"Call of the Dragon, Part I"
"Call of the Dragon, Part II"
"Ruins and Hopes"
"Shield Maiden" Cornell #3
"Warrior Eternal" Cornell #4
"Childhood of a Fighter"
"The Pledge" Cornell #5
"The Rock of Discontent"
From here on, downloads will only be listed at the Downloads page!
"A Tale of the Gods"
"The Miracle of Solstice Day" Cornell #6
"The Pilgrims' Trial and Faith"
XIV. A Chink in the Armor <=== / ===> XVI. The Birth of a Race (coming on Friday, May 10 2002)
The old man smacked his walking stick against the wall. It bounced back, with a reassuringly solid sound. “Nice workmanship,” he commented.
Alyssa shrugged, then stuck her foot straight into the wall. “We can still get through. Lonapal hasn’t run to Decirius yet.”
“I doubt he will do that,” Darawk said. He had exchanged his usual clothes for a pair of simple breeches, a linen shirt and a tweed vest. The attire went well with the much younger appearance he’d taken, seeming to be about the same age as Alyssa. Now it was surprisingly easy to see the resemblance, the cut of the nose, the curve of the chin – all except for the eyes formerly hidden by the wrinkles of age. “Lonapal wants everybody to like him. Especially you, dear.”
“Want to make a bet on that?” she countered, not too happy about Lonapal’s affection.
Darawk smiled, dug in his left vest pocket and extracted a silver medallion about the size of his palm which he handed over to the old man. “He’ll wait two full days before telling Decirius about this exit. Two days after we’ve gone through, that is.”
His voice blank, the old man asked, “Are you certain that you wish to leave your abode?”
Alyssa’s gaze was withering, but the god of knowledge smiled as he pointed at his sister. “My friend, I would not hear the end of this if I were to stay behind. My sister can be rather annoying when she chooses to be.”
“You take this matter too lightly,” the old man cautioned. “The rashness of youth speaks from your mouth, but you should let wisdom shade your words.”
Alyssa stepped by the side of her brother, clasping his arm gently and looked over his shoulder at the old man. One might have thought that Darawk served as her shield, yet the fire in her eyes would disabuse any observer of that notion quickly. “You are free to stay, of course. Sixty days, then you’ll be out anyway. What’s the big difference?”
“The big difference,” the old man answered calmly, “is that I have spent hundreds of millenia alone outside. The warmth of a fine abode is something I have done without for too long. You may be throwing away your place here and have to join me in my wanderings. Believe me, that is a fate you do not want. And I certainly don’t want to be the cause.”
Before the goddess could answer, Darawk raised his hand and gently closed her mouth. “Old man, you are not the cause. Although we’ve only known each other for a few days, you should have learned that I do not make fast decisions. Nor am I swayed that easily by my sister – contrary appearance notwithstanding, of course. Decirius does not act the way he ought to, and I question his motives. Since he has made it clear that he will not answer those questions, I seek to learn more by another method.”
He raised his chin a little, focused his gaze on the stranger. “This abode was built on freedom, old man. Free deities who have joined together. We are not like other abodes where one god is a tyrant who may never be opposed. In all the time of our existence Decirius has never threatened a member of our home. If there were questions, he answered them. Sometimes he did not immediately offer all the facts at his disposal, but he said enough to console us. That he does not seem to care about consolation anymore is troubling. Can you see that?”
“I can see,” the old man sighed, “that you are set on this course. Your reasoning seems sound, and the yearning for knowlede is strong within you. As strong as your sister’s yearning for respect, I would say.”
Darawk’s grip on her mouth suddenly tightened, fully aware this was the only way to keep her quiet. “I suggest to you, old man, to refrain from rashness yourself. There is more to my sister than what you have seen and heard in these short days. Now, are you –“
He suddenly stopped, a concerned expression on his face, then he urged, “Decide now, old man. Alyssa, we are leaving this moment.”
She did not ask for any explanation but strode straight through the wall. The old man though frowned at Darawk who had already put one foot into the wall. “What has happened? I have not sensed anything.”
“I am the god of knowledge, my friend,” Darawk smiled. “You may have traveled through all there is, but I have found a lot that you haven’t yet seen.” With these words, he stepped through the walls and left the Eternal City.
Outside stood Alyssa, her head angled to look at the perfectly blue sky. She had changed her clothes to a leather dress that clung tightly to her figure, but proved supple with every movement. “Whereto, brother of mine?”
“The cave of the dwarves.” He pursed his lips. “Taurkémad may be there. We have to be careful, in case she is in league with Decirius. But…” He grinned back at the wall and held out his hand to help the old man outside as well. “You seem able of rash decisions as well, my friend.”
“I seem infected by youth,” the old man shook his head feebly. “I want to see how you handle this affair. Strange that after all my existence I can still be so moved by two young deities.”
Alyssa frowned. “You’d better learn to move fast. The cave of the dwarves. Now!” She linked her hand with Darawk’s, whose other arm still held on to the old man – then the three gods vanished from the divine realm.
The air had barely reclaimed the space vacated by the gods when Decirius stepped through the wall. He folded his arms, took a deep breath, while his black eyes focused on a point invisible in this realm. A thin smile played about his lips. “I appreciate predictability. It is good to know that I can count on these two in my calculations.”
From beyond the wall, a voice commented, “The old man didn’t figure in those calculations.”
“No, he didn’t,” Decirius frowned. “He forced my hand a bit sooner than I had planned. Keep an eye on him. Should he endanger our plans, you know what to do.”
“Oh, yes, I surely do,” the voice answered, dripping with anticipation.
Decirius nodded to himself. Yes, his plan was proceeding well. The road to greatness had been started, and with the help of unwitting Darawk and Alyssa, he would walk the road to its end.
Yet there was still work to do, he told himself. “I will seal the passage now. Lonapal might talk to others about it. You have your own door, after all.”
The voice didn’t answer. Decirius raised an eyebrow. Predictable. “Good,” he said, then went back into the Eternal City and closed the doorway in the wall.
Read on in Part XVI "The Birth of a Race"!