Marc H. Wyman & Chris Bogues
have been hurt,” Ylvain said as they entered the wide complex near the
edge of Sestercion that housed Darawks’s academy. Built of marble, it
was an enthralling sight, white and airy like the promise of knowledge
that beckoned from within. A score of people clad in the tan vests of the
scholars sat on the plaza in front, browsing through books or discussing
various topics. The halls and corridors of the academy were empty for the
moment, though. Voices issued from behind some of the doors they passed,
sounding like lectures.
suddenly became aware that Ylvain was right. The blows Sylasa had struck
had left their painful marks on him. Before, he had been too furious to
notice, yet now he felt ache sting with every breath.
way,” Ylvain said and opened an oak door leading into a well furnished
study, limned with shelves full of books and scrolls. Two windows were set
on the opposite wall, allowing the afternoon sunlight to stream in and
glisten on a number of metal idols placed on stands in the center of the
room. “Sit down there,” the scholar continued, pointing to a leather
chair with oak arms. Cornell obeyed. Ylvain went across to a closet while
Barandas inobtrusively settled on another chair identical to Cornell’s.
a few moments the scholar returned with a flask in his hand. “Pull up
your shirt, young man,” he said as he pulled the stopper from the flask.
“I am sure you would prefer the ministrations of a priestess of Alyssa,
yet I assure you that an old scholar-priest can work the same magic –“
he grinned, “- at least as far as your wounds are concerned.”
did as he was asked. His chest was covered with spots already turning
blue. Added to that were a goodly number of scars he had contracted in the
past, painting a pattern like tattoos over his welltoned muscles. “Quite
a pummeling you have taken,” Ylvain muttered and sprinkled some of the
liquid in the flask over the warrior’s body. It stung wherever it hit,
without a sensation of wetness. The cleric waved his right hand slowly
over the chest, mumbling arcane words, calling down the blessing of his
aches subsided quickly. After a few more passes of the hand, the spots
began to fade. Five minutes later, not a trace remained, and Ylvain
replaced the stopper in the flask. Sweat had gathered on his forehead.
“You may cover yourself again,” he said huskily before he turned for a
jar of water on his desk.
you, honored sage,” Cornell said.
mention it,” the scholar answered, his voice returned to freshness as he
put down the jar. “After all, you have just paid some part of your dues.
Barandas, please leave us.”
and worry plastered across Cornell’s face, as the wizard’s head jerked
up. “Honored –“, he began to protest only to be cut short by Ylvain.
“This is none of your concern, my boy. This man wishes to keep a secret,
so it should not be for a stranger to learn.”
checked himself abruptly, nodded reverently to the sage and left, not
without casting a vicious glance in Cornell’s direction.
warrior sat upright. He worked hard to conceal his anxiety. “What
payment are you talking about?” he asked cautiously.
response the scholar flashed him a cheery smile. “What is the name of
your dragon at home? I suppose you’ve kept the same beast that bit your
arm when you were younger.” He took a pause to enjoy Cornell’s
consternation then continued, “The marks are still visible. And quite
typical of a horsedragon’s jaws. A young one, playfully biting, to be
sure, else you would no longer have an arm.”
Cornell admitted through gnashed teeth.
should not worry overly much, young friend. Few people have studied
dragons enough to recognize the scars for what they are. I had the aid of
a treatise written by a splendid researcher over a century ago. Albaroy of
Corvales’ texts are, to your fortune, not widely distributed. Now,” he
sat down in the chair Barandas had vacated, “I draw the conclusion that
you are, in fact, one of the famed dragon riders of Cayaboré. I know of
no other land where horsedragons are bred; only the Cayaboreans associate
hatchling dragons with their future riders. So, you still haven’t
answered my question about that name.”
smiled resignedly. “Tempest. A female, pretty much the fiercest I’ve
ever met. Honored sage, I have to thank you again for not revealing this
to my… the wizard.”
mention it.” He clasped his hands together.
“Now what would a dragon rider be wanting from dear Ceravin
Tangrain? Especially disguised as the barbarian Nych… No, don’t bother
to tell me. It is so much more entertaining to discover the truth
flared through Cornell as the eyes of the scholar rested inquisitively on
him. They seemed to bore through his skull, starting to flip through the
pages of his mind like one of the many books he kept in his study. Knowing
that mindreading was not a gift any of Darawk’s scholars possessed
served little to put Cornell at ease as he settled down to watch his
secrets being torn from him one by one.
wizard Barandas? Have you seen him?” Cornell asked the pert female
scholar sitting on the stairs to the plaza.
looked up from the scroll she had been deciphering, and her deep blue eyes
showered him with reproach. “Young man, has your mother not taught you
Cornell thought, still furious after the conversation with Ylvain. This
priestess had just had her twentieth birthday, from the looks of her! Calm
down, will you? She is a
scholar, and this is her academy. Not to mention that Mother would have your hide for this kind of behavior towards a woman.
“Forgive me, honored sage. My temper has taken too much of a leave,
indeed. If it is within your knowledge, would you please indicate where
the wizard Barandas is?”
cocked her head, clearly weighing whether his contrition was acceptable.
After a moment she nodded, satisfied. “He has gone to the shrine of
Ke’hatch, over there. And, young man,” she stopped him as he had
already turned in the direction she had pointed out, “you should take
better care of your words. Tempers of such fury have ruined many a good
am grateful for your advice,” Cornell said, as politely as he could,
“and beg your leave.”
scholar smiled, showing a perfect set of teeth as she graciously waved him
away and concentrated once more on the scroll.
curse on his lips, Cornell went on. The shrine she had mentioned opened
directly onto the plaza, a white, one-story building fronted by pillars.
Bas-reliefs were chiseled into the stone over the door, depicting some
religious scenes that the Cayaborean couldn’t care less about at the
moment. All he cared about right now was finding Barandas. And wringing
his scrawny neck like a chicken. “All your fault, old friend,” he
muttered when he pushed open the right valve of the door.
there was a hall with benches for prayer, arranged in a circle around the
star-shaped altar at the center. Scented candles burned on the altar,
below a golden globe that rested on a slim stand. The local godling
Ke’hatch was, after all, associated with the sun, the primary source of
light. Two worshippers chanted in low voices, but no sign of Barandas.
Cornell shook his head, about to walk right back when he noticed the doors
leading out the other side. Well, I
don’t have much else to go on, he reasoned. If Barandas had indeed
come to the shrine, then it was doubtful that he would have wanted to
worship. Not that he disrespected the gods – he preferred paying his
tributes to such as Alyssa rather than Chazevo’s dour God of Light.
walked along the circumference until he reached the first door. There was
no sign to indicate what was beyond, and frankly Cornell was unfamiliar
with the layout of Ke’hatch’s shrines. This could easily lead to the
private quarters of a priest. Oh,
I’m a barbarian anyway, am I not? The Cayaborean grinned, opened the
door and slipped through into the halflit room beyond.
grin evaporated when he saw a crossbow whirl around and a quarrel spring
took over and slammed Cornell to the ground at the first sign of the
crossbow’s motion. The quarrel he saw rushing well over his head, then
he pushed himself up and forward, to tackle the legs of his foe. His
shoulders connected squarely, his foe toppled forward. Cornell skipped
sideways, rammed his knee up to receive the falling body – and groaned
as the knee hit a thick unresistant material.
had no time to wonder about what that material was for his opponent had
scrambled to his knees, a shortsword blinking as he unsheathed it.
jumped up, launched his boot at the unprotected head. The man avoided the
kick, too surprised to cut at the leg. Just what Cornell had hoped, now
having enough time to draw his bastard sword. He became aware of a
commotion a few feet further into the room, two more men fighting. None of
them was moving in his direction so he looked back to his immediate
opponent brought his shortsword forward in a stab. Cornell slashed it
aside, following his boot through in another kick. This one hit the thick
vest on his foe’s chest squarely, propelled him back. Cornell stepped
forward, slashed at the hand holding the shortsword. A nick drew blood,
then the blade jabbed his own aside and the man launched his own head at
blow was too fast for him to avoid. Air exploded from his lungs, yet he
was not too stunned to forget his opponent’s blade. His left fist
hammered into the man’s neck while his right hand brought another slash
down onto the shortsword. The slash connected, and the blade dropped.
got the crossbow aimed at him, Cornell,” Barandas’ calm voice sounded
at that moment.
the opponent and Cornell looked over to see the wizard indeed holding the
crossbow trained on the attacker. Behind him, a crumpled body lay on the
ground, a dagger hilt protruding from his neck. Fear washed over the face
of Cornell’s foe, and before either the Cayaborean or the wizard could
react, he grasped Cornell’s blade – and rammed it into his own throat.
noises foaming from his mouth, a triumphant gaze in his eyes, the man
keeled over, blood spewing forth from his wound.
the…?” Cornell muttered.
lowered the crossbow with a disgusted face. “Holy Tide, what a mess!”
that all you have to say?!” The Cayaborean kneeled and took a closer
look at the man who had impaled himself on his sword. The vest had struck
him as familiar before, now he knew that he had seen the sort before. At
Tangrain’s place. The armor vests that the accepted guards wore, like
Boragger. Nobody else used it, since it was probably one of those
Modayrean goods that Tangrain never sold, just like the dragon rods.
Barandas answered as he bent down to look through the pockets of the man
he had downed, also retrieving his dagger. “Thank you, Cornell. The two
of them would have killed me if you hadn’t come in. Ahhh!” He fished a
pouch of coins from under the man’s vest – identical to the one his
colleague wore – and opened it with a delighted sigh. “Good solid
gold, hah! What’s yours got?”
Cayaborean suppressed the acerbic comment on his tongue. Instead he got up
and said drily, “Look for yourself. You are so
much better at this. And while you’re at it, please tell me what you
were doing here. You shouldn’t have left the academy, I’d say.”
Barandas agreed while methodically continuing his search and clucking in
satisfaction every now and then as an item wandered from the corpse into
one of the wizard’s pouches. “The mousy one over there told me he had
information on the gauntlet, but he couldn’t tell me in the academy.
Said the wards there spied on everyone so that no knowledge of any kind
would be wasted. That makes sense, I thought. So I went over here, his
friend pulled the crossbow on me, and started to ask me how I knew of the
gauntlet. That’s when you came in. Satisfied?”
by a long shot,” Cornell muttered, thinking once more about how he could
yet acquire the dragon rod. “But this isn’t the right place to talk
about it. Are you finished?”
wizard quickly patted the body again, then he nodded and nonchalantly
handed a pouch to Cornell. The warrior sighed as he pocketed his share.
Both checked each other for tell-tale blood stains, then they went back to
the worship room of the shrine, unnoticed by anyone.
owe me,” Cornell said when they had returned to the small room Barandas
had been given in the academy, “twice over.” On the way back, they had
passed the female cleric still studying her scroll. She had looked at them
with interest, but as she noticed Barandas returning the gaze with an all
too obvious leer, her gaze had turned cold and spun down to the scroll.
the wizard dropped into a wicker chair near the barred window, stretching
out his legs comfortably. “Once, sure, but twice? Come on, Cornell,
counting that far isn’t that hard.”
the Cayaborean insisted and stood before the wizard threateningly. “The
shrine, and before you caused me to be thrown out of Tangrain’s. And now
you are going to tell me what you are doing here. You are going to tell me
exactly why you are after that gauntlet, and what it is.”
shrugged. “It’s magical, isn’t that enough? The Modayreans
manufacture great stuff. That’s why you were there, right? Looking for a
new magical sword? One that isn’t inhabited by a trapped soul this
try to distract me.” The reminder of that particular incident was all
too unpleasant; running around and fighting with a blade that he knew held
the soul of a previous owner, a miserable elf mercenary who was all too
bloodthirsty for Cornell’s taste. “The gauntlet.”
right, all right,” the wizard shrugged again. “It’s a resurrector. Someone
who’s just died within the past two or three hours, the gauntlet can
capture the soul and put it back into the body. Heals the most serious
wounds, too.” His eyes had grown animated, belying the easy rest of his
body. “Do you have any idea what people would pay for that service?”
Cornell commented and dropped onto the small cot behind him. A
resurrector. Incredibly powerful magic. Though rumors abounded about
artefacts like that hidden somewhere on Gushémal, only Modayre could be
skilled enough to create a new object with that power. The value… beyond
measure, not just financially but also in terms of knowledge. An unbidden
vision appeared in front of his mind’s eye – his return to Cayaboré
not bearing a dragon rod but rather the gauntlet. (Or both, perhaps?)
Great Haguen, that would be a glorious homecoming! His father would keel
over full of pride, and his superiors… would likely send him out again
as quickly as possible, not even allowing him the time for a single ride
on Tempest. Which was probable anyway, considering the state of affairs
sighed. “Barandas, whatever made you think that Tangrain would part with
this gauntlet under any
circumstances? Particularly without money! You can bet your greedy head
that he knows the gauntlet’s value as well as you.”
Barandas grinned, “said anything about my expecting this ploy to
was taken aback, took a closer look at his friend’s face and found that
the weaselly features had become more obvious. Understanding dawned all
too clearly. “You just wanted to take a look around the place and see
where the gauntlet is. Check the security measures.”
wizard’s grin turned shamelessly open, his eyes strangely innocent.
“Why, Cornell, you may not call yourself a thief, but appellations never
stopped me, now did they?”
assuming Ylvain has no idea that you’re using him.”
lines drew across Barandas’ face. “You’ve spoken to him. Do you
think there’s anything this
man does not know? I guess he wants to use me
to get the gauntlet, to hand it over to him for study.
Whether I’d get it back, now there’s one thing I would not guess at.
The academy has a splendid museum of magical artefacts. Very well
nodded. So far Barandas’ words made sense. And indicated what had drawn
the wizard to the academy in the first place. He probably had been
planning to steal something from that museum – or acquiring it in a
trade of some sort. “You’re still planning to steal the gauntlet.
After the encounter with Tangrain’s men.”
after that encounter!” Barandas leaped out of his seat. “Trying to
kill me? By the tides of magic, I will
get that gauntlet. Are you in?”
Why should I help you?”
you know the place better than I do! And you’ll get your fair share –
you know I never fleece my friends. Aside from that, we could take a look
at whatever you want there.”
squinted. “You have no idea what I’m after. And I don’t owe you
Barandas grinned. “Remember the incident with the burrower dragonfly? If
it hadn’t been for me, you’d be maggot fodder.”
if it hadn’t been for me, you’d have a crossbow quarrel in your throat
right now!” Cornell countered.
all right, then don’t come with me.” The wizard shrugged. “It’ll
be more difficult, but that’s what I’d been planning for anyway.”
Calmly he went over to an ash chest in the corner of the room, opened it
and withdrew a sleek, black tunic, followed by a number of items carefully
wrapped in cloth. He closed the chest and set all on top of it.
stared. “Are you going to try the break-in now?! It’s bright day.”
scowled. “So you do think I have less brains than a donkey. Of course
I’m waiting until tonight. I’ll have to craft some magic, though, and
that’s going to take some time. Care to watch?” He grinned viciously,
knowing fully well how little Cornell liked magic. Use it if it was
available, yes, but like it?
Absolutely not. So the wizard waited gleefully until his friend has risen
from the chair and turned towards the door before he added, “Well, I
wouldn’t wish to keep you from running into Ylvain again. Enjoy!”
stopped dead in his tracks, cast a fierce look at his friend and dropped
into the wicker chair.
first two items Barandas unwrapped were quite unremarkable: a pair of
leather boots and some cottonballs. He murmured an encantation, pulled his
dagger and softly pricked his forefinger. The drops of blood he let fall
onto the cotton, holding each of the balls close to the wound for a few
moments until the nick had closed. What Cornell found curious was that the
cotton became moist yet it didn’t change its color to the red of blood.
whistled off-key when he took the balls and rubbed them generously over
the boots. “In case you’re wondering, I am creating a magical layer
around the boots that works like the cotton and will muffle any sounds. It
is the blood that holds the layer and the qualities of the cotton so I’d
better get it spread evenly over the soles.”
dropped the boots to the ground carelessly. With care, though, he put the
cottonballs aside before he started unwrapping the next items: a pair of
gloves, garlic, and a tiny metal idol that looked like an alreu with
unusually large hands. “I love this,” Barandas said with a wide smile.
“Found it in one of the libraries here at the academy. Imagine, they
have an entire library for the study of alreus. Dreadful thought, isn’t
it? The thieving manlings getting this much attention…”
stayed quiet. He had his own misgivings about the manlings, three feet
tall humanoids, known as they were for their endless curiosity and
proficiency at acquiring the objects of their curiosity. Yet the
wizard’s smile told that he would get a spectacular effect from this.
it proved when Barandas used the idol to crush the garlic. He muttered a
few words in a harsh foreign language that Cornell assumed was the alreu
tongue, then a glow suffused the idol wherever it had touched the garlic.
The wizard smeared the remainder of the garlic over the idol, forming an
even spread. He put on the gloves and rolled the idol in his hands about.
tell me,” Cornell muttered. “Your gloves have now the power to repel
wizard shook his head. “Nice idea, but I don’t think I have the
strength for a spell like that. The garlic is just a medium; I haven’t
the slightest idea why it has to be garlic. I tried it with onions –
even with blood – but there’s no effect at all. Except for the smell.
Which is missing here, by the way.” He held up his gloved hands, yet
Cornell had no interest in finding out the truth of the statement.
me show you what the gloves can do now,” Barandas continued and put one
hand high against the wall. Then he – pulled himself up by that hand!
The glove stuck firmly on the wall, and so did the other one when Barandas
placed it half a foot above the first. He had no problem removing the
first hand and pulled himself yet higher, until he hung right below the
ceiling and cast a triumphant gaze towards Cornell. “This is fun,
friend! Scaling walls, the easy way!” He let go of the wall, landing
easily on his feet and then glanced at the gloves with protective pride
before he laid them next to the boots. “The best part is, both of these
things will get even stronger by the night. The liquids have to seep into
the cloth, you know. And now for the final touch…”
last item that remained wrapped soon proved to be a simple yellow cord.
Just a piece of string. Yet Barandas handled it carefully as he lifted it
and wound it around his wrist. “Don’t be fooled,” he cautioned, not
even bothering to check on the raised eyebrow of his friend, “this is
actually an antique artefact. It used to be held in an impressive glass
contraption that its – ah – previous owners believed were the real
artefact. My humble discovery was that the string is the older part, by
more than a thousand years. Now why, I thought, would anyone preserve a
piece of string if it isn’t that simple cord which holds the true
magic.” He gave a careful tug on the string, nodded in satisfaction.
“I gave the owners fifty gold pieces, and they thought I was a retard.
Well,” Barandas moved his wrist over the treated boots and gloves. A
soft purple glow emanated from the string, growing stronger the closer it
came to the magical objects. “I don’t believe I am retarded in any
wizard cocked his head, smiled and nodded. “You do have a point
there,” he conceded. “So, you have seen my preparations. What do you
say, Cornell, don’t you want to join me after all? Or maybe you could
tell me what you seek, and I’ll get it for you.”
was Cornell’s turn to look sourly. Barandas’ preparations actually did
look sound. He might not be a powerful wizard, but a careful one he had
always been. Perhaps, he wondered, this was actually a good opportunity to
retrieve a dragon rod… perhaps better than his original plan to pose as
me your boots,” Barandas smirked, “I kept the cotton wet for them.”
house of Ceravin Tangrain was well guarded. And no less well placed were
the maigcal wards that detected motion. Evenly set along the outer wall,
invisible to the eye, they left few spots outside their range. With the
aid of the string, though, it did not take Barandas long to find one of
these spots where the string no longer glowed.
kept a lookout for any guard while the wizard quickly scaled the wall with
the aid of his magical gloves, unlocked a window in the third floor with a
very ordinary picklock and slipped inside. Moments later he dropped a
rope, held tight while Cornell scrambled up.
are we?” Barandas whispered after his friend had come inside.
were in a small room that held an elegant couch, a low table and a
painting on the wall that neither could recognize in the dim light.
“It’s called a reading room,” Cornell explained after a moment’s
thought. “In the times of Tangrain’s father, there were many visitors,
for all I have heard. The third floor used to be the guest quarters, along
with rooms like this for their entertainment. You probably could see all
the way to the ocean back then, before the other buildings were raised.”
So where do we go from here? I don’t think Tangrain would keep the
gauntlet down in his hall with the merchandise.”
agreed. Neither would the dragon rod be there. Unless there was more than
just the one Boragger had used, the weapon was most likely in his room.
Which was also on the second floor, along with Tangrain’s private
quarters. The other guards had their rooms up here, yet Tangrain wanted
his chief bodyguard always nearby. Not a bad notion. But on the second
floor a goodly number of guards were on the prowl at night, occasionally
checked by Boragger. Here there would be only two or three, at best, not
counting the ones who might unexpectedly leave their chambers.
level down. Tangrain lives there.”
nod from the wizard, then they slowly moved out of the room. Cornell
marveled at the way magic snuffed out any sound from his boots, no matter
that the soles should have sounded loudly on the wood floor of the
corridor they cautiously walked along. There was no sign of guards about.
Now and then Barandas glanced at his string to check whether any magic was
around; probably wards. The string remained dark.
couldn’t help but smile when they walked past the door behind which his
room had been until that very morning. He had only been allowed to move in
three weeks before, after laboriously introducing himself and his fighting
abilities to Tangrain’s guards. Such a lot of work, and if today’s
attempt succeeded, he might as well not have bothered.
they neared the staircase, the string started to glow. “Damn,”
can’t be a motion detector,” Cornell reasoned. “Otherwise it would
go off anytime a guard walked past. Maybe it is one of the wards that
wizard shrugged helplessly. “Could be, but I have no way of knowing. Any
kind of magic activates the glow if it’s strong enough.” Unsaid went
the fact that the magic in Barandas’ own gloves was too weak to be noted
by the string. “We’ll just have to try it.”
carefully than before Cornell started the way down. No cries of alarm
sounded, nor did any magical noise erupt around them. Followed by the
wizard, Cornell soon reached the second floor, and stopped.
floor was relatively well lit by the magical lampsticks from Modayre –
and a few yards down the corridor a guard stood. A guard who looked his
the man exclaimed in astonishment. “Didn’t the old vulture set you on
forced himself to breathe easily, while he sent a silent prayer to the
gods that he still wore his outfit as a barbarian. No less grateful was he
for the fact that Barandas froze on the steps as soon as he heard the
he did,” Cornell said and confidently walked towards the guard. “I had
forgotten some of my belongings. Do you wish to make a problem of this?”
guard shook his head, smiling at the belligerence of the supposed
barbarian. “Don’t worry, Nych. As long as the vulture or Boragger
don’t see you, that’ll be fine.”
was that?!” Cornell suddenly growled, his gaze swiveling with concern
back towards the staircase. So did the guard’s – and missed seeing
Cornell’s arm race up, slinging around his neck and pressing hard. Not a
sound escaped the guard’s mouth, the Cayaborean’s arm cutting off his
air supply. Moments passed, then the guard’s body went limp. Cornell
held him tight a little longer, to make sure the man wasn’t faking, then
he gently lowered the body to the ground. “Barandas,” he whispered.
wizard soon joined him, saw what had happened and immediately drew some
cord and a rag from a flat rucksack. With that he bound and gagged the
guard, then both shoved him into a dark corner. “A pity there are no
closets,” Barandas nagged. “He’ll be found pretty fast this way,
hope not,” Cornell shot back. “You don’t have any magic to mask him,
rolled his eyes angrily “If I did, I would have used it to mask me
first,” he grumbled.
a new voice said calmly, “would not have helped, wizard. Don’t
two men whirled about instinctively – and froze when a lightning bolt
flashed between them.
the corridor, right where the guard had been, Boragger stood, dragon rod
leveled at them, a menacing frown on his face. Not to mention a glad
sparkle in his eyes at seeing the supposed barbarian again, in these
circumstances. “Didn’t the lady’s lesson help, Nych?” he taunted.
“Drop your weapons. Careful, wizard, I’ve got my eyes on you.”
felt a terrible laugh choke in his throat. As if Barandas could have let
go a fireball! The darkness of the dragon rod’s barrel seemed to bore
into his head, the very object that had brought him to Chazevo, and now it
might as well be the object of his destruction.
were caught, and escape was not an option.
"CALL OF THE DRAGON, PART II"