Yarden shook his head again and suddenly he was standing outside of the Hall of Elders where he heard someone was tearing the place apart. Yarden merged with the ice and slipped in staying deep in the ice, but close enough to the surface to see who had destroyed the Mada caverns. As he watched, a strange man with gray hair and tattered robes raged through the chamber arguing with himself.
The second Asam saw the old warlock, he jumped up out of his seat and moved closer to the image on the wall.
"No!" He said as he watched the statue being blasted and the warlock pick something up. "He's dead, this isn't possible."
With a wave of his hand, Myor stopped the images and froze the scene with the warlock screaming into the air.
"Father, you know who that is?"
"Yes." Asam turned to face Myor and Yarden. "I know him very well."
"Who is he?" Yarden asked. "And where's my family and the rest of my clan?"
"I'm sorry Yarden." Asam was over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "But I think they're all dead. He's done it before, his madness drives his rage to kill, and he's killed hundreds."
"That can't be!!" Yarden jumped out of his chair knocking it over. Tears burned in his eyes. "My mother, my brothers, they can't be dead!! They're just missing. They must have run off when he attacked, they can't be dead!!"
"We can check if you want." Asam said sadly. "With luck they may have made it to Torcin and safety, but If they did, I think they would have reached out and made contact by now. I know Xander Corden very well, I'll contact him and see if they're there. But I think you should face the truth for now and accept it. They are gone."
Yarden looked as if his world had just died and he was about to explode with grief. He couldn't understand how this could have happened. His people weren't war like. There were warriors, sure for their protection, but they had never attacked anyone, not even the Kensi or Snowmen. Why had this crazy warlock come to his home, and why kill everyone?
Asam saw the anguish burning through Yarden and he knew he had to try and explain. He had them both sit down and he poured another cup of tea. He didn't know if either of them would understand what he was about to tell them, but if that really was Bram Thorn, then he would need their help to defeat him.
"The warlocks name is Bram Thorn." He said. "And it all started long ago in a land call Fay Shrea. Sit back and I'll tell you why he must be destroyed."
It was dark in the deep forest of Fay Shrea as Niro and Akhrua made their way down the narrow trail. With his ax in his hand, he was alert to every sound, every twig that snapped in the distance. Something was out there watching him, stalking him. He could feel the danger in the air all around him, it was so thick it felt like a blanket wrapped around him. As he walked, something in the shadows off to his left moved. Niro's eyes followed its trail as it slipped from tree to tree diving in and out of the thick foliage. As Niro watched, a head popped up out of the bushes. It was small, child size but he could tell it was no child. Whatever it was, its skin had a greenish color and it was hairless and had to small horns on its head. As it looked around, Niro ducked behind a huge tree to hide then looked out to see what was out there hunting.
It was a small creature no more than four feet tall. It was naked except for a ragged loincloth and a harness it wore around its chest. On its back it had two leathery wings that looked too weak to lift its body very high. It had pointed ears, a long narrow tail and dark dead looking eyes. Its worst attribute of all were the needle like teeth in its mouth. They were teeth meant for only one thing, ripping meat apart.
As Niro watched, a few more heads popped out and started gibbering as they ran off into the forest. Whatever they were, Niro knew they were hunters and they were after something.
Maybe it was curiosity, or maybe it was something else, but for some reason, Niro wanted to see what it was that they were after.
Quietly he tied Akhrua's reins to a tree and he slipped into the forest and followed the little green hunters. With Stormfury in his hand, he followed them making sure not to alert them to his presence. It wasn't long until he found himself standing in the bush next to a clearing where ten of the little green hunters danced and chanted around a huge fire. Niro wasn't sure what they were doing. Maybe dancing and giving praise to whatever god they worshiped.
As the little green men danced and frolicked, from a grass hut, four of them carried a huge cauldron out and placed it in the center of the fire. They were about to start cooking dinner. Niro couldn't help but feel sorry for whatever poor animal they had caught and were about to stew. But that was the nature of the hunt.
As Niro turned to leave, he heard a scream. No animal screamed like that. As he looked back, they dragged a young winged girl out from the hut screaming and struggling to be free. Right behind her, tied hand and foot came a Goblin cursing and biting at the little hands that held him. They took them out and lay them on the side of the hut to be ready to be cooked alive.
Niro knew he had to do something. He couldn't let that girl get hurt, but he was alone and they were more of them then he could handle by himself. He was going to need some kind of help.
Niro jumped when he suddenly heard the voice ringing in his head. He looked around to see who had spoken to him, but there was no one anywhere around.
"Who's there?" Niro whispered gripping his ax ready to attack.
[I Sima.] The voice said. [I come to help Niro.]
"Who are you?"
He didn't know why, but for some reason Niro felt he could trust this stranger. The voice in his head seemed to be female and it just give him a feeling of friendship and strength. Besides, he really didn't have much choice if he wanted to save the girl. If this was all the help he would get, it'll have to do.
"Ok Sima." Niro looked back into the camp. The girl and the Goblin were laying tied just outside the hut. He had to somehow get them free, then they could help in the escape. "If you can get in there and free the girl, we can try and get her to safety, I'll try and keep the hunters occupied."
[Grinders.] The voice said. [Hunters, Grinders. Sima obey.]
With Sima on her way, Niro looked around for something that he might be able to use to help with the diversion. He needed some way to keep the Grinders attention away from the hut and their captives. He figured he had two choices. He could run in and attack drawing the Grinders to him, or he could start tossing boulders and trees, raining destruction down on them. Then another idea hit him and he smiled.
Fear filled Hoddie's mind as he lay there and watched the Grinders dance in front of the fire and the cooking pot. He knew that was where they planned to put him and Rowyn. There were to be dinner for the tribe and there was nothing either of them could do about it. If only there had been some kind of warning before the attack. He knew they could have fought them off. With her spells and his bow and sword, they could have easily driven them back running into the forest. But it was to late now. His weapons were useless to him now with his hands tied and Rowyn knocked out. They were in deep trouble with no way out.
As Rowyn lay there unconscious, a Grinder hopped over and grabbed her by a leg. With drool running from its mouth, it bent down and started to lick her. Disgusted, Hoddie kicked out with both legs and kicked it away from her. With a whelp, it ran off rubbing it's back. Just then something came slowly creeping out from behind the hut casting its shadow over Hoddie. He tried to turn his head but his vision was blocked. But he could feel there was something behind him. He could feel its breath on his neck. Then he felt something weird. Something was chewing on the ropes holding his hands behind him. As the ropes broke, Hoddie quickly untied his feet, then turned to thank his savior.
As he turned to thank the stranger, Hoddie realized he was staring into a set of eyes that seemed to float there in front of him. Who was this invisible stranger with cat like eyes? Surprised, Hoddie stepped back and fell, tripping over his own feet. Before he could get to his feet, a huge Puma appeared and stood over him with its face held close to his.
[No move.] It said. Hoddie stared, his mouth hung open in surprise. [Sima here to help. Stay down. I free the girl.]
Hoddie shook his head signaling he understood, then lay back down with his hands behind him. He could get up and try and get to Rowyn and untie her bonds, but if just one of the Grinders saw him, all would be lost. They would be killed right there on the spot. But there was another way. Perhaps this Sima could help them.
On padded paws, Sima quietly made her way over to where Rowyn lay. She nudged her over a bit so she could reach her tied hands and carefully started chewing on the vines that kept her down. As she chewed, Rowyn started to wake up. Sensing how scared she must be, Sima reached out with her mind and touched Rowyn's fairy psyche gently.
[No fear Princess. I here to help. Stay still.]
As she opened her eyes, Rowyn looked around then remembered where she was. When she saw the Grinders her heart jumped in fear. A scream crept up into her throat, then she felt Sima's message to be calm.
[Help here. Just wait. Watch forest for Niro.]
As the Grinders chanted and danced around the blazing inferno, something moved in the forest. At first it was just a low moan, but as the fire snap, crackled and popped it grew louder and louder until it could be heard over the chanting. Like cracks of thunder, the moaning rolled through the camp striking fear into the Grinders. Grabbing their weapons, the Grinders hurried to the edge of their camp.
First the bushes in the forest started to quiver, then the trees started shaking. The moaning had turned into a howl that chilled Hoddie to the bone. Then boulders came flying out over the trees to crash into the Grinders huts smashing them to rubble.
Chaos ran through the camp as the Grinders panicked and scampered about. Like little savages they hoot and hollered at the invader coming for the forest, As Rowyn and Hoddie watched, a huge tree like creature stomped its way out of the forest howling like mad. The ground shook with each great step it took. It reached out and ripped a tree from the ground and waded in swatting Grinders from the air.
At that moment, Hoddie jumped to his feet. Quickly he ducked into the hut behind him and grabbed his weapons and supplies and ran out to Rowyn.
"Where's the Puma?"
[Here.] Sima appeared next to Rowyn. Hoddie had known she was big, but he didn't expect to see a puma the size of grizzly bear standing next to Rowyn. He didn't know what to make of her. Why was she here helping them?
[I help Niro. We help you.]
"Who's Niro?" Rowyn asked Hoddie. He shrugged.
"I don't know. But If he can get us out of here, he can be a friend of mine."
[That, Niro.] Sima pointed to the tree creature battling the Grinders. [We help.]
Raising her head, Sima roared and leaped out to join the tree creature. Catching a Grinder in her jaws, she shook it and threw its broken form aside. then swatted two more as they attacked her. Niro covered in tree bark, vines and leaves used a huge branch as a club and batted the little Gremlins away. With his bow in hand, Hoddie took aim and quickly fired a series of shots dropping the Grinders all around Sima and Niro. Joining the fight, Rowyn spread her wings and took off into the air. Now with her hands free, she sent jolts of energy out zapped the little flyers out of the air.
Overwhelmed by the attack, they knew when they were beaten. The Grinders started abandoning the camp for the safety of the forest. Soon they were all gone and Rowyn, Hoddie and Niro stood alone by the fire,
Niro lifted the bark he had wrapped around himself away and tossed it into the blaze revealing his muscled form then turned to the others. Sima padded over to stand next to Niro.
"Is everyone OK?" He asked. "Is anyone hurt?"
"We're fine now." Rowyn smiled at him. "Thank you warrior, that was close. If you hadn't come, we would have been their dinner."
"Thank Sima." Niro rubbed the puma's head. "She found you. She told me where you were."
"Interesting pet you have there." Hoddie said with his hand still on his sword. "Where did you get it?"
"Her name is Sima." Niro frowned. "And she's not a pet, she's my friend."
"Don't mind him." Rowyn shook her wings brushing dirt off of them. "Goblins are a very suspicious lot. He's glad you're here too. I am Rowyn Windstar of Pelordra, he's Hodgodde Fearfist from Graymere. Sima told us your name is Niro?"
"Pelordra?" Niro couldn't believe his luck. Here he was out of his mind searching and Sima took him right to where he needed to be without even being told. Maybe now he could get some answers. "You know King Philibar?"
"Yes." Rowyn answered. She looked at Niro a little suspiciously. "He's my father. Do you know him?"
"No." Niro shook his head. "But I've been sent to find him by my father. He told me to seek out Philibar of Pelordra. Only he could point me on my way to my destiny."
"It's a long way to Pelordra from here Niro." Hoddie picked up his pack and slipped its straps over his shoulder. He put the bow in its place. "Especially for one who can't fly. You have a hard journey ahead of you."
"It's much harder than that I'm afraid." Rowyn explained. "Pelordra is not your average city. There are no roads that lead there and you can only gain entrance by invitation and that's not easy."
Niro thought for a moment. His life had been turned around, scrambled and destroyed and he had no idea why. His entire family was now dead and the only answers were in Pelordra. There had to be a way for him to get there. Then he had an idea.
"What brings you two out here into the forest of Fay Shrea?" Niro asked. "Maybe we can help each other."
Hoddie walked around Niro looking him over. He thought they could use a warrior with them with what was ahead. He was obviously strong and brave. Maybe not to smart, but it wouldn't matter if they did all the thinking. He looked at Rowyn.
"What do you think?" He asked. "Should we trust him?"
"He saved our lives. " She said. "And he could have kept on his way. And besides, I like his eyes. I get an air of honor from him. I think we should trust him."
"What do you know about Orcs?" Hoddie asked as they left the abandoned Grinder camp.
The sky was blue and the breeze was warm as Dragonwolf dropped down out of the sky over Pelordra. On his back Ranjer was in heaven. He loved flying since the first time Rage had taken him for a ride through the clouds of Tir Na. The sun on his face, the wind in his hair. He envied the freedom that flight gave his Dragon brothers and he wished he could have that same freedom.
Flying next to them, Bly caught sight of the high gleaming towers of Pelordra and the magical forest that surrounded it. With a wave she signaled that they had reached their destination. Angling his wings, Dragonwolf dropped down to land right inside the walls of the city. As he touched down, Ranjer jumped off his back and Quynn shifted forms.
"So this is Pelordra." Ranjer looked up at the marvelous sight of the city in the center of a mountain. Pelordra wasn't like regular Keanna cities. Everything had been built high up in the towers. There was no traffic at ground level in the city, but when they looked up, they saw the sky filled with flying Elves all moving from tower to tower high in the air.
As Quynn, Ranjer and Bly watched the aero acrobatics, two Elves came in circling over their heads. Launching herself up into the air, Bly flew up to greet them. They talked for a few minutes, then they came down to where Quynn and Ranjer waited. Dressed in green and brown, the Sky Elf warriors gently set down and bowed to Quynn and Ranjer. Bly set herself on Quynn's shoulder.
"These warriors are going to escort us to King Philbar at the palace." She told them. "They will carry you."
"I can fly us there." Quynn said. "I can carry us all."
"No." Bly stopped him. "Keep your Human form, this is Sky Elf land. We need their help, let's honor their kings wishes."
"Fine." Quynn give in. "We'll do as you say."
Stepping up behind Quynn and Ranjer, the two Elves wrapped their arms around their waist then spread their wings and took off into the air.
Rising higher and higher, they flew between the towers. Ranjer was amazed at the beauty of the Elven architecture. The pastel blues, greens and yellows in their high homes. The flowing lush gardens of the handsome balconies on each level of each tower. Ranjer had seen the magical city of Winterhaven and the beautiful tree city of Eventide, but Pelordra he thought was even more beautiful.
Not far ahead, they saw the highest tower of them all. This Quynn knew had to be the palace of the king. With expert precision, the two warriors came down and lightly set them down on the balcony. Having set them down, one of the warriors left and went into the palace,
"There's nectar set out if you are thirsty." The warrior in green guided them to a small table set with refreshments. "Enjoy it please. The king will be out to see you in a few minutes."
On the balcony there was a beautiful garden with many different tropical flowers and a round white table carved out of something that looked like ivory. It had six stool type chair with five crystal goblets and a silver pitcher. Ranjer went to the table and poured him and Quynn a drink then handed it to him.
"This is great!" Quynn said after taking a sip. They sat down. "What's in it?"
"It's made from the glands of certain flowers we grow in Lanayh." Philibar said as he stepped out onto the Balcony. Quynn and Ranjer jumped up off their stool spilling their drink in their lap. Bly flew up off of Quynn's shoulder to land and grow to her larger size. She bowed as he stepped up to the table.
"Arael'sha!" Philibar held out his open arms and smile. "I was told there was a fairy here to see me, but I never dreamed it might be my old friend."
The king took her in his arms and gave her a gentle hug. As they separated, he looked at his other two guest.
"This one his the look of the wild in him. Its a familiar look." Philibar turned to Ranjer.
"Your majesty, my I present Ranjer Zlenka, the son of King Valkar of Yaddessa."
"You have your father's eyes." He reached out and they griped each other’s wrist. "And you? Dragon I think. You must be the son of Rage and Jandar."
"Quynn Tyr." Quynn bowed to the king. "Honored to meet you."
"Have a seat." King Philibar took his seat and poured himself a drink. "Now tell me. What brings you all the way out here to Pelordra?"
"We bring bad news I'm afraid" Bly looked at the king with a somber look. "He's back. Bram Thorn is back."
Philibar dropped his goblet. It fell and shattered on the floor. He looked down at Bly with fear in his eyes.
"Are you certain of this?"
"I saw him with my own eyes." She said. "It’s him, he killed my father and destroyed my home and all my people."
"That's not all." Quynn added. "He killed Tomz Acros."
The natural tanned look on King Philibar's face became pale. He knew Tomz Acros and Valerian Sharpwing were not easy foes to defeat. As crazy as Bram had been, he was one of the most dangerous warlocks he had come against and it had taken more than just his magic to stop him. If he was back, death might have made him even stronger then he had been in the past. Their only hope would be to find his rings and keep him from gaining his full power. They would need help to do that, if there was still time.
"Do the others know?" Philibar asked. He stood up and walked to the rail of the balcony and stared out at his city.
"No." Bly said. "After Barm attacked my home and I escaped, I headed straight for Jandar and Rage."
"But my parents are away right now." Quynn explained. "They had left just the day before she arrived."
"Well, call them." He insisted as he turned back at them. "This is of the utmost importance. We'll need them in this fight."
"I've tried many times. I don't know what's wrong. No one’s answering my calls."
"What about Valkar?"
"After he learned of the death of Tomz." Ranjer said. "Father sent us to you. He said you were the one we needed to speak to."
"You will need more then my help to defeat him." Philibar explained. "You will need my daughter Rowyn, she can represent me. But first, find Asam Arynn, he can help you find the missing rings. You will also need the rest of the original team that defeated Bram in the past. Rowyn can find anyone that has one of Bram's rings, that's the only way you’re going to stop him. But be warned, where you're going will be dangerous. Bram's rings are what drove him to madness. They have a mind of their own. Do not trust them."
"Do you know where we might find her?" Quynn asked nervously. "Or the rings?"
"Rowyn is out hunting a killer that invaded our forest and killed many of the unicorn." He explained. "You should start your search in the north, Asam lives in Casthor in the frozen valley. I'll find Rowyn and send her after you. You are welcome to stay here tonight, but you should be on your way in the morning. You will face many dangers on your journey. Some you will see coming and some may come from within. My advice to you is to look into the hearts of both your friends and your foes to find the truth. Then you will know who to trust."
"How are we supposed to find this Asam person?" Quynn asked confused. "There are a lot of frozen valleys up in the frozen wastelands. We could search for months and still find nothing."
"If you go north." Philibar smiled. "He will find you. Trust me."
The talk was lite, and the meal was short. Whenever one had finished, Philibar call for one of his house maids to show them to a room where they could rest for the night. As the maid led them away, Philibar pulled Bly aside to talk.
"Find everyone from our original team." He said. "Warn them that he's back. It may already be too late for some of them."
"I will." Bly assured him.
"These are bad times Bly. With the Dragon's gone, Bram will be very hard to defeat. Find the rings, for all our sake's before he does."
From Parandor, Caius rode all night. His father had told him the story all about Bram and what they had done to him by Midoa's order. Now he was back for his revenge. Manius had heard what had happened in Sorrowdown. He had heard how Midoa had died at the hands of his old friend. The same friend that he had betrayed and sent his family into ruin. But he had no idea if Vibius had any help from Bram. Did Bram help with the escape? Manius didn't think so, but he could have had a hand in there in another way. So far as Manius knew, Vibius had one of Bram's rings. Sooner or later, he would have to find Vibius to get his ring back, and if Caius could find Vibius and get the ring from him, he would have a better chance at getting the throne of what was left of the Sorrowdown Empire.
Caius rode by night and rested during the day. He kept a watch for any travelers and question anyone he met. During his ride he found many refugees from the burned down city of Sorrowdown that gave him information. He learned more of Midoa's death from a man who claimed to have be a senator of Sorrowdown. He said he had been in the arena when Midoa died, and witnessed the revolt of the slaves.
From a solider of the arena, Caius learned about another slave that had been instrumental in the fall of Sorrowdown. When asked what the slaves name was. He was told it was Niro Herkalus. Caius smiled when he heard that name. He recognized it immediately. Niro Herkalus was the son of General Vibius Herkalus. Caius remembered him well. They had both had the same tutor when Manius and his family still lived in Sorrowdown. Caius remembered Niro as a weak boy, more interested in studying mathematics and history then the arts of warfare. Niro had been bullied by Caius and some of the other young nobles. He was surprised to hear that he had ended up in the arena and shocked to hear he had done well. A lot must have changed since Caius left Sorrowdown. He wondered what had happened to change Niro's study interest. With the news about Niro, Caius pushed on. He still needed to find out what had happened to General Vibius. If he was out there somewhere with Niro, Caius would have to find them and eliminate them as a threat.
Late that night as Caius rode down the road to Sorrowdown, he saw the glow of many campfires burning in the distance. Caius rode as close as he thought he could without revealing himself and stopped and tied down his horse. With his sword at his side, Caius crept through the forest and around the camp keeping his eyes and ears open for sentries. Hidden in the dark, Caius watches as slaves set about setting up camp. They built comfortable places to sleep and set up a perimeter to keep out any animals or invaders. Men went out to hunt while others gathered water and any vegetation they could find that was edible.
From his hiding place, Caius watched as two men worked to finished their site. As they lit the campfire, they talked about the escape.
"I was barely able to get free from my chains when the guards were on us." One said. "I was lucky. All I had to fight with was my chains until after I was able to kill the first guard, then I had his sword and was ready to fight."
"Did you see the Emperor die?" The other warrior asked as he stacked fire wood.
"Yes." He said. "But we still have work to do. I'll tell you about if when we're done and ready to eat. Let me get water and then we can rest."
As Caius watched. the tall warrior with two water jugs headed out and into the forest. He kept low and stepped out and followed him. Off in the distance, Caius heard the sound of running water, there was a stream with fresh cold water. The warrior walked out into the knee deep center and sank his jug down to fill them.
Silently Caius crept up around the warrior and surprised him with a dagger to his throat.
"Make a sound and it will be your last." Caius dragged him from the stream and threw him down on the water’s edge then jumped on him.
"Whether you live or die depends on your answers to my questions." Caius held the dagger point to his throat. "Who killed the Emperor?"
"General Herkalus." He choked out. "His sword ended the Emperor's life."
"You see this with your own eyes?" Caius asked.
"And what happened to the General?"
"I don't know." He said louder. Caius pushed the dagger harder against his neck to quiet him.
"Quiet or I cut your throat." Caius warned him. "What happened then? Who led the revolt out of Sorrowdown?”
"It was the General's son Niro. He gathered us and led us to the gates and our freedom."
"Is he here in the camp?"
"No." He whispered. "I saw him take a horse and head south toward Fay Shrea."
With a flick of his wrist, Caius sliced through his throat and held him down until he bled out and stopped struggling. Rinsing the blood from his hands, Caius dragged the warriors body to the side where he covered him in dead leaves then headed back to retrieve his horse. Fay Shrea was his destination. Niro was out there somewhere and he had to find him.
The sun had just risen from the east as Myor and Yarden made their way down from the cold northern mountains. Yarden hadn't said very much while they traveled. He responded to everything Myor said, but didn't added much or even try to hold a conversation. Myor guessed he was still in shock from what had happened to his family. They would have to talk soon. Where they were going, Yarden would need all his wits about him. This wasn't the time for mourning.
From Casthor in the north, they had traveled down past Torcin through the cold wastelands without being attacked by either Snowman or Kensi. Once out of the barren north and into warmer climates, Myor and Yarden flew east over the trails up and over the Runtalian mountains and down into the lands of the Pascan giants. Yarden seem amazed at the sights he was seeing. Everything here was new to him. The high grasses and all the different plant and flowers, even the animals here were different from the cold wastelands. Myor was glad to instruct him on what he was seeing as they traveled, describing everything Yarden pointed out.
"It's all so different from home." Yarden said as they sat and had lunch. "Everything here is so alive."
"Without ice and snow." Myor said as he finished eating and put away his supplies. "Life moves much faster then back home. This is what we're fighting for. To keep not just our people safe, but all life."
"And Bram is that much of a threat?"
"You saw what he did to your people." Myor stood up. "Imagine what will happen in a large city full of people. Imagine what he will do to get what he wants."
Yarden took a last drink and headed off to join Myor on the road. They went on from the land of the Giants and down into the Human country of Satria.
Satria was a country of farmers and small villages with fruit trees and lots of fields of wheat and corn. As they traveled down the road, they saw many fields over ripe and over grown beyond ready to be harvested. Myor looked closely at the fields then walked in to have a look at the over gown corn stalks.
"Is something wrong?" Yarden asked from the side of the road.
"Yes." Myor said as he reached up a plucked an ear to inspect. "This corn should have been harvested weeks ago."
"Corn?" Yarden said, he had never seen anything like it before. "What is it?"
"It's a vegetable." Myor peeled back the layers of leaves that covered the corn then suddenly threw it to the ground. "Ewwwwwwwwww!!! Its covered with mold!!!"
He checked another and found the same thing. Then he went from stalk to stalk and realized the whole field was full of moldy corn.
"This whole field has to be destroyed." He said as he went back out to join Yarden. "It can't be helped."
"Why?" Yarden asked.
"Because this mold is everywhere." He explained. "It's poisonous and if it’s eaten people will die."
"It's too late." Someone said from behind them. "People have already died."
Myor and Yarden turned to find a young weak looking boy of about fifteen coming out of the corn field. He staggered over to them and fell forward in Yarden's arms.
"Help us please!"
Yarden took him and laid him on the side away from the infected corn field. He put a hand on his head and felt the heat from the fever radiating out from him. The boy was tall for his age with dull looking red hair that thew knew would be shining if he was healthy. His skin was pale and sweaty and he had a sick smell rising from his shallow breathing.
"This boy is very sick." Yarden said. "I think he's going to die. We have to help him."
"Give him to me." Myor reached out and took the boy in his arm. He held him close and pulled his cloak around them and bowed his head. As Myor held him, he started to glow. A subtle heat rose all around him and poured into the sick boy. As Myor held him, he struggled for a second then relaxed as his breathing stabilized. In minutes, color returned to the boy’s face and his fever broke. Myor held the boy for a few more minutes until he opened his eyes and smiled up at him.
"How do you feel?" Myor opened his arms and sat the boy down.
"I feel better." He said as he sat up. "How did you do that? I thought I was going to die."
"You were very sick." Yarden handed him a water skin to have a drink. "Drink this."
The boy took it and drank deeply then give it back to Yarden.
"My name is Brent. I live with my family in Diva, a village not to far from here."
"Is that where you got sick?" Myor asked.
"Sick!!" Brent jumped to his feet. "I almost forgot! Yes, everyone's sick in Diva. My mother and father, you have to come help before it’s too late!"
As Myor entered Diva with Yarden and Brent, the smell of rot and death was over powering. The bodies of dead villagers lay scattered everywhere. Brent steered them around and through the village to a cottage off to the rear near the back cattle fields.
"Is everyone here dead?" Yarden asked.
"No." Brent said quietly. "Many people left to get away from the mold, but they didn't get far. Most of them are still close by. Me and a few of my friends have been trying to take care of the, that is until we got sick. I don't know how many of us are left."
"How did this start?" Myor asked. "How long has the mold been growing?"
"Two weeks." Brent said as they reached his cottages door. "Ever since that crazy old man came here looking for his ring."
Suddenly Myor felt cold inside. A crazy man looking for a ring, that could be one person. Bram Thorn had been here. But what had he done? This looked almost like the sickness that Polan Dressak had spread across Taggitia so many years ago. How could Bram be responsible?
As Brent opened the door, Myor looked into the darkness that was his home. The smell was awful. It was like rotting vegetation, Yarden gagged for a second before entering, then turned away refusing to go in.
"Its OK." Brent said. "I can hardly stand the smell myself. I'll go in and open some windows and let fresh air in, but I have to be careful. The sun light hurts their eyes."
Though the smell was horrible, the darkness wasn't something that would bother either Yarden or Myor. Stepping closer to the door, Myor peered into the cottage. The whole cottage was very nice and built into two rooms. One on the first lever which was a small kitchen and family room with a large bed set far back against the furthest wall. In the bed, there was two dead bodies.
"Brent." He called out. "Come back!"
"No!" He cried. "My parents are here in the bed. You can heal them just like you healed me. Please, you have to try!
"It's too late." Myor stepped in and went to Brent to guide the crying boy out. "They would want you away from here. Come, we have to see if anyone else is alive here."
From house to house and farm to farm they searched each house and found only the dead. Brent found his friends huddled together dead in a small barn outside of the village.
"Bram Thorn did this?" Yarden asked as he looked back at the dead village. "This is insane. All for a ring?"
"Who knows what insane reason he had. All I know is we have to stop him at all cost."
"What do we do about Diva?" Yarden asked. "And all that moldy corn."
"Watch Brent." Myor said. "He knows this area. Find someplace safe out beyond Diva and I'll meet you there."
"What are you going to do?" Brent asked.
"I'm going to get rid of this curse."
Myor stepped off away from them then shifted to his Phoenix form and leaped off into the sky with his wings ablaze.
"By Rimnar!!" Brent said as Myor rose up into the sky. Yarden smiled and lead Brent away.
"Come on." He said. "Show me how we get away from here."
Myor circled Diva until he saw Yarden and Brent were far enough away, then he dived down into the corn fields and sent his flames to burn everything. He went to each field and all the orchards and burned everything. Then he flew into Diva and put his flames to each house, shop and barn. Myor made sure by the time he left the village, not one building was standing.
[And so ends Bram's mold.]
"This is ridiculous." Ranjer said from Quynn's back. "We should be out looking for Bram or the rings not searching the north for, who are we looking for?"
[King Philibar sent us north.] Quynn sent. [He knows this Bram better than we do. I think we should listen to his advice.]
"What advice? All he said was to go north. We've been flying around up here for two days, where are we supposed to be going?"
"How about the city below?" Bly pointed down at bright walled city. "This as good a place as any to start looking."
Quynn and Ranjer looked down. The city below looked like a pretty prosperous land surrounded by a wall like most kingdoms in Taggitia. There were farms and ranches with many different crops and livestock in the surrounding area. Many roads and trails led into the city from three different directions. People could be seen traveling in and out of the city going about their daily business. High on a hill in the back of the city sat a tall beautiful palace. Five tall slim towers formed and almost perfect barrier that framed around the marvelous castle connected by soft white stone. Tall, wide windows scattered thinly around the wall in perfect symmetry along with gaps of various sizes for archers and other forms of defense. As they circled, Quynn noticed something about the city that made him more at ease. Outside the gates of the city, placed about twenty feet apart, there were statues of dragons lining the wall. It didn't look threatening attacking dragons; it was more like they were praising them.
As Quynn gazed down on the city he wondered what this handsome city was. It looked peaceful, like a wonderful place to live. He hoped Bram hadn't been here. He would hate to see this place in ruins.
Circling above the towers, Quynn roared to announce his presence, then dropped down just inside the cities gates. Ranjer jumped from his back as Bly flew down to sit on his shoulder. Shifting to his human form, Quynn stepped over to join them as a crowd began to gather around them. Dressed in regal attire, a handsome gray haired man stepped out to greet them.
"Aiya en creoso!" He smiled holding out his hand to Quynn. "We are pleased to be honored by the visit of a Dragon and his companions. My name is Pasker Dent, I'm an elder in counsel to King Tobias Bratt. Come in and rest, the king will want to welcome you to Dorlanth."
"Dorlanth, King Tobias?" Ranjer looked at Quynn. "That sounds familar."
Quynn shrugged as he shook hands with the elder who led them out and into the city of Tranda, capital of Dorlanth.
From there, Pasker escorted them down through the city's marketplace where there were stalls that sold everything thing from weapons to food stocks. There were corrals where pigs, cattle and horses were sold in auction to the highest bidder.
Next Pasker showed them the blacksmith shops where elaborate weapons were fashioned and forged for anyone who could pay the price. There were a number of mid-level mages worked with the blacksmiths adding different spells to weapons when needed.
"Very impressive." Bly said. "I see quality work being done here."
"Yes." Pasker said beaming with pride. "Only in Winterhaven or certain places in Aspara Baugh can you find better work. Come, this way. Someone would like to meet you."
From the smith's lane, Pasker took them up through the city into the housing area. It was beautiful and clean and comfortable looking. People laughed and looked very happy here as they went on about they're lives. As they reached the palace, Pasker spoke to sentries at the gates who stepped aside to open the gates and let them into Bratt palace.
As they walked into the bright halls of Bratt palace, Quynn almost thought he was home. The palace was warm and inviting with stone pillars and bright wood paneling lining the halls. Portraits of past ancestors lined the hall that led to the kings audience chamber.
As Pasker led them into the audience chamber, there was a handsome dark haired man waiting there anxiously pacing back and forth. When he saw them, he ran pass Pasker to Quynn shouting questions.
"Where is he?" He asked agitated. "Is he hurt? Tell me he's OK please!"
"Who are you talking about?" Ranjer asked confused.
"Jayce!" He said. "I haven't heard from him in almost two weeks. That's not like him."
"Of course!" Ranjer smacked the side of his head. "That's why Dorlanth sounds familiar to me! You're JP, Jayce's mate! This is the city he keeps so secret. Relax, as far as we know, he's fine."
"He went off somewhere with my parents." Quynn explained. "On a mission. He'll be home when they're done."
"I thought you were here to tell me something had happened to him." JP relaxed and smiled at them. "I've been really worried since I haven't spoken to him in so long."
"No," Bly said shaking her head. "We're here looking for someone. A stranger to your city."
"A Phoenix by any chance?" JP stopped, then turned back to look at them. "A Phoenix and a Yetisan came in this morning with a young boy from somewhere up north. They were talking about some crazy warlock killing the boy’s whole village."
"Asam Arynn?" Bly asked. She flew up and hover in front of JP anxious for an answer.
"No." A voice said from behind them. They all turned to see Myor and Yarden standing in the doorway. "I'm his son Myor and this is Yarden Pek of the Mada mountains. We've been expecting you. I think we should get out of Tranda, our presence here could draw Bram to this city."
"He's right." Bly said. "We don't want to see him come here. To many lives at stake."
"Then if what Myor has been telling us is true." JP said. "You should go. But before you do, there's something I need your help with."
"What's that?" Ranjer asked.
JP walked to the cabinet on the other side of the room, then turned back to Quynn and the others. He took a deep breath, then started his story.
"A few months ago while hunting in the forest north of here almost on the edge of Dorlanth." JP explained. "A hunting party found a village a lot like Diva completely empty of all its people. The village had been torn up like some great battle had taken place but there were no bodies found anywhere. The hunters searched everywhere for miles around and nothing. No bodies, but they did find a trail. Footprints, rather large footprints that went deep in the forest to a cave. Now we know the giants of Pascan didn't live to far away, but we have been at peace with them for years. King Katic is a friend to us. He would never break his treaty, nor would his son. It’s just not in their interest. They know we are under the protection of Jayce and the Dragons."
"Now." JP continued. "Once my hunters found the cave, they went in to see what was in there. Only one man made it out of that cave and he was found with this."
JP opened the cabinet to reveal a huge horn. It looked like a bull’s horn but enormous. If that horn had come from a bull, it would have to be twice the size of a regular bull.
"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" He asked. He stepped aside as Bly and Myor came over to investigate. The horn was about two feet long and almost as thick as a dragon's. As Myor examined it, he realized it wasn't the entire horn. It was just the end. Whatever the horn had come from must have been huge.
"It looks like a dragon horn." Quynn said as he reached out and touched it. "But it’s not."
"How do you know?" Ranjer asked.
"Trust me." Quynn said. "It’s not. I'd know if it was."
"Then none of you know what it could be?"
"Afraid not." Ranjer said. "But I get the feeling there's more?"
""I'm afraid you're right." JP closed the cabinet. "Not far from here is Paiget Keep. It’s a small outpost and lookout station. It’s usually manned with six men. Yesterday, two men staggered in from the post."
"Where are the other four?" Myor asked.
"Dead." Yarden said. "Whatever that horn belongs to, its coming here. At the rate its moving it'll be here tonight."
"How do you know that?" Ranjer asked. "They could be lost like the villagers. How do you know they're dead?"
"I can sense the beast." Yarden said. "It’s anger and rage as it comes closer. I feel it coming."
"I can have my men ready in an hour." JP got up and started for a rope to ring for an aide to send orders to the cities guards."
"No." Quynn stopped him. "You’re under the protection of the Dragons and a Dragon will deal with this."
"And a Vampire." Ranjer smiled.
"And a Phoenxian and a Yetisan." Myor nodded.
"We all will." Bly zipped up and around the room to land on JP's shoulder. "If your men can guard the city, we'll go stop the monster before it tears through your gates."
The night was dark and quiet as something huge and powerful pushed its way through the trees towards the walls of Tranda. A grizzly bear had been napping in the bush after its dinner, it woke up annoyed by the sudden sound of something big passing by its sleeping place. It stuck its head up, then stepped out to challenge the invader that had dared to wake him. The bear roared its challenge as it faced his opponent and charged in to attack. With a single swing, the invader knocked it away smashing the bears maw and breaking its jaw. The bear whined in pain as it limped away back to his cave to die of starvation.
In the dark forest outside of the walls of Tranda, Quynn gathered his friends to discuss how they should go about attacking Dorlanth's intruder.
"Bly." He called her over. She lit on Ranjer's shoulder. "I want you to fly out and circle the area from above. Whatever's out there should be pretty big. You should have no problem spotting it. Ranjer, you and Yarden are our best trackers. See if you can find a scent on the wind. We'll draw it to someplace safe where we can trap it."
"Trap it?" Myor looked at Quynn confused. "Just trap it?"
"Until we know what it is and why it's attacking. I think trapping is best. As you know, not all monsters are really monsters. Lets not kill something that we might fine to be innocent later."
"I guess that's reasonable." He agreed. "What would you like me to do?"
"You're my last line of defense." Quynn said. "If it gets to the gate, stop it anyway you can."
Shifting form, Myor flew up and perched himself on the wall to keep watch. Bly flew up and off high over the forest to start her aerial search. Ranjer and Yarden each walked off out onto the road with their noses high, trying to find a strange scent on the wind. Yarden moved from left to right breathing in the scents of the forest and Tranda. He smelled the cook fires of the guards on the other side of the wall and the scent of a wolf hunting rabbits not too far off. Then he smelled blood from a wounded bear and its fear as it moved through the forest. Then something caught his attention. There was a heavy musky animal scent coming in on a breeze from the north. It was like nothing he had ever smelled before. It was foul like something from the pits of the cave bats in the deep mountain caverns.
Yarden hurried back to Quynn just as Ranjer caught the scent. He wrinkled his nose as he sniffed the air.
"Do you smell that?" He asked Yarden. "I smell blood and something weird."
"I smell it." Yarden said. "It’s coming from that way, north of here."
[Bly.] Quynn sent out. [Do you see anything?]
[Something is moving through the forest fast heading straight for Tranda.] She sent.
[Can you see it?]
[No.] She said. [But its big. Trees are being knocked over like blades of grass. If you hurry, we can intercept it before it gets to Tranda. Just follow my signal, it’s not that far.]
Running into the forest, Quynn and Ranger shifted to their wolf form while Yarden took his yeti form. Through the trees and over fallen logs and over grown bushes they ran through the dark. They leaped over a stream and hopped a deep ravine following Bly's mental signal to a small clearing in the forest. There they stopped as the heavy sounds of footsteps rang out through the night. Ranjer growled as the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He shifted to man-wolf and stood up on his hind legs. Quynn took his human form and readied a spell for whatever was about to come crashing out of the trees.
[OK.] Quynn sent to Bly. [I need to know what’s out there.]
[I don't know.] She sent. [The trees are so thick; I can't see a thing. But whatever it is, your about to find out because here it comes!!]
As Quynn, Ranjer and Yarden watched, something howled and two trees went flying to the side to crash off in the distance. Quynn and Ranjer stepped back as a nine-foot Minotaur came howling out of the trees bellowing with rage. It had the head of a bull with two huge horns and the body of a massive man. It had cloven feet and red eyes that glared at them with anger. It took one look at Yarden and lowered it head and charged.
"What is that?"
"It’s a Minotaur!!" Quynn said surprised.
Ranjer asked as he dived out of the way. Beating his chest, Yarden stood his ground as the Minotaur came at him. When it reached him, Yarden raised his hands and grabbed it by the horns and heaved with all his might and threw it to the side. Enraged, the Minotaur scrambled to its feet and swung out with its club like fist and hit Yarden in the chest knocking him back to his knees. Ranjer growled and got ready to leap on the Minotaur's back.
[Do not interfere!] He yelled. [He is mine!]
With a howl, Yarden leaped at the Minotaur and hammered him with blow after blow with his closed fist. The Minotaur howled in pain and rage as it staggered back trying to avoid the blows but Yarden kept them coming. With a mighty force, the Minotaur lunged out crashing into the Yeti and with enormous strength, he hooked him with his horns and threw him. As he flew through the air, Yarden spun himself around upright and crashed into the trees off to the side. Though dazed for a second, Yarden was back on his feet and charging in for his next attack.
Off to the side, Quynn and Ranjer watched the two powerful combatants fight. Bly flew down and circled them ready to blast the Minotaur if Yarden went down.
"I think this could go on all day." Ranjer said. "Is there any way we could help him?"
"I don't think he wants our help." Quynn told his cousin. "In fact I think if we intervene, he might attack us."
[I would.] Yarden sent. [Just stay out of it and let me fight.]
With his great strength, the Minotaur grabbed Yarden in a bear hold and started squeezing. Yarden had just enough time to get his arms up to his chest when the Minotaur grabbed him. He pushed back with all his strength until he broken the hold, then he quickly hit the Minotaur on both sides of its head, then sent a upper cut at its chin that sent it flying back to land in the mud. As Yarden stepped up and stood over the Minotaur, it weakly tried to get up, then fell back and slowly shifted to human. When Yarden looked back down, there was a medium sized dark haired naked man lying there. Yarden raised his head and howled as he pounded his chest in triumph.
Quynn and Ranjer came over and looked at the unconscious man, then up at Yarden.
"Who is he?" Ranjer asked.
"I have no idea." Quynn said. "But he's obviously not just a mad beast."
"What do we do with him?"
"I can keep him sleeping for now, but we have to turn him over to JP." Quynn said. "Then it'll be up to the king to decide what to do with it."
"It fought well." Yarden said as he shifted back to his albino form. "Someone should go check out where he came from, perhaps there's a reason for him being here."
"I agree." Bly said. "I don't feel any evil from it, just confusion and anger. I'll fly back to Tranda and talk with JP."
"You don't think Bram had anything to do with this?" Ranjer frowned. He looked to Bly "Do you?"
"It's possible." She said. "When it comes to him, anything is possible."
"So what do we do?" Quynn asked.
"I think we should move on." Bly said. "We still have to find Rowyn, and Bram is out there doing who knows what."
"So where do we look?" Ranjer asked.
[I can find her.] Myor said from his perch on the gate. [Right now she's in Gaymere, and I think there's an Orc involved.]
"An Orc?" Ranjer gave them all a serious look. "If there's an Orc, we should hurry. She may be in trouble."
As the morning sun rose high in the east, Niro, Hoddie and Rowyn made their way out of the forests of Fay Shrea. Before them, to the south of Fay Shrea was Eventide. To the west, Hoddie told them was his home, Gaymere.
As they stood at the split of the two roads, Hoddie turned to Rowyn and Niro.
"This is it." He said. "It's your last chance to change your minds. From this point on we enter Gaymere. I'm going on but neither of you have too. You have no connection to us Goblins. What happens to my people is not your responsibility. You can turn back."
"No." Rowyn shook her head. "You're wrong. You're going against Bruego D'aruk. He has to pay for what he did in Pelordra and I have to get that unicorn horn from him before he can use it to kill your father or anyone else."
"And you?" Hoddie turned to Niro.
Niro thought for a second as Sima stepped up to rub against his leg.
[I follow you.] She sent.
"My father told me to go to Pelordra." He said. "Only she can take me there so I have to follow her. My sword and axe will be with you."
"Then follow me."
Unlike Eventide, the road into Gaymere was dark and thick with heavy foliage. No sunlight slipped in through the heavy canopy of trees overhead and the air was thick and hot with the smell of rotting vegetation. Sima was in the front with Hoddie armed with his daggers right behind her. Rowyn was in the middle while Niro kept watch on the back.
Though dark, the forest was loud and alive with the sounds of the night. They walked for hours hearing the sound of twigs snapping under their feet, frogs croaking somewhere off in a distant pond, crickets chirping and a wolf howling to his lunar night mistress. Though it seemed peaceful, from his years of training and living in Gaymere, Hoddie could pick out and identify each and every sound. He could tell the difference between a wolfs howl and enemies signaling between each other and tonight the moon was full but the howls were all wrong. They had the wrong pitch to be wolves howls. As Sima started to growl, Hoddie slowed down to let the others catch up with him.
"We're being watched."
"I know." Niro whispered. "Sima says there's five out there watching us."
"I counted four." Hoddie said and nodded ahead to the left and right side of the trail. "We can't avoid them, they'll just come at us from the back if we get pass them."
"Then we go straight ahead." Rowyn stepped out and walked pass Hoddie heading down the trail.
"Hold on Princess." Niro hurried forward. "Let us go first."
He looked down at Sima and sent her a quiet message to camouflage herself and follow through the thick bush of the forest. With his sword in hand, Niro took the lead. He watched for the slightest movement of the trees as he walked. He felt the light breeze as it blew across his face. He waited for the hint of movement as they slipped through the denseness of the forest. Then just as they reached a group of oaks, he heard a soft buzzing and ducked as the first Goblin arrow streaked pass his ear. Niro and Hoddie dived to the side as the Goblins rushed out to attack. Rowyn spread her wings and leaped up into the trees and conjured a bow and took aim at the first Goblin coming at them. Her arrow streaked down straight into its chest knocking it back dead into the mud. as three more Goblins charged, Hoddie leaped out with his twin daggers flashing ans sliced into another Goblin. Just as a third Goblin was about to brain Hoddie, Sima grabbed it and pulled it screaming into the under bush. That left one coming at Niro. Just as Niro crossed swords with the Goblin, another stepped out of the forest.
"Hold your swords!"
Niro took a step back as a Goblin dressed in bone armor walked out to stand beside his companion.
"Hoddie Fearfist." He said. "What brings you into the land of the Black Skulls?"
"Koxir Mugwart." Hoddie stood up. "This is Bloodfang territory, your clan has no claim here. I know there is no honor in the Black Skull clan but if its war you want, Kranko will be glad to give it to you."
"See there is where you are wrong." Koxir reached up and took off his Orc skull helmet. "We Black Skulls do not fear Kranko Fearfist or the Bloodfangs, would you like to know why?"
"Yes." Hoddie said curious. "Please tell me why."
"Because Kranko Fearfist no longer sits on the high seat of the Bloodfangs."
"You lie!!" Hoddie jumped out to dive in and attack Koxir. Niro grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Let him go Human." Koxir sneered at them. "I fear no Bloodfang, let him come and face his death."
"I'll let him go." Niro said. "But first, answer a few questions. What have you done to Kranko?"
"We Black Skulls haven't touched Kranko." He said. "But we will take advantage of his absence and take the land that the Bloodfangs hold."
"Bruego." Hoddie said. "That damned Orc again. He did this."
"I know nothing about an Orc." Koxir pulled his sword and stepped out. "Now, let him face me and his death."
Niro stepped aside and let Hoddie go.
"I'll be right back."
Hoddie pulled his daggers and went out to meet Koxir. The Goblin laughed when he saw that all Hoddie was armed with were his two daggers. He wasn't even wearing any kind of strong armor. He put his helmet back on, then turned to the one warrior he had left.
"Give him your sword." He ordered. "He needs a proper weapon to fight with."
"No." Hoddie smiled. "This will do."
"They have at it!!"
Koxir charged at Hoddie. He raised his blade for a strike at Hoddie's neck intending to chop down at him. Calmly Hoddie took a step to the side and in one swift motion, he slipped his dagger blade right between the third and fourth rib and into Koxir's heart. Koxir barely felt it until he turned saw the dagger sticking out of his chest. He took two steps toward Hoddie and fell at his feet.
Hoddie looked up at the warrior looking down in shock at his dead leader.
"Well?" Hoddie went and pulled his dagger from Koxir's chest. "Leave us and live or join him in death. It's up to you."
The warrior slid his sword back into its sheath and turned and ran off into the forest.
"Bruego has your father." Rowyn said as she joined them. "How do we find him?"
"Sima can track him." Niro said. "If we have something of his to get a scent from."
"This cloak was my fathers. Would that do?"
"No." Niro shook his head. "It has your scent; we need something only your father wore."
"For that, we're going to have to go to Blood Tooth and his private cave." Hoddie told them. "And I'll have to go in by myself."
"Agreed." Rowyn said. "We'll find a safe place to wait and maybe do a quick search of the area while we wait."
"Fine." Hoddie picked up his pack and heaved it onto his shoulder. "Just stay out of sight. It won't be good if you get caught spying on Blood Tooth."
Deep in the ever dark forest of Gaymere, there was a five-mile-long, quarter mile deep chasm in the ground. This was Blood Tooth, the home of the Bloodfang clan. Blood Tooth was said to be the creation of a long dead dragon that took his claws and gouged out the rip in the surface of Keanna in a great rage. Goblins had found it and built homes and tunnels all through it over thousands of years then spread out through the lands around it to create Gaymere. Over the years, many clans had fought over control of the Tooth. Some won, some lost. Sometime the loser would leave and find a new place to live, sometimes they didn't and were made slaves of the victor.
Like Orcs, Goblin society was ruled by the strongest and murder and betrayal was very common. Most Goblin rulers ruled by fear and intimidation, but all that had started to change when Kranko Fearfist became the chief in Blood Tooth.
You see years ago in a place far away, Kranko had learned of a thing called honor and it changed him. His heart was no longer ruled by hate and greed. He had ambition, yes, but he thought there was another way to go about getting want he wanted then murder and backstabbing. He started to talk and teach other Goblins about honor. He had many fights and many duels, and somehow he always managed to fight fair and come up on top until his fight with Bog Fanggore the chief of the Bloodfangs and overlord of the Goblin nation.
For a year Bog had heard rumors of a Goblin teaching warriors of something new and totally contrary to the Goblin way. He heard whispers of the crazy scheme called honor but dismissed it as a weakness that any true Goblins would never accept. But as time went by, the talks about Kranko and his honor grew louder and louder until Bog could ignore it no more. He ordered Kranko brought to him in chains to stand for his judgement.
Beaten and bloody, Kranko was dragged through Blood Tooth and tossed on the ground in front of Bogs bone throne. Bog looked down on him as the small arena where he held court filled up with Goblins to watch Bog put an end to Kranko and his ludicrous concept of honor.
Kranko stood up to face Bog on his throne as the charges were read. Bog charged him with sedition and conspiracy. He stood and called Kranko a traitor to the Goblin nation and he sentenced him to death. But one of Bog's own lieutenants stepped out and objected to Bog's sentence. He said as a senior warrior under the laws of the clan and tribe, Kranko had the right of combat. If he wished, he could challenge Bog to a battle to be chief of the Bloodfang clan. Kranko accepted and made the challenge. The warrior asked if he was sure he wanted to make the challenge. He reminded him that if he lost, not only would he be put to death, but his family would also suffer the same fate. Kranko accepted and still made the challenge. As Bog accepted, the arena was prepared for the battle.
The battle was to be fought to the death in two challenges. First with swords and if no one won that, they would move on to clubs. As the battle started, Kranko faced off with Bog and fought with honor while Bog used every dirty trick he could think of. He threw dirt in Kranko's face, he used weapons other than the one allowed in battle. He even had someone in the crowd stick out his leg and try and trip Kranko. But Kranko was fast. He dodged the dirt, deflected the dagger and with a smart kick at the right moment, he broke the ankle of the interfering bystander. Then time was called and each opponent was given two minutes to rest and switch weapons to clubs or hammers. Though most of the crowd cheered for Bog, there was a number that stood on Kranko's side. The warrior who had objected and spoke out for Kranko was Chonk Bonegrinder. By speaking out for Kranko, he knew he had signed his death warrant. Bog would have him killed if he won the battle. His only chance was to side now with Kranko and support him in any way he could. From his own arsenal, Chonk brought out his father's hammer and gave it to Kranko with his pledge to stand by him win or lose. It seems his honor concept was working and some were starting to believe and accept it.
When the call came to fight, Kranko charged in with his hammer ready. Bog fought with every trick he knew, but it just was not to be his day. Kranko wore him down and after thirty minutes of battle, Kranko's hammer struck Bog on the shoulder and spun him around and into a blow to his face that split open his head. As Kranko stood exhausted in triumph, one of Bog's men charged out with his sword raised high aiming for Kranko's back. Like a shot, Chonk was there to defend his new chief. He intercepted the blow and sank his dagger into the heart of the attacker.
That was the first day of Kranko's rein as the chief of the Bloodfang clan. It was never easy. Not many accepted his concept of honor but in time, they learned to respect Kranko and they learned what honor meant and how it could benefit there lives. But of course there were those who refused and would always plot behind his back. Kranko didn't care, he had his honor and his allies and his secret which kept him and his son safe.
It was dark by the time Hoddie had made it to the first tunnels of Blood Tooth. There were four Goblins on sentry at the tunnel. Hoddie had no idea what had happened and why his father had lost his place as the chief, so he didn't know how safe it was for him to be in Blood Tooth. He pulled the hood of his enchanted cloak over his head and concentrated on the changes he wanted to make in his appearance. His nose grew longer and his mouth twisted, his eyes bulged and his back became hunched. Hoddie pulled a small pocket mirror from his pouch and check to make sure he was unrecognizable. With a little concentration, he added a thick scar across his face and was satisfied with his look.
With a sword at his side, Hoddie stepped out and walked down the trail to the tunnel to Blood Tooth. In his mind he quickly went over what he would tell the guards that would get him pass them and into Blood Tooth.
"Haakhec." Hoddie said with a nod as he approached the four warriors. "I am here to seek council with the chief of the Bloodfang clan. I have an opportunity that he will find profitable."
The four Goblins looked at him, then at each other. One stepped out with a short spear leaning against his shoulder.
"Who are you?" He asked. "What clan are you from?"
Hoddie's first thought was to name the Black Skulls. But he wasn't sure if they were involved in this in some way. Maybe a clan they had never heard of might be a better idea. He thought quickly for a second.
"I am Goboc, son of Tuluk Blacktooth of the clan Greyclaw." Hoddie puffed out his chest with pride.
The four Bloodfangs looked at him and scratched their heads as if they had never heard the name before. Hoddie frowned.
"You have heard of the Greyclaws?" He asked. "We defeated the Stinkbreaths and the Grimfangs, we tore out their hearts to grind in the mud. It was wondrous bloody war for all to sing about. Surely you have heard the songs?"
"Aye!" A warrior nodding vigorously and punched one of his companions. "We have; the songs were glorious. The battles must have been great."
"They were." Hoddie smiled. "Now who am I to see? Who is the chief of the Bloodfangs?"
The warrior smiled at Hoddie and at that moment, Hoddie knew they had something in mind.
"You said you had something that would be profitable?" He smiled and handed his spear to one of his companions. "What could you have that could be profitable to Slug Fearfist?"
When Hoddie heard that name, he lost concentration for a second, and his image blurred. Without giving the warriors a chance to react, Hoddie dived into them and grabbed a hammer and smashed it down in two quick blows knocking out two warriors. Dropping the hammer, Hoddie grabbed his daggers and as he dived between the two shocked warriors, stabbed them both in the heart. After he wiped his daggers clean, he dragged the four and hid them in the forest then returned to the tunnel and started on his way in.
Once in the tunnel, Hoddie stopped for a second and concentrated on making himself invisible. He stepped into a small crevice and thought about what he had learned from the warriors. Slug Fearfist was the chief. Slug Fearfist was his uncle. His father's brother. If he was the chief, that meant he was the one in league with Bruego D'aruk. He had betrayed his own brother to an Orc, one of their oldest enemies. Hoddie was so angry, he almost punched the tunnel wall. But he knew breaking his hand wasn't going to help his father, so he stepped out and started on his way down into the heart of the Blood Tooth.
Invisible from sight, Hoddie made his way down and into the tunnels. At first he didn't see very many Goblins, but after a few turns he entered into the main Cavern and looked down into Blood Tooth from a balcony high above. What he saw sent a shock through his entire body.
Blood Tooth was usually a very busy society with Goblins doing many different tasks. Like most communities, there were hunters, and smiths, Kranko had even set up schools for the young. The Goblins had come a long way since Kranko took over as chief, and they had prospered. But now that Slug had taken over, thing had changed.
As Hoddie looked out at Blood Tooth, he saw hundreds of warriors preparing for war. Forges burned out in the open making swords and hammers. Timber from the forest had been cut down for spears, clubs and ax and hammer handles. There were warriors everywhere pounding each other and beefing up for war. Blood Tooth hadn't been like this since Bog was chief.
Seeing this, Hoddie could think of only one reason for such preparations, Bruego and Slug were planning to move out of Gaymere and attack someone. It could be the Elves, the Fairies or even the Orcs or Humans. Bruego was planning something and Hoddie had to find a way to keep the Goblins out of it or everything his father had fought all these years for would be wasted.
Pulling his cloak tighter around him, Hoddies started down through the forges and gathered warriors being careful not to let anyone touch him. He slipped passed the guards and made his way to the entrance to the lower levels where only the chief and his family had access. It the entrance, two Goblin warriors stood guard. As Hoddie approached He realized he knew them. It was two of his uncle’s toadies, Gruen and Gronk Maul. Two twin brothers that always did his dirty work. They were pretty dull minded so Hoddie didn't think he's have much of a problem getting pass them. Especially with the help of his cloak. Ducking to the side, Hoddie concentrated on a change in his appearance. He went from invisible to the mirror image of his uncle Slug. Slug Fearfist unlike his brother Kranko was a sloppy looking Goblin with jowls and a belly. He wasn't really much of a fighter but with the Goblins that followed him, he didn't have to be.
Disguised as Slug, Hoddie walked over to the Maul brothers who snapped to attention.
"Get out of my way." He said waving them aside.
Like two obedient dogs they stepped aside and let him pass. Hoddie stepped on the spiral staircase and started on his way down. As he walked down the stairs, he slipped back into invisibility so no one on the lower levers would see him coming.
Shrouded in invisibility, Hoddie went from room to room, from apartment to apartment looking for his father. He searched his own personal rooms and the rooms his father use. He moved on to search Chonk's rooms and those of his mate to find nothing. That meant either his father wasn't there in Blood Tooth or he was in the dungeon.
Just as Hoddie was about to head down to the dungeon, He heard a familiar voice coming out of Chonk's room.
"Yes." He heard. "Kranko and Chonk are well guarded, there's no way that ugly little bastard could reach his father in the dungeon no matter who is helping him. You go finish your ritual, I have Blood Tooth well in hand."
"Good." A more gravelly voice said. "When I'm done, and I have the power I need, we march. Be ready."
Hoddie knew those voices. It was Slug and Bruego and he was right. His father is still down here. Now he had a choice, he could help his father or go after Bruego. Well that would be a easy choice. He would have to leave Bruego to Niro and Rowyn since they had the magic to fight him with. Hoddie's best move would be too free his father. Well then, the dungeon it is. He headed back up to the cavern above to go to the dungeons to help his father win back his clan. He hoped Rowyn and Niro were ready for Bruego D'aruk.
The moon shined bright as Niro and Sima crept through the forest. Sima was alert to every sound and smell around them. She had the scent of the band of Goblins that kept watch on the trail and steered Niro away from them. Tonight, their mission was to locate any and all Goblin watches so they could avoid being seen by them. So far they had found eight watch sites with Goblin guards. Niro relayed the location back to Rowyn, who waited in a hidden spot each time they found one.
As Sima and Niro did they're search, they came across a hidden little pocket clearing. In the center of the clearing, Niro found a small altar with strange carving and symbols etched all around it and something dead in the center. This didn't look to Niro like something the Goblins would make. As far as he knew, most Goblins worshiped Tyree, and this didn't look like what one would sacrifice to Tyree. It looked more like something dedicated to something much darker.
[Rowyn.] Niro sent out. [I think I found something.]
[What is it?]
[It's an altar.] He walked around it looking more closely.
[Forget it.] She sent. [There are a few of Tyree's altars scattered all through Gaymere. Goblins like to worship out in the open.]
'[I don't think this is one of Tyree's altars.]
[Why?] She asked.
[There's a dead satyr here as an offering. I don't think Tyree would like that.]
For a minute, Rowyn was silent. Niro could feel her confusion.
[Stay there.] She said. [I'm coming to join you. I need to see this altar.]
Niro and Sima stepped back into the forest to keep hidden in case a Goblin patrol wandered by. A few minutes later, Rowyn came flying down out of the trees to join them.
"Show it to me."
"It's right over here." Niro pushed his way through the bushes to show her the altar. Rowyn stepped out and studied the alter and its poor sacrifice. It was a round slab of granite with black ash etchings of dark symbols. There were four unlit black candles and the body of a dead satyr.
"Bruego is here." She said. "This is his altar."
"That's what I thought." Niro said. "What do you want to do with it?"
"We destroy it then give the altar and this poor soul back to Tyree." Niro bent down and picked up the satyr body and put it aside. Then he took out his ax and slammed it down on the granite block smashing it to pieces. Niro and Sima dug and grave in the spot where the altar had been and Niro placed the body in the grave. Together, they buried the satyr.
FROM THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT.
TO THE YOUNG AND FREE.
WE RETURN WHAT IS YOURS.
TO THE GREAT GOD TYREE.
WE CLEANSE THIS SOUL
AND SET IT FREE.
WE DEDICATE THIS LAND
AND RETURN IT TO THEE.
As Rowyn and Niro watched, grass sprouted to cover the grave and beautiful flowers grew in a circle around the edges of the grave. Then in the center, a patch of glowing lilies of red and white bloomed. Tyree accepted the satyr and this was his way of saying thank you.
"I guess he likes it." Niro smiled. "Now what do we do?"
"We wait." Rowyn went and sat back where she could watch the grave. "He will come, and when he does, we will be here waiting."
It was cold and dark in Blood Tooth's dungeon as Hoddie creeped through the aisle. Usually there wasn't very many prisoners down there. Kranko didn't like this place, he had spent time here when Bog was the chief and the treatment he had received. He had sworn only to send his worst enemies into imprisonment, but now it seemed he was back behind bars.
With his daggers in hand, Hoddie slowly went up and down the aisle of the dungeon. He saw many of his father’s warriors here, the cells were all full now. Searching he went from cell to cell until he saw a familiar face. Chonk Bonegrinder lay bound hand and foot in and single cell. Hoddie stopped and studied the lock on the door then pulled from his pouch two thin needle like picks and started working on the lock. Seconds later he slowly swung the door open and went in and knelt and covered Chonks mouth before he could make a sound.
Slipping back the hood on his cloak, Hoddie pulled Chonk up so he could see him.
"Hodgodde?" He said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"Saving your butt." Hoddie said. "Do you know where my father is?"
"Yes." Chonk said as Hoddie untied him. "He's here in the dungeon. Your uncle plans to use him for some kind of sacrifice."
"Not if I have anything to say about it." He helped Chonk up on his feet. "Can you walk?"
"I can do better then that." He smiled. "I can fight that fat bastard, just give me a sword."
"Here." Hoddie pulled a sword from under his cloak and handed it to Chonk. "We have to get everyone free from these cells. Do you know where the key is? It would take to long for me to pick all the locks."
"The guard has them." Chonk said stretching his arms and legs and swinging the sword. "If I make a little noise, I can get him in here. He'll come in and try and give me a kick, I'll have a surprise waiting for him."
"Good." Hoddie said. "Where's my father's cell?"
"Straight up on the left. Go, I'll meet you there once I have the keys"
Hoddie nodded then turned to leave.
"Hoddie." Chonk quietly called him back. "It's good to see you here. He will be proud."
Hoddie smiled and left to find his father. He quickly ran up a few cells and turned left and found a cell with two warriors standing guard. He pulled his hood back over his head and vanished from sight then pulled his daggers and slowly walked on to the cell. Just as he reached the cell, Chonk started screaming. The two guards stepped away from the front of the cell and Hoddie attacked. With two lightning strikes, he slashed the throats of the two guards and they crumpled to the ground. Hoodie stopped and listened as the guard came in to see why Chonk was screaming.
"Shut up in there!" He heard. Then he heard the cell down open and a sudden grunt of surprise. Hoddie smiled as he went to work of Kranko's cell door. He opened it and rushed in to find his father laying still on the floor. Knelling, Hoddie lifted him up into a sitting position.
"Father." He reached up and touched him between the eyes. "Father, wake up it's me. Wake up please!"
Kranko's face was all bruised. His lip was split, his eyes were bulging and there was a huge lump on his head. Hoddie reached in his pouch for his emergency supplies and took out his one and only healing potion. He uncorked the vial and tipped it to Kranko's mouth and poured it in. The golden brew flowed in sending its warm healing effect through Kranko's body. As Hoddie watched, his swollen eyes and the lump seemed to just melt away and go down. The split lip sealed and his eyes fluttered then opened. He moaned and looked up into his son’s eyes.
"Hoddie?" He looked around. "What happened? Where am I?"
"You're in the dungeon in Blood Tooth father." Hoddie smiled relieved that he would be OK. "They took you prisoner."
"What are you doing here?"
"He came to get us out, you old fool." Chonk came in followed by a hand full of Goblin warriors. "I told you the boy would make you proud, now get your ass up. We have a score to settle."
"Slug?" Hoddie stood and helped his father to his feet.
"He has help." Hoddie told them. "There's an Orc wizard out there trying to take Gaymere and the rest of Fay Shrea. I have friends up to after him, but we have to stop Slug and get Blood Tooth back under control."
"I need a weapon." Kranko frowned. Chonk handed him a hammer he had taken from the guard room. "No one touches Slug. Leave him too me. Let's go take the Tooth back!"
The forges of Blood Tooth burned hot as Slug screamed orders to his weapons makers to work harder. He wanted sharper and stronger swords. He wanted hammers and spears that would equal anything the Elves could bring against him. Between his warriors and Bruego's magic, expected to take more than Blood Tooth. He wanted to prove he was better than Kranko and that he deserved to be overlord of the Goblins.
With the enormous Swel Warhand at his side, Slug made his way through Blood Tooth to the arena where the bone throne of the chief sat. There he had planned to give his new lieutenants the locations for the morning attack.
With his chest puffed out and his fat belly hidden behind tight armor, Slug walked out and stepped up on the dais where the throne sat. He looked out at the gathering of Goblins and smiled a devious grin. He had won. The throne was his and Kranko now lay beaten and bounded deep down in his dungeon. He cleared his throat to talk to the crowd.
"Ghec dager!" He raised his fist into the air. "Kranko is no more and tomorrow we march for my glory!!"
"Think again Worm!!"
Slug turned to find Kranko walking in and up on to the dais with Chonk and Hoddie at his side. Shocked to see his brother free, Slug turned to the left looking for a way to escape and was stopped by five of Kranko's warriors charging in.
Refreshed by the healing potion, Kranko walked out and stood opposite Slug and Swel on the dais.
"So you want to take my place as chief of the Bloodfangs do you?" Kranko said his voice echoing through the arena. "You think you have the strength to hold all the clans under your leadership? And all of you will back his claim for my throne?"
The warriors out in the crowd murmured to each other whispering back and forth. So far none of them stepped forward preferring to let Kranko and Slug decide who would rule. Then a tall warrior stepped out.
"There is only one way to decide who rules." He said.
"I agree." Kranko said. "If you want the throne Slug, make the challenge and pick up a weapon. Face me brother or forfeit your claim."
"The throne is already mine Kranko." Slug laughed. "There is no need for a challenge. I have already won."
"You have won nothing Slug." The warrior shouted. "You have not proven your strength, or wisdom to lead. All you have proven is that you have no honor and that you would ally us with one of our worse enemies. You think we didn't know about the Orc. Make the challenge Slug or suffer the price of treason. If you win, you will be chief. If you lose, you die."
Slug looked out at the gathered assembly of Goblin leaders. He knew he had no choice and he had to make the challenge or they would all denounce him and he would be stoned to death by the whole Bloodfang clan. His only hope was if he could substitute Swel for himself in the challenge. Swel could fight in his stead and be his champion.
"I will meet your challenge." Slug sneered at Kranko and stepped beside the huge Swel. "Since you make the Challenge, I get to choose the mode of combat. And I choose combat by surrogate. I choose Swel Warhand as my champion."
Swel stepped forward rattling the dais as he walked. He dropped his hammer at Slugs feet and folded his arms across his chest and groaned at them. Out in the crowd the Goblins started whispering to each other surprised at Slug's strange announcement. There had never been a challenge like this before and they weren't sure if it should be allowed.
"You have it confused brother." Kranko said. "I don't make the challenge; I am the rightful chief of the Bloodfang clan. The challenge is yours, but I will accept it and fight Swell."
"You can't fight Kranko." Said a warrior standing in the front of the dais. "If you accept his challenge then you have to choose another to fight for you. The challenge is for surrogates."
"I will fight." Chonk said. He pulled his sword out and stepped out in front of Kranko to challenge Swel.
"No." Hoddie put a hand on Chonk's shoulder to stop him. "A son should always stand at his father’s side. I will fight him."
Kranko looked at his son with pride though he wasn't sure this was a good idea. Swel stood at least two feet taller than Hoddie and was packed with muscles. He hoped the boy was fast because that would save his life.
"Are you sure?" Kranko asked.
"I am." Hoddie took off his cloak and handed it to his father. He pulled his daggers and spun them in his hands.
"Take my sword." Chonk said pushing it out to Hoddie.
"I don't need it." He walked out to meet Swel out in front of the dais. "These are all I need."
The crowd moved back as the two combatants stepped down into the arena to battle. A warrior wearing old armor with a red strike on it stepped out.
"This is a challenge of the leadership of the Bloodfang clan." He said. "The winner will not only be our chief, but he will be chief over all the clans in Gaymere until another beats him in the challenge. The loser will die today. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Hoddie said as Swel just nodded an acknowledgement.
"Then let the battle begin!!"
As the warrior stepped back and out of the way, Swel pulled his sword and charged at Hoddie. He raised it and went for a quick kill. Hoddie waited until he was about to strike then spun to the left and reached out and carved a slice down Swel's back as he passed. Swel stumbled and turned hardly noticing the pain from the cut. As he flexed his muscles, Swel took a fighting stance and moved in on Hoddie. Holding his sword with two hands, he stabbed then swung down. Hoddie stepped to the side then twirled and kicked out at Swel's knee. As it folded and Swel started to fall, Hoddie kicked up and hit him in the chin. Swel fell back and Hoddie was on him stabbing into his shoulder three times then leaping back as Swel's sword sliced through the spot he had he had been in.
With a loud guttural yell, Swel was back on his feet and charging at Hoddie. Now he was hurt and angry. Like a ram he ran at Hoddie and hit him hard. Hoddie went flying back to land on his back with the air knocked out of him. With a mighty roar, Swel dived on him with his sword raised ready to impale him. With lightning like reflexes, Hoddie swung out with his daggers and sliced through Swel's throat then rolled as fast as he could to get out from under him. Swel slammed into the ground next to Hoddie clutching his throat as the blood sprayed all over the ground. As Hoddie got up, Swel kicked a few times then lay still.
"The challenge is done." The warrior said as he stepped up on the dais next to Kranko. "You are chief."
All the warriors standing around the arena went down on one knee and bowed to Kranko. He turned to Slug who stood there trembling and kicked him off the dais.
"You challenge has failed." He said. "You die tonight."
"No!" Slug screamed and pulled a sword. "I am chief here! I rule this clan! I command you to kill them now!!"
Kranko leaped across the sword from Slug then cracked him in the head with the hilt. Slug fell knocked out cold.
"Take him to the dungeons." Kranko commanded. "Let him sit and stew for a while. We have an Orc to deal with."
As the warriors dragged Slug out, Kranko took his place on the throne and called his son over.
""You have friends outside?"
"Yes Father." Hoddie answered. "They may need help to defeat the Orc."
"Then let's go and help them."