Zarin Testa and the Andrake Academy
Copyright © 2016 by Jandar Tyr
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved
The morning sun rose as Morganz pushed his horse as hard as he could to keep from being caught by the pack of Garmr that chased them. He looked back and saw they were less the twenty yards behind and gaining on him. His horse was exhausted and wouldn't be able to go too much farther. Up ahead he saw the break in the forest. He was almost out, but that wouldn't stop the Garmr from chasing him. Once his horse fell he would have to fight them on his own. He bore down and urged the horse into one last burst of speed to make it to somewhere he could make a stand. Foam ran from his tired horse's mouth as it exited the forest and fell dead to the ground. Morganz leaped high as it fell and rolled in the air and landed on his feet drawing his weapon.
"COME ON!!" He shouted gripping his swords as the Garmr came at him snarling. Suddenly arrows came flying from behind him bringing down the first two hounds. As he watched, more arrows streaked in quickly knocking two more out of the pack leaving four still coming. Morganz braced himself as they came at him. Just as the dogs were about to snap at him something came leaping over him slashing in the pack with its blades pushing them back in surprise. Slashing and stabbing at the beast, Morganz stood shocked to see a great centaur brandishing a large sword hacking into the hounds. He turned back to Morganz and shouted.
"You going to help here?"
Morganz smiled and waded into the fight with each of his blades flashing in the morning sun. Morganz fought one while the centaur faced two Garmr. Kicking out with his front hooves, the centaur connected with the snout of one hound while stabbing at another. It howled in pain and rushed in swiping at him. Jumping back out of the way he sent his sword into the chest of the second beast killing it and reared up to strike again. The Garmr growled and turned, then fled back into the forest.
Morganz fought fast and furiously as he ducked and leaped away from the paws of the hound he faced. With a roar the hound leaped in and tried to grab him. With amazing speed, Morganz leaped high into the air and bought the hilt of his sword down smashing into the top of the hounds head knocking it to the ground. With a quick swing across its throat, he finished the beast leaving it to choke and bleed, lying dead with the others.
"Well fought." The centaur said cleaning his sword on the hide of one of the hounds before sheathing it. "You fight well."
"As do you my friend." Morganz stepped up to the centaur holding out his hand. "I thank you for your aid. I am Morganz Alavara of Eventide. Captain of the Winterhaven gate guards."
"I know who you are." The centaur gripped his forearm. "I've been sent by Cutter to help you find his brother and sister and get them back to Eventide. He thinks there's something wrong in his elven home. My name is Braddoc, chief of the High Range tribe."
"Your help and your bow are much appreciated." Morganz said. "But as you can see, I'm in need of a horse. Mine has been run to death."
"No worries." Braddoc told him. "I'll be your steed. We'll move much faster that way. But I'm not really familiar with these lands. I can help you track and hunt, but you'll have to show me the way to Eventide."
"That's not going to be a problem. I know the way home." Morganz went to his horse and took all his belongs and packed what he needed. He looked at his saddle then looked back at Braddoc.
"You won't need it." He said. "Just a blanket will do. You can use a strap around my waist to hold on to, but that's all."
Morganz nodded and carried his things to the centaur and put them on him. He climbed on his back and Braddoc found his weight very comfortable.
"We go southeast." Morganz told him." See those tracks? They belong to Adanar and Emrel. You can tell from the shape of their horse's shoes. Those are elven horses."
Braddoc looked down to familiarize himself with the tracks. He was an expert tracker, the best in his tribe. Now that he knew what to look for he would have no trouble following them.
"Hold on." He said knelling down to examine the tracks. "By the looks of these tracks, they're many hours ahead of us and riding hard."
"Then we should get moving." Morganz said as Braddoc took his hand and helped him onto his back. "I'm hoping we can catch them before days end."
"Agreed. Hold on." Braddoc smiled. "I run much faster than your horse could, and I'd hate to lose you."
"Don't worry. I'm an expert rider." Morganz gripped the straps he had put around Braddoc's waist to keep him steady.
"Expert?" He laughed. "You've never ridden a centaur before."
With that, Braddoc reared up on his hind legs then took off following carefully the trail the two young elves had left behind.
Dressed in her most beautifully black woven dress decorated with shining pieces of obsidian, Talsara stepped from the airway with the Eventide majordomo and followed him to the throne room. As they approached the two door guards stood stiffly. Eolis stopped and turned to the dark queen.
"I will announce you to the king and queen mother." He said. She waved him on, dismissing him. With his approach, the two guards opened the door and he walked in to the large hall.
Sitting on their thrones, Evindal Eventide and his mother Dasyra sat regally, taking care of affairs of their kingdom. There was a short line of petitioners waiting to be heard. Judgements were to be passed, quarrels decided and punishment had to be passed down. Eolis waited until a king's aide noticed him and waved him forward. It was known he had been assigned to the visiting dark queen as a liaison. Eolis whispered to the aide news of Talsara waiting. Quickly the king was informed of his honored guests. A path was cleared and Eolis was told to make his announcement.
"Majesties." He called to them. Evindal and his mother Dasyra sat talking on their thrones. "The queen of the Darkshades awaits."
"Show her in." Evindal nodded. Eolis turned back to the door to announce the queen. King Evindal turned to his mother beside him on her throne. "Mother, what is she doing here?"
"Your brother Ryel asked me the same question." She whispered.
"I have no idea." She said. "But I don't think it's anything good."
The doors opened and Talsara walked in her head held high smiling. She stopped at the throne and bowed to them.
"I bring you greetings Lord and Queen mother of the Eventide's." She said bowing. "Greetings from the Darkshades."
"Greetings to you Queen Talsara. We welcome you to our green city, but we are curious why you're here visiting us." Evindal smiled down at the dark queen.
"Visiting old friends." She looked up at Dasyra." It has been a long time."
"Aye, it has." Dasyra said. "Not since the day your son was born and Tanyl and I bought you gifts for him. How is he?"
"In school in Winterhaven with two of your children." She smiled. "He has grown tall and strong."
"Strange." Dasyra frowned. "Neither Adanar or Emrel have spoken of him. I'm sure he'll make you proud.
"Yes, he will. If he does what he's told." Talsara took a package from out of her sleeve. "With the proper queen he will be a strong Darkshade ruler. And that is a part of my mission. To find him the right princess. But first, I would like to present the Queen mother with a gift."
"A gift?" Evindal's eyes widened in surprise. This was unexpected. Evindal waved over his aide as Talsara opened the pouch and took out the necklace. There in her hands she held the beautiful bronze oak leaf with the gleaming amber acorn in its center. She held it up to show the crowd of elves the royals before her.
"For you Queen Dasyra." She bowed to them. The aide walked down and took it from Talsara's hands and brought it back to Evindal.
"How beautiful!" He exclaimed holding it up gazing at it as it turned on its golden chain. "We thank you."
Evindal handed it back to the aide who passed it to Dasyra. She looked into it to examine it for magic. She felt nothing. Its curse was hidden well, Talsara had made sure of it.
"Will her majesty honor us by wearing it?" Talsara smiled at her slyly.
Handing the necklace back to the aide, Dasyra pulled her white, lustrous hair up so the necklace could be put on her. As the clasps were fastened a brief flash sparked out seen only by Talsara. She nodded and smiled again at Dasyra. She knew what the flash meant. The curse had just been activated. Dasyra was now doomed. Unknown to them the queens magic was now useless. Soon she would fall ill, then the end would come soon after that for her.
"Thank you." Dasyra smiled. "It's lovely. I will wear it with pride as a symbol of friendship between the two of our families."
"To our families." Talsara said laughing to herself. Her plan was working just as she knew it would.
"Will you dine with us tonight?" Evindal stood and walked down to the dark queen. She reached out her hand to the king. He took it and kissed the back politely.
"Of course your majesty." She said. "I would be honored."
"MOTHER!!!" Emrel jumped up from her bedding with a start. She had just had the worst dream about home and their mother. But was it a dream? She didn't think so, it was more of a warning. Mother was in danger, that's what the dream was all about. She looked next to her to where Adanar was sleeping. He had a strange look on his face and he was fidgeting in his sleep. He was having a nightmare to and mumbling.
"No, no!" He said. "I won't let you do this!"
"Adanar!" She shook him. "Wake up!"
"NO!" He opened his eyes and grabbed for his sword looking around for the threat.
"Brother, it was a dream." She put a hand to his face to assure him they were alright. "I had one too, about home and mother."
"What did you dream?" He asked rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Fear and anxiety still filled his mind.
"I dreamed there was a dark lady at home with Evindal and mother." She said. "She's trying to hurt mother. I know she is. We have to get home fast."
"Then let's get going." Adanar pushed away his blankets and got to his feet. He reached down to help his sister up.
"What was your dream about?"
"It was nothing." He said. "Let's just get out of here."
Quickly they gathered all the things and set them back on their horses. Adanar looked at Emrel still very much worried about his dream. He knew it was more than just a dream. Like Emrel he had them too, every now and then, and they always meant something. His dreams weren't as clear as hers were, but they were just as accurate. Something bad was going to happen soon, and he was afraid there was nothing they could do to stop it. But he sure as hell would try.
Being magical was a very useful talent for the people of Keanna. Used for everyday things, such as daily chores like cleaning and cooking. Personal things like dressing and fetching items and of course, defense and offense. It could also be used for covert things like hiding and finding things you might be searching for. Although their magic had failed to find the ring Tabor was searching for, Aron's spell to locate the two missing Eventide's had worked perfectly. The minute they rode out of the clearing Aron saw them in the magic globe he had summoned and knew exactly where the two elves were. Once they had located the brother and sister, Elan and Aron drove their horses on until they spotted them.
"There!" Aron pointed to the two riding over a hill. "Come on we can catch them!"
"No!" Elan stopped his love. "Not so fast. I don't want to have to fight them. Emrel could get hurt."
"You worried about her?" Aron asked then looked off, afraid of Elan's answer.
"No! But Adanar's no novice with magic or a blade. You could get hurt, and I can't let that happen."
"Then what do you want to do?" Aron was relieved by what Elan had said. He knew he had to let his jealousy go before he destroyed his bond with Elan. But it was not going to be easy.
"We follow them." Elan told his mate. "Then we lure them with deception to where we want them to go. That way we don't have to fight. For now, we keep back until we find a chance to present ourselves in a way they will trust us. Can you keep track of them?"
"I think I can." Aron smiled and held up his hand. In the center he held the globe. They looked deeply into the globe and saw a vision of the two they followed riding swiftly away.
"This will work." Elan reached over and kissed his mate. "How long will the spell last?"
"Until I banish it nin meleth." He answered. "Im neit saal io."
"Good, then we need not rush, just stay close." Elan urged his horse into a trot. "Our chance will come soon."
During the hours of the day, Sarella slept the sleep of near death. But that didn't mean she was powerless or unable to act. She still possessed the power to act during the day. Her physical body must stay hidden, but her mind could create a form to use to walk around. Also her mind could still roam free to search and follow her quarry. From her resting place she saw many things. She saw Adanar and Emrel as they emerged from their hiding place. She saw Elan and Aron follow after them. She knew they were no threat to her, so she decided to leave them alone. She also saw Morganz and Braddoc gaining on the Eventide's and knew they were there to help them get home safely. That she had to stop. She knew she would have to keep them from reaching them before she woke and could get there herself. And she knew just the place to do it. She was going home.
Hidden deep in the cave where she had found refuge, Sarella concentrated on sending a physical form back to where she had started. Relos, the home she had left so long ago. She had mixed feeling about returning. There were happy memories but more were not so good. Memories of her mother and days they spent in her shop baking bread and other treats to sell filled her mind. She thought of the few friends she remembered, Kayla and Melina and the days they played games out in the fields. Then the dark memories started to return. Memories about her father and the horrible things he had done to them. The beatings her mother had taken for years as Sarella was growing up. All the tears she cried as she tried to treat her wounds. And lastly, the reason Sarella left Relos. The night her father raped her and killed her mother.
She had come home early from the shop and found him drunk waiting for her. He had smiled at her as she came into the home. In that moment, she knew she was in trouble and tried to get out. But he grabbed her and dragged her screaming into the barn. There he ripped off her clothing and raped her in the hay. She screamed in pain as he beat her and ripped away her youth from her young body. That was when her mother came in and found them. Grabbing at him to pull him off her, her mother fought for her. But her father was a powerful man, very strong from his years tolling in the fields. He knocked the woman back and began to beat her. Sarella watched crying as her father beat her mother to death that night. Her anger over came her as she saw him climb off her bloody, broken body. She looked to her left and saw the pitchfork laying in the hay pile. Sarella reached over and grabbed it as he was wiping the blood from his face. He let his pants fall to the ground and climbed out of them then turned back to her. She knew he wasn't done with her yet. He smiled at her as he walked towards her, his erect manhood pointing the way.
"NO!" she screamed, tears running down her face. "Not ever, ever again!!"
She leaped up raising the pitchfork over her head and rammed it into his chest. He fell back in shock looking at his pitchfork sticking out of him and fell back on the ground. Sarella rushed over to where her mother lay and knelt beside her and pulled her into a hug. She opened her eyes and tried to smile at Sarella. She knew she was dying.
"Sarie." She said weakly. "You have to go. Get away from here."
"No mother, I won't leave you."
"It's too late for me." She said. "But not for you. Don't let your father's hate take you over. Get away from him, away from here. Promise me."
"I don't want to leave you." She cried hugging her close.
"I love you." Her mother said. And with that she closed her eyes and was gone. Sarella held her dead body as she cried. Then she heard something, a whimper. It was coming from her father. She laid the body down and walked over to where he was. He looked up at her then reached up.
"Help me." He choked.
"I'll help you just like you helped us." She said. Sarella reached out and grabbed the pitchfork and pulled it out. "I love you this much."
She raised it and jammed it down into his body again and again and again until his chest was an open pit. After that she gathered her things, put a torch to the place and left. That was the beginning of her hate, and she would hate for the rest of her life, and it would make her the creature she was today.
Noon was approaching fast as Braddoc and his elven rider came upon an abandoned walled city. They stopped for a minute to check the tracks that had led them there. Morganz looked out at the broken walls that surrounded the city. It had been a while since he had passed this way. He had no idea what had happened here.
"This is Relos." He said. "It wasn't like this the last time I passed. It looks like the raiders finally made it in."
"No." Braddoc told him. "It wasn't the raiders."
"Then what could have done this?"
"This was done by Muerte and her people." He said. "By Pelis the Collector to be exact. Toric and Jayce told me the story of the beast of Relos. It turned out to be Toric's father changed by the death goddess. Another of her and Pelis's attempts to kill the dragons. They almost succeeded, but Toric was a lot stronger than his father thought. Now the city is empty."
"It seems there's a lot I don't know about your dragon friends." Morganz climbed down of his back. He gazed closer at the city. "You say the city is abandoned?"
"Yeah, No one lives there now. The animals have taken over."
"Then why do I see smoke rising from one of the houses down there?"
Morganz pointed down into the city. Braddoc looked out shielding his eyes from the sun. Sure enough, there was a fire burning down there. Someone was in Relos. Strange he thought. Then he looked again at the tracks they were following and noticed they ran down into the city.
"You don't think...? He asked Morganz. They looked at each other.
"Why not?" The elf shrugged. "It's shelter. They may be resting, thinking to travel by night.
"Then we should go in and check." Braddoc told him. "Give me your hand."
Morganz reached out and clasped his hand and was hauled onto his back.
With Morganz on his back, Braddoc carefully made his way down the hill and into the city. The wall had been knocked down in a few places in Pelis' rage so getting into Relos wasn't a problem. The city had become overgrown with weeds and vines since it had been abandoned. Suddenly Braddoc felt a warm feeling coming from his wrist. He looked at it and saw a blue glow coming from the Salvation stone embedded there. He looked around for whatever had caused the stone to glow. He knew what it meant, the stone was trying to warn him of some danger near them. This city still had some kind of threat for them. They would have to be on guard.
"So where was the smoke coming from?" Braddoc asked.
"The northern part of the city." Morganz said as he climbed off the centaurs back." It's this way."
Together the two turned north and headed down a row of devastated houses. There were all kinds of old household items scattered all over the streets from people that had packed fast and hurried out of the city. Braddoc stepped on an old doll some child had dropped while trying to get away.
"Look!" Morganz pointed. Up ahead they saw a house. It had somehow survived all the carnage that had destroyed the city. Smoke rose from the chimney and an old woman sat out front peeling some kind of vegetables from a basket on her lap. She looked up and saw them coming towards her and set aside her basket.
"Welcome." She smiled. "More guests. I haven't seen this many people in a long time. Not since everyone moved away."
"Moved away? Braddoc thought. They didn't just move away. They ran screaming from this place. What's she talking about. Who is this old woman?
"Then you have seen our friends?" Morganz called to her. "An elven couple?"
"Yes, they are here in Relos." The old woman tried to stand falling back in her chair. Morganz rushed forward to help her to her feet giving her his arm to pull herself up.
"Thank you." She grasp his arm as she got to her feet and scratched him with her jagged nails. He pulled away suddenly looking at the minor wound. "Forgive an old woman. It's not so easy to groom them at my age."
Braddoc again felt the burning at his wrist. Something was wrong in Relos, but there was no one here except the old woman. He looked at her with suspicion.
"I hope you can stay and dine with us." She smiled her toothless grin at them. "You can rest here while you wait for you friends."
"Where are they?" Braddoc asked. He reached out to Morganz and looked at the scratch on his arm. It was bleeding and there was a nasty green slime there. This isn't right he thought. He looked into her basket and saw there was nothing in it. Morganz stumbled against him with a sick look on his face.
"This is not right." He caught Morganz as he fell into him and lowered him to the ground. "Who are you?"
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha!" The woman cackled backing away from them. In a flash she suddenly changed. The old woman that once stood before them was gone. In her place stood another woman dressed in gray with a deathly pale look and gray hair. Braddoc reached to his back and grabbed his sword to protect them.
"If I were you." She said as the wind began to pick up and blow around her dress and cloak. "I'd worry more about your friend there then me, because I'm not really here. But he is going to die!!"
As Braddoc watched, the woman laughed loudly at him and faded away as if like she said, she was never there. Braddoc knew then that this was all just a trap made to catch them, and it worked. Morganz was now infected with some kind of poison. Lifting him up, Braddoc carried him into the house and laid him on an old pile of blankets he found there. He went back out and got some water from and old well he found. Luckily the well was still useable and not rank. Braddoc lifted him up and tried giving him a drink, but Morganz started coughing and choking. He felt his forehead and knew his temperature was up. They were in trouble. Morganz would die if he didn't figure some way to help him. But what? What could cure the man and save his life? If Only Gabriel the healer dragon was here. But he and his mate were still missing. What else could help them? What could be Morganz's salvation? Wait, salvation! He looked down at the glowing stone on his wrist. It was shining brightly like it was trying to tell him something. Braddoc lifted Morganz arm and held the stone to the wound and the glow shined out intensely. Morganz breathing began to ease up more to normal, the sweat stopped pouring from his face. It was working. The wound was healing. All the green that had begun creeping up his arm was fading away. Now all he needed was rest. Braddoc hoped he'd be well enough to travel by morning because now they would really have to move to catch up with Adanar and Emrel. And that woman, they would have to watch out for her. Something told him, they would meet again.
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