The Lord Of Lightning (Book 3) (2 page)

BOOK: The Lord Of Lightning (Book 3)
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The Evil One was clearly trying to find a way to harness the  energy held within the three objects of eldritch power, which increased with a frightening magnitude when the three were joined together.

Zik led Arnwylf up a steep, rocky path to the foothills of the Red Mountains. The stone of the foothills was angled with a sharp regularity as though the land had been shattered millennia ago by some cataclysmic earthquake, yet every red angle had been worn down by the Ages. The Red Mountains were very, very old. The red of the stone looked as though it had been sand many eons ago, and had transformed into rock with the passing of the centuries. Looking up, Arnwylf could see the small, white blotches of sheep and mountain goats moving among the staggeringly high cliffs with uncaring ease.

Small bushes with dark green, conical leaves grew in the cracks of the boulders. The bushes had small purple flowers that were very fragrant. Arnwylf had seen cooks use this particular plant in cooking, back in Zik's city.

"There!" Zik exclaimed, as he pointed up at a sheer cliff in the orange and red crags looming overhead. "Let's get closer."

Arnwylf followed Zik along a narrow path, with close rock walls that opened out at a sharp angle. The path wound around a massive outcropping that obscured the sheer cliff. As they came around the high crag, Arnwylf saw what looked to be large letters carved on the flat drop of the cliff wall Zik had pointed out.

The path led on to a clearer view of the large, strange symbols cut into the cliff's face.

"That's Miranei," Arnwylf said in wonder, "the language of the elves."

"The True Humans were once great friends with the The People of Light," Zik sniffed. "I visited the capital once when I was a young ship's hand."

"The city is gone now," Arnwylf solemnly said. "All the elves, but one, my friend, were killed by the invading garond army."

"It has been said," Zik added with a quiet sorrow.

"I should copy down these letters for my friend," Arnwylf said. Arnwylf and Zik searched themselves, but had nothing to write on or with.

"I'll try to remember the letters," Arnwylf said as he stared at the large carved message, trying to commit the shapes to memory.

"Over here," Zik motioned to Arnwylf. "It is said that the elf who wrote on the Red Mountains was a great leader of the elves who wished to travel the world. A friend of our people, my Great Uncle, helped him carve these words. My Great Uncle carved a likeness of his elf friend, many years later when he realized that He Who Wrote on the Mountain would never again return to our land." Zik pointed to an image carved further down the cliff face.

Arnwylf was astonished.

"I know this face!" Arnwylf exclaimed. Then, he dug into his pocket, and produced the gold coin he always carried.

"See," Arnwylf said, handing the coin to Zik so he could compare the profile stamped on the coin to the likeness carved in stone. "I got this coin from the treasury in Plymonley, from Caerlund, the chieftain of the Madrun Hills, who was entrusted with all the gold of Lanis Rhyl Landemiriam, the elvish capital, when the elves had no more use for money."

"It must be the same elf!" Zik said with astonishment. "Our legends say He Who Wrote on the Mountain passed through our city twenty years ago. He had white hair, and was much beloved by our people. They say he could make the finest metal weapons. He taught our people to make steel, like the fine blade given to you."

"He may still live!" Arnwylf exclaimed. "I must tell Iounelle." Then Arnwylf was quiet. "I must go home, Zik," he said. "Even if my people have been decimated by Deifol Hroth and his garond army, I must go to see if there are any left that I can help."

"I understand," Zik said with an uncustomary frown. "There will be many disappointed princesses in my city."

"You know of my one, true love," Arnwylf said with a small smile, and then looked down in embarrassment.

"Then you'd best find her and marry her quick," Zik said with a beaming smile. "Let's get back to my city."

As Arnwylf and Zik climbed down from the foothills of the Red Mountains, they were met by Myama and a group of men carrying torches to light against the closing night. The steep crags of the Red Mountains took on a dark hue, almost black as the sun began to set. Hundreds of bats winged out from their nesting places and started their hunts for the night. Stars began to twinkle, bright, white pinpoints in the east.

"So there you are!" Myama said with a motherly scold. "What would I tell all six of your wives if you were lost or killed?" 

"Myama," Zik said with an affectionate hand on his first mate's shoulder, "we must sail tomorrow."

"Praise the gods!" Myama said, "to take young Arnwylf home?" Zik nodded. "Then I can get some peace and time away from my fourteen wives!" Myama said with happy exasperation.

"Oh," Myama said, just remembering an important message he had yet to impart. "We must go directly to the king."

"Why?" Zik said with obvious annoyance.

"Arnwylf's bull nyati is a record," Myama said. "They have prepared a feast."

"It's a trap," Zik said with a frown. "Our king means to marry you off to one of his daughters. Was it really a record?"

"Arnwylf's beast's horns beat your rack by three fingers," Myama said softly, hoping to not incur his captain's wrath.

"They must have been fat fingers," Zik mumbled and cast a suspicious sideways glance at his first mate. "They weren't your fingers?" Zik asked Myama as they trekked back across the savannah.

"No, not me," Myama said with indignity. "So, Arnwylf, tell me the story of your kill. We have a long walk back."

"All right," Arnwylf said, "if it will not upset your captain." Zik waved his hand in dismissal for Arnwylf to proceed.

A large, undulating cloud of small black birds, moving like a living form, surged in a synchronized, billowing flock along the last light fading on the horizon, finally settling on a large stand of trees. The savannah was quiet and still with the first dark of the evening. The predators of the night had yet to wake and began their hunts. There was no breeze at all. All was calm as the group made their way home, torches lighting the way.

On the walk back, Myama made Arnwylf retell the tale of his killing the record sized nyati five times.

 

As Zik, Arnwylf and their entourage entered Attubyamba, the blonde boy from Wealdland took in the city.

This may be the last time I ever again set eyes on this marvel, Arnwylf thought to himself.

The city was mostly stone buildings, two and three stories high, built with red stone cut from the mountains. On the eaves and ledges of the buildings were decorative busts, of fish, nyumbu, nyati, monkeys, lions, and another large feline animal, with enormous fangs, that Arnwylf had never seen before. All the statuary, adorning every cornice and ledge showed the prowess in ceramics and stone carving of Zik's people.

Colorful banners of important families flew from every doorway. Every street was filled with happy, fat vendors selling fruit of every description, vegetables, cuts of meat, and barrels and barrels of fish. Attubyamba was an important fishing city.

Even at night, the city was bustling, lit with rows of ornamental torches that brilliantly illuminated the busy city. It was said that the city never slept, and Arnwylf could believe that it was true.

Attubyamba was a crush of villagers, warriors, merchants, and nurses minding scores of mischievous children. Although the city was crowded, every citizen seemed to have a smile on their face, and politely and happily greeted every other person they encountered with joy and friendliness.

The clothing of Zik's people was riotous in color and design, and it seemed the more outlandish the design and the more flamboyant the palette, the more the citizens of Attubyamba loved it. Some designs were striations of color accented with bands of black. Some designs were bright patches of color, radiant even in the dimness of the evening, representing the wild variety of flowers that grew in the land south of Wealdland.

Every third shop was devoted to books and scribes. Zik's people were voracious readers and the scholarly pursuits were held in high regard.

Arnwylf was a novelty in Attubyamba with his white skin, blonde hair and tall stature. Zik's men had to ring the boy to keep him from the pinches of the curious, kisses from love sick girls, and desperate glad handing of every merchant who saw the boy from the Weald as a once in life time business opportunity.

A group of muscular men, all wearing curiously worked gold collars, pushed their way towards Zik, Arnwylf and their friends. The muscular men had an official air about them. And although the citizens of Attubyamba grumbled when they were pushed aside, they knew better than to complain.

"The King's Guards have found us," Zik said with a sideways frown to Arnwylf.

"Arnwylf!" The lead Kingsman hailed the boy. "The King wishes to fete you." The King's Guards wore the beautifully worked gold collar of rank, but wore no shirt or tunic, to show off their powerful upper bodies. They shaved their heads, and covered themselves in the oil from a certain tree to make their muscular bodies shine with warning of their rank and strength.

"We will come to the palace a little later," Zik said with a dangerous, thin-lipped smile, and dismissive wave of his hand.

"The King has only ordered Arnwylf to attend," The Kingsman said, low and challenging to Zik. "You may go wherever you like, sailor, I care not."

For a tense instant, the groups of men sized each other up, readying for a fight. Zik's eyes narrowed like a dangerous animal ready to pounce. The citizens of Attubyamba instinctively drew back into doorways and shops, giving the two groups of powerful men plenty of room to brawl.

"How can I tell of my killing of the record sized nyati without the only man to witness the event?" Arnwylf said with a happy slap on Zik's back. "Who will keep me honest, but Zik? My friend, all my friends, must come to the fete. I know the King would not want to dishonor me by leaving my friends out of the feast."

The Kingsman was embarrassed, and too flustered for words. The tense situation dissipated with Arnwylf's broad smile.

"You heard the boy," Zik said with an imperious gesture to the Kingsman. "Lead us to the feast, Lover of Land."

With that, Arnwylf and Zik turned and headed straight towards the palace. The Kingsmen had to rudely push the crowding villagers aside to run and catch up, and sloppily assume an escorting formation around Zik, Arnwylf and their entourage.

 

The royal mansion of King Otodyo of Attubyamba was sprawling and opulent. Several gardens surrounded the huge building that was made of blue bricks, bricks that were unique in all the city. The palace was a series of square structures topped by squat, oval domes of weathered green copper. Every window had a shutter of black, ebony wood, carved in intricate patterns. In the gardens that stretched out in many descending tiers were several tethered, wild animals displayed for King Otodyo's amusement, and to show off the wealth of the old king.

A chained lion started and roared at the approaching group, it's eyes flashing, huge fangs bared, massive paws swatting with vicious claws. Myama jumped, eyes wide, and loudly cursed. All the other men had a good laugh at his expense.

Arnwylf had been to King Otodyo's palace several times, but preferred to avoid it when he could. The fat, old king invariably tried to marry Arnwylf off to one of his daughters. Arnwylf's excuses and delays were becoming less and less acceptable to His Royal Highness.

The front doors of the palace were huge, ornately carved slabs of the blackest ebony wood. The gold hinges, locks and handles glowed brilliantly against the deep black of the wood doors. Arnwylf thought the doors resembled the Kings Guard, oiled, dark, and huge, with accents of gold. He smiled to himself.

The noise of the cacophonous party inside spilled out as the heavy doors were creaked open by the attending Doormen, who were dressed as the King's Guard, but had a single red feather tied to their upper right arm to signify that they were trusted throughout the palace.

Zik and Arnwylf exchanged an exasperated look, then marched into the palace of King Otodyo.

Arnwylf noticed Captain Zik furiously whispering to his First Mate, Myama, as they entered the marbled, lavish foyer of the palace. The Kingsmen and Doormen led Zik, Arnwylf and their group to the main hall where the feast was in full riotous splendor.

Zik pulled Arnwylf close.

"What ever you are asked tonight," Zik whispered, "do not answer a direct 'yes' or 'no'. Do you understand?"

Arnwylf nodded his head.

In the main hall of King Otodyo a crush of nobles and ladies danced to wild, yet beautifully melodic music produced by fifty musicians crowded into one corner of the hall. The wide variety of musical instruments: mellow brass horns; shrill reed horns; bright trumpets; twanging stringed instruments of many kinds; and many, many different kinds of drums, all made a crashing, yet rhythmic sound that stirred the blood and was fun to dance to.

The head of the nyati that Arnwylf had killed was prominently displayed on a huge wooden table in the center of the entrance to the main hall. The gristly head of the beast was adorned with orange and yellow flowers. The beast's tongue lolled out of its still frothy, saliva caked mouth. Delicacies and other silver plates of food were arranged around the head of the record-breaking animal. It was a scene of brutal civility. Zik's culture celebrated death and heroic struggle, but was accomplished in science, arts, music, and crafts.

BOOK: The Lord Of Lightning (Book 3)
2.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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