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Home Index of Cornell: The Resurrected Hero

Home Index of Tales of Strange Adventures

"Call of the Dragon, Pt I" Cornell #1

"Call of the Dragon, Pt II" Cornell #2

"Ruins and Hopes"

"Shield Maiden" Cornell #3

"Warrior Eternal" Cornell #4

"Childhood of a Fighter"

"The Pledge" Cornell #5

"The Rock of Discontent"

"A Tale of the Gods"

"The Miracle of Solstice Day" Cornell #6


Cornell: The Pledge

  by Marc H. Wyman & Chris Bogues

  Section 1 / Section 2 / Section 3

“I can’t see anything!” Flink complained.

Utter darkness surrounded the party. Not the tiniest beam of light pierced the large pretend-boulder before the mouth of the cave. Sounds issued from far away, along what might be a maze of tunnels – small sounds, like rats scurrying around.

Barandas chuckled while making some noise of his own, rummaging in the many pockets of his robe.

“Get to it,” Cornell muttered.

“Get to what?” Gabe asked, doing some rummaging of his own. “I have a firelighter here somewhere… Keshmire, I should have thought of it earlier…”

The wizard let go a cheer for himself – then a ray of light cut through the darkness, emanating from a slim, exquisite bracer on Barandas’ left hand. “Forget about your firelighter, barbarian,” he scoffed. “This is better. Cornell, I have one for you, as well.” With a triumphant gesture he threw an identical bracer to the Cayaborean. Deftly, Cornell caught it and slipped it onto his hand. Instantaneously another beam lit at the top of the bracer, shaped like a fountain well. “Barandas the Magnificent delivers once again.”

“That’s beautiful!” the alreu exclaimed, dancing around Cornell’s hand to get the best of views of the bracer. “Can I have one like that, can I?”

Barandas snarled, “No!”

“This is enough, I’d say,” Cornell nodded heavily and slowly waved the bracer’s light about to see where they were.

What his and Barandas’ light revealed was a simple cave, devoid of any moss or lichen that one commonly might expect – after all, no sunlight ever reached this place -, crassly cut walls that gave way to three dark openings in the back of the cave.

Flink scampered around as far as the light reached, quickly took in all he could see, then he sighed and folded his arms before his chest. “Well, it’s still boring! Weren’t there supposed to be some monsters?”

“Or a magically protected door?” Cornell asked, raising an eyebrow at Barandas.

The wizard was unfazed. He stuck one hand into his pocket again, turned a bit to the left, then the right, and finally he pointed towards one of the openings, small and ragged-edged. “That one ought to get us to the door.”

“Then let’s get going!” Gabe exclaimed, bowed slightly forward to avoid smashing his head into the low ceiling and started for the tunnel.

The bracers revealed a sharply twisting corridor, the walls dark with deposits of coal. A sharp smell of mould wafting through it. Things had rotted in here. Maybe hapless tomb raiders who weren’t able to penetrate the second line of defense, the door with the petrification spell on it, and then hadn’t found their way out.

A rather unpleasant thought which Cornell quickly banished to the furthest edges of his mind.

Then their light lost itself in a giant opening in the left side of the corridor, shining into a wide tunnel gaping into the corridor they were traveling in. Its walls looked very smooth, glittering faintly in the bracers’ illumination.

“Wow, that looks like diamonds!” Flink exclaimed, rushing forward to examine the walls closely.

Gabe’s eyes widened. “Diamonds?” Only one step behind the alreu, the barbarian took his own turn of inspection – and sighed after a moment. “The entire wall is made of diamond! Or something like it, anyway,” he shouted exasperatedly. “How am I supposed to get it loose?!”

“Oh, Gabe, this is beautiful,” Flink said, running his hand along the smooth wall. Some grooves were torn into the surface, deep and sharp – sharp enough for the alreu to suddenly yelp and retract his bloodied hand. He sucked on the wound, then forgot about the pain to look at the grooves more intently. Helpfully Cornell shined his bracer in the alreu’s direction. “Oh, sirs, this is intriguing! This looks like talon marks! There might be monsters here after all! Wonderful!”

“Wonderful,” Cornell echoed with his lips tightening. “Barandas?”

The wizard shrugged, a frown implanted on his forehead. “I haven’t heard about any creatures down here. The innkeeper only mentioned the wizard’s traps.”

“Innkeeper?” the Cayaborean asked with sudden interest. “Hadn’t you bought the map from a merchant?”

“Which –“

At that point Flink had suddenly lost interest in the apparent diamond walls and ran down their own tunnel – which widened quite a bit from this point onward –, vanishing from the sharp beam of the bracers. Cornell cursed, swung his arm around and followed the alreu. A minute later he had caught up with the fast little creature, the bracer illuminating a pile of broken, strangely gray wood that Flink was kneeling over, cautiously touching pieces of it.

“You know,” he commented, not at all noticing Cornell’s run after him, “this is stone. I would have said it’s wood, and it looks like there’s once been a door here, but it really is rock. Wow, sir, do you suppose someone took the time to carve stone to look like a wooden door? Goodness, that’s terrific!”

A shiver ran down the Cayaborean’s spine. This had been the second line of defense Barandas had mentioned. And now it was broken apart, smashed, and the petrification spell had turned the remains of the door into stone. Something powerful must have blasted the door, powerful enough to withstand any of the magical protection.

Whatever it was, it might still be down here.

For a tiny moment Cornell wished that the dragon rod in his saddlebag was still working. With the lightning-spewing weapon on his arm, he would have felt a little safer.

On the other hand, he fought to reassure himself, he had a magical sword and shield. With the powers inherent in the buckler, created by the three souls encased in the elfwood, he shouldn’t have to worry.

He still did.

“Gold?!” the barbarian’s voice shattered his line of thoughts as Gabe stomped down the corridor and pounced on a small heap of glittering metal. Quickly he wiped off dust, then Gabe’s hands closed around a few baubles, two figurines and a necklace.

In equal excitement Flink cried joyously, rushed to the barbarian’s side to inspect the baubles as well – though his eagerness had more to do with sheer joy at seeing something new than Gabe’s internal counting of money.

“Stop it!” Cornell shouted. “There’s still something dangerous down here!”

From the shield Phindar commented interestedly, “That looks like figurines of a Tonomai saint, y’know? The maiden that accompanied the One God during his journey on the world; if it’s the work of a master, it could fetch a nice sum of gold torkyn on the market.”

“Can you tell what it’s worth?” Gabe asked, holding one of the figurines toward the shield.

Cornell tore the buckler away from the figurine, cried, “Will you finally stop this? All of you?!”

While the Cayaborean found himself exposed to several sets of disappointed glances (at least one – Phindar’s – imagined), Barandas had continued to explore the tunnel beyond the broken door. The rocky corridor took a slight turn, drifting a bit downward and to the right. The wizard followed it carefully, shining his bracer’s light over every crevace, just in case he missed something important (valuable or dangerous, both were of equal interest). Then he paused for a moment as the tunnel took a sharp turn to the left, opening into a considerably larger cavern.

Barandas frowned, leaned against the wall and peered carefully around the edge.

It was by this time that Cornell had managed to dissuade his comrades from searching every part of the corridor for more valuables and focused his light down the corridor. Just in time, as it turned out, to see Barandas duck quickly back from the opening, slam his back against the tunnel’s wall and stare pale-faced back at the party.

“Bloody tides of magic,” he whispered, continuing slowly and urgently, “Folks, I think I know what destroyed the door. Just be quiet!”

Cornell walked up to the wizard, leaned into the opening – ignoring Barandas’ warning gestures -, and saw that the wizard had a point.

The cavern beyond was indeed very large. It had to be, considering the tons of green-scaled flesh that were rolled up in its center, a majestic and frightening head resting fast asleep on top of the coils, hot, damp air breathing out the nose slits on top of a very, very large maw with three-foot-long incisors raking over the lips.

An emperor dragon.

An old one, to boot.

“We’re cooked!” cowardly Nev muttered in the buckler.

For once Cornell couldn’t disagree with him.



“Let’s get out of here,” Cornell whispered to his friends, grasping Flink by the shoulders. The alreu had just been about to scamper through the Cayaborean’s legs to rush into the cavern; now he had to make do with staring open-jawed at the giant dragon, mewing, “Ooooooooohhhhhh…”

Gabe shook his head, unhappily weighing bwyell in one hand, one of the gold figurines in the other. “Emperor dragons have hoards, don’t they?”

“They aren’t much good,” Halla Valfrey said softly from the buckler on Cornell’s arm, “if you have been fried and eaten.”

“Point taken,” the barbarian assented and growled deep in his throat. “So much for your treasure, wizard.”

Barandas had recovered enough from his shock to peer around the edge of the tunnel again, one hand in his pocket. “It’s still there, just where it’s supposed to be. I can sense it.”

“Can you?” Cornell wondered, eyebrow raised – then in lightning motion his hand raced out to snatch the wizard’s fingers from his pocket. Along with the fingers, a gleaming, glittering object appeared that looked like the base of a pyramid, the top piece missing. “Well?” Cornell asked, clenching down on the wizard’s wrist. “You knew exactly what you were after, didn’t you? Not just some generic treasure, right?”

“And what if that were true?”

The question caught Cornell by surprise. Actually, it didn’t seem to change the situation much, now did it? After all, Barandas surely hadn’t known about the emperor dragon. The wizard was many things – a thief, a lecher, a pain in the neck -, but he always looked out for his own safety. Which was seriously compromised by the presence of said dragon.

Why then the charade? Why not say it straight?

“It’s evil, is that it?” The question was a shot in the dark, hoping to shake Barandas into a credible answer.

An answer he got. Sort of. “That is debatable,” Barandas shrugged. “Just because the Appliance of Beastly Control was created by Krysto Pharlee before he became a brastok doesn’t mean it has to be evil.”

“Pharlee?!” Cornell repeated, working hard to keep his voice low. “The necromancer king of Rek’atrednu? Are you out of your mind? Everything the undead creature touches becomes evil – he murdered thousands of Cayaboreans personally!”

“See?” Barandas sighed. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. You’re always so unreasonable.”

A cough issued from the shield, followed by Halla’s quizzical voice, “Forgive me for asking, but in my day there was a Krysto Pharlee at the court of my homeland, Keroull. He was the king’s head wizard, my – a well-respected man.” For the first time that Cornell had carried the shield, Halla’s voice was shaking, well suppressed but still discernible. “It couldn’t possibly be the same man, of course?”

“Keroull…” Cornell whispered. “The land that was taken over by the undead seventy years ago.”

Phindar said, “Led by that Pharlee wizard, as I recall from my studies at the temple. And he used to be the head wizard, for a couple of decades before he made himself king. Halla, I’m afraid that the person you knew is now sitting on the throne of what was your homeland, ruling over all kinds of evil.”

“I understand,” Halla said, her words underlaced with pain.

A growling yawn interrupted them, the temperature in the tunnel shooting up a few degrees. Every head swiveled around, except for Flink’s who was still watching the dragon. “Goodness gracious, sirs, look at those teeth! They are even bigger than the holnesh’s! Why, Gabe, they are taller than you are!”

The mighty head of the dragon slowly raised from the coils of its tail. Taloned forefeet slowly rose to its eyes, rubbed them much like a human would after waking up. The creature yawned again, hot air escaping from its gaping maw, then it blinked, the head swiveling towards the entrance of the cavern. “Breakfast time!” the dragon announced gladly, its words uncomfortably easy to understand, considering the strange maw. “I so love good food. Mmmh, humans are tasty…”

“I’m an alreu!” Flink yelled indignantly.

His cry broke the stunned silence of the party. Both Cornell and Gabe instantaneously reached out for Flink, grabbed his tiny body, then they ran with fast steps back up the tunnel – several steps behind Barandas.

The dragon yawned once more, stretched its mighty body. The coils of its long tail unfurled, its end slapping several times against the walls of the cavern with enough force to shake debris loose from the ceiling. “Not again!” it complained peevishly, “I don’t like running. You will so pay for this!” 



The fireblast shot through the tunnel with a sickening sound. Darkness was burned out by flames that rushed into every crevice, lighting the coal in the walls with incredible heat, cracking it. For an entire minute, flames ruled the tunnel, before they finally sputtered out. The walls gleamed in the afterglow, their rough, dark surface turned to a much harder substance. If polished it would sparkle like diamond.

“Oh, hu-mans!” the dragon’s voice echoed merrily. “Are you still alive?”

“Don’t answer!” Gabe and Cornell simultaneously advised the alreu who had just opened his mouth.

They had barely made it to the opening of the second tunnel, clambered inside the diamond walls and hung on for dear life to the grooves in the walls. Grooves that had been cut by the dragon’s claws, so sharp they could pierce diamond. None dared wonder what those talons could do to human flesh. Or alreu flesh, for that matter.

Stomping sounds came from further down the corridor. The dragon was coming.

Cornell craned his head to stare up the second tunnel, carefully angling his bracer to illuminate it. The shaft went up at a sixty degree angle, its walls as clear diamond as they were at the mouth. There were more grooves along the way, sharp-edged. (Which brought Cornell to remember the pain in his fingers that were clamped around two of those edges. If the claws of the dragon hadn’t roughed up the edges, they would have simply cut through the Cayaborean’s fingers.) “We might get up through here.”

“Are you mad?” Barandas cried back, hanging four feet above Cornell’s head. “That climb’ll slice us into pieces! Besides, the dragon’s gonna blast us in here like moths!”

The wizard was right. It would take too long to clamber up the shaft, giving the emperor dragon more than enough time to stomp to the second tunnel’s mouth and breathe his blast inside.

Unless someone gave the dragon something to play with.

“Tear off strips of your clothes and wrap them around your hands, then climb out of here,” Cornell calmly told his friends.

Gabe, right beside Cornell, growled, “What about the dragon?”

“I’ll keep him busy,” the Cayaborean said and let go of the grooves.



The ground burned under his feet as Cornell landed in the lower tunnel. Hot air assailed his lungs, flamed into them. He steadied himself with the shield, pushing against the wall. The souls in the elfwood screamed in pain, but down the tunnel…

“My breakfast!” the dragon shouted, pushing its wide body torturously through the passage. Rock flaked off the ceiling, sprayed over its thick, green hide, painting it a dusty gray. “I thought… you… were burned…” it yelled, laboring over every word.

Make that a very old dragon, Cornell re-adjusted his appraisement of the creature. “And would you have anything to eat then?” he hollered back.

The dragon stopped, huffed a squirt of fire that blew more arid air at Cornell. “Never… thought… about that…”

“Flame me, and you’ll go hungry again!”

The dragon blinked. “I need food!”

“Then try to catch me!”

Cornell turned and ran along the tunnel, into the smaller shaft. In his mind he already felt the quick, murderous blast of fire washing over him, turning him into a crisp.

The dragon didn’t move for a moment. It raised one paw to scratch its chin, then shook its head furiously. “I’m hungry,” it decided and started stomping again. The small passage ahead was too narrow for its girth – but when the dragon barrelled into the rock, the stone gave and burst apart under the assault.



“Are they going to die?” Flink asked, clambering from one groove to the next easily. “Cornell, Halla, Phindar, Nev, Ana?”

Above Barandas snorted, fully concentrated on reaching the next fissure.

Below the alreu, laboring the hardest, was the large barbarian, his face red from the effort. “Cornell’s giving… his life for us!” he squeezed between clenched teeth.

“It wasn’t much of a life anyway,” Barandas muttered angrily.

Gabe stopped in his climb, breathed deeply and looked up the slope towards the light emanating from the wizard’s bracer. His face was as hard as the diamond around them as he said, “For those words you will die, wizard.”

“Why, I didn’t know you cared,” Barandas shot back. “Cornell’s been my friend for a good while longer than he’s known you, savage! He’s happy dying for us, believe me!”

“I will cut off your limbs one at a time,” Gabe promised.

“Bloody savage!”

“You brought us here!”

“So what?!”

All had stopped their climb by now, the two humans shouting at each other while Flink craned his head first downward, then upward to watch both of them, while tears were welling up in his eyes. “Sirs!” he cried desperately. “Master wizard, please, can’t you help my friends, please? You’re magnificent, so please, use your magical powers!”

Gabe added dangerously, “Yes, wizard, do that!”

“Against an emperor dragon?!” Barandas snarled and suddenly he was scampering up the wall at renewed speed. His mind was empty, pain hollowing it into a giant cave. Despite his words, he wished there was some way he could help Cornell. The Cayaborean was his friend, and if it had made any sense, Barandas might give his life to save Cornell’s. He’d proven that in Chazevo, hadn’t he? But against an emperor dragon? With the miserable reservoir of spells he had? Ludicrous!

He didn’t even have any appliances left in his pockets that might help. Four of the pieces he’d taken from Tangrain’s mansion in Chazevo had turned out utterly useless, at least as far as he’d found out; only the Keroullian item made sense. And the gauntlet of resurrection? Not that it would have helped much against the dragon, but he didn’t even have that one left. He had resolved to wear it constantly, thinking that this would put everyone else in awe of his wizardly power – not to mention that it couldn’t be stolen from him. Well, he’d forgotten the need to sleep.

So all he had were the Keroullian appliances – which didn’t work without the third piece that was in the chamber behind the dragon’s sleeping cavern.

A cavern that was now empty.

The combined appliances that gave control over beasts to the wizard wielding it.

“I hate you, Cornell!” Barandas yelled – then started climbing down, crying furiously, “Don’t kill me, savage, let the bloody dragon take care of that!”



Flink scrambled out of the wizard’s way at the very last moment, staring baffled after him. “Does that mean Barandas is giving his life for us as well?”

“I’ll be damned if I let myself be upstaged by a wizard,” Gabe muttered, staring down the gaping hole below where the single dart of light was dancing through the darkness. “Flink, get out of here!” The barbarian tried to recall how straight the shaft was, could he run down? Without the light there was little chance of finding the right crevices quickly enough.

“Whatever,” he decided, let go of the grooves and started running/falling down. “For honor and gloryyyyyyyy!”

The alreu hung onto the wall, sulking. “Yes, right, Gabe, have all the fun yourself.” Actually Flink was rather good at sulking – but there was a dragon down there!

An instant later he was on his way to join his friends.



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