Chasing A Spectre (War for Dominance Book 0)

BOOK: Chasing A Spectre (War for Dominance Book 0)
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Chasing a Spectre

 

Prequel to the War for Dominance

 

By

 

Chris Kennedy

 

 

 

 

 

PUBLISHED BY: Chris Kennedy

 

 

Copyright
© 2014 Chris Kennedy

 

 

All Rights Reserved

 

Discover other titles by Chris Kennedy at:

 

http://chriskennedypublishing.com/

 

or

 

https://www.facebook.com/chriskennedypublishing.biz

 

 

* * * * *

 

License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental.  The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

I would like to thank Linda, Jennie, Dan and Jimmy, who took the time to critically read this work and make it better. This book is dedicated to my wife and children, who sacrificed their time with me so that I could write it.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

Cover art by
DHM Designs

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

The Poor Quarter

 

“The Spectre went through there,” panted Dantes, pointing at a mirror at the end of the alley. The mirror’s surface shimmered once and then seemed to solidify before their eyes.

Ghorza slowed to a walk as she approached it. The mirror’s glass made a ‘plink’ noise as the metal end of her staff tapped it, but remained otherwise unresponsive. “Well, whatever magic he used to go through it has already dissipated,” she replied, breathing heavily. The mirror appeared unremarkable amidst the refuse at the end of the dark alley. “It looks like a normal mirror now.”

“Wonderful,”
sighed Dantes, his breathing a little more under control. He wasn’t known for his speed and endurance; chasing the thief had taken a lot out of him. A teufling, Dantes had a devil in his lineage, which showed through in his brick-red skin, thick horns and prehensile tail. The purple eyes were especially disconcerting to look into, even if they did match his purple hair.

Dantes pointed at the imitation gem stones that surrounded the glass on all four sides of the mirror. “There’s got to be at least 70 gems there. If it’s a four gem spell, there’s no way that we’re ever going to figure out the pattern. We were really close to catching the Spectre this time, but it looks like he’s gotten away.”

“Again,” added Ghorza. A half-orc, she was an outsider anywhere she went, in human lands or orc. As if the pale green skin and tusked teeth didn’t set her apart enough on their own, the tufts of coarse hair covering her body made finding human companionship impossible unless she went to the taverns at closing time. Even then, she didn’t always get lucky...and no one stayed in the morning.

Ghorza reached over to stroke the mirror, as if her hand could absorb the secret pattern necessary to activate the mirror’s travel spell. “Let’s get back to the Magistra,” she said, referring to the head of their order. “She will want to know what’s happened, even though we failed to catch the thief or find the queen’s crown. Bring the mirror. Maybe she knows a spell that will show us which gems he used to activate it. If nothing else, at least he won’t be able to use it to travel again.”

“Don’t you think the Spectre would have put a spell on it to keep that kind of magic from working?” asked Dantes.

Now it was Ghorza’s turn to sigh. The teufling always seemed to think things through better than she did, even though he wasn’t able to use magic as well. “Yeah, he probably did,” Ghorza said. “Still, we need to bring it back so he can’t travel back through it again. Besides, what can it hurt to bring it back?”

“Besides my back carrying it?” grumbled Dantes. “Nothing.” He shook his head in frustration. “I really thought we had him this time, too. I’d pay all of the money I had to my name if we could get this mirror to work.”

“Really?” asked a thin voice from the darkness of the alleyway’s corner. “And how much would that be?”

Ghorza’s head snapped around. “Who’s there?” she demanded. “Come out
now
, before we blast you with a fireball!”

“Such force is hardly necessary,” said the voice. “I surrender.”

Ghorza and Dantes looked down in shock. The voice came from a little gray mouse that swaggered up to them and bowed. “So,” it asked again, “how much are you willing to pay for the combination to the mirror?”

 

Institute for the Arcane

 

“We will discuss this in council and put together a team to go into the mirror after the thief,” said the Magistra. A snow elf, the Magistra was taller and wirier than most elves, standing almost three inches above six feet, with the light brown skin, long white hair, silver eyes and pointed ears that were common to her race. Typical of elves in general, who lived centuries the way humans lived decades, she was also slow to come to a decision.

“But we’ve got to go after him now!” exclaimed Ghorza, who came to decisions far more quickly. “He has the queen’s crown! The longer we delay, the further away he could be getting!”

Milos shook his head. A halfling, he looked human but was only three and a half feet tall. “The delay is unacceptable,” he said, interrupting the mages’ discussion.

“What do you mean?” asked the Magistra.

“I saw him go through the gate,” he said, “and I know there is a reward for his capture.” A beast master who could use magic to project his senses into animals, Milos had been controlling the mouse in the alley. “How many times have these two already failed to capture him?” he asked. “We can’t afford to give him a head start. We need to go through the mirror
now
to make sure he doesn’t get away. I might have caught him myself this time if the tuefy hadn’t come stomping along and spooked him.” He narrowed his eyes and looked at Dantes.


You
would have caught him?” asked Dantes with a glare of his own. “As a mouse, how would you have accomplished the task? By giving him rabies and waiting for him to die?”

“I would have gone back to my body and grabbed him,” mumbled Milos, finding something interesting on the ground to stare at.


You
would have grabbed him?” asked Dantes, eyeing the much smaller and weaker Milos. “How? Most reports say he is a big man.”

“They also say he is a master of disguise,” said the Magistra. “Did you get a good look at him?”

“He wasn’t that much larger than I am,” replied Milos. “In fact, I was about to grab him when he heard you coming. It’s almost as if...as if you didn’t want to catch the thief at all. That’s it!” he exclaimed, turning to the Magistra. “No wonder they can’t catch the thief. The devil is probably helping him.”

Anger blazed through Dantes, and flames began to dance on his skin. Within seconds, the smell of charred material filled the room. Even though his clothes were treated and warded, there was only so much that ‘fireproof’ could do when covering skin that often burst into open flames.

“Say that again, pig lover, and you’ll see what it’s like to be roasted in your own juices!” Dantes warned. “I have
never
done anything to help the thief!”


Calm yourself!
” said the Magistra. “Remember your training and your oath.”

Because of his parentage, Ghorza knew that Dantes had to swear not one, but several oaths in order for the Magistra to take him in, including his vows to pray only to the gods of good and to practice good wherever he went. More to the point, he had also sworn to abstain from torture in all forms and to never kill anyone, except in the line of duty.

Dantes took several deep breaths the way he had been taught, wisps of smoke trailing from his nostrils as he exhaled.

“Yes, Magistra,” he finally replied. “I remember my training and all of my oaths. It is because I
have
been true to my oaths that this dirt crawler riles me by saying that I am a thief, or that I help thieves. It has been hard enough to get people around here to accept me, and if that rumor gets out, I will lose the support of the few that
do
trust me.”

“I understand,” said the Magistra. She looked at Milos and said, “Perhaps it would be better for all of us if you watched your tongue. While we would like your assistance, it will be hard to get it from you if you are fried to a crisp.”

Milos simply nodded, saying nothing. After a few seconds, he looked at Ghorza and raised an eyebrow.

Ghorza understood his unspoken question; as a half-orc, she was as much an outcast as Dantes. “You’re just as liable to come to an untimely end if you accuse me as you would be if you continued to accuse Dantes,” she said, glaring down at Milos. Ghorza was a practitioner of air-based magic. Although young, she was a talented magician; her threat wasn’t an idle one.

“All I want is my reward,” whined Milos, turning to look imploringly again at the Magistra. When Milos had come out from where he had been hiding in the alley, Ghorza had been unimpressed with him. So far, nothing had changed. The halfling looked like he spent half of his day digging in a garbage heap and the other half rolling around in a manure pile. Ghorza had heard that beast masters often ended up no better than the creatures they controlled; they simply became inured to the animals’ constant filth. She hadn’t believed it before…but she believed it now.

“So far you haven’t done anything to deserve a reward,” the Magistra replied.

“True,” agreed Milos, “but that’s because I didn’t want them to sneak off with the mirror’s combination, never to be heard from again. Maybe the mirror leads to a land of wealth, where gold rests at the bottom of every river, just waiting to be picked up. They might never have come back, and I would never have received my reward. I heard the king offered 100 pieces of gold for information that led to the capture of the Spectre and the return of the crown. I want to make sure that my claim doesn’t get lost or forgotten.”

“My word is law,” replied the Magistra, “and I say that if you give us the
combination, and if these two go through and bring back the thief, then I will ensure that your claim is paid.”

“There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in that sentence,” remarked Milos. He looked down at his clothes as if for the first time. “This reward could change my life. 100 gold pieces is more than I would make in ten years of finding people’s lost pets and bringing their kittens down from trees. I could actually bathe for once and sit at the bar in the mead hall, rather than always eating outside with the swine and cattle.”

That plea fell on deaf ears with both Ghorza and Dantes, who often had to eat outside with the livestock. Boo hoo, Ghorza thought, life is tough all over.

“The biggest ‘if,’” continued Milos, “is ‘if they bring back the thief,’ something that they have been unable to do so far. How many times
has the Spectre struck, and these two failed to apprehend him? Six? Seven times now? So many now that he has become bold enough to steal the queen’s own crown? I don’t foresee them bringing him back this time, either. He went to great pains to cover his tracks; there’s no telling what his escape plan was once he went through the mirror. For all we know, he has another mirror that he used to come right back into this world from whatever time and place he went.”

“It’s only been five times,” said Dantes. “The first two don’t count because we weren’t involved then.”

“OK, five times,” allowed Milos. “They’ve had plenty of chances and have failed every time. If they are going through the mirror, I want to go too, so that I can watch out for my interests. I’ll make sure they come back with both the thief and my reward.”

“No way,” replied Ghorza. “I don’t want him coming with us. He’ll only get in the way. And he smells.”


I
smell
?
” Milos shrieked. “You’re obviously so used to your own reek that you don’t notice it any more. I could smell you coming a long way off.”

“You
are
somewhat...fragrant, Ghorza,” agreed the Magistra. “Besides, Milos has talents that might help you catch the thief. He could use a dog to track the thief without having to go to the local authorities. We don’t know what they use for payment, but it is unlikely our coins will work there.” She paused. “Yes,” she said, deciding, “you two will go through the mirror, and you will take Milos with you.”

“So I can go?” Milos asked. The Magistra nodded her head. After a second, Dantes did, too. Ghorza looked like she had bitten into something sour, but finally nodded her head.

“And I’ll get my reward when we return with the thief?” The Magistra nodded again. “In that case,” he said, “the combination is the blue gem in the upper left, the red gem in the lower right, the green gem in the upper right and the yellow gem in the lower left, in that order. Those were the stones that the thief pushed, and in the order that he pushed them.”

“You must have been close to see that,” said Ghorza. “Did you get a good look at his face?”

“Unfortunately, no,” replied Milos. “I was concentrating on what he was doing, and he had his hood pulled down low over his face, making it difficult to see him. I did hear his voice, though, and I will recognize it if I hear it again. You’ll appreciate this; he said, ‘A half-orc and a half-devil will never catch me. They’re both half-wits.’ If we can find him, I’ll know him by his voice.”

 

* * *

 

Three hours later, the trio was ready to depart.

Dantes eyed the scimitar at Ghorza’s side. Although it wasn’t illegal for a mage to carry a sword, it was almost as uncommon as it was for the sun to rise from the south. It just wasn’t done. Dantes could tell this wasn’t the first time she had worn it, either; the leather scabbard was well worn in all the right places.

Ghorza saw where he was looking and shrugged. “A girl gets less abuse on the road,” she explained, “if it looks like she can defend herself.”

Dantes knew that a man would have to be awfully hard up to feel like giving a half-orc woman ‘any abuse’ in the first place. He also knew that it was...impractical...to mention that fact to any woman, much less Ghorza, so he nodded sagely as if he understood and agreed.

Having dealt with the question, Ghorza turned to the Magistra. “Does the Council have any guidance for us?” she asked.

“Yes,” said the Magistra. “The Council has decided to exile him. If you can recover the stolen goods and ensure that he doesn’t have another means of transportation back to this world, you are authorized to leave him there. When you get back, we will break the mirror, trapping him wherever he is for all time.” She looked speculatively at Ghorza. “Personally, I would
advise you to have a Translate spell ready, in case you hadn’t already thought of that. You might come out of the mirror somewhere close by, but you may also end up far enough away from here that they speak a different language.”

“Uh yeah, I was going to do that,” said Ghorza, who knew that she should have thought of that herself...but hadn’t.

Ghorza could tell the Magistra saw through her statement. The smile that she gave Ghorza was only on her lips. Her silver eyes told Ghorza that she needed to act less and think more. Just like always. Ghorza vowed, once again, that this time she would.

 

BOOK: Chasing A Spectre (War for Dominance Book 0)
6.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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