The Magic Gate

The trail wound up like a snake alongside the edge of the Crescent Lake. All around, the hand of man had not yet defaced the unbroken verdure of this scene. The four heroes took their stand amongst the weeds and fallen logs with dry rot to view the majestic vista. The Ladimore mountains surrounded every visible point of the horizon, each capped with parchment white snow. Tefl and Poxig paused and exchanged glances. They could not believe that they had almost reached the confines of Silvera. All around the silence of the lake mirrored the sky. The heavens could be sailed across with a canoe, but they would have to take the trail to the land bridge to the gate of the Silver City.

“It is solemn here!” exclaimed Poxig, cleaning his nails with his penknife.

“I should say the same” said Nesta. “But Darxon has sent unforeseen dangers into our path. We must be cautious.”

“I agree,” said Tefl, “We must advance while it is yet light. The darkness will bring the winter wraiths.”

Tefl used his short sword and speared a fish from the lake for their repast. They did not have time to eat it now, but hopefully would reach the gate of the city before nightfall. They would all gather what silver they had to pay the toll-taker. The only concern of the people of Silvera was their money, which they zealously hoarded. No hero would ever go so far as to enter its gates, save for the Naughright guild that dwelt within its confines. There, they would find the answer of how to light Poxig’s ORB.

“I can’t believe that we are so near,” Poxig thought.

“I know you have been coming” said a voice in response to that thought.

Poxig flinched. Could it be that the sages of the Naughright guild could read his thoughts? He would have to be very careful from this point forward not to let his thoughts betray his ultimate mission. If a sage of light magic could read his thoughts, it is possible that Darxon’s minions could do the same. They would have to tread softly on this magical ground to avoid waking the winter wraiths that served the dark lord’s wicked purpose.

Finally, they made their way through the glade of trees to the entrance to the city. Silvera, though surrounded by a forested thicket, was fortified with a twenty foot wall. It would be inconceivable to try to scale a wall of that size, so they would have to make their way through the gate. They gathered their meager silver resources: twenty nine pieces of silver. Ten gold pieces which could be exchanged for silver within.

The entrance portcullis was an enchanted gate that shined in a panoply of rainbow colors that flashed around the bars of the door. Everywhere from the spikes at the top to the base of the gate was resplendent with changing colors. The gate was similar to Joseph’s coat of many colors in a story written long ago. It was certain that none of the party had seen such a portal so striking. But Nesta knew the reason for its attractiveness.

“It has a lightning charge,” said Nesta. “Anyone who touches it will be zapped.”

They met the doorkeeper, who strangely was not armed. He had a large conical red cap, and a long red robe. Nesta perceived that this was the traditional garb of the sage, the magical group of wizened elders that were gatekeepers for light magic. Nesta perceived that she was in the presence of greatness. Perhaps here she would be able to learn the arts of the white wizard.

The sage kindly introduced himself as “Marty.” He was a member of the Naughright guild, but the guild had designated him the ‘gate keeper.’ He had big bushy grayish eyebrows and a slender mount with a wisp of beard on his chin. He had a habit of putting vowel sounds before all of his consonants, which made it quite difficult to understand him. He advised this foursome not to try to test the magical power of the gate, for it would only open at the voice of a member of the guild.

“Ah a-wouldn’t a-try hit!” said Marty.

“But surely you know that the entrance fee is steep,” said Poxig.

“Hit’s the only a-way in,” said Marty again.

“And the price?” Tefl inquired.

“30 silver coins,” said Marty.

The crew searched their knapsacks for all the money that they could spare. In fact, 29 could be found. The gold pieces would have to be saved for food and lodging within the city. It was impossible for a novice mage like Nesta to move the gate, and so they would have to submit to the authority of the gatekeepers. After all, they had barely gotten past Myrdal, and now to come this far and not be able to see the circle of sages, it would be a total loss.

“Ah, yes, I a-see that you are a-little a-short,” said Marty.

“We have all but one silver piece,” said Poxig.

“Normally, I would a-make exception,” Marty replied.

“Sir, we are light warriors on an important mission. There are more important things than the king’s coffers. We must present the ORB to the Naughright guild,” said Poxig.

“Did you a-say the ORB?” asked Marty.

“I am the bearer of the sacred ORB,” replied Poxig.

“Well, this is a matter of importance. I will lend you the one a-silver piece for now,” said Marty.

Marty waved his magical staff and the gate began to slowly open. The colored lines continued to flash incessantly.

“Whatever you do, don’t a-touch the gate!” said Marty.

“He’s right, said Nesta. “It’s enchanted by lightning.”

“But wait! What is that?” asked Marty.

Truliso the dragon was creeping behind them. They had lost him in the Ladimore mountains but now he had come to roost. He flapped his wings and roared.

“That’s our dragon friend. He has an important message for the circle of sages,” said Jane Lampion.
“I can’t let this beast in here,” said Marty. “He will have to stay outside.”

“We need the dragon to give the message to the sages,” said Poxig. “Our translator will give them the message from king Bamut.”

Since the gatekeeper would not budge, the four decided to leave Jane Lampion behind with Tefl Broadsword as her escort in order to guard Truliso and keep him safe. Of course, they would need the approval of the council to listen to Truliso’s message. But the goal would be to light the ORB, and then return to hear the dragon’s message. Hopefully, they would be able to get the ear of the Naughright guild.

Poxig and Nesta braced themselves, and then entered through the portal. A flash of light surrounded them as they went through the blue gate.

The magic gate to Silvera

An Explanatory Note

I have recently applied to the IDRF grant. I want to write a short post to affirm this and explain this literary project.

I have an 11 year old son that doesn’t enjoy pleasure reading. This web published YA novel, which I have been working on for two years, is my earnest attempt to gain his interest in reading by creating an illustrated fantasy story that would interest him.

It is based on a video game that we played for the Nintendo Entertainment System called ‘Final Fantasy.’ I am trying to mix words and images together with video game style adventure in order to make it more attractive to young readers.

My eventual hope is to web-publish the entire novel, gather the corpus, and then publish it in book form when it is finally completed. Some of the images have been colored by my son. Most of them have been hand drawn or painted by me.

To my followers, this post may be an explanatory interest for the genesis of the project. I hope it is informative. It is not getting easier to get young people interested in reading because of the magnetic pull of YouTube and the internet.

I’m about 70% complete with this project and hope to finish the project by the end of 2021.

The Forest of Excelsior

The Stone Foe

As the sun began to dip behind the Ladimore mountains, the heroic coterie made their way across the perilous Nitla Pass. The rain fell like small diamonds on their backs. The lake was still not visible to them. But the trepidation began to be palpable in their hearts. They could not see beyond their fears for the moment. Truliso had flown beyond their vision, and could not be seen beyond the cloudy skies.

As they sauntered in the fissure of the Nitla Pass, they saw a stone giant occluding their way. With massive stone armor and a redoubtable fortresslike helmet of stone on his head, it seemed impossible that they could pass beyond. Tefl drew his sword and brandished it at the brute.

“I am the golem of Ladimore!” said the beastly foe. “You shall not pass here, for I am the guardian of the sacred Naughright guild.”

“I think we’ll be moving on through here, my rocky faced friend.” Tefl still was going to try his luck at a pitched battle. He swung his sword at the giant but it bounced right off. The sword clanged off the stone armor and flew right out of his hand onto the ground nearby. It was clear that this foe could not be moved by force.

“I suggest you turn around where you came from before I have to hurt you!” said the rock golem.

Poxig had studied in Jongleur’s library about rock golems. He had heard that they feed off of precious stones. He withdrew his purse and searched for the one that he had brought on the journey: the amethyst from Gabriel the sprite. He took it out and showed it to the rock golem.

Poxig had to think fast. They could not turn around at this point, for the journey back to the nearest village would exhaust their supplies. Only wit could conquer the stone beast.

“Dear sir, can we beg of your name?”

“I am Myrdal!” said the golem. “You shall not pass here.”

“But we are aware that you must be hungry here. I have an amethyst stone that I would be willing to surrender, at a price,” said Poxig.

“Mmm… I don’t know. I haven’t had that rare gem for dinner for a long stretch of time. Ahh… the purple gem is most delicious! Ahhh…. ugh. How do you think that will move me?”

“We don’t have pretensions to moving your massive hulk, dear sir, only that you would make an exception on our case because we are on a sacred mission and must needs see the Naughright guild,” said Poxig.

“What is your proof of that?” said the oaf.

“Well, behold this upon the last light of the sun!” said Poxig.

Poxig withdrew the sacred ORB from its hiding place in his knapsack. It was darkened but showed a glint of light within. The whole of the orb sat in Poxig’s palm.

“Ooo, that would be a snack of some kind!” the Golem said. “For that, I will let you pass.”

Poxig, not wanting to surrender the ORB to this oaf said, “This ORB would unsettle your stomach. Take this amethyst as our parting gift.”

“No, I like ORBs for breakfast. They are a delicacy that I have not had in some time!”

“But wouldn’t you rather taste this amethyst? Observe its purple splendor: a veritable gourmet treat. No quartz that you could eat can compare with it. It has been plucked from the finest of stone deposits. It is pure and unadulterated by the silt of these mountains.”

“Ah, yes, it does seem tempting!” exclaimed the stone giant. “But the ORB?”

“Only shrewish peasant golems eat that, my friend. You had just as well eat broken glass. Nothing like the taste of amethyst,” Poxig said.

“Ah, very well then. Give me the amethyst,” he replied.

The party moved swiftly past Myrdal as he stood aside to munch his snack. He chewed the stone and it was gone in seconds.

“But I’m still hungry!” he said.

By then, the party, fleet of foot, could outrun the lumbering oaf of a creature. They made swiftly for the declivity with the ORB in their possession. Oafs like the golem could not possibly understand the symbolism of the ORB. The only thing that they thought about were their own stomachs. No Golem could ever be civilized, as many well knew from their coarse temperament. But creatures that only pursue their earthly desires can easily be manipulated by the wit of those with a higher purpose.

The Nitla Pass

The four and the dragon whelp journeyed with trepidation past the Vaustian woods to the edge of the trail. In fact, the trail that led to the Silver City went around the Ladimore mountains, but the King’s Road would require a toll that the four were unwilling to pay. So they ventured up the mountain range to reach Silvera by another more perilous route. It was well known that Rock Golems occupied these matterhorns, and they would not take kindly to anyone traversing their rocky turf.

“We must have Truliso fly over the mountains and spot any potential hazards,” said Tefl.

“It is likely that if we travel swiftly, we will elude the Rock Golems,” added Poxig.

“We are still at the mercy of the weather atop those cliffs!” exhorted Nesta, “any blizzard would make us have to turn to the King’s Road.”

“Yes, but we will have to continue towards the acclivity,” Tefl said.

“Ah yes, but we might need a bit o’ magic to get us through,” Poxig said.

Poxig didn’t know any magic, but he prayed to his god Releven for strength. Only the most persistent and indefatigable could make it over the Ladimore mountains to the Crescent Lake, where the town of Silvera lay. He took out the ORB, and looked into its mystical center. He swore he could see a glimmer of light somewhere inside, but it quickly went out. They would have to get to the Naughright guild by any means necessary.

As they gained altitude, they could see the shadowy image of Truliso above them, scouting the territory. If only they had magic to make them alight like the dragon wing! But none among them knew any dark magic. Their neophyte mage, Nesta, was still yet unskilled in the white arts. But, should they have any medical needs, the healer would be an indispensable part of the crew.

As they ascended the acclivity, the trees began to dwindle progressively. The last light of dawn was during into the gloaming of the day. Up they went, without any means of a trail. Their only hope of crossing that impassable area was finding Nitla Pass, which according to their most recent maps, would lead through the mountain range to the valley of the Crescent Lake. It was hard to say whether they would find it by sheer chance, but they continued to believe in the Providential design of Master Control, the elusive deity behind the events transpiring on Cosmon.

“We must needs find Nitla Pass,” said Tefl.

“And definitely before nightfall,” added Poxig.

The search for Nitla Pass would not be easy. Truliso was high above scouting for possible hazards, but they couldn’t see through the crepuscular mist. Everything around them seemed nebulous and unclear. Even their mission seemed strange and mysterious. They were under the influence of the dark magic field that surrounded the Silver City. Only Tefl could hold on to his reason and march forward with the courage that led the party towards and imperceptible destination.

“Darxon II has probably had influence here!” said Nesta. “My magician’s sense is that he may have surrogates in the company of the circle of sages at Naughright. We must be careful to whom we confide it once we arrive,”

This was the least of the worries of Poxig, for he knew that they would have to get past the Rock Golem if they were to cross the Ladimore mountains unharmed. The wind was whipping faster through their hair, and it had begun to flurry. The crags had become more an more impassable. But they pressed on through the rocky wasteland in search of the pass to the fertile valley of Crescent Lake.

The Upshot of the Matter

Poxig shuddered at the name of Trink-Zelfo. It wasn’t long ago that he had met him a Wyckham Hall a year and a half ago.

“Why can’t the rebel dragonite return any time they wish?” asked Nesta.

“They need dark magic to channel a bridge back to our world. They need a black magician who is powerful enough to command the earthlink to appear,” Jane uttered.

“The only power that could rival this force are the lighted ORBs. The light warriors will bear them to the Temple of Chaos, or so the prophecy says,” she continued.

” I have this!” he showed them the ORB of power. It was dark, without a glimmer of light.

“It can’t be! Then, where are the other three?” asked Jane.

“King Charles has them all!” Poxig interjected.

“We must take the sacred ORB to the circle of sages. They will tell us how to unlock its power,” said Tefl.

“Of course,” said Jane, ” but the Chaos Temple has been occupied by Garlang and his fiendish imp army for a generation. King Charles has lost control of it, and now it is occupied only by nefarious fiends.”

“So we have to stop them from creating the Earthlink,” said Tefl.

The four decided to head out for the Crescent Lake, where the Naughright guild resided. The mountain trail that would take them there was perilous and led to an almost impassable acclivity. But if they could fight the frigid temperatures and outmaneuver the rock golems, its possible that they could get to the wizard’s guild. The night’s discussion tended to center around how they would gain entrance to the elite guild.

“We must first give them the missive of Christopher White,” said Poxig. “He alone has credibility among the circle of sages.”

“You know him?” asked Tefl.

“Yes, and he gave me this letter,” he said. “It should be our ticket into the Silver City.”

“Yes, but will they listen to us?” asked Nesta.

“It’s hard to tell, but you may have to show them some of your magical ability,” said Tefl.

“If they could light the ORB, then we might be able to gain the confidence of King Charles of Marginalia,” said Poxig.

“Then, we’ll have to be extra careful. We’re still travelling with Truliso, and if we’re spotted, he could be killed before he gives the message to the sages,” said Jane.

“If that were to happen, the dark Lord Darxon II would surely marshal his army in favor of the orc hordes,” Tefl returned.

“Truliso is able to fly, so he should scout our path across the Ladimore mountains,” offered Jane.

“Precisely, but we must be on the watch for rock golems, which could easily impede our progress towards the Silver City,” said Poxig.

Poxig remembered the chant of the suzukibs from his home town. He remembered the advice of his mother: “Remember the rules of silver.” Surely, only silver made a difference in the Silver City. He had heard of this affluent community that was surrounded by the Crescent Lake. The opulence of this district was legendary, and frankly they would look like beggars amidst kings.

Jane Lampion and Tefl Broadsword confer.

The revelation

Jane approached the dragon whelp and began to chant in an unknown pidgin. The party stood bewildered as Truliso conveyed his message.

“It is hard to know whether the dragonite speaks the truth, but if what he says is true, then you must hasten him to the circle of sages in Naughright,” said Jane.

The dragon whelp uttered some more indecipherable sounds, and Jane responded by nodding and placing her hand on Truliso.

“Truliso talks of a massive rebellion of dragons. They could defect from Bamut and create a massive upheaval that could lead to war.”

“Please let’s go then, for we have to warn the sages of Naughright,” Poxig said.

“I don’t go anywhere without my mother’s approval,” said Jane. “She needs my care.”

“I’ll be alright here,” said Janis. “You must go. Even if this isn’t true, you need to be there. A dragon attack could easily wipe out the city of Marginalia.”

“The reason that the dragonite came thus far was to warn us. It could be an immanent attack,” said Tefl.

“Why would Truliso risk coming out this far for a lie?” asked Nesta.

“We can help, but we need you to come with us,” said Poxig.

“We need a dragon translator,” said Poxig, “because she is the only one that can translate the dragonite language.”

Jane Lampion agreed, and with the blessing of her mother, she set out with the part for Naughright. There they would make their way to the city gates, and hopefully gain entrance to the secretive magician’s guild. They journeyed beyond the mountain range to the Sallur river that would lead them to the crescent lake. The only way to gain entrance was by canoe. It was possible to become lost in the maze of rivulets that were etched in the stony range. Great pines were perched on the rock.

That night, they set up camp near the shoreline of the river, and they awaited nightfall. The four heroes: Tefl Broadsword, Poxig of Excelsior, Sheila Nesta, and Jane Lampion chatted with each other, talking about how to gain entrance to the guild at the crescent lake. Truliso slept soundly nearby. They munched on toasted nuts and drank river water mixed with powder in order to pass the time as the fire blazed on.

Suddenly, Poxig asked: “Why did you give up studying the dragonite clan?”

“I could no longer could trust the dragons that I was studying on the Cardia Islands. Even then, dissembling dragons were trying to hoodwink King Bamut, who would not let me into his throne room anymore. After the religious wars, he distrusted all humans. Then, one night I met Truliso. He was a young dragon who endured the scorn of his companions in order to learn English as a Second Language. He was the go-between.”

“Then, Truliso does understand English!” Poxig exclaimed.

“Yes, but he cannot speak it. But for this reason, he was elected to be the envoy for the human race,” surmised Tefl.

“He must have been chosen by the dragon king himself. Dragonites are monarchical, not democratic,” returned Jane.

The dragon whisperer Jane Lampion turned away. “There was a hideous race of dragons that rejected Bamut as king. They left for the castle of Ordeal on the floating continent,” Jane said.

“This continent doesn’t exist!” exclaimed Tefl.

“It most certainly does! It is the dragonite word for the moon. Only magician dragonites can fly there because they surround themselves with an ORB of oxygen that allows them to breathe,” Jane said.

“And so, why should we care?” asked Tefl.

“When they return, they will have mastered destructive magic that will allow them to make war on mankind. Even now, Trink-Zelfo, Estynax, and Darxon II the orc-overlord are trying to hasten their return,” she said.

The fireside chat

Jane Lampion

Truliso, as he began to test his wings, grunted in approval. It wouldn’t be long until he could fly. But for the moment, he could not actually communicate with the party. Still, he crawled on the ground with them in order to assent to their help and the whelp believed that he could relay his message through them.

Sheila Nesta, having received her 100 Gold Pieces for the work, set off for Jane Lampion’s house with them. She led the way, as the party continued into the untapped wilderness. Jane had spent many years in the Cardia Islands studying dragons in their natural habitat. She was a woman who knew dragonite and could speak with them and hear their sounds in translation. Her house was just beyond the city walls of Marginalia.

They approached a dark green house that seemed to blend into the forest wall beyond it. There was a fire in the fireplace, and smoke curled up from the chimney. A dogbeast was sleeping on the porch. Poxig knocked on the oak door, which was weathered with age. The unkempt garden at the foot of the door had flowers of blue and yellow, and showed that someone was indeed inhabiting the cabin.

An elderly woman with long hair answered the door. “Yes?” she muttered.

“we’re looking for Jane Lampion, the dragon scholar,” said Poxig.

“Oh, yes, please come in. I’m her mother Janis, Jane is my daughter. She’s in back.”

Janis fixed some coffee while the three waited in the drawing room. All of the pictures on the wall were dusty images of Jane’s travels in Cardia. A giant painting of a dragon was on the rear wall. Jane had labeled all of the essential body parts of the dragon with scientific accuracy. The furniture looked time-worn, and it seemed to need mending in the upholstery. Papers were strewn about the entire household.

“Please don’t mind the mess,” said Janis. “I haven’t done housework since my husband died.”

“It doesn’t mattter,” said Tefl. “Please tell your daughter that we’re here to see her.”

“She’ll be out in a minute,” said Janis.

After about five minutes, a diminutive woman about five feet tall emerged from the back room. She wore a long tattered red and white dress and a yellow ribbon in her mousey-brown hair. She peered at them through thick lenses.

“Greetings. Do I know you?” Jane asked.

“No, probably not. But we have come here on special business. We’re the warriors of the prophecy, and we have a dire issue. We heard that you can communicate with dragons,”

“I don’t study dragonite language anymore,” she said. “You’re wasting your time.”

Nesta interrupted. “This is maybe the only time that you may have a chance to change history. The message is urgent. Our dragon, Truliso, was trying to reach the circle of sages with the message, but he was taken down by human arrows.”

“Let me see the dragon,” Jane said.

They took her outside to the far end of the forest glade. There, Truliso waited for the party to return. Jane began her attempt to reach him. She put her hand on his snout and began to chant:

“Salvete, dicite nomini tuo.”

Amazingly, the dragon heard her and began to speak.

Lampion: the dragon whisperer

The Journeywoman mage

The master sage of some repute had tried to dissuade his niece, but could not alter her conviction. Sheila Nesta was on tenterhooks to put her healer skills to some use, and she was very intent on trying it out, for better or for worse. Sage Barry doffed his conical red sages cap in bafflement. After some cajoling on the part of Sheila, sage Barry agreed to let her take the job.

After meeting them at the Procope, she left with the two warriors. All in a matter of time, they took her aside and told her of the secret mission to inform the Naughright guild of the Earthlink, a secret bridge to the floating continent where the criminals and blackguard dragons had set up their own government.

“Truliso is an emissary for Bamut, the dragonite king,” said Poxig.

“I’m not sure some hocus-pocus is going to help the dragon whelp, but his mission to inform the Naughright guild of the Earthlink is dire,” said Tefl.

“Are you saying that the Earthlink is imminent?” asked Nesta.

“We don’t know,” said Poxig. “But it is very important to heal the dragonite emissary so that he can continue on this mission. In fact, we were on our way to the holy guild in order to make our case that the ORBs could be lit again, and the light warriors vanquish the imp infestation caused by Garlang and his renegade knights.”

Sheila Nesta almost could not believe her ears. She knew of dragons, but she had never actually seen one. As the party of three ventured outside of the city walls, they could hear the cries of the dragon whelp in the clearing, who was moaning and growling in pain. They came upon Truliso, and the situation was more dire than expected. The dragon could hardly move, the wounds of the human arrow attack still fresh and bleeding profusely.

“Can you help us?” asked Poxig.

“I will try,” said the white mage.

She put a magic salve on Truliso’s wounds. Then, she mumbled an incantation which appeared to be Latin. Afterwards, a magic circle with a Latin cross appeared around the dragon. Tongues of fire and smoke came up burning the arrow shafts away, and then gradually the wounds began to close up, and the bleeding ceased. As the magic Latin cross disappeared, only the scars of the wounds remained where the arrows had been.

The level 3 magic spell had done its work. Tefl stood dumbfounded, since he had never seen such magic at work. Although he was still a skeptic of the magic arts, he could not but acknowledge the power of such magic. His father Lent had always taught him that magicians were charlatans, but he had to admit of the validity of Nesta’s healing arts.

After she had healed the dragon whelp, she tried to speak to Truliso but could not. They would need to go to the dragon whisperer, Jane Lampion, in order to decode the message to the wizard’s guild. The party of four went through the thick, deep, woods in order to seek the help of Jane, and perhaps, decode the message that was to go to the Naughright guild. In order not to be discovered, Truliso walked on the ground behind them instead of flying through the airspace.

Sheila Nesta uses level 3 magic

The Search

Tefl was cleaning his teeth with a small penknife, for they had just had a meal of roasted pheasant at the Procope, a local restaurant in Gaia. He waited there for Poxig, and saw that he would be waiting for a long time. Poxig had gone in search for a new penknife, but they turned the search to someone who could bring Truliso back from the brink of death. The two warriors advanced to the white magic guild, in hopes of finding a white mage who could help their dragonite friend. They walked in the oak door of the guild, not sure what 100 gold pieces would buy them, if anything at all.

The sage who met their gaze questioned them first.

“Who disturbs the sanctity of this magician’s sanctuary?” he asked.

“If everything is equal, I must say that I don’t take much stock in magic,” said Tefl.

“Then, all things being equal, good day sir!” said the elderly sage.

“No. Please wait. My friend did not mean to offend you sir,” offered Poxig, “The truth is, my friend and I are in dire need of a healer, sir, and we were told that white mages work here for hire…”

“How much do you have there, my green-faced friend?”

“We could offer you 100 Gold Pieces,” returned Poxig.

“My dear elf!” laughed the sage with a bellow. “That’s not enough gold to hire a magician for two hours!”

Just then, there was a rustle behind the curtain that obscured the way to the rear of the mage’s guild. “‘Nuncle! My uncle Barry!” and a lovely trim red-haired woman dressed in a white raiment emerged from the curtain, “who will pay 100 gold?” she asked.

Sage Barry tried to quiet the young woman. “Pay no attentiion to her! She’s just my hard-headed niece.”

The woman seemed familiar to Poxig. She had long red hair, blue eyes, and lips of cherry-red. Her nails were painted bright red. She wore a white cloak with a red hair barrette. He eyes sparkled with the glint of a great magician. She was plucky, with a tom-boyish enthusiasm. No doubt she was still a journeywoman mage, but she impressed Poxig with her homespun turns of phrase.

“I’m still trying to get my first post. I’ll take the pay and help you. I’ve only been in healing school for one year, but I can probably help you with your medical needs,” she said.

“What is your name?” asked Poxig.

“Sheila Nesta,” she replied, “nice to make your acquaintance.”

“I am Poxig Excelsior, and this is Tefl Broadsword.”

“I have some experience as a tutor of white magic,” she said, “and I throw in the sass free of charge.”

Sheila Nesta winked with her long lashes. She was in perfect form, as a feminine ideal, she could not help but attract the attention of Tefl. Her beauty could be a snare to men of a certain age, but Tefl had learned to keep such vixens at a certain distance. Still, it was possible that the two friends took a chance on the neophyte mage because of her charm and pluckiness. It was unusual to find a healer with such appealing character traits. Sage Barry reluctantly let her go on this mission, but he gave them a disclaimer about her general ability in these matters.

The party of three left the mage’s guild, and they stopped at a cafe in Gaia called the Procope. They sat at a table to discuss. Tefl ordered tea, Poxig coffee, and Sheila plain water.

“We have a proposition. We will give you the money once you complete the task,” said Tefl.

“But didn’t you say you are light warriors?” asked Sheila. “Surely you have more means than that.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” said Poxig. “The truth is that I am the guardian of the ORB. The king has yet to recognize us and send us on our mission.”

“Well… who needs healing services,” asked Sheila.

“There is a dragon whelp in the forest glade not far from here,” whispered Poxig.

“A dragon? You can’t be serious! I thought they were only a myth of my ancestors.”

“Yes, and he bears some important information, that must get to the king,” said Poxig.

“We need a healer to restore the dragon back to full health,” said Tefl.

“I’ve only practiced on humans, and one gnome. I can’t guarantee that I will be able to heal the dragon whelp,” Sheila said.

“We need you to try,” said Poxig. “If the dragon whelp dies, there will be terrible consequences for the human race, and by a corrolary, elven kind.”

The two confabulated like this for some time, and then Sheila Nesta agreed to go with them in order to try to resolve the problem. She said that she could not use level one magic for this task, but would have to try a level three spell, which she had never yet done. But after they had passed some time at the Procope and paid the bill, they were on their way.

The third light warrior, unbeknownst to the party

Truliso’s gambit

The time transpired slowly, and the students of the dragonite language puzzled over his weird dialect. The forest masked them from intruders, as imps could possibly be around the corner. The chirruping of the suzukibs was deafening. Even Er. Seljuk, the Marginalian emissary, would have abhorred the monstrous noise. Tefl was not quite as known for his patience. Then, Tefl inquired about Bamut, the dragon king.

“Does Bamut know that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled?” asked Tefl.

“Bamut suspects that it is so. He who stopped the religious wars can surely tell the fulfillment of the prophecy,” said Truliso.

“But surely this was a lie,” Poxig thought to himself. Only the king of Marginalia has an extant copy of this document, written in the tablet of days. If only they could get access to it! But they would have to infiltrate the castle keep, which was no easy task. In any case, to take any stock in what the dragon whelp said was a mistake.

They asked Truliso to put in a good word for them when they saw the dragonite clan again. There was a great likelihood that the dragon would be attacked by humans again, since they were largely misunderstood. Dragons were subject to the same moral forces as humans. Some of them knew magic arts, and dark and light magic.

“Then, what is your mission?” asked Tefl.

“I must reach the circle of sages and tell them that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled,” said Truliso.

“But your wound is still bleeding,” exclaimed Poxig. “You’ll never make it!”

“I have to reach the sages with a secret message from the dragon king, or all will be lost.”

Tefl and Poxig could not tell if the dragon whelp was being duplicitous, but they had to act on faith. Without proper medical attention, Truliso would surely die. The only option was to search for a healer in the nearby town of Gaia. If one could be found, the dragon could continue on its mission, but without the help of the young heroes, it would be a lost cause.

As they traipsed through the forest, they had to scout for imps and make sure that there was no threat to their new acquaintance. Tefl was still without a sword, and Poxig remembered that they were still very much in danger because of imp raids. Many of the nearby villages had been burnt, and Excelsior could have had the same fate had there not been the royal guard to defend it.

“We mustn’t tell anyone about Truliso,” Tefl said, “or else they will form a search party and kill him.”

“Agreed,” said Poxig.

They went to Gaia proper, and could see the great tower of Marchion looming before the hamlet below. The people of Gaia were peace loving, but depended on the power of the earth to protect them. Since the earth had been rotting, their vulnerability to attack had become likely. As they went in the city gates and paid the toll, they immediately went in search of a mage who was skilled and gifted in the healing arts. Of course, this sort of magic was light, while the black arts were not known to them. Tefl admitted to Poxig that although he didn’t believe in magic, if anyone could actually heal the dragon, he would be persuaded.

As they stopped by the butcher’s and the baker’s, they acquired necessary provisions. Tefl bought an inexpensive sword from the weapons dealer, and gave his shepherd’s crook to Poxig. He named the short sword after his aunt Broomhilda.

Poxig knew that most of the townsfolk of Gaia were concentrated on the grosser elements of life, and very few were educated or had subtle thoughts. These people shouted in their faces to buy and sell rather than to heed the quiet words of the wise.

“12 GP for a mask!” shouted one vendor.

“2 GP for a loaf of bread!” shouted another.

How they would find a white mage in all of this mess was subject to dispute. Tefl began to get wrapped up in the madness, and he was almost willing to depart with his last 10 GP. But he had to have some means to hire the white witch that they would find in the magician’s guild.

Truliso the dragon whelp