Off to Solve the Riddle
Off to Solve the Riddle
Sam and Genie took in the scenery as the daylight increased. They thought back at how far they had come, full-circle actually. This time, so far, it was going much easier, watching the leagues go by as they flew overhead, as opposed to the first time they had come this way—on foot and carrying packs and having to fight at every other turn on the map.
The dragons increased speed, descending at the sight of the Inland Sea, on which Enverra Hold had been built. The riders were informed to hang on. Hazgorn and Vyrna dipped down to the water at great speed and snatched up one extremely large fish each and threw them into the air in front of themselves, which enabled them to catch them in their mouths.
“Fast food!” Genie shouted over to Sam, and they shared a laugh until the smell of the oily fish-breath wafted back to them.
“Yeah, tasty,” Sam shouted back.
As they gained altitude again, Sam had to wonder how Enverra Hold was doing after it had been taken in Styric’s offensive. But that would be something for Hannegelt and Princess Diedra to figure out now that things were settling down. For the moment, they were headed for Olden, and that was going to take the rest of the day’s flight to reach, so there was no time to stop and investigate. He turned to watch the Hold get smaller in the distance while they flew onward to cross the Sanguin Mountains to the plains of Olden.
Genie needed a rest stop, and they decided to return to the campsite they had made before going into the mountain and meeting the ant-lizards. It was on the way, after all, and they thought there was a possibility of running into Dextmann and Gensonn there, if they had been held up for some reason.
It was the middle of the afternoon when they found the spot and landed. Stretching one’s legs after such a long time was nice. When they got to the mountain entrance, there were signs that their two friends had been there for sure. The remains of dragon-roasted ant-lizards decorated the area, and the scorch marks were the tell-tale signs of some epic tale. By the looks of the actual campsite, the pair and their dragons had departed for Olden only hours before. There was no blood or graves to be seen, so Sam was relieved and took that as a good sign.
After munching some travel snacks, the four comrades took to the air again and soon were over the Olden Wastelands, following the river to the ancient city. The sun was setting behind them as they came into view of the city walls, and they were silhouetted by it as they landed in front of a reception committee awaiting them in front of the city gate.
They took their leave of their dragons and hugged the thief, who had come out to greet them.
“We stopped by the mountain on our way,” Sam said, “and it looks like there is a tale to tell.”
“As it turns out, those beasts were not bad eating,” Dextmann said with a grin and added, “once they are cooked.”
“I am hoping you two were successful then?”
“We would not have come here otherwise, my Lord. We have only been here for a few hours, the dragons dropped up off and went home to the Unknown Isle. Only they call it Flight Island. Said they’d be back tomorrow. The Priest has been with the elders since we were put to foot. Now that you are here, we should eat and drink. They will talk to us when they have something to say,” Dextmann counselled.
“That sounds good to me,” Genie put in, stretching her back.
They were shown to rooms and were able to clean up and rest for a bit before they were summoned down to a meal. When they got there, the High Priest of the Xeltics was waiting for them.
“I knew, when last we met, Son of Sky Hold, that there was a sense of Destiny about you,” Dyreon said, looking them over. “You and the Lady Genevieve have done well by Hordann indeed. Not only that, but on your own, more personal quest.”
“We thank you for your continued hospitality, Dyreon, High Priest of the Xeltics,” Sam answered. “I trust that you are finding the ancient journals of interest.”
“Yes. It is of the journals that I make reference to the progress on your quest to return to Earth.”
“Is there something written there which can illuminate our path?”
“Gensonn tells us that you have found the vessel.”
“The lamp,” Genie butted in.
“Ah, the vessel. Yes.”
“I should like to have seen it,” Dyreon sighed. “The texts say that it was carried to Hordann by a man named Nassar. It was he who sent his enemies, our ancestors, here through the mist. It is unclear about the nature of the problem, but, as these pages were writ by Ingebriggt himself, we can only assume that he did not know the full extent of the puzzle that was created.”
“A puzzle. We are all part of a puzzle,” Genie moaned.
“Yes,” the High Priest agreed. “The vessel held the mist, which we call Rent. It is, as you well know, a passage between to real places.”
“In different dimensions,” Sam added.
Dyreon froze up for a moment, then looked at him with a question. “Dimensions? We do not know that term as you use it here.”
“Yes, well, hard to explain,” Sam started, but Genie interjected.
“Dimensions. Not like measurements, but realities, say. You open your eyes and see this dimension that you are in, right? So that is one. But now, close your eyes and imagine a completely different scene. An entire world or universe that exists right there before your closed eyes. It is there until you open your eyes and see that you are in the first one. So, Rent is like your eyeballs…” she faltered, looking at the men staring at her strange analogy.
“Okay, so weirdly like that,” Sam said at last. “The other dimension has its own rate of time, strangely enough. As best as we can figure, one day on Earth equals five or six days here on Hordann. And I think both dimensions have some of their own physics rules too. Like magic. Very little of it on Earth, but here, it’s like every other thing has some kind of magic about it.”
“Yes,” Dyreon said slowly. “We were talking about Rent.”
“We were. Sorry.”
“The puzzle was created when the vessel, which controls and contains the mist, was carried through the mist into itself, if I understand it correctly.”
Sam looked at Genie. “A conundrum,” he declared. “So, the lamp has to go back through?”
“Yes, and to capture the mist again, one must rub the vessel while close to the mist,” Dyreon explained, “Or at least, that is how we interpret the journal’s ponderances.”
Sam tried to visualize what Dyreon was suggesting. First problem: Rent was airborne. Genie had been checking the altimeter periodically, and she had not seen it drop below 1200 feet. The current theory going was that they were ‘in the cloud’, and the altimeter was still reading the cloud’s altitude on Earth. They had parachutes, so that, amazingly was not too big of an issue. Second problem: Rent’s location. The amount of time that had passed on Earth while they were on Hordann chasing sorcerers could easily be a week by now. Given that they knew Rent was near Anchorage at that time, the prevailing winds could be about to take it over the Atlantic Ocean. If they should jump through while over the ocean, it would be ‘game over’. Problem three: Rubbing the lamp while close to the mist. They would be falling at an extreme rate. If the timing was off on the rubbing, or there was some delay in the reaction (it had been a thousand earth years since it had been activated) they would rub and miss, returning to Earth with a Jade lamp (and whatever else they could safely land the jump carrying).
Whatever else was to be decided, Sam wanted to say to Genie, in private. Later that night, he did. They must get back to New Sky Hold as quickly as possible with their gear and attempt the jump. To delay any longer would make estimating Rent’s location over the Earth impossible. Genie did not say much until Sam had talked himself nearly out. When she did speak, she said that she wasn’t sure she wanted to go back.
Sam was taken aback, although he really shouldn’t have been. It could be easy to call Hordann home. After all, they were rock stars there. Lord and Lady of New Sky Hold. Dragon riders. All good. But Sam wanted both worlds. He wanted to find a way to pass between the two safely. Apparently, this Nassar character had been able to figure out how to keep the opening stable enough to use as he wanted, and Sam thought he could try to do the same (without the ‘throwing your enemies into it’ part). Genie agreed that they could try. She had been game to all of his crazy ideas up to this point, and they had done all right. What was one more insanely crazy plan to her?
The next morning, they thanked the Xeltics for their hospitality and began preparations to fly out. They had to wait for the other two dragons to return from the Unknown Pass, and so, once they had made ready, they were able to relax and wander about Olden for a couple of hours.
When at last, they saw the other two dragons return, they found their way back to them. They were drinking and eating to prepare themselves to continue southward at once. They had already flown for three hours, and so it would not be a full day’s journey towards New Sky Hold. Dextmann said that they could make it as far as the Armored Isle and steer clear of Raustorn after their last adventure there.
It was the four of them again and the four dragons, winging over the wastelands southward. It was late afternoon when they again saw water, the eastern side of Terea Bay. It was another two hours to a mountain perch on the Armored Isle.
The time passed quickly, and the riders were mesmerized by the expanse of the water. There was a time that land was not visible in any direction. The horizon, the clouds, and the winds in their faces were their companions until the peaks of the Armored Isle came into sight across the foamy blue water.
It was beginning to get dark by the time they got close to the island, and the dragons swooped down to the sea. As Sam and Genie had experienced this several times before, the dragons swooped down to the sea and plucked out some large fishes. This time, however, they did not eat on the fly, but labored their way up to the mountain ridge closest to them and landed.
The ridge was deserted, and there was little cover aside from rocks. Sam looked at the long island mountain ridge and wondered if it had been created by continental shifting of plates, crashing together a million years ago. Something he would never know. The rocks reminded him of the Badlands in South Dakota. No wonder they called this the Armored Isle. It was just a big jagged rock shield facing Terea Bay. Three thousand feet tall and forty leagues long of inhospitable rock.
The dragons fired a rock pit and tossed one of the little fish in it for their humans and began tearing in to their humongous catches. The warmth of the pit cooked the fish nicely. But the fish did not go well with the wine the Xeltics had provided for the trip. Oh, well. They all got as comfortable as they could and went to sleep, dreaming of the softer accommodations they would have the next night.
The next day was all flying. All over the water, with the exception of a couple of really small islands poking out of the waves near Mid-Isle Pass. Dextmann said there was a good tavern at that Hold, and they would have to take his word for it.
Eventually, the shore of what had been Styric Island (it did not have a new name yet) came into view, and the mountain of the Hold grew larger in their sight. At last, they were home again. It seemed like a homecoming, but they had really only lived there for a week or so, and they were about to try to leave it as soon as they could to return to the world that had been their home.