Sample from "Wolf Bane: Book Two in the Wolf Lord Saga"
Gar woke to the aroma of bread baking in the oven. Sitting up and stretching, he smiled hearing his mother humming in the kitchen. The fire was burning warmly, and Lee had ended up with all the blankets as usual. Looking at her face, thoughts of last night and the events of the past few days came to mind.
They had been chased by wolves, transported to another world, and met Palatyne and Quelian. The two silver haired mages bestowed many magical gifts upon them and their friend Jair. Upon returning to Orlon, they had fought raiders, saved a prince, and saw a ship of flame sailing in the sky. The village won an epic battle and Drag had acknowledged him as the Wolf Lord. The celebration afterwards had been awesome, but nothing compared to that kiss. The two of them had cuddled in the blankets left for them before the fireplace. He had drifted off to sleep with Lee’s hair in his face and the smell of her filling his senses.
So much had happened, yet so much was the same. Their home, the village, and their friends. Most of the homes in the village were similar. One or two small bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. Some homes, like theirs, had a dining room and nearly all had a table in the kitchen. The chimney was almost always in the center of the home. It drafted the fireplace and kitchen stove. An outhouse was in the back and most used the baths in the village for bathing. The square designs with front and back porches were simple and easy to build. Thankfully the village had survived the attack intact and none of their friends had lost their lives.
The attack had coincided with the beginning of the Fall Festival. The holiday was celebrated during the last week of the fall moon. The new year began the next day which was the first day of the wolf moon. Despite the attack there was much to be thankful for this morning. Hopefully the raiders would break off the invasion when he and his friends returned their prince. Tull had been betrayed by his own men and they had saved his life.
Gar kissed Lee on the cheek and her eyes fluttered open. The beginning of a smile turned into a yawn. “What’s this, your prince wakens you with a kiss and you yawn in his face? How unfairy tale like!”
Lee smiled up at him with her beautiful green eyes and strawberry-blond hair all around her. “I thought a frog kissed me, so it could turn into my prince charming. But alas…,” another yawn…, “upon opening my eyes, I saw that it was only—”
“Why you,” Gar said cutting her off by tickling her. Lee burst out laughing and crying out for someone to save her.
“Unhand the maiden, villain!” His father bellowed entering the room. Seeing her chance to escape, Lee jumped up and darted behind Garth, who was a big man at nearly six feet seven with broad shoulders. He was dressed as usual in dark wool pants and a blue wool shirt. While his presence could be intimidating, his blue eyes and smile were alight with merriment. What’s this? Two braids, one on each side of his father’s light brown hair, were pulled back. Gar had to admit it looked good. His mom had been busy this morning.
“Thank you, Sir Knight for saving me from that villain!” Lee pointed at Gar, enjoying her role as a damsel in distress.
“Come, the feast awaits!” Garth played his role as knight protector and escorted Lee to the kitchen.
Gar shook his head in amusement while gathering the blankets and pillows from off the floor. Entering his bedroom, he filled the washbowl and splashed cold water on his face. It was invigorating and swept away the remaining traces of sleep from his eyes. A new set of magical underclothes was on his bed. Palatyne no doubt. They merged seamlessly at the waist and ankles. The underclothes would keep him warm in the coldest weather and cool on the hottest summer day. The dark brown pants appeared as fresh as ever with no hint of yesterday’s battle. The brown boots didn’t have any scuff marks and had enabled him to jump over twenty feet! According to Palatyne they would be able to jump even higher in a few days. Awesome. The off-white shirt with its long, loose fitting sleeves looked like new. Magic of course, and after tucking it in, he strapped on his silver studded leather belt. The sleeveless brown leather jerkin with its tie down front, didn’t seem appropriate for this time of year. Maybe sleeves could be added. He would ask Palatyne.
Looking in a small mirror, Gar pushed back his dark curly hair and attached a three stranded silver wrap over his left ear. A silver ear cuff with a dangling silver symbol, inlaid with a blue stone, was next. Lee had chosen it, saying it matched his blue eyes. Slipping the silver chain over his head, the amulet with its blue stone was tucked under his shirt. A silver ring with a matching blue gem went on the middle finger of his left hand. Dark blue scrolling wrapping around a silver ring went on his right hand. Holding out both hands the rings disappeared. Magic sure is handy!
The magical clothes, combined with the jewelry, provided the best protection in the world. Not, however, against everything. The swing of a battle-axe or a projectile hurled from a catapult came to mind. Reaching into a pocket, he took out a silver pendant. Drag had given it to him before dying under the tree yesterday morning. Holding it up to the light by the silver chain, a wolf and dragon appeared to be chasing one another as the pendant spun. Drag had said by showing it to his brother, the King, Turin would accept and support him as the RagNor-Ta. The Wolf Lord.
While putting the pendant back in his pocket, Gar remembered something else. The metal charm taken from the body of a dead raider. The actions of the young man may have saved his life in yesterday’s battle. The charm was a reminder of a debt that could never be repaid. Like most young men, he had dreamed of being victorious in battle. Not anymore. Fighting, real fighting wasn’t a game, it's real and people die.
Tracing the blue triangle on his belt and tapping the blue dot above it thrice, a small bag appeared. “Oscailt’ar.” The bag opened, and the hilt of a sword appeared. The raiders believed Wolf Bane possessed powerful magic. Truth be told, it didn’t, but it was beautiful just the same. A silver wolf was emblazoned on the dark leather scabbard. Intricate scrollwork ran along both sides of the double-edged blade. The jeweled cross-guard with its large centered gemstone and wolf ears curved toward the sword's tip. Wolves were engraved on the blade just below the light blue gemstone. The grip was wrapped in dark leather and the pommel stone was a swirl of brown, orange and yellow. “Oscailt’ar.” The sword disappeared, and the bag closed. The only thing left was to travel to Haven, meet the King of Stagnor, and stop the invasion. An impossible task? Maybe.
One last glance around the room and...that’s interesting. The mage cube he had found years ago in the ruins had a magical aura. His mom had told him magical items were often inside but opening it would be very difficult. If someone tried and was unsuccessful, the item inside would be destroyed. Palatyne could open it no doubt.
“Gar will you get a few more logs for the fire please.”
“Sure thing mom, I need to go out back anyway.” The sun wasn’t up and there was a chill in the air. Torches were burning along the pathways in the village. Looking up, the northern lights were shining above the Orans. A gift from the goddess it was believed. Lee would become giddy with excitement upon seeing them. A quick stop at the outhouse before gathering a few logs from the woodpile and carrying them inside. “The lights are out early, a green swash of color in the sky.” Lee jumped up and bolted out the kitchen door.
“Gar, put a log in for us, will you? Your father and I also want to have a look.”
“Sure mom.” Gar opened the stove’s fire box and inserted one of the split logs. He stoked the fire and then joined everyone outside. His father’s arm was around his mom’s shoulders and like Lee, they were staring at the lights. His mom was slim and wearing a dark blue wool dress with long sleeves. She was the tallest woman in the village and had a heart shaped face. Her eyes were a darker shade of green than Lee’s and there was just a touch of gray in her curly shoulder length black hair.
Wrapping his arm around Lee, she leaned into his embrace. The four of them gazed at the curtain of shimmering green light caressing the top of the northern mountains. Beautiful. Just then a gust of wind had them scurrying back inside.
“Mmm, these biscuits are the best mom, hot and buttery.” Garth and Lee mumbled in agreement.
“Thank you, darling, reach me the honey, will you?” Gar did, and Estelle spread a little on her biscuit. She took a bite and agreed the biscuits were better than usual. “Gar, I don’t like the idea of you going to Haven. There’s no telling what could happen.”
“I have to go, mom. With the raiders long lost sword and Tull’s help, we can convince his father to call off this invasion. The wolves will be with us and we have magic. Palatyne and Quelian will also be keeping a close watch.” His father nodded.
Lee told them she wasn’t excited about going. “We’re a team and with our magical items there isn’t much that can harm us. Oh, speaking of magical items, that reminds me.” She got up from the table, went into the living room, and returned wearing a blue cloak. “Gar made this for me last night.” She spun around displaying the cloak. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes, it is.” Estelle ran her hand across the trim knotwork pattern. “Gar, you made this with magic?”
“Yes. I’ve been watching Palatyne and Quelian closely, like when they made the crystal glasses. I asked how it was done and about making a cloak. Palatyne showed me how in my mind.”
Lee started to sit down. “Oh, I better take if off. A spill will leave a stain! Of course,” she said batting her eyes, “Gar could always make me another one.”
Gar looked around. “Did someone say something? I must be losing my hearing.” Estelle and Garth chuckled as Lee hit Gar on the arm.
“Ow!” Gar said rubbing his arm as if it hurt.
“Baby,” Lee said hanging the cloak on a hook beside the door.
“What if things go wrong?” Estelle asked. She was still nervous about them going to Haven with raiders running around everywhere.
“We’re nearly grown mom and have to accept the responsibility that goes with being an adult. If none of this had happened, Jair and I would be expected to fight with the men before long. Either of us could be hurt or worse. Lee would be taking on more responsibility in the infirmary. Yet, look what we’ve already done. We’ve fought wolves and raiders and have very powerful magical items to protect us. We’re safer now, no, alive because of such magic. I know you worry for us and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we were given these gifts and have to accept the responsibility that comes with them. There is a real chance that in a few days we can bring an end to this invasion. So many lives will be saved if that happens. I have to go. Lee has to decide for herself, but I want her with me, not behind me, but beside me.”
There was silence as Estelle and Garth considered his words. Gar wasn’t as talkative as Jair and had surprised them with the passion of his argument. Lee was looking at him with eyes full of love. Estelle could see that her son had become a man in the past few days. Though proud of him, she sighed for it’s hard for a mother to let go. She nodded, accepting his decision and looked at her husband. Garth had sat quietly watching and listening to his son. What he heard and observed wasn’t a boy who just wanted his way, but a man. Gar had accepted the choices men must sometimes make. Garth was bursting with pride. “That settles it then, after we’re finished eating, I’ll have a wagon readied for the trip. Lee, we’ll support you of course, but your mother may not agree.”
“I know.” Lee said looking worried.
Estelle squeezed her hand and looking at the stove declared the buns were ready. “Would you help me sweetheart?” Lee nodded and got up to help. Estelle took the tray of buns from the oven and Lee started spreading the honey. When Garth and Gar asked for seconds, Estelle shook her head “I swear you men, always thinking with your stomachs!”
“Hey, mine’s pretty smart for it sure likes your cooking mom!” Garth was agreeing when footsteps were heard outside the kitchen door.
“Knock, knock,” Corwin said opening the back door. Cassandra hurried inside. Corwin was Garth’s little brother and was six foot three with straight light brown hair that fell halfway to his shoulders. He had blue eyes and an outgoing personality. He was dressed as usual in dark brown pants and a long-sleeved tan colored wool shirt. They removed their cloaks and hung them on the wall beside the door. “Ah breakfast, room for two more I hope.”
“Of course, I was expecting you,” Estelle said while frying eggs. “The usual for you, Cor?”
“Yes ma’am, for I also have a smart stomach.” Everyone chuckled as Corwin took a seat.
Cassandra was looking at the blue cloak. She was five foot five with red-gold shoulder length hair. Like Lee, she was slender and had a heart shaped face. Unlike her daughter, she had deep blue eyes. Cass was wearing a long dark green wool button dress with a rounded neck. A silver necklace hung around her neck and a silver broach was on her dress. “Stelle, is this a new cloak?”
“Yes, but it’s not mine.”
“It’s mine, mom!” Lee said finishing the buns. “Gar made it for me after the celebration last night. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes, it is.” Cassandra just looked at Gar, obviously at a loss for words.
“I’ve been learning to sew.”
Everyone chuckled and with a shrug, Cass began helping Estelle. When everyone had been served and hot tea poured, she sat down. Lee and Gar exchanged smiles seeing how happy the new couple looked. “Lee, after breakfast, we should pack a few things for your trip.” Surprise showed on everyone’s faces except for Corwin’s.
“Are you sure, mom?”
“Yes, I learned the need of letting go last night. Being your mother, I will always worry, but you’ve proven that you’re no longer a child, as has Gar. What you’re attempting to do is important.”
Lee leaned over and hugged her mom. “Thanks, mom, I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetheart.”
“Honey bun, anyone?” Estelle asked sometime later. Of course, everyone wanted one and while serving them, she asked if Cass had seen the lights.
“Yes, they were lovely. Corwin and I...” Cass’s face reddened…“were looking at them when the Val’een chased us inside. We saw Quelian and Wylena on the way here. They were heading to the hall and mentioned that Palatyne and Mythal were going to check on our visitors.”
A few minutes later Garth got up from the table and put on his cloak. “I’m going to see about the wagon.” Corwin said he would be along shortly.
Estelle reached her husband a covered basket of honey buns. “There’s one for you too, dear.” Garth grinned and kissed Estelle on the check before leaving.
The lamps were lit and Tregin had just finished feeding the horses. Work started a few hours before sunrise in Farsen as it did in most villages. Farmers, more than most, had chores that needed doing. Milking cows and feeding the livestock to name just a few, and all before breakfast. Lighting the lamps, feeding the horses, and readying the forge were chores Garth rotated with him and Chase. Tomorrow would be Chase’s turn. Garth entered the barn carrying a basket. “Tregin, can you ready a wagon and team.”
“Sure. For the trip to Haven?”
“I’ll round up the horses.” Chase said joining them. He had arrived early. “I thought you might need some help. What’s in the basket?”
“Honey buns, there’s one for each of us.” Garth sat the basket on a work bench, uncovered the buns, and took one.
Chase looked at the buns as if trying to decide which one he wanted. “Eeny, meeny, miny—”
Tregin reached into the basket and took one. “That should make choosing easier.”
Chase grinned, picked up the remaining bun, and took a bite. “Mmm, that’s good! Tell, Estelle, thanks.”
“Tell her yourself at breakfast. I better get going. Things to do and people to see.”
Garth left the barn and a few minutes later saw Mythal, Palatyne, and Tom standing near one of the burning torches.
Palatyne with his long straight silver hair and white robes looked like a mage described in the stories. He was around six feet but with his slim build appeared taller. His eyes were a brilliant blue and he appeared amused as usual.
Tom was six foot two with a lean build. He had blue-gray eyes and wore his blonde hair tied back. The two of them were best friends. Tom ran the tannery north of the village. His wife, Clair was the best seamstress in the village. Together they ran a very successful clothing shop.
Mythal was the village chief and together with him and Tom, formed the village counsel. It wasn’t an official position but Mythal needed help in running the village. He was a natural born leader and handled the responsibility without running roughshod over anyone. Garth was creative and had designed the gate and much of their defenses. Tom was good with numbers and handled the village’s finances. He was also very good at organizing. They worked well together, and the village appreciated their hard work. The three of them appeared to be waiting for him. Palatyne had probably seen him coming.
“We were about to come and get you,” Mythal said. His voice then took on a serious tone. “Varg told Palatyne that a large group of raiders will be passing by here on their way to Haven.”
“Today or tomorrow.”
“Why warn us now?”
“Well he was injured remember and unconscious for quite some time. I think the way we treated him and the prince was why he warned us. He has offered to stay and order the raiders not to attack. I’ve already sent men to the lookout post and will call for a meeting at daybreak. Palatyne wants to check on something in the hall.”
On the way they were joined by Gar and Corwin. “Gar, my boy, I want you to assist me in unraveling a mystery.” Palatyne’s mentioning of a mystery roused everyone’s curiosity.
“I’ll do my best.” Gar was wondering what mystery, when Palatyne explained.
“Remember the interference during our farviewing the night before last when entering the hall?”
“Yes, you had to increase the power of the farviewing to counter the interference. So, the reason is in the hall?”
“Yes, I’m sure of it.”
The hall door opened and Wylena and Quelian exited. Like Palatyne, Quelian looked like she had stepped out of one of the story books. She was Lee’s height, with green eyes and wore her short silver hair in a pixie cut. Slim as her husband, she was wearing an off-white color robe with a green brocade trim. “Ah, there you are dear. Wylena is going to show me the bathhouse. We’ll catch up later.” The two ladies continued down the path. “You were right dear. Have fun.” Palatyne grinned knowingly while entering the great hall. The lamps were lit and other than the tapestry on the north wall, there was little indication of last night’s celebration.
Walking to the center of the large rectangular hall, Palatyne looked around. There were two large equally spaced fireplaces along the east and west walls. The four fireplaces had provided light and kept the hall warm during last night’s festivities.
There were six doors in the hall. Four of them were between the fireplaces. Storage rooms were behind the two on the east wall and kitchens behind the two on the west wall. The main door was on the southern side of the west wall. A second rarely used entrance was on the north side of the east wall. The vaulted ceiling was constructed of large wooden beams which had taken weeks to put in place. The ropes and block and tackles had been a godsend. Quelian had moved the tables and chairs along the south wall. She was ahead of him as usual.
“Gentlemen, you may recall my telling you how the farviewing had gone out of focus when we looked in on you the other night. I compensated and we continued, yet it happened again. Then last night while hanging the tapestry, I became convinced.”
Mythal didn’t like mysteries or things he didn’t understand. “Convinced of what?”
“That something here caused the interference.”
Mythal scratched his head. “But before we met you, Estelle was the only one in the village with any magic.”
“I didn’t say someone, I said something and it’s somewhere nearby.” Palatyne asked Gar to look at the hall with his magical sight.
Gar adjusted his vision as Palatyne had taught him and almost immediately saw glowing walls. “The walls glow with magic, but it’s weaker along the top and around the outer doors. The magic is strongest there.” He pointed at the north wall where the tapestry hung.
“Excellent, my boy!” Palatyne was proud of his student. “Evidently when the hall was rebuilt there were stones missing, yes?”
“Yes.” Mythal didn’t understand how this could be a mystery. “This building, the bathhouse, and portions of the walls where standing when we found this site. They needed repairing and stones scattered about were used to replace the ones missing. The bathhouse sustained the least amount of damage and required only a few repairs. What’s going on, Palatyne?”
“Many thousands of years ago a certain type of stone was discovered that naturally absorbs magic. They were called blue stones due to the bluish tint when wet. The purer, the more magic they could absorb, and thus more valuable. Mages could place spells upon them and this had far reaching consequences. The stones of this hall, the gauntlet, and your walls are all made of blue stones. They’re not pure, but blue stones just the same.”
“They must be abundant to be used as they have been here.” Mythal still didn’t understand why this was so important.
“Blue stones are very rare, and in ancient times wars were fought over them. Controlling the mining and distribution of the stones became a matter of great importance. Cities and villages would pool their resources to obtain them. A mage would be paid handsomely to place spells on the stones. Walls were made stronger, arrows deflected, and magical attacks countered. Magic thus became available to those who had none.” He went on to tell them the stones had to be mined for rarely were they found near the surface. Fortunes were made when a rich vein was found, kept secret and mined successfully. If a city fell in war, the stones were plundered by the conquerors.
“Why were they left here, if they’re so valuable?” Tom asked.
“Lyanthor wasn’t destroyed by an invading army. Some believe it was the gods or magic gone awry. The ruins were avoided afterwards as they are today. Magic waned in the world and the stones importance forgotten. Any with knowledge of them have long since passed from the world.”
“You said the stones made walls stronger and repelled arrows. Did they do so in our fight against the raiders?” Corwin had wondered at their luck during the battle.
“Yes. They formed a magical shield that deflected many of the incoming arrows. You would have won the battle without their magic, but they helped save lives.”
Mythal thought he had figured out the mystery. “So, these blue stones interfered with what you were doing?”
“No, their magic isn’t spelled to do that, nor strong enough. We’re looking for something more powerful. No doubt you’ve noticed how predators avoid this area for leagues around?”
“Yes,” Garth said, “most believe it’s a blessing from the goddess.” Stelle calls it a warding which she explained is magic spelled onto an item of power. She learned about such things while at the academy in Talias.
Palatyne nodded. “She’s right, and that’s what we’re looking for, the source of the warding. We need to take a closer look at the north wall.” The tapestry began rolling upwards. “There, do you see the door, Gar?”
“Yes, it’s glowing with magic and there are two symbols to the right of the door.
“What door?” Mythal looked at the others to see if they saw a door. They shook their heads. “We don’t see a door.”
“That’s because it’s a magical one. Only a mage can see and use such a door.” Palatyne touched one of the symbols and a door suddenly appeared and opened! “Shall we?” A globe of light appeared in front of the mage and they followed him down the flight of stairs. Gar counted thirty-seven steps before coming to a metal door. By his calculations they were twenty-five feet below ground. “Open the door, my boy, and I’ll send the globe ahead to reveal the unknown!”
Gar turned the handle and opened the door. The globe of light moved forward driving the darkness away. The room was easily three times the size of the hall above. Two rows of pillars ran down the middle of the room, obviously to support the hall above.
Palatyne hadn’t said a word since entering the room. He was staring at two large stones fifteen feet apart, centered on the north wall. They stood twenty-two feet high and were covered with glowing symbols. “By the goddess, I’ve never heard of stones this size. They’re incredible!”
“Are they pure?” Gar asked.
“Yes, very pure. I’ll show you what to look for.” While Palatyne was doing that the others noticed the doors on either side of the standing stones. Mythal wanted to check out three arched doorways along the south wall.
The first one contained row upon row of blue stones, stacked several feet high. “They’re the size of the ones in our walls,” Corwin said. By his estimation there was over a thousand stones.
Palatyne and Gar joined them. “Gar?”
Gar understood and stared at the stones for a few seconds. “They’re not pure.”
“Very good, my boy, but they’re valuable just the same.”
Large crates where in the next room. A few, without lids, revealed stones of varying lengths, the longest being ten foot. Palatyne declared the stones pure. “Since they’re in crates, they had either just arrived or were being readied for shipment.”
The third room contained stacks of lumber, work tables, shelves, cabinets, and tools. “What are those?” Tom pointed at several round metal objects on a stone bench against the wall. They were three to four inches thick, a foot in diameter and had a handle across the top.
Palatyne picked one up by the handle and took it into the first room. Pressing the bottom against one of the stones, he touched a symbol near the handle, and let go. The object stayed where it was without falling. Palatyne asked Mythal to grasp the handle. “See if you can move the stone.”
“I won’t be able to budge it. The stone weighs several hundred pounds at least.” Mythal grasped the handle. “Here goes....”
The large stone moved easily and Mythal stopped in astonishment. Palatyne told him to try lifting it. Mythal did and everyone was amazed seeing the large stone held up with one hand.
“It’s called a levitator,” Palatyne said and each of them took a turn using the device. “Levitators were used long ago to move large and heavy objects. “They’re charged with magic from the bench which is of course a blue stone.” Gar adjusted his sight and saw a gem inside the levitator glowing with magic. Corwin had just put the stone back in place when Palatyne asked him to touch the symbol. The levitator disengaged and Corwin put it back on the stone bench in the other room.
“Could the levitator lift logs and beams?” Garth asked.
“Yes, they can lift almost anything. Men in ancient times learned how to move stones such as these without magic. It’s believed they learned to harness nature. The power of lightning, ley lines, and the pull/repel nature of magnets, are some of the suggestions that have been put forth. The truth is no one knows how it was done and magic makes the matter moot."
“These levitators could help us finish rebuilding our walls,” Tom said.
“Yes, just make sure to recharge them each day.”
Garth asked what most were thinking. “How could the crates and the two large stones have gotten in or out of here? The door isn’t wide enough.”
“Good question. Gar and I will look for any symbols like the ones beside the door above.”
“I saw two carved symbols near the door.” Garth showed them the symbols. One above the other.
“Oh, very ingenious I must say.” Palatyne had Gar examined the floor and ceiling. “Do you see them?”
“Yes, lines of magic running along the floor and ceiling in rectangular patterns.”
“Very good, activate the top symbol when I tell you.” Palatyne told the others to keep an eye on the floor and ceiling. “How did they get the stones in or out you ask? Now, by boy.” Gar touched the top symbol. Suddenly a section of the floor began tilting upwards. Looking up they saw a section above tilting downwards. The two sections joined forming a ramp! “That’s how! Thank you, Gar, now see if you can close them.” Gar touched the bottom symbol and the ramp separated and the sections moved back in position. The room was now as before.
“These rooms have been here all along, and we didn’t have a clue. I could use a drink right now.” Garth agreed with Mythal and promised to join his friend later. “So, have we solved the mystery?”
“Yes, the two large standing stones or more exactly one of the spells caused the interference.” Palatyne pointed at an oval with marks resembling teeth. “That one is the warding keeping predators away.” He then pointed at a symbol near the top of the stone. “The one that looks somewhat like a fishhook is a spell of concealment.”
“But they were hidden down here already.”
“Yes, but this spell conceals this area from magical eyes. This was the one that interfered with the farviewing. Since we didn’t attempt to look down here the magic didn’t prevent our looking in on you. The fact that it interfered at all shows that it was made by a mage of considerable ability.”
“I’m curious why the stones are positioned the way they are.” Garth pointed out that they were lined up with the ramp.”
“Time for that mystery later gentlemen. Quelian has just informed me that your bathhouse is also made of blue stones. She has also discovered that your natural spring isn’t a spring at all!”
“What do you mean it’s not a spring? Of course it is!” Mythal was just about at his wits end. Too much had been happening, a battle yesterday, all these revelations and to top it off more raiders on the way!
“Follow me if you will.” They followed Palatyne through the door on the right side of the two standing stones into a hallway. Opening the door at the end of the hall they saw a large metal container with pipes running off in various directions. Palatyne pointed at a large pipe that ran into a wall. “That pipe carries water to your spring. Your water no doubt comes from the mountains behind the village. Quelian said some of the blue stones are spelled for heating and purifying the water.”
“This is fascinating,” Mythal said as they left the room, “but we need to talk about the raiders and sending Gar to Haven.”
Mythal caught everyone up on what Varg had told Palatyne.
“Then we’ll stay here and help.” Gar wanted to do his part in defending the village and knew Lee and Jair would feel likewise.
Garth put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “I think it best that you leave as planned. You may be able to bring an end to this war which is more important than staying here.” Gar nodded and they started up the stairs.
“Quelian and I will be here.” Palatyne said as the magical door closed behind them. Gar felt better knowing that.
“I think we should send Tregin with them to help with Varg. Just in case.” Everyone agreed with Mythal’s suggestion. “Garth, can we spare a team of horses so they can take a wagon?”
“Yes, I’ve already made the arrangements. The wagon and team should be ready by now.”
“They should also take four of our fastest horses. Just in case,” Corwin said. It was agreed and Corwin was asked to make the arrangements. He left the hall.
“Gar, go check on Jair and help Lee with anything she needs.” Garth like everyone knew how Jair was always late. Opening the door, Gar heard Palatyne say they should speak again with Varg and Tull.
Jair was walking on air. Making love last night had been awesome. Fiona was beautiful with her long blond hair, blue eyes, and lithe figure. She had always ignored him in the past. Perhaps the fun they had together at the celebration won her over. Whatever the reason, it had helped him move past his feelings for Lee. She really felt like a sister to him now so there was no longer a need to leave the village. They would take Tull to see his father and save the day! “Yep, I’m going to be a hero!”
“You say something, dear?” His mom said from inside the house.
Jair was on the back porch observing the northern lights. “I was talking to Whiskers,” he said eyeing the cat. She had followed him outside as usual.
“That’s nice, don’t forget the wood.”
“I won’t.” Pulling his dagger, Jair threw it at the chair the cat was approaching. The blade flew true striking the chair’s leg.
“Meow!” Startled, Whiskers jumped.
“Jair, are you annoying Whiskers again?” The dagger flew back into his hand and he disappeared. The kitchen door flew open and his mom looked around. Seeing only Whiskers on the chair, Clair picked her up.
“I’m getting the wood like you asked, mom.” Jair was picking up split logs from the large stack of wood. The cloak had enabled him to disappear with a thought and reappear after a quick dash to the pile of wood.
“I almost didn’t see you there, hurry up, breakfast is almost ready.”
Lee’s bedroom had a bed, a nightstand, a chest and a wardrobe. The wardrobe was a cherished possession, for her father had made it when she was very young. A beautiful green quilt covered her bed and a portrait of her father and mother hung above the chest. The first thing Lee did upon returning from the bathhouse was putting on her special outfit. Dark green pants were tucked inside stylish turned down black boots. Her white blouse had loose-fitting sleeves. The dark green bodice had a beautiful leaf pattern and was laced together with two rows of silver grommets. The wide black belt had a silver ring to wrap it through. A silver pendant hung around her neck. Matching earrings made of finely twisted white gold were set with green gemstones. The rings on her fingers were similar to the boys except for the color of the gemstones. Hers was a brilliant green as was the scrollwork on her right ring.
Lee’s favorite piece of jewelry however was the silver bracelet with the etching of a bow on a silver charm. With barely a thought the reflex bow appeared in her left hand. The bow’s slender limbs curved gracefully with golden symbols inlaid in the deep, rich wood. The bows name was Aurnia, the golden lady and it never missed. An arrow would appear when the bowstring was drawn. If she wanted, the arrow could transform into a bolt of magical energy that would knockout someone instead of killing them. “Isn’t she beautiful, mom?”
“Yes sweetheart, I’m glad you have her with you, but remember to disappear at the first sign of trouble.”
“I will mom, just like this.” The bow disappeared.
They continued packing and enjoying their time together. Things were changing now. Cassandra would be spending more time with Corwin and Lee was going off with Gar and Jair. “Lee, are you and Gar…you know?”
Lee blushed and shook her head no. “Last night was our first real kiss. We sat together watching the fire as we’ve done since we were kids.”
Cassandra sat beside Lee on the bed. “How did you get to be so wise? Many don’t understand that love is more than mating. It’s being together whether taking a stroll or watching a fire. Corwin and I…it took me awhile to let go and your song helped. Thank you, sweetheart. Your father would have been so proud of you.”
“Thanks mom, he’s always here in my heart,” Lee said touching her chest, “but there’s room for Corwin too.”
“I’m so glad you feel that way. Corwin wants to marry me. He asked me last night.”
Lee jumped up clapping. “He did? Oh I’m so happy for you! You said yes, right?” Cassandra blushed and nodded. Lee sat back down wanting to know all the details. When told how Corwin proposed, Lee could barely contain her excitement. She was like a child hanging on to every word of a good story. When her mom finished, tears of joy were running down both their faces. “Oh mom, it’s so wonderful!” Lee suddenly appeared distressed. “Oh my, I don’t have a thing to wear!”
“Cassandra chuckled. “I almost forgot, Cor and I decided we’re getting married after you return.”
Lee took her mom’s hands in hers. “Good, now don’t you dare make preparations without me. That’s most of the fun and besides we’re a team like you’ve always said.”
“Yes we are, and I wouldn’t dream of doing anything without you, sweetheart.”
“Oh, mom,” Lee exclaimed hugging her again.
Jair put on the clothes Palatyne and Quelian had given him and finished packing. Black pants tucked into turned down black boots with a red lining. The dark red doublet with hand-tooled silver knotwork panels ran up the front. The doublet had epaulets, instead of sleeves. Underneath was a white shirt with long, loose-fitting sleeves. The leather belt was a little more ornate than Gar’s. His sword, Wind, was inside his impossible bag and his dagger was in the sheath hanging from his belt.
The silver dragon earring with its red eye was awesome. Facing forward, its body followed the contour of his ear. The earring over his left ear was a silver cuff inscribed with a dragon. Jair decided against making the earrings disappear since his blond hair hid them anyway. The silver pendant with its red gemstone was tucked under his shirt. The two rings on his hands were similar to Gar’s but his gemstone was red as was the red scrolling. Rings really weren’t to his liking so with a thought they disappeared. The dark green cloak with its triple spiral symbol of the goddess brought back memories. One of which was actually speaking with the goddess. Unbelievable. “I’m ready, mom.”
“My beautiful boy, all grown up!” His mom had tears in her eyes as she hugged him. “I’m so proud of you.”
Jair didn’t protest as usual. Instead, he kissed his mom on the cheek. “I love you mom.”
“And I love you, my little hero. Now get going and make sure you take care of Lee and Gar.”
“I will mom, someone has to after all!” Jair picked up his pack, threw it over his shoulder, and stepped outside. Runners were extinguishing the torches as dawn was upon them. Another adventure begins!
Gar was on his way to get Jair when a wolf howled from the south. Last night, they had healed several wolves near the tree line. Shutting his eyes, he reached out with his mind extending his awareness. The village, forest and trees seemingly flew by as he called out to the wolves. Hearing them howl in response, his awareness moved in that direction. They were lapping water at a small stream. He pictured himself and his traveling companions leaving the village at daybreak and the wolves joining him on the south road. The contact was broken after feeling their acceptance.
What’s this? Jair was whistling and carrying his pack! There was also something different about him. His blond hair was combed, but that wasn’t it. There was nothing different about his clothes. The only thing different about his pack was the blankets strapped across the top. Good idea. Jair was a little older, a tad taller, and slimmer than he was. Last time they checked, Jair was six foot one. Nothing new there. Jair however did have more of a swagger than usual and a knowing little grin. “You didn’t, did you?”
“Yep, and it was great, but now I’m ready for a new adventure!” Jair winked.
“Are you sure you’ve got enough energy left to go with us to Haven?”
Unbelievably, Jair reddened. “Well, I may have to lie down in the wagon for a while to recover me full strength!”
“Why you,” Gar said and Jair took off running. Gar was right behind him. “There’s not enough room in the wagon for you and your ego!”
“What’s an ego?” Nearing the gate they saw the wagon and team was already there. They put Jair’s pack and blankets in the wagon behind the front seat. Gar’s pack was there thanks to his dad. On the way to get Lee, Gar told Jair what had been found under the hall. “Wow, things are really changing, not only for us, but around here as well. What’s next I wonder?”
They started up the steps to Lee’s porch when the door burst open and she nearly ran them over. “Mom and Corwin are getting married! Isn’t it wonderful?” Before they could answer, she hugged them and hurried them inside. Jair had a surprised look on his face. Gar reminded him that he had asked what’s next.
“Asked what?” Cassandra said entering the living room.
“Uh, what was going to happen next,” Jair said.
“Tell them what’s new with you Jair.” Gar grinned.
Jair’s face turned red. “Uh, nothing really…oh, Gar was telling me about what they found under the hall this morning.” He winked at Gar. Lee had seen Jair’s face and thought she knew what was new with him. Cassandra didn’t appear to notice and asked what had been found. Gar told her and Lee about the underground room and blue stones.
Cassandra insisted they have a cup of tea when Corwin arrived. “Four of our fastest horses are tethered to the wagon.” When Lee asked why, he told her in case they needed to get somewhere in a hurry. Getting up from the table, Corwin said they should get started. Gar and Jair picked up Lee’s pack and bundle of blankets while she put on her cloak. It was a different shade of green than theirs with a leaf pattern and trimmed in knotwork panels. The triple spiral of the goddess brought it all together.
They were walking along the path when Gar remembered wanting a few blankets for the trip. “I forgot something. Go on ahead, I’ll be there shortly.”
Corwin took Lee’s pack and Jair reached Lee her blankets. “I’ll go with Gar, he may get lost or something.”
“You better hurry or I’ll leave you both behind.” Lee and her mom continued walking.
“Jair you seem different today,” Corwin said.
“I do?” Jair saw Gar’s grin.
“Ah yes, I remember the celebrating after a battle when I was in the army. It sent nearly as many men to the healers as did the battle. So I learned to be careful with whom I celebrated, if you know what I mean.” With that Corwin clapped Jair on the back. Gar saw a worried look come over Jair.
Palatyne had listened as Mythal, Garth and Tom questioned Varg and Tull. Their thoughts agreed with their words. Varg in fact was actually concerned for the people of Farsen. Tull was very emotional, having a hard time dealing with his uncle’s death. Drag had been like a father to him. A little later, he sensed Jair’s unease. “You’re fine, Jair. You’re healthy as a horse.”
Jair’s look of discomfort quickly changed to a grin. “What horse?” Palatyne started to say ole Betsy but decided against teasing the young man. Thinking of horses brought to mind ones rarely seen in the world. Ones, come to think of it, that reminded him of the boy.
Tregin was relaxing in the warm water after a thorough scrubbing. Four steep steps ran around the rectangular pool providing various depths of water in which to soak. Benches were placed around the pool and pillars supported the domed roof above. In the middle of the roof a large circle was surrounded by six others of equal size. Each circle was made of thick glass quartz which permitted outside light inside. He was reminded of the deck prisms used in ships to provide light below deck. Magic had probably been used in the making of the windows above.
Another pool and domed roof was behind the south wall for the ladies. Changing rooms with spaces for storing clothing and shoes was on the north and south walls. Next to them were privies which no longer worked. Tregin was trying to decide what to wear, let alone pack. This was normally his laundry day and most of his clothes needed cleaning. He was toweling off when his clothes disappeared! “Sorry to have startled you my boy but those clothes need cleaning. While Quelian is taking care of that, we want you to have a set of magical clothes.” New clothes and boots appeared on the bench. “Your old clothes will be ready for you in your cabin.”
Tregin didn’t know what to say. “Thanks, Palatyne.”
The clothes were similar to his own except for the underclothes. His mouth dropped watching them merge seamlessly together. The dark wool pants and black leather boots fit perfectly. The light gray shirt matched his eyes. The black leather belt with its silver buckle was to his liking. Reaching for his cloak, he saw that it was also new. Nearly identical to his own minus the many repairs, the dark cloak was very welcome. Wrapping it around his shoulders, he fastened the clasp, pulled the hood over his dark hair and exited the bathhouse.
Nose was getting a massage in the hotel’s bathing area. Now in his early forties it was just the thing to work out the kinks and sooth sore muscles and joints. He was five foot nine with a lean muscular build. His hair was red, his eyes green and freckles dotted his face. “Ouch,” he said as Jeb worked a particular sore area in his back. “Ah,” he exclaimed a few minutes later when the bone popped back in place. Yes, getting older required maintenance.
The hotel’s services which were on the bottom level of the Straton were the best in the city. Many claimed they were better than those in Vlarese. Three restaurants, two ballrooms as well as meeting rooms, gift shops, bars, and other facilities were on the bottom two levels. Those floors spread out considerably more than the seven above. The hotel piped hot and cold water to each of its rooms. The bathing area was for those who wanted to be pampered.
“Thanks, Jeb,” he said when the massage was finished. Getting up from the table, he wrapped a towel around his waist. No one was in the steam room so he adjusted the steam to his preference: Hot. “Ah, that’s nice,” he said sitting on the bench.
Nose as he was called by his friends had trained at the academy. Known as Lord Nedric by others, he had recently inherited his father’s lands and titles. Before then, he had traveled the continent in his trader’s wagon in service of the King of Arlon. Gathering information, updating maps, and nosing about had been his mission. Finding magical items with his talent for smelling magic had been his own. Several minutes later an odd but familiar scent was in the room. “Where’s Hayden, Julian?”
“He’s in Nemed.”
Nose looked to his right. Julian was sitting on the bench with a knowing smile on his face. The man wasn’t sweating despite being fully clothed. He was wearing his usual Jinti style of clothing. Black shoes and pants and a long sleeved open blazer in black with a green and gold brocade trim. A light green and gold silk brocade vest with a fine lustre was over a white dress shirt. The Jinti were said to live on the other side of the world. Little was known of them.
Julian had changed little since their academy days. Long dark hair, bulging eyes, and thin as a rail. The five of them, himself, Hands, Ears, Eyes, and Julian who was known as Quick back then had been connected by their friendship and magical talents. Hands could do almost anything within the reach of his hands. Ears had phenomenal hearing and could hear thoughts as well. Eyes could see in the dark and was the only female among them. Besides smelling magic, Nose could get ‘nosy’ and people would tell him anything, even their darkest secrets. Quick was quick at everything, speech, learning, and moving. “And how did he get there?”
“I sent him...and for the same reason you give him the seeing stones. Erynn. She’s in Nemed.”
“If he finds her, what then? I’ve been there as you know and it can be a dangerous place for outsiders.”
“I’m keeping an eye on them. Hayden should be back in three or four days. I didn’t want you or the others to worry, which is why I dropped by.”
“I appreciate that but you know—”
“I didn’t kill anyone. Those bodies were not real people or perhaps a better way of saying it, they were not complete people. I can’t explain it any better or how it involves me and will remain a fugitive until I can. Before leaving, let me say this. There’s a lot going on in Talias and the rest of the kingdom. You and your friends must act swiftly for the ones behind Rosair and the other attacks won’t rest until they’ve achieved their goals. I’m doing what I can. Hayden is doing his part. Cleaning things up here is up to you and your friends.”
“Thanks for the...” Julian disappeared, “heads up,” Nose’s voice trailed off.
Hands slipped out a window just before dawn. Augmar, his host, would probably be upset, but better that than having to answer all the man’s questions. His long silver hair, clothing, and accent would invite questions, he didn’t want to answer. Hospitably was practiced in Nemed, but a suspicious stranger or foreigner could wind up in the dungeons afterwards. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, he made his way toward the docks.
The buildings were made of adobe bricks covered with an off-white or tan earthen plaster. Nearly all the windows were small to keep thieves and the bright sunlight out. Fortunately the window he had climbed out of was larger than most. When the citizens of Majour started stirring, he stepped into a narrow alley and cut his silver hair with one of his knives. Rubbing his hands together to activate the magic, he ran them through his hair several times causing the hair to darken. The magic in his hands made his beard grow longer and turn brown to match the color of his hair. By the time the docks came into view the sun was rising over the city.
The sky was blue and the weather was mild and soothing. The dry desert air mixing with the cool moist ocean winds created an oasis where the river met the sea. Locals and visitors from afar mingled in the famed market of Majour. Rows upon rows of brightly colored stalls displayed goods, produce, fish and other meats to locals and visitors alike. Women and men wore robes or gowns and most covered their heads with scarves to protect them from the burning sun.
Spices were the main reason ships and traders came from afar. Hands saw a lot of activity around three ships. Crates and other goods were being loaded and off loaded. The middle ship, a three masted carrack flying the flag of Doran was his goal. A man, perhaps the first mate, was checking off cargo being unloaded from the Mirage. “Looking for work?”
“No, but I’m interested in passage to Doran,” Hands said. “How long before you set sail?”
“Two, maybe three days. It all depends on how fast the Captain can secure cargo for the return trip. Name’s Soren.” The man was of medium height with a muscular build. His hair was brown as was his eyes and short beard. His voice and demeanor were friendly. “I’m the quartermaster and at the moment in charge of offloading cargo. We have two berths available.”
“A couple silvers which includes meals.”
“Here’s a silver for reserving a berth. I’ll give you two more when boarding. Will that do?”
“Sure thing. What name do I put down?”
“Royce, that’s a Doran name.”
“Yes, I was born in Teth and work near Femin.”
“You don’t say. I have a cousin who works at one of the mines in Femin. Here’s your ticket. I suggest checking in each day. Never know how the wind may blow.”
“Will do and I look forward to sailing with you, Soren.”
“Same here, Royce.” As Hands turned to leave, Soren saw a man stumble. “You there! Watch what you’re doing. Drop that crate and you’ll pay for the damage!”
Hands was relieved to have booked passage for the trip home. Now for something to eat, a room, and change of clothes to better blend in with the locals.
The king was sipping tea while awaiting the arrival of two of his most trusted advisers. Tylian was in his late thirties, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. Gray was beginning to show at the edges of his sideburns. Looking in the ornate mirror beside the wall map, he turned his head from side to side. There was more gray on the right side than the left. A sign of age, stress, or both? Both probably.
The mirror was one of the recent changes to the war room. The leather wingback chairs had been replaced with ones more to his liking. Four of them were placed around a tea table, in front of the fireplace. Each was carved in relief ornamentation around the upholstered back, seat, and arms. These wooden exposed areas, including the legs, were painted silver. A wide strip of silver fabric with a blue floral design ran down the middle of the back and the seat. Two strips of rich Arlon blue fabric bordered on either side.
The elegantly carved kingwood tea table was a work of art. Magic had been used in its making since the wood was notoriously hard to carve. Deep ornate relief carvings of dragons flying around the aprons and legs were impressive. The royal family’s crest with a large rearing dragon on either side was displayed under the glass table top.
The large conference table was still in the middle of the room and the royal family’s coat of arms above the mantel. The crown of Arlon was on a blue and silver shield flanked by two rearing blue dragons. The name Arlon was emblazoned above. The family motto, ‘Protect and Serve’, was below.
Tylian was looking at the large wall map of Tuanth. The Arlon River flowed through the middle of the oval shaped continent from the Arylian Mountains to the Sea of Sion. The Orlon River ran north from the same mountains to the Birren Sea. His kingdom of Arlon, which included Orlon, was the largest on the continent. It ran from the Birren Sea in the north, and to the Sea of Sion in the south. The Bay of Bruen was to the east and the western border was a hundred miles or so past the Arlon River. Doran was southeast and Lomorin was northwest of Arlon. Parth was a smaller nation on the western coast of Tuanth.
Talias, the capital of Arlon was situated on the Arlon River almost halfway between the coast and the mountains to the north. Anseir, the second largest city was at the mouth of the Arlon River. The naval base and forts along the coast protected Arlon on the south. Norwin, just south of the Arylian Mountains guarded the northwest and pass to Orlon. Arland, the largest city in Orlon was his shield in the north.
Looking at the map, he wished they had more information of what was happening in Orlon. Two days ago, Feldur and Trillian had received disturbing news. The information indicated that Farsen had fallen. He looked at the name Farsen near the top of map, next to the ancient city of Lyanthor. If the village was indeed destroyed, they would be avenged.
The renowned Captain Danger was even now sailing north on the Arlon River. The ship was making amazing progress by all accounts and would reach Norwin sooner than expected. To facilitate his taking command of Orlon’s forces, Captain Danlyn had been promoted to Over-Captain. The special rank superseded all others for the duration of the conflict.
Haldur, his secretary entered the room. He was five foot ten with a medium build and brown eyes. His dark hair was tied back and his dark goatee was neatly trimmed. “Sire, the General’s coach is pulling up to the palace now.”
“See him in, will you?”
“Yes, Sire,” his secretary said leaving the room. Haldur instructed the guards and returned to his office.
Dark clouds had moved in from the southwest before sunrise and rain started falling. It had only let up a time or two which was spoiling today’s festival. The weather had cooperated the last two days and the festival had gotten off to a good start. There were many things to see and do, shows, games, and of course, the kuzball tournament. Chattery had won the opening round and he and his family had gotten to ride on a hot air balloon! He wasn’t sure who had the most fun, Lori or Talea. The cloud jumping event would start tomorrow. Talea’s birthday was on the last day of the festival. Each year they celebrated and welcomed in the new year. Hopefully the wind would chase the clouds away so they could enjoy the rest of the festival.
The warm fire was nice, especially on such a morning. A knock on the door and the guards admitted the general into the room. Aurelian had white hair and mustache which were kept neatly trimmed. His piercing blue eyes and six-four frame intimidated most. Silver epaulets and buttons with a belt trimmed in silver was striking. Dark blue pants were tucked into black leather boots just below the knees. A few patches noted achievements and a blue sash identified him as Arlon’s highest ranking general. The man was tireless, rarely needing more than three or four hours sleep. Haldur had told him earlier that the general had been very busy since last night.
“Welcome old friend, please take a seat.”
“Thank you, Sire.” The general took the seat directly across from the king.
Another knock and the archmage was allowed entry. Feldur was in his late forties, with blue eyes and long silver hair.
Dressed in dark blue robes, he had a slender build and was of medium height. Anyone seeing him in his dark blue robes would know the man was a mage. Fel, unlike the general, needed his rest since the use of magic drained the user.
“Welcome, Fel. Please sit and we’ll get started.”
“Yes, Sire.” The archmage sat facing the fire between the king and general. Last night he had returned to his set of rooms in the castle. He was glad to have done so for the battle had exhausted him. The general however had returned to his residence which was nearby. The man never seemed to sleep.
“General, I know you’ve been busy since the fire. Any news?”
“Yes, Sire. Trom was attacked in his home last night by multiple assailants. He would have died if Hands and one of his associates hadn’t come to the rescue.”
“What? Do we know who attacked him?”
“No, but we have the attackers’ bodies and Captain Iselyn has been assigned to investigate. He will also be looking into the other attacks last night.”
“Yes, Sire. A sergeant and corporal were attacked. Scalian made short work of their assailants and proceeded to Dyson Mansion with the sergeant. Lord Hoslyn’s coach was attacked shortly after leaving the palace. Nose took out their attackers and a frightened Lord Hoslyn and his wife sped away. They have no idea that it was Lord Nedric who saved them. Lord Ashton and Ears helped foil an attempt on Dooge at his shop on Gryffin. The three of them then proceeded to Dyson Manor and helped defeat Rosair and his accomplices. We were busy last night picking up bodies, assisting the freed captives, and dealing with the situation at Dyson Mansion.”
“Why would anyone want to attack, Lord Hoslyn?” The king got up from the table and pulled the cord hanging near the fireplace. His secretary entered the room. “Haldur, what do we know about Lord Hoslyn?”
“He’s very wealthy and has holdings all over Arlon. The Baron and his wife have only one remaining relative, a grandson, I believe. I can check our records and find out more, Sire.”
“Yes, do that and get back with us on what you find.”
“Yes, Sire.” Haldur left to carry out the king’s wishes.
“We need to find out who is behind these attacks.”
“Yes, Sire. Captain Iselyn will coordinate with Major Kyffin, who has been promoted since he’s taking over the investigation surrounding Captain Danlyn from Trom. He was handling most of it anyway. Due to the events of last night, General March and I decided to send Colonel Tromlin with orders to assume command of the 10th division. Trom and his men left earlier this morning with one of Feldur’s farspeakers.
“So, Trom has been promoted?”
“Yes, for like you said, we need men we can trust. Trom fought with us in that last campaign as you recall. I promoted him in lieu of his new command.”
“Yes, Trom is a good man. Any news on Barr’s location?”
“We found out last night that Colonel Barr is out on maneuvers with the 10th division.”
“That explains why he couldn’t be found yesterday.”
“Yes, for while planning the exercises, Barr rarely accompanies them. The Colonel asked permission to deviate from the submitted plans. General March approved the request but wasn’t aware the Colonel had assumed command. We believe Colonel Barr is heading due west toward Doran. Sentries on the Cian Bridge reported that the 10th division crossed a couple days ago heading west toward Evers.
The name Cian in the old tongue meant long, enduring and far. Tylian knew that to be true for the bridge had been built long ago. Mages raised enormous stones across the Arlon River forming the bridges foundation. Together with engineers they built a series of interlocking stone arches that spanned the river. They were high enough for ships to easily pass underneath. There were other bridges as well. The one at Evers spanned the Danann River which connected it to Femin. The bridge at Norwin led to another bridge that crossed the Nore River. The road from Talias that went north toward Bardo and Fort Hiram, crossed the Cullen River at Lugh’s Bridge. The river Finn was crossed at Corson by the Tain Bridge. The bridge at Anseir had been destroyed long ago by the invading Kymar. It was decided not to rebuild for the same reason, attacks from the west.
“When he’s located, Bolyn will contact Feldur and let us know.”
“I hope you’re right and Trom can catch up with him before long. You’ve been busy, General. Has Major Kyffin been made aware of Captain Danlyn’s new status as Over-Captain?”
“Yes, I informed him myself and that our man is on the job. Kyf says they will be proceeding with the inquiry.”
“Good, I want this matter behind us as quickly as possible.”
Haldur stepped into the room and handed a message to the king. Tylian broke the seal and read the message. “Gentlemen, we’ve just received word that the raiders have laid siege to Arland. Major Traylin reports one of his ships spotted the raiders fleet near the mouth of the Orlon River. Haven was alerted and had time to evacuate. They arrived in Arland with no loss of life. Interestingly, he reports the raiders have no siege engines or any apparent means of breaching the walls. It’s believed they are posturing and will soon return home. Traylin claims to have sent us a message immediately after the raiders fleet was spotted.”
“Major Traylin could be right about them just posturing. They’ve done that before.”
“I would agree except for what happened at Farsen and along the coast.” Feldur could feel it his bones, things were happening that they didn’t fully understand. He hadn’t known about the other attacks nor why Dooge had been targeted. Good thing, Nose, Ears, Hands and probably Scalian had went fishing. Dooge had taught them well. The general had acted quickly and put things in motion. Where the man got all the energy was beyond him. With all the bad news, the archmage was glad to have some good news to share.
“Yes, well at least Haven was evacuated in time. How many additional men will that give Arland?”
“A little over three hundred, Sire.”
“That’s at least good news, General.”
“Sire, I’m concerned about our not receiving the first message from Arland.” Feldur added that it spoke of enemies within.
“I feel the same. General, look into it will you?”
A knock on the door and Haldur entered the war room. “Find anything, Haldur?”
“Yes, Sire. Lord Hoslyn’s lineage is one of the oldest in Arlon. His family has stood with yours as far back as we have records. Some of his ancestors’ portraits are hanging in the old castle. Besides his many holdings his family was in banking until selling those interests to the Hoarst family a few generations back. Our records indicate Lord Hoslyn has only two remaining heirs. A grandson and granddaughter whose mother was from Nemed. Lord Hoslyn’s son died at sea and his wife returned to Nemed years later with her son and daughter. The son, Galel returned sometime after the death of his mother as did the daughter. Erynn attended the academy. We have no records of anything else.”
“Thank you, Haldur. So we have Lord Hoslyn and his wife whose family has supported the crown for generations being attacked last night and their only two surviving relatives a grandson and granddaughter set to inherit a fortune. Thoughts, gentlemen.”
Feldur had been surprised hearing the name Erynn after all these years. “I knew, Erynn, Sire. She attended the academy and I was one of her tutors. All I know of her brother was that he was a few years older and rather pretentious. Erynn was making fine progress at the academy until something happened. I suspect it occurred while she was visiting family in the country. Upon returning, she was withdrawn and shortly afterwards left the academy. The last I heard, she was living with her brother in Vlarese.”
“Her mother’s family would be Lord Hoslyn and his wife. Haldur, send word to Lord Hoslyn that I wish to speak with him and his wife. Also send along some of the guard.”
“Yes, Sire.” Haldur left to carry out the king’s orders.
“Now, is there any news about Captain Danlyn?”
“Yes, Sire,” the archmage said, "in fact some incredible news, I must say.”
“Some good news for a change.” Just then the door opened and four servants entered the room. Three were carrying trays of food and hot tea which they placed on the conference table. The third servant in the meantime stoked the glowing embers and placed another log on the fire. “Thank you, gentlemen. Where’s Jovis?”
“I’m not sure, Sire,” one of the servants said. They then bowed and left the room.
Tylian started to say something when his belly growled. “I haven’t eaten this morning,” he said getting up from his seat. “Join me, will you?” The king sat at the end of the table, Aurelian sat on his left and Feldur on his right. “Dig in gentlemen.” Feldur put a pastry and piece of fruit on his plate and poured a cup of hot tea.
“I had a visitor in the baths less than an hour ago. Julian told me, Hands is in Nemed. When I asked how, he claimed to have sent him there because of Erynn.”
“Who’s Erynn?” Mask asked taking a seat in the living room. Everyone in the room except for Ashton used nicknames when together. She wasn’t wearing a mask at the moment and only wore them when prowling the streets. Her real name was Alanna and she was a Princess of Arlon. She was five foot seven with a lithe build, blond hair, blue eyes and very beautiful.
Mask had joined the group in Lord Nedric’s suite while they were discussing last night’s events. The suite had two bedrooms, a bathing room, a dinning and a living room. They were richly appointed with the finest furniture and materials. The comfortable padded leather sofa and chairs were positioned around the marble fireplace. A chandelier burning beeswax candles filled the room with plenty of light without the unpleasant odor of tallow or rush lighting.
“An old acquaintance. Hands, myself, Ears and Julian attended the academy with her years ago. She was from Nemed and has or had family here in Arlon. One day she disappeared and Hands has been looking for her ever since.”
“Were they close?”
“Yes, we all were in those days.”
“Can we trust what he says?” Ears asked. He was in his middle to late forties and his dark brown hair was graying along the edges. His dark brown eyes were set in his narrow face which matched his slender six foot two frame.
“I think so. Julian didn’t have to tell us and I didn’t sense any malice or ill will. He’s evidently keeping an eye on them and said Hands should be back in three or four days with Erynn. Interestingly, he knew of our battle with Rosair and said we must act swiftly for the ones behind the attacks won’t stop. Evidently, it’s up to us to take care of things here. The only thing I learned from one of the attackers is that they worked for someone called, Boa.”
“You city folk love monikers,” Ashton said. With his dark hair and eyes, Ashton took after his mother. He was a couple inches taller than Nose and had a slightly thicker build.
“Rosair did say he got his rings from his master. I was pressing him for a name when the scent of a seeing stone drew close. Someone is nosing around and it’s not me.”
“What’s the plan?” Ears asked knowing Nose would have one.
“You and Scal head over to Hiblyn’s apartment. While he searches for the information mentioned in the letter, you can check the puzzle boxes. When you’re done with those go to that girl’s place —”
“Carilyn,” Ears said.
“Yes, her place, and see what you can find out. When you’re done meet us back at Hiblyn’s place. Ashton and I will check on Dooge and see how he feels about fishing with us. We’ll also check on Lord Hoslyn and his wife. If Julian’s right they’re still in danger. Mask—”
“Sorry, I’ve got some things to do this morning. I’ll drop by Hiblyn’s apartment when I’m done.”
“Understood. Scal, I’ve got an idea about your meeting with Blair. We’ll discuss it at Hiblyn’s apartment.”
“If this is as serious as Julian claims. I think you should have a talk with Krilean and the men Captain Iselyn is holding.” Scalian who was often called Scal by his friends was five foot ten, with a lean muscular build and dark hair and eyes. His facial features were sharp and he could see in the dark.
“Good idea. Anyone else? No, then let’s get to it, shall we?”