Tuesday, May 12, 2015
It was a small creature no more then four feet tall. It was naked except for a ragged loincloth and a harness it wore around its chest. On its back it had two leathery wings that looked to weak to lift its body very high. It had pointed ears, a long narrow tail and dark dead looking eyes. Its worst attribute of all were the needle like teeth in its mouth. They were teeth meant for only one thing, ripping meat apart.
As Niro watched, a few more heads popped out and started gibbering as they ran off into the forest. Whatever they were, Niro knew they were hunters and they were after something.
Maybe it was curiosity, or maybe it was something else, but for some reason, Niro wanted to see what it was that they were after.
Quietly he tied Akhrua's reins to a tree and he slipped into the forest and followed the little green hunters. With Stormfury in his hand, he followed them making sure not to alert them to his presence. It wasn't long until he found himself standing in the bush next to a clearing where ten of the little green hunters danced and chanted around a huge fire. Niro wasn't sure what they were doing. Maybe dancing and giving praise to whatever god they worshiped.
As the little green men danced and frolicked, from a grass hut, four of them carried a huge cauldron out and placed it in the center of the fire. They were about to start cooking dinner. Niro couldn't help but feel sorry for whatever poor animal they had caught and were about to stew. But that was the nature of the hunt.
As Niro turned to leave, he heard a scream. No animal screamed like that. As he looked back, they dragged a young winged girl out from the hut screaming and struggling to be free. Right behind her, tied hand and foot came a Goblin cursing and biting at the little hands that held him. They took them out and lay them on the side of the hut to be ready to be cooked alive.
Niro knew he had to do something. He couldn't let that girl get hurt, but he was alone and they were more of them then he could handle by himself. He was going to need some kind of help.
Niro jumped when he suddenly heard the voice ringing in his head. He looked around to see who had spoke to him, but there was no one anywhere around.
"Who's there?" Niro whispered gripping his ax ready to attack.
[I Sima.] The voice said. [I come to help Niro.]
"Who are you?"
He didn't know why, but for some reason Niro felt he could trust this stranger. The voice in his head seemed to be female and it just give him a feeling of friendship and strength. Besides, he really didn't have much choice if he wanted to save the girl. If this was all the help he would get, it'll have to do.
"Ok Sima." Niro looked back into the camp. The girl and the Goblin were laying tied just outside the hut. He had to some how get them free, then they could help in the escape. "If you can get in there and free the girl, we can try and get her to safety, I'll try and keep the hunters occupied."
[Grinders.] The voice said. [Hunters, Grinders. Sima obey.]
With Sima on her way, Niro looked around for something that he might be able to use to help with the diversion. He needed some way to keep the Grinders attention away from the hut and their captives. He figured he had two choices. He could run in and attack drawing the Grinders to him, or he could start tossing boulders and trees, raining destruction down on them. Then another idea hit him and he smiled.
Fear filled Hoddie's mind as he lay there and watched the Grinders dance in front of the fire and the cooking pot. He knew that was where they planned to put him and Rowyn. There were to be dinner for the tribe and there was nothing either of them could do about it. If only there had been some kind of warning before the attack. He knew they could have fought them off. With her spells and his bow and sword, they could have easily driven them back running into the forest. But it was to late now. His weapons were useless to him now with his hands tied and Rowyn knocked out. They were in deep trouble with no way out.
As Rowyn lay there unconscious, a Grinder hopped over and grabbed her by a leg. With drool running from its mouth, it bent down and started to lick her. Disgusted, Hoddie kicked out with both legs and kicked it away from her. With a whelp, it ran off rubbing it's back. Just then something came slowly creeping out from behind the hut casting its shadow over Hoddie. He tried to turn his head but his vision was blocked. But he could feel there was something behind him. He could feel its breath on his neck. Then he felt something weird. Something was chewing on the ropes holding his hands behind him. As the ropes broke, Hoddie quickly untied his feet, then turned to thank his savior.
As he turned to thank the stranger, Hoddie realized he was staring into a set of eyes that seemed to float there in front of him. Who was this invisible stranger with cat like eyes? Surprised, Hoddie stepped back and fell, tripping over his own feet. Before he could get to his feet, a huge Puma appeared and stood over him with its face held close to his.
[No move.] It said. Hoddie stared, his mouth hung open in surprise. [Sima here to help. Stay down. I free the girl.]
Hoddie shook his head signaling he understood, then lay back down with his hands behind him. He could get up and try and get to Rowyn and untie her bonds, but if just one of the Grinders saw him, all would be lost. They would be killed right there on the spot. But there was another way. Perhaps this Sima could help them.
On padded paws, Sima quietly made her way over to where Rowyn lay. She nudged her over a bit so she could reach her tied hands and carefully started chewing on the vines that kept her down. As she chewed, Rowyn started to wake up. Sensing how scared she must be, Sima reached out with her mind and touched Rowyn's fairy psyche gently.
[No fear Princess. I here to help. Stay still.]
As she opened her eyes, Rowyn looked around then remembered where she was. When she saw the Grinders her heart jumped in fear. A scream crept up into her throat, then she felt Sima's message to be calm.
[Help here. Just wait. Watch forest for Niro.]
As the Grinders chanted and danced around the blazing inferno, something moved in the forest. At first it was just a low moan, but as the fire snap, crackled and popped it grew louder and louder until it could be heard over the chanting. Like cracks of thunder, the moaning rolled through the camp striking fear into the Grinders. Grabbing their weapons, the Grinders hurried to the edge of their camp.
First the bushes in the forest started to quiver, then the trees started shaking. The moaning had turned into a howl that chilled Hoddie to the bone. Then boulders came flying out over the trees to crash into the Grinders huts smashing them to rubble.
Chaos ran through the camp as the Grinders panicked and scampered about. Like little savages they hoot and hollered at the invader coming for the forest, As Rowyn and Hoddie watched, a huge tree like creature stomped it's way out of the forest howling like mad. The ground shook with each great step it took. It reached out and ripped a tree from the ground and waded in swatting Grinders from the air.
At that moment, Hoddie jumped to his feet. Quickly he ducked into the hut behind him and grabbed his weapons and supplies and ran out to Rowyn.
"Where's the Puma?"
[Here.] Sima appeared next to Rowyn. Hoddie had known she was big, but he didn't expect to see a puma the size of grizzly bear standing next to Rowyn. He didn't know what to make of her. Why was she here helping them?
[I help Niro. We help you.]
"Who's Niro?" Rowyn asked Hoddie. He shrugged.
"I don't know. But If he can get us out of here, he can be a friend of mine."
[That, Niro.] Sima pointed to the tree creature battling the Grinders. [We help.]
Raising her head, Sima roared and leaped out to join the tree creature. Catching a Grinder in her jaws, she shook it and threw its broken form aside. then swatted two more as they attacked her. Niro covered in tree bark, vines and leaves used a huge branch as a club and batted the little Gremlins away. With his bow in hand, Hoddie took aim and quickly fired a series of shots dropping the Grinders all around Sima and Niro. Joining the fight, Rowyn spread her wings and took off into the air. Now with her hands free, she sent jolts of energy out zapped the little flyers out of the air.
Overwhelmed by the attack, they knew when they were beaten. The Grinders started abandoning the camp for the safety of the forest. Soon they were all gone and Rowyn, Hoddie and Niro stood alone by the fire,
Niro lifted the bark he had wrapped around himself away and tossed it into the blaze revealing his muscled form then turned to the others. Sima padded over to stand next to Niro.
"Is everyone OK?" He asked. "Is anyone hurt?"
"We're fine now." Rowyn smiled at him. "Thank you warrior, that was close. If you hadn't come we would have been their dinner."
"Thank Sima." Niro rubbed the puma's head. "She found you. She told me where you were."
"Interesting pet you have there." Hoddie said with his hand still on his sword. "Where did you get it?"
"Her name is Sima." Niro frowned. "And she's not a pet, she's my friend."
"Don't mind him." Rowyn shook her wings brushing dirt off of them. "Goblins are a very suspicious lot. He's glad you're here too. I am Rowyn Windstar of Pelordra, he's Hodgodde Fearfist from Graymere. Sima told us your name is Niro?"
"Pelordra?" Niro couldn't believe his luck. Here he was out of his mind searching and Sima took him right to where he needed to be without even being told. Maybe now he could get some answers. "You know King Philibar?"
"Yes." Rowyn answered. She looked at Niro a little suspiciously. "He's my father. Do you know him?"
"No." Niro shook his head. "But I've been sent to find him by my father. He told me to seek out Philibar of Pelordra. Only he could point me on my way to my destiny."
"It's a long way to Pelordra from here Niro." Hoddie picked up his pack and slipped its straps over his shoulder. He put the bow in its place. "Especially for one who can't fly. You have a hard journey ahead of you."
"It's much harder then that I'm afraid." Rowyn explained. "Pelordra is not your average city. There are no roads that lead there and you can only gain entrance by invitation and that's not easy."
Niro thought for a moment. His life had been turned around, scrambled and destroyed and he had no idea why. His entire family was now dead and the only answers were in Pelordra. There had to be a way for him to get there. Then he had an idea.
"What brings you two out here into the forest of Fay Shrea?" Niro asked. "Maybe we can help each other."
Hoddie walked around Niro looking him over. He thought they could use a warrior with them with what was ahead. He was obviously strong and brave. Maybe not to smart, but it wouldn't matter if they did all the thinking. He looked at Rowyn.
"What do you think?" He asked. "Should we trust him?"
"He saved our lives. " She said. "And he could have kept on his way. And besides, I like his eyes. I get an air of honor from him. I think we should trust him."
"What do you know about Orcs?" Hoddie asked as they left the abandoned Grinder camp.
The sky was blue and the breeze was warm as Dragonwolf dropped down out of the sky over Pelordra. On his back Ranjer was in heaven. He loved flying since the first time Rage had taken him for a ride through the clouds of Tir Na. The sun on his face, the wind in his hair. He envied the freedom that flight gave his Dragon brothers and he wished he could have that same freedom.
Flying next to them, Bly caught sight of the high gleaming towers of Pelordra and the magical forest that surrounded it. With a wave she signaled that they had reached their destination. Angling his wings, Dragonwolf dropped down to land right inside the walls of the city. As he touched down, Ranjer jumped off his back and Quynn shifted forms.
"So this is Pelordra." Ranjer looked up at the marvelous sight of the city in the center of a mountain. Pelordra wasn't like regular Keanna cities. Everything had been built high up in the towers. There was no traffic at ground level in the city, but when they looked up, they saw the sky filled with flying Elves all moving from tower to tower high in the air.
As Quynn, Ranjer and Bly watched the aero acrobatics, two Elves came in circling over their heads. Launching herself up into the air, Bly flew up to greet them. They talked for a few minutes, then they came down to where Quynn and Ranjer waited. Dressed in green and brown, the Sky Elf warriors gently set down and bowed to Quynn and Ranjer. Bly set herself on Quynn's shoulder.
"These warriors are going to escort us to King Philbar at the palace." She told them. "They will carry you."
"I can fly us there." Quynn said. "I can carry us all."
"No." Bly stopped him. "Keep your Human form, this is Sky Elf land. We need their help, let's honor their kings wishes."
"Fine." Quynn give in. "We'll do as you say."
Stepping up behind Quynn and Ranjer, the two Elves wrapped their arms around their waist then spread their wings and took off into the air.
Rising higher and higher, they flew between the towers. Ranjer was amazed at the beauty of the Elven architecture. The pastel blues, greens and yellows in their high homes. The flowing lush gardens of the handsome balconies on each level of each tower. Ranjer had seen the magical city of Winterhaven and the beautiful tree city of Eventide, but Pelordra he thought was even more beautiful.
Not far ahead, they saw the highest tower of them all. This Quynn knew had to be the palace of the king. With expert precision, the two warriors came down and lightly set them down on the balcony. Having set them down, one of the warriors left and went into the palace,
"There's nectar set out if you are thirsty." The warrior in green guided them to a small table set with refreshments. "Enjoy it please. The king will be out to see you in a few minutes."
On the balcony there was a beautiful garden with many different tropical flowers and a round white table carved out of something that looked like ivory. It had six stool type chair with five crystal goblets and a silver pitcher. Ranjer went to the table and poured him and Quynn a drink then handed it to him.
"This is great!" Quynn said after taking a sip. They sat down. "What's in it?"
"It's made from the glands of certain flowers we grow in Lanayh." Philibar said as he stepped out onto the Balcony. Quynn and Ranjer jumped up off their stool spilling their drink in their lap. Bly flew up off of Quynn's shoulder to land and grow to her larger size. She bowed as he stepped up to the table.
"Arael'sha!" Philibar held out his open arms and smile. "I was told there was a fairy here to see me, but I never dreamed it might be my old friend."
The king took her in his arms and gave her a gentle hug. As they separated, he looked at his other two guest.
"This one his the look of the wild in him. Its a familiar look." Philibar turned to Ranjer.
"Your majesty, my I present Ranjer Zlenka, the son of King Valkar of Yaddessa."
"You have your father's eyes." He reached out and they griped each others wrist. "And you? Dragon I think. You must be the son of Rage and Jandar."
"Quynn Tyr." Quynn bowed to the king. "Honored to meet you."
"Have a seat." King Philibar took his seat and poured himself a drink. "Now tell me. What brings you all the way out here to Pelordra?"
"We bring bad news I'm afraid" Bly looked at the king with a somber look. "He's back. Bram Thorn is back."
Philibar dropped his goblet. It fell and shattered on the floor. He looked down at Bly with fear in his eyes.
"Are you certain of this?"
"I saw him with my own eyes." She said. "Its him, he killed my father and destroyed my home and all my people."
"That's not all." Quynn added. "He killed Tomz Acros."
The natural tanned look on King Philibar's face became pale. He knew Tomz Acros and Valerian Sharpwing were not easy foes to defeat. As crazy as Bram had been, he was one of the most dangerous warlocks he had come against and it had taken more then just his magic to stop him. If he was back, death might have made him even stronger then he had been in the past. Their only hope would be to find his rings and keep him from gaining his full power. They would need help to do that, if there was still time.
"Do the others know?" Philibar asked. He stood up and walked to the rail of the balcony and stared out at his city.
"No." Bly said. "After Barm attacked my home and I escaped, I headed straight for Jandar and Rage."
"But my parents are away right now." Quynn explained. "They had left just the day before she arrived."
"Well, call them." He insisted as he turned back at them. "This is of the utmost importance. We'll need them in this fight."
"I've tried many times. I don't know what's wrong. No ones answering my calls."
"What about Valkar?"
"After he learned of the death of Tomz." Ranjer said. "Father sent us to you. He said you were the one we needed to speak to."
"You will need more then my help to defeat him." Philibar explained. "You will need my daughter Rowyn, she can represent me. But first, find Asam Arynn, he can help you find the missing rings.You will also need the rest of the original team that defeated Bram in the past. Rowyn can find anyone that has one of Bram's rings, that's the only way your going to stop him. But be warned, where you're going will be dangerous. Bram's rings are what drove him to madness. They have a mind of their own. Do not trust them."
"Do you know where we might find her?" Quynn asked nervously. "Or the rings?"
"Rowyn is out hunting a killer that invaded our forest and killed many of the unicorn." He explained. "You should start your search in the north, Asam lives in Casthor in the frozen valley. I'll find Rowyn and send her after you. You are welcome to stay here tonight, but you should be on your way in the morning. You will face many dangers on your journey. Some you will see coming and some may come from within. My advice to you is to look into the hearts of both your friends and your foes to find the truth. Then you will know who to trust."
"How are we suppose to find this Asam person?" Quynn asked confused. "There are a lot of frozen valleys up in the frozen wastelands. We could search for months and still find nothing."
"If you go north." Philibar smiled. "He will find you. Trust me."
The talk was lite, and the meal was short. When ever one had finished, Philibar call for one of his house maids to show them to a room where they could rest for the night. As the maid led them away, Philibar pulled Bly aside to talk.
"Find everyone from our original team." He said. "Warn them that he's back. It may already be to late for some of them."
"I will." Bly assured him.
"These are bad times Bly. With the Dragon's gone, Bram will be very hard to defeat. Find the rings, for all our sake's before he does."
From Parandor, Caius rode all night. His father had told him the story all about Bram and what they had done to him by Midoa's order. Now he was back for his revenge. Manius had heard what had happened in Sorrowdon. He had heard how Midia had died at the hands of his old friend. The same friend that he had betrayed and sent his family into ruin. But he had no idea if Vibius had any help from Bram. Did Bram help with the escape? Manius didn't think so, but he could have had a hand in there in another way. So far as Manius knew, Vibius had one of Bram's rings. Sooner or later, he would have to find Vibius to get his ring back, and if Caius could find Vibius and get the ring from him, he would have a better chance at getting the throne of what was left of the Sorrowdown Empire.
Caius rode by night and rested during the day. He kept a watch for any travelers and question anyone he met. During his ride he found many refugees from the burned down city of Sorrowdown that gave him information. He learned more of Midoa's death from a man who claimed to have be a senator of Sorrowdown. He said he had been in the arena when Midoa died, and witnessed the revolt of the slaves.
From a solider of the arena, Caius learned about another slave that had been instrumental in the fall of Sorrowdown. When asked what the slaves name was. He was told it was Niro Herkalus. Caius smiled when he heard that name. He recognized it immediately. Niro Herkalus was the son of General Vibius Herkalus. Caius remembered him well. They had both had the same tutor when Manius and his family still lived in Sorrowdown. Caius remembered Niro as a weak boy, more interested in studying mathematics and history then the arts of warfare. Niro had been bullied by Caius and some of the other young nobles. He was surprised to hear that he had ended up in the arena and shocked to hear he had done well. A lot must have changed since Caius left Sorrowdown. He wondered what had happened to change Niro's study interest. With the news about Niro, Caius pushed on. He still needed to find out what had happened to General Vibius. If he was out there somewhere with Niro, Caius would have to find them and eliminate them as a threat.
Late that night as Caius rode down the road to Sorrowdown, he saw the glow of many campfires burning in the distance. Caius rode as close as he thought he could without revealing himself and stopped and tied down his horse. With his sword at his side, Caius crept through the forest and around the camp keeping his eyes and ears open for sentries. Hidden in the dark, Caius watches as slaves set about setting up camp. They built comfortable places to sleep and set up a perimeter to keep out any animals or invaders. Men went out to hunt while others gathers water and any vegetation they could find that was edible.
From his hiding place, Caius watched as two men worked to finished their site. As they lit the campfire, they talked about the escape.
"I was barely able to get free from my chains when the guards were on us." One said. "I was lucky. All I had to fight with was my chains until after I was able to kill the first guard, then I had his sword and was ready to fight."
"Did you see the Emporor die?" The other warrior asked as he stacked fire wood.
"Yes." He said. "But we still have work to do. I'll tell you about if when we're done and ready to eat. Let me get water and then we can rest."
As Caius watched. the tall warrior with two water jugs headed out and into the forest. He kept low and stepped out and followed him. Off in the distance, Caius heard the sound of running water, there was a stream with fresh cold water. The warrior walked out into the knee deep center and sank his jug down to fill them.
Silently Caius crept up around the warrior and surprised him with a dagger to his throat.
"Make a sound and it will be your last." Caius dragged him from the stream and threw him down on the waters edge then jumped on him.
"Whether you live or die depends on your answers to my questions." Caius held the dagger point to his throat. "Who killed the Emperor?"
"General Herkalus." He choked out. "His sword ended the Emperor's life."
"You see this with your own eyes?" Caius asked.
"And what happened to the General?"
"I don't know." He said louder. Caius pushed the dagger harder against his neck to quiet him.
"Quiet or I cut your throat." Caius warned him. "What happened then? Who led the revolt out of Sorrowdown"
"It was the General's son Niro. He gathered us and led us to the gates and our freedom."
"Is he here in the camp?"
"No." He whispered. "I saw him take a horse and head south toward Fay Shrea."
With a flick of his wrist, Caius sliced through his throat and held him down until he bled out and stopped struggling. Rinsing the blood from his hands, Caius dragged the warriors body to the side where he covered him in dead leaves then headed back to retrieve his horse. Fay Shrea was his destination. Niro was out there somewhere and he had to find him.