The Skadivers' Tale

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Styric Isle

STYRIC ISLE

When Gildenhanna awoke, the ferry was nearing the end of its arc to the Styric coast, for the shore lay dead ahead, half a league. The Jawann and the marines were making ready for disembarking and Dorsea was sleeping yet.

“Wake, Wizard,” said Gildenhanna gently as he lightly shook Dorsea’s shoulder.

The grey-haired old Wizard looked up alertly. “At Styric, eh?” he asked.

“Yes, and we must begin our last march, old friend.”

“That will put us before his gate near dawn. We will be at the disadvantage. Tired and into the daylight.”

“What do you suggest?”

“News of the ferry will not make it to Styric before the end of the daylight tomorrow. If he suspects foul play, then he will know we are here-- if he suspects foul play.”

Lord Gildenhanna thought for a moment. “If we march through the night, and stop a league away from the Hold in the forest that the ferry road passes through…”

“We can intercept the news of the ferry before it even gets to him,” the Wizard concluded.

“And we may rest the day in hiding and gain the advantage of the night for our approach of the Hold.”

As if to punctuate the thinking, the ferry’s keel began to drag into the soft bottom as it ran aground on the shoals a dozen yards from shore. The Jawann immediately began to jump off into the waist-deep waters and wade ashore, but the marines threw lines to tie off to the rocks, so that the ferry would not drift away. Their thinking was that they may need a way off of this island.

When all were ashore, they made for the cover of the island foliage. The scrub brush near the shoreline turned to larger trees and forest before long as the army began the easterly march that would last the night. But what a night it was, clear and crisp. The stars bright, and Dorsea couldn’t help but wonder if Kemann was looking up at these same stars. He had been beyond divination for the old Wizard, and he was frustrated at not knowing.

Many leagues they traveled on that clear night. When they came to the crossroads they had been looking for, the army took to the wood and camouflaged themselves as best as they could in the darkness just before dawn. They left some lookouts in trees near the roadway, and the rest slept.

The Watch was changed around midday, and not long after that, they whistled out an alarm. A single runner was coming on the Ferry Road. He was mostly naked, and his lean body spoke to the fact that he made this run often, carrying news to Styric. Several Jawann stepped out in front of him, and he tried to run wide and fast around them, but he only ran into more of them any which way he chose to go.

He was brought before the leaders. Lord Gildenhanna looked at the man. He was breathing hard, sweating and scared. “Do you know who we are?” he asked the runner.

“No, my lord,” the wiry little man squeaked.

“And what is your message to Lord Styric?” Dorsea pressed.

“The ferry was taken.”

Dorsea stood up straight from the man. He looked down upon him as he stroked his beard pensively. “Who would take a ferry?”

“There were barbarians and…” he trailed off as his eyes wandered around the large men looking at him. “You, my lord?”

“Why, yes,” Dorsea said like a cat who toys with the mouse. “We did take the ferry.” He turned from the man.

“Bind him and keep him quiet. Continue to watch the road,” Gildenhanna ordered.

The marines did as Dorsea commanded, and all went back to cover until dusk.

Gildenhanna stepped to the side of Dorsea, who was looking through a break in the trees. There in the distance the two old men could see Styric Hold, carved into the mountain like a black monolith.

“Do you know how we are getting in there?” the old Lord asked.

“No, not yet,” he admitted. It was one of those moments, when thinking becomes tangential. Why he thought of the chocolate at that moment he would never know. But think of it he did. As he settled back in the cover of the wood, he reached into his bag and pulled out the Earth confection. He calmed himself and took a bite. As he chewed, and it melted, the rich flavor seemed to penetrate through the tissues of his mouth and swirl into his brain like inhaling a medicinal mist. He concentrated first on Kemann, his son. He could not help but wonder and worry about his son.

The old Wizard got the vision he sought, but he did not know if it was to be believed or was a hallucination brought on by the chocolate. He could see Kemann sitting on the shore of some island, and he was talking to…dragons?

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