Tales of Strange Adventures

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Home Index of Tales of Strange Adventures

"Call of the Dragon, Pt I"

"Call of the Dragon, Pt II"

"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

 


Call of the Dragon, Part 2 

by Marc H. Wyman & Chris Bogues

  SECTION 1 / SECTION 2 / SECTION 3

 

 

 The biggest problem Barandas was facing a few minutes later was Cornell’s weight. Sylasa and he dragged his body between them, and the wizard was starting to realize that he could not keep this up for long. His muscles were straining, and they had barely reached the first floor. What did Cornell weigh anyway? A ton?

As far as the guards were concerned, well… Smoldering heaps of ash rarely troubled the wizard. Any that had showed up invariably were armed with swords only, and Sylasa picked them off at a distance with her dragon rod. She was a dead shot, fortunately, the emphasis on dead.

It should have been easy now, he told himself. Just carry Cornell up to that second floor. But Barandas was so tired. So tired. Sweat covered his face, his body seemed like a single ache. All because of that weight on his shoulders, all because of…

Shut up! that annoying tiny voice in the back of his mind thundered. One single time you are going to help someone.

So bloody tired… He felt himself slump for a moment, breathing heavily. Sylasa stopped, glared at him, but he didn’t realize. All he wanted to do was sink onto the floor and stop this whole charade. I’m not a bloody hero, he told the voice.

No, you’re not. You’re just a miserable wannabe wizard who’s letting his best friend down all the time. Right?

Wrong. A snarl appeared on his face, he breathed deeply and shoved himself forward. “Just getting my second breath there,” he told Sylasa. “No need to worry.” Barandas was going to do this. He was going to ignore the pain, the protests of his muscles. Cornell was coming back. He would bring him back.

Step after step, they dragged Cornell up the spiral staircase. No guards were in here, but that was sure to change once they reached the second floor. It held the private quarters of Tangrain, and it was always full of guards. Barandas wondered how many there were altogether. Had to be more than a dozen – that many had already fallen prey to Sylasa’s dragon rod or their other weapons. Or his fireball. The wizard still marveled at the fact that he had produced one. No, two. Never before had he been able to call up that much energy. Probably divine intervention, he grinned. Yeah, right.

“Hold him,” Sylasa whispered.

Barandas sighed, leaned against the curved wall, hanging on to Cornell’s body with all his might. They were at the second floor. Just ahead of them was the passage to the corridors, without a door. The yellow light of the lampsticks drew a perfect rectangle on the wall, as Sylasa crept up and peered carefully around the corner.

A fraction of a second later she rushed back out of sight. A crossbow quarrel flew past her and clunked against the wall. Cries of alarm were raised in the hall.

Sylasa smiled evilly. “You want it hard? I’ll make it hard for you, don’t fret, pretty ones.” She dropped to the stairs, the right arm with the dragon rod above her head, and like a snake, languidly, she flowed towards the opening. The rod went around the bend first, her head a moment a later, and she tapped the trigger. Again lightning flooded out, smashed its way down the corridor beyond and found its target.

Barandas heard someone yell in agony. He couldn’t have seen anything, anyway, with sweat dropping into his eyes all the time. He was waiting for another yell – instead he heard Sylasa curse. “What… is it?”

She shot back into the staircase, slammed the rod into the wall. “The fornicating rod isn’t working!” Again she slammed it against rock, adding a curse that would have made the wizard blush had he not been otherwise occupied.

“Maybe it’s jammed?” Barandas suggested. “Try it again!”

“I’m going to,” she muttered, then she rolled back into the opening – and the rod fired. But this time, there was not only the hiss they had grown accustomed to, there was also a burping sound, as if the fire was stuck in the maw for a moment. “Clear! Come on!” Her left arm went around Cornell’s shoulder again, and they set off once more.

The corridor was full of smoke, and it took Barandas a moment to notice that it was not only coming from the ashheaps that had been guards moments earlier but also from the dragon rod on Sylasa’s arm. “The rod,” he grunted.

She shook her head. “I know.”

The wizard kept continually blinking by now. Sweat and smoke drove tears into his eyes, blurring his sight. He hoped that Sylasa could still see clearly. He really had no intention of running headlong into another group of guards. And he really wished Cornell was still alive so he could have stormed into any such group with his sword gleaming and soon crashing into the guards’ bodies.

Suddenly he heard the burp and hiss of the dragon rod again. “One down,” Sylasa commented drily. Apparently she could still see clearly, Barandas thought.

He stumbled along, thinking that one clerical healing could recharge him enough that he could easily carry Cornell through. “Never a priest around when you need one,” he muttered.

“That can be helped, young friend!” a voice shouted from behind them. Suddenly Barandas felt all of Cornell’s weight shifted to him, too much for him to bear, and he toppled to the floor, rolling around to see – barely – two black figures down the hall. “Don’t shoot!” one of them yelled, and Barandas realized that Sylasa must have pointed the dragon rod at them.

“Why shouldn’t I?” she snarled at them.

“We’re here to help you,” the smaller one yelled – a woman. “Lady, you know us!”

The wizard rubbed his eyes quickly with his sleeve. Sylasa lowered the rod, and the black figures came closer. He must have been going mad, he decided, since he was sure the male was Demercur Ylvain, recognizable despite the blackface. And the other one, she was one of his assistans, wasn’t she? Aurylen… something… And she kneeled down beside him, produced a flask and sprinkled the contents on Barandas’ face. The cool liquid felt strange, and even stranger when the priestess whispered something. For a moment the liquid burned, then – he felt stronger, healthier again. Not much, but enough to think clearly.

“Are you all right?” Aurylen asked, breathing heavily after the exertion.

Barandas was about to nod, then checked himself. “No, I’m not. We have to get Cornell to the gauntlet. Sylasa?”

He looked about and saw that the warrior woman had received a dose of healing from Ylvain. She hadn’t needed much, keeping Ylvain in good shape. Healing always tasked a priest, and Darawk clerics were among the worst in that department. Sylasa looked closely at the newcomers. “Do you have any weapons?”

Wordlessly Ylvain drew a Roman gladius while Aurylen produced a Tonomai scimitar. Both were smeared with red.

Sylasa nodded. “Good. We’re going to need that.” Quickly she filled them in on what had happened and what they were planning. None of the priests commented, instead Ylvain grasped Cornell’s body and gestured for Barandas to take up his end again.

The wizard was in no mood to complain either. And he felt well enough to do it.

They were going to make it! Now there were four of them, and in a few minutes, Cornell would be back with them. Watch out, Tangrain, you fornicating bastard! We’re going to tear down the house around you!

  

 

 Tearing down the house was taking a pretty long while, Barandas realized when they had located the private collection room of Tangrain’s. The dragon rod had been malfunctioning most of the time by now, and the guards had been starting to pile up. They had to run more than once – without the clerics and their healing, Barandas could never have hoped to drag Cornell fast enough.

Now, though, Sylasa and Aurylen had held off the pursuers for a few moments, buying Ylvain and Barandas enough time to rush into another corridor. The two women made a splendid fighting team, Sylasa in her silver armor, Aurylen in her tight-fitting tunic, and the wizard wished he had the time to enjoy the spectacle in the proper fashion.

Half an hour after the clerics had joined them, they finally barreled their way into the treasure room. Ylvain immediately let go of Cornell, and together with the women, he slammed the door shut, then they tipped over a nearby cabinet and shoved it in front of the door.

Barandas meanwhile was once more buried by his best friend’s corpse and fought to snake his way out. When he had managed it, his conviction of victory was finally starting to wane. There was no other exit aside from the door they had come in through. And the room was large. Large enough to hold dozens of crates and cabinets along the walls, and an uncountable number of display stands scattered artfully around the room itself.

How was he to find the gauntlet here? The exit was blocked, but how long would that hold? There had been so many guards after them, and too few of them had they been able to kill or injure out of a fight. No doubt they’d come crashing through the door soon, and then… Then what?

“Sweet lord of knowledge!” Ylvain exclaimed. “Look at all this! That son of a crustmaw Tangrain has been collecting half of Modayre!”

“Start searching for the gauntlet,” Sylasa said calmly and proceeded to do just that. A moment later, Ylvain shook himself out of his reverie and joined her. Aurylen did the same, as well as Barandas once he had fought himself back onto his feet. The priest had probably been right, he thought after a few minutes. Half of Modayre, at least. He had no idea what half the items on display here were, their odd structure and markings a complete mystery to him. Of those that looked somewhat familiar, he wondered whether they truly served the functions he assumed.

Whatever it was, he knew he was in a treasure trove. Magical appliances everywhere! An incredible fortune, ripe for the taking! Oh, by the Tides of Magic, if only he could have taken all of this to a safe place and reveled in it for himself. The sheer thaumaturgical power assembled in the room alone assaulted him like a tiger.

No time, that pesky voice in his mind complained.

“No time,” he agreed with a sigh and slammed the stands aside, plowing his way to some he hadn’t inspected yet. All around him were noises of equal destruction, swords smashing open locks, checking the contents, and grunts of disappointment when no gauntlet turned up.

Desperation welled up in Barandas – when he saw the gauntlet.

And it was beautiful. A single stand was reserved for it, its top shaped like a hand to perfectly display the item. It was made of a silvery metal not unlike Sylasa’s armor, but dark markings were imprinted on its back, and at the root of each finger, there was a jewel embedded. Three were glowing brightly, in glorious red, while two were a dim ruby color, like drying blood.

“I found it!” he yelled and rushed forward to snatch the gauntlet of its stand. The metal was cool, as cold as ice, but he didn’t care. As fast as he could he slipped it on his hand, flexed his fingers briefly to make sure it was a good fit.

Then he rushed back across the swathe of smashed stands and appliances he had carved behind him, to the body of Cornell. “You’re gonna thank me for this a long time, buddy,” he grinned and pointed the gauntlet at the corpse. “Rise from the dead!” he yelled and fed the gauntlet all his willpower.

Nothing happened.

By now the others had gathered around him. “What’s wrong?” Sylasa asked angrily. “Don’t tell me you have no idea how to work this thing?!”

“I –“

Ylvain stepped forward and took Barandas’ gauntleted hand. “The markings,” he explained, “are instructions in the Modayrean language. Just a moment…”

He frowned, making sense of the letters on the gauntlet. Meanwhile noise was issuing from beyond the door, the crashing noise of something battering the door.

“They are coming.” Sylasa nodded to Aurylen, and the women moved towards the door, quarterstaff and scimitar at the ready.

Barandas swallowed hard. The noise was getting louder. “Hurry up,” he urged the scholar.

Ylvain didn’t reply. His frown increased – then a radiant smile covered his face. “My, this is so simple! Barandas, the jewels on the fingers indicate how many charges there are left in the gauntlet. You have to select which jewel to use, by simply pushing it. It’s still set for the last time it resurrected someone, one of the dark jewels. Just push another one and lay it on Cornell’s chest!”

The wizard spared not even the time for a curse when he pressed the central jewel down as hard as he could. It easily slid down a bit, clicked into place, and began to glow brighter than before. An unearthly, blue fire was burning, and he could feel the entire gauntlet warming up. No, heating up. Quickly he fell to his knees and put his hand on the Cayaborean’s corpse.

As soon as the gauntlet touched the dead flesh, he could feel the heat dissipate. It began to flow down, into the body. And more and more was coming, following it. Streaks of blue light shot out of the gauntlet’s fingers, slamming like bolts of lightning into the body, growing in number every second, until thousands of writhing energy beams enveloped Cornell. They pulsated, weirdly dancing about, filling the air with an acrid stink.

The stink abruptly turned sweet. Just as fast the blue light vanished, and the gauntlet’s central jewel fell dark.

“Take your bloody hand off me, Barandas!” Cornell complained and smashed his fingers aside. “Robbing a friend now, is that how low you have sunk?”

  

 

 “Bloody ingrate of a –“ Barandas yelled and laughed at the same time.

“Shut up!” Sylasa barked. “They’ve stopped hammering the door!”

Cornell blinked and wondered what in blazes was going on. There was Barandas with the oddest of gauntlets on his hand, giggling crazily. Next to him, there was Ylvain who just pulled a leather-wrapped package from his back and started unwrapping it hastily. A bit further, smashed display stands and objects were wildly scattered about. He saw a door, and there were Sylasa and a woman he didn’t know, both armed and staring at the door which was barred by a cabinet.

Wait a minute! He did know the woman. Wasn’t she that pert scholar he had met yesterday on the academy campus?

And, by the way, hadn’t he just been dying on the way to the storage room?

Something hissed and howled from beyond the door.

“Take cover!” Sylasa screamed and dove to the floor. Instinctively everyone followed suit.

Just in time.

A bright stream of fire burned through door and cabinet, rushed like lightning through the room and flamed a dark stain onto the opposite side. Ashes flaked from what had been the entrance, smoke billowed up, and a dark figure stepped through.

“Well, well, well,” Leur C’traeh said, his elven ears twitching. “If this isn’t a sweet reunion. Would you care to stay on the floor or die on your feet?” Right behind him, another guard stood, a dragon rod attached to his arm, the maw glowing angrily. The guard was about to follow the elf when C’traeh quickly held up a hand. “Don’t fire! You might hit the treasure!”

Cornell was the first back on his feet. “C’traeh!” he yelled, remembering all the pain the elf had inflicted on him with his damned poisoned needles.

“Ahh, you are fit again!” the elf exclaimed with a happy smile. “I was sure you had died! With all that –“ He interrupted himself as he noticed the gauntlet on Barandas’ hand, and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I think I may have been right after all. Stay back, please, dear friends.” The latter he said to the corridor outside where other guards were waiting. None had followed the elf thus far, and none would have dared disobey him now.

C’traeh shook his head, then he drew an elfwood sword from a sheath, “Well, my dear Nych, would you care to select a weapon from the collection?”

Sylasa jumped up, her quarterstaff at the ready, but Cornell cried, “No! He’s mine!” She shot him an angry glance, then acquiesced for some reason and stepped back. Aurylen crept cautiously away from the scene, over to Ylvain who was still busy with his package. The priestess’ back was smoldering where a burning piece of wood had hit her.

“Thank you,” C’traeh said. “A meeting of champions, that’s so… chivalrous. It is one of those fascinating notions humans have come up with. Personally I think it would serve my people well to learn from you in this one regard, don’t you, Nych?”

The Cayaborean growled. “I don’t care either way. And my name’s Cornell. Cornell of Cayaboré.”

“Is it? That makes it even more interesting. I had believed your tale of being a barbarian.” He bowed deeply. “You are an impressive man, dear Cornell. It will be a great honor besting you. Now, please take a weapon?”

Cornell looked about the scattered contents of the room. There were so many objects here. Most he couldn’t identify even if he had months to study them. Which might have been weapons? Weapons that he could use?

With a wry smile Sylasa bent down and picked up a blade that she threw over to Cornell. “Take this, Cornell of Cayaboré. And hope that I like the Cayaborean as much as I liked the barbarian.”

He grinned instantly as he snatched the sword from the air. A bastard sword, just like the one he was used to, but it was even better forged, its weight balance as perfectly suited to him as he had ever known in a sword. The grip fit into his fingers easily, a bejeweled semispherical bar protecting his fingers. The blade felt as if it had been created just for him.

“Shall we?” Cornell asked the elf.

C’traeh nodded amiably. “Absolutely.”

The two men approached each other until they stood five feet apart from each other. C’traeh’s sword lay easily in his hand, he was clearly familiar with it. And Cornell knew enough about elfwood not to underrate it. The edges were sharp enough to cut through steel. He wore no armor, so he had to rely on his own sword to parry the blows… and he suddenly realized that it would do little good unless it had been magicked to be more resistant.

They circled, watching each other closely to see who made the first move. Cornell knew he had to be fast, he had to dodge the elf as much as possible. Don’t take a chance with the sword! Speed and agility, that was the only strategy he could use.

And then the fight began. Suddenly C’traeh lunged forward, swung his blade in a tight curve – and Cornell ducked and brought his sword up against the broadside of C’traeh’s. The elf whirled back, returning to his original position, but Cornell wasn’t finished yet. From his low position he leaped forward, tackling C’traeh head on.

They collided, the force of his leap carrying both men off their feet and sliding them into a crate. Both rolled sideways at the same time, both launched their swords at the same time – and both crashed together in the perfect center between them.

And Cornell’s blade didn’t break.

A whoop of joy escaped his lips, then he scrambled to his feet and launched another attack at the elf, his blade coming in a small arc, too brief for a proper defense. The blades clashed together again, but Cornell’s sword tip nicked the elf’s arm.

“Nicely done,” C’traeh commented, then his blade stabbed forward. Cornell leaped back, brought his sword down to parry the blow. This time he was too slow, and the elfwood scratched his stomach.

“Get him!” Barandas yelled. Cornell was too focused to fully understand what he had said.

He turned his attempted parry into a lunge, found himself blocked by the elf. C’traeh countered, was parried by the Cayaborean. Quickly a lethal dance developed, the blades swerving about like two airy dancers, clanging against each other every so often and occasionally drinking some of the opponent’s blood.

Neither man was dominating the other, a fact that slowly began to dawn on the elf. His supercilious air broke down bit by bit, replaced by the stubborn desire to destroy his opponent.

And that, Cornell thought, would be his downfall.

The elf fought more hastily, less elegantly, went more on the attack instead of letting Cornell tire himself out. After a few more moments, it was Cornell who blocked most of the moves. Every now and then he feinted an attack, the feint was greedily swallowed by C’traeh who put all his strength into countering the blow.

The first few times Cornell didn’t exploit the momentary openings. To be honest, he wasn’t sure whether this wasn’t a ploy of the elf’s. But when C’traeh continued to grow hastier, he decided it wasn’t.

He lunged forward, swinging his sword wide. C’traeh raised his elfwood blade to counter the blow, swinging it himself – and was caught surprised when Cornell’s boot hit his chest and propelled him backwards. The elf staggered, automatically stabbed his blade forward to where Cornell had just been. The Cayaborean ducked under the blow, his own blade sailed forward, into the flesh of the elf. Blueish blood squirted from the wound. A bubbly moan escaped C’traeh’s lips, as he looked down at the sword in a strangely calm way. “Ahh, this is… death,” he whispered. “I had been wondering how it would feel. I am… looking forward… to meeting… you again.”

C’traeh spat blood. The elfwood blade fell from his hands, and he soon followed it to the ground.

“Don’t count on it, bluey,” Cornell muttered. “I’m not planning to die anytime soon. Again.”

Sylasa was suddenly by his side and grabbed his shoulders. “The guards outside have different plans for you. This way!” She shoved him backwards.

He turned around and suddenly realized that Sylasa and he were the only ones of their party still in the room. In the corner where Barandas and Ylvain had been, a shimmering mirror stood. A mirror whose rims were glowing in green fire that sent sparkles across the surface.

Tangrain’s guards were just now realizing that the elf had lost his fight. Roars rose from them, and the first rushed into the room. Sylasa threw her quarterstaff at him, one end smacking him right on the head and into unconsciousness.

“Run!” she ordered, and shoved him again.

Not one to argue with sensible orders, Cornell ran towards the mirror. Instinct told him it was ridiculous that this could be some kind of exit. But what was the worst thing if he jumped into the mirror and all he did was break it? The guards would cure him of any feelings of ridicule soon enough.

He dove into the mirror.

The green light of the rim flashed over him, and then he felt himself dragged forward, completely intact yet smeared across an incredibly wide floor at the same time. And then…

  

 

 “Thank the Great Lord of Knowledge that the Academy also has an impressive collection of magical appliances,” Ylvain smirked as he helped Cornell onto his feet. Behind him Sylasa rolled onto the floor of a small laboratory in the Academy. She had just entered the room completely when Aurylen spoke a word of command, and the green light winked off the mirror that was a perfect copy of the one in Tangrain’s mansion.

“Although,” Ylvain frowned, “I suppose that Ceravin now has part of this one as well. And I believe he might find out that I was there as well if I would ask him to return the mirror to me.”

Everyone was here, Cornell saw when he looked about. Barandas stood a little off, next to one of several shelves filled from top to bottom with glass beakers, jars and pots. The wizard was smiling, carefully and gently stroking the silver gauntlet on his hand.

And here seemed very much to be a safe place, well away from the mansion and Tangrain’s angry guards. Which left just one question on Cornell’s mind, albeit a rather large one. “Would someone please be so kind and tell me what happened?”

“Oh, sure thing!” Barandas grinned maliciously, receiving frowns all around at his eagerness. The frowns grew deeper when he proceeded to relate all that had occurred after the fight in the corridor, relishing the moment in particular when Cornell had died. The look on the Cayaborean’s face would have been worth a painting in oil, first the disbelief that turned abruptly into consternation as he realized the wizard was serious.

Barandas gave him little time to ponder the fact that he had been dead, but rushed on to tell of his fireball, his very first fireball. How he had thought of the gauntlet, how he singlehandedly had carried Cornell to the treasure room and resurrected him. And, oh, yeah, the others helped a little, too. Just a little.

Sylasa glowered at him. “You are pushing your luck, wizard.”

“Barandas the Magnificent needs no –“ he started, then checked himself. The Ibrollenian woman was just a bit too angry for him to carry on. “All right, they helped a lot. But it was still me who brought you back, Cornell, and you owe me.” He grinned. “Big time.”

The Cayaborean felt his mind reeling and needed to sit down. A nearby table was just in reach, and Aurylen cleared out a few items just in time. “I think,” he said slowly, “I owe all of you.”

“Pish-posh,” Ylvain smiled, tweaked his beard. “As far as I am concerned, it was worth it to put one over Tangrain. Dear Ceravin has been getting away with a little too much lately.”

Demurely standing beside him, Aurylen nodded silently. (Looking demure, Cornell thought, did not suit the priestess one bit, and he suspected it was a show rather than anything else.)

That left one more person in the laboratory. Cornell felt blood drain from his face when he turned to the Ibrollenian woman. “Sylasa, I… I’m sorry that I had to lie to you. I couldn’t have used my real name at Tangrain’s, and I had to keep up the act, so…” His voice faltered, he got back up from the table and walked over to her. “I am sorry,” he said, knelt down and looked up at her incredibly beautiful face. “Forgive me.”

“Do you think it can be that simple, Cornell of Cayaboré?”

Her voice was as cold as he had ever heard, ice grating over steel, with the ice winning – yet there was something else in there. Something that made him smile. “Yes, I absolutely do.”

She nodded slowly. “Yes, you probably do think so.” And slowly the edges of her lips swerved upward into the beginning of a smile.

Before the smile could fully form, Ylvain coughed politely. “Now I am sorry to interrupt, but I fear that we have not quite finished. Tangrain is a vengeful man. By now he will be sending out his men to search the city for you, and there are plenty of informers around he keeps well paid.” He shrugged. “I suppose you could stay at the Academy for a few weeks, but I doubt that will be in your interests. Cornell, you do have to go home, do you not?”

The urgency of the scholar’s words impacted on the Cayaborean. He looked over at Ylvain, then back at Sylasa – and noticed the dragon rod still slung around her arm. “You’re right, honored sage,” he chuckled, sprang up and put his hand on the rod. “Can I have that, dar-, eh, Sylasa?”

The woman cocked her head. “It’s broken. What good could it do for you?”

“Some friends of mine might still learn from it, back home. Maybe,” his hand slipped up from the rod to touch her shoulder, “you would like to accompany me?”

Her eyes flared when she felt his touch. “Maybe,” she gently shook his hand off, “you need to learn a little more about patience. It might come in handy.” Sylasa stepped aside, unfastened the rod and handed it to Cornell. “We will meet again, Cornell of Cayaboré. You have my word on that, and until then… I’ll be watching you.” Fire burned in her eyes for a moment – then it spread to her lips that finally displayed a full smile.

Without saying another word she turned around and left the room.

Silence followed her exit. Cornell snapped the rod on his own arm, picked up the sword and turned to Ylvain. “Thank you, honored sage. For everything.”

Ylvain nodded. “You’re welcome, young man. But, much as I hate to spring this upon you,” he reached out for the table and picked up a sheet of paper, “this arrived yesterday by magiscribe. Someone paid a bit of a fortune to send this message to over a hundred Darawk temples across the continent, hoping it would reach you.”

“For me?” Cornell frowned. It couldn’t be a message from his superiors. For one thing, they knew where he was, and for another they would never have sent a message. Not during a mission. He took the paper curiously and glanced at it. There were only a few words. Of course, he thought. Sending a message by magiscribe, you had to pay for each word and for each station it was sent to. The sender had preferred to reach as many temples as possible, after all.

And the message read,

To Cornell of Cayaboré,

Meet me in oasis Siddig, south Elfadil Desert. Urgent.

Gabe of Ryelneyd

“Urgent,” Cornell muttered and read the message once more to find some indication of why Gabe – the friend who had taught him about the tribe of Ryelneyd – had written him. But in those few words, it would have been hard to hide anything. “Well,” he shook his head, “that means I’ll be travelling by way of the Elfadil. Barandas, are you coming?”

“Who, me?” The wizard’s head snapped back. “Through the desert? With my frail constitution? Why, I’d be desert dragon fodder in a minute or two! No, I’ll be taking up the good sage’s offer to stay here for a little while. If it won’t encumber you, honored sage?” Barandas bowed modestly.

Ylvain shrugged. “Not at all, young man. You may continue using the room you have lived in thus far. And you can return the alreu idol, by the way.”

“Splendid,” Barandas smiled and ignored the final comment, instead bowed even deeper to Aurylen. “And how about you, revered priestess? Do you mind my staying?”

Across the table Aurylen raised an eyebrow, apparently not impressed by the wizard’s behavior. She shook her head, nodded amiably to Ylvain and Cornell, then she left as well. She still wore the black tunic accentuating her body, and the Cayaborean knew instantly that the desert hadn’t been Barandas’ reason for turning down his offer. “You’ll never change, you son of a goat,” he muttered.

Barandas shrugged and grinned. “Better watch your words! Remember, you owe me.” Then he waved him off. “Now go on, take your desert trip, and have fun in the sun, will you?”

“I will,” Cornell agreed, shook his head again, then asked Ylvain to lead him outside. Both men went out, one very happy to have had a successful and eventful night, the other already looking forward to what he would find in the desert.

Behind them, Barandas slowly walked to the door and closed it. “Spoilsport of an honest Cayaborean,” he grinned. “You’d only make me hand these over to Ylvain, eh?”

Smiling, he stripped off the gauntlet, laid it reverently on the table before he dug his hands into the deep pockets of his robe. One by one he began dropping five more objects on the table, of the most varied of sizes, and certainly the most varied of shapes. “You’ll have to forgive me, dear priestess,” he whispered, his eyes glazing over at the sight of the loot he had stuffed into his pockets at Tangrain’s, just before leaping through the mirrorgate, “but I won’t have as much time for you as I would like. First I’ll have to figure out what these little thingies do…”

 

  

T H E   E N D