HUGH COOK NOAHIDE FANFICTION
The Wyvvern and the Warlcok
The Wordguild and the Warsmiths
The Wild and the Wrathful
The Wishfaerie and the Warcry
Chronicles of an Age of Darkness:
The Wyvvern and the Warlock
Daniel Thomas Andrew Daly
Dedicated to Hugh Cook
Creator of the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness World and Author of Volumes 1 to 10
Day Suet had always fancied herself a maiden of quite serene and noble beauty. But of the host of maidens on the land of Sung that was not really saying that much. Sung was a backwater land, just offshore the continent of Argan which had become beset with wild beasts, known as the swarms, since the breaking of a certain barrier on the south of the continent. Day rarely gave thought to the concerns of the continent of Argan, so caught up in her beauty and maidenhood, which was a shame really. Because the questing hero, Togura Poulaan, her beloved was currently running as fast as he verily could away from the clutches of one of the said wild beasts, intent on reaching the safety of a certain bottle which was in the possession of a befriended wizard who was currently in the form of a giant eagle, doing its very beast to persuade an unpersuadable monster from deferring its hunger to find a more suitable appetizer than the scrawny and most definitely undelicious Togura.
‘Get the hell down here Kalphor,’ yelled the much distressed Togura to the giant eagle which was still attacking the three headed beast, having successfully pecked out 3 of its 9 eyes so far. The beast was enraged and currently preoccupied with the eagle, so much so that Togura had safely climbed a large pine tree and was signalling for the wizard to come down so he could board the bottle to safety and the eagle could fly away to a safer place. The particular bottle in question was modelled on another set of bottles, but this one was smaller, a dark bluey green in colour and on the vast interior, not quite as large overall as its predecessors had been. It was rumoured that these bottles, which had recently been claiming fame somewhat, were of a series of 7 special bottles used by an ancient kingdom in its wars for retreating soldiers. But that was a matter of speculation, as nobody on Sung really knew were the bottles had originated, and when Kalphor, a cousin of a wizard called Phyphor, had arrived with the bottle to Togura Poulaan’s address, seeking an audience with the challenger to the Odex with a plan for storing all the potential goods of the Odex in the bottle, with Togura’s assistance, Togura, while he had dismissed such an idea, had marvelled at the bottle and persuaded Kalphor to accompany him on a quest to pillage the abandoned treasures of the halls of Argan and store any treasures they happened upon in the said bottle.
Naturally, Kalphor had been reluctant. But greed was always a good motivation for a wizard who often lived on a shoestring. And armed with Togura’s definite and proud self belief and whatever wizardries the wizard could muster, they had set forth from Sung, Togura having kissed farewell his beloved Day Suet, and made the way towards Argan.
They had landed on the north-western shore of Argan and, carefully hiding from the beasts, the wizard in the form of a giant eagle, carrying the bottle in a brown satchel around its neck were Togura lived happily while they flew from keep to keep and town to town, they’d had many dark encounters but, so far, escaped harm. That was until this very moment when the questing hero, very concerned with the fate of his skin and trying to avoid the gaze of the beast, was signalling to the wizard to ‘get the hell down here.’ Fortunately the eagle obeyed the request and, gathering Togura in its claws, flew high up to the thickest part of the forest they were in and, resting on a branch, gave the satchel to Togura who took the bottle, and holding the pendant around his neck with a diamond on it, which for this particular bottle was the key to entering it, pushed the diamond while clutching onto the eagle wizard and saying the spell, quickly disappeared into a bluey green smokey substance which entered the head of the bottle.
A short while later, emptying the sack he had with him of their latest finds into the corner of the main upper sanctuary of the bottle, Togura announced to the wizard that, with the finds they had been successful in uncovering, they could perhaps now think of returning home to Sung to spend their fortune.
‘Methinks you speak wisely, Togura. But I have a plan,’ objected Kalphor.
‘A plan? Speak on. If it is to bring wealth I won’t object greatly. But we are wealthy now, Kalphor, and I don’t like the idea of facing too many more quests in my life for fortune or rescuing fair maidens, even ones as lovely as Day Suet.’
‘Yet this plan of mine, well, if we are able to make use of a certain resource we may perchance have available to us, the whole of the continent of Argan could be available to us for plunder without always having to risk ourselves in the fights with these demons from hell.’
‘Then what is this plan, Kally. Don’t keep it to yourself. Speak on.’
‘I know of a Warlock. A Warlock who owes me a life debt, fortunately enough. You see, he was held prisoner in this very bottle for over 1000 years and, upon me rescuing him from the bottle, he pledged to me that should I ever need his services, he would be available for even the most daring of quests.’
‘And how does that help us,’ asked Togura, now interested.
‘This Wizard was trained in the Cold West and has particular powers. Powers over the psyche of Wyvvern’s. Powers to make them do his will, for he has drunk much of their blood and knows them intimately. In fact, so he has told me, he has the power to summon several dozen Wyvvern’s to his service if he needs to.’
‘And the plan?’
‘We call in this life debt, travel to the Cold West, gain the services of our Warlock and recruit a dozen or so Wyvvern’s. With them as our fighting prowess we can quite certainly raid all the riches of Argan and become wealthy beyond even our wildest dreams.’
Togura, having listened intently, liked the idea. In fact he loved the idea and saw it, should they prove successful, as paving the way for him to become the next Baron Poulaan. Nay, with the money and the foreign mercenary hire he could afford with the wealth of Argan, he could verily challenge the supremacy of the Khmar himself. But ruling from Sung? Perhaps he could travel to a more suitable place. The Ravlish Lands. Parengarenga. Even the great eastern continent of Margenna were heroes were a dime a dozen, or so he had been taught from his youth, not really knowing how much value there was in a dime.
So, thus agreeing to the wisdom of Kalphor on this particular plan, Togura picked up a bottle of wine, toasted Kalphor to their inevitable success, and dreamed of the riches which would surely soon be his.
* * *
Blaz Durass was not exactly what you would call a competent Warlock. In fact, recalling his earlier days under the tutelage of Sarge Bramenday, one of the more highly respectable of the wizards of the Cold West, it was uttered on more than one occasion, in fact quite frequently, that Blaz Durass was far from being a competent student, and would never pass his exams for acceptance into the Guild of the Universal Order of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks. This particular guild, one of several such guilds of the Cold West, being a trend which had caught on centuries back, was one of the more established and respected guilds. So much so that they gave a cautious guarantee, as cautious as the word of a wizard could be, that all successful pupils passing their degree course in wizardry and magic would be competent enough for the slaying of any dangerous dragon or the successful practice of raising from the dead, or turning blood into Jelly or any of the other more ambiguous callings that a wizard may happenchance be called upon to perform. And because of the said guarantee from such an esteemed school of magic, Blaz had forthrightly enrolled, confident, despite his father’s constant objections that he should get a real job, that he would become a world class wizard, quite capable of turning blood into Jelly. In point of fact, despite the truth that he'd had years of wizarding adventures to master the art, Blaz Durass, as befitted his level of competency, was still unable to turn blood into Jelly. Actually, he usually vomited at the sight of blood, his complexion turning quite pale. But, nonetheless, he had in fact passed his exams in the end, albeit with straight D's, and happily took his membership in the guild at the reluctance of the head wizard and the board of executives, and proudly displayed his degree in his room, boasting to his father that the world was now at his doorstep. His father knew the better.
They didn't exactly come a knocking on the door of Blaz Durass, and despite his extensive advertising in the Wizarding Gazette, a popular publication in the Cold West, after one year of solid unemployment, Blaz was distressed. Most distressed. But fortune favours the brave, and for all that hard work and effort, for 7 years of constant worrying whether he'd mixed his reagents in the correct manner, or whether his enchantments would work in the prescribed way, or whether his wand was powerful enough, Blaz finally had his breakthrough when a warlord, having come into the ownership of a special magical bottle, engaged Blaz's services to see just how he could, apparently, store his army in the bottle for the purposes of sneak attacks and urgent retreats.
Blaz had, delightfully, taken to the task and spent several weeks, coming to months, in the archives of the guild, researching all he could on ancient storage bottles.
It had been incredibly dull work, but he was learning constantly and, finally, finding a meagre reference, he touched the pendant, said the spell, and was instantly transmogrified and taken into the bottle. But he'd made one simple mistake. The pendant needed to be worn around his neck in physical contact with his skin, otherwise it would be left behind outside of the bottle and, because of that, he would be left with no escape from the bottle should he have proven such a dullard to make such a mistake. Which is exactly why the competency of Blaz Durass had seriously been questioned by so many, for he in historical fact did make such a blunder. To his credit, he had been zealous, and when overcome with joy for the finding of the reference and uttering the spell once he had touched the diamond, he had failed to read further into the passage which proclaimed the importance of wearing the said pendant against one's chest or skin. And due to this unfortunate mistake, Blaz had found himself sucked inside the bottle, with no apparent way of escape. And there he had remained, for a solid millennium, wondering when on earth one of his wizarding compatriots would take the time to work out exactly were he had disappeared to. Alack and alas, not only had they in fact known were he had gone, and had a fair idea of how to get him back should they want to, the head of the guild had quietly taken the bottle, stored it up on the uppermost shelf of his library, and taken it to mind to give as much forgetfulness to the person of Blaz Durass and the said bottle as possible. And for 1000 years he was quite successful at this objective.
But pity is a strange beast, and despite, as the millennium passed, and thinking he really should know better, the head of the guild had sold the bottle at a hefty sum to a certain 'Kalphor' who was interested in acquiring magical items with useful purposes. The wizard had instructed him, quite carefully, that a mad wizard likely still resided in the bottle, and to be well and truly far away from the headquarters of the guild before he dared using the charm to enter the bottle. Kalphor, being a hospitable enough type of wizard, gladly accepted this obligation and, being a suitable distance from the home of the guild, used the pendant and entered the bottle.
A wizard, he assumed, greeted him. Or what was left of a wizard. Blaz was naked, as had become his custom, with a rather lengthy beard, and munching on what looked to be 40 Trillion years supply of stale crackers and bland wine, was suddenly quite surprised and overwhelmed to be visited upon.
And, for the salvation which Kalphor had given Blaz, he promptly promised him a life debt, should he ever have need of a highly trained wizard, and began to boast of his great powers and apparent abilities to utilize the services of Wyvvern’s, of all creatures, to any task he should so desire.
Kalphor believed him. Which was perhaps quite foolish, having not heeded the guild heads advice the Blaz was indeed mad, and as such, one fine afternoon in the Cold west, Blaz Durass busily studying a magic tome in the guild of wizards which, to many protestations and objections he had rejoined, them finding no legal avenue to refuse him re-entrance into the guild, Kalphor and Togura Poulaan were steadily making there way up Krozana highway, to the city of Krandor, home to the guild of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks.
Togura looked at the sun in the sky. Through the dismal grey clouds it seemed to hang limply, almost too scared to come out and shine its glory over the increasingly cold environs. The Cold West, which was perhaps a mark of genius in the naming of the said region by some wise geographer of ancient of days, was duly named as such simply because of that very fact – it was extremely, bloody cold. And Togura, used to the more pleasant environs of Sung, which while not famous for its hospitable climate – in fact, quite often the very opposite – was starting to look like paradise in comparison to the rather cold and unwelcoming frost of one of the cooler regions of Olo Malan. But the questing group had no real choice in the matter, for the wizard they sought, the venerable Blaz Durass, resided in Krandor of the Cold West, headquarters to the Guild of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks, and as such Togura’s certainty that his toes were starting to turn green looked like there would be no soon abating of his due concerns because of the said Wizards choice of residency. ‘Try to look on the bright side of things,’ said Kalphor. ‘We’ll be rich soon enough. And then you can buy all the slippers and mittens and fur coats your heart could possibly desire. Togura, currently weighed down in very thick clothing of such like muttered ‘Very funny.’
They continued to trudge on along the road, unable to find any suitable beast willing to bear them in winter in the cold west, when the horses simply froze up and stayed in their kennels, neighing subtle mockeries at the slightest suggestion they should brave the coldest part of the year in a land they had most lovingly come to hate. There were always the standard ‘Grizmak’s’, large bear like creatures which were the common beasts used for pulling sleds during this time of the year in the Cold West but, unfortunately for Togura, he sneezed incessantly whenever he was near such a beast and came out in a most terrible and undesiring red and very itchy rash. In fact, they had been holed up for several weeks near the beginning of their journey in the Cold West, laid up in an inn as Togura recovered from his most eventful encounter with one of the thick fur-cladded beasts.
And so they trudged. Slowly, carefully, inevitably they trudged along the roads and byways of the Cold West, steadily making for the city of Krandor. After 12 weeks of solid marches, though, the weather in truth did seem to be improving somewhat, and Togura’s constant bemoaning that Kalphor should resume his eagle form which, so far, had fallen upon deaf ears, was less often the stuff of their conversation as they came into sight of the city of Krandor.
‘We should be there in no time,’ exclaimed Kalphor, quite happy to have finally arrived at their desired destination.
‘It’s about bloody time,’ remarked Togura in response, but he was in truth quite pleased that they had finally arrived and, despite hating so much the fact of his unavoidable odyssey through the wilds of the Cold West, was starting to think of himself as something of a heroic athlete and man of worth for the great trudging epic they had just about completed. Yes, vanity was a lovely gift to man, and while he often suitably rebuked himself for such pretensions, the pride of his youth still lingered somewhat.
‘So what is the address,’ began Togura. ‘I mean, I assume you know were to find the guild after all.’ Kalphor looked at him, momentarily stunned, and then looking away uneasily answered ‘Of course I do. Of course I do.’ Yet, in truth, he had not the foggiest idea.
The first citizen they met and asked for instructions must have had quite a wicked sense of humour, for they had trudged all the way to the southerly edge of the city in search of the guild, only to befriend another welcoming citizen who told them they had been taken for a ride, which was not uncommon in Krandor, and that the very guild they sought was in fact on the northern edge of the city. Kalphor thanked the kind man, but could not deny his frustrations and Togura’s swearing reminded him instantly of the new march they now faced. Yet, thankfully, they found an inn, booked in for the night, and in the warmth of the burning fire in their room, Togura practically roasting his toes, he remarked that tomorrow should be a good day in which they would hopefully locate the desired wizard. Kalphor ensured him they would have no such troubles, despite Togura’s careful looks, yet nevertheless slept well that night, enjoying the rare consolation in these lands of a warm bed and warm broth.
The following morn, having amply rested and deciding to leave a little later in the day than their usual, to make full use of their allotted time in the warmth of the inn, in the weather which had fortunately started to improve somewhat, perhaps ironically in Togura’s viewpoint, just as they had arrived in Krandor, they managed to thankfully find a horse-driven sled willing to transport them to the guild they desired to frequent.
As they drove along Togura began again questioning Kalphor on the merits of the Warlock Blaz Durass, for on the long road to their destination Kalphor had said the occasional word regarding Blaz and his actual probable abilities that lead Togura to seriously question wether they had indeed sought out the most appropriate of Warlocks for the task in question. But all that Kalphor would say was ‘As my cousin Phyphor truly says, you can always trust a wizard,’ a remark at which Togura often muttered responses under his breath, always just a little to undiscernible to the ears of Kalphor.
As the midday approached and they neared the guild, a monstrous fortress it seemed on the edge of the city, Togura’s attitude generally began to finally improve. ‘You’ll see,’ said Kalphor. ‘Blaz will be only too willing to help us. I am sure of it.’
‘Let’s hope so,’ responded the Baron of Poulaan’s son.
* * *
Jak Tolkun, student of the Guild of the Universal Order of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks, studying as well as he could to ensure he passed all the requirements of his 7 year degree, moaned once again his frustrations in being suddenly and most embarrassingly covered with a shloss of exploding horse dung. His beloved teacher and guide in his studies, the venerable Blaz Durass, simply looked at Jak’s current state and said ‘Oh Bother, it has happened again,’ which were far from words of consolation to the dung laden Jak. For 5 solid weeks Jak had been the victim of such enchantments, all of them aimed towards the simple purpose of deliquidifying dung to make it a more palatable brown dirt-like substance. For in the cold west it was often the case that sewerage didn’t always flow that well and often, in winter in particular, strong smells wafted up into the upper chambers of the wealthy and elite abodes of Krandor, and other notable cities, much to the chagrin of the nobility and finery of the Cold West’s honourable ones. As for the poor, well they were poor, and would simply have to make do. But the situation had become such an ordeal for a particular Krandorian nobility that, having sought out the Guild for their expertise, and being pointed towards Blaz Durass who was deemed by the head of the guild the most suitable Warlock to deal with, as it were, the shit, he pleaded his desire of suitable enchantments being made available to deal with the problem of the most unsavoury sewerage.
Blaz, a radical thinker at most times, instantly came up with the plan to deliquidify dung so that the dryer substance, which would thus hopefully not smell, could simply be turned back into the earth and be the cause of no further anxieties. And while Jak Tolkun felt that, should they achieve such a result, which would prove quite a feat of accomplishment for Blaz Durass, it would be well and truly a good thing, bemoaned the fact that after 5 solid weeks of dealing with ‘The Shit’ as it were, being no closer to success than when they had begun their investigations, dealing with ‘The Shit’ was becoming a less and less attractive option all the time.
But, alas, he had no choice. In his time in the guild he had come to understand why he was the butt of so many jokes of his fellow students. For while they most definitely did not doubt his own potential and abilities, the reputation of Blaz Durass went before him in such a manner that, should you find yourself paired with the Warlock for any length of time, your future earning potential was deemed less and less attractive with each passing year of apprenticehood.
‘Why me,’ was what Jak Tolkun moaned to himself more often than not and, as he scrubbed himself in the shower and took to the washing of his garments, he pretended to not hear his teachers calling of his name for them to begin the resumption of their experimentations. But, fortunately for young Jak, he was saved on this one rare occasion by the summoning of Blaz by another student to the head of the guilds den for an important meeting.
Jak breathed a sigh of relief, continued scrubbing his clothes, and thought that the meal that night should somewhat, if only temporarily, make up for his current crop of miserable duties.
Blaz wondered through the large guild hall, working his way up the complex series of hallways and staircases, finally coming to the uppermost level and the grand office of the head of the guild, Crocus Dalbana. He knocked on Crocus’ door and, shortly, heard an ‘Enter’. Pushing the door open he came in and stood before Crocus desk, blustering that his work had been starting to show promising signs, which was not exactly true, and that he really needed to get back to it. ‘I am sure your dealings with the dung of Krandor can wait a while, Blaz,’ responded Crocus. ‘For you verily have visitors, and all the way from Sung and Argan of all places.’ Crocus motioned towards seats, the occupants of which Blaz had not noticed upon entering the office and Togura and Kalphor stood up to introduce themselves. Kalphor spoke, ‘Blaz. Blaz Durass. So good to see you again. I am sure you remember me.’ Blaz looked at him for a moment, instantly familiar with the face, which was a strength of his, but not quite placing were he knew the fellow from. And then it came back to him, the endless years trapped in the bottle, eating nothing but crackers and drinking nothing but bland wine, walking around naked and reading the same old magic tome on controlling Wyvvern’s time after time. And then, the appearance of his saviour. He yelled out then, quite happy to see the wizard again. ‘Kalphor!’ he exclaimed, instantly putting his arm around the wizard. ‘Kalphor my good friend. How good it is to see your face again. Tell me, what brings you hear to the Cold West and the Guild of Wizardry. You’re not in need of my services are you?’ Togura interrupted.
‘Perhaps we could retire to a more suitable place to converse. I am sure Crocus here has much to get back to.
‘Thank you Togura,’ responded Crocus. ‘I am sure the three of you can resume your conversation in Blaz’s laboratory. It is a most entertaining of places for reclining, that much I can assure you,’ responded the guild head, a subtle mocking grin on his face.
Blaz turned to Crocus, thanked him, and lead his two guests through the complex labyrinth of hallways and stairways back to his laboratory.
Coming into the laboratory Togura looked around. They had just wondered through a complex maze of walkways, Blaz often looking like he was lost from time to time, but they had finally made it to the Warlock’s laboratory and were greeted by a young apprentice of Blaz’s who introduced himself as ‘Jak Tolkun’ and asked if they were in need of any refreshments. Togura politely refused and the youth disappeared. The laboratory appeared quite hectic looking to Togura, who had no real idea how a Warlock’s laboratory was supposed to look. There were tables laden with all sorts of magical equipment strewn around the room in something of a haphazard fashion, clearly not organized in any sort of logical manner you might expect of or hope for in a Warlock whose services you were seeking to employ. There were what appeared to be a small group of young rodents in a corner amongst some hay which appeared to have full access to crawling around the laboratory at will. One table was piled high with notes and tomes of magic, all looking like the confused desk of a public servant too stressed with life and its problems to do any real work. And there was a smell, a most notable and distinct smell, which Togura instantly was familiar with, as most people were in fact familiar with the smell of decaying dung. But, amidst all these problems, Blaz seemed to take it for granted that his laboratory should be as such, and pushing some tomes from two recliner couches against a far wall, Blaz indicated that they should sit.
Blaz looked at Kalphor, again seeming overjoyed to be in his presence once again, and said ‘Now tell me. Why the visit? Is it happy friendship or do you need my services.’ Kalphor looked nervously at Togura, sensing immediate disapproval, but began their planned conversation. ‘Well, Blaz. It is like this. My friend here, Togura, was visited upon by myself in his homeland of Sung one fine day for the purposes of utilizing the bottle which you entrusted to me for the storage, hopefully, of a cavalcade of products from a certain magical device in the possession of a group known as the Wordsmiths. For Togura has the uncanny ability to be able to draw forth items from this device, this device known simply as ‘The Odex’. In my travels I have come across what is called an ‘Index’ and with Togura’s help I planned on using the Index to access the Odex and, keeping all the goods and properties emanating from the Odex, storing them in our beloved bottle for safekeeping. Yet Togura refused my request, another idea on his mind.’
‘Which was?’ queried Blaz.
‘The travelling to the abandoned land of Argan, taken over by the swarms of the deep south, to ransack as many of the emptied villages and cities for any left behind treasures we could find. It has certainly been dangerous work, and we have acquired a number of treasures, but alas the threat of the swarms has simply become too much to deal with and risk our lives against. Which is why we have sought out you.’
Blaz nodded. He was following the conversation so far. ‘What do you want from me then?’
‘As you may recall,’ continued Kalphor, ‘You swore a life debt to me for the redeeming of yourself from the bottle. And I have come to call in this life debt. You claimed to me that you have power of wyverns? To control their minds? Is this still the case?’
Blaz looked at Kalphor nervously, too frightened to say that he had never really quite put his knowledge to the test in attempting to control wyverns, the practice of he had studied for a millennia reading the magic tome in the bottle, but never trying to do so in the real world, but, to save face, simply nodded to Kalphor that he could.
‘Then our plan is this. We travel to the region of the Wyvvern’s here in the Cold West and you utilize your abilities to take control of a Wyvvern or many Wyvvern’s and, having gained the services of the creatures, we travel back to Argan to continue our work, armed with the fierce creatures as defence against the swarms.’
Blaz stammered nervously but, finally, realizing his promised life debt had been called in, and being a man of his word as his father taught him, simply nodded his agreement.
‘Well, if it is not too much trouble then,’ began Togura,’ we will stay the night here at the guild and begin our journey tomorrow.
‘That, that should be ok,’ responded Blaz, just starting to realize the predicament he had suddenly gotten himself into.
The following morning Blaz organised for some horses to be obtained from a nearby stable and rising early Togura and Kalphor found themselves fitted out with fine looking steeds pulling a carriage which seemed quite suitable for their travels. A far more amenable option than they had so far been used to in the Cold West. Blaz excused himself from the group, claiming he wanted to see his guild head before leaving and, as he made his way back into the guild headquarters he wondered to himself if there was still any way he might be able to excuse himself from this little adventure. But a debt was a debt and he knew he had to show himself a man of honour, for his reputation would be at stake because of it.
Coming to Crocus Dalbana’s office he knocked and was bidden to enter. After explaining his life debt and need to be away from the guild for perhaps several months to years even, Crocus told Blaz all was quite well with that and he would be sorely missed. But upon Blaz leaving Crocus office, Crocus took down a bottle of ancient brandy he had been storing for a special celebration, opened it and smiled to himself. Today was a good day for the Guild of the Universal order of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks.
Blaz rejoined his group and Togura, looking at the sun gradually crawling its way up the skyline, said it was a good time to begin their journey. As the carriage pulled out from the grounds of the guild hall, Blaz gave one last look behind him, one last longing look, and gritted himself for the adventures ahead.
* * *
As the carriage began its travels through the Cold West, heading out on to the Krozana highway headed for Chi Ash Lan, Blaz began sharing with the group tales from his childhood. He had been the third son of a businessman who had little time for magic. His elder two brother’s had gone into the same clothing business as their father, but Blaz had always felt himself different somewhat, as if called for greater things than the dying of cloth which had been his regular work growing up. His father, Jon Durass, had said Blaz needed to settle and get over his fanciful notions of wizardry but, nonetheless, had supported Blaz’s ambitions and paid for his 7 year degree course at the Guild of Wizards. Blaz exaggerated his learning abilities and outcomes of the course, giving his best attempt to show himself a wizard of great merit, and for a while his two fellow questers seemed suitably impressed. For a while anyway.
They arrived in Chi Ash Lan and decided to stay a few days to familiarise themselves with the current goings on in the political life of the cold west. Staying in an inn known as ‘The Disgruntled Goat’, the barmaid spent a number of afternoons answering Togura’s questions of life in Chi Ash Lan, for she seemed well informed. Togura and the small group came to know that political tension in Chi Ash Lan were currently on knifes edge. The ruler of the Cold West, ‘Bailiff Vok’ was starting to be held in something of a disdain by not only the emerging political democratic movement, but with dissatisfaction by the usually loyal warriors of Rovac who for so long had supported him. But Bailiff was a survivor and so far had used his cunning to ward off all complaints. The main protagonists behind the call for democracy stated that a monarchy was never in the best interests of the people, aimed at serving the lusts of the king, and that for true economic prosperity to come forth for the Cold West they needed a Prime Ministership and Government of elected representatives, as was supposedly the main form of Government on the continent of Margenna, to best advance the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all the citizens of Chi Ash Lan and the Cold West. So much was the fervour amongst some factions that talk of revolution and a coup to remove the King was not that uncommon. Marni Bonniker, the barmaid who Togura had slowly been thinking of trying to bed, despite his promise to Day to stay true to his marriage commitment, said she had overheard many a conversation on the dissatisfaction towards the current monarch. It seemed they did live in intriguing times.
As they moved on from Chi Ash Lan, now travelling northwards, Togura kept his eyes alert for the spying of any flying Wyvvern’s which, so Blaz assured him, should shortly be seen in this area of the world. ‘There is an area known as Black Sparrow Forest were a community of wyverns is held to often congregate. I am sure we will find wyverns there.’
‘And the controlling of them?’ queried Togura.
‘I have this vial of Wyvvern blood,’ said Blaz, producing a small corked vial in front of them which he assured them was the blood of a particularly fierce Wyvvern he had once encountered. ‘All I need do is drink the blood in the presence of a Wyvvern and the ability to control its mind should be available to me with the uttering of certain incantations.’ That seemed to satisfy Togura and as they travelled northwards, and he yelled excitingly at spying what appeared to by wyverns flying in the distance, Blaz assured the group they were nearing their destination.
It was a week out from Chi Ash Lan that they had finally come to ‘Black Sparrow Forest’ and, Togura having spotted over a dozen Wyvvern’s flying around from time to time, they parked their carriage and began a trek into the forest to locate any wyverns they should hopefully encounter.
‘Just have that vial ready,’ began Togura. ‘We don’t want to be caught unawares.’
As they travelled through the forest, eyes alert, Blaz shared with him his own adventures of his youth with his father and brothers of hunting in a forest near Krandor for deer and their encounters with wild wolves. Togura shared that Sung was pretty crappy for hunting, but had a small number of dangerous predators, which was perhaps something of an exaggeration for that tiny land.
A full day and a half into the thick forest they suddenly came into a clearing and there before them, just a number of yards away, sitting eating berries from a bush, a Wyvvern in all its glory, seemingly oblivious to them. ‘Quick, get the vial,’ Togura motioned to Blaz. The Wyvvern, hearing Togura speak, turned to look at them but all it seemed to do was continue eating the berries and ignore them, returning its attention to the berry bush.
‘It doesn’t seem very wild,’ said Kalphor to Blaz. ‘Are you sure these Wyvvern’s are good at fighting?’
‘They have all the strength of small dragons. Believe me they can be quite fierce, especially when provoked. But the Wyvvern is not worried about us, that is all. Why would it need fear mere men after all?’
‘Aren’t they carnivores,’ queried Togura. ‘Shouldn’t it want to eat us?’
‘Omnivores, I think,’ responded Blaz. ‘Besides its eating berries. Perhaps it is satisfied with them for its lunch.’
‘Well, whatever. Now drink the blood and cast the spell. With this Wyvvern working for us we can travel to Argan and use it to protect us from the swarms and gather all the treasures we can possibly desire.’
‘Yes, the blood,’ said Blaz, somewhat disconcerted. Trying to look brave and very wizardly, muttering incantation, which really was abstract words from a backwaters Cold West disused tongue, Blaz swallowed some of the blood and started pointing his hands in the direction of the Wyvvern, doing his very best to remember how the spell from the magic tome he had spent a millennia studying actually worked in real world practice.
Now the Wyvvern in question, which had a very long name in its own particular Wyvverndom culture, but which he usually abbreviated himself to Vanderskar, was quite adroit in knowledge of the tongues of humans. He was quite an old Wyvvern now, had seen many adventures, but was starting to get on a bit and now, simply because it was so much easier than hunting wild game, with all the frustrations of catching it, killing it and going to the trouble of gorging out its best bits, was usually in the habit these days of feasting on the simple berries of the forest which grew in abundance, and had now developed quite a taste for them. And due to its knowledge of the human tongue and aided with its very good hearing, had overheard what the humans were speaking about and the intentions of the apparent wizard to try and cast an enchantment to enslave him to the wizards desires, something the Wyvvern knew all too well would not work anyway. But Vanderskar, suddenly with all his life flashing before his eyes, and all the adventures he had lives, also realizing he had never in fact travelled to Argan, and might want to see the splendour of that continent before his passing, looking at the frustrated wizard who was doing his very, very best to summon Vanderskar into his service with words such as ‘I compel you’ and ‘You must obey’, deciding now he may as well go off on one last adventure before his passing, decided to play along for the hell of it and, trying some Wyvvern humour, started pretending to shake as if he was suddenly possessed by an enchantment, gradually walked over to the wizard in most dramatic and drawn out steps, bowed to the wizard and said ‘I am ready to do your service oh exalted master.’ The wizard, suddenly coming to the conclusion that he must have somehow remembered how the spell worked, grinned to himself and his two companions now looked suitably impressed at the abilities of the wizard they had almost started to question.
Togura spoke up. ‘Ask it for its name, if it speaks our tongue.’
The Wyvvern, in response to Togura’s question, turned to Togura and said ‘My name is Vanderskar, oh exalted master.’ Togura looked suitably impressed with the response.
‘Well, now we have the services of the Wyvvern,’ said Kalphor. ‘Should we seek out more? I do believe that Blaz has more of the blood still in the vial so perhaps another Wyvvern or to could come in useful.’ Quickly Blaz thought on the ideal excuse.
‘Unfortunately, the enchantment, now that it has been cast, will only work once for me powers in a very long while. It may well be months before I have the ability to summon another Wyvvern to service. If there had been two or more wyverns here present I would have been able to summon them at the same time, but alas there was only one. I am afraid we will have to make do with one.’ He looked at them hopefully and nervously, trusting that his ruse would be believed.
‘No worries, then,’ said Togura. ‘One in the end should be sufficient to deal with our worries. He looks like an impressive Wyvvern. I am sure he will be able to deal with any swarm creature we come up against.’
The Wyvvern, listening to the conversation, decided a brag at this point might just be appropriate and said ‘I can defeat all your enemies, oh master,’ and stood up, stretching its wings and displaying its might, at which Togura and the group looked very suitably impressed.
‘Now what,’ asked Kalphor.
‘Now, to Argan, and our fortune,’ said Togura. He turned to Blaz. ‘Now, you are sure the Wyvvern will obey us from now on? I mean, how long will this enchantment work.’
‘Oh, it should work until we release him from the spell,’ replied Blaz, having no idea how long the spell would last at all, but lying as was his current practice about his abilities.
‘Good, then we can use him for as long as we need him. Now let us get underway.’
As they moved off, Blaz signalling that the Wyvvern should follow along behind them, Togura dreamed of their return to Argan and the riches that would surely be his. Having a Wyvvern, and one who looked so impressive as the one they had found, in their services should surely be enough to defeat any of the wild swarms they would likely once again encounter.
As they travelled along through the forest, marching towards the carriage at the edge of the forest, Vanderskar gave his home one last longing look and carried on with what may well be his final grand and great adventure. Or if not that, certainly what appeared to be a most entertaining outing.
Togura sipped from the ale, looking out at the foaming waves having not long left the lesser teeth behind them. Day was on his mind, his beloved wife, and thoughts of her sweet breasts, her shapely thighs, and her delightful womanhood. He’d had a most embarrassing dream the night prior and, having needed to wash away his embarrassment with the basin in his ship room, he had laid awake the rest of the night, thinking on his beloved.
They had been married just a few short years, now. But they had been most delightful in their sexual intensity, something the longsuffering Togura was eternally grateful for. At first he had really wondered what all the fuss had been about. Sure, it was alright bedding a maiden, but masturbation seemed to suffice somewhat for that thrill which he had become accustomed to. But it soon dawned on him, through the simple thrill of continual practice, that the ways of womanhood had been coveted by men for so long simply because the female form, in truth, was something to be desired and behold. Caressing the form and figure of a fine woman, tasting her delicate nectar, being seated next to her at celebrations and just being around their joyful playful ways, well, Togura could now see what all the fuss was about.
Yet, of course, there was always the other more disdainable members of the opposite sex which perhaps drove a man to virginity, such as the most indelectable Slerma who could give a man nightmares at the thoughts of being trapped between her most demanding thighs. He shuddered at the though and praised the stars that woman was far from him at this very moment.
He looked over at the two wizards engaged in some game they labelled as popular amongst certain wizarding communities, ‘Dragon Chess’. Togura was not one for strategy games, so took to his ale as the ship they had hired for a considerable sum continued its journey to the coast of Argan. The Wyvvern seemed content, lazing in the sun, seemingly oblivious to its company, munching on the meal of fruits they had provided for it. The ship they were aboard was titled the suitable name of ‘The Confident’ and Togura trusted that the captain had enough confidence in his crew to sail them to the treacherous shore of Argan and get away before being beset with the swarms.
The ship was a newly built ship, just a few years out of the docks so Captain Haggis maintained, well suited for this journey. Haggis sailed many of the seas of Olo Malan, plying his trade as both a passenger ship and deliverer of cargo between seaports. He seemed a very traditional sort of Captain, but the wooden leg, gained supposedly from a victorious encounter with a shark, which Togura suspected was probably from a fall or some similar accident, or perhaps a defect of youth, and the parrot which seemed to flock to his shoulder half of the day gave Togura the very strong impression that this particular captain may indeed have had adventures in his younger years not quite in line with his current profession. But, be that as it may, they were successfully crossing the ocean to Argan and should arrive within the next 24 hours according to the Captains estimations.
He stood against the railing of the ship thinking over there journeys through the Cold West, having been the subject of a spectacle with so many of the inhabitants staring at such an unusual group to have a Wyvvern in tow. Children with their families would stare at the beast, gasping and yelling that it was a monster. Of course, it was a monster, but so far on their journey it had proven tame enough, and Togura had been thankful that the Warlock’s enchantment had held firm so far, worried that the potential of a Wyvvern going mad at having been held captive and rising up against its captors, tearing them limb from limb, could end his dreams of glory. But Blaz ensured him he’d had nothing to worry about, but Togura kept his eye on the beast from time to time to ensure that remained the case.
He drained his ale, gazed up at the sun and gulls following the ship and gave a last thought to Day before deciding to head down to his bunk and sleep the rest of the afternoon off. They would be in Argan soon enough so he may as well be well rested before resuming their treasure hunting activities.
* * *
The following day they arrived at Argan, in the mid afternoon and Captain Haggis, telling the group once again that they should have their heads examined, but conceding they had paid enough gold to have made the trip worthwhile for him and his crew, departed on ‘The Confident’ glad to be putting Argan and its Swarms far behind him. Coming onto the shore line Togura spoke to the Wyvvern. ‘We are in Argan, now. So if any beasts threaten our group you must destroy them. Is that understood?’
‘I live to do your will, oh master,’ responded the old jaded Wyvvern, still amused by the humans commands.
Togura gathered the group, hid the bottle in a safe place under some rocks and they took shelter in the bottle. They agreed to wait until the following morning before beginning their quest again, in the meantimes discussing what should be their next objective. Togura, though he had not a great deal of knowledge of Argan, remembered from his days of youths stories of the ‘Pinnacle of Platinoth’, a great plateau on Argan, supposedly home to a fortress. Kalphor confirmed his knowledge of the location of the pinnacle and it was agreed that it would suffice as their next location for scouring for gold and silver.
That evening, as they sat around the fireplace in the upper sanctuary of the bottle, Blaz once again shared some of his tales from youth. As he talked the Wyvvern listened in and found much of Blaz’s frustrations of his lack of success quite familiar to his own life story. Vanderskar had never been that much of a Wyvvern, really. He was looked down upon in his community as an underachiever, never really that successful in the hunting, and frowned upon when it came to his disastrous mating attempts. He could well understand, because of it, Blaz’s frustrations at being rejected by so many, and started finding himself drawn to the Warlock and sympathetic with his course. Perhaps it was a true saying that birds of a feather flocked together, and Vanderskar began to feel more at home with this incompetent Warlock then he ever had with his own Wyvvern community.
* * *
The flight to the Pinnacle was calm and uneventful, Togura, Blaz and the Wyvvern secure in the comforts of the bottle as Kalphor, again in the form of an eagle, made his way towards the Pinnacle. It took them a number of days of flying, but arriving at the Pinnacle and landing, the group emerged from the Bottle and surveyed the vegetation encrusted old stone pyramid like structure before them. It appeared uninhabited, but of course they could never know for sure. Togura had brought out torches from the bottle and they lit them, getting ready to dare the temple. Yet, before this could occur, the flames seemed to attract the attention of a lesser of the swarm creatures, which came out of the forest and lurched towards the group, growling at them. Togura thought quickly. He motioned to the Wyvvern to attack the beast and he drew his sword, the two wizards coming to stand behind him. The Wyvvern, though, seemed unbothered by the beast and simply stood between the group and the snarling creature. The creature came forward and lunged at the Wyvvern, who simply stepped out of the way, seemingly unworried about the attack. The beast attacked again and this time managed to make a scratch on the Wyvvern’s wing which, this time, stirred the Wyvvern into action. The Wyvvern stood up on its hinds legs, hissed at the creature, and lunged forward with its beak and claws, latching onto the neck of the beast.
The struggle was ferocious and the beast attacked with its claws the head of the Wyvvern, which continued to strengthen its grip on the beast’s neck. Togura, bravely, came in and hacked at the caught beast and after minutes of hacking and blood dripping from the beasts neck, it seemed to finally breathe its last breaths and go limp. The Wyvvern bit into it then and, snapping off the beasts head, it was deemed by all as well and truly dead. And then the stench began.
This particular Swarm creature had plasma in its blood which reacted very negatively to too much exposed oxygen and it started rotting the creatures blood very quickly which let off a vile smell. Togura held his nose and, thinking fire his best friend at the moment, tossed nearby browned deadwood onto the body of the beast, making a fire and burning it up. After half an hour the body had largely been consumed and the stench had dissipated.
‘I have never seen a Wyvvern fight before,’ began Togura, ‘but they seem quite ferocious when provoked.’
‘In the West,’ responded Blaz, ‘The Wyvvern used to be worshipped as a god in the old days and they are still held in very much respect by the community. They rarely, for reasons we know not, attack humankind and we have lived side by side for many a year. But we are not foolish enough to think we can tame such ferocity as you yourself have observed.’
‘Obviously not,’ responded the awestruck Togura. ‘Well, Kalphor, it seems you were wise indeed to seek out Blaz, for this Wyvvern, I feel, will prove undoubtable help in our objectives. For it to have dispatched the beast with such strength means we can have all the gold of Argan if we are patient enough to search it out.’
‘It is as you say, but still we must have our wits about us,’ responded Kalphor.
‘Naturally,’ finished Togura. He turned to the Temple and, once again, torches at the ready, signalled to the group that they should enter in to search for any treasures the Platinoth held.
Torches burning brightly they entered the Temple of Platinoth. The temple itself was quite a large complex of interlocking stone buildings, all formed together in a shape which looked like a large pyramid from the distance. It was quite a large temple and, having entered it from the southern side, they were unaware that on the northern side of the temple buildings a ruthless warlord and his growing community took residence. Yet they knew this soon enough for about 10 minutes into their journeys into the labyrinthine temple structure they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a host of soldiers who told them to come with them. Togura said to Kalphor ‘Let’s go peacefully. Tell the Wyvvern to do nothing,’ but the Wyvvern seemed quite content to simply follow the soldiers anyway.
Following a winding trail between buildings they came into a courtyard on the northern side of the temple were a community was living its life, animals tethered close by in fenced paddocks and the humdrum of a small village at work. A guard dismissed all but 3 of the soldiers and signalled for Togura and his group to follow him inside a nearby building. Coming into the building it was elaborately decorated and seemed to serve as some sort of temple for worship, perhaps of Platinoth or some other great creature. They came to a large throne and seated on the throne, gorging on a plate of meat and vegetables, a mug of wine on the side of the throne, sat a man, likely in his early 50s, with a trimmed beard, an eye-patch covering one eye, and a long scar down his left cheek. He continued eating his meal but, as Togura and his crew entered, looked up at them, munching away. The soldier spoke up. ‘We found them, on the southern edge of the grounds. There is also a small dragon with them just outside, but it has caused no real problems. I don’t know why they are here, so we brought them to you.’
The man, who was quite likely the leader of the community in Togura’s estimation, eyed them for a while, continuing to chew on his meat and drink from his wine mug. Eventually, finishing off and burping, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he stood, came close to them and looked them over, and, returning to his seat, stared at them. He finally spoke. ‘So what is your business in Platinoth then? Have you heard of our community and come to join us? If so I can perhaps offer you a good position in our fighting forces.’
Togura thought quickly. ‘Uh, no. We are but lost travellers, on our way northwards to Tameran. Our ship went astray and crashed on the eastern coast of Argan, and we have been battling the Swarms carefully making our way northwards. We beg your hospitality as we continue our fine adventure.’
The man considered that, picking up a bone from his plate and chewing at it, taking another sip of wine. Eventually he spoke again. ‘Well, we can certainly use a few good hands with the animals for a while. That is, if you are prepared to work for your keep.’
‘That won’t be a problem,’ said Kalphor. ‘We will be glad to work for our food. And perhaps you could be so kind to share with us your knowledge of the terrain northwards of here. It would be invaluable for our travels.’
The man looked at them, nodded, and waved them away. The soldier who had brought them to him signalled for them to follow him and they exited the building and were taken not far away to some animal skins on some hay which was stored at the side of a large building which, fortunately, had a covering extending over them so, should it rain, they would not get wet. ‘You can sleep here,’ began the soldier. ‘General Ashdyne will likely want to see you in the morning and here of your story, but we will feed you and you are welcome to share our food. It is good in these troubled lands to have all the extra men we can get.’
‘I am sure it is,’ responded Togura. The soldier nodded at them, and departed and the group slumped down onto their makeshift beds. They Wyvvern, who young children had been staring at, made its way towards them, and sat nearby under the shelter, settling down to go to sleep. They were unlikely, now, to find any treasure here, but Togura suggested to the group that they not try to escape for the meantimes anyway, as the community did not seem to pose them any threat, and they could learn what they could of them for now. ‘We will wait it out to start with,’ said Togura. ‘See what they are all about and why they are living here in Argan. It could prove useful information one day, so far now we sit tight.’ Blaz and Kalphor nodded and Blaz, looking to see that nobody was looking, quickly entered the bottle and returned with the Dragon Chess set and he and Kalphor began another of their games. Togura looked at the Dragon, stared out at the sky which had quickly turned grey and was looking to rain, gave thought to his beloved Day, and settled down on his bedding, pulled a moth ridden blanket over him, and searched for whatever sleep he could find. Soon enough they would be back to their treasure-hunting, but for now they were stuck with General Ashdyne and his desperate community.
* * *
The following morning they spoke again with General Ashdyne and gave him greater information. Togura saw no actual harm in using their real names with a semblance of a story based on real life, but altered to protect their interests. Kalphor and Blaz were introduced as a Wizard and a Warlock respectively, which made the General raise an eyebrow. Togura was a master-fighter, who had travelled the world, hailing originally from Sung of the Lesser Teeth. And the Wyvvern was under the power of Blaz, which was supposedly true anyway, supposedly, and posited no threat to the General’s community. Having taken in all that information the General shared with them his own tale. ‘I am from Tameran were you seek to travel to. I served in the Khmar’s army and was an honoured general, until I was betrayed, betrayed with a kiss from my wife, who slept with another general. They desired my death and so, framing me for a murder I did not commit, I escaped with a band of loyal men who knew my innocence, and now reside her, in Argan. We live here on the Pinnacle of Platinoth for rarely do the Swarms bother to climb this high onto the plateau, and we are hardly ever bothered. For now we live here, with the soldiers families who ventured along with us, but not forever. We will add to our numbers, slowly and carefully, peradventure with men such as yourselves, and with the memory of my name living on in Tameran as a soldier of bravery and merit, I hope to one day return and regain my name. And if not, the Khmar be damned and I will raise up an army to throw him off his precious throne.’ Those last words were said with something of passionate vengeful tone, and Togura did not doubt the seriousness of the General’s intent. The general inquired then, should they perhaps be willing to join his community and put off their travels to Tameran to a later date, when his soldiers and entourage could accompany them. But Togura declined, declaring they would stay with them a week or so before continuing on their adventure. The general then offered them much money and rewards in Tameran, yet Togura continued to decline saying they had family waiting for them in Tameran and could simply not delay for too long. The general, realizing that taking them hostage for their services would be more trouble than it was worth, conceded and wished them well while they stayed on with the community. Thus, returning to their sleeping abode near the wall under the covering, Togura opened a bottle of cold wine the General had graciously given him, started drinking it, and thought on what they were to do next.
For two weeks they stayed in the community, Togura delaying their plans of leaving simply because, after all his long travels, he felt he needed a sense of stability for a while, and the friendly enough community of soldiers and wives seemed to offer him that much. Days were spent drinking wine, looking after the animals and gathering fruits and vegetables from the cleared fields north of the temple, and slowly learning Dragon chess, a game which Blaz and Kalphor had been playing avidly ever since arriving in Argan. There was a maiden of 16 who gave Togura many lustful looks, and one afternoon she found him alone in the fields, came up and kissed him, and offered herself to him. He honestly felt that adultery should really not be hoohaahed so much because, really, the young female was quite ravishing to look at, and when she lifted her skirt to show him her vagina, he almost denied his vows to Day. But, no, he didn’t sleep with her in the end, and he was satisfied with a few hours of heavy snogging before returning to the camp.
Finally, after coming into the second week, Togura felt the group had rested enough and, late one night signalled for them all to enter the bottle while he, firstly, search for some gold so their voyage to the plateau not necessarily go unrewarded and then, secondly, make his escape from the community.
It was dark, and he had entered the main building were the General set up residence. The community were used to them as guests now and seemed not to suspect them, which was perhaps a good thing. Coming to the doorway behind the throne, he turned the latch and entered the room, having grabbed a burning torch from the entranceway of the building. The room appeared mostly empty but, coming over to a table with a large chest on it, he opened the chest to find what they had been seeking – an ample supply of gold Tameran coinage, a suitable reward for their efforts. He filled his sack with gold, quickly returned to the bottle to dump the treasure and told the other two he would now sneak out from the camp to a distance away before they could fly off.
Togura was nervous, crawling his way carefully out of the camp, a tinge of guilt on his conscience. Although he knew, in a way, they had been stealing the whole time they had been ransacking Argan, it had always been money which had been abandoned and was going to no useful purpose. But this, stealing from the general who had befriended him, well he was not quite as comfortable with the idea as he was telling himself he should be.
As he clambered through the scrub, he suddenly heard some shouting and saw torches coming towards him. He hid in some scrub and waited as soldiers were all about the area, searching for their missing guests. He had hoped he would be safe but, suddenly, a soldier dared the thicket he was hiding in and, finding Togura, yelled to the others. Soon he was dragged back to the camp and the General, looking at him, with a most disappointing look on his face said ‘Togura. Your friends may have gotten away, but your punishment will be swift and sure. Take him away.’ They led him off to another building and locked him inside, soldiers stationed at the doorway to guard him.
In the morning a crowd gathered and the general pronounced his judgement. ‘You will be executed Togura, decapitated as suits your crime. And should we find your companions they will suffer the same fate.’ The community murmured that justice needed to be done and looking at the angry faces Togura suddenly knew just why he had felt so much guilt. But he was a survivor, and would not let a death penalty do him in so, reaching into his pocket to retrieve the bottle, he summoned the others with the Wyvvern, and a hectic fight began. Fortunately the Wyvvern was too much of a match for the community of soldiers and as they carefully retreated, coming to the edge of the temple, Kalphor suddenly turned into the form of the Eagle, grabbed the bottle were the other three escaped to, and took off.
10 minutes later, having put the pinnacle of Platinoth far behind him, Kalphor landed, resumed his human form, and entered the bottle.
For a few days they stayed in the bottle, feeding on the foodstuffs they had purchased in Chi Ash Lan, while they discussed were they would travel next. ‘I know of a place,’ began Kalphor, ‘Not that far to the west of here. In the city of Riknaah, which surely has many treasures anyway. But there was a particular place in the city, known as the Rainbow Parade, were a host of wealthy warlords resided. It could be the best next place to search for hidden treasures.’
‘Then to the Rainbow Parade we travel next,’ said Togura.
* * *
The fowl creatures of the Swarms, being sent into Argan by the Skull of the South, are unpredictably mad at the best of times, and one particular ogreish looking beast, having found a cute little green bottle, of all things to do with it, decided to shove it up its nose. When the questing group of heroes decided to exit the bottle, ready to resume their journey, they exploded onto the scene being instantly covered with the bloody remains of a wild swarm creature, which had duly exploded upon their exiting the bottle. The mess was indeed quite significant, and Togura spent much of the morning washing himself again and again trying to remove a stench which stubbornly, it seemed, refused to dissipate. Kalphor had a grin on his face because Togura had copped the worst of the bloody mess, but everytime he looked at Togura and smiled, Togura looked at him with daggers in his eyes.
Eventually, ready to continue on their journey, they boarded again the bottle as the Eagle began its flight to Riknaah. Kalphor, as wizards of great age were wont to do, had spent many years learning the geography of various places and locations on the world of Olo Malan and was, fortunately, well equipped with information on the various places of Argan in which they were likely to find the wealth they desired. So far on their journeys they’d had a number of sticky encounters, but for now it seemed worth their troubles to continue and all the time he knew they were getting wealthier and wealthier.
As he flew along, his eyes scanning the horizon before him, he thought on another wizard who he had frequented the company of from time to time with the power of flight, a certain Hostaja Torsen Sken-Pitilkin, and wondered to himself were Hostaja was at this time. They had been friends for a long time and in his years in the Confederation of Wizards at Drangsturm, Hostaja had shared many a drink of ale with him as they discussed the affairs of Wizardom and the future of their world. His cousin, Phyphor, who was now apparently dead, had been a source also of solace for the orphaned Kalphor, looking up to his cousin who had raised him in his younger years and seen to it that he had become a wizard. He missed Phyphor, who had raised him in the family cult of the Watermelon with their peculiar beliefs on religion, and often thought of visiting their small remaining family on Ashmolea. That was were the cult of the Watermelon was strongest and were figures from Kalphor’s youth still likely lived and remained. It was the Watermelon cult which had taught him his values since a young age, with their peculiar devotion to that particular fruit, and his regular attendance at the grand Watermelon Temple on Ashmolea, a large temple in the shape of a Watermelon and painted to resemble one. From a distance it was something to behold and often the butt of many of the unbelievers’ jokes, but Kalphor was proud of his heritage, and the ways of healthy living he had learned from the cult of his upbringing.
Of Course, no cult could truly exist without an adversary to oppose it, and the hated Watchtower of northern Ashmolea, ones full of ex-members of the Watermelon sect, who proclaimed that in the future there would be a grand day when ‘The Grand Guardian Watermelon’ would descend from the stars and lead them in the ways everlasting. The traditional Watermelon sect naturally refuted such notions stating they simply worshipped watermelons, mainly because they were bloody tasty and good for the health and every society needed an idol of focus to function properly, yet after centuries of advertising and promoting the beliefs of the cult, it really had gone to the head of certain members and ideas of ‘The Grand Guardian Watermelon’ who watched over its faithful devotees had emerged in the cult and, eventually, realizing the lukewarmness of so many of their own, the righteous separated off and formed ‘The Watchtower’ whose main purpose was to prepare the world, through their dedication to the ‘Grand Commission’ for the coming of the Grand Guardian Watermelon. Of course, in recent years there was even talk that the Grand Guardian Watermelon had already advented early on, and he was now preparing the world for his grand and glorious second coming, but this was a belief disputed by many devotees of the historical method of factuality.
Funnily enough, Kalphor still enjoyed watermelons, and whenever he was at a market or store which sold the product, he would lovingly walk over to the stall, pat the trustworthy watermelons, and purchase 2 or 3 of them and munch on them for days.
As he flew along observing the environment, he sensed that Riknaah was quickly approaching. Half an hour later, having spied the city on the horizon, he started slowly descending from his great height. 20 minutes later he had landed, hid the bottle in a suitable place, and entered to inform the others they had arrived.
Instantly Togura was aware that Riknaah had a significant number of Swarms scrawling around it. As they entered the city in search of the ‘Rainbow Parade’ a fowl looking beast suddenly lunged out of a building attacking them. The Wyvvern quickly sprang to their defence, but the fighting this time was much fiercer. Togura brandished a sword and attacked many times, but a wildly flung talon of the beast ripped out and caught the exposed part of Togura’s arm, cutting deeply. He yelled in agony, and with the fury of his uninjured sword arm went berserk and knowing no fear rushed in and plunged his sword straight into the head of the creature. It slumped into the dust, the familiar swarm stench quickly coming forth and its body shuddered for a number of minutes as it went through its death throes. This time they did not linger for too long and placed the bottle inside a safe building to enter in so they could tend Togura’s cut.
Blaz, who had become their medical doctor of sorts, carefully wound some bandages around the wound and Togura, thinking over the Warlock, whose magic skills so far on their quest had left something to be desired, found his competency in winding bandages quite the opposite – he seemed to have the natural care of a medicine man and seemed quite competent at the task. Also his manner of showing genuine care left Togura thinking Blaz had missed his calling in life.
Saying he was fine to continue they emerged from the bottle and resumed their search, more cautiously alert for the swarm creatures.
An hour later, after cautiously looking out for the swarms, they had found the Rainbow Parade and after raiding several of the grand looking domains, had accumulated a reasonable amount of treasure and useful looking items.
Coming into an unusual looking building, quite distinct from the others, Togura and the group searched through the place, Togura being the first to find the stairway into a basement. The basement looked different from other places they had seen so far in Riknaah. It was designed with strange looking stone furniture and against the wall was a grid with knobs on it, which appeared movable, underneath the grid being a stone doorway which was presently closed and seemed unopenable. He yelled to the others to come down and look at what he had found.
‘It is an ancient culture,’ said Kalphor. ‘Part of the old word, in the days of wrath or earlier. When Olo Malan was younger and society was different. It has survived since then.’
‘I reckon those knobs move in some way to access the doorway.’
‘And what lies beyond?’ queried Blaz.
‘Could be anything,’ responded Togura. ‘But we’ll never know if we don’t try and open the thing. I am going to try the knobs. Perhaps there is a pattern or a code which needs to be utilized to open the door. It is worth a try anyway – who knows what we will find.’
Kalphor, looking at the 8 knobs, realized Togura could well be occupied for some time, announced he and Blaz would retire to the bottle for the time being and play some Dragon Chess. The Wyvvern, however, indicated that it would stay with Togura and watch over him, which was not objectionable to Togura.
For three solid days Togura puzzled on the grid and the knobs. He had tried many different patterns which was his first idea to unlock the grid and then come to the conclusion that a nearly endless parade of combinations could be made, which could take him forever and he didn’t have that long. And then he noticed something which he really should have seen to start with. On the floor of the basement, not strikingly noticeable to begin with, but observable after a while of observation, was a very faint replica of the grid, and patterns showing the knobs were arranged on the grid on the floor. He quickly got the others from the bottle announcing that he had most probably found the solution to the grid.
As Blaz, Kalphor and the Wyvvern watched on, Togura took a little while putting the knobs into place and suddenly, as the last knob found its home, the stone door started making a whining noise and opened up. ‘Success!’ yelled Togura, so happy after all his earlier attempts had failed. But suddenly success was turned to fight as a grey mist emerged from the opening and settled on the ground. Suddenly the dirt on the floor started forming skeletons who stood up and began lunging towards the group. It wasn’t much of a fight in the end – the skeletons were kind of pathetic – and while they reanimated for a little while, eventually the mist seemed to have run out of its power and the skeletons stopped emerging.
‘Get the torches,’ Togura said to Blaz, who entered the bottle and shortly returned with 4 torches which Togura soon had alight.
The labyrinthine network of an old Nexus depository is generally something to behold for citizens of a vastly different culture another period, and Togura puzzled over the rooms filled with mechanical objects which seemed to serve no purpose and the endless supplies of little metal objects which Kalphor suggested were used to maintain whatever it had been.
Yet, while they searched valiantly for anything that might remotely prove valuable, they found nothing that they generally considered of worth and eventually gave up. But before they exited the network, Togura had managed to do something of impressive stupidity, by activating a panel on a control board which alerted a certain security device for the network. A security device which was soon to cause them quite a deal of trouble.
The following night, exploring more of the houses in the Rainbow Parade, Kalphor remarked that a strange metallic noise seemed to be emanating from the building of the labyrinth. They turned back along the street to investigate and suddenly, emerging from the building, a metallic beast in the form of a large metal dog, came towards them, suddenly blazing a red beam of fire from its eyes at them. Togura yelped, the group retreated. This particular robot was linked to the ‘Dorgi’ design from the Golden Gulag, a smaller version of a Dorgi simply known as a ‘Corgi’. It had been created for the purpose of acting as a watchdog over the labyrinth depository, and as it continued to pursue its prey, always aware were they were running off to, Togura in his frustration suggested they trap the object in the bottle and then work out what to do with it later.
The two wizards and Togura, each coming at the dog from separate angles, rushed it and Blaz was the victim of a scorch mark on his shoulder. Togura managed to get to the dog without it turning on him and soon sent it disappearing into the bottle.
‘Now what?’ asked Blaz. ‘We can hardly retreat to the bottle anymore with that thing in there? We need to find a way of destroying it.’
‘I know,’ responded Togura, who suggested they return to the building of the labyrinth in the time being to hide from any swarms that may come their way.
Sitting in the basement, staring at the opening to the labyrinth, Blaz had a suggestion to Togura. ‘Why don’t we search through the labyrinth again. We might find something useful to use against the beast, or find some way of destroying it. Togura shrugged – it was as good an idea as any he had.
They searched through the labyrinth for hours, this time Togura paying more careful attention to the various metallic devices they found, picking things up and pushing various buttons and levers.
He was down on a lower level of the labyrinth, Blaz further down the corridor, when he opened a wooden box of a series of 4 boxes, finding a strange looking object, which Togura surmised might be a weapon of sorts. He picked up what in fact was a heavy duty laser bolt rifle and messing around with it, found the on switch. Suddenly it started humming and Togura yelled for Blaz to come and see.
Staring at it Togura mentioned to Blaz that he felt it might be a weapon. ‘Then be careful with it Toggie. You don’t want to injure yourself again.’
‘I’ll be careful. I wonder what this lever does,’ he said, picking at the trigger. Suddenly a laser bolt blasted from the rifle, blasting a hole in the stone wall. ‘Fucking hell!’ yelled Togura. ‘This should be perfect. Grab one, Blaz, and we will go and get Kalphor. These should be perfect for fighting the beast.’
After they had tested the four weapons they found that only two of them came alive and it was decided Togura and Blaz would fight the creature. Crossing there fingers they used the pendant and entered the bottle. They found the beast in the second room of the bottle and as soon as it spotted them it set off another blast, just missing Togura’s ear. ‘Now!’ he yelled to Blaz and, aiming their weapons, they concentrated on firing at the beasts head, rewarded with moments later melting metal and the beast making chaotic noises. Eventually it stopped moving and they surmised it was in its death throws, whatever it was.
‘Ha, take that beast from hell,’ yelled Togura, happy with his fighting abilities.
‘I think we should get rid of it. Put it back in the labyrinth and close it up. We don’t want to risk it coming alive again.’ Togura nodded and using the pendant to return to Kalphor, they boasted of their victory and hauled the beast back into the labyrinth, moving the knobs again which resulted in the doorway closing up.
‘If I never see one of those things again it will be too soon,’ muttered Togura. ‘Anyway, these weapons should come in useful for all sorts of things.’ But, in an ironic twist of fate the weapon Togura was holding started dimming and soon went off. No matter what button Togura pressed, it didn’t seem to work anymore. Half an hour later the same thing happened to Blaz’s weapon. ‘We’ll keep them anyway. Some day we may find a way how to make them work again.’
‘What next?’ queried Kalphor. ‘Shall we finish off exploring the Rainbow Parade?’
For the next day and a half they gradually explored the remainder of the houses of the Rainbow Parade and then some of the more expensive looking abodes of Riknaah. They accumulated a fair degree of treasure in their scourings and a happy buzz was on Togura’s face as he realized he was getting richer and richer all the time. There was another encounter with a wild swarm creature, and the Wyvvern fought valiantly, Kalphor employing a fireball spell when he had finally felt strong enough in his magical ability to use. He had been drained in his strength flying around as an eagle, but that had been deemed the safest way to get around Argan. The same familiar stench emanated from the dead beast, and they left the scene as soon as possible.
Sitting around a fireplace in a building they had decided to spend the night in, Blaz shared more of his life story. He talked of working for the Guild of Wizards since his re-emergence from the bottle and the court case he had been involved in to ensure his re-entry into the guild. They had been reluctant, but the case was clear that they had no right to ban him, thus Crocus Dalbana had reluctantly readmitted him into the guild, albeit into a scungy laboratory in the basement of the guild hall. But it suited Blaz fine and, while they never sent much work his way, he felt proud of himself in finally achieving his ambition of being a fully fledged Wizard working for the Guild of the Universal Order of Wizards, Witches and Warlocks.
The Wyvvern, who for so long had said very little, although the group knew it could communicate with them, began to share unexpectedly something of its own life. It was quite an old Wyvvern now, several hundred years in fact, and it felt itself not long for this world. While it stated that because of the spell it was compelled to visit Argan with them, it spoke in a manner which suggested it didn’t really mind anyway. As if this was the last grand adventure of its life and it wanted to go out with a bang.
Togura listened with great interest as the Wyvvern spoke of Wyvverndom’s attitude to mankind. They were often viewed as pesky creatures, the humans, but never deemed too much of a threat. They generally left Wyvvern-kind alone and had not tried to hunt them down to much, unlike the common acts of bravery committed by valiant heroes in their boasting tales of dragon slaying epics. But that was typical for the dragons, their distant cousins, who had particular fetishes for virginal princesses and the like.
Dragon’s, of course, were far better fighters than Wyvverns, but the Wyvverns were quite nimble and could be quite deadly if provoked. Wyvverns were usually around half to a third of the size of Dragon’s, but it was believed in Wyvverndom that they originated from the same stock in the beginning, the Wyvverns being the result of midget dragons separating from the community and forming their own family. This was considered true as Wyvverns, occasionally now and then, sired particularly large Wyvverns who had a striking resemblance to Dragon’s, and often went off to find and mate with the larger creatures. But that was all just a matter of speculation amongst Vanderskar’s kind. And then, feeling he could trust this small group somewhat, the Wyvvern spent a full minute speaking its official birth name, which was quite lengthy indeed.
Finally, as they got ready to bed for the night, Togura declared that they were finished with Riknaah, and that in the morning they would decide upon their next target. As he slept Togura dreamed of Wyvverns and Dragons and, suddenly, turning into a Wyvvern, he found himself flying through the skies, turning and dashing in majestic movements, overcome with the joys of being a flying beast, daring the heights of heaven, a dazzling splendour to all who could possibly observe the majestic glory of Togura the Wyvvern. And then, in his dream, he suddenly found himself turned into a slug and he laughed to himself at the not so subtle irony.
Jaglag Daroko was nothing if not a hospitable captor. A renegade warlord from Yestron who had travelled to Argan with an ambitious plan - to see if he could use various magical items he had come across to enslave the swarms to utilise them in his ambitions of conquest back in Yestron. But, while Togura, Kalphor, Blaz and the Wyvvern were technically prisoners of sorts for the initial few days, Jaglag seemed to relax after a while and allowed them free access to his compound. Daroko was travelling with around 1000 troops and another 1000 servants, armed with the services of a quite expensive wizard by the name of Dalaka. Dalaka was currently attempting to use the magical devices Daroko had acquired to tame and use the swarms for his wargames purposes, but so far to no success. He was apparently, while quite expensive, not that competent a wizard as many of Daroko’s soldiers maintained.
Both Blaz and Kalphor were offered large sums if they could work out how the magical devices worked from Daroko’s basic knowledge of them. But after a week of solid tinkering both confessed they had not the foggiest idea.
Daroko, while not overly concerned about the wizard’s lack of success, seemed to have taken a liking to Togura, thinking him somewhat of a warrior, and had been wooing him to join his army.
‘I can offer you good pay, Poulaan. Good pay. Civil war is never to far from the average life of a citizen of Yestron, and pay is often quite good. You seem a strong warrior – your confidence with that sword I see you practice with suggests to me you have seen many a battle in your lifetime.’
Togura tried to stay humble, which was not easy as he liked to brag. ‘It is true, I am a swordsman. I once tackled a certain Guest Gulkan in a friendly duel and he bested me, but he said my abilities and natural talent were of a high quality. But I am a questing of my own desires in Argan with my wizard friend. Yestron is so far away and back in Sung my wife awaits my return. I could not leave her to go off a questing to Yestron.’
‘I understand,’ said Daroko, disappointed. ‘I could offer you a high position. My third in command, if you were willing?’
‘I thank you for the offer, Lord Daroko. But I must refuse.’
‘Very well. To your honour and your wife,’ he said, lifting a mug of ale, drinking it down quickly and belching shortly after.
The soldiers of the compound, Togura observed, were highly trained and seemed almost a crack mercenary unit in reality. Perhaps they’d had years of warfare in Yestron and were the best of the best.
Eventually Blaz and Kalphor admitted that they were no closer in finding out how to use the magical devices and, while they were somewhat dismayed at not achieving the reward promised, Daroko gave each of them a barrel of ale for their services, which they duly stored in the bottle.
When they bid Daroko farewell he stated he hoped to meet them again, and Togura felt the slightest tinge of regret, wondering how well he could have fared on Yestron in such a position of glory. Certainly one to return to Sung one day and boast of his heroic accomplishments.
For a few days later Togura simply waited it out in the bottle as the wizards drunk themselves into a stupor on the ale, but eventually they were ready to resume their questing for treasure.
‘There is a village nearby,’ said Kalphor, still quite hungover from the night before’s drinking. ‘We could search it out.’
‘Aye,’ agreed Togura.
* * *
They sat around the campfire that evening, telling tales of old adventures, many brags, many boasts, and steadily consuming a build up of wine from the bottle.
'When I was younger,' began Blaz. 'I had a terrible case of coclaphartis.'
'Sounds wonderful,' said Togura.
'Oh, it wasn't. Believe me it wasn't. My cheeks puffed up and, at first, the doctor prescribed mumps and bedrest. But then I stared farting uncontrollably. Really quite pongy farting as well. Father would walk in and say 'By the Black Balls of Bartimaeus, what on earth is that horrible stench. Oh, its you Kalphor,' and hold his nose, shake his head, and say he would disown me the following winter.'
'Did he? Disown you?'
'In fact he did,' remarked Blaz. 'Traded me temporarily in for a dwarve slut who he bedded often, from what I hear. I worked as a slave in a dark skinned blacksmith's forge, handling the heavy metal. It was hell, believe me. The number of times I burned myself.'
'Life's tough,' replied Togura.
'That wasn't the worst of it though. The blacksmith had a daughter. Hilda. She was 7 foot tall, fat as a dragon, and I do believe her regular farts were worse than mine at the peak of coclaphartis. Apparently she had a condition.'
'What did she want?' asked Kalphor.
'To rape me incessantly. She would come to me, while I was sleeping, pull down my breaches, and fondle me for hours.'
'How did you react?' asked Togura.
'Quiet embarassingly,' responded the wizard. The other two chuckled.
'When I was 17,' began Togura. 'Working for my father, Cromarty my brother had me cornered with his gang and they tarred and feathered me, parading me halfway around Sung. I got my revenge, though.'
'How so?' asked Kalphor.
'With a group I had Cromarty tied down one night, shaved his pubic hairs, and dipped honey all around his crotch.'
'Embarrassing,' said Blaz.
'Then we tied him down on an ants nest and had bloody good time watching him in agony. He hasn't forgiven me to this day.'
'I think I have the worst tale,' said Kalphor. 'In my early years of wizarding in Ashmolea, my brother Phyhphor cast an enchantment on me, temporarily turning me into a goat.'
'Yet then he put a female goat in my room, who was on heat, and I was unable to help myself.'
'Olo Malan!' exclaimed Togura.
'I am told I am a father of a proud herd of goats, prized for their milk, till this day.' They all burst out laughing on that one.
And so they bragged and boasted and, steadily consuming alcohol, whiled away the hours, lost in the heart of Argan, none the wiser to the all too possible presence of swarms and other dangers famed for inhabiting the now fallen continent.
* * *
The darkness was obtrusive. Well, not really obtrusive. It was everywhere. But it was midnight, so Togura conceded a rather obtrusive darkness. He was slightly drunk, had vomited earlier, and was holding his belly moaning from time to time. He was not a happy chappy. Kalphor was snoozing, the Wyvvern, nearby, seemed at rest, and Blaz was muttering profanities in his dream. But Togura was away from the fire, because it was a warm night, and he was looking up at the stars. He'd had a dream, earlier. The word 'Nexus' had been spoken by a figure in the dream, and somehow he understood he was part of that - the Nexus. Some sort of organisation which was the power which ran the world, or so the dream seemed to elucidate. Day had maintained to him the universe spoke in dreams to its citizens. They were a way that life was guarded and protected. That was fine to Togura - he needed all the help he could get. He was not an overly religious man, and while there were several fine cults to choose from on Sung, many quite established in this modern era, it was not his calling in life. He was a rogue - an adventurer. All he ever had been, and would be, presumably. But he sat there, staring up at the stars, pondering it all. What was it all about? Life? Why was he here? Was there, in fact, any life after death as some of the zealots of various religions maintained? It would be interesting, if there were. Go on forever, he supposed. Insulting Cromarty. Bedding Day. What more could he want. After a while his gut felt better, and he drank a swig from his precious bottle of alcohol. Not much left, now. But they had gathered much gold and treasure, and the wyvvern had become content enough carrying it for them, so perhaps, soon, time to return home. Perhaps there adventuring had come to an end.
In the morning Togura kicked dirt into the fire and yelled at the others to rise and shine.
'I've had my fill,' said Togura. 'We have enough treasure. Let's go home.'
The others looked at him, and nodded. Their time in Argan had come to an end.
As they travelled back to the coast, were they would need to see the year out before the return of Captain Haggis. It was still a journey of danger, but the Wyvvern remained their protectorate, and they travlled in something approaching confidence and cheeky pride at their successes. Yet they had only travelled a few days when a bunch of savages cornered them, and a Wizard presented himself.
'I am Dalaka. And your treasure looks wonderful,' said the Wizard.
'Great,' muttered Togura.
'But, I am a merciful man. Choose one of your own to meet my magical challenge, and I will leave you unhindered.'
Togura looked at Kalphor. 'Are you up for it?'
'I'm afraid I'm a spent force. With all the magic we have used, my recharging will take months of rest.'
Togura, then, thinking he should know better, looked at Blaz. 'Right. Your our man. Meet the wizard's challenge, and we're out of here.'
Blaz nodded, uncertain.
Togura turned to Dalaka. 'Our man, Blaz, will meet your challenge.'
Dalaka smiled. 'Kraka. Bring forth the goat.' A savage came forth, bringing a goat, and Dalaka said, 'Slay the goat, and put the blood into a bowl.'
The savage cut the goats neck, and drained some of the blood into a crude bowl.
'I don't like the looks of this,' said Blaz.
'My challenge is this,' said Dalaka. 'Blaz, turn this blood, into,' and he paused, thinking and mulling it over, before he said, 'Turn it into - jelly. I could use a snack.'
'Cromarty's testicles!' swore Togura.
'By the grand guardian!' exclaimed Kalphor.
'Oh, bother,' said Blaz.
Togura gathered the group to himself. 'Ok, we're stuffed. We charge them, right?'
'I, I think I can do it,' said Blaz.
'I'll take Dalaka,' said Togura. 'You guys handle the savages.'
'I'm sure I've learned from my mistakes,' continued Blaz.
'It will be a tough fight, but we'll pull through,' said Togura.
'I can do it!' exclaimed Blaz. Togura finally looked at him.
'Are you bloody sure?'
'I'll have a go.'
Togura shook his head, but turned to Dalaka. 'Our man will turn your blood into jelly.'
Blaz came forth, picked up the bowl, and made several strange incantations on the bowl, but the blood only boiled a little.
'Can he not do it?' asked Dalaka.
'Give it time,' protested Blaz. And, as they watched the bubbling gradually eased and the blood, so it seemed, had actually turned into jelly.
Blaz handed the bowl to Dalaka, who looked at it. 'A spoon,' he said to the savages, and one brought forth a spoon. As Dalaka tasted it, his face paused, considering the stuff. Finally 'It is acceptable. You may pass.'
'I didn't know I had it in me,' said Blaz.
A few weeks later, after some other adventures, they arrived at the coast, and settled in to wait. They built a bit of a fort, and fished, and Togura managed to find various vegetables from his hunting expeditions. But soon they spotted the ship on the horizon, and their salvation had finally arrived.
'I think,' said Togura. 'That if there is one thing I have learned, that the Universal Guild of Witches and Warlocks, in the end, knows what it is doing.'
Kalphor smiled at that, and Blaz blushed. And soon they were back on the seas, headed for Sung, their adventure, finally, complete.
After a further number of fateful adventures, each found their destiny and their wealth, and retired in comfort.
Togura farted a lot as he got older. Day, ever mindful of her fading looks didn't complain greatly, yet the move into the downstairs front bedroom was the nasal salvation she never regretted. Togura bemoaned the situation, yet did not want to lose his love, so let things be. He ended up king of Sung.
Blaz Durass started his own wizardry school on his wealth. The other guilds did not recommend transfers to challenged students. Better off life as a dung sweeper than suffer the tutelage of the Cold West's greatest magical oxymoron. Blaz was successful none the less.
Kalphor retired in Chi Ash Lan, in a small apartment, were he hid the green bottle in the basement and lived inside there in the colder weather. It looked 'pleasant' according to Toguras assessment of its decor upon a visit from Sung. Kalphor subsequently took up interior decorating.
And the Wyvern returned home, bragged of his final adventure, scored a young filly excited by his tales, and rested in peace in his final days, the proud father of a redeemed Wyvvernly lineage.
And the world turned in Olo Malan, and the thunder rolled, and the rain poured, and the sun shone, and the world turned. And the world turned.
Chronicles of an Age of Darkness
Tales of Darkness
By Daniel ‘Hugh Cook’ Daly
The Wordguild and the Warsmiths
Olo Malan is a world beset by terror of every order. Yet in the universe of Bera Shambala, which is connected to Olo Malan by a portal of another Worldring which is rarely connected to, known only by the ‘Bragmen’ of Chomba Pass in the far northern reaches of Tameran, there exists two fundamental organisations. The Wordguild and the Warsmiths.
Now the Wordguild is based simply on that – Words. And, so it is taught every generation to all and sundry who will listen to the splendid message of salvation as taught by the Wordguild, by the Words of Power was all that is created. And what created all that is? Well, that is the divine mystery, as they rightly say. Thus, words – language – communication – was the true saviour of men, and every word of knowledge honoured, cherished, and taught as truly perfect. The way of enlightenment was thus truly enshrined in the dictionaries of power, the heart and mind of every servant of the Wordguild.
Now the Warsmiths opposed the Wordguild, not out of any deeply thought out philosophy, but rather a simple and banal penchant for that most barbarous of activities – war.
Thus these two powers dominated the hearts of Bera Shambala. The wordguild to bring the salvation of knowledge and education to the world, the warguild to tear it apart.
And thus it was.
And thus it is.
And thus so it shall be.
Toguran Loupaan was a confused individual. You had to be with one parent, the mother superior, the honourable chief member of the town’s wordguild cult, and the other, the father dominant, an old fashioned Warsmith, bent on eternal dreams of conquest. Living with the two of them had become – well – quite insufferable, born with the power of a humility greater than that of mortal men. It had to be, for they warred with each other of a constancy greater than the fluidity of the tides of the ocean.
Toguran had a girlfriend. Say Duet. Say was a very attractive girl, and his mother always emphasised that with a very powerful name like ‘Say’ which was the heart of Word Power, she would indeed make a most excellent wife one day. Toguran didn’t disagree. ‘As long as she is good in bed,’ was the summation of his father’s wisdom on the issue, and so far Toguran had not been disappointed on that particular issue since the climax to his 16th years birthday party.
Toguran had a destiny with Mother Superior. To bring the power, knowledge and salvation of a good education to Bera Shambala. He did her no great honour – he was a dunce in school.
Toguran had a destiny with Father Dominant. Neither did he bring him any great honour – a ladybug was more threatening.
But Say Duet loved him, despite his great fears, and lack of bravery, and when he finally won her heart one particular night, in an adventure about to be chronicled, she verily agreed to be his wife.
Skrag Cromento was a thick enough fella. He couldn’t spell, could bearly speak with a mouthful of stutters usually eventuating, and he was none to pretty to boot. But he fancied Say Duet, and wanted her for his bed.
The night got along quite well, in the local Lord’s lads birthday party, to which a number of the local underlings children did find invites. Skrag, a fighter, was fortunate, and so were Say Duet and Toguran Loupaan.
Skrag spent most of the night attempting to persuade the delicious say to the back parlour, but say refused, and Toguran, ever the wimp, felt safe enough not to interfere, nor would he, yet he trusted Say’s loyalty anyway.
And then, coming into the main living room once more, when festivities around midnight were at their peak, Skrag pulled down his pants in front of all, an erect penis of 7 inches standing at attention, and said verily to his lady desired ‘Wel, we, we, well, wel, well, ha ha ha ho how bb bb b b bout it, b b b b bab babe.’
Say looked, gasped, and was almost tempted.
But, for the first time in his life, Toguran became a man.
Firstly, words not normally within his power of speech, but taught incessantly since youth by mother superior sprang to his defense.
‘I say, you son of a motherless goat. Your trivial, minor and indeed pathetic genitalia would make a squirrel embarrassed. They are indeed large – when compared with those of a gnat.’
Skrag looked at Toguran dumbfounded.
‘Oh, you are too dense to understand my profound dialogue of eloquent wisdom. You really are a dunderhead, are you not,’ he continued, again with a toffee nosed accent.
‘I shall simplify.’
And then, his mother finally and rightfully proud of her son, his father’s joy finally borne as well.
‘Get your hands of my bitch, pigbrain.’
And Toguran, finding courage beyond himself, strode forward, grabbed Skrag’s erect manhood, gave it an Almighty yank, punched him in the face, and that was the end of the trouble.
Toguran was Say’s hero.
4 years later, three little Loupaan’s running around his new living room, Toguran was celebrating. He was now the chief man in the village when it came to the Wordguild, and he and his father were recruiting men to start a campaign to conquer life, the universe and everything.
For Say, her man’s shagging abilities had notably improved since the illustrious day he came to her rescue, and she could now not wish for another.
Besides, with 3 children, a fourth on the way, and a herd of pigs out the back, what more could one ask for from a citizen of Yalth Tebrek, in the backwaters island of Sang? What more indeed.
The Wild and the Wrathful
Bleatin Blattin was a curious young lad, of 14, hopeful to soon reach 15 and his inheritance, when, deemed of suitable enough age, the high priest of the cult of cockroach worship, the cockies, instructed his adherents to convert Bleatin, a suitable enough candidate, to the cult, in the hopes of finding a new priest for the local chapel. Bleatin was reluctant.
Severus Jander poked him. ‘You are hardly a wise priest, Bleatin.’
‘I am only an acolyte,’ responded Bleatin dejectedly to the wild Severus’ insult.
‘Is not an acolyte at least to dress properly in fine cockie vestments?’
‘Who cares,’ responded Bleatin. ‘I was forced into the religion by mommie.’
‘Pathetic,’ mocked Severus. Bleatin didn’t care. Severus wandered off.
Mishnah caressed his arm. ‘Don’t worry about Severus. He is only jealous. His family are devoted Cockies – he probably wanted the job.’
‘He can have it,’ responded Bleatin, still unconvinced on his life’s apparent calling.
‘But the Cockroach created all and loves us,’ responded Mishnah. ‘And they serve us faithfully, eating our discarded waste. They are truly beautiful creatures.’
‘Their dirty,’ stated Bleatin honestly.
‘Don’t blaspheme,’ warned Mishnah. ‘The priests will cut your head off.’
‘They can stuff themselves with cockroaches as far as I am concerned,’ said the wrathful Bleatin.
Mishnah just sighed.
When he had reached 19, and appointed Priest of the Local chapel, Bleatin had had his fill of cockroach sermons. I mean, how many ways could you praise the wisdom of the humble cockroach anyway? And so, completely buggered with it all, he made his plan – get kicked out, and promote a successor.
It was the sabbath. Bleatin addressed the audience. He looked at Severus. ‘You would make a good priest,’ said Bleatin, looking at Severus. The audience clapped. ‘The Cockroach knows, I can’t bloody handle the job. I mean, how many ways can you praise a stupid insect.’
The audience went silent, shocked.
‘They eat our waste. They are dirty and spread disease. They are hard to kill. They really are a noxious beast.’
The blasphemy was too much for the audience. Severus’ father stood. ‘You are not worthy of the calling of a Cockie Priest? You, you are a blasphemer.’
The people murmured agreement.
‘What shall we do with him?’ someone cried.
‘Strip him of his vestments. And stick him in the shit,’ said Severus from his seat of new power. Nobody disagreed.
4 days later, not really smelling too much any more, despite being in the bog for most of the afternoon, Bleatin was a relieved man. They didn’t care about him anymore. Thank the cockroach for that.
Mishnah showed up, inevitably, caressed his arm, and said. ‘Well, I do love the cockroach, and will always be faithful, but I think I can handle a heretic as wonderful as you. As long as you stay out of the shit,’ she said, suddenly noticing a lingering smell.
I’ll try,’ said Bleatin, and Mishnah caressed him again.
The Wishfaerie and the Warcry
Bera Shambala, once connected to the Nexus and thriving, long fallen into disuse by the powers of the Nexus, the experimental world deemed far more trouble than it was worth, for even the Nexus had scruples in the divine manipulations of probabilities they were involved in, was a hell of a planet.
Modeled on Olo Malan, Bera Shambala had been born in the 'Pool of Certainties' by the great 'Alpha-Wurm', to whom it was believed the siring of all decent and credible creations belonged to. Yet, the planetary body having come off the production line, the shapers of merriment, who had completed a 10,000 year secret surveillance of Olo Malan, decided, in their laboratorical genetic manipulations of the forebearers of Bera Shambala's great race of noble creations, to manipulate destiny, through the copulative instincts implanted in scientifically genetic sureties, for a sarcastic alternative creation to the majesty of Olo Malan - a mirror as it were - and utilize suggestive mind manipulation - indeed the voices of the gods - to achieve their hypothesized purposes.
Yet a good while back the voice of the great Alpha-Wurm had verily convicted the shapers of merriment of their nasty proleptic panderings, and they had simply left things be.
And now Bera Shambala produced ucanny resemblances to Olo Malanese culture, albeit with an ironic twist, on a regular, uncanny basis.
Druldruguser Dragonfart Douay was a bastard - quite literally - born out of wedlock, raised by a rather ugly prostitute with a famed missing front tooth and poor hygiene, Gelba Douay constantly assured the sensitive Druldruguser his father had been the most handsome and noble of men, despite Druldruguser intimately aware of the gutter class scum which employed mother's cheap, and quite nasty, services.
'I will now find my father,' said the boasting 16 year old. For he had gone to the pool of wishes, and spent a coin and prayed to the wishfaerie, and she had promised him his heart's deepest desire.
Gelba shrugged. He was off his head again.
'Were is he, mother?'
'Troldok. He is in the palace there.'
And so, taking off for the city of Troldok, 100 leagues up the highway hence northwards, he came to the palace of Troldok, sought entry into the duke's presence, and declared himself, in front of the nobles, son of the duke to the maiden Gelba Douay. The laughter from the court was, indeed, hysterical.
But the duke looked at this poor unfortanuate, noticed the familiar looks on his face, and said 'Indeed, scumlad, I think I can help you. Take him down to the shitman.'
So, being led away, out to the back arse of Troldok palace, he came into the presence of quite an odorous reality, the working quarters of the shitman, who dealt with the various body waste concerns of the palace of Troldok, for it infamously had no plumbing since the losing of a dispute between warring parties and a gamble lost, the loser forgoing plumbing for a three score years and ten, Druldruguser confronted a man, twice his age, yet his spitting image, arms covered in faeces, dealing with some revolting looking substance, who just smiled at him.
'Your Druldruguser, I take it,' said the man.
Druldruguser nodded miserably, staring aghast at his rather pathetic father in his. rather pathetic occupation.
'Well, don't worry too much about it. If you end up in the shit like me, the pay is not too bad in the end.'
And Druldruguser bellowed in a disappointed voice of war 'Dog's bloody Testicles!'
And the shapers of merriment would have smiled at this ironic encounter.
And the world turned.
And the world turned.