The journey through Ladimore

After they had crossed over the blue field gate, Poxig and Nesta appeared at the shoreline of the Crescent Lake. They had experience little discomfort. They had not achieved their aim, but at least had gained the trust of an invaluable ally in sage Luckan. Now with his blessing, they would have to return to the borders of Marginalia, and find enough support to gain access to the king’s chamber. The journey across the Ladimore mountains would not be an easy one. The snowfall on the top of mount Crumpet was so thick as to make it almost impassable.

“What did you find in the interior of the city?” asked Tefl.

“We were introduced to the Naughright guild, but evil forces had infiltrated it. Darxon’s mages voted us down,” replied Poxig.

“I must needs return to Naughright to learn light magic,” said Nesta.

“You will get that opportunity,” said Poxig. “But now it is too dangerous. Darxon’s mages could lead you to calamity.”

“We did make the acquaintance of one sage Luckan,” said Poxig. “He was able to light the ORB for us.”

Poxig showed the four the lit ORB, which was brilliant in all its array.

“Now with the lit ORB, it is possible to gain the attention of the king,” said Poxig.

The party now had to decide what to do with Truliso, and how to preserve the Dragon king’s message. Jane Lampion was able to take care of Truliso, but it was doubtful that she could return to the Cardia Islands. She would have to go as far as Excelsior, and then remain there for the party to return with news of the king’s decision. With the influence of king Charles, and access to the remaining ORBs, it would be possible to thwart the earthlink or at least delay it.

They moved beyond the gradations of the acclivity as they continued through the gloaming. Beyond the reaches of the magic gate’s protection, there was no telling what dangers might confront the party of four. Poxig and Tefl sent Truliso to scout ahead for goblin rangers, which were said to occupy this mountain path. Once they reached the borders of Marginalia, they would have to confront the hordes of imps that were swarming the country. It had now come to their attention through the letter of Christopher White that the imps were loyal only to Garlang and that they were trying to destory the confines of Marginalia city.

“What hope would we have to overcome these goblin rangers without a properly equipped army?” asked Tefl.

“We must rely on Truliso to scout for us. We now have the ORB, which guarantees our entrance into the king’s court.”

The glow of the ORB comforted Poxig. Its reds and blues glint with hints of gold scintilla. He could feel that its aura was protecting them from grave danger. As long as the ORB was lit, they at least had the magical protection of Luckan, which would surround them with a circle of protection of light magic. Darxon’s power could not harm them with the ORB in their possession.

Shiela Nesta’s force with the light magic had begun to accrete from her experience inside the Naughright guild. Her healing powers were now substantially beyond her ability when she had lived at the outpost with her uncle. She would have had a more difficulty turning leaves into healing powder, but some of the remedies that she had learned from the likes of Luckan had made her ability beyond what it had been at the outpost with her uncle sage Barry.

The crew of four continued up their path to the acclivity on this rocky trackless waste. The trees had been snapped in two because of the force of the gusts in the Ladimore range. They would have to make their way through snow and ice that made the way almost impassable. They huddled together in hopes of keeping warm. Their destination of the Vistula riverbed which formed the barrier of Marginalia seemed quite a ways off.

They would have to stop for the night and rest under the outcropping. No fire would warm their hearts: only the glow of the ORB could give them comfort in the inky dark night. Poxig bade them good night and tucked himself under his blanket to sleep away his fears of goblin hordes. With Truliso leading the way across the mountain range, they took a pause to regather their strength for the morning trudge across the path of blinding white.

The many colors of the ORB

Luckan’s decision

Poxig and Nesta were disheartened by the decision of the council, but they were compelled to leave the Naughright guild in hopes that some sage might be found outside of this gated community who could help them translate the message from the dragonite from their pidgin to the plainness of the Ulterian tongue. As they passed through Silvera, they met numerous shadowy glances, as they were misperceived as vagrants. It seemed for a culture that had virtually eliminated poverty, they had the unattractive quality of being judgmental of those who did not adhere to their standards of dress and comportment.

As they reached the portal of the magic gate, they stopped and looked at one another.

“Clearly, this is out last chance to go through. We’ve spent all our silver. There’s no way back,” said Nesta. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“We couldn’t get the guild’s permission,” said Poxig.

Both heroes knew that snobbishness had undone their mission to light the ORB and get the elite guild’s attention. Nowhere was this more plain than in the council’s decision. Not one of them were willing to be ‘demoted’ by going outside of the boundaries of Silvera. Such was the dark side of the council, who claimed to be guardians of light magic. Still, it was also possible that Darxon’s mages had infiltrated the group. Elite bodies of government had unusual power, but they were not invulnerable to evil.

“We have no other choice,” said Poxig. “We must return to the Crescent Lake, and meet our colleagues there, and devise another plan of action.”

Nesta nodded in agreement. “We have no time to lose,” she added.

But just as they were about to go through the great blue portal, they heard a noise behind them.

“Wait. Don’t go just yet,” said a shadowy figure.

They didn’t recognize him at first, because he had left his conical cap behind, but it was indeed Luckan. He had followed them through Silvera and back to the magic gate.

“You made your case before the Naughrights. That took some extraordinary courage. Now, I can’t leave my post here, because we know that Darxon has a hidden agent in our circle. But take this missive to Christopher White. He will be able to advise you how to reach the attention of the king. I believe that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled and you are the warriors of light. We have no time to lose, and this message must be translated for the king. But in order to reach the king, receive this.”

Luckan waived his wand and the ORB began to glow gold, turquoise, and vermillion. Poxig’s ORB was now resplendent with colored lights. In fact, this would be evidence that could be used to get the king’s attention in Marginalia. They would have to use Luckan’s letter to reach Christopher White, and then, perhaps gain access to the other ORBs in the king’s possession. By communicating the dragon’s message to the royal retinue, they would be able to possibly stop the earthlink that was threatening the whole of cosmon.

The tandem of heroes bade farewell to the brave defector from the Naughright guild. Although they could not gain the assent of the sacred guild, it was clear that their mission in Silvera had not been an outright failure. To be able to reconnect with Christopher White in the forests over the Ladimore mountains would be their new point of departure. From there, they might be able to gain his influence over the famously reclusive king. What they did not know was what awaited them in Marginalia. Garlang and his army of imps were still waging war, and there was no measurable idea of how much damage they had caused.

What seemed difficult to fathom was how they would gain an audience with the king of Marginalia, Charles II. After transporting themselves out of Silvera, they would have to propose their worthiness to the king’s retinue, in hopes of gaining the attention of the famously reclusive king. As to why he locked himself in the tower of the castle, perhaps Christopher White would be able to shed some light. For now, it was enough to know that some good was left in the elite Naughright guild, and they certainly had earned an ally in the person of Luckan that may serve them in their quest.

“We must traverse the Ladimore mountains once again, and press on to the Shinarian plain,” said Poxig.

“We have no time to lose,” repeated Nesta.

Luckan’s gambit

Luckan

The Naughright guild could see the power of the ORB radiating from the interior. Each of them began to whisper amongst themselves as Poxig and Nesta watched expectantly. The fireflies continued to glow around them and the strange music quieted. Poxig began to get nervous that one of Darxon’s representatives in the circle of sages might try to steal the ORB. He clutched it tightly, and then put it in his knapsack.

“We need one sage to come with us to the magic gate to Silvera,” said Nesta. “Our friends are waiting outside with a dragon whelp with an important message.”

“We never venture outside the walls of this city,” said one sage, who doffed his cap. “To do so would be to be unprotected from the evil forces beyond. Impurities could get into the city of Silvera. We would lose our elite status as guardians of the light magic.”

Poxig hemmed and hawed. “This is an urgent message about the dragon king, Bamut. We cannot translate the message, but we have hired a dragon whisperer.”

“The dragonites are a dangerous clan,” said the capless sage. “Some of them are dangerous, and that is why they had been banished to the floating continent.”

Poxig didn’t realize that they already had known about the floating continent. It seemed like they had all knowledge in the ranks of this elite clan of wizards.

“We have the authority of Christopher White,” said Poxig. “He sent this letter to the guild.”

Poxig handed over the letter.

“We knew of Christopher White,” said Luckan. “He was amongst our ranks but left and forfeit his elite status to work amongst the mortals and the halflings. But let us have the letter.”

Luckan read the whole letter aloud.

Dear eminent ones of the Naughright,

The bearer of this letter is Poxig the elf from Excelsior. You may not know him well, but I can attest to this elf’s character. He has single handedly saved the Crumpet library from conflagration. We are surrounded on all sides by Garlang and his swarms of imps. We need the help of the Naughright in order to combat this existential threat. Poxig has proven his valiant character, as I can confirm. I urge the Naughright guild to listen to his plea and confirm his authority based on my recommendation.

Should anyone doubt the veracity of this elf, witness for yourselves that he is indeed the ORB bearer. He alone has the chance to unseat Garlang from his throne and stop the imp swarm from overcoming our land. If you ever trusted my counsel, do so now, or at least for the sake of Master Control.

Signed,

Christopher White

Luckan was a reasonable mage, but not many would venture to surrender their elite status in the guild to help a crew of wayfarers. He removed his large conical cap and scratched his head, then he stroked his beard. He remembered his younger years as a journeyman mage, and how hardscrabbled those years were. He could see the same spark of determination in Shiela Nesta’s face, as she longed to know the way of light magic. Some glimmer of passion began to return to his breast, and he realized that in a debt of gratitude to the ancient ones that had taught him magic, he should work within his power to aid the young elf and his companion.

The Naughright guild was a democratic institution: no sage had ultimate power, but the strength of consensus in the council was how decisions were ultimately made. Still these decisions usually came from the top down to resolve some diplomatic dispute in Cosmon, very rarely did someone from outside Silvera petition their council nor did anyone try to persuade them to leave the ivory tower of perfection within the magic gate of the Silver city. If Luckan were to help them, he would have to act quickly.

“Put it to a vote! Who amongst us think it wise to venture outside of the magic barrier to hear this message?” asked Luckan.

The conical capped guild gathered around the flaming center of the Naughright guild. Only a majority vote would seal Poxig’s fate. Each of the sages seemed intent on making the will of the elite guild of wizards known. But as the sky darkened and the music subsided, it was clear that there would be no positive affirmation of Christopher White’s plea.

Only Luckan raised his hand.

Luckan the sage

The Naughright

Once Sheila Nesta and Poxig Excelsior were within the confines of Silvera, they noticed that the aura around them had begun to change. All the sidewalks were completely clean, every tree meticulously placed. Brilliant rainbow-like garden flowers colored every small space in between ornate arabesque architecture. The fragrances of perfumes were everywhere. No trash or refuse on the streets, not a single thing out of place. It was by far the richest city that they had ever seen. The citizens of Silvera were dressed in expensive clothes of the finest purple.

“Aren’t there any poor in Silvera?” asked Nesta.

“It looks like they have eliminated that problem,” Poxig replied.

They went to exchange their gold pieces for silver at the bank. The silver would have to last them for their stay here. There was one thing for sure: the only thing that mattered in this city was silver. If you had it, you were welcome. But poor and indigent could not gain refuge in a city like this, protected by a magic gate. All that remained of societal ills was a city protected from harm, nestled near the Crescent Lake.

They moved warily through the streets of Silvera, conscious that every eye was fixed  on them. Poxig shuffled  his feet quietly so  as not to make noise. If they were perceived as vagrants, they might be forcibly removed  from the city. The clocktower ticked  loudly as they moved towards the city square. Their first goal would be to exchange their gold for silver, and  then they would need to gain an audience at the Naughright guild. But where exactly this place was, no one could say.

“We are trying to find the Naughright guild,” Poxig exclaimed. “Can you help us?”

“I have never heard of such a place,” said one man. “But there is rumor that deep in the forest adjacent to the village is the meeting place of the circle of sages.”

“We must be closing in on it,” Nesta said. “The guild is very secretive about its business.  We may need a divining rod to find its whereabouts.”

“We have a limited budget here. We cannot camp but must find lodging. Thirty silver pieces will not go so far here,” said Poxig.

On the tip they received, they journeyed into the forested area behind the city, looking for the circle of sages. Day turned into night, as they searched the dingy wood, which was covered in sticks and leaves. Through the mist, Nesta perceived that there was a magical presence that she had never felt before. The sweat condensed on the back of her neck. Suddenly, the path opened up to a glade. There was a fire burning there, but no one was there.

“This must be the place of the meeting!” said Nesta.

“Nesta, look!” Poxig said as he motioned to the ORB.

The ORB was glowing ever so slightly in shades of blue. As Poxig looked into the ORB, he saw a light that had never been there before. This might be a sacred space, such that the ORB could feel the magic power around  him. As he looked around, aged men with long  grey beards and red clothing approached from every side. They were wearing pointy red conical caps. They surrounded Poxig and Nesta,  and at first it seemed like they were in trouble. But then, Poxig remembered that these were the stewards of light magic. No harm could come to them.

“We have known about your coming for some time,” said one sage.

“Who are you?”  said another. “Identify yourself.”

“Please excuse me, sir. I am Poxig of Excelsior from beyond Marginalia. “My friends and I have come to your meeting place for help.”

“And I am Nesta, the white magician, and I seek the council’s favor.”

“I am Luckan,” said a bearded man in the red gown. “You are welcome here. But  what is your business?”

“I come  to learn the ways of magic,” said Nesta, “but my friend has come to enlist your help.”

“What she means to say, is that we need your skill to light the sacred ORB,” said Poxig. “My friends are waiting  outside with an urgent message  for the council.  Without your help to light the ORB,  we cannot gain the attention of the king of  Marginalia, who holds the other ORBs in his chamber.”

“Well,  then  sir,  this is a tall order!” said Luckan. “Our  council is sworn to protect  light forces from the dark influences. We are not mercenaries that can be bought!”

“We’re not asking you to perform a miracle,” said Poxig. “Please come with us to the end of Silvera, where my friend the dragon whisperer will translate the  message from Bamut, the  king of all dragonites,” Poxig said.

“We will do no such thing!” said a tawny skinned man around the edge of the circle. “This council confers  in secret under the cover of the magic gate! It is the only way to protect ourselves from evil influences.”
“The gatekeeper would not let us in the gate,” said Nesta. “We had to leave our dragon Truliso at the entryway. Please! You’re the only one who can help us!”

The aura of the Naughright guild was hard to ignore. The fireflies flew all around like will-o-the-wisp. Strange music could be heard coming from the forest, but they could not tell from where. The tandem of heroes had come upon the most elite wizards and sages of Cosmon. To gain their trust would not be easy. Each of the sages looked at them with supercilious grins, and many of them were trained in manipulation and chicanery. Poxig remembered that some of them were loyal to Darxon, and yet they could not be sure which ones.

“We have heard many pretenders come and make their case before us,” said Luckan. “How can we be sure that you are the heroes of the prophecy?”

The only extant text of the prophecy that Poxig knew about was in the king’s chambers in Marginalia. It had been given as a sacred boon from the Naughright guild after the wars of religion. But now, here they were in the sacred academy of wizards, and it was impossible to justify themselves.

“I am the bearer of the ORB!” said Poxig. “This sacred ORB was bequeathed to me from my father!”

Luckan and the sages gasped as the circle began to widen and then close around the ORB, which continued to emit a blue glimmer. The great assembly of wizards made the ORB a dazzling array of colors that cycled around in the interior of the glowing sphere. The music became louder and whistled arpeggios over and over. The magical power that was contained in this enchanted artifact could not be denied.

“This is indeed the ORB of which prophecy speaks!” shouted Luckan into the throng of admirers.

The wizards of the Naughright guild

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