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Script of Sages Episode 4 – The Shadow Grows

Script of Sages Episode 4 – The Shadow Grows

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Published by Abandoned Towers
This is episode 4 of Andrew Cooper's serialization of The Script of Sages. Read the entire serial on Abandoned Towers at http://cyberwizardproductions.com/AbandonedTowers
This is episode 4 of Andrew Cooper's serialization of The Script of Sages. Read the entire serial on Abandoned Towers at http://cyberwizardproductions.com/AbandonedTowers

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Published by: Abandoned Towers on Mar 07, 2009
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09/12/2010

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Episode 4 – The Shadow Grows
When Reev awoke, he was lying on a grassy hill. Only a few wispy clouds floatedthrough the blue sky. Gastreel stood nearby, beside his white horse. The black-haired man fromthe inn kneeled right by Reev. He was spoon-feeding the sickly boy from a steaming bowl of  pottage. A sword hung from his belt in an eel-skin sheath, and a quiver hung from his back witha few arrows. His hands were callused and dirty.Reev grimaced at the grainy pottage. Some bitter herb had been added. “Who are you?”Reev asked with his mouth full.“I am Fortunato,” the man said, “Gastreels friend. I’ve been following you ever sinceyou left Norwood.”“But I never saw you,” Reev said.Fortunato dabbed some ointment on Reev’s neck wounds. It stung. Gastreel walked upto them, staff in hand. “Fortunato is a master of stealth and silence. He is one of the ArlomRiders, master equestrians and trackers. They are
elyn-thisad 
, friends
 
of the Wizards Council.”Reev tried to sit up but pain filled his head.“You are not well yet,” said Fortunato, “Be careful. The poison wracked your body; eventhe kingsroot isn’t working like it should.”“Can I have something more filling?”“Hush,” said Fortunato, “You can’t have solid food yet. You are in poor health, I sayagain. The poison crippled you.”Reev glanced around. A gigantic wolf the size of a horse, with shaggy black fur and redeyes, scratched the dirt next to Gastreel’s stallion. He shrieked.“Shh!” Fortunato growled. “She’s tame! That is Tyra Jade, my best friend and steed.She is a black wolf, but I raised her from infancy.”“She looks vicious.”“Vicious?” Fortunato laughed, “You haven’t seen vicious until you see her stare a Rokahnin the eye.”The black-bearded man grabbed him by the shoulder and lifted him up. Searing pain shotthrough his neck as the Arlom Rider stuffed a crushed, bitter weed into Reev’s mouth. Heswallowed.“Griffinsfoil,” Fortunato explained, “An anesthetic.”Gastreel grabbed Reev and lifted him on the saddle of a white stallion. A sharp almond-colored horn protruded from his head. “This is Cobalt,” Gastreel said, “An elvish horse. Heonce served your father, before he passed.”Reev patted the horse’s neck. He grunted and white fog puffed from his mouth.“There is a chill wind blowing out of the north,” Fortunato said grimly, “I fear the first big snow draws near.”Gastreel worked with flint and steel to light a fire as snow fell from the sky in thick flakes. The air was cold and dead; luckily wind didn’t make it worse. Winter had begun, and theharsh snows wouldn’t stop for months.“Why don’t you just use your magic to light the logs?” Reev asked, shivering.“The fire I use isn’t what it seems,” Gastreel explained, “No ordinary fire can destroythings so quickly.
 Runefire
only destroys living matter—it would turn the logs to ash.”He nodded. A spark flew from the steel and lit the kindling underneath the logs. The pine nettles turned red and popped like fireworks. Before long the logs were burning and Reev
1
 
rubbed his hands in the warmth.“When I was in the swamp, I dreamed something,” Reev said, “I dreamed Drayfin hadsent harpies to come for me… it came true.”“Those Swamps do strange things to the mind,” said Fortunato, “Even give someone,temporarily, the gift of prophecy.”Trees increased as they pressed farther north, nearer the edge of Mekara—stalwart oaks,ice-licked maples and towering spruces. Then alas, on the twelfth day since they left Murk, theyarrived at a river covered with a thin layer of ice. But that was not what caught Reev’s eye.Less than twenty yards away, a mob of barbarians dressed in buckskins fought a cadre of  professional well-armored soldiers. The leader of the Zarubes was a thin man wearing a longyellow robe with a green sash. A strange creature sat on his right shoulder; a plump, humanlikething no bigger than a clenched fist, with floppy ears and leathery skin.“Zaar take me,” Gastreel cursed, a rare incident for a class-conscious person such as he.“Why are they fighting?” Reev asked.“King Breton’s been trying to annex the Hill Country for years now. These barbariansare no match for Zarubain’s superior weaponry and magic.”One by one, the soldiers cut the Mekari down as the tiny korrigan fastened their feet tightwith tree roots.“Let’s avoid them,” Fortunato said, “The Trilinknos Bridge is a half-mile west.”And thus they passed into the land of Zarubain—a country of rolling farms with clumpsof birch and maple in between. Snow, perhaps a foot thick, contrasted with the bright red barnsand humble houses, as well as the country castles that sometimes came into view. As they drewnorthward pines increased; doubtless bears would abound after winter passed. It was a land of abundance, not familiar with drought or famine; with plentiful rain that came over from the Seaand warm weather during the summer.When they were on a high hill-crest, Reev could see the Dragonteeth in the horizon. Atthe foot of them, a while to the northeast, was Galiope.Three days after they had passed by the bridge, a large town hemmed in by stone wallscame into view. The walls were so high they couldn’t see any building but the castle, which boasted many towering turrets and colorful standards.“That is Hammond Town,” said Fortunato, “One of the three Great Towns of Zarubain— great because they hold their annual Fairs each May and October. Zarubad, the capital, is a fewhundred miles to the west.”“Come!” said Gastreel.The trio bolted off toward the city gate.When the gates creaked open to reveal Hammond’s splendor, Reev could hardly believehis eyes. It was a feast of color, of sensual smells, and vivid sounds. Bells clanged from thesteeples of nearby churches; hundreds of vendors sold white bread, custard, apples from theautumn harvest, pickings of venison and turkey, and more; women dressed in fashionable, deeplavender gowns and knights dressed in plate steel paraded through the streets; fey-witchesguarded their flocks and prayed for the blessing of the Green Lady, Feänara. The streetsswarmed with mercers, tanners, dyers, fullers, and weavers; blacksmiths, tinsmiths and tinkers;merchants and vagabonds; elven slaves and dwarves; lords and ladies shaded with umbrellas
 
walking alongside bedraggled churls and housewives; in short, the town’s color and beauty wasastounding.It was a city of contrasts; next to grimy hovels and makeshift shanties stood tall stonemansions and exquisite villas. Gargoyles opened their demonic mouths wide to empty water from the gutters.“Reev!” Gastreel said with a knowing smile. “You can’t look so stunned. They’ll think you’re an unfashionable peasant!”“But I am!”The wizard chuckled. “Well, we’ll have to do something about that, won’t we?”Reev, Gastreel and Fortunato arrived at an inn to lodge for the night. The sign hangingabove the door declared its name,
The Pot of Gold 
.The inn was spacious, with waxed wooden floors and whitewashed plaster walls, and agreat glass chandelier in the lobby. Paintings of fairies hung everywhere, and brightly-coloredcloths insulated the many rooms. Two granite statues of fey-witches stood near the front desk,depicted with their fey helpers nearby.In the distant common room, Reev saw a hearth, tended by an elven slave. It was a busyinn, far busier than Reek or Neek’s had ever been, with people coming and going all the time.The innkeeper stood behind a desk with a logbook and a quill dipped in ink.“Hullo,” he said. “Lucien’s the name. Lucien Apullia. Rooms, plus a dinner (potatosoup and ale) plus bath services… eh, I’ll give you a discount. Twenty pence for all of you.”“Ridiculous,” Gastreel said and counted out a handful of mixed silver shillings, farthingsand pennies.A young elf with sandy blonde hair and dark brown eyes appeared out from the doorwayleading to the common room.“Wrinn,” snapped the innkeeper, “Stable their horses and show them around.” He turnedto his customers. “Baths are to the left. And oh, by the way, this slave’s for sale.”“His skills?”“Farming—worked for a friend of mine. Good at housekeeping, cleaning. Used to be agladiator, if I’m not mistaken.”“A gladiator?” Gastreel said with a smile. He eyed the elf. He seemed bitter, like a dogthat’d been abused by too many owners.“One pound,” said the innkeeper, “And that’s a good deal.”“Very well,” said Gastreel, counting out yet another handful of coins.“No refunds.” Lucien smiled and dropped the coins into his purse. “Take your seats, please. Dinner will be right out.”After almost a month of biscuits and jerky, nothing was better than a bowl of thick,creamy cheese-and-potato stew. The ale was superb—creamy, rich and cold—slaking Reev’sthirst greatly. The meal was worth every farthing and then some.The singer, Reev noticed, was a foreigner. He was bald and of dark complexion, and hisleather tunic was decorated with beaded threads. People from all over the world could be foundin the largest of Zarubain’s cities. He belted out a melody in a pure tone while his assistantaccompanied him on a fiddle.
 Hark! And listen, ye by the fire
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