"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
Marc H. Wyman & Chris Bogues
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…
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.
you’re not. You’re just a miserable wannabe wizard who’s letting his
best friend down all the time. Right?
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
“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
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,
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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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
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
“Bloody ingrate of a –“ Barandas yelled and laughed at the
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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-,
The woman cocked her head. “It’s broken. What good could it do for
“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
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
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,
“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
“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
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
“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
T H E E N D