The anticipation of getting to Olden, and back to ‘civilization’, got the Company up and going without delay. Five leagues hence, they might get real food and drink—maybe even a bed and a bath. It was something to hope for anyway.
As they progressed, the landscape became more barren, the sand becoming sparse in between worn and cracked stone ‘terraces’, which were more like really long , steps of varying heights. With little of the scrub brush, the lizard life was more visible, as the little creatures sunned themselves and searched for bugs and such. They approached the hill of Olden near midday and could see that there must be a modest running spring somewhere within the city. This was indicated by the line of trees and shrubs growing in a serpentine pattern coming from the south walls of the city and winding its way into the distance toward North Terea, but probably dying out somewhere in the wastelands before there.
The distance must have been hard to gauge in relation to the city’s size. Perhaps it was just Sam’s misconception about how big it was at first sighting, but it was taking a long time to get there. It grew larger as they approached it, but they were still a fair way out. The fact that the city was immense was deceptive from the distance. It made Sam question how such a large city could exist in the middle of the wasteland. What they had thought was a small spring in the heart of Olden was, in reality, a fairly large river supporting the city’s population and feeding life into the canyons cut into the stone wastelands to the south.
The Company stood at the base of the hill looking up at the city walls. It was going to be a bit of an uphill trek through angular stones jutting out of the ground. Sam figured the hill was formed by some geological upheaval during the formation of the island. That would explain the water source as well. One thing was for sure, and that was the setting for the city was well-planned to sit strategically upon this hill. Any enemy would find assaulting the walls nearly impossible.
As it was, however, there was a main road up and in, to which, the Company made their way. Moments after they stepped on to this road, a dozen arrows sprouted in the ground before them, one before each traveller. Everyone ran to cover at the sides of the road, and their spirits immediately declined. They had not even considered an unfriendly welcome at Olden. All sat quiet, waiting for the next thing, but none came. Looking back at where they had just walked, they saw the arrows disappear.
“Illusions,” Kemann said, and the group got back to the road. Twelve more arrows landed before them as before, but they just continued up the way. Three more sets of arrows came to warn them off, or to warn whatever enemy that there was Wizardry afoot.
“Some kind of automatic defense for the city,” remarked Sam, as he reached for one of the non-existent arrows, which vanished as he ‘gripped’ it. “Just to scare us.”
Closer inspection of the city walls showed them to be very similar to Gilden Hold, but this rock was fashioned from the local rock and was therefore more reddish and not the slick, shining stone of Hannegelt’s home. The gates opened for them as they came to them, but no priest was to be seen. Cautiously, the Company entered the city, and once in, the gate raised, closing behind them.
Sam felt a small inkling of something, and suddenly, out of hyper-motion, appeared a priest in pale, flowing robes. His hair was jet black and hung straight, touching his waist; his beard and moustache were also straight and hung down onto his chest.
“We have awaited you since the Skadivers’ arrival,” said the lanky, intense man as he turned to lead the way through the city to the main hall. The Company followed.
Genie caught up with him. “How much do you know of us?” she asked.
He glanced at her. “We know much, for we are the Keepers of Knowledge.”
“What do you know?” Hannegelt asked.
“We know of your quest, Prince Hannegelt of Gilden Hold,” he replied to the amazement. “We also know of your quest, Skadivers. There is much interest in you here in Olden. Very fortunate you were not lost in the Sanguin Caverns, Samuel. But to settle your curiosities, we know of your plight, and shall help in every way that we are permitted. That is the case for both of your quests.”
“That is a great relief to us, Master Zeldann,” Kemann responded after taking the time to divine the priest’s name.
Zeldann paused his step and looked deeply into Kemann’s eyes, shocked by the boy’s ability. “We were not aware that you have matured in your powers so well, Wizard Kemann. Sometimes that comes of the need for resourcefulness on journeys such as yours. A young Wizard can grow quickly once away from his Master, free to explore his powers with the knowledge of apprenticeship. Can we assume you have no word from your fathers on their quest?”
“You have knowledge of my father?” Hannegelt asked. “Where are they?”
“All shall be revealed before long,” Zeldann answered. He began to open a chamber door. “But for now, silence.” He led them into the dimly-lit hall.