May 24 2008

Chapter 22

Jeremy @ 12:16 pm

6050.2.58

They debated the problem.  Was it somewhere in Melbourne?  It was a large part of the city, filled with the type of folk who would possess items of great value.  But, as the prince pointed out, it’s value could not outweigh the risks of keeping it.  They resolved to leave the city for the afternoon and try the sword outside the city walls.

After a fine lunch, marred only by their worry for Asheren, they left the city via the Royal Gate, an irony not lost on the young Prince Keir as he kept his head down.  “One day soon I shall return through that gate, the master of my realm.” he thought to himself.

They headed out west along the rough road that ended in the Bay of Ulor.  During the summer, it became warm enough to swim in the Bay, although it was still a shock to the system until one grew used to the icy waters.  As they stood in the long, spike-grass growing from the dunes, Keir once again spun the sword.

It did not point East as many of them had suspected it would not.  It seemed there was further to go in this adventure.  Ulrich took out his rough map of the area as they gazed across the river at the western shore as it resolved into the densely-forested coastline.

Lysar and Berrak stood atop one of the highest dunes and strained their eyesight.  But they could see nothing that might indicate a direction.  As they climbed down, Berrak took a last look around.  “Wait!  Lysar!  Over there…what do you see?”  All Berrak could make out was a spike jutting from the sea, standing apart from the coast-line.  Lysar nodded.

“Aye, it’s something strange alright.  It was the glare of the sea that made me miss it the first time.  I reckon forty to fifty miles west of here.”

The Tower from the SouthThey returned and told the others.

“Could it be a tower, do you think?” said Keir excitedly.  Lysar and Berrak nodded although they pointed out that it was a strange-looking tower if it was.

“Back when my father was king we rode this way together and he pointed out a strange structure to me.  Legends tell that it was made by creatures of the sea.  That they rose up at the command of a mighty magician and created this tower.  For many centuries the mage lived there peacefully and the kingdom left him to his own devices.  Until one day, during my father’s reign, the tower had a new owner and this one came to visit.  How long he had lived there it was difficult to say as he talked little about himself but he was very old and wise.  He and my father became firm friends and my father appointed him Chief Counsellor.  He was wise in both the machinations of peace and the subtleties of politics.”

Keir shook his head, remembering something.  “But the mage sold that tower years ago to the High Priest of Yarthraak, some say it was part of a gambling debt that the priest and the black-robed mage had played, but neither man seemed like the gambling type to me.”

After staggering into Norek, his mind a wreck, Asheren found his way to the Red-Headed Lady.  Dehl and Pith were both working and the inn was busy.  As he staggered in through the door, Dehl caught his arm in passing, thinking him a drunk patron.  The tray of glasses in her hand toppled as he leant heavily on her, totally exhausted.  The glasses crashed, someone shouted “Just put those anywhere!” and the bar returned to normal.  As Dehl lead him upstairs, Asheren’s eyes were already closed.  Not sure which room she has lead him into, he cared not at all.  “Just give me flat and dark,” his tired mind cried.  he was asleep in seconds.

By midday he felt almost human again.  He had a hearty breakfast of shova and a glass of mead and now he was sitting at one of the outside tables, smoking a pipe and drinking a large brandy.  He was in the middle of telling Pith about some of their adventures since they had left Norek.  It was only Pith’s exposure to Benwe and the werewolf curse that stopped him from outright disbelief.  These stories of ice, winged warriors, Dragon-Lords, assassins, bounty-hunters, portals, mages, curses and cats were incredible!  Pith suggested he write some of these tales down.

“Ah Pith, that’s just what my conscience tells me, too.  But I have it all written down up here,” he taps the side of his head with the pipe, “maybe I’ll get around to it someday, when I retire.”

Pith begins filling Asheren in on the events of the past few weeks.  There was a huge row between the Yaarthrakian priests and the council, the end result being the closure of the church and the expulsion of the priests the previous week.  Nothing like this had ever happened before and the whole city had been on their guard ever since.  Trade with Cynar had alomst ceased entirely, since relationships between the council and the current Cynar rulers were more than a little strained and there was open talk of civil war in the inns around town.

Asheren pays a visit to Gedrin Korbo, the manager of the Sea to Shining Sea.  He arranges to preserve all assets the party own in Norek  and to have them removed by ship at the end of the week.  Destination – Cynar.  Gedrin mentions that a ship from Norek would not be welcome at Cynar’s docks and would more than likely be impounded.  Also the journey to Cynar involved a trip around Ulor and with the black ships plaguing those waters, there were few captains who would risk it.  Gedrin’s advice is to make for Lethys, U-Lyshak is a powder-keg of trouble at the moment.

After spending the afternoon with Gedrin, Asheren heads over to City Hall to enquire after Captain James.  Finally tracking him down, Asheren is pleased to see that Captain James remembers him well and asks after the rest of the group.

“Saw that young Sira a few days back, seems to have fallen in with a bad crowd since he left you.  Him and a bunch of other warriors, had the look of Saralis raiders I can tell you, were heading for the Temple of Cay.”

Soon Asheren gives him the news.  That a Helyssan army is heading this way and could be here within a few days.  Asheren is unsure what he can offer apart from a warning, but Capt James reminded him that forewarned is forearmed.

“We had expected a reaction such as this.  With the church so powerful we knew there would be ramifications to our expulsion, but we did not expect our own forces to be attacking us!”

After Capt James, Asheren makes his way to the Yarthraakian temple, hoping to find signs of Biryn, though it was his church that was effectively tearing the nation apart.  Asheren kept thinking of his vision of the black dragon curled around the foundations of Norek.  The temple is closed and boarded up and fifteen Norinth guards patrol the perimeter.

Asheren decides to contact his cousin, Janus at his alchemist’s shop in the city.  As he enters, he almost bumps into Althea.  After catching up, she says that she has not heard from Tuathir, but a couple of men were here looking for him.  They had been supposed to meet him in Cynar but he had not turned up.  Janus heard from him a few weeks ago, he stopped in the shop and they both went out for lunch.

After an exhausting day walking around the city, Asheren could see that fortifications were well under way, if anyone did manage to take this city, then they would pay a high price.  After all, it somehow survived the Wars of Dominion, hopefully it could survive a civil war!

Finally he returned to the Red Headed Lady, checking the stables he found both his and Lysar’s horse.  It seemed foolish to leave them here for an invading army and so he elected to take them both.  Alternate riding should see him reach Cynar in less than two days.

Ash called both Dehl and Pith together and advised that, if trouble hit the city, then they should lock up the inn and both head for Brank mountain – Pith knows how to get there.  He took the current savings from the safe and gave Pith and Dehl two gold pieces each, telling them it was a bonus but all of them knew he might not be coming back.  Dehl had made up some sandwiches and Pith had replaced all his sleeping gear and they both saw him off from the inn’s side door at the crack of dawn.  As he rode away from the city and it’s fortifications, all the worries of his health, the prince and indeed the fate of his friends and the world seemed to come crashing back in.  Gritting his teeth determinedly he headed for Cynar.  All he had to do was find his friends and take it one day at a time.

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