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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

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The Miracle of Solstice Day

  by Marc H. Wyman & Chris Bogues

Index Page 

 Chapter 1 / ==> Chapter 2  


“Flink!” Cornell of Cayaboré yelled and pointed his finger accusingly at the tiny humanoid creature sitting under a canopy it had fashioned from a roll of silk, attached to the saddle of the alreu’s pony.

Blinking innocently, the alreu looked up and directed its large eyes at the human towering with folded arms over him. “Yes, sir?” he piped eagerly. “Can I help you with anything? You know, I’ve been thinking that you might like some bit of adornment for your clothes, they are so drab, and –“

“Where are the jewels?” Cornell said dangerously.

“Which ones?” Flink asked and automatically drew his knapsack from its customary position on his back and opened the flap, one hand poised to dig into the interminable contents of the bag.

Sighing heavily, Cornell shook his head and held out his hand. “You know which ones I mean, Flink. The rubies that are missing from our chest. With the gold settings. You’ve had your eyes on them when we raided the dragon’s hoard.”

“Oh, those!” Flink said cheerfully and dropped his arm into his knapsack, quickly sticking his head in along with the arm and nearly diving full length into the bag. Judging by the noises coming from in there, Cornell wouldn’t have been surprised to hear a sudden, shrill shriek from the alreu and see him dragged into the knapsack – which might then burp and lick its flap. What, Cornell wondered, had he done to be stuck with an alreu, anyway? He hadn’t insulted any gods, had he? Not unless it counted that he regularly missed his prayers.

He tapped his fingers on his arms, waiting for the alreu to exit his knapsack and finally produce the jewels. In the meantime he gazed around their campsite briefly. Gabe, a southern barbarian, had left camp half an hour ago. The wizard Barandas was stroking down his horse, casting dirty looks every now and then at the buckler-style shield with a bronze knob leaning against a rock. Cornell had to smile, albeit a grim smile.

There were three souls trapped inside the elfwood of the shield – Halla Valfrey, the so-called shield maiden and former owner of the buckler; Phindar, a Decalleigh priest who had turned merchant in the latter half of his life; and also the annoying little coward Nev, an accountant. The shield gave each of them a magical power, even the accountant, suited to their own minds. Nev could turn the shield’s bearer invisible, Phindar could heal wounds, and Halla – well, Halla really had a useful power. If one threw the shield, she could guide its flight and direct the sharp edge into its target. She’d saved him and his companions from a couple of difficult situations so far, and he could almost get used to having her around.

If the other two didn’t like jabbering so much. One more supposedly funny anecdote from Phindar, and Cornell was liable to use the shield as firewood.

He had no idea what Barandas had done now to be angry at the shield. In all likelihood, the wizard had tried to figure out some of the magical secrets of the buckler, in the process causing pain to the souls inhabiting it. Or something like that. Three days ago, he had tried to cut a sliver of elfwood off. Although he hadn’t succeeded – the elfwood was simply too tough -, the souls had been shouting at him all day.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Flink’s voice interrupted him and jarred him back to the present day. The alreu was standing behind his knapsack, both hands on the flap, and a curious expression on his face. “I can’t find them, sir,” he shook his head in confusion. “I mean, if I took them, they ought to be here. The funny thing is, you know, sir, I can’t even remember that I did that. Take the jewels, I mean. They were looking fine as they were, with those precious gold settings. Did you see the artwork on them? Beautiful! Goodness gracious, would I love to talk to the artisan who made that! Wonderful! I wish I could –“

“You didn’t take the rubies?!” Cornell cut through the alreu’s babbling. Normally one could rely on the alreu – or any other of his thieving kin – when something went missing; he usually was responsible, and if one caught him quickly enough, the item in question might still be intact – rather than turned into one of the strange contraptions Flink called beautiful.

Flink shrugged, looked down at his knapsack. “I don’t think so. Do you want me to look again, sir?”

Cornell didn’t answer right away. Barandas? he wondered and discarded the notion right away. The rubies hadn’t been magical, as far as he knew, Barandas’ primary motivation for stealing. Besides, the wizard was still here, rather than having ridden off in the night. Had he stolen anything, he would be several hundred miles away before his theft could be discovered (and he could be searched thoroughly).

“Uhm, yes,” Cornell shook his head, “look again. Might have slipped your mind, right?”

Flink shrugged, then opened the flap and started to dive back into his knapsack.

“There is no need for that,” a booming voice interrupted him. Gabe walked out of the twilight surrounding the campsite, a long wooden wand in one of his heavy fists. At its top, nine rubies glistened in the light of the campfire. “I took the jewels,” Gabe said evenly and planted the wand before him in the ground.



Cornell was still gaping at his companion a few moments later. The tall barbarian stood there, with an unreadable expression on his tanned face, his shaggy hair slightly ruffled by the wind.

Gabe had taken the rubies? Gabe? The one who always spoke of honor, and whom Cornell could ever have imagined betraying his friends? “Gabe?” he muttered.

While the Cayaborean was imitating a statue, Flink had run over to the barbarian, fingering the wand with his thin, long fingers. “You know, Gabe,” he said, crooking his head, “this doesn’t look half bad. Goodness gracious, did you make this on your own? I hadn’t known you were this good!” He crooked his head suddenly to the other side and continued, “Of course it isn’t that good. The arrangement of the jewels could be a lot better, and it looks so much like they’re only temporary. And where did you find that wood? It’s so uneven, you should have – but anyway, it’s better than I would have thought –“

“Flink!” both Gabe and Cornell shouted in unison.

The alreu rolled his eyes, fell silent for the moment and continued his inspection of the wand.

“For whatever reason,” Cornell slowly said, “did you steal the rubies, Gabe? You’d better have a good one ready.”

Gabe shrugged, gently pushed Flink away from the wand and held it out towards Cornell, so the Cayaborean had a better look of the top. Cornell glanced down briefly. It looked somewhat familiar – the topmost three rubies pointing upward, the next three outward, the lowest three pointing straight at the ground – but that really didn’t matter much to him. He wasn’t a critic of the arts; that was better left to Flink.

“I will put the rubies back next week, of course,” Gabe said as if the wand was explanation enough.

It wasn’t for Cornell. “Why next week, pray tell? What’s so special about next week? Gabe, you’ve stolen from our communal property!”

Gabe blinked, taken aback by the ferocity of Cornell’s words. “I have not stolen the jewels. As you said, they are the property of our party, and so it was my right to remove them for a while from the chest. It is for our good, after all.”

“Excuse me?” Cornell held up one hand, looked aside – strangely enough at Barandas who had come over to enjoy Gabe being chewed out – and shook his head. “Why would it be for our good? Have you eaten too much of the gum we bought off that Tonomai merchant? You do remember that it can do crazy things to you if you eat too much?”

Barandas was sitting down on a rock, a wide grin attempting to split his face. That sight made Cornell wish that Gabe would admit to having eaten off that gum, so that he didn’t have to be chastised like this. It ought to be Barandas getting the business end of a sword. That was the order of things, really, and Cornell liked things to be orderly.

But unfortunately Gabe shook his head. “Of course not. One bite was enough. You cannot fight properly with the gum, so bwyell and me stay away from it.” He patted the axe on his belt fondly. “Cornell, haven’t you understood what this is about?”

“No,” the Cayaborean hissed angrily, “I haven’t. Please, tell me!”

Instead of Gabe answering, Flink put up his large head and focused his cheerful gaze on the Cayaborean. “But, sir, you have to know. It’s only five more days! I’m so excited about it, too, like Gabe is! Only five days, oh my, oh my!”

“Five days until what?!”

“Solstice Day, what else?” Gabe answered, looking consternatedly at his friend. “How could you forget that we’re close to the winter solstice?”



“Solstice Day?” Cornell repeated. Right, that’s what the blasted wand reminds me of. The nine major gods of the pantheon, in their traditional array. “Gabe, please don’t tell me you’ve been walking around our campsite the last half hour, pointing the wand at the sky and chanting that silly prayer. Please don’t.”

Barandas chuckled. “I told you, Cornell, we should have dumped the savage.”

“You stay out of this!” the Cayaborean barked to the wizard, unable to dampen Barandas’ good mood. Grinning, Barandas took a piece of the Tonomai gum from a pocket in his robe, showed it to everyone and dropped it with a grand gesture in his mouth. Cornell frowned, breathed deeply and looked sharply at the barbarian.

Gabe’s face showed lines of concern – but from his eyes, Cornell could tell, that all the concern was directed at the Cayaborean. Oh, no. When did Gabe become the worshipping kind? “Cornell,” the barbarian said softly, almost as if talking to a child, “on the winter solstice we celebrate the day that the gods brought our forefathers to Gushémal, after the Time of Turmoil. It is the longest night of the year, the end of the year, and the time when Yelof and Egap walk the earth to reward and punish those who deserve either. We give praise to the gods for their gift to us. We remember the year that has passed, and think on what Yelof and Egap will bring for us.”

Halfway through Gabe’s speech, Cornell’s head had drooped forward, and now he was silently shaking it, his eyes closed.

A tone of sadness in his voice, Flink picked up Gabe’s story, “And on Solstice Day we are together with all our family, and with our friends, and we give gifts to each other. We spend the longest night together, with those we hold dear. Only that now all of us are away from home. And we can’t get there. And,” tears formed at the rim of his eyes, “even if I could go home to Tieferbau, I couldn’t… I mean, I…”

“Flink,” Gabe whispered and put his hand on the alreu’s shoulder, “I know.”

Cornell didn’t, and he didn’t care much. “Gabe, for the gods’ sake, this is ridiculous. Yelof and Egap are just the products of folk tales, they aren’t in any of the official texts. Look, the winter solstice may be the longest night of the year, but it really is just another excuse for a celebration. To get the whole family together and pretend you like everybody. Not to mention that you have to buy gifts for everybody and not complain about the stuff you’re getting. It’s boulderdash, that’s all.”

“But, Cornell –“

“Boulderdash!” the Cayaborean told Gabe and started stalking away.

Heartbeats later Flink tugged at his pants. “But, sir! Solstice Day is important! We only have each other, and we have to really celebrate Solstice Day. I mean, it’s so wonderful, and I don’t know why you would have to complain about gifts when you know that everybody did their best to please you! Not that it really is about the gifts, it’s really about being with your family! The ones you love best in all the world!” The alreu quickly wiped the tears from his face. (The moment he let go of Cornell’s pants, the Cayaborean hurried up to get away from Flink. Not that Flink noticed.) “You put out two platters for Egap and Yelof, with the choicest meats of the feast, and you put out two cups with the best wine you have, and you wait all night whether they will show up. Of course, they will, every time. I mean, every time, and that is so much fun because you know that those aren’t really Yelof and Egap – except if you’re really, really lucky! But most of the time, it’s two of your friends or relatives who dress up as them, just so that we can really celebrate Solstice Day. And it’s good luck to be chosen to play Yelof and Egap – I mean, not just because you get to eat from their platters, but also because you’re, well, because you know you’re so well loved by your folks! Goodness gracious, say, Gabe, can I play one of them on Solstice Day?”

Cornell had wound up standing next to Barandas by that time, one hand massaging his forehead. The wizard grinned, held up a portion of his gum. Cornell rolled his eyes, then he walked further away – making sure he got nowhere near the elfwood buckler. Those three souls were certain to love Solstice Day, too – if only to spite Cornell. He was sure of it, and he just wanted to get to sleep. Maybe the next day his friends would have forgotten all about this foolishness.

He didn’t believe it either and prepared himself for some serious headaches during the next days.



“Try to contain your Solstice Day euphoria, will you?” Cornell muttered low-key to his companions. They were riding along the main road of the Tonomai city of Atnas, and Cornell couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. The Tonomai believed in their One God rather than the pantheon he and the others had grown up with. He knew that until a few years ago, infidels like them had been forbidden from entering any part of Tonomat. Although the Empire had changed that policy, he still didn’t think that proudly displaying the paraphernalia of Solstice Day – or cheerfully discussing the celebration – would make them very popular. Not to mention one other thing that was bothering him.

“Do you think there are any friends of the demon-raisers around here?” he whispered to the buckler on his arm.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” the priest Phindar replied. The shield slightly reverberated with every word. “Look, we’ve been over this before, haven’t we, shield bearer? The Tonomai we have fought were dissidents. Rebels. The Empire might even reward us for having killed them.” Cornell smacked his lips slightly. A likely outcome. Phindar went on, “There hasn’t been any trouble in the other cities we have visited, has there? What makes you think this might be different?”

“Because,” Cornell insisted, “Atnas is a lot bigger than all the others. I kept us away from the large towns because of that very reason. Those rebels weren’t run of the mill bandits, they were well equipped, and they managed to summon a bloody powerful demon. He made Gabe and me –“ Cornell cut himself off, when memories of that awful day surfaced. The demon had made him believe that Gabe had murdered his family, and so Cornell had almost killed his friend. (He conveniently ignored that Gabe also claimed to have nearly finished off Cornell.) “So keep a look out, please. You know the Tonomai best of all of us.”

Phindar chuckled lightly, a strange sound from a disembodied voice. And, bad enough, Cornell was getting used to this! “Rely on me, shield bearer. If I see anybody who could prove dangerous, I will let you know.”

“Thanks,” Cornell whispered and became aware that Barandas had moved his horse a good deal closer during the conversation. “What is it?” Cornell asked irritatedly.

The wizard shrugged, eyeing the buckler in his more or less inconspicuous way. “Oh, nothing. Just noticed that you were talking to the shield. Anything interesting?”

“I’ll tell you if you need to know,” Cornell muttered and spurred his horse on. Stormwind was reacting very fast, a lot faster than it had the first days after he had acquired it, almost as if it were frightened of him. Odd enough, that was. It had started right after their encounter with the emperor dragon. When Cornell had first come out of the cave, his horse – and the others – had shied away from them, and it had taken half a day to calm them down. Probably the smell of the dragon.

Cornell shut his eyes for a moment. He would have to rely on Phindar. Unless an army of rebel Tonomai suddenly attacked them, he had no way of telling which faction the people around him belonged to. By Darawk’s beard, he couldn’t even tell the uniforms of the imperial soldiers apart from those that the rebels had worn.

He had to relax, he told himself. Atnas seemed a relatively good place to do so. It was a large city, behind a high wall that was topped by the round structures the Tonomai liked so much. There were curves everywhere inside the town as well. Although the buildings were basically rectangular, their corners were smoothed out to curves. Most of the windows had a round top, some had inscriptions curled around them – probably verses from the beiqua, the Tonomai holy book. The buildings were multi-storied, some reaching up to a staggering ten stories, each extending a bit further into the street. So much so that some of the buildings upper parts came to within a foot of each other. Clotheslines were strung between some of the windows, the clothes dripping onto the passersby below, neither of whom seemed to care. In Cornell’s mood, he hated every drop that hit his head.

Traffic on the main road was not very bad. A couple of wagons were before them, escorted by two imperial riders. In a few moments, Cornell’s party would have to slow down, since there was little space left to overtake them. Apart from the small convoy, though, there were only a few other riders in the street, wearing rather nondescript clothes. One, wearing a yellow shawl wound around his head was  riding very close to the convoy, getting suspicious glances from the guards. Walkways ran along the road, with pedestrians strolling along leisurely, stopping every now and then at one of the shops and looking at the goods on display.

One of the oddities of Tonomai towns were the sort-of-taverns they had. Kafeserai, they were called, but instead of ale and wine, they served the Tonomai national drink, coffee. Cornell had been surprised to find there was a translation of the term into meantongue, but Phindar had regaled him with a long-winded explanation (the better part of which Cornell hadn’t listened to). According to the priest, kafeserai served mostly the same functions as the taverns of Cornell’s home. Except that these were often frequented during the day, particularly the hot midday hours when few people worked. Those who did not sleep gathered in the nearest kafeserat, to drink their coffee and talk.

Aside from the fact that no decent drinks were offered, Cornell found it curious that the kafeserai invariably had benches and tables set up before their entrance, under the shade of a large canopy, so that their patrons practically sat on the street, talking and laughing in their gruff language. In a good tavern you were inside, and you didn’t block traffic. Neither did you point at somebody on the road, or sound like you were talking about that somebody.

Fortunately, Cornell thought, the Tonomai also had regular inns. Well, more or less regular. Still better than having to stay at a kafeserat. Even though you were woken up by the smell of their vile brew every morning. (That was another reason why he had avoided cities lately.)

“We should slow down,” Halla Valfrey said from the shield, her voice tinged with concern. “The guards are already looking over to us.”

That they did, Cornell noted and slowed Stormwind down. The rider with the yellow shawl was only a step ahead of them, oblivious of the people behind him, but the guards had fallen back behind the convoy, hands on the hilts of their curved swords. Cornell smiled broadly, patting his horse’s neck and doing anything to look innocent. It shouldn’t have been hard, right? After all, he had no interest whatsoever in the cargo the convoy was carrying.

No interest whatsoever.

No… interest…

What’s the matter with you? he thought urgently. His mind suddenly seemed like a muddy path, each step – or thought – requiring the utmost effort to keep going. No reason at all! Cornell shook his head furiously, but the muddiness stayed in his head. His heart started pounding, and he felt a wave of worry and concern flush over him. And fear.

Fear. Worry. Fear. Worry.

“Cornell, are you all right?” Phindar asked from the shield, his voice like a foreign object that intruded on the muddy world Cornell’s mind had turned into.

“I… am…”

He barely felt it happen. His surroundings had slowed down into a quagmire of images, and the quagmire gradually slipped upwards. Halfway through it Cornell realized that he was falling off his horse. He wanted to grab something to hold onto, but his hands refused to obey his commands. Nor did his legs.

He hit the ground before he realized that he hadn’t managed to stay on the horse. Above him were the brown stories of the Tonomai buildings, leaving a yard-wide sliver of sky between them.

“Cornell!” voices yelled.

The Cayaborean tried to turn his head around. He succeeded more or less. His head lolled to his right, dizziness assaulting him in a nauseating raid. It was the wrong direction, for he saw the convoy through the cobwebs forming before his eyes. And the rider with the yellow shawl. Only that he had dropped the shawl from his face. A face that looked decidedly unmasculine.

And familiar.

"Sylasa?!" Cornell croaked. Then he fell unconscious.




Read on in Chapter Two!