Alymndes 5: Wanderings

The cold and the wind bit cruelly in this desolate valley south of the Crags near the Eastern Shore. The old traveler had been waiting there for three days. Although the elements had battered his ageless face, he did not show any discomfort or weariness. He just kept standing exactly in the same place, all the while his eyes and all other senses open and alert.
The sun was already sinking in the bleary mist and a murky fog in its stead was slowly settling down when in the distance the distinct shape of a loping wolf appeared at the mouth of the valley.
“At last!” Glamrun thought. For all his patience, he felt nettled by the obligation to wait, with a niggling suspicion he was being constantly tested. Zamrel had not given him any instructions as where or when to expect the seventh member of their group. He understood the latter would become the linchpin of their mission because of his/her directives. Hence his decision to meet the messenger in this forsaken location from where they could start their travels in whatever shape they would adopt. The inconvenience of such a decision lay in the fact that he could not move from the chosen spot. Well, as a dragon, the feat had not proven difficult. But why a wolf? … And a female at that, he belatedly realized.
He had to admit it was not such a bad choice since he had taken his usual guise of an old wandering storyteller. The beast could be assumed to be a natural companion by unknowing people. While he was ruminating on these thoughts the wolf had approached and was now within earshot when it suddenly stopped and sat on its haunches. The animal had a sleek yet powerful look. Its eyes kept fixed on the Dragon’s. The wolf seemed lost in its own reflections, its tongue lolling out in the typical vulpine laugh. Glamrun noticed its pupils were of an unusual golden color.
”Greetings, Ancient One!”, a voice broke through his reverie and resounded inside his brain.
”Greetings, Wise One!” Glamrun answered in the same fashion. “Is it necessary that we communicate through our minds?”
”Tsk, tsk, what would humans think of a speaking wolf, eh?”
”Fair enough, I suppose. Are you the promised seventh member of our group?”
”Aren’t I lucky? The number seven! Yes, I am here to complete your little group!”
”Spare me the cheap sarcasm. Since we probably have an eternity to share on the road, you had better know humor and jokes and the name of Glamrun do not go hand in hand!”
”Aren’t we grumpy today? For a storyteller you are certainly not very entertaining!”
”You seem to know a lot about me, don’t you? I’ve had my fill of telling jokes. The more for listening to them! Anyway, shall we start moving? We can always talk on the way!”
The wolf did not bother to answer, busy as it was scratching behind its left ear. Or was it a jest?
After a while the beast condescended to walk beside the old Dragon’s side. They kept trudging straight ahead until the Wyrm ventured his next question.
“I wonder why Zam…”
”You ought to refrain from citing names from now on, Ancient One! Speaking the names of Dragons is fraught with danger. Ears are everywhere, even in this seemingly barren land!”
”I stand corrected”, the old dragon grudgingly conceded. “Where are we headed to, by the way?”
”A long walk from here. No nearer than Beaucastel.”
”But that is the capital of the Blue Knights and Walkyries’ Realm! That will take us months and months on foot!”
”Yes. We must give your charges enough time to investigate and adapt, mustn’t we? That shall also give us ample time to study the land and get acquainted”
”Umph! Great prospect, indeed, especially with a female!”
”Be polite, Ancient One! For all your experience, you still seem a very chauvinistic kind! Shame on you!”
”Got you there, Wise One, didn’t I?” chuckled the man-shaped Dragon…
Numnir had been hovering for a while in front of the same cliff on the southern slope of the Crags when he finally decided to land at the foot of the rock wall. The last time he had flown in the area, he had noticed openings and a few dwarves busy at work here and there. But today the face of the mountain showed only a hard, almost smooth stone without a hint of a door, portal or any other access to the inside. Getting frustrated, he decided as a last resort to make use of his dragon sight and sweep his eyes along the bottom of the mountain where it met with piles of gravel and moraines amassed by the action of time and natural erosion.
At long last, in an area practically devoid of debris (I should have thought about inspecting relatively cleared spaces first! He belatedly chided himself), he discovered a hair-thin line on the rock, cutting the shape of a door up to six feet above ground. Foregoing any further research he changed into the shape of the dwarf he had been practicing since Zamrel’s appearance. He was probably slightly taller and less stocky than the norm. His clothes were made of sturdy leather from boots to round cap, but he had discarded the use of metal his ‘kin’ were so fond of. His beard was short for a dwarf and of an unusual flinty hue. A pair of thick spectacles was perched on his thick nose and gave him more the look of a scholar than of a hard-mining denizen of the mountain.
He ran a stubby index along the almost invisible line a couple of times trying to find a way to open the ‘door’. On the right side, very close to the level of his feet, his finger suddenly sank in a small groove. He pressed in anticipation. A small noise was heard coming from the entrails of the mountain, but the ‘door’ did not move an inch. Since the portal surface showed no handle or keyhole, the only way he could see to open it was to press on it. Numnir put a hand on the rock and pushed. Nothing moved. He tried pushing with both hands, assuming it could be opened either from the right or the left, but without success. The young dragon was very patient and did not worry. He had plenty of time. To think more at ease he sat down with his back against the portal. But just as he rested his body against the surface, he suddenly felt it yielding to his weight.
Ah, ah! So simple, and yet so clever! Hinges are not used, but the door pivots vertically around a median axis, both ends of which must fit into a groove or a hole. He knelt on one knee and proceeded to push on the bottom half. The door swung open without any noise or resistance to reveal the entrance of a dark tunnel. Unafraid he entered, and as he stood up again, the door fell back into place with a click. Pressing his hands on its inner face, he realized the portal had been locked in again. Perhaps weights and pulleys, he reflected. Using his dragon sight again, he moved forward into the pitch-dark tunnel…
Ekan was enjoying the morning sun and sea breeze.
The ocean never ceased to enthrall him. All that blue expanse struck his dragon’s imagination.
What lay beyond? He wondered.
His impressive human form sat on a large boulder facing the short pier of this small fishing town, the first inhabited place of consequence from the Crags. He had adopted the garb of the locals: baggy pants secured by a wide sash around the waist leaving the chest and shoulders bare. Soft boots and a large cone-shaped straw hat to fend off the sun were his only other garments.
Ekan was waiting.
He had noticed quite a few people acting the same way. So he decided to do likewise and see what would happen. He did not have long to wait. Soon a burly grizzled man of great girth came directly to him.
”Greetings, Man! What’s your name?”
”Jonas, Sir.”
For all their common looks, the members of the Races of the Desert and the Sea had an incredible array of names, probably because of their seafaring nature. True to say, many of them lived in sedentary homes inland, but they all showed an inborn attraction to the ocean.
”I have been observing you for a while. You seem very strong, even for our kind. How about some work on my boat?”
”I shall be honored, Sir!”
”Unusually polite, aren’t we? I’m leaving at dawn for Dunlago, the capital. I know it is as far as you could imagine, but I’m pretty sure a lad like you should find work and money there if you want to come back!”
“That is quite perfect with me Sir! I’m actually headed for the same destination. I thank you for providing me with the means to fare there directly!”
”Well, I hope luck shall smile on both sides. You will be fed and paid the wages of a deckhand. If you do your work properly, we shall both be contented! By the way, my name is Adir and my boat is the ‘Seadragon’.
Ekan already knew of the ship by attentively listening to other sailors’ gossip. The Seadragon seemed to come regularly to these parts and had a sound reputation.
The old captain, not even mentioning what would happen if he were not satisfied held his hand to Ekan who carefully shook it, suddenly aware of his enormous strength.
One thing I shall have to be careful about in the future … , he mused. I also wonder what good Captain Adir would say if he realized a real dragon was actually boarding his ship!
Umatar had been flying for days and was becoming weary. She had had to hover very high in the sky to keep clear of the unrelenting sandstorm ravishing the Steppes in her search of the humans she had been ordered to look after. The mission had been nothing but frustrating so far. The Free Tribes of the Steppes, true to their name, were freely roaming in the vast expanses that were theirs and proved difficult to find as they moved in small groups. The young dragon knew they held regular conclaves though, and had been looking for such a gathering.
Finally through the flying sand and debris she viewed a dark form rising from the uniform ground. A hill, an enormous dome-shaped natural rock outcropping upon further inspection, broke the monotony of its surroundings.
She landed on top. The stone was devoid of any vegetation and its relief difficult to guess in the storm. As far as she could see, nothing of importance lay atop.
She decided to descend to ground level to see what she might find.
As she alit, her dragon’s senses perceived a life inside the mound. The vibrations were very faint, so she concluded a single presence emanated them and definitely from inside the dome itself considering the weather conditions outside.
She kept trotting along the wall of smooth rock, in the direction of the source of the vibrations.
After a while she reached a natural opening in the rock seemingly leading to a cave. She proceeded to change shape as no one could possibly see her right now and she did not intend to enter in the form of a dragon and scare the hells out of whatever resided inside. She quickly found a small cave. Although it was impossibly dark, she felt a life there, not a big one, but human.
Using her own dragon magic, she made a small globe of light appear above her head.
To her shock she discovered a young boy, not older than ten or twelve years of age sitting prostrate on the bare soil. What incensed her immediately was that the boy’s right leg was secured to the floor by a chain no longer than a couple of yards.
The boy’s head jerked up at her apparition.
”I’m not afraid of you, creature of Hell!”
”Would you mind coming back to your senses? Can’t you see I’m one of your kind?”
”What does it prove? What’s your name, then?”
”Gwen? That’s all? Only Gwen? What of your title? All people of the Free Tribes have a title!”
”Shall we say I am the exception to the rule?” Umatar replied, although she felt the sarcasm was evidently lost on the lad. “In any case I do not need any title to understand your predicament!” (Wrong use of words, again… she thought).
”Do not come near me, Sorceress! Go back to whatever Hell spewed you!”
”Aren’t we becoming inventive now? I’ve had enough of that childish gibberish! Keep quiet while I take care of that, will you?”
And she proceeded at once to snap the chains solely by use of her hands, keeping her eyes fixed on the child’s incredulous stare.
”You ought to communicate with your fair daughter, Ancient One!”
”What do you mean, my fair daughter?”
”You know, the golden one. The one who scarcely obeys your orders and always goes wandering into trouble!”
”Umph! Where did she get stuck now?”
Glamrun sent his mindspeech to the southwest and surely enough he found an agitated Umatar.
”What befalls you, Daughter?”
”Ah, Father! Greetings and many thanks! I am presently inside a place called the Mount of all Gods. I found a boy with some strange notions and in dire straits. I sense evil all around me here! Could you be so kind as to join me?”
”Impossible!” the Wolf interrupted. “You must keep separate whenever possible! Tell her so, and also order her to look after the boy!”
”But she is no mother!”
”Just tell her and hurry!”
”Daughter, sorry, but I cannot join you for the moment and probably not for a while yet. Keep investigating and look after the boy!” At that, he cut the link with his daughter and faced the wolf.
”Are you happy now?”
”Not really, but it is necessary. The longer you keep talking, the more chance for somebody or something to hear it!”
”Care to tell me your meaning?”
”Definitely not! Keep walking, will you!”
They had been chasing him for two weeks now. Dargelblad had really enjoyed tantalizing the Elves in their own woods. At last he had become bored of the game and was waiting for his pursuers sitting against the bole of a large tree in a clearing in full view of whoever happened to come by. A large band of elves finally burst into sight. Astonished to see him so carelessly exposed they fanned around him aiming their arrows and spears at him. Their leader slowly approached him, rapier in hand.
”Who are you, trespasser?” he asked without further ado.
”What about your manners? Would you care at least to offer me greetings? An Elf I am, and this forest is mine as much as it is yours!”
“How came it that you crossed our wards without any harm? Nobody, even any of us can pass through them without dire suffering! You almost penetrated our Realm undetected!”
”The more reason to check and improve your spells! Moreover, some of you noticed my intrusion, as you call it, only because I let them!”
”Then why did you keep us chasing you for the last fifteen days?”
”To prove that your protection is not sufficient, you dimwit!”
”Not only you have trespassed, made fools of us, but now you are insulting us! You shall pay dearly for that!”
”Why don’t you try here and now?”
The Elf leader, suddenly mad beyond reason at Dargelblad’s taunts and the unending days of pursuit, lunged at Dargelblad, his rapier pointed at his tormentor’s chest. His sitting foe did not move a finger but his eyes slightly narrowed. The captain’s lunge came to a gradual halt with his weapon only a hand span from Dargelblad’s heart.
”Yes? The disguised dragon inquired.
”What sorcery is that? No male Elf is capable of any magic! Only our fair companions can wield any kind of power and certainly not of that level!”
”Except for your Queen Ellana, if I am correct, Captain! But times are changing and dark tidings are coming from your borders. I have proven my point. You have proven your endurance and bravery. Your warriors showed themselves as stalwarts in their pursuit. Shall we leave it at that?”
”What dark tidings? Pray explain!” a wary Captain answered, less and less sure of his own ability.
”Meaning no disrespect, but that is for ears who can decide the future of your Realm. Now, will you please lead me to your Queen, or shall I proceed on my own?” Without any further notice, Dargelblad stood up and started trotting back into the trees. The nonplussed Captain and his band had to follow, lest they lose him again.
The horse-drawn covered carriage pulled up again. The queue to enter the main gate to Beaucastel, the capital of Beaulieu Realm, wound down the road with no end in view. The driver was exhausted. The striking blue coach had joined other waiting vehicles and people early in the morning just as the gates opened at the end of curfew. They were well past lunchtime and almost at the end of their ordeal. Amrel opened the curtain and leaned outside to see what caused the last stop. A long parade of warriors had come out of the gates and was forcing its way through. The soldiery was both male and female ambling astride their horses in two parallel columns. Amrel noticed that the women all rode on the left of the men. The male warriors all wore a blue accouterment with shiny armors, helmets, plumes and capes, more than half of it in pure vanity, as she felt those peacocks would be hard put in a real fight with all that hindrance.
The women fighters were striking. Almost all of them as tall as the men, they were holding lances and showing the same extravagance in their equipment. Their long hair fell freely from their helmets or in long plaits and unfathomable haughtiness could be read on their faces.
”Can you see any person of authority among them?” Amrel inquired to her driver.
” I think this man in front is a Sergeant, but I wouldn’t care to talk to them!”
”Never mind, good man!”
Amrel fixed the man at the head of the column and called.
The soldier she had hailed did not even bother to spare a look at her.
Well, well, she thought, let’s see what that buffoon will do next! She transferred her eyes to the palfrey he was riding and sent a little thought into the mind of the beast. Just at the moment the horse started to rise on its hind legs, she literally bellowed.
The officer crashed to the ground in a noisy heap as the horse completely bolted, his eyes rolling in terror. Pandemonium erupted as the other horses became unruly and their riders fought to bring them to heel.
”Make way! Make way!” a voice roared from the back of the column.
Another rider came alongside the cart and reined his mount in front of Amrel.
This rider also wore blue but had done away with all the finery and trappings for more battle-fit equipment. The man, in his early forties, had a different aura about himself. He sported a short stubby beard. His hair must have been close-cropped as almost none of it could be seen beneath his helmet. His face was sunburned and a scar snaked its way from his left eyebrow to his ear. His eyes were dark and not very friendly.
”My lady! Allow me, Geoffroy d’Arcourt, Captain of his Royal Highness’ Guard. May I presume you are the person who had just roared my Sergeant out of his saddle?”
”What do you think?” Amrel pertly replied, not bothering to hide her mirth.
”To tell you the truth, I cannot imagine a lady of your countenance capable of such noise!”
Something in his eyes revealed he was actually enjoying the situation and Amrel ventured into her next reply.
”Well, shall we say it is my nature to give orders and be obeyed. Anyway, I was not in the mood to put up with that band of uncouth clowns!”
”Clowns? My dear Lady, these are the King’s personal guard!” Geoffroy sternly retorted. But his lips crooked into a repressed smile.
”In that case, you are definitely better fitted than these! But pray thee, dear Captain Geoffroy d’Arcourt, would you be so kind as to guide me to the best inn in your great city?”
”Great city? I would not say. But an inn fit to your rank, I shall take you to forthwith, although I am breaking a mountain of rules for you! But hell, I would definitely see you myself in a safe place than destroying the dignity of our soldiers!”
”Would you really?”
Geoffroy ignored the taunt. His eyes fell onto the Sergeant still struggling to remount his scared beast. Feeling sudden compassion for the humiliated man, Amrel sent a soothing thought to all the horses who calmed down immediately to the puzzlement of many of their riders.
”Sergeant! Would you please fall in line at once and behave in the manner expected from a man of your rank! May I also remind you that you are all bound by your oath to serve your people, not to bother them! Now move out!”
”At your orders, Captain!”
Geoffroy d’Arcourt then proceeded to clear the way in front of the cart and Amrel swiftly passed under the imposing barbican guarding the City of Beaucastel.


3 Responses to “Alymndes 5: Wanderings”

  1. dragonmommie Says:

    I’ve been loving your book, dragonlife. Is there anything your dragons cannot do?

  2. dragonlife Says:

    Thank you so much, Debbie!
    And thanks again for pointing out the typo!
    “My” dragons can do a lot. They problem is that they may not!

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    LOL. I do the same to my dragons. They can do a lot of things, but are bound by my laws and those of their kind. It’s always interesting to see them try to wiggle out of situations without magic or help from me. They’re there to offer help and protection when necessary, but thier roles are about to expand a little. The situation I just got my main character into will demand a little more dragon interference.

    I’m loving this story. On to the next chapter!

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