The Dark Wizards

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Treasure Hunt

Groad cursed silently to himself beneath the grohara hide that Ublar Tar had gladly donated to cover the hero’s remains. Although the Son of Zemth knew that the Dark Wizard had done his utmost best to leave Bryntha as hastily as possible, it had not lessened his irritability in the least.

It had taken no small persuasion on Maggoth’s part to convince the Bryntharians that it was absolutely necessary for him and Turpane to be on their way as soon as possible. It had taken even more effort to convince both the village elder and Lorralel that they need not concern themselves for their safety.

As was the Kithian custom of hospitality towards visiting friends or family, Ublar Tar had accompanied the travelers to the furthermost outskirts of Bryntha and then handed Maggoth a leather drinking sack filled with spiced aluram*.

“Word will swiftly get around that an elderly man and a Valacian whelp are traveling alone together,” Ublar Tar had said with a worried expression. “It will be a known fact that you are carrying gold. A very large sum of gold. It will also be a known fact that you will not be able to deviate from the main roads because of the necessity to use the cart. I just wish I could convince you that it would be most advisable to hire some form of protection.”

“I have always found paid help, especially mercenaries, to be useless and unpredictable and just as great a risk as no help whatsoever,” answered Maggoth. “Besides, although elderly, I do possess some rather unique methods of defending myself should the occasion arise.”

“I do not doubt you. I have already witnessed your skills as a healer.”

“If all else fails,” Turpane had blurted. “We shall simply state to our aggressors that we are transporting a victim of the magg frata mu dakur.”

“Ha, ha!” Ublar Tar had laughed turning his horse back towards Bryntha. “That should certainly frighten them off.” He had raised his hand. “Farewell my friends. May the elder gods protect you, and remember that you will always be welcome in my house.”

Maggoth and Turpane watched as the village elder rode back down the woodland road towards Bryntha.

“Try to remain still for just a short time more,” said Maggoth talking to the grohara hide. “Let us just be sure that we are a safe distance from any prying eyes.”

The grohara hide had given a short sharp grunt.

The short time more was beginning to seem an eternity to Groad when the Dark Wizard spoke again.

“Lie still! It would seem we have unwanted company! Two riders approaching from the front!”

“Ho, old man! Where would you and your cart be going?”

Groad felt the cart come to a halt. He immediately recognized the accent of the speaker as Tsaltian.

“I am returning a fallen companion to his family near Matmar,” answered Maggoth.

“He only recently succumbed to the magg frata mu dakur,” added Turpane.

“That is not what we heard,” said a voice from behind the cart.

“Two more riders approaching from the rear,” said Turpane so that Groad could hear. “Tsaltians, ‘Always great sport to have around,’ you said.”

A moment later the grohara hide was rudely pulled to one side. Groad’s eyelids scrunched closed from the sudden influx of light. For a brief moment he had seen a grey-skinned face with circular tattoo markings.

“This is not the work of the magg frata mu dakur!” growled the Tsaltian glaring down at the skeletal figure. He looked across at the massive heap of screecha heads. “This smells of sorcery most foul!”

“I assure you that none of the dark arts were utilized in the destruction of these beasts,” said Turpane.

“Hold your tongue, girl! My argument is with the old one!”

“What is it that you wish from me?” asked Maggoth sounding unusually calm.

“Only what belongs to us!” said one of the riders to the front of the cart.

“Which is?”

“Our gold, of course!”

Your gold?”

“For many moons now we have followed a trail promising us rich rewards, but we have always received the same disheartening news. Matmar, Gratoar, and now Bryntha. Each time the story was the same. An old man had unfairly taken our prize by utilizing the assistance of the forbidden dark arts. And now we have very good reason to believe that you are that very same one.”

“Forbidden or not, I seem to recall that all the villagers were still more than pleased to pay for my services. And if you are so certain that the forbidden dark arts were used to accomplish our task in Bryntha, then surely you should be afraid that I may use a similar means to dispose of you?”

“Maggoth!” exclaimed Turpane. “What do you think you are doing?”

“It is alright girl! Even if any of these fools manage to escape with their lives, who are the authorities in Bryntha more likely to believe? The respected word of the heroes who purged the screecha menace from their midst or the frantic lies of some cutthroat mercenary scum from across the sea?”

“Do not attempt to dispirit us, old man. We have witnessed the power of dabblers such as yourself.”

“Dabbler? You are very mistaken! I am no mere dabbler! I was created possessing the full knowledge and power of the so-called dark arts.”

Created? You do not seem any different to me than any other creature that was born and weaned upon the face of Baltrath. We have slit the throats of many similar braggarts! Your claims do not frighten us! Now, you may either hand over the gold willingly,” said the Tsaltian drawing his serrated sword, “But unwillingly is the way we prefer!”

Maggoth reached into the heavy leather pouch on his belt, which was now near to bursting, and removed a single gold piece. He placed it in the open palm of his hand.

“This is all the gold I can afford to expend on your worthless hide,” he said extending his arm and closing his fist. There was a hissing sound. He opened his hand towards the advancing Tsaltian. The precious metal had mysteriously disappeared, transformed into a perfect six-sided cube composed of an intense blue energy.

The block of energy flew towards the assailant, who instinctively ducked. The shimmering cube halted directly above the crouching Tsaltian. It started to pulsate, and with each palpitation increased in size until it had entirely enveloped the aggressor. Wide-eyed the Tsaltian gazed at the six walls of flickering light that surrounded him. They sparked, crackled and then vanished.

“Sorry old man!” exclaimed the Tsaltian smiling as he straightened himself again, “But your foolish slight-of-hand tricks fail to impress me.”

“Then you must be either foolish or blind not to see that you are surrounded on all sides by a rather pressing matter!”

“My blade will soon put an end to your trivial threats and riddles.” An instant later the point of the Tsaltian’s sword struck something hard and invisible. He frowned and tapped the cutting edge against the obstruction. “What is this?” he said holding out the flat of his hand. His voice sounded muted, as though it was coming from the interior of a small confined room. His palm flattened against what felt like a large smooth flat surface. He recoiled in shock only to find himself knocking against another unseen barrier to his rear. He could feel the barrier moving, pushing him forwards again. The next instant his feet were raised off the ground and at the same time his head thumped against another visually imperceptible barrier that was slowly descending from above. He dropped his sword and reached out with both arms to the sides, fingers shivering. Even though he instinctively knew what to expect, it did not prevent him from crying out in anguish as his hands came into contact with the hard smooth surfaces that moved relentlessly towards each other as they diminished in size. In desperation he started to punch and kick against the unnatural obstruction. Only when his sword, which seemed to hover in the air next to his boots, started to bend and buckle did his awestruck companions rush to his aid. They used the butts of their swords in an attempt to smash the invisible walls of the shrinking cube, but to no avail. The trapped Tsaltian looked almost comical as his knees were compelled to meet his jaw. He wanted to scream, but the air had already been forced from his lungs. There was a sickening sound of cracking bones.

Turpane looked away nauseated by the terrible sight.

“I am sorry little one,” apologized the Dark Wizard, “Death is rarely a pleasant sight to witness.”

Groad’s curiosity getting the better of him, sat up and peered past Turpane and Maggoth.

“Not unless you are a Kithian,” said Turpane sarcastically.

Groad watched in total fascination. There was a small crimson-coloured block floating above the ground between three stunned and horrified Tsaltians. He watched as it slowly diminished in size, smaller and smaller it shrank until it finally disappeared from view.

“Now!” said the Dark Wizard glaring at the remaining Tsaltians, his eyes a shimmering mass of crimson energy. “Who is next?”

Groad sat staring in disgust as Daleth meticulously stripped the raw flesh from the bones of the stallion that had been left behind by the fleeing Tsaltians. He imagined the flesh to be his own as he glared in silence across the campfire as enormous teeth thoroughly masticated the tissue to a pulp. He was watching the bulge in the beast’s neck swell and recede as it swallowed, when the zin-za spoke.

“You should consider yourself lucky that zin-za’s only have a partiality for soft succulent flesh. If it had been otherwise, then not even your bones would have remained.”

“Daleth!” growled Groad rising to his feet. He could feel his blood rushing through his ears.

“What is it, Son of Zemth?” asked the zin-za sincerely.

“Nothing!” said Groad turning to walk into the darkness.

“You hate me for what I have done, yet you should consider yourself most fortunate that I broke your neck.”

“What?” exclaimed Groad wheeling.

“Are you too naïve to realize the truth?” Groad was about to say something but Daleth held up a large hairy paw to silence him. “If you had emerged victorious from the cave in Frybur,” continued the zin-za, “It is very likely that Kronos would have destroyed you in such a manner that would have made it totally impossible for Maggoth to have reanimated you at all. And my rotting bones would still be lying back in that cave in Frybur!”

There was a short silence before Groad spoke again.

“Daleth!”

“What?”

“My name is Groad!” said Groad sitting down again slowly. “Not Son of Zemth!”

“As you wish…Groad.”

“Maggoth,” said Groad softly. “I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I need you to promise me something.”

“What is it Groad?” asked the Dark Wizard.

“This quest of ours.”

“Yes?”

“If we manage to succeed, then when it is all over you must do me one last favour. I want you to remove my life force for good. You must return my remains to my wife and tell her the whole truth. It would not be fair to leave her hoping in vain for the return of her husband. I am certain that she will fully understand the reasons for what I have done, and would somehow, if not immediately, find it in her heart to forgive me for the long pain and suffering that I have caused her and my family. Will you do this for me, Maggoth?”

The Dark Wizard suddenly got a strange stare in his eye. He seemed to be looking through Groad instead of at him.

“What is the matter?” asked Groad concernedly.

“Kronos!” exclaimed the Dark Wizard.

“Where?” said Groad drawing his sword and spinning around. He stared into the blackness beyond the firelight. “I do not see anything!”

“What are you doing there?” asked Maggoth.

“I am looking for Kronos of course!” exclaimed Groad.

“My gold!” said Maggoth. “You are there to steal all my gold reserves! You will never find where I have hidden it!”

“I do not want your gold. And I know exactly where it is. You keep it in a pouch on your belt.”

“You are lying! How could you possi…But of course, Rava Zool!”

“Rava Zool?”

“You must close your mind to him before it is too late.”

“Too late for what?” shouted Groad.

“Groad!” shouted Maggoth getting to his feet. “Will you be silent? I am trying to concentrate!”

“How can you be trying to concentrate when you keep ranting a lot of unintelligible nonsense at me?”

“The Kithian has more honour in one of his miserable stinking bones than you will ever have in your entire immortal frame.”

“What Kithian? I am the only Kithian here! Dakur’s eyes, what are you raving about?”

“Then I pity you! Even with an eternity of time at your fingertips to control you have learned nothing.”

“Wha..?” said Groad shrugging his shoulders and turning to face Daleth.

“Be silent, Groad!” said the zin-za holding an enormous digit in front of his lips. “I believe Maggoth has made a mental contact with another entity of equal power and capabilities. I believe it could be your old friend, Kronos.”

Groad’s blood started to boil. “Kronos? Kronos! Maggoth are you talking to Kronos? Have you sensed his aura? He must be close?” Groad drew his sword and scanned the darkness of the forest. “You tell that little bald slark-slime sucking bog hound that I am coming for him! And when I find him he will regret the day he ever crossed paths with the Son of Zemth!”

Son of Zemth?” Turpane frowned. “I thought you hated that appellation?”

“I do!” said Groad taking a brand from the campfire. Using it as a torch he walked carefully towards the darkness. “For some reason it just seemed like the right thing to say.”

Kronos found the secret entrance at the base of the keep. It was exactly where Rava Zool had said it would be. The thoughts of the Great Dragon in his head were becoming louder, yet tolerably less painful. He smiled mischievously to himself as he remembered the recent conversation he had had with his fellow Dark Wizard. He could easily have passed straight through the portal without any incident, but he just could not resist the temptation of tormenting at least one of his jailers. Instead of stepping through, he had chosen instead to step inside of it. It had only taken a moment for their minds to meet.

“Kronos!” He had heard and even felt Maggoth’s annoyance and disapproval across the vast distance that separated them. “What are you doing there?”

“Greetings Maggoth! How are you my old friend?” he had replied. “I would think that the answer was obvious. Can you not guess?”

“My gold! You are there to steal all my gold reserves! You will never find where I have hidden it.”

“Really, Maggoth, you are a bigger fool than I thought. I already know exactly where you have concealed your treasure!”

“You are lying! How could you possi…But of course, Rava Zool!”

“Exactly! The all-knowing, all-powerful Rava Zool.”

“You must close your mind to him before it is too late.”

“Too late for what, my dear brother?”

“Groad! Will you be silent? I am trying to concentrate!”

“The Kithian is there with you? You must be really desperate to have reanimated that fool’s miserable stinking bones. Then again, he must have truly impressed you; after all, he was able to steal the Eldritch Blade from the keep of the magnificent Maggoth. Please be kind enough to tell the Son of Zemth that Beetor of Yarsi thanks him for his services. I could never have acquired the sword without first acquiring the services of his excellent skills in thievery and swordsmanship.”

“The Kithian has more honour in one of his miserable stinking bones than you will ever have in your entire immortal frame.”

“And what am I to do with honour. It is a weakness that I can not afford.”

“Then I pity you! Even with an eternity of time at your fingertips to control you have learned nothing.”

“It would seem that you have forgotten that I no longer possess the means to do that. You have stolen what belongs to me, but that has not prevented me from manipulating your every move like a well-trained bog hound. Oh Maggoth, you always were so gullible.”

“You may have been cunning enough to lure me far away from the keep so that you could plunder my reserves, but you will need a lot more gold than that to consummate your evil plan!”

“I know of just such a place where there is more than enough gold to furnish the rest of the power that I require.”

“And where would that be?”

“Ask the Kithian!” said Kronos as he stepped through onto the barren world of Meggido.

It was dark inside the keep. Kronos effortlessly created a sphere of glowing blue energy between his open palms. He then used the light to guide him down a series of narrow passageways. On entering a chamber of indeterminate size, he sent the ball upwards using but a slight gesture. It grew in intensity as it ascended towards the ceiling of what Kronos could now see was an enormous hall. The hall was about one hundred and thirty five metres long and about twenty metres wide. The radiant orb stopped against the black stone at a height of about fifteen metres.

The sight that met his eyes, although impressive, made him laugh in a cynical manner.

On either side of the great hall, placed neatly in pairs, were rows comprised of thousands of megornexes. These varied in size. The smallest being about the size of a man’s fist and the largest reaching almost halfway up to the ceiling.

Another simple gesture ignited the many oil lamps that lined the black stone walls. This made it possible to view the contents of the crimson sarcophagi with greater scrutiny.

Kronos walked slowly between the neat rows, gazing at the creatures suspended inside the translucent ruby-coloured prisons.

“Ana desh-glas! Slarks! Groharas! Tibors! Even bumbas and insects!” he exclaimed loudly to himself. “Two of each. A male and a female. Why have you gone to all this trouble, Maggoth?” He stopped in front of two extremely large scarlet gemstones. “Hello, what is this?” he said wiping away a layer of dust with the side of his hand. “Dothmas*! An actual pair of dothmas!

“I understand fully what you have attempted to accomplish here, Maggoth. Unable to control time, you have instead attempted to trap pieces of it in the megornexes. You always were so sentimental. Their lives are but a drop in the ocean of time, yet you still persist in caring for them. Your concern for the preservation of all mortal creatures will be your downfall.

“Do you not realize that everything must have its time? A time to begin and a time to end. And who should know this better than I, the Master of Time. Past, present and future. I have seen it all. They are fundamentally all the same, almost indistinguishable. Birth…procreation…death...birth…procreation…death. How much longer will this vicious yet boring cycle endure? The monotony of the present system of things has run its course for far too long now. It must and will end. I believe…No, I know that Rava Zool has the means to bring about that restoration. Before time existed there was harmony. And, oh how I yearn for that original state of absolute contentment.”

“Sacrilege!” cursed Groad. He paced up and down shaking his head violently. “Desecration! Never! Never!”

“It is either him or us,” said the Dark Wizard desperately trying to persuade the irate Kithian.

“Tell me again! I want to know his exact words!”

“Actually they were more thoughts than words.”

Maggoth!”

“Very well! He said he knew of a place where there was enough gold to give him the power he requires.”

“And then?”

“I asked where and he said…”

Ask the Kithian?” interrupted Groad. “Ask the Kithian!”

“Yes! Now could you please stand still? Try to calm yourself.”

“It does not make sense!” Groad stopped pacing. He pointed at Maggoth. “Why would he tell us where he is going. Surely he must realize that we will attempt to thwart him.

“He obviously does not believe it capable for us to reach Tar Ta Rus ahead of him.

“And he would obviously be correct! Your keep is a mere two days ride from the citadel. Bryntha is almost five…four days at the earliest if we manage to push the mounts real hard.”

“Wrong! We could also be there within two days.”

“Impossible! Not unless you are able to use that sorcery of yours to grow wings on our horses?”

“Exactly!”

Groad’s jaw dropped.

The wizard gave a wry smile.

“Ah, you jest with me?” said the Son of Zemth laughing nervously.

“Correct! However my plan will nonetheless require the services of the dark arts.”

“I am listening.”

Chanakh Nizo* is a short distance from here. We could easily reach there in two days.”

“You want us to return to Valacia?” asked Turpane frowning. “If we travel east, we shall be moving no closer to Tar Ta Rus.”

“Chanakh Nizo is where we shall find Selestia. She will be able to transport us almost instantaneously to Tar Ta Rus.”

“Are you quite certain that she will help us?”

“She will not have any other choice once she learns that Kronos has the Eldritch Blade.”

Kronos had lied to Maggoth. He did not know exactly where the gold was hidden, but he had a pretty good idea. The images with which Rava Zool had bombarded his mind were of an enormous megornex.

“It is only a matter of time,” said Kronos still speaking loudly to himself. He relished hearing the sound of his own nasal utterances reverberating off the walls of the great hall. “I can feel its power. It is here is it not, sealed together with one of your pathetic memories from a forgettable past?”

The two largest megornexes stood at the far end of the hall.

“There!” exclaimed Kronos pointing a finger. “That is most assuredly your hiding place. Probably at the feet of some awful smelling zin-zas. I fail to comprehend your fascination with those hideous simple-minded beasts.” He came to a halt at the foot of the giant crystalline structures.

It took only a short moment for Kronos to realize that the caverns within the megornexes were actually the gaping jaws of some immense beasts. The stalagmites and stalactites were in fact the creatures’ long razor sharp teeth.

Kronos stared in amazement.

“I am truly impressed, Maggoth. Although, I doubt that the great Kithian nation will be as delighted to discover that their founding ancestor had actually failed in his final quest!”

Inside the giant rubies the enormous tongues and teeth glistened as if only recently moistened with saliva. The large yellow reptilian eyes glared fiercely. It was as if both the ratchamongas had been frozen and captured in mid-attack.

Beneath the tail of the larger female was the prize that Kronos had been seeking.

In order to get to the large pile of gold he would first have to release the creature.

“I shall agree to help you, but only on one condition,” said Groad with a tone of severity. His tonality was more austere now that Maggoth had given him back his own voice.

“And what would that be?” asked the Dark Wizard.

“Kronos obviously has a plan to get into the sealed tomb that is carved into the mountain beyond the Temple of Dakur. If he succeeds he will desecrate the Golden Sleepers by using their gold to fulfill his evil plan. You must give me your word that you will touch none of the gold whatsoever within that tomb.”

“Impossible! Our quest is more than to just prevent Kronos from despoiling your ancestral tomb. Already he possesses a vast amount of power. And once he obtains my gold reserves, he will be near unstoppable.”

“Beyond the Tomb of the Golden Sleepers is another sealed entrance. It leads to the Royal Burial Chamber. Within you will find the entire Kithian treasury reserve. There you will find enough of the precious metal to furnish you with more than sufficient power to battle your sorcerer sibling.”

“If you speak the truth, then you have my word. I shall use none but the gold within the Royal Burial Chamber.”

“Well, that is settled then,” said Turpane breathing a sigh of relief.

“There is something else that is bothering me,” said Groad grimly. “So far Kronos has done a rather excellent job of toying with us, leading us by our noses wherever he wishes. What if this is just another ruse to lure us once more in the wrong direction?”

“The thought had crossed my mind, but it is a chance we shall have to take.”

“It sounds to me like it would be the exact and ideal action that Kronos would expect and welcome. We could spend an eternity inside the tomb waiting for him to make his appearance.”

“I doubt it. I am truly convinced that he does not believe it possible for us to reach the citadel ahead of him. So, if anybody has a better plan, then I suggest we continue with the present one.”

“Right now, we have a more immediate problem,” said Turpane pointing towards the cart of screecha heads.

“Maggoth, can your pet zin-za not just eat them all?” asked Groad.

“Ugh!” exclaimed Daleth sticking out a long pink tongue. He looked at the fresh bandages that concealed Groad’s face and instinctively knew that the Kithian’s lips were stretched in a long tight smile between his ear lobes. “I am afraid not! I have not quite developed a palate for reptilian flesh, besides the heads are comprised mostly of bone.”

“I would also expect that the venom sacs of such a large amount of screechas would also contain enough toxin to disable and probably even kill a fully grown zin-za,” added Maggoth.

“Venom sacs?” queried Groad.

“The glands above the screecha’s fangs,” said the Dark Wizard pointing a finger at his own teeth. “A membranous pouch that contains the disabling toxin.”

“Interesting,” said Groad walking over to the cart. He lifted one of the severed heads by grabbing onto its pointed ears. He took it over to the campfire where he could inspect it in the flickering light. He sat down on a large rock and placed the head on his lap. He pulled hard on the screechas top lip until the two livid bulbous venom sacs came into view. “Ah, there they are!”

“Squeeze one of them,” said Turpane sitting down next to Groad. Her violet eyes sparkling with intrigue.

Groad pushed a bandaged finger against one of the sacs.

Nothing happened.

Groad pushed against the fang. It bent slightly backwards.

Still nothing happened.

He next pulled the long sharp tooth forward.

A long stream of clear semi-viscous fluid jetted down onto his finger.

“Fascinating!” exclaimed Groad as he tested the fluid’s tackiness between bandaged thumb and finger.

“Let me try the other one as well,” said Turpane reaching forward.

“Be careful,” said Groad handing her the head. “I have got an idea. Where is that sack of aluram?”

“What now?” asked the Dark Wizard. “Are you going to quench the vile creatures thirst?”

“Maggoth, I know that this quest of yours…ours is of phenomenal importance,” said Groad pouring the contents of the sack onto the ground. “But I do not think that it is totally necessary for us to slaughter all those who would stand in our way. Especially those that are ignorant to the significance of our mission, as well as to the extent of your powers.”

“What are you trying to insinuate, Kithian?”

“What I am trying to say is that my recent experience with death and my subsequent resurrection have given me a new outlook. I not only have a greater appreciation for life, but also a respect for all living creatures. I realize that the Tsaltian probably deserved what he got. I realize also that the nature of his death was probably the main factor that saved the lives of his comrades as well.”

“But…?” said the Dark Wizard raising his large bushy eyebrows.

“But no amount of gold is worth the price of a precious life. Do not misunderstand me, I am not judging you or your ways. I myself have slaughtered many upon the battlefield. I just think that there must be a way to prevent any further carnage regarding any other unfortunate fortune seekers that may cross our path. I also think that I may have the means to do that.”

“By milking the venom from the screecha heads?”

“Exactly!”

Kronos was angry and irritated as he stepped back through the portal onto Baltrath. He had no desire this time to tarry within the barrier to further taunt his fellow Dark Wizard. Although he had managed to gain Maggoth’s gold reserves, he had been forced to use some of the precious power that he so desperately needed in order to reunite Rava Zool and the Eldritch Blade.

In the great hall of the keep, the megornexes no longer stood in neatly paired off rows. They had been rudely scattered about during the very short battle that had recently taken place.

In the middle of the great hall lay a large heap of smoldering ash.

In the largest megornex, at the far end of the hall, stood a male ratchamonga, the last of its kind.

Maggoth shook his head in despair.

“You sensed Kronos passing back through with all your gold reserves?” muttered Groad. “If you were able to create that barrier between Baltrath and Meggido then surely you could have undone it as well?”

“Recall what I told you about things created through dark energy? They can never be undone. Yes, I could have reduced the size of the portal to prevent Kronos from crossing over, but the amount of power required to accomplish that would have been phenomenal.

“The strange fact is that only a minuscule amount of power is needed to create a portal and expand it to vast proportions. One could compare it to a great dam wall. To rupture the wall is a relatively simple feat, but repairing that breech is somewhat problematic.”

“Then at least consider it fortunate that you heeded my urging to go immediately to Bryntha or else you would have forfeited the Fryburian gold as well.”

“That, Kithian, is undeniably true. Your concern for your family’s safety has saved me a hundred gold coins. I am most grateful to you, but Kronos has managed to acquire far more than that from my keep.”

“How much more?”

“Be thankful, not yet enough to complete his diabolical plot. He will yet require the Kithian gold at Tar Ta Rus.”

“I know not whether to find that a relief or a concern.”

“If you value the safety of not only your family but of every single living organism upon the face of Baltrath then it would do you well to breathe a sigh of relief…for now.”

By the time Groad had managed to lay down on his bedroll, he was totally exhausted. His nonexistent muscles still ached from his encounter with the screecha swarm. He had gone without sleep for almost two days, and now he had been forced to spend a good deal of time helping the rest of the group to build an enormous pyre to destroy the evidence of a very large heap of screecha heads. Fortunately the cart that also had to be disposed of, was constructed mostly of a very dry and flammable wood. Only the bolts and the circular metal hoops that were placed around the cart’s wheels for protection from the rocky surface remained, but these were easily bent into near unrecognizable strips of twisted metal by Daleth’s strong paws.

Not having slept for almost two days, Groad quickly fell into a deep yet troubled slumber.

Just as the forest fowl were starting to herald the start of a new day, he awakened, sitting bolt upright in a state of total awareness.

It was just as he had predicted. Dreams do have a certain significance. A message or meaning that the dreamer should heed. His exhausted state had forced his conscious dilemmas into the subconscious. There, as if in some bubbling crucible, his sleeping mind had managed to piece together that vital connection between the distant past and what he knew would be the near future.

“Maggoth!” he shouted jumping to his feet. He ran to where the Dark Wizard reclined. “Maggoth!” he said loudly, shaking the sorcerer’s shoulder.

Maggoth awakened or at least pretended to awaken. “What ails you, Groad?”

“Kronos!”

“What about Kronos?”

“I just remembered where it was that I saw him so many cyclans ago!”

“What? Where?”

“Come, I shall tell you as we go! But it is now all the more important that we reach Selestia as soon as possible. Wake the others whilst I attend to the mounts!”


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