Prologue: Searching for an Answer
His evil had spread throughout the continent of Farlonia. He was pleased, yes, very pleased at the work he had accomplished. He relaxed comfortably on his throne. The magnificent throne was carved out of onyx, as black as a moonless night, and trimmed with a golden border. The arms of his throne were inlaid with two skulls, a large ruby set in each of the skulls eye sockets. His throne room was no less magnificent. The floor was also of polished onyx, shining from the dim glow of few torches that lit the room. At first glance, the torches would seem normal, but upon closer inspection, one would find out that the flame was lit inside of a skull, the top of which had been sliced off so the flame could freely shine. A long red rug ran from the foot of the throne to great, dark, polished, mahogany doors at the front of the room. At his feet lay a monstrous dog, which he affectionately referred to as Reaper, which seemed to blend in to with the dark polished floor and the black throne. The dog was only noticeable when the smallest amount of light hit its eyes, which gleamed like two yellow orbs. He stoked the dogs’ head contentedly, which had been his only true and loyal companion since he had been a street urchin in the desert city of Shalondrin in the deep south of the continent. There was one question that puzzled him though: What should he conquer next? There were so many to choose from: Should it be the elves that dwell in the lush green forests of the Forgotten Woods to the west? Or maybe it should be the dwarves that dwell inside their rich and magnificent homes in the Kelfradrim Mountains to the east. Or
perhaps one of the few “free” human settlements that have been giving him so much trouble lately such as the beautiful city of Salador. Decisions, decisions… Suddenly, there is a knock on the throne room’s giant, mahogany door. Reaper began to growl its low, deep growl, the growl of an animal that was not afraid to kill. “Easy my friend,” he whispered. In a loud, cold, hard voice, he said, “Enter.” Breathlessly, the man pushed through the giant mahogany doors. “My… lord,” he began, before being interrupted. “This had better be important, Bors, you remember what happened the last time you interrupted my private thoughts…” he let his gaze drift down to Bors’ three-fingered hand as Reaper issued another low growl. “M-m-my l-l-lord,” Bors stammered, knowing all too well what his master’s ferocious dog would do to him, “Salador has sent an emissary on behalf of the offer that you sent to them.” “And what does their emissary say, Bors.” Bors gulped. “The emissary says that Salador will never bow to you my lord. They said they would die fighting before they ever bow down to you.” He sat there on his throne digesting this information. He knew that Salador would not agree to the treaty due to the valor of famous Knights of the White Bear. But it did not matter; Salador would bow to him, whether they did peacefully, or by force. He preferred force. “Send the emissary in,” he stated. “But my lord,” Bors began.
“Send the emissary in, or you shall find yourself short another finger,” he stated in one of the calmest, coldest voice that Bors had ever heard his master speak. “Y-y-yes, my lord.” Bors left the throne room with great haste. Reaper looked at his master, who in turn nodded to him. Reaper got up and stalked silently to the side to where he was no longer visible. Bors entered a short while later, leading the emissary from Salador in with a chain around his neck. His guards had seemed to have a little fun with the emissary, who had both of his eyes blackened, and multiple cuts on his face. The emissary’s clothes were torn and shredded in multiple places, showing even more cuts and bruises. His goldenbrown hair was matted down with blood and sweat. He noticed a magnificent scabbard that was attached on his belt, though the sword that had once hung there was gone, probably taken by one of his guards as a keepsake. He would have to track that guard down and punish him for taking what was probably a magnificent sword. He liked attractive things… But despite all of the bruises, cuts, and wounds on this emissary, he could sense the air of dignity that still surrounded this man. The emissary’s piercing green eyes seemed to be sizing him up. They seemed to notice everything about the black, polished armor that was trimmed with gold, seeming to try and find some kind of weak point. They lingered on the great jeweled, vicious looking, two-headed battleaxe that was strapped to his back that he affectionately called Dragon’s Bane. He and the emissary locked eyes for a long while, each continuously sizing the other up. Finally, he spoke. “Bors, leave us.”
“But,” Bors began. As quick as flash of lighting, he held Bors by the throat, hoisting him several feet off of the ground. In Bors ear, he whispered menacingly, “I grow tired of this little game Bors.” His grip began to tighten on Bors’ throat. “Yes, very tired.” The grip tightened some more. Bors was gasping for air now. “Do you understand me?” Bors tried to nod. “I said do you understand me.” Bors’ eyes were beginning to bulge from the lack of oxygen, but he mustered all of the strength he could and nodded forcefully. He threw Bors across the room to the doors, who scrambled up and ran from the room. He calmly turned to the emissary, who had not blinked during the entire episode. He walked to the throne, and sat down. The emissary continued to watch his every move. “Salador will not come peacefully then?” “No,” the emissary replied flatly, still staring at him. He sighed. “I had hoped that Salador would come peacefully.” An evil glint flashed across his cold, grey eyes. “Such a beautiful city, I would hate to see it destroyed and such talented warriors slain.” Anger flashed across the emissary’s eyes. “How do you know that Salador will fall to you? Our warriors will fight until the very last breath! They are some of the best in all of Farlonia.” He laughed. “You may have some of the best warriors in all of Farlonia, but I have the rest of them. Another reason to surrender peacefully. I would have use for warriors as talented as Salador’s.” Anger had passed the emissary. Now all that shone in his eyes was that of pure hatred. In a raspy voice broken by the hatred he felt, he said, “Again, I reiterate to you,
the brave and valorous Knights of the White Bear will never fight for the likes of you, you scum!” Cold anger flashed across his eyes. “You apparently do not understand your situation, do you?” He snapped his fingers and the torches flared. The emissary’s eyes widened in horror at what was hanging on the walls. On the walls were the corpses of other emissaries from other cities and provinces around Farlonia. Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Halflings, and even several centaurs hung from the walls around the room. All of them were emissaries that had brought him the news that their cities and provinces would not join his hordes. Without being noticed, he slipped from his throne and whispered in the emissary’s ear, “Do you wish to join them on my wall?” The emissary felt the point of a dagger against his spine. The emissary closed his eyes… Did he? Did he wish to join the rest of the emissaries on the wall, as a warning to show future emissaries the penalty for not joining him? The emissary felt himself shaking with fear, and then he heard the low growl, and noticed for the first time, the gigantic three-headed dog, six yellow orbs staring at him, slowly approaching. “One statement is all you need say: Yes, Salador will join you, o Master of Darkness, or…” he let his voice drift off, knowing that the emissary knew quite well the other choice. The emissary was frightened. He had never been more frightened in his life. Should he desert his city, his beautiful Salador, and save his own life? Or should he keep
his word to his king and tell him that Salador will never help him, therefore sacrificing himself. He knew what he had to do… The emissary jerked quickly to the left, pulling a concealed dagger from his boot as quick as lightning, and faced him. Reaper’s growl deepened. “You have made your decision then.” He snapped his fingers and the floor collapsed underneath the emissary. The emissary fell with a scream that ended with the sickening sound of flesh being skewered on large spikes that were at the bottom of the pit. He looked into the pit and shook his head. The emissary was skewered all the way through in his chest and in one of his legs. His head was set in an awkward angle, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. “Pity, I really liked Salador…” He had his answer then. He knew that Salador would be his next victim. This had been a productive meeting after all. He whistled, and Reaper came padding over to him, all three heads panting happily at the emissary being murdered. He smiled at Reaper, the only living creature in the world that he would smile kindly to. “Come,” he said, “let’s find the person who took our friend’s sword.” With that, he left the throne room, the mahogany doors reverberating as he closed them, Reaper following closely behind him. In the pit, the sound of clicking pincers sounded as a giant scorpion began its evening meal.
Chapter 1: Choosing One’s Path
Aiden grunted as he swung his father’s large woodcutting axe, splitting the rather large piece of lumber in one swing. He leaned back, wiping the sweat from his brow that had formed due to the blazing noonday summer sun. Aiden stretched his tall lean frame, his muscles starting to ache due to the strain of his father’s axe. Aiden was a young man, only eighteen. He had short, neatly cut brown hair, with the beginnings of a small beard appearing on his chin. Around his head, there was a red cloth tied, the ends of it dangling down his back. His blue eyes shone in the afternoon sun, though he was deep in thought. In his village, he was old enough to leave his father’s home and travel the world abroad, or he could remain in the village to continue his family’s practice, but he had still not decided what he should do with his life. He wanted to travel to the nearby city of Salador and become on of the famous Knights of the White Bear, though he wasn’t sure he could, as his father was getting old, and someone would have to look after the farm when his father was gone… Perhaps his sister’s husband, that is, if she could find a husband, would be able to take over the farm, which was a short walk from the small village of Norman’s Hollow, if he left. No, his father wouldn’t likely allow someone outside of the immediate family take over the land he had owned for most of his life. Aiden sighed and set another block of wood on the chopping block. He lifted the heavy axe and prepared for another swing, when he heard a familiar voice. “Still cutting wood, eh Aiden?”
Aiden turned and smiled as his two best friends in the world approached him. Victor Belvin hopped the fence, grinning ear to ear. Victor was the same age as Aiden, although he was about two inches shorter than Aiden. He had short brown hair, although he usually wore a wide-brimmed hat on his head, which he said added an air of mystery to him, although most people in the village just laughed at him for it. Aiden noted that he was also wearing his customary leather vest over his white shirt and his father’s hunting bow was slung over his shoulder, which he was fairly skilled at using, though Aiden was better at shooting a bow which Victor constantly denied. He was also quite lazy as he would rather fish than do chores, but he usually got his work done, as long as it didn’t interfere with his “daily plans,” which in essence meant his chores almost never were completed. Victor also wanted to go to the large, majestic city of Salador to join the Knights of the White Bear and go behind enemy lines as a double agent, though Aiden told him he would actually have to work instead of lying around all day. Aiden’s other friend, an elf by the name of Kelindril, entered the farm by the gate instead of hopping over the fence. His family had moved to the small village of
Norman’s Hollow from the Forgotten Woods around seven years ago to set up a small shop that specialized in making exquisite jewelry. Kelindril was the shortest of the group, being about an inch shorter than Victor and had long, golden-blonde hair that was braided over his ears. His face was sharp and angular, his bright, blue eyes sparkling in the afternoon sun. He had an air of elegance about him; something that only an elf would ever be able pull off effectively due to the nobility of the elven race. Kelindril wanted to go to Salador to become a Knight of the White Bear also.
“And I’m guessing that your chores have been completed for once then?” Aiden remarked, raising an eyebrow as he hoisted the axe and rested it on his shoulder. Victor grinned. “You know I always do my chores.” expression. “You know me, work then play.” “Actually, for you I think it’s just play,” Kelindril remarked. Victor shrugged. “Whatever you say my elven friend, whatever you say.” Aiden and Kelindril laughed. That was one of Victor’s greatest gifts in Aiden’s opinion, being able to make people laugh, and that was why Aiden liked Victor so much. Victor suddenly got very serious, which surprised Aiden. Victor took a deep breath and looked Aiden in the eye. “Aiden, we’re leaving.” Those three words hit Aiden harder than anything had ever hit him in his life. Aiden was waiting for Victor to start laughing, but by the look in both Victor’s and Kelindril’s eyes, he knew Victor was telling the truth. “What do you mean you’re leaving?” “Kelindril and I are leaving Norman’s Hollow to go to Salador. We are going to join the Knights of the White Bear.” Victor looked at Aiden and saw pain in his eyes. Victor took a deep breath. “I hope you understand,” he finished. “Yes, yes I understand.” Aiden paused and took a deep breath to steady himself. “When.” he paused and took a deep breath, “When are you leaving?” Kelindril would not look Aiden in the eye. “We’re leaving at the break of dawn tomorrow.” One day? That was all the time that Aiden had left with his best friends? “Do you guys want to do something before you leave? I can finish my chores later.” He put on a serious
Victor shook his head sadly. “I wish we could Aiden, but we have to finish packing our rucksacks.” Aiden looked at his friends, who wouldn’t look him in the eye anymore. “Well, I guess you better head back and finish packing then…” “Aiden…” Aiden wasn’t listing anymore. He turned back to the woodcutting stump. He glanced back and saw Victor and Kelindril shake their heads and walk out the front gate. “I’ll be there,” he called. When they turned around, a confused look on their faces, he clarified. “When you leave. I’ll be there. Don’t leave until I get a chance to say goodbye.” Victor and Kelindril smiled. promise.” Aiden nodded and his friends walked off. Unbeknownst to Aiden though, his father, Gram, had been watching the entire scene. Aiden lifted the heavy axe and he was suddenly filled with hate at his friends. Why did they get to go to Salador and fulfill their lifelong dreams? Why did they get to go and explore the world while he was to remain in the small boring village of Norman’s Hollow? He cut the wood with fury, not caring if he splintered the wood. He found comfort in cutting the wood; releasing his anger and making him feel better. He did not feel the splinters the wood shot at him when he struck too hard. He only felt his muscles as they lifted and the axe and swung down, hearing only the satisfying crack as the wood split. “We won’t leave until you say goodbye. We
He did not stop until his father came out of the house and told him to wash for dinner. Aiden put the axe in the tool shed and silently walked into the house, not smelling the roasted duck and potatoes that his sister had spent most of the afternoon making. He walked right past the family’s old sheepdog Bear without a glance in its direction, much to the annoyance of Bear. Aiden untied his headband, took a washcloth from the family’s cupboard, and washed himself for dinner. Aiden ate in silence that night, not even tasting the duck and potatoes. His sister and father watched him, though he didn’t notice. He left the table after he was finished and went to his room. He lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling, deep in thought. How he wanted to travel with his friends to Salador and fulfill his own dreams! But he knew that would not happen; his father relied on him too much. He was shaken from his thoughts as he heard a knock on his door. He got off his bed slowly and opened his door. His father was at the door. Gram was a middle-aged man with graying hair. Even though he was getting old in years, his blue eyes still shone with youth. “I saw you talking to Victor and Kelindril today son,” Gram said. “Did they need anything?” Aiden shook his head. “No. They just said that they were leaving for Salador in the morning. Victor and Kelindril are going to join the Knights of the White Bear. Gram sat staring at the floor, deep in thought. Finally, he looked at his son. “Go with them.”
Aiden’s expression was one of shock. Had his father just told him to go with his friends? “Dad, what did you say?” “I said that you should go with them. I know it’s your dream to join the Knights of the White Bear. Go with them son.” “But Dad, who will help you on the farm?” Gram smiled. “Don’t worry about that son. Your sister will probably be getting married soon, so I’m sure I’ll be getting some help.” Aiden was overcome with emotions. He hugged his father and buried his head in Gram’s shoulder. Gram patted Aiden on the back. Aiden lifted his head, a grin on his face. “I need to pack! The guys are leaving at dawn tomorrow!” Aiden tried to stand, but Gram pulled him back down. “I’ve already packed your rucksack. But there’s something I need to give you.” Gram left the room and returned a short while later carrying a large, black leather case. Gram handed the case to Aiden and took pleasure in seeing his son’s jaw drop as he opened and gazed into the case. There were two items in the case. The first object that caught Aiden’s eye was a marvelously crafted claymore. At the center of the silver crosspiece, there was an image of the head of an eagle; two sapphires were in the place where the eagle’s eyes should have been. The ends of the crosspiece came out and there were outlines of images of feathers engraved on them to represent the wings of the eagle. The silver hilt represented the body of the eagle, also engraved with images of feathers. The silver pommel was divided in two sections, each section carved into shape of a pair
of talons. The blade was finely edged, and gleamed a silver glow in the soft light of the candle his father had set on Aiden’s table. The other item in the box was a curved dagger. The center of the crosspiece was also engraved with the image of an eagle, although the crosspiece, hilt, and pommel were golden. Another difference in the design of dagger was that instead of sapphires, there were two rubies where the eyes should have been. The ends of the crosspiece were also engraved with images of feathers and also represented the eagle’s wings. The hilt was also engraved with images of feathers, and like the sword, the pommel was split in two sections, each carved into that of a talon. The curved blade was also keen-edged, its blade also glowing brightly in the candlelight, in contrast to how the claymore softly glowed. Aiden’s eyes were wide as he looked to his father, who was still smiling. “How… how did you get these dad?” Aiden asked. “I wasn’t always a farmer son. I was once a soldier, though not for Salador,” Gram said, a glazed look in his eyes, like he was seeing into the past and reliving the younger days of his life. “I was once a soldier in the army of a city far away called Tolgoa. Yes, I was a commander king’s personal guard, the Knights of the Golden Eagle. It’s much like the Knights of the White Bear, although we were better trained. The blades were made by the elves, and they bestowed great power into them, although I have never found the special power in them,” Gram started to blush, but cleared his throat. “The king gave me these two blades as commemoration for when I retired from the guard, and now, I’m giving them to you son.”
Tears were streaming from Aiden’s eyes. He hugged his father. “I don’t know what to say…” “Just promise me one thing, you will be the best knight you can be. Protect the weak, and defend the honor of your family and city. That is the code of the Knights of the Golden Eagle and hopefully the White Bears think that also. Now get some sleep, you have a long journey ahead of you.” Gram got up from the bed and walked out of the room, leaving Aiden who was still staring at his father’s blades. Aiden felt a great power emanate from the claymore, though he could not figure out why. He pulled the blade from its sheath, which was emblazoned with the symbol of an eagle, and felt a wave of inner peace and tranquility wash over him. The sapphires began to glow a bright but soft blue. Aiden stared curiously at the sapphires. Why were they glowing? He slid the blade back into the sheath, still feeling the inner peace he felt, and picked up the dagger. He could not feel any power emanate from the dagger. Was this just an ordinary dagger? Or was there some mysterious power to the dagger also? Aiden shook his head and lay the dagger back down. He didn’t have time to worry about the dagger. His father was right: he needed to get some sleep. Aiden extinguished the flame from his candle, laid his head on his soft, feather pillow, and closed his eyes.
He was walking down the corridor in his fortress. His minions recoiled in fear as his great black cape trailed behind him and the three-headed dog padded after him, snarling at anyone who would not get out of his master’s way. One goblin did not see him coming, and the last thing it felt was a great wave of pain wash over him as the dog ripped its throat out, leaving the corpse in a pool of its own blood. The dog’s master nodded approvingly at his great dog. His boots echoed in the now empty halls of his great fortress, for all of his minions ran at the sight of his scarred face and the sound of his growling dog. He turned a corner to find a man, who recoiled in fear at the sight of his master. “Gather the troops outside,” he said to the man. His voice was so calm, so cold. “It is time.” The man relaxed and a wicked grin split his face. “Yes, my lord,” he replied with an evil cackle. The man rushed off to gather the troops. He walked to the balcony that he had designated as his perch, which was several stories in the air. He gazed at his assembling army, thousands of orcs, goblins, trolls, men, and even several hill giants were assembling. The dog sat at his feet, its gaze following the assembling troops. When all activity below ceased, he began.
“My loyal soldiers,” he called out in a loud booming voice, and he chuckled to himself at the irony of his statement because he knew that any of his soldiers would stick a knife in his back were they given the chance, “I have made my final decision on our conquest!” There was silence in his horde of monsters. He prolonged his answer, making his horde anxious. “Tomorrow, we march for Salador!” Shouts and cheers erupted from his horde. “Call them to order again,” he whispered to his pet. The dog let out a blood-curdling howl that brought
immediate silence to the horde. “Rest tonight my soldiers and sharpen your blades! War is upon us, and we will crush any opposition we find along the way! The city of Salador will crumble under our might! The fabled Knights of the White Bear will be no more! Now rest, for there is a long march ahead of us!” The horde let out more shouts and cheers. Yes, Salador would fall to his might, all would go according to his plan. Yet, he could not shake the feeling he was being watched…
Aiden woke up with a start, drenched in a cold sweat. He found it hard to breath and was gasping for air. Who was that? What was he doing? Was something going to happen to Salador? Questions raced through Aiden’s mind as he pondered his dream. After he calmed down, he dismissed the dream, but he went back to bed with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He closed his eyes and slept the rest of the night.
Aiden was up before dawn the next day. He ate a quick breakfast of bread and cheese and went to saddle his horse, Flint. Aiden opened the barn and found his father in the barn, Flint already saddled. Gram smiled at Aiden who returned the smile. Gram handed Aiden his rucksack, which was full of supplies that he would need for the journey. Inside there was food, a blanket, a tinderbox, and a small hatchet to cut branches for a fire at night. Gram also handed Aiden his hunting bow and a full quiver of arrows. Aiden took his bow and pulled the string back to make sure it didn’t need a new string, the flax string bending easily and the rowan wood bending smoothly also. He knew his father had put a new string on the bow, but he didn’t say anything. He stared at his father. When will he see him again? A better question to him though was, will he ever see him again. He hugged his father one last time and climbed into Flint’s saddle. His father’s claymore belted over his shoulder, the dagger on his right hip, and the quiver on his left. He slung his bow over shoulder and tied the red cloth around his head. With a final look at his father, he kicked Flint into a trot out of the barn. He turned his head at the gate. His father was still watching him. “I’ll leave Flint at The Friar’s Quarry,” he called to his father, referring to the small inn in Norman’s Hollow. His father nodded his head. Aiden turned his head and left the farm. He kicked Flint into a run. They raced over the dirt path that lead from the farm to the village of Norman’s Hollow. Aiden watched as the summer trees swayed in the early morning breeze and how the wildflowers were starting to open their petals for the day. It wasn’t a long ride from the farm to the village, and after about twenty minutes, they arrived in Norman’s Hollow.
Aiden slowed Flint to a walk as they stepped onto the cobblestone streets. Aiden gazed around at the sleepy town. Some of the town folk were beginning to wake up from their slumber, most notably Hans Jacobson, the village blacksmith who was beginning to heat the bellows in his forge to start his work for the day. Some of the wives were already up making breakfast Aiden observed as smoke rose from the chimneys on some of the houses. Aiden dismounted and led Flint to The Friar’s Quarry. The Friar’s Quarry was a small inn, but it was usually the place where the men came after they finished their work for the day to exchange stories and listen to Olav Troobel, the bard and minstrel of the town. Aiden walked around to the back of the inn where the horses were stabled. He gave Thomas Morton, the stable boy, a silver piece and left Flint at the stable. Aiden walked down the cobblestone streets, the occasional villager staring in awe at the marvelous weapons on his back and hip. Aiden found Victor and Kelindril at the gate of the town that led to Salador. Grins broke out on their faces when they saw Aiden’s gear, then their jaws dropped immediately when they saw his claymore and dagger. “Where…where did you get those?” Victor asked, his eyes transfixed on the dagger on Aiden’s belt. He looked at Aiden’s dagger, and then at the two on his own belt, which was not ornately carved, only plain daggers, and his face visibly drooped when he mentally compared them. “My father gave them to me,” Aiden replied, smiling at Victor’s famous widebrimmed hat. Kelindril stared at the two blades. “Could it be?” he whispered.
“What?” Aiden asked, a puzzled expression on his face. Kelindril started like he had just come out of a trance. “Huh? Oh, don’t mind me, I was just thinking…” his voice trailed off as he continued to stare. “Are you guys ready to get going? It’s a long journey,” Aiden said. Grins broke over Victor and Kelindril’s faces again. Kelindril twirled his walking staff over his head, much to Victor’s annoyance who muttered under his breath, “Show off…” Aiden laughed, and the three friends started their journey to Salador where there, their dreams would come true.
Chapter 2: Journey Through the Dark
Aiden, Kelindril, and Victor walked upon the dirt road that lead from Norman’s Hollow to Salador. They gazed around at the peaceful forest in the early morning sun, listening to the morning song of a nearby skylark. Yes, the forest was peaceful in the morning. Bees were buzzing around the many wildflowers, which let off a sweet scent in the morning. Aiden closed his eyes and let the sounds and smells of the forest wash over him. The three continued to hike for several hours on the road. The trees cast a shadow over the road, giving them shade from the summer sun. At around noonday, the three came upon a small bridge that would allow them to cross the small river the people of Norman’s Hollow called Norman’s Run. “Let’s stop here and eat,” Victor suggested. Aiden and Kelindril looked at the sun. It was noonday they realized and they had not eaten since that morning. “Ok, let’s eat,” Aiden consented. They sat down on the riverbank and enjoyed a small lunch of bread, cheese, dried meat, and river water. After they finished eating, the three took all of their equipment off, stretched out by the riverbank. Victor took out his reel and line and lay down by his friends, tilting his hat over his eyes. The three were soon lulled to sleep by sound of the babbling brook and by the warmth of the summer sun. When Aiden finally awoke from his nap, he found that it was night. He quickly aroused Kelindril and Victor. Startled by Aiden’s sudden shaking, Victor rolled into the river with a giant splash. Victor rose to the surface spluttering and spitting water from his
mouth. He grabbed his wide-brimmed hat, which had fallen off his head after he had fallen in the river, just before it floated out of his reach. Glaring at his friends, who were trying to hide their laughter, he put the hat back on his head, more water pouring on his head that had been in the hat. Victor climbed onto the bank, his friends rolling with laughter. Victor grabbed a blanket from his rucksack and draped it over himself, shivering from the cold river water. Aiden and Kelindril regained their composure quickly and the three began to talk over what their next move should be. “I say we camp here tonight,” Aiden said. Victor snorted. “If you wanted to camp here then you shouldn’t have woken us up,” he muttered. “That way I would still be dry and warm instead of cold and wet.” “Well excuse me for wanting to know what we needed to do,” Aiden said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. Victor just snorted in response. “Well, what do you think we should do then?” Aiden asked. “Well, since we are fully rested, and I am drenched, I say that we travel through the night.” Aiden and Kelindril looked at Victor. “Travel through the night?” Kelindril asked. Victor nodded his head. “We’ve lost half a day already and it’s a three day journey to Salador from Norman’s Hollow. We should travel through the night,” he finished, thinking that was argument enough.
It was true; they had lost almost an entire day’s march due to their stop by the riverbank. Should they travel through the night to make up for lost time? Aiden didn’t think so. “Victor, it’s too dark to even see the road!” Aiden argued. “How do you expect us to continue if we can’t even see the road?” “Gee, I don’t know,” Victor replied, rolling his eyes. He bent down and withdrew his tinderbox. Then he walked over to a nearby tree and broke a branch off. He tore a strip of his blanket and wrapped it around the branch, dipped it in some oil from Kelindril’s bag, and lit it using the tinderbox. “There,” he said, pointing to the lit torch, “now you can see the road.” Aiden blushed. He had forgotten about lighting a torch. He shook his head and belted his equipment back on. Kelindril followed Aiden’s example and belted the finely crafted elven knife that his parents had given him as a farewell present to his waist. He picked up his walking staff and slung his rucksack over his back. Victor also belted his dagger to his waist, and slung his rucksack over his back. “Let’s go,” Victor said, walking down the road holding the torch. The three walked over the small bridge, the torch casting eerie shadows on the rippling water. Aiden felt uneasy traveling on the dark road. He could sense that Kelindril felt uneasy about it too, but Victor walked along like it was broad daylight outside, his step easy and carefree. After a while, Aiden sensed that Kelindril had not grown more comfortable walking in the dark. He began acting as though he were being watched. Aiden too, began to get the feeling that they were being watched. Aiden saw shadows moving in the
forest; saw eyes in the bushes. Aiden felt his hand beginning to inch towards the claymore, the sapphire eyes beginning to glow. They continued to walk down the path, Victor now seeming to get the same feeling as Aiden and Kelindril. Kelindril slipped his knife from its sheath, concealing it in the arms of his cloak, ready to slide it out and put it to its deadly work in an instant. From somewhere above, the sound of a mysterious bird screeched out, resembling that of an eagle. The claymore suddenly appeared in Aiden’s hands, who had been startled by the sudden outburst from above. Aiden looked up and saw a silver streak flash in the sky. A small, sneaky figure slipped from a nearby bush, a dagger shaped object in its hand. “Aiden, look out!” Kelindril cried. Aiden spun around, the claymore somehow intercepting the goblin’s dagger. The goblin let out an animal-like howl, leaping back and squaring against his opponent. The forest seemed to come alive as more goblins erupted from their hiding places, surrounding the three friends who had formed a back-to-back triangle to face their opponents. Aiden readied his claymore as Kelindril readied his walking staff. Victor drew his two daggers and twirled them in his hands. “I told you we should have stayed at the bridge,” Aiden muttered. Victor smiled. “Then we would have missed all of this fun!” he replied. Aiden shook his head, eyeing the goblins, which were beginning to close their circle in. Kelindril suddenly leapt into motion. He twirled his staff skillfully and bashed several goblins over the head in three quick swipes, killing them all. The goblins leapt
back at the unexpected charge. Aiden and Victor took advantage of the confusion and leapt into the fight. Victor jabbed with his daggers, wounding the goblin he was facing then leapt lightly to the next goblin, slashing it across its neck. The piercing sound of a screeching eagle suddenly rent the air. Several goblins dropped their weapons and covered their ear, others looked into the night sky, searching for the source of the sound. They didn’t find anything, and where quickly cut down by Kelindril’s staff or by Victor’s daggers. Aiden swung his great claymore, the sapphire eyes glowing with the inner calm he felt even with the odds against the three, and with every swing bringing the mysterious screech of the eagle. The goblins backed away, afraid of this “demon blade.” Aiden pressed his attacks, taking down more than a few goblins. Aiden heard the twang of a goblin bow followed closely by a scream of pain from Victor. Aiden spun around and saw Victor on the ground, an arrow protruding from his left thigh. Aiden felt a flash of pain as a goblin spear slashed across the back of his legs. Anger welled up in Aiden’s heart. The sight of his friend injured, the pain from the goblin spear, taking away the inner calm he felt. The sapphire eyes began to dim, the sound of the screeching eagle diminishing with every swing. With the fading of the two blue sapphires, two red rubies began to glow. Aiden’s swings were filled with anger, and suddenly, he felt that he should draw his dagger. Aiden swiftly replaced his claymore in its sheath on his back and drew the golden hilted dagger, the ruby eyes glowing angrily. The goblins backed away in fright at the angry ruby eyes of the dagger.
“Get behind me,” he shouted at his friends. Kelindril bashed a final goblin and leapt over to Victor, protecting him from any goblin foolish enough to come within range of Kelindril’s staff. The goblins regained their courage with only one of their victims still fighting, and that one with a dagger! Some of the goblins began to laugh in a low, guttural, voice. They began to enclose their newly formed circle. The anger welled up within Aiden. How foolish these goblins were! First, they ambush the group, then they injure on of Aiden’s best friends! From inside his head, Aiden heard a voice, “Say the words. Lang Malthen Thoron!” Aiden felt complied to obey. “Lang Malthen Thoron!” A white light surrounded the dagger. The dagger’s curved blade grew until it was the length of a cutlass. The crosspiece of the dagger extended and wrapped around to the pommel in a half-moon shape. The red ruby eyes glowed more intensely, like it was pleased. “Now, let me take care of these goblins!” the voice said in Aiden’s head. Aiden’s anger let lose. He gave in to the command in his head, and the newly formed cutlass seemed to come alive in Aiden’s hand. Aiden’s hand swung the cutlass in complex forms, his body keeping perfect tempo with the quick speed of his hand. The goblins leapt back from the ferocious attacks, Victor staring in awe at not only his friend’s prowess with the cutlass, but at the mere fact that Aiden’s dagger had suddenly transformed into the cutlass. “Now, say the command, Aegnor Lang Malthen Thoron!” The phrase escaped Aiden’s mouth. “Aegnor Lang Malthen Thoron!”
The voice inside Aiden’s laughed with joy. Aiden’s hand continued to weave in complicated patterns, but now with each swing a streak of fire followed the blade. The air was filled with fire, and unfortunately for the goblins, a sudden wind kicked in and blew the fire into their faces, burning and killing those unfortunate enough to be caught in the fire. Victor stared in amazement at the spectacle, but Kelindril looked more frightened than he had ever been in his life. He didn’t see the goblin sneaking up on him. The goblin raised its crudely made club, but suddenly it found itself with an arrow protruding from its throat. Kelindril spun around just as two halflings and a rather tall man crashed through the bushes. One of the halflings carried a yew bow, and he was fitting another arrow into the bowstring. The other halfling carried a short spear and had a lute swung across his back. The man, powerfully built, twirled his claymore skillfully above his head and crashed into several goblins. The goblins, frightened at the appearance of three new adversaries, finally ran into the woods, but not before several of the halfling’s arrows found their mark in some of the goblins’ backs. But Aiden was not finished with the goblins yet. He pointed the cutlass at the last fleeing goblin. “Aegnor Glamhoth!” he commanded. A beam of fire shot from the cutlass, enveloping the goblin. When the fire finally died down, all that was left of the unfortunate goblin was a pile of ashes. “I am weary. Say Sigil Malthen Thoron.”
“Sigil Malthen Thoron,” Aiden repeated obediently. The cutlass glowed white again and shrunk back to its original size: a dagger. He replaced the dagger back in its sheath. Aiden turned and jumped back in surprise at seeing the man and two halflings, having not noticed them until now. All five stared at Aiden with a different expression on their faces, Victor staring in amazement still, Kelindril in fear, the halfling with the lute on his back staring interestedly at Aiden, the man showing no expression on his face, and the halfling with the bow staring curiously at Aiden. “Umm, hello. Umm, thanks for your help,” Aiden stammered, still taken by surprise. “It was no problem at all, although you look like you were handling things quite nicely actually,” the halfling with the lute replied. “Umm, thank you. My name is Aiden. The elf is my friend Kelindril, and the other on the ground is Victor.” The halfling bowed flamboyantly, sweeping his hat that had a large feather on it off of his head. “I am Tolgion, the halfling bard.” He pointed to the other halfling. “My friend here is Dodmic, a ranger from the north, and our silent friend here is Jamsig, who was once the captain of a rather large company of horseman.” Aiden and his friends took a good look at the group. Tolgion was the shorter of the two halflings. He had short, curly, black hair. He wore an ornately made purple hat on his head. The hat had a large white plume in it, and the purple cloak he wore covered the ornately carved wooden lute on his bag. On his belt he carried a short sword and also carried a short spear in his hand.
Dodmic wore less flamboyant clothes, more suited to traveling. Dodmic had short brown hair and wore a brown tunic and wore a green traveling cloak, so as to help him blend into the forest. On his belt, Dodmic had two fighting knives and on his back Dodmic had his yew bow and a full quiver of arrows. Jamsig was by far the most impressive of the three. He had short, neatly cut hair and had a neatly trimmed goatee. He wore shining plate armor, the large, magnificent claymore in its sheath on his back. He wore a bright red cloak, giving him an air of royalty. What caught Aiden’s eye was the large scar that traveled down Jamsig’s face. Jamsig turned his head when he caught Aiden staring at the scar. Tolgion, sensing the uneasiness of his friend broke the silence. “What
magnificent blades you have, Aiden! Never have I seen such blades, although, they do seem familiar… Oh well,” Tolgion shrugged. “Maybe it will come to me.” “Where are you three traveling?” Dodmic asked, checking his bowstring as he talked. “We are going to Salador,” Victor replied, standing up gingerly, the arrow still stuck in his thigh. Tolgion gasped at the wound. “We’ll talk later; we need to treat that wound first! Dodmic, make a poultice with the herbs in my pack. Jamsig, we need to remove the arrow while Dodmic makes the poultice.” Jamsig approached Victor. “Sit down,” he bade him. Victor sat down, anxiety starting to creep into his face. The first thing Jamsig did was break the arrow in half. A flash pain shot across Victor’s face from the vibrations as the arrow snapped. Victor gasped for air, the pain intense. “Hold your breath. I’m not going to lie to you, it will
hurt.” Victor nodded, holding his breath and closing his eyes. Jamsig took a strong grip on the broken shaft. “Ready?” Victor nodded his head. Jamsig dug his boots into the ground and gave a mighty tug. The arrow came free, but it also brought forth a wave of pain to Victor and a gush of blood. Victor screamed with the intense, fiery, pain. His head began to spin and Victor fainted from the pain. Dodmic quickly applied the poultice Victor’s wound to staunch the bleeding. Victor began to breathe easier and his eyelids fluttered open. Victor sat up weakly, putting his head in his hands. “Anyone else need their wounds treated?” Tolgion asked. Dodmic applied the poultice to the many scratches that Kelindril had received during the fight. Aiden had not been injured to badly due to the dagger taking control of his body, though he still had some small, minor, wounds he had received when he had fought with the claymore. When the three had been patched up, they lit a small fire on the side of the road. Tolgion brought out his lute and started to tune it. Jamsig pulled out a pipe and began to puff on it and Dodmic was carefully inspecting every inch of bow for scratches. Aiden lay on his back. What an exciting first day! A battle with goblins, and they had not even left the borders of Norman’s Hollow yet! Though, one thought did bother him. Where had that voice come from? He looked at his dagger. Was it possible that the dagger had communicated telepathically with him? Aiden dismissed the notion, finding it ridiculous. But still… Kelindril continued to stare at Aiden’s blades, his eyes specifically tuned to the dagger, his thoughts on the mysterious words Aiden had spoken. Sigil Malthen Thoron
and Lang Malthen Thoron, the two phrases were Elvish he knew that much. Kelindril pondered the phrases, finally coming to a conclusion. Sigil Malthen Thoron was
translated into the Dagger of the Golden Eagle, and Lang Malthen Thoron, was translated into the Cutlass of the Golden Eagle. There was something strange and sinister about that blade, and Kelindril meant to find it out. “So, why are you guys going to Salador?” Dodmic asked, still eyeing his bow carefully. Aiden looked up. “Well, we are going to join the Knights of the White Bear.” Tolgion nodded. “Fine ambitions! We are also heading to Salador; maybe we can join your group. It is much safer to travel in bigger groups than in smaller groups.” Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril looked at each other. “Yes, we would be happy to join you three,” Aiden replied. Tolgion clapped his hands together. “Excellent! We will leave in the morning.” “Tolgion, why are you three going to Salador?” Victor asked. Jamsig answered. “We are mercenaries. Every few weeks, we go to Salador to see if there is any work that needs to be done.” Tolgion nodded. “There is usually good work from Salador that pays pretty good money. It’s a long trip, especially from Norman’s Hollow, but it’s usually worth the long trip.” Victor looked uneasy. “What do you mean, ‘a long trip?’ My family said that Salador is only a few days walk.” Dodmic laughed. “Your family must have never been to Salador then! It’s about a ten-day walk, give or take a few days depending on how fast you travel. The road is
easy until you get to Silver Peak. The mountain is very dangerous, so it usually slows travelers down, unless they know what they’re doing,” Dodmic added with a wink. Victor moaned. “Moaning isn’t going to get you anywhere,” Jamsig remarked. “Just lie down and go to sleep. You’re going to need your energy for the journey ahead.” Tolgion doused the campfire, Dodmic and Jamsig stood up, going to take the first watch. As Aiden lay his head down, he heard Victor grumbling to himself, but inside his head, he heard the voice. “I think we are going to be very good friends. Yes…very good friends…” Aiden didn’t know why, but the thought made him very uneasy.
Chapter 3: Influence of the Golden Eagle
Aiden awoke the next morning to the smell of breakfast on a cooking fire. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, gazing around at the small camp. Tolgion was by the fire, finishing breakfast. Kelindril and Dodmic were deep in a conversation, Jamsig leaning against a tree smoking his pipe. His gaze fell on Victor last, who was still asleep. Aiden stood and stretched the morning stiffness away. His body was stiff and sore after the skirmish the night before. He felt that it had been weeks since he was home, when in reality they had only left the day before. Aiden shook his head and headed towards the fire. Aiden sat by the fire and Jamsig nodded his head towards Aiden. Tolgion smiled warmly at Aiden. “Good morning,” Tolgion said cheerfully, handing Aiden a plate with some bread and cheese on it. “Eat up, we have a long day ahead of us!” Jamsig stood and roused Victor who snorted in reply to the vigorous shaking. Jamsig rolled his eyes and gave Victor a sharp kick to his ribs. Victor clutched his side, suddenly awake. “What did you do that for?” he demanded angrily, glaring at Jamsig. Jamsig snorted. “Is there any other way to wake you up? By the gods, I’m surprised every tribe of goblins didn’t come after us as loud as your snoring was!” Victor continued to glare at Jamsig as Tolgion handed him a plate. He devoured the food, hungry after the fight the night before. When Victor and Aiden had finished eating, the six cleaned the camp, packed all of their belongings up, and set out on the road.
Aiden watched as the countryside passed them on their journey. Aiden inhaled the rich summer fragrances from the summer fauna. He watched with amusement as Tolgion skipped along the way, tuning his lute as he walked. Kelindril and Dodmic were still deep in a whispered conversation, keeping a short distance away from the rest. Aiden didn’t pay any attention to them though; he was enjoying the early summer morning. He also didn’t notice the strange looks that Victor was giving him. The group continued to walk along the old, travel beaten, dirt road, stopping by the side of the road around noonday to have a small meal of bread and cheese. The meal was finished quickly, and soon they were back on the road. Tolgion began to play some traveling tunes on his lute as they walked, much to the enjoyment of the group. Around mid-afternoon, they came upon a bridge. Jamsig, who was at the head of the group held out his hand, signaling the group to stop. He put a finger to his lips and nodded towards Dodmic, who slipped quietly into the foliage around the road. Aiden heard the faint sound of a bowstring being pulled back. Tolgion swung his lute over his back and held his spear tightly in his grasp, is eyes darting back and forth. Kelindril took the hint and slowly drew his dagger also, as did Victor. Aiden slid the claymore from its sheath, the wave of inner peace flooding over him. The blade gleamed in the sunlight, the sapphire eyes glowing softly. He heard an angry snarl inside his head. A sharp twang of Dodmic’s bowstring brought forth a scream of pain. In a flash of silver, Jamsig’s mighty claymore leapt into his hand. Using the momentum, he spun around and caught an arrow that was aimed for his back, a smile creeping onto his face as
he heard a gasp from a nearby bush. That gasp was followed by a scream of pain as another of Dodmic’s arrows found its mark. Suddenly the entire forest seemed to come alive. Men, all clad in black garments, stepped from the forest, all with a weapon drawn. Archers had their bows trained on the five. A tall man with an eye patch stepped from the ranks of men. He had a large battleaxe drawn and locked his eyes with Jamsig. The man smirked. “There be a toll to cross this bridge,” he said. “One hundred gold coins each.” “How about you let us pass so that you don’t forfeit your lives,” Jamsig replied coldly, his eyes still locked with the man’s. Anger flashed across the man’s face. “Arrogant, eh?” he replied. He smirked. “Oh well, we warned ye. Besides, I like violence better anyway.” The man raised his hand and the archers drew their bowstrings back. Jamsig dug his feet into the ground, readying his claymore. Aiden did likewise and Victor readied himself. Kelindril twirled his staff and Tolgion hefted his spear, tipping his hat over his eyes. “Draw me if you want to live!” The voice had a tone of urgency in it. Aiden felt his hands moving to replace the claymore when the battle began. Another arrow shot from the foliage nearby, hitting an archer square in the back. Several archers looked away for a split second, though that was all the time Jamsig and Tolgion needed.
Jamsig rushed forth in a flurry of flashing steel, killing one archer before turning on his next victim. Tolgion threw his spear, and drew his sword as it found its mark in an archer’s chest. Arrow after arrow shot from the foliage, each coming from a different bush. Some of the bandits began to panic as their comrades dropped by arrow or by flashing steel. The bandit leader snarled and turned on Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril, who had not moved yet during the entire encounter. The bandit charged. “Let me guide your actions,” a voice said. Aiden jumped; it was not the same voice as before, this voice was calm and serene, while the other was harsh and angry. Aiden didn’t have time to consider the voice’s words as the bandit came closer. Aiden readied himself. He met the bandit’s attack with a swipe of his own, an eagle’s screech following the swipe. The man jumped back, startled by the sound. Aiden took advantage of the bandit’s surprise and pressed an attack. Each swing brought forth an eagle’s screech, the eyes glowing brighter as the inner calm settled in. Kelindril and Victor decided that Aiden had everything under control and joined the fray against the other bandits. Aiden let the voice inside of his head take over. Aiden worked through beautiful forms against bandit leader, who was doing everything he could to parry Aiden’s attacks. Sword and axe met each other, steel against steel, form against form. Aiden continued to back the bandit leader up, neither of them noticing that all the fighting had ceased as bandits and Aiden’s friends stared in amazement at the sight. The bandit leader suddenly dropped low, swinging the axe in hopes of hitting Aiden’s legs. Aiden felt his feet leave the ground as he jumped over the axe. He landed
on one foot, the other shooting out and kicking the bandit square in the jaw. Aiden heard a sickening crunch as bone shattered from Aiden’s forceful kick. The bandit dropped back in pain, holding his jaw, which had been shattered from Aiden’s kick, and blood was streaming from his nose and mouth. Aiden’s assault did not stop. The sword twirled amazing circles as Aiden advanced towards the bandit and each circle brought the scream of the eagle. The bandit tried to crawl away, not caring about how he had just been bested in combat by a mere child, but just wanting to get away so that he would live to see another day. One courageous bandit started to advance to help his master, but he was soon on the ground with one of Dodmic’s arrows protruding from between his eyes. The leader stopped. He tried to stand feebly, but fell down in pain. He held his hands in front of him, as if asking Aiden to spare him. Aiden stopped and held the sword at the bandit’s neck. “Do not kill him,” the serene voice whispered. “Let him go. There is no need to kill him.” Aiden began to lower the blade. “NO!” the harsh voice screamed. “Run the blade through his heart! If he did not wish to die, he should not have attacked us! Kill him my friend!” Aiden began to raise the blade again. The onlookers were confused at Aiden’s actions. Lowering the blade only to bring it back up? What was going on? Aiden could not decide. Should he kill this man or should he let him live? The harsh voice felt Aiden’s dilemma. It decided to appeal to Aiden. “Aiden, my master, sheath this claymore and draw me. Do you not understand? If you let him go, he will likely kill more people! Would you like to know in your conscience that you could have
prevented the murder of an innocent person? Yes, that’s it, sheath the claymore and draw me, friend. Let us prevent the suffering of other with one swing of a blade!” The sapphire eyes dimmed as Aiden felt his body sheathing the blade. The leader’s eyes opened wide in surprise at his luck. Then he saw the red rubies. Glowing with such intensity that he felt truly frightened at the sight. He tried to crawl away to his bandits, but he could not take his eyes from the frightening blade that was now in Aiden’s hand. “Lang Malthen Thoron!” Aiden called. The dagger turned white and lengthened to that of the cutlass. The bandit leader’s eyes grew wide with fear as Aiden advanced. Anger burned in Aiden’s eyes. He grabbed the bandit by the hair and hoisted him from the ground with a sudden burst of strength. Aiden rested the cutlass against the bandit’s throat, his eyes widening even more. Aiden put his mouth near the bandit’s ear so that he could hear the last words the bandit would ever hear. “You should not have attacked us,” he whispered. “Now you will die. Koron en’naur!” An intense heat was emitted from the blade. The bandit tried to scream as the hot blade burned through the skin on his neck, but he couldn’t due to his broken jaw. The blade was so hot that steam rose from the bandit’s neck and instantly stopped the flow of blood from the burning flesh, which began to fill the bandit’s lungs. He tried to speak, but all that came out was an incoherent gurgle. The bandit’s eyes glazed over in death and rolled into his head. Aiden dropped the bandit with a thud, muttered, “Sigil Malthen Thoron,” and sheathed the blade. Aiden walked away from the corpse, bandits hastily getting out of Aiden’s way as he walked by, not wanting to join their fallen leader.
“Excellent. Now there won’t be any problems for any other travelers,” the voice said contentedly. Jamsig looked at the nearest bandit. The bandit took the hint and signaled to the rest of the bandits it was time to leave. Wanting no more trouble after the death of their leader, they all fell in behind the bandit and left the bridge silently. Tolgion walked to the dead leader, inspecting the scorch mark on his neck. Wideeyed, he turned to Jamsig and Dodmic, who nodded. Kelindril and Victor walked cautiously over to Aiden who was staring blankly into the river with a glazed look in his eyes. Aiden looked up at them as they approached. There was something different about him, but they could not figure it out. It was like there was someone talking to Aiden, but they couldn’t hear the voice. “What happened back there Aiden?” Kelindril asked. “We thought you were going to let him go, but…” Kelindril’s voice trailed off as he gazed at the corpse of the former leader of the bandits. Aiden sneered. “Don’t you see? I have just saved some innocent person’s life! With that bandit dead, there won’t be any more problems! Do you not realize how many people he has probably killed? How much blood was on his hands? And for what, a few coins? The murder of many innocent people over a few coins! He deserved what he got.” Aiden gazed at the corpse and grinned, a grin that Victor or Kelindril had never seen on their friend before, a grin of bloodlust. “A scorched neck, suffocating on his own blood. That is what he deserved!” Aiden began to snicker at the corpse, enjoying the sight of the dead bandit leader. Victor and Kelindril looked at each other worriedly. What was happening to their friend?
Kelindril’s eyes drifted to the golden dagger, and his eyes narrowed. Did that dagger have something to do with Aiden’s continuing personality change? Something had to be done, but what? Jamsig, Tolgion, and Dodmic approached the three. Jamsig stared over the three, particularly Aiden. Tolgion was pale as he looked at Aiden. It seemed that the three knew something, but Kelindril didn’t know what. “Come, let us leave this place,” Jamsig said quietly. The six left the bridge, walking in silence the rest of the day. At nightfall, they branched off the road to a great tree and made their camp for the night. They sat in silence around the fire, listening to the crackle of the fire. Jamsig finally broke the silence. “You fight well, Aiden. You handled that bandit leader quite beautifully with your claymore.” Aiden winced as he heard the harsh voice hiss. “I think that I fought better with my dagger,” Aiden replied mechanically. “The claymore was to slow.” Jamsig shook his head. “I still believe you fought better with your claymore than that pitiful dagger.” Anger flashed across Aiden’s eyes. “Perhaps you would like to feel its wrath,” he snarled. Kelindril had known what Jamsig was doing immediately. He must have figured out somehow that the dagger was responsible for Aiden’s changing personality. Jamsig stood up menacingly and draw his claymore.
“Yes, I would like to feel its wrath,” he snarled. “Let’s make things interesting. If you win this dual, you can do whatever you want to do to me, even kill me. But if I win, I get to keep your dagger.” “Agree. He cannot beat the combined power you and the Golden Eagle!” the voice said. An evil grin spread on Aiden’s face. “Agreed. Let’s fight.” Worry crossed the faces of the remaining four companions. Did Jamsig stand a chance against Aiden with that enchanted dagger? Dodmic whispered his thoughts to the others. “Aiden doesn’t stand a chance. Jamsig knows the dagger’s weakness.” Victor looked at Dodmic, a confused look on his face. “We’ll tell you the story later, but now, we need to make sure Jamsig wins if you want your friend to return to his normal state of mind.” Aiden stood up, a wicked grin on his face as he drew his dagger. “Lang Malthen Thoron!” The dagger transformed into the cutlass. The two began to circle around each other. Jamsig studied Aiden as they circled. He noticed the red glowing eyes on the pommel. “Aegnor Lang Malthen Thoron!” Aiden shouted. With every sweep of the blade, a wall of fire followed. The air became insufferably hot, making it hard to breath. Jamsig continued to circle Aiden. Aiden was the first to press an attack. He wove complicated patterns and flowed through complicated forms, fire following every sweep of his blade. Jamsig blocked each swipe, but the heat was already starting to get to him. Aiden knew this and pressed the attack even harder.
Jamsig continued to block and parry the attacks, only to be met with more fierce swipes of the cutlass. The heat was growing in intensity, sweat was pouring down both combatants back. Aiden jumped back and snarled. Jamsig could not take the heat any longer. He pointed his claymore at the cutlass and shouted, “’Kshonna, wanya!” A jet of green light shot from the claymore, hitting its mark. The flames
surrounding the cutlass were instantly extinguished and the cutlass immediately shrunk back to its original size. Aiden stared at the dagger. “Curses! He dispelled my magic! You’re on your own now, Aiden, but I’m sure you can take him.” With that, the mental connection between the two broke. Aiden readied himself, but the confidence he had felt before diminished as soon as the dagger shut the mental connection between them. Jamsig charged at Aiden with ferocity no one had ever seen before. Aiden, not being as skilled as Jamsig, could barely keep up with Jamsig’s attacks. The duel ended when Aiden, who had been retreating from his adversary, slipped and came crashing down hard. Jamsig held his claymore against Aiden’s neck. Jamsig held out his hand. Aiden looked as though he didn’t understand. “You lost,” Jamsig stated flatly. “The dagger is mine.” Aiden snarled. He tried to stand up, but Jamsig pressed the claymore tighter on Aiden’s neck. Aiden’s eyes darted to and fro, trying to find a way out, but he could find none. His hand quivering, he handed the dagger to Jamsig. Immediately, the glazed look that had been in Aiden’s eyes went away. He shook his head and looked around in confusion.
“Wh-what happened?” Aiden asked, looking around. His eyes rested on the dagger. Fear flowed through him at the sight. “Jamsig, be careful,” Aiden said. “Jamsig, I don’t know what came over me! It was the dagger! You must get rid of it!” Jamsig laid a comforting hand on Aiden’s shoulder. “It’s okay. You’re safe now.” He paused. “We have a lot to discuss. Give me the scabbard for the dagger.” Aiden handed the scabbard over without question. “Good, now come closer, you need to hear the story of the Golden Eagle.”
Chapter 4: The Legend of the Golden Eagle
Tolgion draped a blanket around Aiden’s shoulders. Aiden’s eyes were glued to the dagger, which had found a new look since the past few days, but it was a look of genuine fear. Kelindril noted this delightfully, but also noticed a new look in Victor’s eyes; a look that Kelindril didn’t like one bit… Tolgion fished through his rucksack until he found a large, leather-bound book. Aiden noticed the title before Tolgion laid the book on the ground and started thumbing though the old, weathered pages, The Legend of the Eagle. After a few minutes, Tolgion finally stopped thumbing through the book. “Here it is,” he muttered. Tolgion held his hand over the book, closed his eyes, and muttered a short string of arcane words. The image on the page seemed to leap out of the book in a lifelike three-dimensional model of itself. Aiden recoiled in disgust at the creature. The creature had dark red skin, the skin seeming to ooze off of its body. Aiden almost vomited when he realized that there was no skin covering its well-muscled body, but a thick layer of blood that continuously oozed off of its body. Aiden also noticed the six, greatly muscled arms protruding from its sides; the middle set of arms had pincers instead of hands, and the other two sets of arms having hands. In three of hands, there were giant double-edged swords, the remaining hand carrying a great whip. On its back was pair of great, leathery, bat-like wings. Aiden did not see how those thin wings would be able to support such a gigantic beast. A great tail, with a sharp point on end of it gave the creature an even more dangerous look. What frightened Aiden though, was the creature’s face. Two great bull-like horns protruded from the side of its head. The creature had eight eyes, four in the front, and
four in the back of its head, each red, soulless eye having a deadly, ominous glow to it, like the rubies on the dagger’s hilt Aiden noticed. In its mouth were large, sharp, dangerous fangs that looked as if they could slice through anything it came across with ease, like a hot knife through butter. Aiden and Kelindril shivered at the sight of the great beast. No one caught the word that Victor mouthed at the sight of the creature, his eyes wide with an unknown emotion. Tolgion shivered. “This is U’groth Jon Balog, the most powerful and dangerous demon to have ever walked on the face of Farlonia.” “What does this have to do with anything?” Aiden asked, though he had a feeling in the pit of his stomach he already knew. Tolgion looked at Jamsig, who nodded. “The soul of U’groth Jon Balog is imbued into that dagger,” he said. Aiden’s eyes widened with shock. The soul of one of the most powerful demon to walk Farlonia was imbued in the blade that his own father had given him? Did his father know? He started shaking with the fear that coursed through his veins. It was a demon communicating with him? “But, I don’t understand. dagger?” Aiden asked. Jamsig answered. “Because of your claymore.” “What do you mean?” Tolgion turned the page. The breath flew from Aiden and Kelindril’s bodies as they gazed upon the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. Her hair was long, and How did that demon’s soul get imbued into that
silver, shining as if being bathed in moonlight. The flowing, silver dress covered her feet and ankles, her skin having a soft look to it. The thing Aiden couldn’t take his eyes off of was her two brilliant eyes. They were a shade of blue he had never seen in his life, so pure and bright. They glowed softly, like two sapphires. Tolgion looked them over, his eyes resting on Victor, who had a slight snarl on his face as he gazed at the woman. Tolgion noticed his eyes, seemingly glazed over, but not like Aiden’s had been. It was different… “Tolgion. Tolgion! Who is she?” Aiden yelled, Tolgion snapping out of his trance. “Oh, sorry. That is the Moon Goddess, Anaiya. She was U’groth’s greatest enemy.” Tolgion looked Aiden in the eye. “Her soul is imbued in your claymore.” Aiden’s eyes almost popped out of his head when heard this new development. A goddess, in his claymore? He pulled the claymore from its sheath; the sapphire eyes were glowing softly. He stared in amazement at the weapon. He could not grasp that in his hands he held the soul of a goddess. “It is good that you now know the truth of the dagger and about me. I could not communicate with you about the danger of the dagger because of the strong bond it had already developed with you.” The serene voice of the goddess filled his mind. “You may call me by my name, Anaiya. I am glad to have you as my master.” To Aiden, that didn’t seem so bad. “Tolgion, how did their souls get bound to the dagger and the claymore?” Aiden asked. “Ah, it’s a good story, one of the best to ever have been passed through the ages in my opinion, but unfortunately, there aren’t many people who remember the story.”
Tolgion winked at the group. “But lucky for you, you have a friend that is one of the best bards in all of Farlonia!” “If it’s your favorite story, then get on with it,” Jamsig said, becoming quite annoyed with Tolgion’s rambling. Tolgion rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay, no need to get bossy my friend.” Tolgion cleared his throat and he began his tale.
The Age of Legends as it is called today was a time of change on the continent of Farlonia. The Age of Legends occurred after the Dark Knight Pontorius was overthrown when a great company of all the goodly races of Farlonia banded together to fight his oppression. When they had breached the Pontorius’s fortress walls and taken the keep, the great knight Sir Dorgan the Brave slew Pontorius. With the defeat of Pontorius, wizards and scholars began unearthing ancient tomes and texts that Pontorius had hidden away at the time. These texts and tomes contained knowledge that many had thought lost, and it became an age of discovery. It was one young wizard, Isaac, Mage of the West as he was called, who found an old tome. The tome taught the reader how to summon creatures from another plane of existence that nobody had ever seen before. Isaac took the tome in secret, not wanting any other scholar or wizard to attempt that which he wanted to attempt: to summon a demon.
Isaac remained shut in his tower at the old Arcane University, which resided in the ancient city of Numinor, for weeks studying the ancient text. He learned that he had to make a Circle of Power that would allow him to control whatever creature he was able to summon. The day he drew the circle, he drew it very carefully, drawing the arcane runes from the text exactly. When he had finished, he crossed his legs and sat on the floor. He was nervous, more nervous than he had ever been in his life. He didn’t know what would appear, but cowards did not have their names written down in history, and he wanted eternal glory… Isaac closed his eyes and concentrated, chanting a long string of arcane words that would open a gateway to a new plane of existence. He chanted for what seemed like the longest time and when he stopped, he heard nothing. He opened his eyes, thinking that the incantation had not worked. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the creature in front of him. The creature was small, only about three feet tall. It had small leathery wings and a long whip-like with a sharp point on it. Its face resembled that of a canine, its snoutlike mouth grinning, small dagger-like teeth showing. Isaac studied the creature carefully, noting every detail of its small, well-built frame. The creature’s beady little black eyes eyed Isaac up and down, studying the man that had summoned him. Isaac finally got the courage to communicate with the creature. “What are you?” he asked. The creature laughed, a smoky, guttural laugh. “I am Sha’rabe, an imp from the Plane of the Abyss,” it replied in a guttural language that Isaac had difficulty translating.
The imp seemed to mean no harm, and that gave Isaac courage to continue conversing with it. “So, you are an imp from the Plane of the Abyss?” Sha’rabe laughed. “Yes, I am from the Plane of the Abyss, not you would know what the Abyss it. It has been so long since I have walked on this plane of existence; I forget how simpleminded you humans are.” It continued to laugh. After a few minutes, it regained its composure. “I know why you summoned me, but if it is power that you want, I regret to inform you that I cannot give you eternal glory.” Isaac was startled by the imp’s statement. How did it know that he wanted eternal glory? By the startled expression on Isaac’s face, the imp knew that its guess had been correct, for no one summoned a demon to just talk, even if no one had attempted to communicate with a creature from Abyss for the longest time. It meant to make the most of its time while it was here. Besides, its master needed a fool who would believe anything… “If you wish to have eternal glory, a mere imp like myself, I am sad to say, will not bring you glory.” The imp’s voice became excited. “If you wish to have eternal glory, send me back to the Abyss, and call forth my master. He will bring you the glory that you desire so much!” Isaac wet his lips to the thought of eternal glory. The imp stared at Isaac in satisfaction. This mere human did not know what he would be calling forth, and that was fine with Sha’rabe. His master would be pleased. “Yes! I do want eternal glory!” Isaac’s eyes shone with greed. “Tell me how to summon your master!”
The imp cackled. How easy it was to influence humans! The imp could not help but say a prayer to its god for giving him such an easily influenced human. The imp locked gazes with Isaac. “If you wish to summon my master, send me back to the Abyss. When I am gone, say the same incantation you said that brought me here, but at the end, say my master’s name.” “What is your master’s name?” Isaac asked, growing tired of the imp stalling. The evil grin that Sha’rabe gave Isaac chilled the marrow in his bones. “U’groth Jon Balog!” The name sent a chill down Isaac’s spine. But he didn’t care. His name would go down in the books like he wanted, the name Isaac, Mage of the West, wait, no, Isaac, Tamer of Demons, would go down in history. “You are dismissed,” he said to the imp. The imp cackled as the gate to the Abyss opened. The bait had been set. U’groth Jon Balog would conquer this plane of existence, but that pitiful human would not realize that until it was too late. How easy it was to manipulate humans. Besides, the circle of power was drawn incorrectly… Isaac immediately stated concentrating as soon as Sha’rabe left. He recited the incantation carefully, not wanting to mess up. As he neared the end of the incantation, butterflies began to fill his stomach. “…come forth to me, U’groth Jon Balog!” he finished in a loud shout. The tower began to shake uncontrollably. Isaac watched in awe as the gate to the Abyss opened before him. He felt his body shaking uncontrollably, but he was not sure if it was from the intense shaking of the tower, or from the fear that was welling inside him. The gate shifted and warped; Isaac stared in horror as four great arms reached through the
gateway and opened the gate wider so it could fit its great bulk through the gate. Its gigantic feet stepped out slowly, ominously. The terror that he felt became indescribable as the great, red, soulless eyes stared at him; the evil grin it was giving Isaac made him wet himself. As the demon pulled its bulk from the gate, Isaac noticed the three sword scabbards, two on its back, and one on its left hip. What caught Isaac’s eye was the giant whip that resided on its right hip. He could only imagine the terror the beast could inflict with that whip. As the demon finished stepping from the portal, the ground tower stopped shaking, although Isaac was afraid that the floor would give in under the tremendous weight of the demon. The demon stretched to its full height, almost twelve feet tall, and grinned maliciously as its gaze fell over the fool who summoned it. Isaac trembled as he watched the demon’s skin drip from its flesh, his eyes widening in disgust as he realized what it truly was. The demon stretched out its long, disgusting arms and cracked his knuckles, which sounded like thunder. “So,” it began, in a deep, smoky, guttural, booming voice, “Sha’rabe was right. You are fool enough to summon a demon.” The great demon reared back its head and gave a great, booming laugh that shook the tower once more. “You should have known, foolish human, what you were getting into before you summoned me. Eternal glory… Ha! Sha’rabe has gotten many fools with that same line, and every one of them has fallen for it!” The demon’s eyes narrowed. “I am U’groth Jon Balog, and I cannot be
controlled by someone of so little power as you, or any of the other fools that summoned me.” A great, evil grin came to its face. “Let me show you what happened to those before you who summoned me…”
A great hand reached for the whip on its hip. Isaac knew he should have run, but when he tried to stand, he fell right back down, his legs shaking uncontrollably and not able to support his weight. He watched in horror as the demon stepped from the circle of power, uncoiling the whip ever so slowly to accentuate its point. Isaac screamed as the demon lifted him effortlessly from the ground; U’groth began wrapping whip around the unfortunate wizard’s body, Isaac screaming in agony as the whip tightened like that of a great snake. The demon muttered an arcane command that Isaac could not hear, and watched in pure terror as thousands of small spiders crawled out of the whip, all of them crawling towards him. As the first spiders reached the unfortunate wizard, they immediately began to bite. Isaac screamed louder in more pain than he had ever experienced in his life. He looked down as one of the spiders bit an exposed finger, bone immediately showing as acid in the spider’s fangs ate through his skin and muscle. He could only imagine that was what was happening to the rest of his body as the spider’s bit down. U’groth was enjoying the spectacle; he had not inflicted so much torture in centuries, and he missed it so dearly. He called the spiders off with another arcane command, enjoying the sight of Isaac gasping for breath, bone showing on his face where the spider’s venom had eaten through him. “I’m sorry, but I have more important things to do right now than this. I did enjoy our little fun we had thought, didn’t you? No? Well, I can’t say I am not surprised. Wait, I just had an idea.” Isaac did not like the tone of U’groth’s voice. U’groth lifted Isaac high in the air, and dropped the whip, hanging on tight to the handle. Isaac tumbled in circles as he fell. There was a sharp pinch in his back, but Isaac hardly felt it. As Isaac
reached the floor, U’groth jerked sharply up on the whip. An intense and fiery pain shot through Isaac’s body as the little skin he had left was ripped from his body and he landed heavily on the ground. The demon laughed as he gazed at Isaac; he was lying in a pool of blood, all of his muscle tissue and bone was all that was left of him. Isaac was hardly breathing, but breathing never the less. The demon’s grin grew even wider when he realized this. “Still breathing, eh? Well that is good; otherwise you would miss me doing this.” The demon plucked Isaac’s skin from the sharp point that had appeared on the whip. He grinned down at Isaac, and threw the skin into its mouth. Isaac’s mutilated body shivered, how, he did not know. The demon wiped its mouth. Isaac watched as the demon bent down, the blood skin dripping on his body. U’groth stared at Isaac’s body, and watched as U’groth bent down ripped Isaac’s slowly beating heart from his body. Being in so much pain already, he didn’t feel his heart being ripped out of his body. Isaac’s eyes began to cloud over in death; the last thing he saw was U’groth toss his heart in the air and catch it in his mouth, hearing one last time, that evil laugh. So passed Isaac, Mage of the West. U’groth stared at the corpse of the man fool enough to summon him. He soon realized the knocking on the door and the shouting on the other side. He bent down and ripped the door from its hinges, four older wizards staring in horror at the great demon and the corpse of their old colleague. One wizard quickly found his composure, and began to cast a spell. The other three wizards gazed in horror as a great whip cracked, creating a sound like that of thunder, and the head of the other wizards flew into the air,
landing in one of their hands, the face still in deep concentration; the corpse of the headless wizard fell to the floor with a dull thud. The three wizards ran, the one with the head dropping it. As they neared the stairs that would take them down the tower, the whip shot out, catching the wizard in the back by the ankle. The poor wizard has hauled back screaming, clawing at the ground hoping it would slow his inevitable demise; it didn’t. All it did was leave a trail of blood from where his fingernails had been torn off on the rough stone floor. The two wizards ran, hearing their friend scream, and listening to the sickening crunch as the demon began to eat him. U’groth stared around the top of the tower, growing tired of it. “I think it needs a little touch up,” it chuckled. Three arms reached for their respected swords, and with a great sweep of its wings, U’groth was flying through the roof of the tower. Citizens below screamed as U’groth ripped the ceiling off of the tallest tower of the Arcane University. Through a window, it saw the two wizards he had seen earlier. It chuckled as the whip cracked and killed the two wizards. No one ever escaped the might of U’groth Jon Balog. At the top of the tower, the portal to the Abyss remained open. U’groth grinned wickedly and flew to the portal. He looked inside; demons were lined up at the portal, not daring to come out unless their master beckoned them to come. “Come my minions, let us have some fun!” Demons poured from the portal to the Abyss; monstrous creatures that were created specifically to kill and wreak havoc. U’groth laughed as all of his minions flew, crawled, walked, and ran through the portal, howling with glee and excitement. U’groth
looked over the top of the wall that had once held the roof, watching with glee as demons jumped from the top of the tower into the city of Numinor. Sha’rabe landed on U’groth’s shoulder, watching the carnage below as the demons had their fun. Screams erupted from every corner of the city; some of the guards had managed to form some kind of resistance, shooting arrows into the ranks of oncoming demons; their ranks were quickly decimated by the continuing waves of creatures. Sha’rabe chuckled. “Is it not wonderful, Master?” U’groth chuckled. “It is wonderful Sha’rabe. You have done well.” The imp bowed its head. “I live only to serve you,” it replied. “Shall we go and torment our friends down there?” U’groth said casually, watching as a flying demon dropped a large boulder on an unsuspecting group of people who were to busy being cornered by another demon to notice the giant boulder flying down towards them. U’groth nodded his approval of the demon that dropped the boulder, basking in the satisfying sound of the boulder smashing the people and the spray of blood that followed. Sha’rabe laughed at the people’s unfortunate demise. “Yes, I think I would like to join the fray,” it replied, still chuckling. “Then let us go,” U’groth replied, spreading its wings. attached to U’groth’s shoulder as the two plunged into the city. By the end of the day, the city of Numinor was completely destroyed. Mutilated corpses littered the ground throughout the city, building were leveled, fires ravaging the rest of the city. Demons fed on the corpses, enjoying their victory over the city of Sha’rabe remained
Numinor. U’groth strolled through the city, inhaling the rotten stench of burnt corpses with pleasure. Sha’rabe relaxed lazily on U’groth’s shoulder, its tail swishing back and forth. “We did good, didn’t we Master?” Sha’rabe asked. U’groth nodded. “Very good. An entire city taken in half a day is a real
accomplishment. The next city probably will not be as easy as word has probably already spread about demons walking the Material Plane.” The demon stopped and looked thoughtful. “Of course, maybe word hasn’t spread. There hasn’t been a demon to walk the Material Plane in so long a time, maybe they won’t know what happened.” Sha’rabe grinned. “Should I tell rest of the demons to move out?” it asked hopefully. U’groth nodded. “We move out at dawn.”
Tolgion paused to look at his audience. Aiden and Kelindril were staring at the halfling through wide eyes, Jamsig and Dodmic looked grim, but what caught his eye was Victor. He seemed to be enjoying the story… a little too much. Tolgion decided he needed to keep an eye on Victor while he told the next part of the story. “That…that demon…is a monster,” Aiden whispered. Tolgion nodded. “U’groth was the worst thing to ever walk on the Material Plane. Many ancient cities such as Numinor were completely wiped out from the history of
Farlonia. Millions of people died at the hands of U’groth and his minions, some races were eventually wiped out completely.” Kelindril shook his head. “I cannot believe the foolishness of some people.” Tolgion nodded. “Greed and the promise of eternal glory and power can corrupt even the noblest of heroes. It has been proven time and time again.” “What happened after that Tolgion,” Aiden asked. Tolgion looked at Aiden. “The largest war that has ever occurred on Farlonia. A war between a goddess, and a demon…”
It had been almost four months since U’groth and his demons had emerged from the portal in the Arcane University in Numinor. In those four months, U’groth had wiped out numerous cities, killed millions of people, and had wiped out almost three races of Farlonians. Within the first few days of the demons emerging, word had spread about demons walking the continent of Farlonia. At first, the major rulers dismissed the fact, thinking that those who were to be affected by the invasion would be able to handle everything. All of that changed when the Jaguarnians, an ancient race of militaristic cat people, were completely wiped out by the demon invasion. The Jaguarnians were
supposedly some of the best warriors in Farlonia, and when rulers found out that they had been annihilated, people began to worry. Most people fled by ship to far off lands, but many stayed, not wanting to leave their lands.
An alliance was formed between all of the remaining peoples of Farlonia. Elves, dwarves, halflings, humans, the Istar, a race of lizard people, and many other races put aside any differences that they might have towards each other in order to put a stop to the demon invasion. Anaiya, Goddess of the Moon, watched from the Plane of the Immortals, a plane of existence where the gods of Farlonia dwelt. Her long, silver hair hung over her shoulder, her piercing blue eyes staring through her scrying mirror at the chaos that U’groth was causing. Anger flared through her body, quite unusual for her as she always kept a level head in even the direst situations. But for some reason, this was different, and she didn’t quite know why… She winced as she watched U’groth skewer four small children with one of his great blades. A great silver eagle was perched on a pedestal near her whom she called Celeb, which meant silver in Elvish; its eyes were locked onto the scrying mirror, watching the carnage also. “We must do something,” she whispered. Celeb nodded its agreement and gave a great screech. “What do you think that we should do?” she asked. “We must go to war with the demon,” Celeb imparted to Anaiya telepathically. Anaiya nodded her head thoughtfully. Something would have to be done, and as much as she hated violence, she knew it would eventually boil down to war. There was a loud screech from above. Anaiya looked up as a great golden eagle landed on a second perch near her. She called the golden eagle Malthen, which meant golden in the old tongue. Malthen was Anaiya’s spy on the Material Plane and also her trusted advisor in times of
war. He came every once in a while to relay to her news from the world of mortals. He had been coming more recently though because of the demon invasion, relaying news to her. “How are things on the Material Plane?” Anaiya asked anxiously, her gaze falling back to the scrying mirror, wincing as yet another demon slaughtered an innocent child. The eagle shook its head. “Things are very bad, Lady Anaiya. U’groth’s forces move through Farlonia with ease, completely annihilating all those that dare to fight.” The eagle’s sharp, piercing gaze met Anaiya’s. “If we do not act soon, U’groth will destroy that entire plane of existence.” The eagle’s telepathic voice was suddenly filled with anger. “Why have we not helped them? Do you think that those mortals can take on demons when there is not one person who has seen a demon in centuries? With all respect my Lady, we must act now!” Her gaze fell to the scrying glass. She watched as the claws of the imp Sha’rabe, ripped a beautiful little girl’s throat out, in front of her parents who soon followed her to the grave. Tears welled in her eyes. Why had she not acted sooner? An iron hard look of pure hate filled her blue eyes, as an image of U’groth appeared in the mirror. She turned to Malthen and Celeb. “Celeb, get my armor, blade, and spear and prepare the troops. Malthen, prepare the Eyries for battle. We leave as soon as we possibly can.” Malthen nodded and flew off to ready the Eyries. Celeb flew to Anaiya’s armory and grabbed her armor and arms. Anaiya pulled the light chainmail over her head. The chainmail was made from adamantite, the most resilient form of metal found on any plane of existence. On the front of the chainmail was her symbol, an eagle that was half gold and half silver. She looked at her war helmet, polished silver, a small figurine of an
eagle in mid-flight on the front of her helmet. She put the helmet on, perfectly fitting her head. She buckled her sword onto her belt, slinging her spear over her shoulder by the strap that was attached to it. She watched as Malthen flew over her head and landed next to her. “Lady Anaiya, the troops are ready. Your chariot awaits,” Malthen imparted as she landed on the other side of Anaiya. Anaiya nodded. Anaiya took a deep breath. She knew what would have to be done to stop the demon and its hordes, but she did not want her advisors to know; they would not like what would have to be done… Anaiya turned to view her troops. Every soldier in her army was one of her chosen people, the Eyries. The Eyries were a race of bird people that she had created. Each had the face of an eagle, their beaks sharp, and their brown eyes piercing. Each wore a helmet on their feathered heads, sporting chainmail armor with the symbol of Anaiya. In their feathered hands, they each held a spear and a wooden buckler. On their belts there were a pair of swords, each one finely crafted. As her gazed fell over her force of loyal soldiers, they each bowed to her, ready to serve her to the death. She felt a rush of pride for her soldiers, knowing that many of them would not return. She turned to her chariot, a gift that she had received from Kantar, the dwarven god of war, centuries ago, finely crafted from silver, and trimmed with gold. A team of two giant red-tailed hawks, ready to fulfill their duty and go to war were harnessed to the chariot. She stepped lightly onto the chariot, Celeb and Malthen landing on the sides of the chariot. She turned to face her soldiers once more. “Are you ready? Are you ready
to risk your lives to save those on the Material Plane? Are you ready to fight the demon scourge and prove your bravery? Are you ready for victory?” A loud cheer erupted from the ranks. She felt pride in her soldiers, soldiers who would die for her and for people that was of no concern to them. “Then let us go into battle! To glory! To victory!” The cheer grew louder. The Eyries began beating their spears on their shields. Yes, they were ready. Anaiya concentrated. A portal to the material plane opened, she gazed at the battle that ensued. The demons were in the city of Tolgoa. Tolgoa was once a city of culture, its inhabitants a variety of culture: humans, elves, and dwarves, even halflings. She watched as one of the fabled Knights of the White Stallion fought off three imps at once. He had great skill as he slew two of them; the third grabbed the man’s dagger at his hip and drove the blade home through the heavy plate metal into his chest. “Are you ready, my lady?” Malthen asked, anxious to get into the fray. She turned to her soldiers. “Forward! Through the portal! As soon as you land, form ranks and we will banish this scourge!” The ground shook as the Eyries raced through the portal to the Material Plane. Time seemed to slow down as she watched the Eyries, running with all of their might, spears at the ready, yelling her praises. She closed her eyes. With a sudden start, she opened her eyes, fire raging in them. She yelled at he top of her lungs and charged through the portal after their soldiers. She felt a rush of wind as she traversed the planes of existence. Landing on the Material Plane, she watched as the Eyries quickly formed ranks, boosting the morale of the Tolgoa’s knights. The elves
recognized their goddess of the moon and her company of Eyries and began to fight with renewed vigor. Tolgoa might just survive the onslaught… Anaiya quickly dismounted from her chariot. Anaiya’s armor gleamed in the sun; her spear was poised for battle. Three imps saw the Elven goddess and charged in, thinking that they could overwhelm her with greater numbers. They were sadly mistaken. The first imp that began its attack on Anaiya was clutched its throat as her spear point slashed across its throat. Not stopping her momentum, she grabbed a second imp by the tail and drove her boot into the back of its head and drove the butt end of her spear into its neck. Using the imp’s corpse, she threw it with all of her might at the third imp, the momentum of the throw slamming it into a wall, breaking its spine. Anaiya did not let up her assault. More demons crowded around her, each one falling to her spear. She finally had to draw her sword when her spear snapped in half as she skewered the demons left and right. Twirling her sword in magnificent patterns, she hacked her way through the onslaught of demons. She winced as a demon’s claws slashed her sword arm, blood streaming from the slash. Ignoring the pain, she kept on fighting, much to the dismay of the demon spawn. The Eyries were fairing well in the fight. Many demons fell to the combined might of the Eyries and the Knights of the White Stallion. The Tolgoan Knights of the White Stallion had regained their morale and were fighting like they had never fought before. The demons began to realize that they were losing far too many numbers. Some demons began to fly off that could, and those remaining fought for their lives. Then U’groth appeared.
Anaiya gazed in awe at the great demon made its appearance. It gazed down at the god and goddess an evil grin spreading across its face. The Eyries and the Tolgoan Knights readied themselves. Sha’rabe stared down at the soldiers, grinning almost as evilly as U’groth. The grin on Sha’rabe’s face was soon wiped off of its face as it heard the shriek of two eagles. Celeb and Malthen swept out of the sky and each grabbed one of Sha’rabe’s arms. The imp squealed with fright as the eagles began flying in opposite directions, pain shooting through its body as it felt its arms being ripped apart. U’groth snarled at the eagles. He looked at Anaiya, and the grin on its face grew wider. He pointed one hand at his most loyal servant and the two eagles, muttered an arcane word, and a bolt of red energy shot out at the two eagles. Anaiya’s entire body went numb as she watched what took place. The eagles’ shrieks were shrieks of pure pain. She watched as their bodies began to stiffen and shrink. She watched as Malthen’s body began to shrink further when Celeb’s stopped shrinking. A small curved blade began to emerge from Malthen’s head, his eyes
becoming hollow shells. A long blade erupted from Celeb’s head, her eyes also becoming hollow shells. Her body went numb as she realized that Celeb had been transformed into a beautiful claymore; Malthen a beautiful dagger. U’groth roared with laughter as the dagger, and claymore plummeted to the earth. Celeb landed, sword point buried in the ground, Malthen landing right next to Celeb. “NOOOOOO!” Anaiya screamed as she gazed upon her closest friends. She rushed over to the weapons, but was repulsed by a wave of energy issued by U’groth as she neared them.
All fighting had ceased as the event took place. Anaiya was on the ground, weeping; U’groth continuously roaring with laughter. Anaiya stood up slowly, a wild look in her eye. She pointed her sword at U’groth, and through a quivering voice, she called out to the demon. “You will pay for what you have done! I shall slay you, demon, and the last thing that you will ever see will be my face!” The demon continued to roar with laughter at the goddess’s proclamation. “You will not slay me, o Goddess of the Moon!” Its gaze darkened. “It will be I who slays you!” Anaiya fixed her gazed on the demon. It was ten feet taller than her, but she seemed not to notice. “Hand me your bow,” she whispered to an elf of the Knights of the White Stallion. The elf handed his bow and quiver over to Anaiya. She accepted the bow, but refused the arrows. She held the bow forward and muttered an arcane word. The bow transformed into a bow of pure light and it let off an intense glow of white light. Many had to shield their eyes from its glow. U’groth shielded its eyes from its glow with one of its hands, another reaching for its whip. As it reached for its whip, a flash of pain shot through its body. U’groth looked down, his eyes widening with shock as its gaze fell across a smoldering hole in its hand. It looked at Anaiya; she was holding the bow in her hands, poised to shoot. The bow was drawn back; a bolt of lightning was in the place of the arrow. Her gaze was pure ice, her blue eyes shining with tears. She released the bolt of lightning, and quickly drew the string back, another bolt replacing the one she had shot.
She fired it, and three more in quick succession. The lightning arrows pierced U’groth at the top of the arm that had reached for the whip, each burning a hole through its skin. As the arrows continued to rain upon U’groth, the magic arrows eventually severed the arm. U’groth screamed in pain. He watched as his arm fall, but paid it little more heed after that; he had five left. Anaiya’s gaze did not alter when the great demon charged after her. She rained arrow upon arrow on U’groth, severing two more of its arms and leaving many holes in its chest; it just kept coming. She ran to her chariot, urging the hawks into motion as soon as she stepped onto the chariot. The hawks sped off into the sky. U’groth picked up three boulders with his remaining arms and hurled them at her. The agile hawks easily dodged the boulders. She aimed carefully with her bow, looking for a weak spot. It suddenly came to her. She aimed at its head, and fired four quick shots, each of the bolts hitting one of the four eyes on the front of its face. U’groth clutched at his face and screamed in agony. Anaiya’s eagles circled around to the other side of its head and she let off four more bolts, completely blinding the demon. She had the chariot land next to one of her Eyries who was a powerful wizard. “It cannot be killed,” she said. “You must bind its soul.” “To what?” the Eyrie asked. “It does not matter!” she exclaimed. “We don’t have time! Even blinded, it can destroy everything in its path!” The Eyrie nodded. It focused its energy, feeling the magic within its body. He pointed a feathered hand at U’groth, and shouted aloud, “Kenya Dar Balog!”
U’groth reared back in pain, feeling as if its very soul were being torn from its body. Suddenly, U’groth was looking at its body. Its eyesight had been restored, its arms grown back. U’groth watched in horror as its body crumpled; he looked at itself, only to find that it was a spirit. The Eyrie’s magic had worked; U’groth’s soul had been torn from its body. U’groth roared, but it felt as if it was not heard. It felt a strange tugging, and it finally realized what was happening; if it was to be bound to an object, it would be an object of its choosing… Its four front eyes caught a shimmer of gold on the ground, Malthen’s daggershaped body. U’groth laughed as it changed the flow of where its soul was heading to that of the dagger. Something else caught its eye also: its whip. The whip was still attached to its waist, and his grin grew wider. If he was to be bound to an object, he would not be the only one… He withdrew the whip from its waist; the whip was a shadow of its former self, but that didn’t matter. He snapped the whip back. Anaiya watched as U’groth’s body tumbled to the ground with loud thud. The demons stared in horror as their leader fell. Silence spread throughout the battlefield. The Eyrie looked up, confusion on its face. Anaiya began to ask what had happened, when she felt a fierce and painful sting. She looked at the sky, her eyes wide with horror as her soul was stripped from her body. She heard U’groth’s maniacal laugh behind her. She watched, as her body
seemed to hover in the air for a split second, before it collapsed to the ground. She turned to face the soul of the demon.
U’groth roared with laughter. “You did not think it would be that easy did you, moon goddess? Did you think you could so easily defeat U’groth Jon Balog, Lord of the Abyss?” U’groth laughed. Anaiya stared at U’groth, hatred in her eyes. U’groth roared with laughter as his soul was bound to the dagger that was once her most trusted commander. Anaiya looked around. No one could see her of course as her soul was separated from the Material Plane. She could not go back to her body; she knew that. There was only one place that she could go. She followed the gleam of silver that was Celeb. As she neared the claymore, she felt the tug as her soul was drawn to the weapon. She looked at her followers once more before blackness took over her sight…
Tolgion looked up as he finished the story. Aiden had tears streaming down his face, Kelindril’s eyes full of sadness. Jamsig and Dodmic nodded, their hearts full of sadness. Victor’s eyes were narrowed, seeming to be deep in thought. “Now you know,” Tolgion said. “That is the story of the moon goddess Anaiya and Lord of Demons, U’groth Jon Balog.” Tolgion shook his head. “No one knows. Soon after the three souls were bound, the demons were banished back into the Abyss by a final charge from the Eyries and the Knights of the White Stallion. The claymore and the dagger were given to the people of Tolgoa. The Eyries took the body of Anaiya back to the Plane of the Immortals where her body is said to still be preserved in the Hall of the Immortals. The weapons were said to be presented to two knights, the claymore and dagger to Sir Gram the Honorable and
Sir Garrett the Brave when they retired from the Knights of the White Stallion, whose name was later changed to the Knight of the Golden Eagle in honor of Malthen.” Aiden’s eyes widened at the mention of his father. Sir Gram the Honorable? Aiden began to feel like he didn’t even know his father anymore. What else didn’t his father tell him? “What happened to Sir Garrett?” Kelindril asked. Tolgion shook his head once more. “No one knows. He traveled with Sir Gram for many years. Soon afterwards, Garrett split away from Gram and was never heard from again.” Silence settled in the group once more. Aiden gazed at the claymore, the blue sapphires glowing brightly and peacefully, just like Anaiya’s eyes as Tolgion had described them. Jamsig looked into the night sky. “It’s late. We need to get some sleep; there is still a long journey ahead of us.” The group consented and they all lay down except for Dodmic who decided to take the first watch. As Aiden laid his head on his rucksack for a pillow, he heard the voice of Anaiya. “Aiden, I hope we can become good friends. I will help you in anyway possible and I will not take over your body unless you bid me to. Sleep peacefully and know that you are protected.” There was a screech above, like that of an eagle. Aiden closed his eyes and smiled, knowing that he was being watched. He like the thought of that…
Chapter 5: Old Acquaintances
He gazed from the hilltop down to the quiet, peaceful village before him. Reaper sat at his side, invisible in the dark night, all three heads yawning. Bors snickered at the unfortunate village that was before him; it was going to be a long night. “Shall I ready the troops, my lord?” Bors asked excitement evident in his voice. His three-fingered hand stroked his sword hilt, ready to put it to its deadly work. He stared at the village. There was business he had to take care of before the raid began. He glared at Bors through eyes, a look that was as cold as ice. Bors did not like that look; he had felt the results from that glare before… “Do not speak,” he hissed. “You will get to have your fun soon enough, but I have business to take care of first.” Reaper’s ears perked up at the mention of the business that was to come. Bors cringed in fright. “S-shall I accompany you, my lord?” He had Bors in the air by his neck in an instant. He squeezed tighter and tighter, Bors’s eyes beginning to bulge from their sockets. “Did I not just tell you to be quiet?” he whispered dangerously; Bors was beginning to turn blue. “Well? Answer me!” Bors tried to talk, but all that came out was a gurgle. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He threw Bors down forcefully, hearing a satisfied crack as Bors’s nose broke under the forceful throw. Bors got up slowly, blood streaming from his broken nose. “Go back to the camp and await my return.” Bors stared at him. “Well? What are you waiting for? GO!” Bors ran away as fast as he could down the hill to the camp where his master’s horde awaited orders to begin the raid.
He turned back to the village. He was down there; he knew it. He turned to Reaper. “Let’s go.” The two set off down the hill. The horde had left weeks ago and had made good progress. Hundreds of villages had been burned along the way; he smiled as he recalled the village of Sundar where a woman had begged for him to spare her child. He had taken the child and split it in half with his axe before her very eyes; she soon followed the child to the grave with sword through her ribs. He laughed aloud and Reaper looked at him curiously. He stroked the dog’s middle head fondly. As they neared the bottom of the hill, he heard the distant trot of a horse’s hooves. He hid behind a tree, Reaper doing likewise and beginning to growl. He held a finger to his lips for silence and the dog obediently fell quiet. As he gazed at the horseman, he immediately recognized the white horse with large patches of brown on it. Reaper’s ears perked up as it gazed at the horse. “So,” he thought, “he still has that old horse. That can’t be him though; he is much too young…” He nodded his head at Reaper to follow him. Reaper set off silently behind the rider, not making a sound even in the dry summer grass. He relaxed against the tree; it might be awhile before Reaper returned. He closed his eyes. His thoughts returned to those days long ago when he had been one of the noblest knights in all of Farlonia; days seemed like they were a dream; days when he had been known by a different name… He pulled the battleaxe from the loop on his back. He studied the axe, his most trusted weapon since he had acquired it so long ago. He ran his hand down the handle of
the axe, it seeming to have a tail wrapped around the entire length of it. He ran a finger down the edge of its blade, sharper than anything in Farlonia. The thing that always caught his eye when he looked it over was the small imp-like head that was at the top of the handle. Where its eyes should have been were two onyx gems, black the night, black as his armor; black as his heart… He lifted his gaze from the axe when he heard the soft padding that signaled Reaper’s return. He stood up and looked at his faithful companion. “Well? Is it he?” Reaper nodded its three heads in response. “Lead the way.” He followed Reaper into the woods beside the worn, dirt path, keeping to the shadows so they could remain unseen incase someone came by. After a short walk, they came upon an old farmhouse. “Is this it?” he whispered. The dog’s middle head nodded its consent. “Stick to the shadows and come when only if I call you.” Reaper’s heads nodded and he started towards the farmhouse. He stopped when he stepped on something soft. He looked down to see the rider’s dead, mutilated corpse on the ground, his throat torn out and his arms missing. He looked at Reaper and nodded at the dog’s handiwork. He crept silently to a window at the front of the farmhouse, staying out of sight by crouching. Light was flooding into the dark night from the windows. He lifted his head slightly so that he could peer into the house. He was looking into the living room of house. A pretty young girl sat in an armchair sewing; a great sheepdog lay by the fireplace. His gaze fell on the man, in his middle ages with gray just beginning to steak his brown hair. He smiled; he had found him.
He crept to the front door and stood straight. The peaceful silence of the night was broken as the girl screamed and the dog barking when he busted the door down with one powerful kick of his. He walked calmly into the farmhouse, his black armor shining even in the dimness of the candlelight. The man ran to the hallway, a sword in his hand, the girl and the sheepdog close behind. He was quite satisfied with the wide-eyed look of surprise when the man’s eyes met with his and the shaking of his sword hand. He laughed. “It has been too long, hasn’t it Gram.” “You,” Gram snarled. His blue eyes flashed angrily. “I should have known that you were behind all of the attacks on those villages and towns. I thought you were dead…” He held his hand to his heart in mock surprise. “Dead? Me?” His eyes narrowed. “Surely you know that you can’t get rid of me that easily, did you?” Gram’s sword arm tightened. “What do you want here Garrett.” His mouth tightened at the mention of his name; few knew it. His mouth
slackened quickly though. “You know what I desire my old friend,” he replied. “Where are they?” Gram’s smirk told him what he needed to know. “They aren’t here, Garrett. They are long since gone.” Garrett had Gram in the air by the neck in an instant. “Where are they,” he breathed menacingly. “It would be in your best interest to tell me, old friend.” Gram struggled to breath, but he kept his composure, even in the face of death. “I will never tell you where they are.”
Garrett looked thoughtful. “Yes, you are right. Your will is too strong. But, I wonder how strong your daughter’s will is…” Gram’s eyes flashed with fierce anger. “If you touch my daughter, I will-” his statement was cut off as Garrett squeezed tighter, cutting off his air further. Gram could hardly breathe as Garrett tightened his grip even more. There was only one thing he could do. He raised his sword arm and slashed. The blade hit Garrett’s steel clad arm, barely making a scratch, but loosening the iron-hard grip enough for him to shout out, “Selena, run!” Selena ran as fast as she could up the stairs. Garrett shook his head sadly. “First you scratch my armor, and now you make me chase after you daughter?” He snarled suddenly. “You shouldn’t have done either of those.” Garrett slammed Gram into the wall with such force that he broke clear through the wall. Then, setting him lightly against the wall, Garrett slugged Gram across the face with his gauntleted hand, smashing Gram’s nose. He tossed the unconscious man aside easily before turning to the stairs. Bear was there waiting, his mouth curled back and baring his sharp teeth. Garrett shook his head and whistled. Reaper tore pass Garrett and slammed into the old
sheepdog. The two dogs rolled around, snapping and barking. Garrett walked pass the two dogs; Reaper could take care of himself. He walked up the stairs, the sounds of the two dogs fighting filling his ears in the background. He slowly drew the battleaxe from its loop on his back as he arrived at the top of the stairs. The top floor of the house was more or less an attic of sorts. There was a small bed in the corner and a small washing stand. He laughed; there was no place to hide.
He stalked around the top floor, his boots not making a sound as they landed on the wooden planks of the floor, and made his way to the bed. He lifted the blanket and peered under the bed. His dark, evil eyes met with Selena’s wide, fearful ones. She screamed at the top of her lungs as Garrett reached under and jerked her forcefully from underneath the bed. He lifted her easily into the air, flung her over her shoulder, and walked down the stairs. When he arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Selena screamed and passed out as she saw Bear’s remains, the saw the old sheepdog torn to shreds, Reaper not showing a single scratch on his body. Gram was beginning to stir where Garrett had left him, blood still gushing from his nose and from a gash on his head. Garrett replace the axe in its loop, slugged Gram across the face once more to knock him back into unconsciousness, and threw him over his other shoulder. farmhouse. Outside, Garrett had a thought. He laid Gram and Selena down on the ground looked back at the farmhouse. “Watch them,” he said to Reaper. Reaper sat next to Gram and Selena and watched. Garrett walked around the barnyard and found a large barrel of oil. He took the barrel and poured a trail of oil all around the yard and inside the house. He found a tinderbox and lit the oil. Flames spread throughout the entire farm in a matter of seconds, engulfing everything; buildings, fences, animals were engulfed in the flames. Garrett walked calmly back to Gram and Selena and threw them over his shoulders again. He walked out of the farm, Reaper behind him, the flames rising higher He whistled for Reaper and they left the
in the night sky, crackling in the night and the sounds of dying animals filling the air. It had been a good night… Garrett and Reaper arrived back at the encampment a short time later. He went straight to his tent and laid the two down. Bors entered soon afterward, looking curiously at the two unconscious figures on the ground. When Bors looked at his master about them, he just glared at him. Bors turned his gaze away. Garrett looked at Bors coldly. Bors felt tiny beneath that gaze. “Well? Are the troops ready?” Bors looked up, surprise written on his face. “My lord?” Garrett rolled his eyes. “Are the troops ready Bors. I’ve finished the business I had to take care of.” Bors cackled gleefully. “I shall ready them immediately, my lord. Is there any special request you like me to carry out to them?” Garrett stared coldly at Bors, the look that was like a thousand tons of ice. “Spare no one,” he whispered. “Burn everything to the ground, kill any livestock, and most of all,” he paused. “Slaughter their children. Kill the babies in front of their mothers and revel in that sight of pure horror.” Bors bowed low as he left. “As you wish, my lord.” Bors ran out of the tent happily. He ran through the camp calling the horde to arms. Goblins, orcs, humans, trolls, and other evil creatures grabbed their weapons and formed ranks. Bors stood at the head of the horde when Garrett stepped out of his tent. Garrett stared at Bors at the front and scowled. He grabbed Bors roughly and threw him aside. Garrett turned to his horde and grinned.
“The time has come!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “It is time to destroy this pitiful village that dares to exist! Take no prisoners, and leave none alive! Kill them all; slaughter their children! Take the babies and kill them before the mother’s very eyes! Burn the village to the ground! Now FORWARD!” The horde shouted great pleasure and charged forward, waving their weapons in the air, ready to kill the unsuspecting villagers. He grabbed Bors just as he was about to join in the charge. “Not you,” he snarled. “You are to watch the prisoners.” Bors’s disappointed look gave Garrett a small sense of pleasure. “You may do what you like, but do not kill them. I still need them.” That brought a gleeful look to Bors’s face; he liked torturing people… Garrett kicked Bors. “Well? What are you waiting for? Get to it!” Bors scrambled away from him and ran towards the tent. Garrett shook his head and turned to his horde. Already he could see smoke rising from the direction of the Norman’s Hollow. He looked to Reaper who had just trotted beside his master. He nodded towards Norman’s Hollow and Reaper took off into the night, Garrett following close behind. When the two arrived at Norman’s Hollow, he was pleased with the sights that he found. Goblins were rounding up the children into the square, then hacking into the crowd of children, their mothers screaming protests and begging for their children’s lives; they were killed next. Others in the horde were burning houses down. Reaper could wait no longer and tore off into the chaos, immediately tearing a small boy limb from limb. Men from the village began to form ranks under the direction of a strong blacksmith wielding a giant war hammer that he must have forged. The blacksmith
showed great skill in using it, killing several goblins every time he swung it. Garrett normally wouldn’t mind losing a few soldiers, but with being so close to Salador, he could take no chances. He pulled the axe from its loop and charged into the group of men, which raised the goblins’ morale some. The goblins plowed into the men with their leader in their midst, trolls and other races of the horde joining in the fray. Garrett singled out the blacksmith, challenging him to a duel. Hans Jacobson met the challenge with a fury. He swung the war hammer ferociously, though Garrett easily evaded the blacksmith’s attacks. He focused his energy into the battleaxe, the onyx eyes glowing dangerously. Hans suddenly felt as though everything was hopeless, like nothing in the world mattered to him. Hans felt weak; the last thing he saw was the battleaxe coming down in a ferocious downward swipe; the last thing he felt was its razor edge crashing into his skull. With their leader gone, the remaining men threw their weapons down in surrender, hoping to be spared by their captor’s mercy. What they didn’t know is that their captor has no mercy. Garrett laughed at them, and without a second glance, turned away, reveling in their screams as the horde slaughtered each and every one of them. Garrett watched as a bard of some sorts tried to run away into the night. He shook his head and snatched a javelin from a nearby goblin, took aim, and launched it at the poor fellow. The javelin struck home in his back, piercing his lungs and heart. He walked calmly to the man, who was scarcely breathing. He bent down to look into the man’s eyes, which were beginning to glaze over.
He grabbed the man’s lute, which was inscribed, Property of Olav Troobel. “So, you are Olav Troobel?” The man could not reply. “Well, here’s your lute.” With that, Garrett smashed the lute into Olav’s head, finishing the job that the javelin had started. Garrett straightened up and looked around. Norman’s Hollow was completely destroyed. Houses lay in ruins; bodies littered the ground, mostly the villagers of
Norman’s Hollow though some of his horde lay on the ground with them. Garrett grinned; it had been a good raid. The sound of clashing steel still sounded in small regions of the town, but they were becoming quite rare. Reaper trotted up to Garrett, its tail wagging happily. He stroked his faithful companion’s three heads warmly. He watched as a troll grabbed a man and snapped him in half, shaking his head in admiration at the troll’s strength. Reaper’s bark was the only warning he got. He spun around just as Gram’s longsword came crashing down. He was startled to see Gram, but the surprise wore off in a split-second. He backed up calmly and readied the battleaxe. Fury and pure hatred shone in Gram’s eyes. A crowd of Garrett’s horde formed a circle around the two combatants, eager to see their master at work. One goblin got close to Gram and was slain on the spot and Gram took the goblin’s roughly made wooden buckler. Garrett sized Gram up. “How did you escape,” he asked. He said it so casually that he might as well have been asking what the weather was like. Gram reached behind his back and pulled out the head of Bors from a bag on his belt, its tongue lolling out of its mouth. “You should know one man cannot hold me in check,” he snarled. He threw Bors’s head to the side and readied his longsword. “What do say to your lackey being slain?”
Garrett shrugged his shoulders. “Eh, I was going to kill him in a few days anyway; he really is quite annoying you know.” Gram could take it no more. He raised the longsword and charged. He swung the sword and it met with the satisfying sound of sword on axe. Gram didn’t stop. He pressed his attack, each time it was met by Garrett’s axe. The horde watched in awe as the two combatants continued their epic battle. Gram jumped back, but Garrett came right back in, working magnificent forms with his battleaxe, Gram countering every one of them with his sword. Their weapons became a blur as the pace of the fight picked up, the sound of steel on steel becoming one long screech of metal. Garrett could see that even though Gram was old, his body had not succumbed to weariness. The two stopped and took a step back. The buckler had been broken early in the fight and Gram had discarded it. Garrett leaned on the battleaxe. “Why don’t you tell me where the boy is? If you had told me, this whole ordeal could have been avoided,” he said, gesturing all around him at the carnage. Gram looked around. destroyed. It was true; Norman’s Hollow had been completely
Fires burned all around, the bodies of the young and old lay sprawled
throughout the street, the bodies of his closest friends, Hans and Olav, all dead… Fire roared in his eyes and he charged in once again. The encounter did not last long this time. As Gram charged in, blinded by his anger, Garrett dodged to the right quickly, dropped down, and stuck his foot out. Gram, unable to stop his momentum, tripped over Garrett’s foot and fell flat on his face, his
sword flying from his hand. He weakly tried to grab his sword, but Garrett kicked from his reach. Garrett grabbed Gram by the hair and hoisted him into the air. He stared into Gram’s eyes, still burning with that inner fire. “Kill me,” Gram whispered. Garrett shook his head, “No, you are still of some use to me. I may need you soon.” Gram smirked. “At least you don’t have my daughter anymore.” The evil grin that spread across Garrett’s face made Gram’s blood freeze. He snapped his fingers and a man clad in dark armor strode to the two men. “NOOOOOO!!!” Gram screamed, tears streaming from his eyes. In the man’s right hand he held Selena’s severed head, her brown eyes glazed over in death, her tongue lolling from her mouth. Garrett laughed at Gram’s pain. “You may have killed Bors, but you must
remember: he meant nothing to me. On the other hand, your daughter meant the world to you, so in a way, your loss is greater than mine.” Gram could not answer, tears still streaming down his face. Garrett shook his head and threw Gram into the ground. Gram did not move, but he lay weeping on the ground. “Tie him up,” he ordered. Gram did not resist as several goblins grabbed him and tied him up tightly and hauled him off towards the camp. Garrett looked at the carnage once more. He smiled at his horde’s handiwork. His gaze fell to Bors’s severed head and the smile became a grin. It had been a good day…
Chapter 6: Silver Peak
Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril stared in awe at the great mountain that lay before them. Silver Peak. The great mountain loomed to awe-inspiring heights, taking the breath from the three friends. Snow covered the rocky ground even in the dead of summer. No one knew why Silver Peak was continuously covered with snow; most said it was a mystery that dated back to the Age of Legends, but no one was completely sure. “We have to climb that thing?” Victor asked, his eyes never leaving the great mountain. Tolgion nodded his head. “It’s not so bad really. We have crossed it many a time. Although there is an old rickety bridge halfway up the mountain that I loathe having to cross…” Dodmic studied the mountain. “There is something amiss,” he whispered to Jamsig. “Maybe we should take another route to Salador…” Jamsig studied the mountain also. “You’re right, but we cannot waste time. We must get to Salador to be rid of the dagger once and for all…” Jamsig winced as the voice of U’groth Jon Balog roared its objection inside his head. “The sooner the better…” Dodmic studied the mountain once more. He felt as though something dangerous had arisen in the mountain, but what? The feeling did not go away as they started up the treacherous slopes. Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril did not have the experience that the three mercenaries had with mountain, but they kept good pace with them nonetheless. Dodmic kept a fair distance between himself and the rest, scouting the area, or so he told them. In reality he was looking for whatever gave him that uneasy feeling.
The six stopped around nightfall and made camp on a relatively flat slab of rock. They kept the fire small incase there were any hostile creatures around. There was a feeling of uneasiness in the camp, but that didn’t stop Aiden and Victor from shivering from the cold. “Silence,” Dodmic whispered suddenly, knocking an arrow as he stood up. The air became deathly still; the only sound was the wind howling furiously from the mountain’s peak, but it was the noise that came with the wind that had Dodmic worried. A shrill sound was carried on the wind, a shrill sound of pain. Dodmic strained his ears to try and hear what was being carried on the wind. After much straining and concentration, he finally deciphered what was being screamed: “NO!!! We must find them, or the Great Master will be displeased!” “We must go,” Dodmic said urgently. “We should never have come here,” he continued to say as he gathered items. “Dodmic, what is it?” Tolgion asked, shifting around nervously. Dodmic stopped and stared at Tolgion, a wild light in his eyes. That look was all that Tolgion needed to see before his face drained of all color. He nodded quickly and began to gather provisions. The voice on the wind drifted to Dodmic’s ears once more. “Quiet! They are here! I hear them! Oh, the Great Master will be pleased!” Fear made Dodmic’s eyes even wider as he turned to his friends. “He knows we are here,” he whispered. “Who knows we are here?” Aiden asked, confusion written on his face.
Dodmic gave Aiden the same look he gave Tolgion. Even though Aiden did not understand what was going on, the look sent a chill down his spine. “Ivel,” Dodmic whispered. “An ancient evil, once said to have escaped from the Abyssal Roundup after the fall of U’groth, though no one knows if he is from the Abyss. He lives to serve the ‘Great Master’ as he calls him. We mustn’t delay, he is coming!” Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril quickly began to help the others to grab the supplies. Dodmic turned, “Leave it! Jamsig, grab a torch, we must go!” Jamsig lit a torch and they ran off into the night. “I am coming my pretties!” “RUN FASTER!” Dodmic yelled, the wind drowning his voice out. “HE’S CLOSING IN!” Sure enough, a gangly creature appeared out of nowhere and was running on its hands and feet, closing the gap between them with surprising speed. Dodmic released the arrow he had knocked into the blackness of night, but the arrow skipped off the stone where the creature had stood moments before. Dodmic quickly knocked another arrow and let it fly, but this time, Ivel jumped clear into the sky and landed in front of them. Aiden and the others got a clear look at the creature in front of them. Ivel was hunched over, his pale skin illuminated in the moonlight. He had long arms and legs. His two green eyes were like orbs that captured the moonlight. He had strands of long, stringy, brown hair on his head, but what caught the eye of the six were the two long teeth that came down several inches past his chin. Ivel snickered, his voice hoarse and slightly high-pitched.
“Doesn’t they want to play with me?” his eye caught sight of the shining dagger on Jamsig’s hip and the two orbs widened. “He has the Great Master! Give him back to me!” Jamsig drew his claymore. “I think not.” Ivel snarled. “Give me the Great Master or I’ll kill you now!” Dodmic drew his twin fighting knives. “I know your tricks you filthy beast! I will not allow you to take the dagger!” Jamsig put a hand on the hilt of the dagger and rested his claymore across his shoulders, his face a picture of the utmost calm, his eyes just begging the foul creature to make a move against him and his friends. Ivel snarled. “Then you have made your choice!” Ivel charged at the six friends, Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril drew their weapons and Tolgion readied his spear to throw. Aiden was surprised at the quickness of this new adversary, but it didn’t seem to faze Dodmic, Jamsig, and Tolgion who met the charge. Ivel jumped to unimaginable heights once more and landed at their rear. Jamsig spun around and sliced with the claymore, but all it found was empty air as Ivel jumped again. Ivel landed next to Victor, and knocked him cold with a swift but heavy blow to the head. Aiden began to go to his friend’s aid, but Ivel jumped back into the night, laughing maniacally. The wind carried Ivel’s shrill voice as he retreated into the night, laughing all the while. “Heh, heh, heh! One of the tricksters is down, but Ivel isn’t finished yet! Heh, heh, heh! Ivel will be back soon my pretties!” Dodmic released an arrow in the direction that he thought Ivel had gone, but once more, the arrow skipped off the rocks. “Curses!” he spat. He turned to see Aiden bent over Victor and concern crept into his eyes. He rushed over and checked Victor for a
pulse and breathed a sigh of relief when he felt a slight pulse. That relief was short lived when he remembered what was following them still. He turned to Jamsig and Tolgion. “There is no way in the Nine Hells that we can defeat Ivel. We need to get off the mountain as fast as possible. If we continue, it’s a two-day journey if we move at a break-neck pace. We need to turn back if we are to live.” Jamsig and Tolgion nodded. “You are right Dodmic.” Aiden looked at the three mercenaries. “What? I think that we should continue.” Dodmic’s dangerous look made Aiden take a step back. “You know not what we face you fool boy! Ivel will kill us all before we can get off of this forsaken mountain! We need to turn back!” “But-” Dodmic grabbed Aiden’s collar and pulled him down to his height so he could look in his eyes. “Ivel will kill us,” he said, punctuating each word. “He will not stop following us until he has the dagger back. Look what he’s done to Victor!” Aiden turned to Victor’s unconscious body. Maybe it is true; maybe they can’t defeat Ivel. “Maybe we should-” Aiden’s statement was cut off as the ground started shaking. When it finally stopped, Dodmic lit another torch and ran down the hillside. When he returned, his face was pale. “The path is blocked. We cannot go back. We must continue forward…” Once more the wind carried the gleeful laughter of Ivel, cackling wildly. “Oh joy! The path has been blocked! Hee, hee, hee! Now I get to play with some more!”
Fear filled Dodmic’s eyes, but that passed as anger and hatred crept into them. His grip tightened on the fighting knives. “We need to keep moving.” “What about Victor?” “Jamsig will have to carry him if he needs to. Come on, we haven’t a moment to lose. What are you waiting for? Come on!” Jamsig threw Victor over his shoulders and the six ran on in the dark, windy night. While they ran, Ivel’s cackling laughter cut through the night, taunting them and threatening them. Aiden felt like his chest was about to explode after running for what seemed like forever. The only thing that spurred him on was Ivel’s laughter. “Quickly!” Dodmic called to his friends from a short distance ahead. “Only a few more yards until we get to the bridge! We can lose him there!” The sun was beginning to rise as they ran faster and faster until the posts that held the bridge came into view. Dodmic was the first there and he was frozen with fear. The others soon joined him and saw what the problem was; the ropes on this side of the gorge had been cut, leaving the bridge hanging from the two supports on the other side. Jamsig cursed under his breath and laid Victor down. His eyes fluttered open and he stood woozily. “What do we do?” Jamsig asked Dodmic, who was studying the situation. Dodmic didn’t answer right away. Ivel’s mocking laughter cut through the
darkness once more. “Ha, ha, ha! Trapped from the back, and trapped from the front! What will the poor fools do? Well, they better think quickly! I am coming!”
An idea came to Dodmic, a risky one, but they had no choice. “Jamsig,” he said, spinning around on his friend, “you and Aiden have to toss me over the gorge to the bridge.” Aiden stared at Dodmic dumbfounded. “Throw you over the gorge? Dodmic, that’s suicide!” Jamsig nodded. “He’s right Dodmic; it will be suicide to attempt this.” Dodmic shook his head. “It has to be done. When I make it to the other side, I’ll cut the rope and send the rest of the bridge down the gorge. Then, I’ll tie a rope to an arrow, shoot it across the gorge into the post and you guys can slide across. Now, are you going to toss me or what?” Aiden and Jamsig exchanged hesitant glances. Finally, Jamsig nodded. “You take one side of him Aiden.” Dodmic drew his two fighting knives before Aiden took hold of his left arm and leg and Jamsig the right. “Ready?” Aiden asked. Dodmic took a deep breath before he nodded. The two began to swing him back and forth. “On three,” Jamsig said when he believed Dodmic would have enough
momentum. “One…two…three!” Jamsig and Aiden released Dodmic, and both realized gleefully he would make it. Dodmic shot his fighting knives out and they stuck into the boards of the bridge. Unfortunately, the shock of slamming into the wall was too much for the halfling. On impact, his grip released momentarily, just enough to drop him into the chasm. Dodmic screamed as he fell into the chasm. “NO!!!” Aiden yelled. A loud crack split the air as a spear shot out suddenly, stone flying from the forceful impact, and
pinned Dodmic’s cloak to the wall, leaving the halfling dangling above the sharp rocks below. They turned to see Tolgion, his face set in stone, staring at his friend. His spear was missing. Dodmic breathed a loud sigh of relief. Tolgion just nodded sternly. Dodmic took a deep breath and began his next move. He reached up and grabbed the spear haft and began to swing. No novice to acrobatics after spending so many years in the forest, he gained enough momentum and swung over the spear haft several times. On the third revolution, he reversed his momentum halfway through the turn and landed neatly with both feet on the spear haft. Sweat was beading on Dodmic’s forehead with the exertion, even in the cold, early morning mountain air. He reached into his boot and produced a dagger to free the part of his cloak that was pinned to the wall. With his cloak free, he began to bounce on the spear haft. When he got his momentum, he gave a mighty leap and grabbed hold of the boards at the bottom of the bridge. He then began to climb slowly to the top of the cliff face, stopping to grab his fighting knives. Everyone watched in silent awe at the halfling’s prowess with acrobatics and climbing. Dodmic finally got to the top of the cliff, his face red with exhaustion. “Easier… said… than… done,” he wheezed to his companions. “Now… to get… you guys across…” Dodmic tied one end of a rope to one of the posts and the other end to an arrow. He fitted the arrow into his bow and took careful aim. He released the bowstring and the “Thank you my friend!” he called.
arrow shot across the gorge into the post on the opposite side. He checked the rope to make sure it wouldn’t collapse and gave thumbs up to his friends on the opposite side. “I’ll go first,” Tolgion said. He hopped onto the bridge post with nimble grace, and began tightrope walking across the rope with great ease. He hopped nimbly off the rope halfway through the treacherous journey onto his spear. He pulled a dagger from his belt and dug it into the wall. He stepped off the spear haft and wrenched it out of the wall and he slung it over his back. He then flipped into the air, pulled his dagger free, and embedded it into the wall. He repeated this motion several times before he got to the top of the cliff. Dodmic rolled his eyes at his friend’s antics. Aiden shook his head in admiration. “Is there no end to their skill?” he thought. Kelindril went next. He had no trouble crossing the gorge, using his elven prowess and his quarterstaff for balance. As Victor was about to go, Jamsig put a hand on his shoulder. He reached into his bag and pulled out a pulley that had two handles on the sides. He put it on the rope and gestured to Victor to grab hold. “How do I work this?” Victor asked. “Grab hold of the handles and give a great push off of the cliff. You will glide across the gorge and the others will haul you up.” Victor grabbed the handles and gave a push off the wall that sent him gliding, and screaming, over the gorge. He hit the wall with a thud and almost lost his grip, but Kelindril and Dodmic pulled him up before he had a chance to fall. Aiden followed suit, easily making the trip with out any incidents. As Jamsig mounted the glider, he heard a maniacal laugh behind him. He spun around and there
was Ivel, lounging on a rock. He drew his claymore and readied himself. Ivel dismissed Jamsig with a wave of his hand. “So, you have made it this far have you?” he asked casually. “Trapped no more are your friends on the other side, but you who has the Great Master is mine.” His eyes flashed dangerously. “This is your final chance; give him to me!” Jamsig started inching towards the cliff edge. Ivel didn’t miss it. “So, you have made your choice,” he hissed. Jamsig leapt into motion. He sheathed his claymore, mounted the glider, kicked off, and soared across the gorge, twisting his body to flip himself onto the opposite side before he hit the wall in one smooth motion. Grabbing a dagger from his boot, he launched it at the opposite end of the rope, severing it from its post, redrew his claymore, and severed the bridge from its remaining supports. Ivel snarled and leapt across the gorge, hitting the rock wall. He began sliding down the wall, so he dug his long teeth into the rock wall. He was dangling by his teeth, and the six companions watched in disgust at what he did next. Ivel bent his back backwards until his feet were resting on his long teeth. In one quick motion, he pulled his teeth out of the wall, and dug them into the wall again. Halfway up, he started cackling, dangling by his teeth once more. In a muffled voice, he spoke. “You cannot escape Ivel! Oh no, you will never be rid of me!” Ivel began his routine once more, the six staring dumbfounded at him. Dodmic was the first to come out of the trance. “RUN!” he shouted, shaking his friends. Out of their own trances, they all turned and ran, Ivel’s cackling following them. Out of breath Victor stopped, bent over and breathing hard. “We…we can’t go on like this… We have to take a stand…”
Jamsig slowed and turned to regard Victor. “He’s right. We can’t run the entire of Silver Peak. We have no other choice Dodmic. We have to fight.” Dodmic looked at his friends, out of breath, panting, and looking like they would pass out at any given time. “You’re right. But we’re going to need help. Up the ridge there lives a dwarf. He’s an old acquaintance. He’s a little strange, but he should give us aid. Come on, we haven’t much time. Ivel is probably already after us!” They ran over the ridge and sure enough, there was a small stone house sitting on the ridge. They ran up to the house and Dodmic began banging on the rough, wooden door. The door swung open to reveal an angry looking dwarf. “What do ye blaggards want? Goin’ ‘round and bangin’ on peaceful folks’
doors… Some nerve ye got… Dodmic? Is that you?” “Darnin, it’s Ivel,” Dodmic panted. The dwarf’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll get me axe,” he snarled. He went back into the house and returned in a matter of seconds with a gleaming battleaxe in his hands and two throwing axes on his hips. Aiden got his first good look at the dwarf when he exited the house. He had blonde hair that came down to his shoulders, which was unusual for dwarves, who usually had black, brown, or red hair, and a beard that came down to the middle of his chest. What really caught Aiden’s eye were the dwarf’s hands. They were extremely hairy, even for a dwarf, and his nails were at least four inches long. His eyes were yellow, like that of a wolf, and shone when the light caught them. His battleaxe was beautifully crafted; an axe only a master craftsman could forge. Aiden jumped in shock when he saw what was on the dwarf’s backside: a tail.
He looked to Dodmic, who gave him a look that told him that he would tell him everything later. They followed the dwarf back down the ridge, his tail swishing with every step. He put his ear to the ground and closed his eyes. He got back up slowly. “Behind us,” he whispered. “Don’t draw yer weapons ‘til I tell ye to.” Kelindril slid his dagger from his sleeves with what seemed no motion and Victor gripped his dagger hilts tightly until his knuckles became white. Tolgion gripped his spear tighter and Dodmic slowly knocked an arrow. “NOW!!!” Jamsig’s claymore leapt into his hands and Anaiya leapt into Aiden’s hands as they spun around, right as Ivel came charging from a small bush. Surprised, Ivel tried to stop his momentum by digging his heels into the ground. Pain spread throughout Ivel’s body as his right foot was pinned into the rocky ground by Dodmic’s arrow. Another arrow shot from Dodmic’s bow and pinned Ivel’s left foot to the ground. Ivel screamed as he tried to free himself from the ground. The dwarf ran toward Ivel with surprising speed and kicked Ivel in the jaw. Ivel continued to squirm as the dwarf put his foot on his throat and pushed him to the ground. He motioned for the others. Jamsig and Aiden grabbed Ivel’s arms and pinned them to the ground. Dodmic approached the squirming creature, an arrow knocked. He took aim and put an arrow through Ivel’s left hand, pinning it to the ground with his feet. He motioned Aiden away from Ivel’s pinned arm and knocked another arrow. He fired it into Ivel’s right hand, leaving him pinned completely to the ground. They all backed away from Ivel, who was screaming in pain, blood pouring from his wounds. The dwarf turned to Jamsig, Tolgion, and Dodmic. “Just like old times,
eh?” Jamsig and the others nodded slowly. “Well, we can’t kill him, but this should keep him out of yer way ‘til ye can off the mountain.” He looked around. “I thought there were more o’ ye the last time I saw ye.” Jamsig cast his eyes down. “There…were. We had a run in with some army from the east. Tolgion, Dodmic, and I were the only ones who escaped. Roger also escaped, but he died of his wounds a few days after.” The dwarf’s eyes widened in shock. “Everyone?” he gasped. “Whom were ye fightin’ against?” Tolgion shook his head. “We don’t know. All we know is that their leader was a man clad in solid black armor and that he had a three-headed dog that was always next to him… Aiden, are you ok?” Aiden’s knees gave out from underneath him. “Bl-black armor? Three-headed dog?” Aiden’s eyes were wide. “I-I had a dream about a man like that when we left Norman’s Hollow. He said that he was going to Salador and conquering it!” Jamsig, Tolgion, and Dodmic looked at him with wide eyes. “Why didn’t you tell us about it?” Tolgion asked. “I didn’t think it was important. I thought it was just a dream.” Jamsig turned to the dwarf. “Darnin, we need to get off Silver Peak to warn the king of Salador. Can you show us a quick way?” Darnin nodded. “Aye lets move.” He whistled a shrill note that cut into the mountain air. “Grizzle!” he called.
There was a roar from somewhere in the mountain. Suddenly, a huge grizzly bear tore through the brush. Aiden readied Anaiya, but lowered her when Darnin stroked its head. “This is me boy Grizzle. I think ye remember ‘im.” Dodmic nodded a smile on his face. “I haven’t seen him since he was a cub. My how he’s grown…” Darnin nodded proudly. “Yep. Now, we need to go.” They all turned and started to leave when Ivel called. “NO! Don’t leave me! I’ll die out here like this!” Darnin snarled and turned on the wretched creature. “Ye know ye cannot die. No matter how badly ye want to…” Ivel snarled and spat curses at them as they turned away and began walking down the path that would get them off of Silver Peak. Darnin took them down a narrow path, and within a few hours, they saw the green leaves of the forest. “Thank you Darnin. Your help was greatly appreciated,” Jamsig said, bowing before the dwarf. “We hope to see you soon.” Darnin snorted. “Ye’ll be seein’ a lot o’ me. Me and Grizzle are comin’ with ye.” Jamsig smiled and clapped his friend on the back. “Excellent. Something tells me that we’re going to need you soon.” Darnin bowed before Jamsig, and when he came up, his yellow eyes shone with eagerness. “Let’s go mates. We have a lot o’ ground to cover if we’re to make it to Salador before this warlord does…”
They all nodded solemnly and turned started the last stretch that would lead them to Salador. As they left, they heard another screech of pain on the wind that sounded like Ivel. Kelindril did not miss Victor’s longing gaze for the dagger…
Garrett approached the prone figure on the ground. It was pinned to the ground by four arrows, one in each foot and one in each hand. He gave it a good kick, which woke it up. The creature screamed in pain. “Who did this to you?” he asked the creature. It snarled. “A filthy dwarf, two filthy halflings, a rotten elf, and three disgusting humans! Will you free me from my pain, oh merciful master? I would be most grateful!” Garrett studied Ivel for a moment. “Which way did they go?” he asked. “If you release me, I will lead you to them! They have taken a path that only the dwarf and I know! Please release me!” Garrett smiled an evil smile. “Very well. Release him.” Two eager goblins with evil smiles on their faces approached. They drew their crudely made swords. Ivel screeched in pain as they began hacking off his hands and feet. Blood poured from the stubs where his hands and feet had been. “Make sure he doesn’t bleed to death, we still need him to show us the way off the mountain.” The goblins hauled Ivel to the supply wagons and poured scalding, hot salt water over the stubs. He screeched even louder and passed out from the pain. Garrett shook his head. “First he promises to show us off the mountain if we free him, then he passes out. I guess he just wanted us to remove the arrows. He should have been more specific. Oh
well, the deed is done.” He turned to the spot where Ivel had been. His hands and feet were still pinned to the ground. Garrett shook his head once more, that evil smile on his face. It had been another good day…
Chapter 7: Salador
Three days off Silver Peak brought a wondrous sight to the companions: Salador, the White City. Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril gazed in awe at the magnificent city, its white towers shining in the afternoon sun. The seven companions and Grizzle
approached the silver portcullis that barred the beautiful, white gates. As they neared, a guardsman called down from his post on the white walls. “Jamsig! Tolgion! Dodmic! Is that you?” Jamsig put his hand to his chest and bowed. “Aye that it be! How are doing Marcus?” “Just fine you old codger,” he yelled down. “Why don’t I let you in so that we can talk on more even grounds? Open the gates!” Aiden watched as the great portcullis was lifted from its position in front of the gate. As the gates swung open and they walked through the gates, Aiden’s eyes popped wide open as he gazed around at the city. Salador was paved with white cobblestone with black cobblestone surrounding large segments of white, and as Aiden walked around, he realized that the black cobblestone outlined a picture of a white bear. White marble benches were carved into the outside of buildings, and pedestrians of all races walked through the streets. Each building was magnificently built from white limestone, each brick placed exactly in its perfect spot; none too short, none too long, all made perfectly. Some of the houses had stained glass windows with beautiful pictures on them. The houses had flat roofs, but they were no less spectacular. Each roof had a garden on it. Some were simple, while others would take Aiden’s breath away with their sheer beauty.
The various flowers and plants gave the air a sweet exotic smell that gave Aiden a feeling of peace and contempt inside. As they traversed through the streets, sights and sounds from all around filled their senses. Sweet smells from the many bakeries and savory smells of cooking meat from the many inns and taverns that lined the street made Aiden’s mouth water. Hawkers hawked their goods from the many stalls that lined the streets selling everything under the sun. Weapons, various pieces of armor, thread, needles, food, jewelry, and many other things. They came up to Aiden asking him to buy their goods, and having never been in a real city before, did not know what to do. Lucky for him, Jamsig grabbed him by the arm and hauled him off before he could be overwhelmed. A beautiful park lay at the center of the city. Neatly trimmed, green grass waved with the slight breeze. White marble park benches lined the white cobblestone path of the park. Gardens of colorful flowers were planted around, giving the park a peaceful atmosphere. A giant fountain was the centerpiece of the garden. A statue of a giant white bear spewing water from its mouth sat on a pedestal in the center of it. People from all races sat on the park benches, enjoying the sunny, summer day. Kids were playing in the grass enjoying themselves while their parents chatted with their neighbors. “Where are we going to again?” Aiden asked his mind still on the city. Jamsig sighed and shook his head. “We’re going to the monastery to be rid of this forsaken thing,” he replied, pointing to the dagger. He winced as U’groth screamed its defiance in his head once again. “At least it’s only a few streets over…” Aiden didn’t think that anything could astound him more than Salador, until he saw the monastery. Towering to amazing heights, the Monastery of Salador was easily
the most awe-inspiring building Aiden had ever seen. Its towering white spires seemed to stretch to the heavens above and challenge anything to be any more magnificent than it. Stained glass windows stretched almost to its height, beautiful pictures of saints, martyrs, and heroes of old inlaid into the design. The great mahogany doors swung easily open with Tolgion’s gentle pull on the great brass handles. “Me an’ Grizzle will wait here,” Darnin said, stopping on the top step. Jamsig nodded and they entered the monastery. The inside was no less spectacular. Row upon row of white marble pews
stretched the entirety of the monastery. The floor tiles were made of polished white tiles, the sides trimmed with black to accentuate their shape. Statues of saints and heroes lined the walls, each carved with meticulous detail down to the last hair on their heads. At the front of the monastery was a huge, gilded altar. A red cloth was spread over the top of the altar. A golden candle stand lay on top of it with nine candles burning. As they entered, a plump priest came rushing towards them. He wore a white priests’ gown with a purple line coming down the middle. He was short and plump with graying hair. “Tolgion!” he called, grabbing the halfling’s hand and shaking it. “It’s been so long!” Tolgion smiled as the priest shook his hand. “Aye, it has Benjamin. Do tell me, how is everything here in Salador?” “Tolgion, we have work to do,” Jamsig said, stepping between the two friends. “Benjamin, we need your help with something.” Benjamin looked at Jamsig. “What is it Jamsig?”
Jamsig reached around and pulled the dagger from its sheath. The red ruby eyes shone angrily. Benjamin took the dagger and as he studied it, his face paled. “Jamsig… do you know what this is?” he asked. Jamsig nodded. “It’s the dagger that has the soul of U’groth Jon Balog imbued into it. We need to destroy it Benjamin.” “Yes, immediately! But this is such a powerful artifact and Archbishop Cambrian is on his yearly pilgrimage… What can we do?” “When is the Archbishop due back?” Dodmic asked. Benjamin shook his head. “Not for several weeks.” “Is there anything you can do?” Aiden asked. “I’m afraid not. With such a powerful artifact, we need the Archbishop’s
knowledge to destroy it. The only thing we can do is to lock it up and put it under heavy security. Come, follow me. I’ll put it in the vaults that are in the cellar.” Jamsig nodded and the group followed Benjamin. The priest took them down a winding flight of stairs that were in the back of the monastery. The passage was dark and there were few torches on the wall. After several minutes, they came to a stone wall the very bottom of the staircase. Aiden looked to Jamsig with a puzzled look. Jamsig pointed towards the wall and Benjamin. Aiden realized that the priest was in the midst of a chant. “Benyon,” the priest muttered as he finished the chant. Aiden watched in
amazement as the bricks changed position and formed a doorway. Benjamin walked through the portal and the others followed suit.
As they entered, there was a low growl from the darkness ahead. Benjamin whistled softly and clapped his hands. Torches flared up around them and Aiden jumped back at the sight of the guardian of the vaults: a small blue dragon. Benjamin walked over and stroked its head softly. The dragon snorted and smoke came out of its nostrils. He walked over to the wall on the opposite side and knocked on it. He continued to walk around and tap on the wall. Finally, a small drawer appeared as the tapped on the wall one final time. He placed the dagger into the drawer and closed it. “There, it will be safe from anyone now,” Benjamin said as turned around. “Now let us leave this place.” They all left the vault and traveled up the stairs. As they exited the passage, Aiden squinted from the glare of the sun. “Is there anything else that you need?” Benjamin asked. Jamsig shook his head. “No, that is all. Thank you Benjamin. Keep it well guarded.” With that the group left the monastery. They found Darnin and Grizzle
entertaining a small group of children who were playing with Darnin’s tail. Tolgion grinned and tapped Darnin on the shoulder. Darnin spun around, his face immediately going red when he saw that the group had seen him playing with the children. “Uh, ye shouldn’t sneak up on me like tha.’ I might have hurt ye,” the dwarf grunted. The children around him giggled, and Grizzle let off a low growl that seemed like a chuckle. Darnin glared at the bear. “What are ye laughin’ at ye great lummox?” Aiden and the others laughed at the dwarf, who in return turned his glare onto them. Jamsig shook his head. “Come on, we need to get to the palace.”
The group walked down the road.
Aiden thoroughly enjoyed the sights of
Salador. The thing that he loved the most was the sheer pristine beauty of Salador. He loved the shining buildings and the beautiful rooftop gardens. Even with the impending danger that only he and his friends knew about, he could not help but gaze at the beauty. Jamsig snapped him out of his trance when they arrived at the palace. Aiden had thought that the monastery was the most awe-inspiring building in Salador, until his eyes fell upon the Palace of Salador. Towering above the entire city, the castle of King Brutus the Great was a giant structure of shining white marble. Giant tapestries depicting a white bear on a field of green hung down from the great walls that surrounded the palace and statues of former kings were set along the cobblestone path to the great white-stained gates of the castle. Elven and human archers patrolled the battlements of the wall, each in shining silver armor with the White Bear of Salador on the breast. Aiden looked at these knights with envy, wanting to join their ranks, but he knew he had more pressing matters to attend too. One of the archers on the battlements saw them and nodded to a knight on the other side of the gates. The great white gates creaked open and Aiden gazed in awe at the courtyard. Beautiful garden of flowers were planted in the courtyard like everywhere else in the city, but these gardens seemed to have a sense of magic to them. Bees buzzed around in the colorful gardens, happily going about their business. White railing bordered the
cobblestone walkways, openings in the fence allowed one to walk through the gardens.
As they approached the doors, Jamsig bowed to two guards. The bowed in return and opened the doors to admit the group. As they walked in, a dark elf proudly strode up to the group. Jamsig bowed to the new arrival. “Greetings Amon-Shi, it has been a while.” The dark elf bowed low. He was tall and had a mane of white hair that he tied in a ponytail. Aiden had never seen a dark elf before and was shocked by the dark, ebony skin. The elf’s red eyes glowed with an inner fire and gave him the appearance that he was ready for anything. On his hips were two swords with long, curved blades. His shining plate mail had the White Bear of Salador on it and he wore a black cloak. “Yes, it has. So tell, me how is the whole mercenary business working out for you?” “We will have to talk later Amon-Shi. We must talk to King Brutus. It is of utmost importance.” Amon-Shi nodded and led the way to King Brutus. Aiden gazed around at his surroundings. The walls were decorated with tapestries embroidered with the white bear. Some had scenes of great battles depicted on them. Magnificent paintings adorned the wall, depicting scenes of great moments from Salador’s past. Suits of silver plated armor with the white bear on their chests were spread throughout the corridors. Servants went on with their daily chores, seeming to take no notice of the group. Knights and guardsmen patrolled the corridors, keeping a watchful eye on everything going on around them. Amon-Shi led them through several hallways and stopped when they reached two great mahogany doors. Amon-Shi held up a hand and told them to wait. He opened the
doors and closed them behind him as he entered the king’s audience chamber. When he was gone, Aiden turned to Jamsig. “Who is that Jamsig?” “That is Amon-Shi. He is the Commander of the Knights of the White Bear. He is one of the most skilled swordsmen and tacticians in all of Farlonia. Stories say that he has never been defeated in battle. He is a very close friend of mine and you will never find a more loyal soldier anywhere in the world.” “Thank you for those kind words Jamsig, but really, don’t you think that’s a little much?” Amon-Shi asked as he returned. “King Brutus will see you now. Follow me.” Amon-Shi opened the mahogany doors and admitted the group into the chamber. King Brutus cut an impressive figure on his throne. His throne was carved out of white mahogany and decorated with jewel of all colors. King Brutus himself was a man of great stature. He piercing green eyes seemed to peer into your soul, but there was compassion in his eyes. He had short, neatly cut brown hair and a neatly trimmed goatee. On his hip he wore a jeweled short sword, shining in the light. At his right stood an ancient looking man, his long silver beard hanging down to his chest. His crystal blue eyes watched the newcomers as they entered and a smile spread across his face. He carried a long, wooden, white staff, carved with ancient arcane runes. On his shoulder perched a red-tailed hawk, its piercing gold eyes watching their every move. Jamsig, Tolgion, Dodmic, Kelindril, and Darnin bowed before the king and his advisor. When Aiden and Victor did not bow, Jamsig grabbed them both and dragged them to their knees.
“Thank you for seeing us, your majesty. I wish we could meet under different circumstances,” Jamsig said, keeping his eyes to the floor. “What news do you bring Jamsig?” Brutus asked, leaning forward in his throne. “Who is this man and what trouble does he bring?” Jamsig shook his head. “I do not know your majesty. On our way to Salador we were attacked by a man in shining black armor and his horde of horrible creatures. They came out of nowhere and surprised us; we were massacred. Dodmic, Tolgion, and I were the only ones to survive. Roger had escaped, but he died of his wounds shortly after. Your majesty, the only thing that this man brings is death and destruction.” Brutus stared at the company before him. He turned to his advisor. “What do you think about all of this Hardin?” The old man stared thoughtfully at the group. “We must take this news into consideration. I shall send Jarkle to scout out the area.” He turned to his hawk and whispered into its ear. The hawk nodded, spread his wings, and took off into the bright afternoon sun. Amon-Shi spoke up from a corner. “How many were there Jamsig?” Jamsig shook his head. “There seemed to be more of them than the stars in the clearest of night skies. Your majesty, do you think Salador will be able to hold against such an attack?” King Brutus closed his eyes. “No one has ever breached the walls of Salador. We have held for centuries in the past, and we will hold against this enemy. Salador will not fall, not while I am king.”
Amon-Shi nodded his head slowly. “And while you are king, I shall be your blade.” His red eyes flashed with an inner fire. “With the Knights of the White Bear on this side of the wall, and with Jamsig the Great, Dodmic the Hawk-Eyed, Tolgion the Bard, and Darnin the Brute, we shall conquer this enemy. This I do swear!” His two blades flashed out of their scabbards to punctuate the point. The sun glinted off of his swords and cries of “All hail King Brutus!” and “For Salador and the White Bear!” erupted throughout the audience chamber. Aiden felt his spirit soar with the Knights’ devotion to their king and kingdom. Anaiya’s sapphire eyes glowed brightly. “I have never seen such dedication. They have a chance to win Aiden. I will do my best to aid you in the upcoming battle.” “Thank you Anaiya.” “We must make preparations immediately,” Brutus said, rising from his throne. “How long ago was it when they attacked you?” “Two weeks ago,” Tolgion replied. “By my estimate, they will be here by the end of the week.” Brutus nodded gravely. “Then we haven’t much time… Amon-Shi, Hardin, Jamsig, Tolgion, Dodmic, Darnin, come with me; we must plan carefully if we are to hold the city.” The five nodded and followed King Brutus into a separate room. Jamsig turned to Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril before leaving. “Don’t get into any trouble. We’ll be back as soon as we can.” With that Jamsig turned around and exited the room.
Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril gazed around awkwardly. The soldiers in the room stared at the three and Grizzle. Finally, a young soldier approached them. He eyed the three up and down. “My name is Gardial. You three look like you know how to fight. Want to have a three-on-three duel?” Aiden looked to his friends who shrugged in return. “Sure, but there is only one of you.” The soldier rolled his eyes. He nodded back to a corner and an elf and another human approached the four combatants. They were both dressed in the armor of the Knights of the White Bear. The elf carried a spear and the human had two daggers on his belt. Aiden raised an eyebrow and looked at the challenger; he had a claymore strapped onto his back. “This is Belandir and Nadir. So now that there are three of us, would let’s fight,” he said. A smile crept onto Aiden’s face. “So, I’m guessing it’ll be Kelindril and your Elven friend, Victor and your other friend, and you and I. Am I correct?” The soldier grinned and nodded his head. “Not as dumb as I thought. Follow us.” The three Knights led Aiden, Victor, and Kelindril through a door to a large room. The room was full of weapons and practice dummies. One corner of the room was roped off; a sparring corner Aiden presumed. Sure enough, the leader of the Knights led them to the corner. He and his companions began taking off their armor and sliding pads over the blades of their weapons. They motioned Aiden and his friends to put the protective padding on their weapons as well.
When their weapons had been covered, Aiden and his friends squared off against the three Knights. “Who’s first?” Aiden asked. Gardial looked at Aiden. “You seem like the best fighter of your friends. Why don’t we start this thing off?” Aiden nodded and the two combatants entered the ring. Aiden eased Anaiya out of her silver scabbard and readied himself. Gardial followed Aiden’s example and the two squared off. Aiden studied his opponent, looking for any potential weaknesses, and noticed Gardial doing the same thing. Aiden lunged in, Gardial intercepting Anaiya and parrying with his own counterattack. Aiden dropped down low to his knees and swept Anaiya at Gardial’s legs. As Gardial’s sword was about to make contact with Anaiya, Aiden suddenly reversed the momentum of the blade. Gardial missed Aiden completely and due to the momentum of his swing, he couldn’t bring himself to counter Aiden’s next attack. Anaiya came around and smacked the side of Gardial’s leg. Gardial fell to the ground and rolled to the side, his claymore coming up to intercept another strike from Anaiya. Aiden rolled backwards and came up on his feet, Anaiya readied for another strike. Gardial leapt to his feet and the two squared off once more. The two warriors met in a headlong charge, their blades smacking one another. Aiden and Gardial scored hit after hit on one another. Finally, the two stopped their battle and bent over, both of them breathing hard. Gardial held his hand out. “You fight well. Let us call this match a draw.” Aiden nodded, still breathing hard. He and Gardial took the padding off of their blades, sheathed them, and exited the ring. Kelindril clapped Aiden on the back as he
exited the ring. Just as Kelindril was about to enter the ring, Victor stepped forward and so did the Knight directly across from him. He held out his hand. “Greetings, I am Nadir.” Victor smirked and stepped into the ring. “Let’s get this over with.” Nadir raised an eyebrow and looked to his friends. They just shrugged and Nadir stepped into the ring. Victor drew his daggers and set into a stance; Nadir followed his example. The two began to circle each other, like two lions ready to pounce. Nadir lunged suddenly. Victor intercepted the man’s dagger and drove his boot into his stomach in one quick motion and knocked the wind out him; Nadir went down, gasping for breath. Victor stood over the fallen man, an evil grin on his face. Kelindril narrowed his eyes and moved his arm slightly. His eyes widened when he saw that Victor was starting to inch the padding off of his left dagger. Victor began to circle Nadir, ever so slowly inching the padding off of the dagger. Nadir was still curled over, gasping for breath. Victor shook his head and launched a second kick into the man’s ribs, knocking him on his side. The dagger padding flew off of Victor’s dagger as he lunged in for the kill. Nadir suddenly swung his feet around, tripping Victor and knocking him down. In the same motion, Nadir was on his feet, a serious look on his face. Victor snarled and leapt to his face, swinging his other dagger with great force and launched the padding on it into Nadir’s face, stunning him. Victor raised his dagger and lunged at Nadir, scoring a deep slash in his foreleg. Nadir dropped his daggers and clutched his injured leg. Victor’s eyes had a glazed look to them and his grin grew wider as he approached Nadir slowly; slowly turning his dagger over as he neared the injured man.
A dagger shot out of nowhere, the blunt the handle smashing into Victor’s dagger hand. Victor dropped the dagger with a howl and clutched his aching hand. Aiden looked over and saw Kelindril, his face set in stone. “Get your friend,” Kelindril barked. “Hurry!” Victor began to reach for his missing dagger but Aiden jumped over the ropes and wrestled his friend away from it. Nadir’s friends dragged him out of the ring, their own weapons bared at Victor when Nadir was safely out of harm’s way. Aiden held Victor tightly, who was still struggling for his dagger. Victor began lashing out with his legs and snarling. “Come back and fight you coward!” he yelled, spittle flying everywhere. “Let me finish what I started! Oh, I see, you can’t walk? Well let me put you out of your misery!” Victor elbowed Aiden hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him, and lunged for his dagger. He grabbed the dagger and launched it towards Nadir. Thud! Nadir opened his mouth in surprise as the dagger thudded into his chest. He tried to speak, but all that came out was an incoherent gurgle. Aiden stared in shock as Nadir’s head tilted backwards, his eyes glazing over in death. Aiden, Kelindril, Gardial, and the elf stared in shock at the dagger protruding from Nadir’s chest; Victor was howling with laughter. Gardial began to shake Nadir’s dead body, tears streaming down his face and hoping that there was a little life in his comrade. Belandir looked up from his dead comrade, fire blazing in his eyes. He uttered one word, “Murderer!”
Aiden stared at Victor who was still laughing hysterically. Belandir shouted at the top of his lungs, “MUDERER!!!” Soldiers spilled out of every room, weapons bared and closing around Aiden, Kelindril, and Victor. The soldiers gazed at Nadir’s dead body and their eyes widened in cold shock; their gazes fell to the still laughing Victor. King Brutus, Hardin, Amon-Shi, Jamsig, Tolgion, Dodmic, and Darnin suddenly burst through the doors through which Aiden and the rest had originally entered. They saw the large crowd surrounding Aiden and the others and immediately rushed to see what had happened. “What is all the commotion?” Brutus asked. His eyes widened as he saw Nadir on the ground. “NO!!! NADIR!!!” The king fell to the ground crying, cradling the fallen Knight’s head in his arms. Everyone watched in silence as the king wept; everyone except Victor, who was still laughing. After what seemed for hours, the king finally stopped weeping. He raised his head from Nadir’s body, his eyes red and swollen from his tears. In a quiet, cold, hard voice, he spoke. “Who did this…? Who did this to my son?” he finished in a loud cry. Aiden looked to Kelindril in shock. “The king’s son?” he thought. “Victor just murdered the king’s son?” “He did it!” Gardial exclaimed, pointing to Victor. “He is the one who killed Nadir!” Jamsig and the others looked at Victor incredulously. “Victor, is this true?” Jamsig asked.
Victor abruptly stopped laughing and he narrowed his eyes. “What’s it to you? What if I did?” King Brutus’s eyes shone with pure rage and hatred towards the man. His hand was already darting for his sword, but in one quick motion, Amon-Shi grabbed his hand and stopped him from drawing his blade. “You killed my son!!!” the king cried, breaking down in tears once more. protruding from it. Victor laughed at the king. “Weakness. You show to much of it,” he cackled. “A ruler is supposed to be strong, not weak. Am I not right? Heh, I bet you don’t do anything to me. Are you going to have me hanged for killing your little boy?” Everyone stared in shocked silence at Victor. The only sound in the room was from the king’s heavy breathing. His breathing was not of sorrow now, but of anger. When he raised his head once more, the rage was increased tenfold. “No… I will not kill you, not personally at least,” he hissed. “I will give you a day’s start, and then I will send my most brutal soldier and the best tracker in all of Salador after you to do with as they will. Yes… that is what I will do… Amon-Shi, seize him!” The dark elf was on Victor before the king had a chance to finish. Amon-Shi grabbed Victor in a vice-like grip around the neck and threw him on the ground. Gardial pounced on the man, pinning him to the ground. Victor kicked and thrashed about, trying to get loose. More men grabbed Victor and bound his hands behind his back with heavy ropes. A huge man chained a collar around his neck and jerked him upright with the chain attached to the collar. He buried his head into Nadir’s chest, the dagger still
Aiden watched in horror as they dragged his friend away. Victor was screaming protests and thrashing about. His eyes met Aiden’s and in that moment, the glazed look was gone and the Victor he had once known was there. “Aiden! Help me! Please!” he shouted, his voice ringing in Aiden’s ears as they dragged him around the corner. “PPLLEEAASSEE!!!” Silence settled in the room. Aiden looked to Jamsig, who had his head downcast; Tolgion was still staring in the direction where Victor had been hauled off; Dodmic had his eyes closed, his lips quivering; Darnin sat down and rubbed his head; Kelindril was staring where Victor had been hauled off, his face set in stone. King Brutus was stroking his dead son’s head, the anger that had filled him was burned out and there was a new emotion in his eyes: exhaustion. Hardin leaned next to King Brutus and whispered some soft words. After several long moments, he finally nodded and stood. His face was set in stone as he turned on those who were still in the room. “Jamsig, Tolgion, Dodmic, Darnin, we have work to do.”
There it was. Salador, City of the White Bear. It had been a long, fruitful campaign, and now the crown jewel of the campaign stood before him. Reaper growled softly, just barely audible. Garrett stood on a ridge that was not far from the white city, gazing down in contempt at what was to come. Images of Salador falling to his might, his standards rising above the beautiful city, his enemies being put to death in front of his cheering horde, and all he needed was the dagger.
But how to get it? Telepathic images emitted from the dagger in the city gave him his answer. A man, no… a boy, yes, a boy with short brown hair and a wide-brimmed hat. Two daggers on his belt, a leather vest over his white shirt. “But who is this boy?” he wondered, “and what does he have to do with the dagger?” Reaper suddenly stood up, all six ears perked on his head. Garrett looked to the dog and pulled out his spyglass. He noticed the portcullis rising from its position and the white gates opening. He scrunched his eye as he watched the scene unfold. As the gates opened, several men threw someone out of the city. The man got up and tried to run back in, but was immediately stopped. He watched as the gates closed and the portcullis was lowered. As Garrett lowered his spyglass, his grin grew even wider. “Well,” he said to Reaper, “we should go welcome our newest ally.”