Sunday, August 16, 2015
From Casthor in the north, they had traveled down past Torcin through the cold wastelands without being attacked by either Snowman or Kensi. Once out of the barren north and into warmer climates, Myor and Yarden flew east over the trails up and over the Runtalian mountains and down into the lands of the Pascan giants. Yarden seem amazed at the sights he was seeing. Everything here was new to him. The high grasses and all the different plant and flowers, even the animals here were different from the cold wastelands. Myor was glad to instruct him on what he was seeing as they traveled, describing everything Yarden pointed out.
"It's all so different from home." Yarden said as they sat and had lunch. "Everything here is so alive."
"Without ice and snow." Myor said as he finished eating and put away his supplies. "Life moves much faster then back home. This is what we're fighting for. To keep not just our people safe, but all life."
"And Bram is that much of a threat?"
"You saw what he did to your people." Myor stood up. "Imagine what will happen in a large city full of people. Imagine what he will do to get what he wants."
Yarden took a last drink and headed off to join Myor on the road. They went on from the land of the Giants and down into the Human country of Satria.
Satria was a country of farmers and small villages with fruit trees and lots of fields of wheat and corn. As they traveled down the road, they saw many fields over ripe and over grown beyond ready to be harvested. Myor looked closely at the fields then walked in to have a look at the over gown corn stalks.
"Is something wrong?" Yarden asked from the side of the road.
"Yes." Myor said as he reached up a plucked an ear to inspect. "This corn should have been harvested weeks ago."
"Corn?" Yarden said, he had never seen anything like it before. "What is it?"
"It's a vegetable." Myor peeled back the layers of leaves that covered the corn then suddenly threw it to the ground. "Ewwwwwwwwww!!! Its covered with mold!!!"
He checked another and found the same thing. Then he went from stalk to stalk and realized the whole field was full of moldy corn.
"This whole field has to be destroyed." He said as he went back out to join Yarden. "It can't be helped."
"Why?" Yarden asked.
"Because this mold is everywhere." He explained. "It's poisonous and if its eaten people will die."
"It's to late." Someone said from behind them. "People have already died."
Myor and Yarden turned to find a young weak looking boy of about fifteen coming out of the corn field. He staggered over to them and fell forward in Yarden's arms.
"Help us please!"
Yarden took him and laid him on the side away from the infected corn field. He put a hand on his head and felt the heat from the fever radiating out from him. The boy was tall for his age with dull looking red hair that thew knew would be shining if he was healthy. His skin was pale and sweaty and he had a sick smell rising from his shallow breathing.
"This boy is very sick." Yarden said. "I think he's going to die. We have to help him."
"Give him to me." Myor reached out and took the boy in his arm. He held him close and pulled his cloak around them and bowed his head. As Myor held him, he started to glow. A subtle heat rose all around him and poured into the sick boy. As Myor held him, he struggled for a second then relaxed as his breathing stabilized. In minutes, color returned to the boys face and his fever broke. Myor held the boy for a few more minutes until he opened his eyes and smiled up at him.
"How do you feel?" Myor opened his arms and sat the boy down.
"I feel better." He said as he sat up. "How did you do that? I thought I was going to die."
"You were very sick." Yarden handed him a water skin to have a drink. "Drink this."
The boy took it and drank deeply then give it back to Yarden.
"My name is Brent. I live with my family in Diva, a village not to far from here."
"Is that where you got sick?" Myor asked.
"Sick!!" Brent jumped to his feet. "I almost forgot! Yes, everyone's sick in Diva. My mother and father, you have to come help before its to late!"
As Myor entered Diva with Yarden and Brent, the smell of rot and death was over powering. The bodies of dead villagers lay scattered everywhere. Brent steered them around and through the village to a cottage off to the rear near the back cattle fields.
"Is everyone here dead?" Yarden asked.
"No." Brent said quietly. "Many people left to get away from the mold, but they didn't get far. Most of them are still close by. Me and a few of my friends have been trying to take care of the, that is until we got sick. I don't know how many of us are left."
"How did this start?" Myor asked. "How long has the mold been growing?"
"Two weeks." Brent said as they reached his cottages door. "Every since that crazy old man came here looking for his ring."
Suddenly Myor felt cold inside. A crazy man looking for a ring, that could be one person. Bram Thorn had been here. But what had he done? This looked almost like the sickness that Polan Dressak had spread across Taggitia so many years ago. How could Bram be responsible?
As Brent opened the door, Myor looked into the darkness that was his home. The smell was awful. It was like rotting vegetation, Yarden gagged for a second before entering, then turned away refusing to go in.
"Its OK." Brent said. "I can hardly stand the smell myself. I'll go in and open some windows and let fresh air in, but I have do be careful. The sun light hurts their eyes."
Though the smell was horrible, the darkness wasn't something that would bother either Yarden or Myor. Stepping closer to the door, Myor peered into the cottage. The whole cottage was very nice and built into two rooms. One on the first lever which was a small kitchen and family room with a large bed set far back against the furthest wall. In the bed, there was two dead bodies.
"Brent." He called out. "Come back!"
"No!" He cried. "My parents are here in the bed. You can heal them just like you healed me. Please, you have to try!
"It's too late." Myor stepped in and went to Brent to guide the crying boy out. "They would want you away from here. Come, we have to see if anyone else is alive here."
From house to house and farm to farm they searched each house and found only the dead. Brent found his friends huddled together dead in a small barn outside of the village.
"Bram Thorn did this?" Yarden asked as he looked back at the dead village. "This is insane. All for a ring?"
"Who knows what insane reason he had. All I know is we have to stop him at all cost."
"What do we do about Diva?" Yarden asked. "And all that moldy corn."
"Watch Brent." Myor said. "He knows this area. Find someplace safe out beyond Diva and I'll meet you there."
"What are you going to do?" Brent asked.
"I'm going to get rid of this curse."
Myor stepped off away from them then shifted to his Phoenix form and leaped off into the sky with his wings ablaze.
"By Rimnar!!" Brent said as Myor rose up into the sky. Yarden smiled and lead Brent away.
"Come on." He said. "Show me how we get away from here."
Myor circled Diva until he saw Yarden and Brent were far enough away, then he dived down into the corn fields and sent his flames to burn everything. He went to each field and all the orchards and burned everything. Then he flew into Diva and put his flames to each house, shop and barn. Myor made sure by the time he left the village, not one building was standing.
[And so ends Bram's mold.]
"This is ridiculous." Ranjer said from Quynn's back. "We should be out looking for Bram or the rings not searching the north for, who are we looking for?"
[King Philibar sent us north.] Quynn sent. [He knows this Bram better than we do. I think we should listen to his advise.]
"What advise? All he said was to go north. We've been flying around up here for two days, where are we suppose to be going?"
"How about the city below?" Bly pointed down at bright walled city. "This as good a place as any to start looking."
Quynn and Ranjer looked down. The city below looked like a pretty prosperous land surrounded by a wall like most kingdoms in Taggitia. There were farms and ranches with many different crops and livestock in the surrounding area. Many roads and trails led into the city from three different directions. People could be seen traveling in and out of the city going about their daily business. High on a hill in the back of the city sat a tall beautiful palace. Five tall slim towers formed and almost perfect barrier that framed around the marvelous castle connected by soft white stone. Tall, wide windows scattered thinly around the wall in perfect symmetry along with gaps of various sizes for archers and other forms of defense. As they circled, Quynn noticed something about the city that made him more at ease. Outside the gates of the city, placed about twenty feet apart, there were statues of dragons lining the wall. It didn't looking threatening attacking dragons, It was more like they were praising them.
As Quynn gazed down on the city he wondered what this handsome city was. It looked peaceful, like a wonderful place to live. He hoped Bram hadn't been here. He would hate to see this place in ruins.
Circling above the towers, Quynn roared to announce his presence, then dropped down just inside the cities gates. Ranjer jumped from his back as Bly flew down to sit on his shoulder. Shifting to his human form, Quynn stepped over to join them as a crowd began to gather around them. Dressed in regal attire, a handsome gray haired man stepped out to greet them.
"Aiya en creoso!" He smiled holding out his hand to Quynn. "We are pleased to be honored by the visit of a Dragon and his companions. My name is Pasker Dent, I'm an elder in counsel to King Tobias Bratt. Come in and rest, the king will want to welcome you to Dorlanth."
"Dorlanth, King Tobias?" Ranjer looked at Quynn. "That sounds familar."
Quynn shrugged as he shook hands with the elder who led them out and into the city of Tranda, capital of Dorlanth.
From there, Pasker escorted them down through the city's marketplace where there were stalls that sold everything thing from weapons to food stocks. There were corrals where pigs, cattle and horses were sold in auction to the highest bidder.
Next Pasker showed them the blacksmith shops where elaborate weapons were fashioned and forged for anyone who could pay the price. There were a number of mid level mages worked with the blacksmiths adding different spells to weapons when needed.
"Very impressive." Bly said. "I see quality work being done here."
"Yes." Pasker said beaming with pride. "Only in Winterhaven or certain places in Aspara Baugh can you find better work. Come, this way. Someone would like to meet you."
From the smith's lane, Pasker took them up through the city into the housing area. It was beautiful and clean and comfortable looking. People laughed and looked very happy here as they went on about they're lives. As they reached the palace, Pasker spoke to sentries at the gates who stepped aside to open the gates and let them into Bratt palace.
As they walked into the bright halls of Bratt palace, Quynn almost thought he was home. The palace was warm and inviting with stone pillars and bright wood paneling lining the halls. Portraits of past ancestors lined the hall that led to the kings audience chamber.
As Pasker led them into the audience chamber, there was a handsome dark haired man waiting there anxiously pacing back and forth. When he saw them, he ran pass Pasker to Quynn shouting questions.
"Where is he?" He asked agitated. "Is he hurt? Tell me he's OK please!"
"Who are you talking about?" Ranjer asked confused.
"Jayce!" He said. "I haven't heard from him in almost two weeks. That's not like him."
"Of course!" Ranjer smacked the side of his head. "That's why Dorlanth sounds familiar to me! You're JP, Jayce's mate! This is the city he keeps so secret. Relax, as far as we know, he's fine."
"He went off somewhere with my parents." Quynn explained. "On a mission. He'll be home when they're done."
"I thought you were here to tell me something had happened to him." JP relaxed and smiled at them. "I've been really worried since I haven't spoke to him in so long."
"No," Bly said shaking her head. "We're here looking for someone. A stranger to your city."
"A Phoenix by any chance?" JP stopped, then turned back to look at them. "A Phoenix and a Yetisan came in this morning with a young boy from somewhere up north. They were talking about some crazy warlock killing the boys whole village."
"Asam Arynn?" Bly asked. She flew up and hover in front of JP anxious for an answer.
"No." A voice said from behind them. They all turned to see Myor and Yarden standing in the doorway. "I'm his son Myor and this is Yarden Pek of the Mada mountains. We've been expecting you. I think we should get out of Tranda, our presence here could draw Bram to this city."
"He's right." Bly said. "We don't want to see him come here. To many lives at stake."
"Then if what Myor has been telling us is true." JP said. "You should go. But before you do, there's something I need your help with."
"What's that?" Ranjer asked.
JP walked to the cabinet on the other side of the room, then turned back to Quynn and the others. He took a deep breathe then started his story.
"A few months ago while hunting in the forest north of here almost on the edge of Dorlanth." JP explained. "A hunting party found a village a lot like Diva completely empty of all its people. The village had been torn up like some great battle had taken place but there were no bodies found anywhere. The hunters searched everywhere for miles around and nothing. No bodies, but they did find a trail. Footprints, rather large footprints that went deep in the forest to a cave. Now we know the giants of Pascan didn't live to far away, but we have been at peace with them for years. King Katic is a friend to us. He would never break his treaty, nor would his son. Its just not in their interest. They know we are under the protection of Jayce and the Dragons."
"Now." JP continued. "Once my hunters found the cave, they went in to see what was in there. Only one man made it out of that cave and he was found with this."
JP opened the cabinet to reveal a huge horn. It looked like a bulls horn but enormous. If that horn had come from a bull, it would have to be twice the size of a regular bull.
"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" He asked. He stepped aside as Bly and Myor came over to investigate. The horn was about two feet long and almost as thick as a dragon's. As Myor examined it, he realized it wasn't the entire horn. It was just the end. Whatever the horn had come from must have been huge.
"It looks like a dragon horn." Quynn said as he reached out and touched it. "But its not."
"How do you know?" Ranjer asked.
"Trust me." Quynn said. "Its not. I'd know if it was."
"Then none of you know what it could be?"
"Afraid not." Ranjer said. "But I get the feeling there's more?"
""I'm afraid you're right." JP closed the cabinet. "Not far from here is Paiget Keep. Its a small outpost and lookout station. Its usually manned with six men. Yesterday, two men staggered in from the post."
"Where are the other four?" Myor asked.
"Dead." Yarden said. "Whatever that horn belongs to, its coming here. At the rate its moving it'll be here tonight."
"How do you know that?" Ranjer asked. "They could be lost like the villagers. How do you know they're dead?"
"I can sense the beast." Yarden said. "Its anger and rage as it comes closer. I feel it coming."
"I can have my men ready in an hour." JP got up and started for a rope to ring for an aide to send orders to the cities guards."
"No." Quynn stopped him. "Your under the protection of the Dragons and a Dragon will deal with this."
"And a Vampire." Ranjer smiled.
"And a Phoenxian and a Yetisan." Myor nodded.
"We all will." Bly zipped up and around the room to land on JP's shoulder. "If your men can guard the city, we'll go stop the monster before it tears through your gates."
The night was dark and quiet as something huge and powerful pushed its way through the trees towards the walls of Tranda. A grizzly bear had been napping in the bush after its dinner, it woke up annoyed by the sudden sound of something big passing by its sleeping place. It stuck its head up, then stepped out to challenge the invader that had dared to wake him. The bear roared its challenge as it faced his opponent and charged in to attack. With a single swing, the invader knocked it away smashing the bears maw and breaking its jaw. The bear whined in pain as it limped away back to his cave to die of starvation.
In the dark forest outside of the walls of Tranda, Quynn gathered his friends to discuss how they should go about attacking Dorlanth's intruder.
"Bly." He called her over. She lit on Ranjer's shoulder. "I want you to fly out and circle the area from above. Whatever's out there should be pretty big. You should have no problem spotting it. Ranjer, you and Yarden are our best trackers. See if you can find a scent on the wind. We'll draw it to someplace safe where we can trap it."
"Trap it?" Myor looked at Quynn confused. "Just trap it?"
"Until we know what it is and why it's attacking. I think trapping is best. As you know, not all monsters are really monsters. Lets not kill something that we might fine to be innocent later."
"I guess that's reasonable." He agreed. "What would you like me to do?"
"You're my last line of defense." Quynn said. "If it gets to the gate, stop it anyway you can."
Shifting form, Myor flew up and perched himself on the wall to keep watch. Bly flew up and off high over the forest to start her aerial search. Ranjer and Yarden each walked off out onto the road with their noses high, trying to find a strange scent on the wind. Yarden moved from left to right breathing in the scents of the forest and Tranda. He smelled the cook fires of the guards on the other side of the wall and the scent of a wolf hunting rabbits not to far off. Then he smelled blood from a wounded bear and its fear as it moved through the forest. Then something caught his attention. There was a heavy musky animal scent coming in on a breeze from the north. It was like nothing he had ever smelled before. It was foul like something from the pits of the cave bats in the deep mountain caverns.
Yarden hurried back to Quynn just as Ranjer caught the scent. He wrinkled his nose as he sniffed the air.
"Do you smell that?" He asked Yarden. "I smell blood and something weird."
"I smell it." Yarden said. "Its coming from that way, north of here."
[Bly.] Quynn sent out. [Do you see anything?]
[Something is moving through the forest fast heading straight for Tranda.] She sent.
[Can you see it?]
[No.] She said. [But its big. Trees are being knocked over like blades of grass. If you hurry, we can intercept it before it gets to Tranda. Just follow my signal, its not that far.]
Running into the forest, Quynn and Ranger shifted to their wolf form while Yarden took his yeti form. Through the trees and over fallen logs and over grown bushes they ran through the dark. They leaped over a stream and hopped a deep ravine following Bly's mental signal to a small clearing in the forest. There they stopped as the heavy sounds of footsteps rang out through the night. Ranjer growled as the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He shifted to man-wolf and stood up on his hind legs. Quynn took his human form and readied a spell for whatever was about to come crashing out of the trees.
[OK.] Quynn sent to Bly. [I need to know whats out there.]
[I don't know.] She sent. [The trees are so thick, I can't see a thing. But whatever it is, your about to find out because here it comes!!]
As Quynn, Ranjer and Yarden watched, something howled and two trees went flying to the side to crash off in the distance. Quynn and Ranjer stepped back as a nine foot Minotaur came howling out of the trees bellowing with rage. It had the head of a bull with two huge horns and the body of a massive man. It had cloven feet and red eyes that glared at them with anger. It took one look at Yarden and lowered it head and charged.
"What is that?"
"Its a Minotaur!!" Quynn said surprised.
Ranjer asked as he dived out of the way. Beating his chest, Yarden stood his ground as the Minotaur came at him. When it reached him, Yarden raised his hands and grabbed it by the horns and heaved with all his might and threw it to the side. Enraged, the Minotaur scrambled to its feet and swung out with its club like fist and hit Yarden in the chest knocking him back to his knees. Ranjer growled and got ready to leap on the Minotaur's back.
[Do not interfere!] He yelled. [He is mine!]
With a howl, Yarden leaped at the Minotaur and hammered him with blow after blow with his closed fist. The Minotaur howled in pain and rage as it staggered back trying to avoid the blows but Yarden kept them coming. With a mighty force, the Minotaur lunged out crashing into the Yeti and with enormous strength, he hooked him with his horns and threw him. As he flew through the air, Yarden spun himself around upright and crashed into the trees off to the side. Though dazed for a second, Yarden was back on his feet and charging in for his next attack.
Off to the side, Quynn and Ranjer watched the two powerful combatants fight. Bly flew down and circled them ready to blast the Minotaur if Yarden went down.
"I think this could go on all day." Ranjer said. "Is there anyway we could help him?"
"I don't think he wants our help." Quynn told his cousin. "In fact I think if we intervene, he might attack us."
[I would.] Yarden sent. [Just stay out of it and let me fight.]
With his great strength, the Minotaur grabbed Yarden in a bear hold and started squeezing. Yarden had just enough time to get his arms up to his chest when the Minotaur grabbed him. He pushed back with all his strength until he broken the hold, then he quickly hit the Minotaur on both sides of its head, then sent a upper cut at its chin that sent it flying back to land in the mud. As Yarden stepped up and stood over the Minotaur, it weakly tried to get up, then fell back and slowly shifted to human. When Yarden looked back down, there was a medium sized dark haired naked man laying there. Yarden raised his head and howled as he pounded his chest in triumph.
Quynn and Ranjer came over and looked at the unconscious man, then up at Yarden.
"Who is he?" Ranjer asked.
"I have no idea." Quynn said. "But he's obviously not just a mad beast."
"What do we do with him?"
"I can keep him sleeping for now, but we have to turn him over to JP." Quynn said. "Then it'll be up to the king to decide what to do with it."
"It fought well." Yarden said as he shifted back to his albino form. "Someone should go check out where he came from, perhaps there's a reason for him being here."
"I agree." Bly said. "I don't feel any evil from it, just confusion and anger. I'll fly back to Tranda and talk with JP."
"You don't think Bram had anything to do with this?" Ranjer frowned. He looked to Bly "Do you?"
"It's possible." She said. "When it comes to him, anything is possible."
"So what do we do?" Quynn asked.
"I think we should move on." Bly said. "We still have to find Rowyn, and Bram is out there doing who knows what."
"So where do we look?" Ranjer asked.
[I can find her.] Myor said from his perch on the gate. [Right now she's in Gaymere, and I think there's an Orc involved.]
"An Orc?" Ranjer gave them all a serious look. "If there's an Orc, we should hurry. She may be in trouble."