The King's Ring (The Netherworld Gate Book 2)

BOOK: The King's Ring (The Netherworld Gate Book 2)
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The Netherworld Gate Book Two:

 

The King’s Ring

 

By

 

 

Sam Ferguson

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

 

The Netherworld Gate

Book Two:

The King’s Ring

Copyright © 2016 by Sam Ferguson

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

For my Mom. Thank you for all that you do

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

A vibrant hum sounded from the trunk of a large oak tree overlooking a meadow. An almost imperceptible ring of yellow light expanded on the trunk just over a thick bough midway up the tree. A second later, a two foot tall gnome exited from the tree itself and stood on the branch. His eyes were narrow and green, shining brightly from under the mat of silver hair that was only a shade darker than the nearly white beard hanging down to the gnome’s belly. He wrinkled his narrow, pointy nose and stamped the butt of his mithril spear on the branch. He wore brown trousers and a green tunic, blending in with the forest around him. In his pack he had the last of his provisions he had packed for his return trip.

The gnome turned his eyes out over the clearing, scanning the poppies and marigolds dotting the high grasses. He was surprised that none of the others were out in the clearing. At this time of day he would have expected them to be collecting herbs and roots briefly until he saw the grassy knoll. Hatatuk would be inside, he knew.

He went to the main hall and reached for the door. He pushed it open and saw the old, wiry gnome sitting upon the floor. No others were in the dwelling with him. Jaleal closed the door and walked toward the old gnome.

Hatatuk opened his eyes and regarded Jaleal curiously. “Have you succeeded in your quest?”

Jaleal nodded. “I completed my part.”

Hatatuk pushed up from the floor and walked toward Jaleal. “And now you wish to be received as a hero for your efforts? Or do you seek to overtake me and become the chief?”

Jaleal shook his head. “Neither. I just noticed that no one was outside. I thought I should check and see if something was wrong.”

“While you were gone, the spiders attacked our village several times,” Hatatuk replied.

“Spiders?” Jaleal echoed. “But the special flowers and the golden dust that is put into the air at night keeps them at bay.”

Hatatuk shrugged. “Shortly after you left, the starbowl grew sick. The blue flowers that glow and emit the magic pollen at night ceased offering their protection for a time.” Hatatuk shook his head and pointed at Jaleal’s spear. “We sorely needed you and your spear then, Jaleal.”

“I couldn’t have known,” Jaleal said. “I went where I thought it best. Tu’luh the Red needed to be stopped.”

Hatatuk pointed to the door. “You may leave,” he said. “I managed to bring the starbowl back to health without you. We suffered only a few casualties. Still, it is best not to go out in the daylight. Sometimes the spiders still come in the day, when the dust from the previous night has settled. Once the starbowl builds up again, over time, I think we will be safe once more.”

Jaleal opened his mouth to speak, but Hatatuk gestured to the door and tilted his head angrily. There was nothing left to be said between the two.

The warrior gnome turned and left. He cast a glance around the meadow. He walked around the knoll and through the many hills that formed the village itself. He could see a few gnomes out in front of their dwellings. A few of the elders offered him cursory nods from their stools in front of their homes, but most of the other folk pretended not to see him. A few even closed their windows or ducked into their dwellings when they noticed him. Never had he felt like this before.

He quickly moved along toward his home, keeping alert for any sign of danger, but foregoing trying to speak with anyone he saw.

Jaleal stretched out his hand and grasped the brass knob on his door. The round, wooden portal squeaked as he pulled it outward toward him. The room was dark, and held a damp, musty odor inside. It seemed to the gnome that no one had bothered to air the place out during his absence. Then again, it was likely that at least some of them had not expected him to return from hunting a dragon.

He cast a glance over his shoulder, taking in the serene, flower filled view of the hills that formed each gnome’s house in the small village. It was a place he had called home for centuries, but now it felt foreign to him. Everything looked the same as it always had, but then again everything appeared different, changed somehow. Or perhaps it was him that had changed and his home had always been this way? There was no way for him to know. All he was certain of was that he felt like an outsider. A cast away who had once belonged and now was an intruder.

Jaleal sighed and shook his head. It was going to take a while to make things feel normal again he knew. Perhaps they never would be normal. Oh how he longed to be off with Erik, his young friend and adventure companion of the last several months. Jaleal was positive there wasn’t any task in the world that was too big for the two of them. He smiled faintly as he recalled rushing off into the night to hunt the red dragon in his lair. It had been fate, Jaleal knew, that brought Erik to the gnome village in the first place. Not that the warrior would ever wish a funnel spider attack on anyone, but had Erik not been bitten by the giant beast, the two of them never would have met.

He wished he was with him still, searching out whatever new adventures waited for his friend. Had the Father of the Ancients not forbidden it, Jaleal would have done precisely that.

Jaleal entered and walked down the short flight of stairs to the main level inside. He lit the lantern hanging from the ceiling and then shook out the match’s flame. His long, silver hair and beard took on a slight orange hue as the flame vanquished much of the darkness. Jaleal looked around his home, watching the shadows play off the lantern as it spun upon its chain. A thick layer of dust had gathered atop the small table and chair in his dining area. Mold had all but consumed a plate that Jaleal could only guess had once held bread.

“Well, ma always told me to clean up after myself,” he said sarcastically as his eyes landed on the furry green and white glob growing on the table. “Guess she was right.” He turned and gently slid his mithril spear into a set of iron brackets adjacent to the doorway. He slipped the pack off from his back and set it on the floor next to the door. Then he moved farther into his home, heading for his green velvet arm chair.

Something moved in the darkness. At first Jaleal thought it was a shadow, but the more his eyes adjusted to the room, he realized it was not a shadow, but a black boot sticking out from the armchair and set upon the footstool.

Jaleal circled around the chair. How could someone have taken his home already? That was not the gnome way. Even if it was, no gnome would willingly live in such filth.

As he moved around the side of the chair he saw a stout gnome with a long, white beard. The intruder’s hands were resting upon his slightly bulging belly and he was snoring softly. Yet, this was not a gnome from Jaleal’s village. His clothes were rough, forest green and made of wool and embellished with silk strips of black. His boots were made of fine leather, and a golden chain hung around his neck that matched a gaudy bracelet of golden links on his right arm.

No, none of the gnomes that Jaleal knew would ever wear such ornaments. His people would prefer a crown of daisies woven together over the finest of gemstones. This gnome was from some place far away from the heart of Terramyr. That fact begged the question, who was he, and what was he doing in Jaleal’s home?

Jaleal kicked the intruder’s feet from the footstool.

The other gnome woke with a start, snorting and jerking his hands out to the side to catch himself.

“What, what? Who is it?” The gnome looked up at Jaleal and then he smiled. “Oh, it’s you! I have been waiting for you.”

“Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?” Jaleal asked. Then he glanced over to the moldy plate on the table. Flustered, he pointed to it and shouted at the intruder. “And for Terra’s sake, how can you invade my home without the decency to clean up such a disgraceful mess?!”

The other gnome frowned and looked to the table. He shrugged. “I have only just arrived an hour or so ago. I would have cleaned if you had taken longer to return, I suppose.”

Jaleal grimaced and folded his arms over his chest. “Waiting for me? Why?”

The other gnome rose to his feet and bowed graciously. “I am Phinean, Sergeant of the Svetli’Tai Council of Svatal.”

“Svatal?” Jaleal repeated as he drew his brow together. “But, Svatal Island is many months by sea beyond the Barrier Reef, what could you possibly be doing here?”

Phinean shook his head. “No, by sea it would take more than a year to get to Svatal, and it would only work if the Barrier Reef were not enchanted into a great ring of fire that blocks all ships from entering or leaving that entire area.”

“You traveled more than a year to see me? Why?”

“Good heavens, no!” Phinean said quickly. “I used magic! I came as quickly as I could. It is a matter of the utmost urgency.”

Jaleal narrowed his eyes on Phinean. “What is a matter of the utmost urgency?” he barked. The warrior-gnome was quickly losing his patience.

Phinean pointed to the small sack slung over Jaleal’s left shoulder. “He said you would have it. The Goresym, do you have it?”

Jaleal thought of the magical crystal tucked safely into his pocket. How could Phinean know of it? More importantly, what did he want with it? Jaleal held out his left hand and Aeolbani, his magical mithril spear appeared in his palm. He gripped the weapon and leveled the point at Phinean’s throat. “You had better speak plainly, else I will end your nonsensical words.”

Phinean blanched. “Quite right,” he said with a slight nod. “Perhaps I should start from the beginning. I was sent to you by Jahre, he is the oldest and wisest of the elf sages on Svatal Island. He was there when King Lemork led a war to crush the Svetli’Tai race.” Phinean paused and waited for a reaction. Jaleal stood stoic. Phinean frowned. “King Lemork was a dark elf, a Sierri’Tai, a sister race of the Tomni’Tai dark elves.”

“I know who the Sierri’Tai are,” Jaleal said impatiently.

Phinean nodded, glancing nervously to the spear’s point aimed at his throat. “Well, did you know that King Lemork rode upon a black dragon in his war with the other elf races?” Again he paused, but again Jaleal didn’t respond. Phinean stamped a foot in frustration. “Oh, must I spell it out for you?! King Lemork rode upon one of the Ancients, a black dragon with no name! He wielded a great sword fashioned from that very monster and nearly consumed the Elven Isles of Svatal and Selemet in his rage and bloodlust.”

“When did this happen?” Jaleal asked, his tone now showing a bit more concern.

“Five hundred years ago,” Phinean responded.

“So why seek out the Goresym now?” Jaleal pressed.

“Because we need it!” Phinean said impatiently. “The elf sage, Jahre, said that a great warrior, named Talon, will come from the continent north of Svatal. This man is more than a simple warrior though; he is a cunning assassin and has great potential for either good or evil. Jahre said that Talon will come to Svatal looking for powerful artifacts that could disrupt the balance of Terramyr.”

“How can one man do that?” Jaleal asked. “I have seen many wizards and warlocks. I have even dealt with the aftermath of Nagar the Black, a Sierri’Tai necromancer who cast this realm into chaos, but none of them could destroy the whole of Terramyr on their own. They worked in unison, and even then they needed the help of a dragon. How can one warrior be as dangerous as you claim?”

“Don’t you see?” Phinean asked. The fear was evident in his wide eyes and nervous fidgeting. “Jahre foresaw that the assassin will soon find and wield Lemork’s sword. The sword is born out of the black dragon’s bone and as such, the weapon itself has a mind and power all its own. It will corrupt the warrior, and he will turn to use the power he attains to destroy everything around him. If he succeeds in finding the other sacred relics, then he will be unstoppable.”

“Why do you need me?” Jaleal pressed.

“Because, with the Goresym, we might be able to counter the sword’s magic and restore balance. If we can do that, then there is still hope for him, and hope for us. If he can be brought back in line with his true destiny, then he could use the three relics to save us all.”

“And if we can’t restore balance?” Jaleal pressed.

Phinean shook his head. “Then we must kill Talon before he finds all of the relics. Otherwise, he will set Terramyr on a collision path with a terrible and dreadful power known only as the four horsemen.”

Jaleal stiffened. He had not expected that. As a gnome, he was well versed with the dangers the four horsemen brought with them. Anything that might invoke their wrath upon Terramyr was something that Jaleal was most keenly interested in preventing. He brought his spear away from Phinean and nodded slowly. “As a gnome, it is my duty to restore balance. More than that, as one of Terramyr’s races, I am honor-bound to defend her against all calamities. I know of a great warrior who would be useful to us. He too is struggling for a way to stop the arrival of the four horsemen.”

“Oh you can’t prevent them from coming,” Phinean said quickly. “But, if Talon is not brought back into balance, and he succeeds in attaining all three relics, plus the sword, then they will come sooner, and we will never stand a chance. The world will be turned to ash, and Talon would help them do it.”

“Then we must go and get Erik, we need his power.”

Phinean shook his head. “There is no time! Talon may already have the Tomni’Tai Scroll, and if he were to get the King’s Ring and the key as well, then it will be too late. Come, we must go now!” Phinean reached out and took hold of Jaleal’s hand. A flash of blue and silver light washed over them, and then the room was empty again.

BOOK: The King's Ring (The Netherworld Gate Book 2)
7.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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