In the courtyard…

The cat creature bustled and hustled out of the open window and towards the garden. He overheard a conversation, as he stood on the roof, of a legend that no man’s ear had ever yet heard.

A young woman, dressed daintilly in red and gold, sat talking to her sister about the strangest of tales: a dragonite from afar. He was likely to dismiss this as nonsense from an old wives tale, but Bubba Yee perked his ears nonetheless.

The young woman in the dark crimson gown bent her head, brunette hair falling behind her earsr, ever so preciously over her coffee, as she told the tale of the dragonite to her elder sister.

“I have seen it with my own eyes: the Naxos. A blue dragon from the floating continent who has shape shifting ability,” she said.

“Surely you must be joking!” the dark haired companion siad with ribald laughter.

“I would not tell you fairy stories!” the crimson lady said. ” I read it in the Annals of Marginalia Vol. IX part i. The Naxos is a beast who speaks fluent Cosmou, and he can take the form of a sage.”

“… or wiseacre!” she retorted.

“It was he who related the information of Mithrax’s attack repelled by…”

“Who?” she asked.

“An elf that I cannot remember or recall his name,” she said with a puzzled look.

“Speaking of elves, have you been apprised of how our young green friend is getting along?”

“I suppose better than usual since he was manumitted,” she said.

“I’ve heard that he spends all his days trying to master mathematics and poetry,” the dark-haired woman in navy blue said.

“Nonsense. This fellow is trying to become a white mage. I’ve heard his abortive incantations all day, and frankly, I’m sick of them.”

“Back to Naxos,” said the dark-haired woman.

“What do you know of him?”

“His wisdom is at least partially responsible for the prophecy,” she whispered,

adding, “That’s what Daddy doesn’t want you to know.”

“He always told us that Melchior received the prophecy through a red mage disguised as a beggar woman,” she said.

“Papa is always trying to keep us in the dark,” she said.

Another wizard came a-sauntering in with moxie. He mixed drinks often, and had a red nose from frequent drinking.

“I know the beggar woman,” he stated flatly.

“I think you read too many dragonite novels,” she retorted.

“Adam, don’t be silly.”

Adam had a peak-hat with three corners, scarlet as the late afternoon sunset. His face was like flint, and he screwed his eyes up at the two damsels.

Bubba Yee could hardly believe his luck having run into a real wizard. This fellow could possibly grant his wish to anthropomorphize. He listened intently to the conversation.

“You met her?”

“Well, not to say exactly…” he offered.

“I think you have been dreaming,” she said, staring at the hem of her crimson dress.

Leo part ii continued…

He tried not to knock over the altar that his master had set up to an unknown god. The world of gods & goddesses was still quite nebulous to him – what did it have to do with reality? He remained the victim of his vagaries and the poop box where he relieved himself. Sometimes, he got the “cat wackies” and he would run aimlessly up and down the halls. As his green-faced master surveyed batball games in the courtyard, BY would accompany him and sit it his lap as he looked out of the window. After all, the chill of the winter of the month of Icicleness remained in his limited cat brain. Would a treat be offered by his master?

Quietly he realized that his master had to work to earn his bread, although he suspected that much of it was lifted from the refectory. The cat looked quizzically at the table scraps which were his repast. He slanted his eyes towards the detestable meal. No vittles would be eaten tonight. He perched on the window, for night had fallen. The moon was visible through the thick clouds, but the stars were only visible in his imagination. The cat purred as he looked into the darksome night air. Something vast and invisible was there – but he couldn’t say what. Maybe it was a hidden god – the kind that master prayed to in his off hours – but surely no one in Cosmon could fathom it.

Somehow, the table scraps disgusted Bubba Yee. He wanted to feast at the king’s table. But no ordinary housecat could hope for such a meal. The vittles of a typical housecat were dry pellets, which frankly tasted like a sandpaper sandwich. The ambitious cat dreamed of the king’s five course meal – appetizer, insalate verde, proscuitto and melone, entrees of duck and roast goose, and a trifle as a dessert. But these items were beyond the pail of what he could consider – his only comfort was the stroking of his neck by his master, the green-faced elf.

Bubba Yee rubbed up against the boot of his master, who was lost in thought. The candle of thought was burning softly and brightly.

“Cannot find the candle of thought” – E. Vedder

Leo part ii

The cat noticed that the green face was extremely frustrated. His efforts to master magic had sloughed off like a snake skin. Weirdos had to become wanderers and learn magic the hard way… through experience. But the green elf with pointy ears could not afford to be weird – it was against court life – ruled by formality , honor, and of course, conformity. That day there was a horrible flood in the kitchen. BY had knocked over his water bowl much to the chagrin of his owner. The massive eartherware vessel with an open lip and arabesque decorations had been a sort of heirloom – a testimony of many cats – but was unstable and porous because of cracks. In order to grab a kitty snack, BY had turned over the box of kitty treats. His pointy ears perked and he purred like the staccato ticks of a clockwork owl.

Poxig wondered if Halifax was open to math lessons. The dreary court atmosphere made him pine for the freedoms as a young bard. But they were nullabists, and Poxig had higher ambitions. He had to be satisfied with his enervating job as a counrt mathematician’s assistant. The court yawned in boredom of his math lessons – but these were the best that money could buy. His familiarity with differential equations made him a hit commodity, but did the business of the court have to be so irretrievably dull? He would have to teach them again summations. This seemed to be almost impossible for them to conceive of.

BY, as a cat, was not at all obedient to his master. He acknowledged him in passing, but without interest. He was an affectionate cat, but his green-faced master seemed to be always too busy. He used to sit on the mat in order to get in a staring contest. But the cat’s eyes always burned with the ambition of his master. He was no ordinary cat, but wanted his master to be able to shine the light of transmogrification on him so that he could anthropomorphize. He wished to grow legs so that he could learn to stand on his own two feet. He was tired of walking on four, & being a burden to his master. He looked around the castle’s interior room which was adjacent to the refectory. He was filled with hatred for all those objects – the king’s toys from when he was a child – they were now his toys. A ragged old doll with a green face, the smelling salts that now emitted noxious fumes, the cradle which was his bed (now time worn and tawdry). They reminded him of his inferior status, and he longed to rise. He was sick of sitting at home and lying around like a vagrant. He wanted to do something significant.

As the green-faced owner had to admit, he was no ordinary cat, someday he would be a ‘yion.’ The Yion would be his new name once he had been changed to his anthropomorphic self. But until the, he had to admit that he was still a cat – no more, no less. Tears of pain continued to fall from his face, only because he was so ignored. The elvish human hardly paid attention to him. The unassuming little cat used to play games – something that would obviously be beneath a yion. These trivialitites passed the time, but clearly did not get him to his goal. He played the scratching post ball game – a tether tied to a scratching post. The was the circle ball game – a ball that went around in a circle. The point of this game, he could not discern. But the amusement suited his fancy and dispelled the awful spectre of boredom – a continual issue in the court of Cornelia, the capitol of Marginalia.

BY could tell that the green master felt this boredom powerfully as well, but he called it ‘ennuie,’ which was perhaps Dragonite for something he could hardly understand. He remained resigned to his temporary fate as a housecat, but his dreams were different. BY could imagine himself the summoned creature of a powerful warrior – perhaps his master. But it was beyond him for now so he curled up by the fireplace and napped.

The great and powerful ‘Lion’

Supercat

Now that the YA is finished, I’ve started on the next chapter, which is dedicated to my cat Leo.

Gabe’s bedtime story part ii

After many years in Cornellia castle, Poxig was bored of life in the castle. He sat mercilessly trying to read novels by sitting for long periods of time in an uncomfortable chair in order to discipline himself to sit. But as he read, he couldn’t make himself remember what he read. It was not like his early days when he seemed enchanted by his schoolwork. He attempted to read…

Then, it suddenly became to him like a video game that he liked. These “video games” were light shows with different bright colored candles. They flashed blue and green with the magic fire spell that Lakfi had performed in his magic shows. Lakfi became more surly and withdrawn these days. He had hardly talked to him at all.

The cat went back to the mat. He was so cold by the ornate window, with arabesque designs on the sill. He huffed, scratched the side of it where the paint had worn off. There were shredded white, red, and gold curtains where kitty, called BubbaYee (BY), had damaged them. He still couldn’t see clearly because of the eye salve, but the noxious fumes from his owner’s pipe were making them water. But as he curled up, his eyes began to sprinkle with tears. His owner, Poxig, remembered how much he dislike the smoke of his pipe, but he calmly enjoyed the sunshine.

The kitty opened his mouth and yawned.

“I wish that I could swallow sunshine,” he exclaimed in his mind, “I am so hungry that I could die!”

The cat got up off the mat and sauntered over to the green faced giant, as BY called him. The elven warrior stroked the kitty with his ungloved hand. He met the cat with annoyance, because he was working in his study.

The books were piled high, and it looked like his owner was still in school. But he wasn’t. They were all the royal books of the father of King Charles, whose name happened to be Melchior.

BY demurred, then he purred. The green hand stroked the scruff of the cat’s head.

“Blarg…meddido…hapsha!” yelled his companion, who was obviously trying not to reveal that he was performing magic in a strange mix of dark and light magic he called ‘Wuffle’

“Hmm… let’s see,” he muttered as he perused the magic book.

“Wilfo…blinko…bot! Blast!” he exclaimed.

The candles fizzled out.

This is BY in his transformed anthropomorphic self

The argument

Tefl and Poxig woke that morning with some trepidation that the winter wraiths of the Ladimore mountains would descend. As the first rays of daylight ceded to the afternoon glare, the cold began to make them more cantankerous by the minute. The icy cliffs seemed quite impassable and Truliso for the moment had disappeared from view. As they awoke from their slumber in the icy cliff, they plotted their course back through Nitla Pass to the confines of Marginalia. With the ORB lit, they would have a chance at reaching the king and presenting themselves as the warriors who were to fulfill the prophecy. But the episode with Marty the gatekeeper had made them realize their material lack, and in fact they could not depend on civilized methods to reach their goal. Poxig awoke, as if from a stupor, only wishing that he could return to his days as a bard of old tales. There was no place for music in this regions, and winter wraiths were always tracking them.

“We must advance through Nitla Pass, and back across the Vistula river, said Tefl.

“I beg to differ,” said Poxig after a moment’s pause. “Those roads only lead to peril, and we will surely be overtaken by highwaymen, or worse, winter wraiths.”

“Well, by what authority do you make this decision?” asked Tefl.

“I pray to my god Releven, and he renders decisions that I must follow,” said Poxig.

“Releven is a legend of the elvenfolk, but he is not to be trusted in the time of peril,” said Tefl.

“Think of it this way: suppose we were to make it through Nitla Pass, like we were able to last time. Don’t you think that Darxon will be anticipating for us to use that route? He already knows that we have been to the Naughright guild. Only Releven had a great enough strength to oppose Mithrax at the pass. Our way is fraught with peril and we lack adequate resources to oppose such a force. We must go up Mt. Redoubt through the Renfro Woods. Do you have a better idea?”

“We must needs make our way through with the force that Master Control provides. No visible god can help us. How can you depend on the advice of an Elven legend to lead you in the time of war? Did not you learn of the religion that divided man and elf during the war? We must depend on a force stronger than an Elven myth.”

This severely irked Poxig because he knew of Releven’s protection and favor, but could not make his friend see the danger of returning through Nitla Pass on the King’s road. They had lost nearly all their silver in their expedition to the Silver City, and they would not have recourse to journey in the open where they were subject to taxes and tolls. Also, it was likely that Darxon knew of their path and had posted sentries.

The argument continued between the two companions.

“We must plow through Nitla Pass and face Darxon’s threat head on,” said Tefl.

“I admire your courage. But where did you get that argument?”

“What are you talking about?”

“No man stands alone. He must stand on the shoulders of a giant that has come before,” replied Poxig.

“Master Control bids it.”

“But we cannot stand on the shoulders of an invisible God.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Releven was the god that stood against Mithrax at Nitla Pass,” Poxig said.

“And you think that Releven is actually a god?”

“He is the elven diamond, the son of the promise,” replied Poxig.

“And you claim to know this god?” asked Tefl.

“My family has paid obeisance since my youth,” he replied.

“Then, your visible god has told you that we will not be able to defeat the Dark Lord at Nitla Pass?” Tefl asked.

“I am sure of it,” said Poxig.

The argument continued for some time like that, back and forth. No hero could convince the other fully. But in the end, they had to compromise. The party would ascend Mt. Redoubt and press on through the Renfro woods. There were more chances to run into wolves. The trail might be unclear, and the chance of getting lost was likely, but they had to stand on the shoulders of a god that had come before. No invisible God with a half-known prophecy could be trusted to lead them with superior force and courage.

Thanks to Emma Gonzalez for the crayon coloring for this drawing of Poxig and Tefl.

This is Emma I. Gonzalez, the artist (and me with a mask).

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 Redoubt 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 I. 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 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.