Authors: Brae Wyckoff
“Are you powerful enough for this task, Mystic?”
the booming voice of the dragon demanded inside the mage’s mind.
“Barawbyss, I taught my brother everything he knew. Manasseh will give us our information; that is certain.”
“Very well. Let the ceremony begin.”
The mage pulled back his hood. His pale skin glowed in this dark chamber, emanating a soft light through the black tattoos covering his bald scalp. Dark circles surrounded the deeply sunken eyes on his colorless face. He waved his staff over the corpse of the fallen King Manasseh and in a raspy arcane language, began to chant, the right side of his upper lip
curling and revealing rotted teeth. “Shuul fha-té. Cal odem she et-kal.” His ruby crested staff began to glow brighter with each spoken word over the lifeless body. Slowly, Manasseh levitated and rotated until his face pointed to the ceiling. The chanting continued, “Telhal vatcu shadhal!” The dead man’s mouth opened wide.
The black dragon expanded its wings and leaned its head low. The toothy maw slowly opened and a single drop of saliva fell into Manasseh’s open-hanging jaw.
“Kobess-cay zesheil,” the mystic touched Manasseh’s chest with the tip of the brightly lit ruby as he finished his incantation. A surge of power, accompanied by a loud humming noise, jolted the corpse, which shook violently as a low gurgling sound rumbled from deep inside his gut and a foamy froth erupted from Manasseh’s mouth. The light dissipated and Veric backed away as Barawbyss retracted his wings and lifted his head.
Manasseh’s body continued to convulse; his long jet black hair flew wildly around his face with each violent rotation of his neck. Then all motion suddenly stopped. The body slumped and went limp.
“Can you hear me?” the mystic bent over to ask.
The blue lips of the corpse moved slightly as his dry voice replied in a hoarse whisper, “Yes.”
“What is your name?”
The wizard righted himself and addressed Barawbyss, “It is complete.”
“Not until he gives us the answer we truly desire, Veric,”
the dragon answered in his thoughts.
“Yes, of course,” the mystic leaned back toward Manasseh. “Where is the blue dragon stone?”
Manasseh’s body jerked, but he gave no answer. It was as though he was somehow resisting.
“Where is the blue dragon stone, Manasseh?” he asked again more forcefully.
Refusing to answer the question, he only replied, in a raspy, guttural tone, “I want revenge.”
Veric paused, looking to Barawbyss. The dragon glared back at him,
“You will continue, Mage.”
“It is too dangerous to have him return.”
“You made your deal with me, that is no concern of mine. Continue!”
he roared inside Veric’s mind.
Veric bowed low and turned again to Manasseh, “You will have your revenge, if you give us what we want.”
Manasseh slowly turned his head toward Veric and growled, “Bring me back first.”
“You can only name one soul. From whom amongst the living do you seek revenge?”
Bridazak pointed to the old, edge frayed map, and asked, “Does any of this look familiar to you Spilf?”
He studied the markings, shook his head and said, “I just don’t see anything that stands out. I’m sorry.”
Dulgin growled, “Great! That’s wonderful, Stubby. We risk our necks for this map and—”
Bridazak held up his hand to stop him. He turned his back to the group, closed his eyes and silently prayed. He spun back a second later, a glint in his eyes.
“We obviously need to try something a little different.”
“What is your meaning, Master Bridazak?” Abawken inquired.
“Yeah, what do ya mean ‘different’?”
“Spilf, I want you to sit down with the map and ask for guidance on where to go.”
“Maybe there will be an impression or an instinct that comes when you concentrate. Let’s just try it. We have nothing to lose.”
Spilf sat as instructed, while the rest of them watched. Dulgin skeptically squinted, crossing his arms across his barrel chest.
The ordakian closed his eyes and began to focus on the memory of what God had shown him. It played back vividly in his mind. His mother was hit by the arrow and fell into the cold water. She pushed the canoe with all her remaining strength and told him to never come back and look for
them. Tears were visible on Spilfer’s face as his friends continued to watch him relive the painful past he had forgotten—until God in the Holy City had shown him the memories he had lost.
Spilf then recalled the mist hovering over the lake engulfing him and the small vessel. While his eyes were still closed, an image of the map he held burst into his mind like a flash of light. He opened his eyes and without hesitation, pointed, “It’s here.”
Dulgin barged forth, “What!? Let me see.” Spilf’s finger indicated a spot on the parchment that had no lake. It was a small area nestled at the base of the mountains. “There’s nothing there, ya blundering fool!”
Spilf turned to Bridazak, “I did as you asked and I feel it is there. I can’t explain it.”
“Well, that’s good enough for me, my friend,” Bridazak reassured him.
“What? You are going to follow this ridiculous eye-closing, finger-pointing, Ordakian-guessing? This is dwarfshit!”
“Dulgin, please calm down. We promised Spilf we would do what we could and all we have is this. Let’s make an adventure out of it, shall we?”
“Adventuring is one thing and sightseeing is another!” Dulgin stormed off, mumbling more obscenities under his breath.
Spilf shook his head, “You’d think meeting God would have changed even
“Oh, his heart was changed,” Abawken responded, “Dulgin cares for each of us more deeply than before. His reconciliation to his brother and father, after hundreds of years, has undoubtedly disturbed some buried emotions and he is most likely a bit out of practice at letting those concerns show in any way other than dwarven anger.”
Each of them nodded in agreement before returning their attentions to the map.
“This location Spilf indicated will take several days to get to. Be mindful of our rations. There are no roads out here, so this map is a vital source,” Bridazak said.
At the break of dawn, the campfire, which had burned through the night, mingled the scent of charred wood with the refreshing brisk air of the new day. The heroes awoke and studied the rolling, treeless plains around them. In the distance, a maze of mountain ranges soared into the clouds. Throughout the rocky terrain were hundreds of bodies of water; some small, some vast. This area, known as the Endless Lakes, had notoriously
taken the lives of a few travelers trying to navigate its seemingly peaceful but secretly deadly domain. This beautiful scenery was more dangerous than many creatures of the realm; some fell victim to the poisonous liquid appearing as clean as a fresh spring, others had died when drawn to the mesmerizing black-as-night waters, ready to swallow any passersby. It was easy to see why so few had ever seen this place, and how unknowing visitors could meet an untimely end.
Bridazak looked beyond the glistening lochs and toward the base of the looming crags, hopeful for what they would discover tomorrow. A soft breeze washed over their camp and he closed his eyes. He smiled as he thought to himself,
“Yes Lord, it is time.”
aina led their small group through the bustling streets of the busy trade capital, Tuskabar. Her emerald robes fluttered behind her as the others tried to keep up. The Heart of the West, as the high-walled city was called, was largely considered the most important city of the civilized realm. It consisted of over three-hundred thousand hardy souls, mainly humans, which made the two elves and two dwarves rushing through its roadways stand out even more than they might have usually.
Coastal cliffs along the north ridge of the bay formed a natural wall, where a famous landmark, Ravana’s tower—called the Ten-Heads—imposingly stood. Resembling a tall scepter with nine pointed spires surrounding the pinnacle, the tower ceaselessly watched over every district and ward within the walls of the city. Raina began to tell her comrades the tale of Ravana, a powerful mystic and the daughter of the insidious West Horn King, Oedikus. She has never yet been seen by any subject of the land, as legends say she remains in her tower, growing her skill and magical attainment. As for their king, the citizens see him only when appearing before them each month at the moon festival, on a high balcony.
“You seem hurried?” El’Korr asked Raina, hoping their pace might lessen for a moment.
Without looking back or stopping, she replied, “It is long since I have visited Tuskabar. I sense a change and fear my presence might alert the reigning monarch.”
“You mean the West Horn King?”
“When I knew Ravana, she was ruthless and calculated. At the moment, I sense a great deal of preservation and animation spellwork in the air here. So, yes,” Raina paused, “the West Horn King, in a manner of speaking.”
“How much further, then?” he asked as he stared over at the tower with a new concern in his voice.
“We are here.”
The heroes turned the corner and found themselves looking into a cemetery. Even though it was mid-day, the tombstone grounds still held a lingering coastal mist woven throughout the generations worth of graves. There were too many monuments to count; the cemetery’s unordered rows extended beyond their line of vision.
Raina explained, “Captain Yasooma’s tomb lies within. It is here I expect we will find information for the whereabouts of the fifth stone.”
“This will take us days to locate,” Xan proclaimed, dismayed.
“No. It will be sooner than that, my brother.”
Closing her eyes, Raina raised her hands, splaying her fingers wide, and mumbled the words of the arcane. She ended her incantation, opened her emerald eyes, and smiled, pleased at the accuracy of one of her favorite helping spells. It was a smile that Xan had not seen for quite some time—he whispered a quick thanks to God for reuniting them.
“It is this way,” she entered.
The adventurers followed behind Raina as her magic spell lead them deeper into the maze of final resting places. They wound their way amongst the varied stones carved with epithets to the dead, whose long-past departure was evident by the faded etchings. Many headstones had broken corners or were listing into the soft earth. Statues adorned the entrances of the larger crypts; holding swords or a candle to signify lighting of the way for the departed.
El’Korr stared at one of the statues they were passing. Its cracked face, chipped nose, and missing arm, now laying nearby and grown over with moss, sent shivers up his dwarven spine. “This place is creepy.”
Raina quickened her pace. They rounded a large gnarled tree with wispy leaves that drooped down low to the ground. A slight breeze rustled through, and the smell of wet wood permeated the air as they shuffled around the knotted base and found themselves standing before a large iron gate.
“This is Captain Yasooma’s tomb,” Raina declared.
The adventurers stared in amazement at the thick iron-gate, guarding the largest monument they had seen. The side of the tomb was painted with a mural depicting crashing waves, ships with tall masts, and various battle scenes—tales from the late captain’s life, no doubt. Bronze statue guardsmen held swords, crossing one another, overhead. Weeds grew in the open area surrounding the ancient residence and thin, leafless vines stretched along the base of the burial chamber. A stone door was barely visible at the top of the stairs. The group heard faint cries echoing from below, and they noticed the gate was ajar.
Xan whispered, “We are not alone.”
Raina and the heroes moved closer to the iron fence for a better view. There was something in the shadows, at the top of the stairs, but they could not see what it was. As Rondee pulled the iron-gate slightly open, it dragged through the overgrown weeds and creaked loudly. Immediately, the crying stopped. For a moment everyone froze in position until Rondee continued opening the gate wide enough for all of them to enter. Suddenly, a hooded figure burst into the light and dashed to the left, attempting to escape. Xan and El’Korr gave chase. They caught the mysterious individual trying to climb over the fence, who quickly turned on them, brandishing a dagger. The elf and dwarf backed away.