The Followers of the Light

by Sonny Meadows












            Two Dwarves were swinging their pickaxes in alternating rhythm -


     - Clank-




- the sound of metal upon hard stone keeping beat to the time as it passed. 

            They were deep within the Dragon’s Claws Mountains, the home of the largest clan of Dwarves in the lands - the Claw clan.  Their packs lay nearly full of iron, gold, and gems on the floor of the tunnel.  A lantern sent flickering shadows upon the walls.

            They had been away on this mining expedition for a long time- longer than was usual.  It was a thrill being deeper inside the mountain than anyone ever before, for Balsil had the spirit of an explorer in him.  This made him peculiar among his kind because Dwarves were usually content to stay in their subterranean homes digging for ore and gems- and creating beautiful works from them.  Balsil indulged this urge of his by mining further than anyone else, in out of the way sections of the tunnels.  Except for Galdrin, his companion swinging away by his side, none would accompany him on his occasional forays into the unknown.


            -Clank -      -Clank -      -Clink-


            As Galdrin’s body was straining his mind was also busy.  He was thinking of the contents of his full pack and what he could do with them.  It occurred to him that if they uncovered much more from the rock it would be quite an ordeal  to carry the heavy load on the long journey home.

            But Galdrin was greedy.  Among the other races the stereotype of Dwarves was that they were a bit greedy, but that wasn’t true - they simply knew to appreciate rare and beautiful things.   When it came to Galdrin, however, it was true - but even so, he could carry only so much on his back.




            “What say we pack this up Balsil?”






             Balsil stopped swinging and wiped his brow with a handkerchief.  “I suppose we should.  We have a nice load by now.”

            Galdrin went over to his pack and took out a large nugget of gold.  He looked it over.  “Yes, a fine load.”  He looked up at Balsil, “After all, we wouldn’t want to dig too deep and wake some Fire Wyrm.”

            Balsil took his pickaxe in his grip.  “Wyrm?  I wouldn’t mind seeing a Wyrm.”

            “You’re crazy Balsil.  You’d get fried for sure.  From the stories I’d say you might change your tune if you actually saw one.”

            Balsil looked straight at him and said, “If I was facing a Wyrm right now -”  he raised his axe -” I’d stick my pick straight up its  “ - and as he said “ass” he brought it down onto the rock.

            And a part of the wall fell away.




            Totem, the clan medicine man, was having a fitful dream.  In it he saw priests, the Followers of the Light they were called, in their white robes and standing and swaying in a circle.  Low rumbling chants filled the air, their magic charging the atmosphere.  In the center stood a head priest, one of those called the Fellowship of Life, and he was holding aloft a staff with a brilliant white orb on its tip, shining - pervading the senses of all present.  

            All around flowers and plants appeared, growing from shoots to full bloom before Totem’s eyes.  The greenery seemed to grow more radiant, and flowers and trees with blossoms of all colors.

            Then everyone cheered and rejoiced.  “We are done!”, they yelled, and “There is no more need!”  and they praised the orb and rejoiced -  not noticing the rumbling in the distance.

            But Totem was aware.  He saw them coming, and he was afraid.  Four terrible riders on  horses were thundering across the landscape.  Behind them flowed their midnight robes, which seemed to draw in even the light, allowing nothing to escape.  They seemed to herald from Hell itself.

            Totem awoke with a start and thought to himself, I must consult the runes.




            The first thing Balsil and Galdrin noticed about the empty chamber they had uncovered was the faint sound of running water.  There was another tunnel leading away, which they followed, and the sound grew ever more distinct.  Tunnels branched off in all directions, but their Dwarven senses kept them on track.

            Balsil let out a whoop when they found the waterfall, and Galdrin could see that it was beautiful, with the lantern just catching the stalactites on the ceiling high above.

            Balsil put his hand into the falling water.  “Feel this!”

            Galdrin came up and stuck his finger into the flow.  “It’s warm!”

            “I wonder why.”

            “Maybe a volcano nearby.”

            Balsil got a gleam in his eye, “Maybe a Fire Wyrm.”

            “Maybe we should head back.”

            But Balsil didn’t seem to hear.  His attention was on the top of the falls, “Look - we can get up there.”  And Galdrin found himself having to follow his companion.

            When they reached the top the temperature of the air was noticeably warmer.  They followed the water upstream - sometimes knee deep, sometimes chest, sometimes through large tunnels, sometimes through narrow.   All the while it got warmer and a scent of sulfur permeated the air.  Again Galdrin suggested it might be a volcano and again Balsil said ‘Wyrm”.  Slowly they progressed.

            Eventually the stench became rank.  They had wet handkerchiefs over their faces, but they could take no more.  As Galdrin turned around he caught a glimpse of something shiny.  There, on the floor of a side tunnel he saw a gold coin.


            Galdrin examined the coin, but it was of a strange mint he had never heard of.  He turned to Balsil,  “Wyrm.”

            “What do you want to do?”

            Galdrin gazed at the coin.  There was a word in some strange alphabet.  “Let’s go just a bit further.”




            Far away Arelaye, the queen of the peoples called The Children of the Forest, or just simply Elves, was also dreaming in her treetop bedchamber.

            “But Leopold, we must unite!”,  she was exasperated.

            Leopold, the head of the priestly Fellowship of Life, sat unmoved on his golden throne.  In his right hand he held the same Orb-staff which Totem the Dwarf had seen.  He turned his gaze upon it for a moment.  “We no longer need you.  We alone can crush the darkness into nothing.”

            The queen knew there was no hope of dissuading him.  She thought to herself, Fool!  It already is nothing., then said,  “Very well, but may the responsibility fall upon your heads, though the consequences fall upon us all.”, and left swiftly.  She did not wake until morning but the memory of her dream stayed with her, and troubled her.




            Great snoring and the hot breath of an Ancient Wyrm, and the unbelievable stench was only the half of it.   It was the fear that was unbearable.  Balsil and Galdrin were hunched just outside the entrance of the red Wyrm’s habitat.  The Great Wyrm lay atop a massive mound of treasure.  Scattered around were fantastic shields and weapons and armor.  The two Dwarves didn’t dare make a sound.  Beads of sweat dripped off their brows and down their noses.  It felt like an oven.

            Finally Balsil summoned the courage to motion to Galdrin that they should leave quietly, but Galdrin was paralyzed.

            With a great groan the Wyrm shifted its head.  Galdrin let out a quick yelp and quickly covered his mouth.   The Wyrm just kept snoring.  It had been sleeping there for who knows how many ages, and it was a deep sleeper.

            Then Balsil saw it.  It was glowing faintly white there beneath the front talon.  He got Galdrin’s attention and pointed to it.

            Galdrin fixed his gaze upon the white orb and to him it seemed to flare up more brightly with a gentle but permeating light.  Balsil too was entranced.  In all Balsil’s later life he would never be able to get across what he witnessed in that moment.

            He came around when he saw Galdrin sneaking forward - an insane look in his eyes.  He started to tell him ‘stop’ but caught himself.  The crunch of coins and gems beneath his feet seemed loud - much too loud - but Galdrin didn’t seem to notice, or care.

            Galdrin came up to the orb and cautiously reached forward.  The Wyrm groaned again and this time Balsil yelped.  Galdrin froze, just staring at the closed eye of the Wyrm, then quietly took the orb from under a great claw.

            Galdrin sprinted as well as a Dwarf could and as he passed, Balsil joined him.  Behind them the Wyrm stirred, sensing something amiss.




            Totem was finished with his preparations.  He got up from kneeling before the idol of Dorwyn, the patron of the Claw Clan, and Dwarves everywhere.  Sitting at his table he stirred the bag of runes by kneading it from the bottom, and took one out.

            “Freedom”, and then another, “Order” - and he turned over the final stone, “Chaos”.  He pondered for a moment -  “Shit.”

            He stared at the fire over his shoulder, letting the images and perceptions flow unhindered through his mind.  “I must talk to Chief Boriud when he gets back.”




            Shaking off millennia of sleep, The Great Wyrm opened its eyes and yawned, a ball of fire and smoke shooting forth briefly from it gape.  “Hmmmm...,”  dozily he surveyed his domain, “What’s going on here.”  Nothing seemed amiss.

            As he settled back down he started to wrap his talons around his prized possession, the white orb, and found nothing there.  “What!?”

            “Whoohoo!”  Galdrin hollered, for the thrill of possessing a priceless treasure.

            “Yahaa!” yelled Balsil, just for the thrill.

            They then heard a monstrous roar from behind them.  “Faster!”  shouted Balsil.

            “I’ll kill you!” came a deep and powerful voice.

            They then heard a massive in draw of breath and, panicky, they pushed even harder to move their feet.

            The sound of a stream of fire rumbling through the tunnels, Balsil would tell later in life, is one you could recognize though you never had heard it before.

            “Jump!”  and they submerged themselves as deeply into the stream as possible.

            As the fire poured over the surface of the water they faced death, and it was not over quickly.  The temperature rose to unbearable as the flames just kept coming.  Will it end?, thought Galdrin as he slipped into a sense of peace.  Balsil was fighting the intense pressure in his lungs to stay beneath the surface.  He saw Galdrin begin to float down stream, and he grabbed him to keep him under water and desperately he swam with him.

            Finally Balsil’s instincts for breath overrode his fear of death and his body seemed to shoot up into the air of its own accord.  Gasping for breath he shouted “Galdrin!”, but Galdrin wasn’t breathing.

            He heard the sound of the in drawing of breath again.  “You have to wake up now!”

            Then the rumbling of fire made its ominous presence felt, and Balsil waited until the last moment before taking a final breath and taking his friend below with him again.






            Kin and Able were what the citizens of the Kingdom not so affectionately called ‘street urchins’.  They surveyed the streets of Camborough, the capital city ruled by King Reginald, looking for a likely mark.  It was bustling.  The busy people had little time or little care to pay any mind to just another two scruffy children on the street.

            Being a child on the streets could be considered a serious disadvantage, and if not for the Guild, it would be.  When Kin was orphaned, his parents killed by a raid on their farming village, he was only six years of age.  He was taken in by an orphanage run by the Fellowship of Life, but it was hell.  Not knowing what else to do he ran away.

            It was on the streets that he met Able - and Able introduced him to Pearson.  Pearson was a member of the Outlanders, who controlled most of the crime in the cities of the northern continent.  He showed Kin not only how to survive, but do well - by sticking together with others like him.  Kin learned how to make being a child work to his advantage.

            A fairly well off man was walking towards them, absently making his way through the crowds.  He stopped to look in a store window - a fairly expensive store.  His black wooden walking cane had a silver knob on it.

            Kin nodded almost unnoticeably to Able.  He took the football he was carrying and started kicking it along the street, in and around the people, towards the man.  Able joined in.  The two passed the ball back and forth.

            “Logan weaves in and out of defenders!”  Kin was actually quite good at football and Logan was his favorite player.  “He’s breaking away for the goal!”

            Perfect.  The man was paying no attention.

            When Kin was near enough he purposely kicked badly and stubbed his foot

against the ball, tripping over into the man.

            “Oh!  He looses it - but wait!”  He ran back to the ball and deftly dribbled across the street.  He shot the ball into an alley, “He scores!”, and ran in after it with Able on his tail yelling, “No!” and mocking disappointment.

            “Damn kids.” said the man.

            What a score!,  thought Kin.  Four silvers and a gold coin, a rare pickup,

were in the pouch.  They quickly took a little known back exit from the alley.  This would make them the top pickers in the area.  Behind them they heard the sound of a man yelling, “Thief!”

            “One - nil, for Kin and Able.”, said Kin, and Able laughed as they ran through the back streets.




            “Pilfery is on the rise, sire.”

            “Hire more guards.”

            “Very well sire.  The barbarian tribe’s raids on outlying villages has begun again for the season.”

            “Reinforce the garrisons with a company of Knights.”

            “Very well sire.  And for the last order of business, sire, Lord Fatile would like to address the court personally.”

            Reginald waved his hand absently, “Very well.”

            One of the many nobles seated around the sides of the throne room got up.  He was dressed in green silk - his tunic hanging superfluously over his round belly.  “Lord Reginald, on behalf of all the nobles of the Kingdom I would like to thank you for making the lands so prosperous.  In living memory the people of the Kingdom have never been so well off.  It is a testament to the wise leadership you have shown throughout your long reign - “, and with a bow of his head he added, “May it last many more years.”

            With many gestures of approval coming from the gathering King Reginald waved his hand modestly.  “Thank you for your kind words.  It was not without the efforts of all of you that these good times have come.  May they last god-willing.”  He nodded to the court aide.

            “The court is now out of session.”  And all began to retire from the proceedings.

            When the King was alone again with his aide he said, “Taxes will be raised five percent.”

            “Very well sire.”

            “I’ll be resting, don’t disturb me.”

            “Of course sire.”

            When the King reached his bedchamber he placed his robe and crown upon the dresser.  The belt holding his sword was hung on the bedpost.  This sword, according to magic or just tradition (few knew for sure), could be held by none but the King.  The King was old and with creaking bones and low groans he lay down to rest, as he found himself doing more often as the years went by.




            When the two pickers reached the secret place where the local delinquents gathered, in a run down section of the inner city, they found Pearson alone smoking a cigar.  The room was full of the smell of fine tobacco.  He had a red silk covered patch over his right eye.  “Hello men.”

            “Hey boss.”

            “You’re back early - care for a cigar?”  He pulled two out of a pocket in his tunic and handed one to each of them.

            He smiled as Able struck a match.  “How’d ya do today?”

            Able was puffing his cigar to get it well lit as he was lighting Kin’s.  When they were both satisfied Kin said, “Oh - not bad.”  He took three pouches out of a deep pocket in his pants and laid them on the table in front of Pearson.

            “Hmmm... let’s see.”  Pearson opened one drawstring pouch and emptied it onto the table.  “twelve shillings and a silver” - then the second - “oh, four shillings and two silvers, not bad” and out of the corner of his eye he saw Kin and Able smiling, but he didn’t let on, he just dumped out the third pouch.  “Well well - what have we here?”  He picked up the coins one by one, “one - two - three - four silvers,” and he winked at the two, “and one gold.”  He smoothly placed the gold in his belt pouch.  “here”  and tossed the four silvers, one by one, to the two pickers.  “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

            “See ya boss!” and the two ran out.

            “See ya men.” Pearson said softly and puffed his cigar.

            Kin and Able were discussing what to do with their money as they made their way through back alleys and side streets.  They could travel much faster than those who took the main thoroughfares but right now they had no particular destination.  In their wanderings they came upon a pub in a dark corner down by the riverfront.  Muffled chatter and the clangs of mugs and dishes could be heard through the door.  “Let’s go in the Jolly Sailor.” suggested Able.  Kin looked at the sign above the door.  It pictured a drunken sailor leaning against a table with a mug of ale in his hand.

            “Come on.”  Kin entered.

            They sat side by side at the bar.  Kin, being shorter, was barely able to see over.  “Barkeep!”, shouted Able, and the large man meandered over while cleaning a mug with a towel.

            “A little young to be drinkin’ aren’t ye’?”

            Able showed the barkeep a silver, careful not to attract attention to his wealth.

            “What’ll it be?”

            “Two ales.” said Kin.

            “No, two whiskeys.” corrected Able.

            “Comin’ up.”

            As the whiskeys were being poured Kin turned to look around and take in the scene.  A conversation at the table behind him caught his attention, and he listened in.

            “You’re full of it.”

            “Let me tell you - I’ve seen a few Wyrms in my day, and this one was the mother o’ them all.”  The old captain had a thick grey beard, his face grizzled by years of the elements faced on the open sea.  “I was sailin’ north down by the southern continent, and he was flyin’ free as you please over the Dragon’s Claws.”

            “Bullshit.  There’s no such thing as wyrms.”  said the young man sitting across the table.

            The captain downed his shot.  “You callin’ me a liar?” he roared as he slammed his glass noisily down on the table.

            The young man put up his hands, “Settle down...  I didn’t mean... ”

            The other man sitting next to him interjected, “He ain’t callin’ you a liar cap.”, and he led the young man away saying, “Never mind son, let an old sailor have his stories.”

            The captain was mumbling to himself something about young’ins when he shot a look at Kin, who was still looking at the old man.  “What’re you lookin’ at?”

            “Nothin’”  and Kin turned back to face front.  Able was chatting with the hooker sitting next to him.

            Wyrms thought Kin, I wonder if they’re real.

            As if reading his thoughts the captain said to Kin, “You ever seen a Wyrm, boy?”

            Kin slowly turned to face him.  “No captain.”

            “Hope it stays that way son.”  The bar wench poured him another.  “I seen just about everything - trolls, griffons, rock apes - but nothin’ll wet a man’s pants faster’n a great Fire Wyrm.”  He downed the shot.  “Great Wyrm.  That’s what this one was - The Great Wyrm.”  He looked wildly into Kin’s eyes.  “Even from that distance it sent a chill down me spine.”

            “I saw a Grinch once,” came out of Kin’s mouth.

            The captain seemed taken aback, then laughed and said,  “You got a long mile to walk son.”  He motioned to the wench for another, and mumbled something about Grinches.

            Kin turned to face forward again and thought to himself.  The hooker had decided Able wasn’t quite to puberty and went looking for better prospects.  The din of conversation filled his head.  “You ever thought about being a sailor Able?”

            While Kin had been talking Able was drinking, and he was hammered already.  “Pirate!”, he stammered, “I want to be a pirate!”, he raised his glass and yelled, “Ahoy matey!  I be a pirate!”

            Kin downed his shot.  “The scourge of the seas, Able!”






            “Run!”  yelled King Boriud to his company of Dwarven guards.  They were caught in the open when the Wyrm bore down upon them, fire leaking from its maw.  The king was on his way back from the Elven kingdom and things had gone smoothly.  An attacking Wyrm was the last thing he expected.

            As the Wyrm approached, the King jumped beneath a rock with one of his lieutenants, and the fire poured forth.  Flames licked at Boriud’s arm.  The heat stung his eyes and he squeezed them shut - then screams.  The Wyrm flew off to make another run and Boriud jumped up to survey the scene.  Dwarves were running around aflame, flailing their arms and rolling on the ground.  Boriud looked ahead and saw better cover up ahead.  “Make for the rocks!”  he yelled.  One of the guards was trying to extinguish his friend, “Leave him, run!”

            From the entrance to the underground Claw Clan lair, Totem and Balsil were watching from a distance.  “We have to go after them!”  but Totem grabbed his arm.

            “There’s nothing we can do.”

            Balsil grimaced as he watched the guards scamper in confusion.

            “Spread out!” yelled the King.  The Wyrm came around for another pass, and more Dwarves were engulfed in flames.  Then the Wyrm landed by a guard and batted him through the air with its great arm.  Three guards were all that was left to confront the adversary.  They charged and were quickly slain, never having had a chance.  King Boriud found himself alone facing the red beast.  The Wyrm’s eyes pierced his, sending fear down his spine, but the King did not falter.  “Come and get it monster!”  he said defying the death he knew was near.  His great axe was in his hands.

            The Wyrm drew back his arm to finish off the King when a bolt of energy struck one of the wings, startling him.  Realizing he had just been struck by a petty magic bolt he laughed raising his head high into the air, and the King charged - and buried his axe blade deep into the Wyrm’s breast.  The Wyrm roared with rage.

            From a distance two Dwarves witnessed the final charge of King Boriud.  A ball of flame ignited the area and then only a great beast was left standing, bellowing its anger.  Its hard red scales were impervious to its own fire.

            “Farewell King Boriud.”, whispered Totem the Mystic, “You died well.”

            It’s my fault.  thought Balsil to himself.

            The Great Wyrm flew towards them.  “Close the doors.” said Totem calmly, and pulled the stone lever in the wall.  The doors to the Dwarven Kingdom were magically secured, making them safe even from Wyrm fire.  In a fury the Wyrm sent its fire against it anyway and inside Balsil could hear the rock groan under the strain.

            “Come Balsil, we must have a council.”




            “I feel something is wrong Folurel.”  Arelaye confided in her lover.  “I have been feeling this for some time now.”  The queen gazed into her thoughts.  “Something is very wrong with the world.”

            Folurel knew to take the queen’s instincts seriously.  “What is it?”

            “I’m not sure.  A dream here, a feeling there - its nothing I can pin down.”

            Folurel got up from the bed.  “Well, maybe it’s not as bad as you fear.”

            The queen eyed her lover’s body as he dressed.  “Maybe.”

            Folurel leaned over the bed and kissed her.  Arelaye’s elven beauty never shined more than when she was with him.  “It is a wonderful day today,” he whispered.  “Let us enjoy it.”




            “One of us should make for the Elves.”  said Totem.  The elders of the clan were seated around a circular table.

            “But how can one of us get past the thing?  It’s always watching.”

            There was general agreement.  “Yes, it can see for miles around.”, was added.  Balsil too saw the folly of such a plan.

            Totem reached into his pocket and took out a ring.  Holding it before the  gathering he said, “With this ring one of us can sneak out of here and reach the Elven Forest undetected -”  He put the ring on his finger and immediately vanished, startling all  present.  Then his voice came out of the air, “and tell them of our plight.”  He reappeared and placed the ring on the table.

            “I’ll go.”  Balsil found himself saying.  Everyone looked at him.  “After all, it was I who woke the thing.”

            “I don’t know what good it’ll do.”,  said Grumpen.  “Even Elven magic cannot defeat this Wyrm - nothing can.”

            “Then what do you suggest Grumpen?”  Totem asked angrily.

            Grumpen didn’t flinch.  “The way I see it we have two choices.  We can find ourselves a new home.”  Grumpen seemed satisfied at the grumbling this suggestion brought on.  He placed his fist firmly on the table.  “Or we go out fighting.”

            Totem rolled his eyes as the council affirmed Grumpen’s sentiments.  “Let us exhaust all options before we make such a decision.”

            As the council argued amongst themselves Balsil took the ring and placed it on his finger.  None noticed him leave.  I will find a way, he thought to himself.

            Back in his room he took off the ring.  In a back corner was a chest, which he unlocked and opened.  Inside the orb was glowing, lighting Balsil’s face with white light.  Many times he had started to tell his fellow Dwarves about the orb, but something always stopped him.  ‘It was the orb the Dragon was after’, he wanted to say.  ‘Give the orb back and it will leave us alone’ - but he couldn’t say it.  He had spent hours gazing into the orb, seeing things he deemed wonderful.  He did not want to give it up, but it was such a cost that he did not know if he could pay.  His home and all his brothers would be destroyed.  He sat staring into the orb, lost in time.  Finally he strapped his great axe to his back and placed the orb in  his pack.  He slipped on the ring.  It goes, he thought, and I go too.

            Balsil stepped lightly down the main hall going unseen past Dwarves.  At first he felt uncomfortable, thinking the ring of invisibility would fail him, but as more Dwarves went by he gained confidence.  Finally he approached the main entrance.  It was open and there was Totem keeping watch for the Wyrm, checking for its whereabouts.  Balsil stopped before the gate briefly, readying himself to leave the comfort of home, then sighed and stepped forward.

            “Before you go, Balsil, there’s something I’d like to say.”  Totem was looking right at him.  “I don’t know what happened down there, but I do know you’ve been acting different lately.  Whatever you’re dealing with, don’t shut us out.  We’re where you came from, don’t forget that.  Wherever you end up in the future, don’t forget where you came from.”

            Balsil didn’t know what to say, but Totem seemed to sense this and just pulled the lever.  “Now go, and good luck to you.”  The large stone gate started to close and Balsil scurried out.

            “Goodbye Totem.  I’ll be back!”  The wind breezed through his hair and the stones silently slid into place behind him.






            “Be careful.”

            “Of course my love.”  His hold on his wife’s white dress lingered as he kissed her, finally slipping from between his fingers, the silk feeling smooth to his touch.                    Sir Geold mounted and reigned in the spirited white horse.  His long sword hung by his left leg.  His masterwork armour conformed flawlessly with the movements of his body.

            Four of his comrades waited by the gate to his Lord’s castle.  They were expected in Glammerdell where they would meet up with the rest of the company before continuing on to the northern outpost.  It was a yearly ritual for Sir Geold.  This was his eleventh year to defend the realm from the barbarian Hillmen, which made him one of the most veteran knights to have that particular duty.

            “How’s your sword arm, Geold?”  the lead Knight greeted.

            “It’s ready Sir Maihern.”, and the five of them eased into a trot out and along the dirt road towards battle.  The lady watched them until they disappeared over the hill and then slowly walked back to the castle.




            The journey away from the Dragon’s Claws Mountains was colored by fear.  Twice Balsil could see the Wyrm flying high in the sky, but to his relief the Wyrm could not spot him.

            When he reached the edge of the great forest Balsil felt he could relax a bit.   He found he quite liked not being seen.  As long as he stayed fairly quiet the birds and animals would carry on as if he wasn’t there.  Once a bear sauntered by unawares.  It was interesting to see how creatures reacted, or didn’t react, when he was seeing but not there to be seen.  It felt to Balsil as if the world was more pure and natural when he wasn’t there.  It made him feel more a part of it all.  It made him feel free.  He continued along the path through the trees.

            Kilendrel was charged with keeping watch on the western border of the Elven realm.  He sat atop a tree limb, high in the air, along the path.  His eyes were closed.  Listening to the singing of birds and the breeze through the leaves was like a meditation.  Long moments passed like this.

            The faint sound of feet tramping along the dirt caught his attention.  Nobody was expected and strangers were not welcome in Elven lands.  Silently an arrow was notched to a bowstring.

            Kilendrel waited for the intruder to appear - and waited.  When it was obvious to his Elven hearing that whoever it was should be visible he didn’t know what to do.  In the trees?  He looked intently.  No.  Finally he could hear the footsteps right below him, and summoning his courage and fixing his aim at the sound he yelled, “Who goes there?”

            The footsteps stopped.  “Don’t shoot!”  Balsil put up his hands, but they couldn’t be seen.  “I’m a friend!”  He also couldn’t tell where the other was hiding.

            “Why can’t I see you?”, came the clear elven voice.

            A moment later Balsil appeared before the Elf’s eyes.  Kilendrel’s arrow had been aiming right at him.

            “I come from the Dragon’s Claws to ask for help.”




            Arelaye was out on her daily walk.  It was early autumn and the leaves on the trees were all brilliant with color.  She wandered in solitude along familiar paths, which crisscrossed the area immediately surrounding the treetop city.

            “Arelaye!” came a voice in the distance.  “Arelaye!”  Upon hearing the sound of her name the queen immediately got a sense of foreboding.

            Folurel came running up.  “Arelaye, news from the Dwarven Kingdom.”


            Back in the queen’s throne room Arelaye was the vision of calm.  “Greetings Balsil of the Claw Clan.”  Her voice was melodic, revealing deep emotion in even a simple welcome.

            Balsil was wide eyed at the queen’s beauty.  Folurel, standing by her side, smirked at the Dwarf’s reaction.  He always thought Dwarves were ugly.  The queen herself didn’t exhibit any reaction.  Finally a spell seemed to be broken and Balsil said, “Greetings to you, beautiful Queen.”

            Arelaye was impressed with Balsil’s tongue.  “What news?”

            “A great Fire Wyrm plagues our homeland, fair Queen.  We are trapped within our domain, fearing to venture out.”  The queen looked fixedly at Balsil as he spoke, seeming to see beyond into her own fears.  Balsil continued, “King Boriud himself has been slain.”  With his fist clenched he added, “But not before the monster tasted his axe.”

            “Grave news indeed.  We all feel for the loss of your King.  I am sure he died bravely.”  The queen paused for a moment.  “But something bothers me.  Why is this Wyrm so fixed upon your home?  From what I know of the creatures it is not like them.”

            Balsil froze, and unconsciously reached to stroke his pack in which lay the orb.  Slowly the words came out, “We took some of its treasure.”

            Arelaye fixed her gaze upon the pack and said, “I see.  Whatever it was you took must be quite valuable.”

            “I suppose fair lady.”

            Again the queen paused and in a seductive voice said, “Balsil, may I see what is in your pack?”  Folurel seemed surprised at her tone.  He glared at the Dwarf.

            Balsil looked around at the Elves gathered there, feeling trapped.  Finally there was nothing left to do but say, “Of course.”,  and he laid his pack on the ground to slowly take out the orb.  Arelaye gasped in recognition of what lay in Balsil’s small hand.





            Kerwyn, the young Hillman, looked up and down the ranks of his brothers in arms.  He was shaking in anticipation and in fear.  It was his first year to join in battle but according to Sheamus, the elder, this year’s host was the largest he had ever seen, and across the field was a company of Kingdom soldiers and a small group of knights which they had caught alone.  The Hillmen were keen for battle because for the first time they had the numbers in their favor.

            Cullen, the chief of the tribes, stepped forward and raised his great axe above him.  All together the Hillmen roared, filling the dale with the sound of battle lust.  Kerwyn joined in with his long sword held high.  The nervous energy sent a  feeling of sickly ecstasy through his body.  To prove his bravery he was determined to be the first one to reach the enemy when the charge came.

            Across the field Geold tried to keep his soldiers calm.  “Hold your ground men!”  He could see the fear in their eyes.  “Hold your ground!”  Most of these soldiers were green.  He rode the excited horse up and down the line, looking into his men’s eyes as if daring them to even think about running.

            Then the charge came, the Hillmen continuing to roar as they ran forward. Geold fixed his eyes on the chief with a wolf pelt on his shoulders, raised his sword high, and yelled “For the King!”   The ranks of soldiers ran yelling towards the enemy.




            “You can’t take it from me!”  Balsil whined like a child.  He was alone now with the queen and she had a way of bringing out hidden emotions.

            “It will be safest at the Mystical Temple, Balsil, it is too powerful to remain here.”

            “But it’s mine.”  He looked at the orb desirously.  It lay there atop a pedestal.

            Arelaye’s tone became stern, “Balsil!  You know nothing of magical items, do you deem to be wiser than me in such matters?”

            Balsil’s expression became shameful.  “No, lady.”

            “We don’t know what this orb can do, and it is dangerous to play with it as though it were a toy.”

            “Yes, lady.”

            Arelaye’s tone softened, “Balsil, I like you.  I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”  She moved in close to him, “The Temple is the best place for it.”

            “Then I will take it there.”

            “And abandon your friends at home?  No, I will take care of it.”  She led Balsil by his shoulders, “Now go.  The rangers are preparing to leave for your home.”  The queen got a gleam in her eye, “And that axe of yours is waiting to taste the meat of a Wyrm.”

            Balsil relented.  “That’s true.”  As he was leaving he paused for one last glance at his precious object.  “Goodbye.”, he said and then Arelaye was alone with the orb.

            She approached the orb cautiously, determined not to let her willpower weaken under its influence.  “Let’s see what you’re about.”  The orb shined more brightly in its whiteness.




            “Arelaye.”  Folurel said softly but the queen did not answer.  She was facing away from the door, standing before the orb.  “Arelaye?”  He put his hand on her shoulder.

            Arelaye was startled.  “What?” she looked puzzled.  “Oh. How long was...?”  She realized she had been staring into the orb for she did not know how long.  “Shit.”

            “Have you determined its purpose yet?”

            “No, not yet.”

            Folurel shrugged.  “We are ready to leave.”

            “Oh, good.”  She took his hand in hers and they kissed.  “Good luck, and be careful.”

            “I will.”  Folurel turned to go.  “It will be the first Wyrm I ever killed.”  With a smile he left her.

            She turned again to the orb, “Damn this thing,”  and covered it with a silk cloth. 




            In a green field, with the Dragon’s Teeth Mountains visible in the distance,  Kerwyn was immersed in the reverie of battle.  Adrenaline seemed to drive his body of its own accord.  Then the din of battle, the clanks of weapons and the screams, was overrode by a louder yelling.  Kerwyn looked over to see Cullen the chief had fallen to a knight on his horse.  The Hillmen around him went into a frenzy going after the horseman.  Kerwyn parried a sword aimed at his head, and the opponent was skewered from behind by another Hillman.

            Sir Geold could see the battle was going the other way.  He struck down the chief but it only seemed to make the Hillmen angrier.  His horse had taken a couple hard blows on its flank armour, and nearly had its legs cut out from under it.  He looked around.  His soldiers were dying or running.  It was a disaster.  He sounded the retreat.

            “Fall back!” he yelled as he continued to fight, his battle trained horse biting and kicking.  Those Kingdom soldiers that were left ran for their lives.

            Kerwyn had defended himself admirably, but he had not made a kill.  Then as he turned around a running soldier tripped and fell in front of him.  Kerwyn raised his sword to finish him off, the soldier looking straight into his eyes, full of fear.  Then something happened.  Kerwyn saw into the man’s eyes, and he could see who he was.  He saw his wife, and his baby daughter.  He saw his mother, and his dead father.  He saw what the man was like as a child.  At this most unwelcome moment the young Hillman could not bring himself to bring the death blow.  The soldier picked himself up and ran.  Kerwyn stayed frozen with his sword held aloft, an unbelieving look in his eyes.  He looked over to see Jard, a fellow Hillman, giving him a look of disgust.  Kerwyn let his sword drop.  The battle was over.




            Layenre’  Arelaye focused her thoughts towards the head of the Order of Mystics.  Layenre’  Like the queen, Layenre had grown up as a Child of the Forest, leaving when he was a master of magic to join the Order.  Arelaye sat perfectly still.  Layenre’


            ‘Layenre, I need your help.’

            ‘I’m here.’

            ‘A new and powerful item has been discovered.’




            The rout of the Kingdom army had left a town undefended, and the Hillmen had spent the evening pillaging.  Kerwyn had joined in only half heartedly, his mind on his failure on the battlefield.  As Jard was raping a young woman in the street he caught sight of Kerwyn and said to him derisively, “Join me.  Or are you a coward?”  Kerwyn instinctively drew his sword and was going to kill him.  Jard got a look of terror but again Kerwyn’s hand was stayed.  Kerwyn walked away to the sound of Jard’s laughter.

            Now the host of barbarians was camped for the night and Jard had made sure to spread the word about Kerwyn’s performance.  Sitting away from the fire he could barely hear the conversation over the crackling flames but he had a nervous sense it was about him.  Some said, “Well, the soldier was running away.  There was no need to kill him.”  But Kerwyn knew there was doubt among his fellows as to his bravery.  Among the tribes of the Hillmen bravery was valued most.  He felt as though he would never be respected now that he had failed in battle.  Despair began to come over him as the Hillmen’s talking dissolved from his mind.  Kerwyn didn’t run, but he walked away from his brothers to be alone in the darkness.






            ‘Arelaye, you cannot teleport the orb through the astral plane.  It is too risky to have it isolated there for even a moment.’

            But the journey to the Temple is too perilous.  We cannot risk it falling into uncertain hands.’

            ‘Then make the journey astrally, but carry it with you.  Keep alert for anything amiss.  I will await you here.’

            Without a goodbye Arelaye knew the discourse was over.  She opened her eyes and took a short deep breath.  Gathering her physical senses she rose and walked over to the pedestal.  The orb’s outline could be seen beneath the purple silk cover.

            Astral travel was far faster than traveling normally, but it would still take at least a day to arrive at the Mystical Temple.  Arelaye began to make preparations for the journey, mentally as well as otherwise, for astral journey was taxing not just physically but it required great concentration.




            Pearson puffed his cigar contentedly.  Around the room were sitting five of his ‘men’ though they were children and one was a girl.  They were joking with each other like people will do with those they work with.  Some were smoking cigars and one a pipe.  In walked Kin and Able.

            “Okay men, we’re all here.”,  Pearson began.  Kin and Able sat and Able lit a cigar.  “It’s time for my yearly run to Wages.”  When he said this Joey, one of the ‘men’, smiled to himself.  “It’s been a good year for all of us, and let’s keep it that way. eh?”  The men murmured approvingly.  “As you know every year I take the top earning team with me on my trip.”  Again Joey smiled cockily, for he had been the top earner the last two years and fully expected to be again.  “And this year that is Kin and Able.”

            “Whoohoo!” whooped Able and began giving a mock acceptance speech.  Kin just laughed along, happy to be going on the trip but feeling no undue pride. 

            “Joey, you’re in charge ‘til I get back.”  Joey glared at the floor.  “And here’s a little token of my appreciation to you all.”  Pearson produced a bottle of whiskey and the party started.






            Kerwyn slammed his fist against a tree.  All the rage and frustration he felt came bursting out.  He roared to the sky, not caring who heard him and finally sat down against the trunk of the tree with his head in his hands.

            MacCul had been wandering away from the camp and he did hear Kerwyn’s bellow.  MacCul, it was generally felt, was the most likely successor to Cullen as Chief of the tribes.  He was older than most of the other warriors and considered to be quite wise, but above all he was known to be courageous in a tough situation.  Whereas Cullen had been fearless, MacCul quietly felt that fear had its place and should be listened to.  When MacCul had heard that there was talk going on about Kerwyn, whom he liked, he had thought about going to see him so he went out into the woods to look for him.

            “Greetings Kerwyn.”

            Kerwyn looked up surprised and quickly tried to gain some measure of composure.  “Hello MacCul.”

            “We miss you at camp.  You’ve been long alone.”

            “I just needed some time.”

            MacCul paused, feeling the moment.  “I heard about what happened during the battle.”

            Kerwyn didn’t say anything.

            “Is it true?”

            Kerwyn looked troubled for a moment and said, “Yes.”

            MacCul sighed and sat down next to him.  “That Jard is a fool, don’t think that what he says means much to anyone.”

            “That’s easy for you to say, you’re going to be the Chief.”  Kerwyn drooped, “But I’m never going to be accepted.”

            “I could tell you that’s not true and that you’re fears are unfounded, but I have something more important to say.”  Kerwyn looked at him.  “When I was young I knew a man like you.  He was a good man and well respected.  Like you he found it hard to come to terms with who he really was.  I’ve seen him in you for some time now, and I’ve been wondering if I should say something but until now I wasn’t sure.”

            “What are you saying?”

            “Kerwyn, this man had a calling.  He finally listened to it and went to join the Followers of the Light.”

            Kerwyn looked amazed at the turn this conversation had taken.

            “The Hillmen army will be returning home soon.  We already have more than we need for the winter, but if I were you I would consider a different destination.”    MacCul got back up and wiped the leaves off his pants.  “It’s up to you of course but the White Peak lies somewhere to the south and east of here.  The man I speak of is there.  His name is Harol.”  He began to walk back to the tents, “see you at camp.”

            Kerwyn sat alone with his thoughts feeling somewhat easier than before.




            “Turndale has been pillaged sir.”  The soldier with the dented armour breastplate seemed to say the words a bit too calmly for Sir Geold’s liking, but he knew the boy was a soldier and that brought a certain detachment.  Geold almost wished he could feel as detached as he knew he was expected to act in front of the young soldier.

            “Thank you.  Dismissed.”  The soldier gave a formal salute and left the tent.

            Sir Maihern was examining a map of the area.  “It’s been a catastrophe.”

            “No Maihern, it could have been worse.”

            “I don’t see how.  Anyways, I expect the barbarians will be withdrawing for home presently.”

            “Yes, they did well this year.”

            “Bastards.  We’ll get them next year.”

            “Yes.”  Geold felt drained.  “Next year.”  His thoughts turned to home.






            Folurel was hiding at the edge of a thicket of trees with his company of elven rangers.  “Yes.  I see him.”  The Great Wyrm was circling tirelessly over the Dragon’s Claws some distance off, his enormous wings slowly beating through the air.

            Jalsirel, his first lieutenant, whispered, “How will we get him?”

            “We can’t fly after him,” Folurel reasoned, “so we must make him come to us.”


            “You go out in the open a short distance ahead and we will hide here in ambush.”

            “Me Folurel?  The Wyrm would know it’s a trap.”

            Folurel bit his lip and Jalsirel waited for him to arrive at the answer.  “I know, we’ll send the Dwarf ahead.  The Wyrm will assume he’s trying to return to his home.”

            Jalsirel agreed.  “Now we just have to convince Balsil of the soundness of the plan.”

            Balsil was crouching behind a rock looking up to where the two elves were whispering.  He whispered to Tamilse, who had kept Balsil company during the journey.  “What do they see?”

            “I don’t know Balsil.”

            Balsil craned his neck.  “What are they saying?”

            Elves had keen hearing but Tamilse did not like the idea of breaking the news to his companion, so he just said, “I don’t know.”

            Jalsirel stepped lightly towards Balsil who awaited him tensely.

            “We’ve spotted him and we have a plan.”  Jalsirel and Tamilse looked at Balsil for a moment, and he suddenly got a bad feeling.  “It involves you Balsil.”




            Pearson drove the cart as he and the two young thieves traveled along the road to Free City.  Lying well outside the kingdom boundaries, Free City was about halfway between Camborough and the Outlands- that remote area controlled by the Outlanders.  The Outlanders is the organization of thieves and smugglers and every other type of profession which was unsavory but profitable.  The only city in the Outlands was Wages and that is where they were headed.

            The countryside was green and lush as the three journeyed past farms and through villages.  The cart was laden with ordinary looking provisions- a chest, some rope, and other various knick knacks.  Nobody would suspect that a fortune in gold coins was hidden there, and if anyone was wise enough to know then they were wise enough to know not to steal it- for it was property of the Outlanders.  Even the occasional sheriff’s patrol expected no more than a nominal bribe.

            Kin and Able had been joking and singing as the cart rolled along, oblivious to the jolts of the bumps in the road.  Now their excitement had worn off and the realization that the journey was a long one set in.

            “How much farther?” Kin asked.

            Pearson grumbled, “A long way, and don’t ask again until we reach Wages.”  Then he mumbled something about kids and how it was the same every year.




            Balsil inched out towards the rock as though wading deeper into a pool of water.  To his ears the sound of the wind spoke of barrenness and fear across the landscape.  The rock which Folurel had told him to go and stand on seemed a million leagues away from the cover of the trees.  No further!  he thought when he was close enough.  He stood half ready as he waited for The Great Wyrm to notice him caught out in the open and defenseless.

            As the Wyrm’s circular flight started to head in his direction Balsil felt his knees get weak.  Why did I do this?, he thought.  He had a sudden fear that when the time came to run his legs would fail him.  What am I doing here?

            Then a great roar signaled the point of no return- the Wyrm had sighted him.  With the noise of the Wyrm’s cry Balsil froze.  He felt as though he were in the nightmare in which his legs wouldn’t go as the snake slithered up behind him.                   The Wyrm’s head and neck straightened like an arrow aimed at the Dwarf and the great wings began to beat more purposefully.

            Run! screamed Balsil’s soul but his legs would not answer.

            Seeing Balsil paralyzed Tamilse wanted to scream but dared not for fear of ruining the ambush.

            On the Wyrm flew, ever closer.

            Jalsirel was expecting a big Wyrm, but he was still amazed at the sight of it.  By the gods it’s a monster!  He looked over to see that Folurel had the same thoughts as himself by the look in his eyes.  “Ready yourself Folurel,” he whispered.

            Folurel didn’t answer, he just stared wildly at the approaching enemy.                “Folurel?”

            The elven leader seemed startled.  He took a firm grasp on the large magical staff with which he was to kill the Wyrm and started to say something but was interrupted by Balsil screaming, then his panicked gaze was locked again on the enormous creature.

            Finally Balsil’s short legs moved and he scampered frantically as the Wyrm bore down on him.  Tamilse was sure it was the end for his new friend.  “Now Folurel!”  Jalsirel urged  but Folurel’s knuckles gripped the staff next to his chest, showing white.

            As the Wyrm approached he drew in a deep breath.  Balsil ran on.

            As the fire came forth from the mouth of the monster Balsil fell to the ground and turned onto his back to see what awaited him.  As Tamilse watched, and before the fire had hit, Balsil disappeared from sight.  The elf thought his mind was playing tricks on him, but before he had time to consider what had happened the fire scorched the ground around where the Dwarf had been.

            Then the Wyrm landed and bellowed a great roar.  He looked around but saw no burnt body.  “Where’d you go?”  he growled.

            “Folurel!”  Jalsirel finally yelled.  “Do it!”

            As the Wyrm turned to look in the direction of Jalsirel’s voice Folurel tentatively raised his staff and uttered the word of power.

            A brilliant bolt of blue energy fired forth towards the monster, but it ducked out of the way, taking a glancing hit on the bone of one wing.  The Wyrm roared in anger.

            A shower of arrows poured forth from the trees, all bouncing harmlessly off of the beast’s hide.

            As the Great Wyrm took in a deep breath Jalsirel yelled, “Everyone take cover!”

            Folurel hid beneath a rock as the fire swept through the trees.  Everywhere elves were screaming.  He peeked up to see Jalsirel flailing madly as he stumbled out into the open.

            With one beat of its wings the Wyrm hopped over and swiped his talons clean through the burning elf.  Then Tamilse charged forth from his hiding place with his sword held aloft, yelling a war cry, but the beast simply swatted him aside.

            Another great roar was heard and then only the sound of burning, both tree and flesh.




            Arelaye was crossing the ancient bridge which connected the southern and northern continents.  The bridge seemed almost to be hung from the air with great cables of steel.  She always marveled at this wonder when she saw it, but as she passed the trolls which often hid in wait there she struggled to keep her concentration.  Trolls were of the type of creature which were as close to the spirit realm as to the material world, and she did not want to be detected.  The world was seen with fantastic color when in the astral plane, but she was trained to focus only on her purpose.  With straightforward aim she continued on unnoticed.




            The Wyrm was scanning the area for more victims when he heard a faint whimper.  With a slight laugh rumbling from his throat he peeked under the rock to see a near panicking elf with his eyes tightly shut.  Folurel screamed as the great talons gripped him mercilessly.

            Tamilse was playing dead on the grass when he heard his leader’s cries.  He peeked open his eyes to see the Wyrm pin the elf against the ground and bite into his shoulder.  As a great portion of Folurel’s body was ripped apart his screams were replaced by the sound of chomping.

            Balsil had been watching the whole scene in the safety of invisibility.  When the sight of Folurel’s death overwhelmed him he let out a groan which couldn’t go unnoticed by keen ears.  Continuing to chew, the Wyrm looked over in Balsil’s direction, but saw nobody, and no cover to hide behind.

            “Where are you?”  his voice growled.

            But no answer came.

            The Wyrm seemed to consider the situation, then said, “Just tell me who you are and I won’t kill you.”

            Balsil hesitated, but then said, “I am Balsil of the Claw Clan who you lay under siege.  If you do not desist we will be forced to kill you.”

            The Wyrm laughed.  “Simply give back what is mine and I will be happy to leave you to your pitiful lives.”

            “I assume you mean the orb.”  With this the Wyrm’s ears perked up.  “I must inform you that it is far away, being taken to where you will never find it.

            The beast seemed taken aback at the news.  Then growled his reply, “Where is it being taken?”

            “Sorry, but I have no more time to chat. I must go.”

            With a roar the Wyrm hurled fire forth in the direction of the voice, and when the din had died down still no body could be seen.  With a beat of its great wings and a hop into the air it flew off in search of its prize.






            The traveling thieves were far from anywhere.  Free City was now well behind them, and Pearson had a bad feeling.

            “Keep alert kids.”

            Able was half dozing, as much as the bumpy road would allow.  Kin asked curiously, “Why?”

            “Oh, it’s nothing. just,”  he paused, “just keep your eyes open.”

            So Kin turned to scan the horizon.  “What’s that?”

            Pearson looked and stopped the cart.  Straining his eyes to see, his feeling seemed to be made real.  “Ready your daggers boys,” and he put the horses into a trot, gambling that the wheels could take it.  Kin shook Able awake.




            Arelaye was beginning to feel the strain.  Focusing on the path ahead she let the scenery roll by at the exaggeratedly fast pace of astral travel.

            Something caught her attention briefly off to the side, in an instant she decided to stop and look back to examine what it was.

            In the distance she could see a cart being pulled quickly along the road, and there was a band of half-orcs nearly upon it.  I don’t have time for this, she thought, but then caught sight of the people in the cart.  Among the three were two children.  The half-orcs, she knew, were as likely as not to kill them.

            One of the wheels then cracked and the driver was dumped unceremoniously onto the ground.  Drawing his rapier he rose and faced the coming threat.

            As the first of the raiders came upon the man Arelaye proceeded to the scene.  Too soon for her to intervene the man was overwhelmed and she saw an axe get buried into his back.  One of the children screamed.

            Uttering a word Arelaye held forth her hand, palm out, and a burst of energy  shot forth and struck one of the half-orcs, wounding him and startling them all.

            While the band looked around in confusion Arelaye fired again.  The remaining half-orcs made a hasty retreat.

            Arelaye stopped just short of the battered cart.  Being exhausted from the long journey and the use of magic she knew she must descend out of the astral plain.  Soon the larvae, which inhabited that plain and were attracted to magic, would be coming around.  Arelaye had a keen distaste for those parasites so she took a relaxing breath and allowed herself to materialize.

            Able was crying over Pearson as Kin tried to comfort him.  When Arelaye put her hand on Kin’s shoulder he was startled, and instinctively drew his dagger.

            “I mean no harm.”  Arelaye put up her hands in a gesture of non-threat.

            “You the magician?”


            Kin looked down on his sobbing partner.  “Thank you.”

            She took a deep breath.  “What will you do?”

            “We have to get this cart to Wages.”

            “That won’t be at all easy.  I suggest you just leave it.  Make back for Free City.”

            “We have to get to Wages.”

            “That’s no kind of place for two young ones.”

            “We can take care of ourselves.”

            Arelaye paused to consider the situation.  “I’m sure you can.”

            Able settled down then and rose to his feet.  “What will we do about this wheel Kin?” he asked wiping his cheeks dry.

            “First we need to bury Pearson.”  The two boys gazed down at the corpse for a long moment.

            Arelaye felt she should say something.  “I tell you what.  I think I have enough strength left to teleport this cart to Wages.  Then you two can head back to safer territory.

            “Thank you.”  Kin replied as he began dragging Pearson with great effort off of the road. 

            Arelaye felt the breeze touch her face.  The sun was on its descending journey and there was much to be done before it dipped below the horizon.  With a sigh she went to help the boy.




            The words over Pearson’s grave were moving in their innocent sincerity.  The cart was delivered with a note explaining the situation.  Some telepathic words with Layenre notified him of the delay.  Nothing to worry about.’  The superstitious half-orcs were likely to avoid the area for years so it seemed safe to have a fire.  Once she had eaten some of the boy’s food Arelaye was looking forward to a night’s rest.  She was exhausted.

            These boys were thieves she knew, so one last spell warded  the leather bag which contained the orb.

            “Goodnight Arelaye.”  Able yawned.







            Kerwyn dozed off as the campfire burned low.  He was nestled among the roots of a large tree in a fairly large wood.  Since he had decided to follow MacCul’s advice and journey towards the White Peak all the doubts which had been plaguing him began to lessen.  With each step forward his stride seemed to be filled with some purpose.

            Now he was falling into an easy sleep.  The crackle of the fire had died down as the wood simmered and glowed red through the ash.

            The barely audible sound of the snap of a twig brought his eyes open, and he quickly closed them again, pretending not to have heard.  Beneath his blanket he slowly reached for his hunting knife, then lay there alert for any more noises.

            Fighting the urge to open his eyes the moments seemed like days.  The night was so quiet and seemed extremely large around him until he heard the faint breathing of his assailant creeping up from around the tree.  Consciously Kerwyn kept his breath slow and deep as though fast asleep.  One eye was kept barely open- imperceptible in the darkness.

            Wait..!  Kerwyn fought the urge to jump up, thinking that stealing away the element of surprise was his best option.

            Kerwyn then saw the dark outline of the man’s head.  Not yet...!  A knife

could be seen inching closer.  Just as the thief was lunging forward he stopped abruptly, and looked down to see a large knife embedded in his belly.  He looked up to see Kerwyn staring into his eyes.  With a groan he slumped back and fell.

            Another came running from out of the trees, yelling as he went.  Kerwyn leapt up and dove into the other’s midsection, sending him falling backwards.  Each had a knife in hand as they wrestled on the ground trying to get position on each other.

            Kerwyn quickly found himself pinned on bottom facing his attacker.  He gripped the wrist of the other’s knife hand, straining to keep it from getting any closer to his face.  Kerwyn was proving to be the stronger but then the man put his body behind it and the knife slowly came at Kerwyn.  But this maneuver opened up a weakness- Kerwyn brought up his knee with great force into the man’s groin.

            With a groan the thief rolled away and Kerwyn followed, seeking to plunge his knife into the man.  The thief caught Kerwyn’s wrist and another struggle of strength ensued.  They locked eyes, and again Kerwyn felt that connection forming.  Visions began floating through his mind’s eye.  He saw images of the man he was attempting to kill.  He saw images of the man laughing with his fellow thieves around a campfire.  He saw images of chests full of jewelry and gems.  Kerwyn started to feel panic.  He was afraid his nerve would fail him again as it did on the battlefield.

            Then more images.  Visions of victims murdered.  And then Kerwyn saw himself.  He was laying there dead.

            With a cry Kerwyn again sent his knee into the man’s groin.  As the man’s grip weakened the knife penetrated skin, and did not stop slowly sinking into his chest right to the hilt.

            Blood appeared in the thief’s mouth and a final sigh signaled his last breath.

            Kerwyn stared wide eyed for a moment.  The man had a scar across his cheek large enough to be seen in the darkness and a grimace now permanently on his face.  The look in the dead man’s eyes was empty amazement.

            Kerwyn stood up, and yelled a cry to the skies-  a cry of redemption.






            Arelaye awoke to the sound of songbirds.  The sun was just arriving.  Instinctively she reached for the bag, and looked inside.  The orb was there safe and sound.  The two young boys were still asleep.

            Putting some wood in the fire pit she found the spell to ignite came easily.  As some beans were cooking she decided she would like some company.

            Shaking Able by the shoulder she declared, “Time to wake up.”

            With a groan the boy muttered something about it being too early.  The two were accustomed to long sleeps.

            “Come on Kin.  We can get an early start.”

            Slowly and with much protest the two got up.  Arelaye felt like a mother.




            It was the first village it came across, and for no other reason the Great Wyrm decided to destroy it.  The buildings were set alight and the people scattered.  As one young woman ran screaming out of a burning inn the Wyrm swooped down and snatched her in his talons, taking her into the air.  Reaching down in mid flight he bit her in half and dropped her pieces onto the street below. They landed just before the entrance of an alley where an adolescent boy was hiding.  Seeing this sight he panicked and ran out into the street right into the line of sight of the monster.  He froze as the Wyrm swooped down at him.  He didn’t notice at all the wetness forming in his pants.

            The Wyrm landed before him and said these words, “You!  I have a message for you.  Tell everyone.  Tell the King- tell every person you meet, I want back what is mine.  Give me the orb or I will destroy everything you people hold dear.  Everything!”  And gazing into the boy’s eyes to drive home the supernatural fear which the presence of a Wyrm always evoked, the beast flew off in search of more destruction.  The boy collapsed into a heap in the street.




            Arelaye was again on her way.  She had left the two boys with a goodbye to make their way back home.  She knew these boys were young members of the thieves’ guild and she was confident in their ability to take care of themselves.  Still, she couldn’t help but worry a little.  She had to concentrate now though, so she put all other thoughts aside and let the luminous scenery go by.




            Walking along, with already tired feet, Able complained to Kin, “I need another rest.”

            “Come on.  We’ll never make it at this rate.

            Ignoring his friend Able stopped and reached down to massage his ankle.

            Kin stopped too.  “When we get to Free City we can get enough money together to buy a mule.”

            “We should have kept some of the stash.”

            “It won’t be hard to pick a few pockets.”  And Kin started walking again.

            With a sigh Able followed.




            Finally the Mystical Temple was before her.  The spiritual component of the Temple which could be seen in the astral realm was fantastic to behold.  Colors shimmered brilliantly and white light glistened on the structure’s walls.

            With a deep breath Arelaye relaxed into her material form.  The physical temple was still magnificent, if not wondrous like the astral temple.

            Two Mystics were walking the garden in silence, paying no mind to the woman appearing off to their side.  Arelaye ascended the great steps and entered the temple.

            Here and there walked some of the order, always looking as if they had some preeminent purpose to attend to.  Without a pause Arelaye made for Layenre’s habitation.

            Arelaye paused before the door and heard from the other side, “Come in Arelaye.”  And seemingly by itself the door swung silently open.

            Layenre was sitting at a small table studying a chess position.  “I hope your journey wasn’t too eventful.”

            “No, it was just eventful enough I would say.”

            Layenre then looked up from the chess board and with a great smile took in Arelaye’s presence.  “You’re as beautiful as ever.”  And getting up he went to give her a hug.

            “You have it?”

            “Of course.”  Arelaye took the sack off her shoulder and reached in.

            A shocked look in her eyes made Layenre’s heart skip.  She pulled out the contents to reveal a rock.







            The alleyway turned out to be blind.  “We’re trapped.”  Looking around there was no way out.  “Don’t draw your dagger unless they do first.”

            Kin and Able stood waiting for their pursuers to catch up, and shortly they did.  Four children ran up and stopped before them, the largest one sizing them up.  “Well, well.”  He said through the panting.  “Nowhere to run now.”

            The two kept silent.  Able glared at the bigger boy, but he just turned to look at his companions, “I think we need to teach these men what happens to people who work on our territory.”

            “We didn’t know it was your territory.”  Kin said.

            “You knew it was someone’s territory.”

            Kin searched hard for the right thing to say, the one thing that would save them.  “We’re just trying to get home, and we’re sorry we trespassed.  We’ll leave and you’ll never see us again.”

            “You’ll leave all right, but not before we give you a good thumping.”

            Then Able said, sneering, “Bring it on then big man.”

            The big kid looked at his fellows again.  “Let’s get ‘em!”




            Kerwyn was walking along in wonderment at the big city.  It was much larger than any village his people had raided.  It was much larger than anything he had ever seen, except perhaps for the vista from the top of Eagle peak.  He noticed how the people seemed oblivious to his presence as he walked amongst them.  It was like they were all sleepwalking, dreaming about whatever errand they happened to be on.

            Suddenly an image flashed into his mind.  It was two boys laying in an alleyway, beaten bloody.  Were they dead?  No just unconscious.

            Kerwyn looked across the street and saw the entrance to an alley.  His legs just started walking.

            When he found the boys it didn’t strike him as unusual that he knew they would be there.  He was getting used to his visions.

            Able was just regaining consciousness, moaning loudly.

            “Easy.  Don’t get up.”  Kerwyn soothed.

            The Hillman got some herbs from out of a pouch and crushed them into his water skin.  The herbs were from home and were used often by his people.  “Drink this.”  He eased the water down his throat and, choking, Able swallowed.

            Able instinctively reached for his pack.

            “They didn’t take anything?”  Kerwyn asked.

            “That wasn’t their point.”

            Kin began to stir then too.  “ head ...”  Kerwyn gave the other boy a drink.

            “Let’s get you two to a healer.”




            The adolescent was on his knees with his head lowered.  Reginald’s secretary stood next to the King on his throne.  “You bring news of the Beast?”

            “Yes I do.”

            After a moment the King said himself, “Well?  What is it?”

            Ruffled by the setting he was in, the boy ventured, “The Wyrm spoke to me when he destroyed my village, sire.”

            “Spoke to you?”

            “Yes, sire.  He said he had a message.  He said he wanted ‘the orb’ returned to him or he would destroy everything.”

            “What orb?”

            “I don’t know sire, that was what he said.”

            “Did he say anything else?”

            “No, sire.”

            The King seemed to ponder for a moment, then said, “Very well, dismissed.”

            As the boy backed out of the throne room in the formal manner, with his gaze averted to the ground, the King looked troubled.

            “Summon the court Mystic.”

            “Yes sire.”




            “They’ll be fine.”  The healer washed his hands in a bowl.  “Nothing too serious.”  The two young thieves were each laying in a bed, resting soundly.

            Kerwyn knew as much but still he felt relieved.  “How much do I owe you?”

            “Twelve shillings.”

            The Hillman produced a very full pouch.  “The smallest I have is a silver.  Keep it.”

            Kerwyn’s share of this year’s raids was quite a small fortune, and he wasn’t greedy.  Kerwyn looked over to catch a glimpse of Able noticing him with his money before the boy quickly shut his eyes again.

            The healer led Kerwyn out the door.  “Let them rest for a while.”

            When the two boys were alone Able said to Kin, “Did you see that money bag?”

            Not opening his eyes Kin replied, “We don’t steal from friends, Able.”

            “But we need a mule to get home.”

            Kin sighed.  “No.  We’ll walk”

            “I know.”  Able reached down to the pack beside his bed.  “Why don’t we sell him this?”  He showed his friend the orb.

            “Where did you get that?”

            “Stole it from a magic shop when we were working main street.”

            “If he wants it he can have it for the price of a mule then.  Now quiet, I’m sleepy.”  And the sedative did its work.




            “I’ve contacted my superiors at the Mystic Temple, sire.”

            “What did they say?”

            “They said that a magical orb was recently discovered by the Children of the Forest.  It seems to have belonged to the Wyrm.”

            “Tell them to have this orb sent to me so we can return it.”

            “There’s a problem, sire.”


            “The orb was lost.  It was stolen by two boy thieves while it was being taken to the Temple.”

            King Reginald’s fist clenched tightly on the arm of his throne.  He turned to his secretary, “Have this orb found.  At all costs!”

            “Yes, sire.”






            Daraul was an assassin.  He killed for money.  That, he knew, was what he did best.  But his employer knew he was also adept at other useful skills,  such as finding things.  Usually it was information he was asked to gain.  This time it was a mysterious magical orb.  Hocus pocus, he thought to himself.  Funny how someone can become suddenly interested in the magical arts.  Daraul had always had more regard for abilities of the more ordinary kind - not that those abilities which he possessed were by any means ordinary.

            He walked over to the bar, where a hooker was waiting.  She smiled and began to put her hand on his shoulder.  “Get lost.”

            The bartender came over.  “What can I get ya’ ”

            “I’m looking for a man named Pearson.”

            “Never heard of him.”

            Daraul took out a gold - too much, he knew, for this piece of the puzzle let alone a drink of ale, but his employer had made it clear that this was a top priority job.  “Give me a whiskey.”

            The bartender took the coin and bit it.  As he pulled out the whiskey bottle he talked.  “Pearson is in charge of the westside pickers.”

            “I know that.  Where is he?”



            Daraul downed his shot and thought through the situation.  Pearson was probably the one with the two boys when they came across the orb.  That would mean the boys worked the very area he was in.  He slid forth his glass in a gesture

of ‘more’ and the barkeep filled it up.

            “You heard of two boys named Kin and Able?”


            Daraul downed the second.  “Thanks for the whiskey.”  

            Daraul left feeling satisfied that things were in hand.  However anxious his employer had been, he was going to bide his time and wait.  The boys would come to him.




            Kerwyn had bought the orb as a favor, he told himself, to two young boys who were in need.  He walked along the small southern road with his thoughts still on the object in his possession.

            Another part of himself was drawn to the object.  It was beautiful.  That was all he could think to describe it as.

            Precious objects were rare in the mountains where he was from, and this object was the most precious that could be.  At least that is what he imagined.

            The last two nights, after he had made camp, he had spent hours gazing into it.  The experiences were wonderful and pure.  Always the feelings he was left with when he finally put it down to go to sleep were a mixture of covetousness and guilt.  The guilt was for feeling the greed of its possession.  This gave him the occasional impulsive urge to give the object away.  He felt this would be a selfless act which would surely make him feel good about himself.  But that other part of him knew it was simply to free him of its burden.

            Perhaps, he thought to himself, he would give it to Harol when he arrived at the White Peak.  Or better yet, give it to Leopold, surely no one else could deserve it more than the head of the order.

            With this thought his attention again turned to the road before him.  He could see a village in the distance and it would be good to sleep in a bed tonight.






            Kin and Able were beginning to get used to the flow of refugees.  The last two towns they had passed had both been destroyed by fire.  Their mule sauntered uncaringly around and through groups of people with their heads down and dismal looks on their faces.  All were headed for Camborough where, they hoped, they would be safe from the ravages of the Great Wyrm.

            Occasionally, Kin noticed, someone would glance apprehensively to the sky.  He looked up himself and saw only grey clouds.

            “What would you do if you saw it?”  he asked Kin.





            The charred remains of the village were no longer even smoldering, they seemed so dead to Kerwyn.  He continued down main street, wide eyed and uncomprehending of what could have so utterly devastated this place.  Not a person could be seen anywhere.

            As he was passing what used to be a pub he reached down and picked up a partially burnt sign.  There was a wyrm breathing fire and some words which could no longer be read.

            “This used to be the Wyrm’s Breath.”, someone said behind him.  Kerwyn turned around to see a very old man with a long grey beard.  Kerwyn sensed he was harmless.  “That is,  before the real thing came along.”

            “What happened here old man?”

            “Haven’t you heard?  We were paid a visit by the Great Wyrm.”


            “Yes.  Wyrm.  Not a town will escape it, I fear.”

            “Where is everyone?”

            “Those that live, they all went west.  Fools think they’ll be safer there.  They’re just putting themselves into another target I say.”  The old man turned his head and calmly spit onto the street.  “No.  I was born here and here I will die.”  He walked over to the boardwalk and felt around with his hands.  Kerwyn realized that the man was blind.  The man sat down.

            “But how can you stay here?”

            “I’m old.  Too old to go traipsing across the world.”

            Kerwyn suddenly felt an intense sense of compassion.  Visions came to him.  He saw the old man when he was younger.  He saw all his family die long ago.  He saw that he was utterly alone.  He saw an image of the orb.

            Kerwyn reached into his pack and took out the orb.  It was glowing.

            “Reach out your hand.”

            “What?  Why?”

            Kerwyn brought forth the glowing object and the old man sensed something.  He too reached out his hand.

            With both of their hands on the orb Kerwyn placed his other hand on the man’s head.  Pure white light surged through his being, and eventually a profound sense of peace overcame him.

            When the feeling had subsided he came around again.

            The old man was blinking heavily.  He wiped his eyes.  “I can see.”  He looked at Kerwyn, then around the village.  “Oh my god I can see!”

            A scene of devastation never looked so wonderful as to that man at that moment.




            Sir Geold and his company of 11 Knights had nearly reached their destination, a large town far to the north of Camborough.  As it came into sight he was relieved to see that it was still intact.

            The Knights of the Kingdom had all been dispatched to whatever towns and villages were left, charged with defending against and hopefully killing the monster.

            Screams of women reached Geold’s ears on the breeze, he looked into the distance to see people frantically running for safety.

            “Sir, look!”  One of his lieutenants was pointing to the eastern sky.  There in the distance could be seen against the clouds a speck moving slowly towards the town.

            “Stick together!  Put your spurs to it men!”

            It was a race.  Geold resisted the urge to pull away from his men in his effort to get there in time to meet the Wyrm head on.  Time seemed to stop as his vision became a blur of road going by.

            The men of the town rushed to the rooftops with their bows.  They had metal shields erected for cover and these they crouched behind.

            One particular man was there with his son, not yet twenty.  “Dad!”

            The father looked over to see his youngest son sneaking up behind them with his slingshot.

            “Jarrod, get down from here!”

            “I’m gonna fight.”  He had his fingers ready around a stone in the sling.

            The father got up to carry him down but the young man interrupted him.  “Dad, it’s coming!”

            The father looked to see the Great Wyrm close enough to see the tufts of its hair flitting in the wind as it flew.  In a tortuous moment he decided it was too late, and crouched down behind his shield.  “Keep your head down!”

            The Wyrm roared and the sound made the men shake with fear.  The boy’s eyes were transfixed on the beast.

            It came directly at the line of defense.  Fire came forth before even a single arrow had been fired, and the men ducked behind their shields.

            The boy felt the heat all around him.  He opened his eyes to see flame.  His shield was melting quickly and he feared he would do the same, then it stopped, and screaming.

            The man who was burning, was it his father?  Yes.  He flailed his arms around and then a flash of a beast and claws took him off, away into the air.


            He ran to the other side of the building in time to see his father falling.  He hit the side wall of the general store and fell into a heap.

            The Knights rode into town at full speed, and stopped in the middle of main street.  What now?  Already buildings were beginning to burn.  Geold looked up to see a man fall burning from a rooftop.

            Then the Wyrm sighted them, and wheeled around, coming at them head on.

            “Spread out!”

            As Geold held his ground the other men scattered around him in a circle.  Geold drew his long sword and held it aloft, in a challenge to the adversary.  Seeing their commander his men did the same.

            Although a monster, the Great Wyrm was not without its knowledge of chivalry.  Seeing himself challenged thus he held back his flame and  directed himself at Geold.

            Geold saw the Wyrm’s eyes meet his own.  He had to fight his horse to keep it in place.

            As the Wyrm approached he commended himself to God, and got ready to strike.  The Wyrm’s talons opened and reached forward.

            With a mighty swing Geold’s sword struck a claw.  A sudden pounding on his shoulder came and through the shock he could tell he had been hit a glancing blow.  A second thud introduced him to the ground.

            Fighting unconsciousness he looked up to see his men fighting, and buildings burning.  He closed his eyes and his head fell.  He had lost.






            The assassin had an exquisite face.  Large blue eyes seemed to take in more light than an ordinary man’s would.  The studded leather contoured his slight build.  He seemed to be unarmed, but any number of hidden daggers were easily at hand.  His hair was midnight black.

            Hiding in the shadows of a dark alley he was waiting for someone.  Patiently he watched as citizens walked by the entrance, busy with whatever their lives were.  In the back of his mind he remembered when he was a child, and how he used to use this alley to hide.

            Daraul inched deeper into a corner as a child entered the alleyway.  He walked right by the assassin, not noticing, and sat on a crate.  Taking out a pouch from his baggy pocket he examined its contents.

            Daraul watched as the boy counted coins, mostly shillings, and a few silvers.

            “Not a bad haul Joey.”  Daraul announced.

            Startled, Joey turned his head to see the assassin calmly observing him.  “Gods Zeroe, you scared me.”

            The assassin took out a gold coin and started tossing it into the air, catching it, and tossing it again.  “Could be better though.”

            Joey walked over and as the coin was about to land again in Daraul’s hand he snatched it out of the air.

            “How can I be of service?”

            “The two boys who recently went to wages.”

            With a slight snarl Joey offered, “Kin and Able.”

            “Yes.  You will let me know when they get back.”

            Joey knew better than to ask questions, but it seemed extremely odd that Zeroe would care anything about those two.  “Anything else?”

            “No.”  As Daraul left he added, “There’ll be more gold if there’s no delays.  You know how to contact me.”  And he was gone, disappearing into the crowd.

            Joey suddenly felt a twinge of wretchedness in his stomach.  He didn’t care for Kin or Able, but he didn’t know where this business was going to end up.  With a shrug he reminded himself that it was too late anyways.  He was not about to cross Zeroe.  What’s done is done.  Joey filled his money pouch.




            “Can you believe it?  There’s a line to get in the gates.”  Kin and Able were coming up on the crowd outside the walls of the city.  “Come on Able, let’s take the sewer entrance.”

            “What about the mule?”

            Kin looked around and the first person he saw was a mother carrying a baby.  “Care for a mule?”  Before she knew what was happening the reins were in her hand and the boys were off.

            They walked briskly along down to the beach where they took a steep trail down the cliff to the bay.  Walking along the wet part of the sand (to keep it out of their shoes) they came to the mouth of the river as it emptied into the bay.  Before the cliff tapered off by the river there was a tunnel where the sewers of part of the city emptied out.

            A little ways inside this tunnel was blocked off by enormous boulders.  A trickle of dirty water made its way through the cracks.  Sticking out of the side of the tunnel was a seemingly random iron rod, rusted and bent.  This Kin grabbed and pulled down like a lever, and a fairly large stone slid to the side, revealing a second tunnel.  “Let’s get to the Guild house, we need to tell them about Pearson.”




            Harol was speaking with some colleagues about Fellowship business when a page approached him.

            “Excuse me Master Harol.”


            “There’s a young man says he’s here to see you.”




            Joey was sitting on a fancy couch outside the office of the Poobah, head of the Guild house, when Kin and Able walked in.  Able noticed the strange look Joey gave them briefly before hiding it quickly.

            “Back so soon?”  Joey’s tone was almost mocking.

            “Yes, we’re back.”, Kin replied, “Did you miss us terribly?”

            Able knocked on the door and a “Come in.” was heard.  “Excuse us won’t you?  We have business to attend to.” 




            “So MacCul is to be chief?”  Harol seemed to ponder this for a moment.  “Good for him.  He always was a good lad.”  The old man’s eyes seemed to beam.  “I must say it is so good to hear news of old home.”

            “There’s something else.”  Kerwyn’s tone betrayed a seriousness.

            “Oh?  What is it.”

            Kerwyn searched for the right words, but eventually just reached for his  pack, taking out the much coveted orb.

            “Oh my.”  Handing it over, Kerwyn felt a sense of sadness, and relief.  Harol was wide eyed with amazement.  “Oh my.”




            Kin and Able were walking easily along the overcrowded streets, too drained to even think about working.  “Strange that Joey would be hanging out at the Guild house.”, Kin mused.

            “Probably kissing up to the Poobah.”

            Kin turned down a familiar alley, feeling something amiss.  “I don’t know Able, something doesn’t feel right.”  Able didn’t answer.  “What do you think?”  Turning to look at his friend, Kin found that he wasn’t there.

            A sharp pain on his temple was the only clue that he was about to lose consciousness.




            Leopold, head of the Fellowship of Life, was alone in his quarters with the orb.  “So,”  he licked his lips, “you are the infamous white orb.”  His hand felt the smoothness of the glass.  His gaze became locked in as the light shone more brightly.  “Let’s see what all the fuss is about.”




            “Wake up young one.”  Kin came around to the odor of smelling salts.  With a groan he opened his eyes to see Able seated across from him, still unconscious and tied tightly to the chair.  As he came around he discovered that he too was bound to his chair.  He sensed a presence behind him and turning his head he saw the man in black leather.

            “Easy son.  You’ve had a nasty bump.”

            “What happened?”

            “Never mind.  I just need a little information.”

            “What kind of information?”

            “The kind that I know you have.”  The assassin walked over to Able and began wafting the salts under his nose.  “Where is the orb?”

            “What do you want with that?”

            “Don’t play with me!”  Daraul shouted and Able’s head abruptly jerked awake.  Kin’s friend instinctively kept perfectly still.

            “We don’t have it anymore.”  Kin made sure to sound sincere.

            “I just want to know where it is.”

            “We sold it.”

            Daraul seemed to consider this.  “For how much?”

            “Twenty silver.”

            Daraul made an exaggerated gesture of disapproval.  “You mean to tell me that this orb which is desired by both Kings and Great Wyrm’s you sold for twenty silver?”

            Kin now noticed that a dagger had somehow appeared in the man’s hand and he saw the fear in his friend’s eyes as the man casually walked behind Able.

            “I don’t know about Kings and Wyrms but Kerwyn wanted it for twenty silver.”

            “Don’t lie to me.”  Daraul placed the dagger delicately at Able’s throat.

            Kin desperately wanted to please the man.  “Why would a King want it?”

            This was an unexpected question.  Daraul decided to try a trap.  “Where did you get the orb?”

            “We stole it.”

            “From who?”

            “From a magic shop.”

            Daraul closed his eyes and hissed.  “Now I know you’re lying.”

            “Wait!”  Able jumped in.  “We didn’t get it from a shop!  I stole it from that lady who helped us.”

            “What lady?”  Daraul kept his eyes closed.

            Kin desperately tried to remember her name.  “Ar-  Are-   Arelaye!”

            “And you sold it to a man named Kerwyn?”


            “Where is he?”

            Kin interjected, “He was headed for the White Peak.”

            Daraul stayed motionless looking into Kin’s eyes, his dagger inches from Able’s throat.  “I don’t believe you.”

            First the blood began to flow, then quickly Able could no longer breathe, his lungs heaving gasps of blood in panicked gurgling silence.

            “Able!”  Kin let the tears flow.  “No!  I didn’t know!  I didn’t know he got it from the lady!  I thought...   I thought he got it from a magic shop.”

            Daraul considered the reaction.  It seemed the boy was telling the truth.  “And it’s heading to the White Peak?”

            “Yes God damn you!”

            “I believe you, and to show you I’m not all bad I’m not going to kill you, although I should.”

            Kin couldn’t hear through his sobbing.  Seeing it was pointless to continue conversing, Daraul left him there.






            In the ruins called the Chaos Wastes, west of the Kingdom, in the desert called the Dead Zone, where no human dare to go, four riders led their army slowly past the shells of ancient buildings which at one time towered into the sky.  Countless wraiths skittered noisily as they followed their overlords, the army reaching back to the horizon and beyond.  The Wastes smelled of decay.

            There were many fell things to be found in the ancient ruins, but all shrank away from those who now were passing through.  Without any signal the four riders split up and headed in different directions, each leading a portion of the army of wraiths.






            Sir Geold groaned as he awoke.  His limbs ached and strained against the steel of his armour.

            “Mommy look!”  A boy tugged at his mother’s dress as she was picking up after the destruction.  Looking over to see the Knight stirring, she ran over.

            Geold sat up and looked around him.  The flames were burning low.  He took roll of the bodies of his men which lay in the street around him.


            We thought you were dead!”


            Are you okay?”

            Lionel.  He didn’t seem to hear the woman as his beaten eyes surveyed the scene.

            “Get some water, quick.”  The boy ran off.

            All of them were there.  All dead.  None were burned, except Perval who had a part of a building fall over on him.  Every one of them.

            Drink this.”  Geold finally took the cup and drank like a man dying of thirst.

            “Thank you.”

            As the Knight began to stand the woman sighed, “We thought you were dead.”

            “I know.”  Geold walked tenderly forward.

            “Where are you going?”

            “Back to Camborough.”

            “That’s where we’re going.”

            “No!”  Geold stopped, and then sighed.  “You’ll be safer here.”

            Geold’s white horse had heard his voice and came sauntering up, happy to see him.  The Knight stroked his nose, and struggled into the saddle.  “You’ll be safer here.”  Geold went at an easy pace back down the road by which he had come.  Camborough’s next.




            It took Kin hours to get out of the rope.  It would have been impossible if not for the fact that Daraul had not cared to make a good knot, thinking it wasn’t needed.  When the young man finally staggered back into the streets, the people bustling in overcrowded streets and the families sitting with their belongings in any available corner,  all seeming lost and confused, were like denizens of a dream.

            The screams and yells from another quarter of the city started just as a young man bumped into him and continued on as unawares of Kin as Kin was of him.  Then it started to hit the people around him.  From over the rooftops, somewhere to the north, people were making the sounds of panic.  People stopped in their tracks and looked towards the noise.

            “It’s coming.”  The woman beside Able said softly.  As Able turned his eyes to become aware, people began running- around and into others, away from the noise.  Kin stood motionless, barely bothering to keep himself up as people bumped into him.  As the people screamed, another street over could hear their sound.




            Leopold was alone with the orb when he heard a knock on his door.  “Father!  Father!”

            Leopold seemed bothered.  “What is it?”

            The door opened.  “Father, our fellows in Camborough inform us that the beast attacks Camborough.”

            “Can it be stopped?”

            “No father.”

            Suddenly Leopold’s eyes sharpened, then he said, “Did you tell them of the orb?”

            “Yes Father.  They say to transport it immediately.”

            “Have they told the King of it?”

            The Fellow seemed taken aback.  “I don’t think so.”

            “Well contact them immediately, tell them not to say a word.”

            The messenger in white robes stared straight ahead. “But Camborough..”

            “Not to worry.”  Leopold’s hands followed the curve of the orb.  “All will be well.”

            “Yes Father.”  The Fellow paused.

            “Hurry!”, the head of the Fellowship snapped, and the man in white robes scurried out of the room.




            King Reginald was watching his city burn.  Next to him his secretary fidgeted apprehensively.  In the distance the Great Wyrm swooped to and fro consigning flames to anything which caught his eye.

            “We should abandon the city sire.”

            “The Mystics?”

            “All who defended the city are dead.”

            “Then all is lost.”

            “You must expect the palace will be marked shortly.”

            A page entered the balcony and bowed low.  “Sire, a message for the King’s secretary.”

            The secretary took the message and the page was dismissed.  Once opened the secretary read silently to himself.  “Sire, I had better attend to this.”

            “Very well.”  The King was staring off into nothing.






            In a clearing somewhere on the White Peak, the mountain where the Fellowship of Life make their home, in a circle of large stones erected in times forgotten, Leopold placed the mysterious white orb on an altar in the center of the circle.  Around the edge of the circle were lined his most trusted Fellows, all swaying and chanting.  The air became more and more charged with an electric energy.  Closing his eyes, Leopold reached out from within.




            High in the sky above the city of Camborough the Great Wyrm let out a great shriek.  Those people that lived and had not fled, those few who had stayed there hidden and afraid- the guards, those that would rather die with their homes than see them destroyed, and a few others- all took note of the horrible sound which seemed to outdo even the horror heretofore known.

            The Wyrm seemed to struggle to stay aloft, then suddenly a calm seemed to come over it, and it casually flew away south, back to where it had come from.  Those few people who witnessed it could hardly believe what seemed to be happening.




            “Success!”  The man in white rejoiced.  “The beast has left the northern continent and gone home.”

            “Yes.”  Leopold said.  “I knew it would work.”

            “Sending us this orb was truly a blessing.  Its power is unimaginable.”

            “Careful my son.  It is indeed powerful and we should be careful.”

            “Yes Father.  But what will we do with it now?”

            “What do you think we should do?  Put it in storage?”

            “No.  Of course not.”

            “But why?”

            The Fellow strained to find words.  “Think what good we could do with it.”

            “Yes.”  Leopold seemed to consider.  “I suppose you’re right.”  The head of the Fellowship came nearer to the man.  “But others in the Fellowship may not agree.”

            “We must make them see.”

            Leopold stroked his chin.  “I will call a council.  In fact let it be tonight.”

            “I will spread the word.”

            “Good my son.”  Leopold sat next to the orb and laid his palm atop it.  “Good.”






            Sir Geold was putting his horse to an easy pace, thinking no hurry was needed.  If he got to Camborough any sooner, what difference would it make?  What difference can one man make?

            The sound of horses galloping hard on the road behind him made him stop and look back.  He waited, feeling a strange nervousness in his body, watching for the riders to appear around the bend.

            When he saw the three men he was startled, and he drew his sword.  “Hillmen!”  He positioned his horse squarely in the road facing the on comers.  “What are they doing here this late in the year?”

            As the riders approached Geold raised his sword high and bellowed, “Halt!”

            The three men had a haggard look of fear and they came to a halt before the knight.  The lead man raised his palm in a gesture of peace.

            “What the hell are you doing here?”  Geold challenged them.

            “We have no time to chit chat warrior.  We are being hounded and if they catch us we are done for- and if they catch you I’d say you’d not do better.”

            “Who is this you say is chasing you?”

            “The dead ones brave knight.  The dead ones are come.”  The men put spurs to their horses then and sidled past the confused knight.  “I suggest you follow us, and keep up if you can.”

            The knight seemed befuddled as the Hillmen raced off away from him.  When the sound of their horses’ hooves had begun to fade another unearthly sound began to be noticed.  It was like the hellish skittering of countless insects and it definitely was coming from the direction which the riders had come, but it seemed, or more felt to be amassed far to each side, as though it stretched a great distance wide.

            Without considering staying and fighting, Geold turned his horse and put it into a gallop.  The three men had not gone far.  “What in hell is before us now?”




            Rhigide was a half-orc Shaman of great infamy.  He followed the signs in his dreams and visions, leaving his secluded home in search of the powerful spirits which had become manifest in this world.  Hiding in a ditch by the side of the road he waited for the four men on horses to pass by, then going to the middle of the road where he knew the spirits would be approaching he made a magic circle with the tip of his charm laden staff- and in the center of this he waited as the skittering army approached.

            The rider in black galloped at the head of the host and the wraiths seemed to float along as they kept pace with their general.

            The dark rider approached the waiting shaman as if to ride him over.

            Then Rhigide raised his staff and bellowed a terrible word of power.  The black horse stopped in its tracks and reared up as the rider wailed and struggled to hold on.

            In a barbarous tongue not even spoken by the orcs, Rhigide said, “Foul spirit!  Hear my words!  I command of you to do my will!  The reign of hell on this world comes and I command that you will place me in a position of power!”

            With his horse still jittery the hissing rider replied in the same tongue, “Foolish!”  The wraith hordes gathered around, surrounding but not entering the shaman’s circle and amassing in fantastic numbers.  Rhigide kept his focus intently on his dark adversary.  The dark rider took a moment to examine this new enemy.  He saw many powerful totems around the shaman’s neck and hanging from the end of his staff.  Examining the circle he found that it had no flaws in the intricate devices.  “What do you offer in return?”

            “From now until the time of hell’s reign do I swear my loyal service.  Following this I demand that I be given supreme rule over a portion of the world from here to as far as the northern sea, and from the Chaos Wastes to as far east as the eastern sea.”

            “No deal!”  The rider was still struggling to control his horse.  “We need you not!  Can you not see this army?  It is but a part of our force.”

            “If you refuse my offer I will immediately quit from this place and advise the powers of this world on how to defeat you, of which I know.”

            “We cannot be defeated!”

            An image appeared within the circle then of the white orb, and Rhigide said nothing knowing that this would be enough.






            The Followers were ordered by Leopold to spread the word among the people about the Fellowship’s newfound blessing and to prepare them for the benefits to the masses which would soon become apparent.

            The people were truly grateful to the Fellowship for saving them from the Great Wyrm.  When they heard the news that the same power which had delivered them would be used to contain certain elements of society and human nature their  feelings were understandably mixed.  There were those who agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments of the Fellowship and were willing to give up anything they could.  There were those who rebelled against the concept completely, resenting any interference into their own lives no matter by whom.  Most, though, had in common a bewilderment at the prospect of such a mighty new establishment.

            When tidings came of the new threat which, incomprehensively, was even greater than the recent beast, there was no more debate.  Who but the Fellowship, they thought, could keep us safe in the future.  The people had to put their lives into the hands of their saviours.






            King Reginald was seated on his throne.  The three Hillmen approached, MacCul foremost, unimpressed with the gathering’s finery and pomp.  Two of the Hillmen had no intention of making the formal bow, but when MacCul did so they followed suit.  Geold was among the entourage of the King, still in his ragged armor, and he nodded to the barbarian leader.

            “Sire these barbarians wish to speak with the King.”

            The three men felt angry at being called barbarians, but they looked to MacCul who remained calm.

            “You may speak.”

            MacCul raised his head, “King Reginald, our lands have been overrun by the hordes of darkness.  They march south destroying everything, and soon will be at your doorstep.”

            “I know this already.”

            “As chief of the tribes I propose an alliance between those of us who are left, which is a considerable number, and the Kingdom.”

            The King looked muddled, and he looked to his secretary who bent low and whispered something into his ear.  Then the King said, “I will consider your offer.  I will call for you tomorrow and give you my decision.”

            With this MacCul again lowered his head and then rose, leaving the court followed by his two companions.

            The King gave a signal with his eyes and the secretary announced, “The court will now retire.”

            When all the courtiers had departed the King asked his secretary, “Any news from the Fellowship?”

            “The latest word is that they are still trying, and are making progress.  They should be able to put the horde under control before long.”

            “And if they can’t?”

            “I suggest we send an emissary to one of these dark riders, see if it is possible to communicate, and hopefully find out what they want.”

            “Do it.”




            Daraul received word that someone wanted to meet with him.  Since the Wyrm had been repelled he had had nothing to do.  That damned orb had made it impossible to do his job.  He walked towards the meeting place past burnt buildings.  He stepped over a child who was sleeping in a doorway, and he recognized him as Joey.  As he continued on he casually thought over how it looked as though Joey too was out of work.  By the looks of him he was sleeping to escape hunger pangs.  Damned orb.  Damned Leopold.  If only he had gotten to the orb first.  If he could, he thought, he would take care of Leopold himself.

            The alley behind the Laughing Gnome- it was still intact.  Daraul could see the man’s shadow coming from behind a stack of crates.  The fool obviously did not know the art of being unseen.  He crept silently up.  “You wanted to see me?”

            The man was startled.  “Oh, yes.  I mean...  Are you Nullen?”  The man donned the white robe of the Fellowship.


            The man looked around nervously and ventured, “I have been charged with giving you this envelope and awaiting your reply to what it contains.”

            Daraul took the envelope and broke the seal.  Inside it he found a drawing of a man, a Fellow, and beneath the picture was a name: Master Harol, and a figure: 1000 gold.

            The man continued, “And I have been asked to convey something.”


            “The ban that would make this job impossible...”  The man seemed greatly shaken at the implications of these words which he was meant to convey, and not to understand.  “will be lifted from you for this one job only.”

            Daraul was sensing an opportunity.  “Very well, tell whoever you work for that I accept.”






            Sir Geold held the white flag of truce aloft.  His horse became ever more jittery as they approached the encampment of wraiths, who preferred to be still during the day.

            When the outlying wraiths along the perimeter noticed Geold approaching they let out skittering screeches and the horse immediately reared and, throwing Geold from the saddle, ran back to Camborough.  Geold quickly got himself to his feet and still holding the white flag turned to face the wraiths.

            When Geold saw the approaching wraiths it became clear that no words he could say would help them find reason, for the air itself around them was charged with quite the opposite of reason- be it evil or madness.  Geold waited silently and with his grip straining against the banner’s pole.

            The wraiths did not over-hurry.  They circled Geold completely and left him feeling alone and desperate.  Geold had to make a great effort not to look into their faces, because each and every one, though distinct, was contorted in a look of anguish.  It was almost as though the wraith as a whole had nothing to do with the personality behind it and Geold had to hide his eyes as he waited for them to do their deeds.  From the corner of his eye he saw one wraith raise its hand revealing long grey claws.

            “Hold!” came the word in that barbarous tongue.  The wraiths immediately took notice and slowly made a way for Rhigide to come towards Sir Geold.

            In the common tongue the shaman addressed the knight.

            “You come to parlay.  Say what you will.”

            Geold took his arm from over his eyes and regarded the half-orc.  “Who are you?”

            “My name is Rhigide.  Lieutenant of the Army of the Dead Ones and soon to be master of the northern part of this continent.  As soon, at least, as this army destroys the Kingdom which you hold so dear.”

            Geold was taken aback by the words of this shaman, and he had to take a moment to remember his mission.  “I am Sir Geold, knight and representative of King Reginald.  I come to ask to what purpose your army marches forth and to see if a treaty can be seen to.”

            Rhigide had already started to laugh as Geold was finishing his words.  “To what purpose you say?  Look at these soldiers!  Can you not see them for what they are?  Very well, I will tell you.  The purpose for which this army has sallied forth is to wreak destruction - and for no other purpose than this.  So go back to your King and tell him there will be no treaty - unless its terms include you allowing us to pillage and kill you.”

            Without a word the wraiths behind Geold began to make way, and seeing this Geold walked backwards, his unbelieving eyes still on the dark shaman.  As Geold passed the wraiths the circle closed in and the stern face of Rhigide disappeared behind his soldiers.  Finally, Geold turned and ran - the white flag dropping to the ground.






            Master Harol was whispering though he felt like yelling.  “The fools!”

            His companion was another member of the fellowship.  “Yes, I know.  But what can we do?  Father Leopold seems set in stone on the matter.”

            “Yes, although he would have you believe he is actually considering the situation.”

            “Brother Harol..”  The Brother seemed a bit shocked at the insinuation.

            “What?”, Harol said, then collected himself and continued.  “Do you think that when it is obvious that the orb only serves to strengthen the dark horde that continuing to use it does not imply something...”  Harol seemed to strain for the word not wanting to find it. “..sinister on the part of our Father?”

            Just then a door opened down the hall and the two men suddenly got quiet.  A fellow man in his white robes walked towards them and as he passed greeted them with a nod saying, “Brothers”

            Harol and his companion nodded as well, Harol saying, “Good evening Brother.”, and smiling.

            When the man was gone the Brother whispered, “We should continue this another time Master Harol.”

            “Yes.  Meet me in the garden in the morning.  Though I fear time is quickly running out.”

            With this the two parted ways and left the scene.  From behind a shadow a man stepped forward with a black dagger in his hand.  He had been charged with killing Master Harol, but what he had learned by letting him live was worth more than the 1000 gold which was to be his reward.  “So”  he whispered to himself.  “The mighty weapon of the Fellowship is the enemy’s boon.”  Without a sound he stepped down the hall.


            The words came in a hiss.  “All outlying areas have been destroyed.”  The four riders had reunited not a day’s ride north of Camborough.  “We will begin the main assault tomorrow.”

            Rhigide answered in his guttural way, “Good.  I will be ready.”






            Father Leopold was gazing into the white orb as he was wont to do these days.  Sweat beaded on his brow as he strained for the solution in the isolation of his bedchamber.

            From behind him came a voice.  “Quite a precious thing, isn’t it.”

            Leopold jumped up.  “Who are you?  How did you get in here?”

            “I’ve come for two things.  First- the orb.”

            “No!”  Leopold placed himself between Daraul and the orb.  “It is the only hope!”

            Daraul took a step forward and hissed, “I did not ask for your approval old man.”

            Leopold’s eyes got wide in desperation.  “I will find you.  You’ll never get away.  Even without the orb I am a powerful man!”

            Daraul just smiled wryly.  “And second-..”  A dagger appeared in his hand.  “I came to kill you.”




            It was evening when Sir Geold stood atop the defensive wall which encircled the city of Camborough.  Next to him were two archers and one who was of the Order of Mystics charged with defending Camborough from the new threat.

            One of the archers pointed and yelled, “There!”

            In the distance could be seen a rider.  He was one of the scouts who was to watch for the approach of the dark army.

            Geold ran over to where the wall met the gate and watched as the man rode frantically towards the city, yelling, “The dead ones come!  The dead ones come!”

            Geold ordered, “Raise the gate!” and the rider came through and stopped just inside.  “How far are they?”

            The scout looked up to where Geold stood.  “Right behind me sir!”  Geold looked out to the horizon to see no army.  “Can’t you see them?”

            “Where are the other scouts?”

            “Taken sir!”

            Just then a distant skittering from countless wraiths could be heard growing ever so slightly louder.  Geold took a deep breath.  “Alright!  Close the gate!”  And the gate door slammed down with a thud.

            The moments before the army of wraiths became visible on the horizon, with the eerie skittering coming on the wind, seemed to last forever.  No words were spoken by anyone on the wall.  Finally the mass of soldiers crawled forward like a swarm of insects, floating along on the power of their hatred.




            Daraul was in Camborough again and the atmosphere was saturated with fear.  His connections had bought him an instant teleport to where nobody wanted to be at this moment.  He did not usually carry a bag, but what he was carrying now he would rather remained concealed.

            As he walked up to the central palace he noted that there was only one guard.  He had never seen this before but right now he was only interested in getting some information.  He made his way to the guard.  “Hello Breen.”

            Breen turned to see who was addressing him.  “Zeroe.   Figures you would show up at a time like this.  What could you possibly want?”

            “Just some information.  Where can the Royal Secretary be found at the present moment?”

            “I won’t even bother asking for the customary payment, I’ll just tell you, he’s on the wall by the north gate.”

            “Thanks.”  Daraul tossed a coin which Guardsman Breen instinctively caught.




            The army of the dead had stopped before the walls of the city and were awaiting the command to attack, and it came.  Archers let loose their arrows on orders to fire at will.  Geold watched as wraiths were hit, and was frightened when he saw that they screamed but continued on as before.

            The first wave came to the wall and seemed to scratch and float their way up it.  Lined along the wall at lengthy intervals the Mystics let forth their magical bursts and the first of the wraiths fell burning and screaming.

            Still they came.  The Mystics, Geold realized, was their only real defense, and he shuddered to think how long it would take them to be drained.  There were not enough in the city to defend the whole girth of the wall.

            Sir Geold looked behind him into the city where the yelling of the panicking people was only surpassed by the hellish screaming of bloodthirsty and dieing wraiths.

            Then - it was impossible it seemed to Geold - that familiar roar joined its place among the din.  Geold looked to the southern sky and he saw it.  “The Wyrm!”, he yelled.  “Archers!  Concentrate on the Wyrm!  Mystics, defend the walls!”




            Daraul figured as much.  The secretary had decided to retreat to safety once the fighting had commenced.  He knew just which was the right route to watch.

            As the secretary hurried along Daraul grabbed his arm and pulled him into an alley.  The secretary whelped like a frightened puppy and began to struggle.

            “Relax.  It’s me.”


            “No time to chat.  I have something you may be interested in.”

            “What?”  The secretary knew, but could not believe it.  “You didn’t!”

            “I did.”

            “But only the Fellowship can save us.”

            “That may be but for 10,000 gold I’ll allow you to have it instead.”

            The secretary looked astonished.  “Okay... Okay.  Here.”  The secretary pulled out a standard voucher and filled it in with his pen.  “Here you bastard!  Give it to me.”  And Daraul handed over the bag.

            As the secretary was checking the contents he said, “One more thing, and this is for free.”  The secretary pulled his eyes from the orb.  “I’ve discovered some information.  Not only does this damned thing not work against the dark army, our dependence on it serves to make them stronger.”

            “You lie!”

            Just then a shaft of fire came pouring onto the street next to them.  In the confusion the secretary crawled behind a box and when he looked up again Nullen was nowhere around.




            The Mystics were barely holding their ground.  Geold, with his sword in hand, had to kick one wraith from off the top of the wall before it got its ‘footing’.  When a relative lull had come he heard a man yelling on the street behind him.

            “I have it!”, he yelled as he ran.  “I have it!”

            Geold watched as the secretary ran up the stairs to the top of the wall and handed the Mystic next to him a bag.

            “Use it!”, he pleaded.  “Here it is!”

            The exhausted Mystic reached into the bag and took out the orb.  Without hesitating the Mystic held it aloft and chanted some words of power until the orb began to glow brilliantly.  From the orb a shaft of white light shot into the midst of the dark army.

            Immediately the army began to burn with a black fire and they seemed to begin attacking with a new vigor.  Two wraiths popped up over the wall next to Geold and one swiped his claws through the Mystics belly.  The other Geold swiped at with his sword but it dodged and began running for the stairs.  Geold grabbed it from behind and with all his strength dragged it back to the edge of the wall and hauled it over, letting it fall to the ground.

            All around him men were fighting desperately as the wraiths began to trickle onto the wall.

            Geold’s vision began to blur and the sounds of battle seemed to become distant to his ears.  Overwhelmed by the strangest of feelings he dropped to his knees and struggled to remain conscious.  Am I hit?

            Geold’s gaze slowly turned until it was fixed upon the shining orb.  Waves of pressure seemed to bear down on him oppressively.

            Then, like the flick of a switch his senses were back and he just knew what to do.  He reached down and picked up the orb.  Standing now, he turned to see the Great Wyrm flying straight towards him.  He held the orb above him and yelled, “Here you monster!  You want it here it is!”

            As the Wyrm swooped down, Geold heaved the orb into the air and the Wyrm, swerving, grabbed it in its claws.  Geold fell to his knees in exhaustion.

            The screaming of the wraiths stopped.  Geold did not look to see himself, for he somehow knew, but the wraiths seemed to shrink in size and vigour, and they no longer had the same power to strike terror.

            He almost expected it when he heard the archers yell, “The Barbarians!” and he let out a smile when he heard the cheering from his people as the Hillmen struck from behind and the gate opened and the army of the kingdom poured forth.

            The Great Wyrm could be seen flying south towards its home.  As it flew it let out a contented yell.




The End



© 2003 by Sonny Meadows.  Sonny Meadows studied linguistics at UC Santa Barbara.  He moves from place to place around the world writing stories and learning the native language.  He currently resides in Okinawa, Japan. His new website is The Homepage of Sonny Meadows