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   Chapter 16 New Home

Maldene - Volume One By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 78303

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02

R.K.: 9, 990, 32 Planeop:

It has now been five rises since we left the vicinity of Tedelnosho and that other world that it had led us to. I feel though, that while it lay in a different dimension and place, I need not Sindar's precognitive abilities to tell me that we haven't seen the last of Devoon or its Dragon Lord.

The Dragon Lord's connection with Miro worries me, though. If Miro has connections with other worlds, then may be it that his designs encompass more than just our own Maldene? And if so, then what? These are questions which we must solve, though we may fear the answers.

The voyage has been peaceful, allowing me time to peruse through the dimensio-books. Actually, most all of us have been taking a look at them, especially me and Sindar, though Eldar has a specific interest in the alchemy aspects of one of them. Quickfoot no longer sulks about these books not being treasure, although he will still glare if he sees one.

I will not go into the new magic that I have been learning from these books, though I think that I can still improve on what I have found therein. More intriguing is what I have read about those fire gems that we have found. More than just quaint gems that shoot fire, it appears to be part of a set, each component of which is more like a focal point to a given aspect of one of the forces of Existence. The references are somewhat vague about the powers of a complete set, but enough is implied to give reason for interest from the Dragon Lord or Miro, although, how they got to where we found them, I don't think that even the Dragon Lord knows of. These Hevon Gems, as they are called, may be a key to unknown powers. I feel that if we can find the rest of a set, that it may help us towards our goals.

Although, in the end, it may come down to what may already be within each of us.

R.K.: 9, 990, 33 Planeop:

We near the location of our island and are now using the regional maps that came with our deed. Actually, it's not so much a deed of ownership, there being no law out here to enforce anything, as it is a guarantee as to its habitability, available materials, and lack of inhabitants. What our money had really bought us were the maps to its secluded location and a guarantee that there exist no other copies. At any rate, it is supposed to be a finely wooded island with a few tall cliffs and hillsides that we may build upon.

I wonder about Sindar. He's spent more than a small amount of time just looking out to sea, as if there be something there that only he can see. He says nothing about what concerns him and I will not intrude upon his privacy.

But, it still worries me.

Unseen eyes beckoning dark invitation from beyond the horizon. Promise of knowledge. Dark colors swirling invisibly round and round, forming fleeting images of longing, temptation, and yearnings. Yearning reaching towards deep suppressed doubt. Doubt gazing outwards at inviting proposal, towards dark malevolent unseen eyes.

"Hey Sindar, stop daydreaming and have a look."

Eldar's shout had interrupted Sindar's reverie, shaking him from his trance-like stare out to sea. He blinked as the images faded quickly from his mind. Eldar had on his usual cocky smile as he came over to him.

"Come on, our island's within sight, " Eldar went on, "and it looks to be a beauty!"

"Well, let's have a look then, " Sindar finally responded, as he started walking with Eldar over to the opposite side of the ship.

While the crew went about their business of steering the large ship, everyone else was up against the port side of the ship, gazing out as the island slowly came into view, haloed by the deep violet noontime sky.

"It's a bit far away, " Quickfoot moped, "no towns or anything nearby."

"I wouldn't have it any other way, " Mauklo smiled to himself.

"How can I spread the word of Indra if there's no one around to spread it to?"

"Just look upon it as a religious retreat to fall back upon, " Bronto suggested.

"I like that it's far away from towns, " Lindel said as he breathed in deep of the ocean air with the distant scent of the nearing island.

The island was now close enough that they could start to see some basic features. On one side a mountain ridge rose up hundreds of feet skyward, culminating in a tall peak, the ridge facing sheer cliffs out towards the sea. The other half of the island unfolded as tall but scrawny trees peppered the landscape, off-yellow sandy beaches greeting the sea.

"It looks like it has some potential, " Shong commented, "those cliffs should be easily defendable."

"Now you're beginning to sound like Starke, " Bronto laughed.

"That forest will have to be fixed up, though, " Lindel said thoughtfully.

"I'm not sure if I can get used to being surrounded by this much water, " Kilgar commented, so used was he to the dry sandiness of his desert home.

"An out-of-the way haven is the only way that Eldar and I came up with to survive with dark forces on the march, " Sabu explained. "Although, I suppose there might be something I could do about making access to the outside world a bit easier."

"It is kind of hard to have a fun night out on the town when you're over a thousand miles away from the nearest tavern, " Eldar said offhandedly.

The island was now close enough that they could make out individual trees along its shore and perhaps a squirrel or two running along a distant branch. The Captain shouted out orders as the ship started to steer towards the forested side of the island looking for a good place at which to drop anchor.

"So what do we name this little dalnsa?" Bronto asked.

"How's about ha?kldalnsa?" Sindar suggested, "since it is a bit remote."

"Fine by me, " Eldar shrugged. "Sabu?"

"I'll just call it home, for now, " Sabu responded.

The ship closed upon and rounded the island, sending the mountain ridges toward the rear as they came full around to the other side of the island. Just as they'd rounded the last of the tall cliffs, they saw something else come into view; something unexpected.

"It's another ship, " Kilgar was the first to point out, "a sleem, like ours".

"Yeah, " Eldar said, "and anchored at our island!"

"This place is supposed to be deserted, " Sabu said.

"It looks to be about as large as our own ship, " Bronto looked closely.

The ship's hemispherical sails were folded down, as if it had been anchored there for a time, sitting peacefully some distance from the shore. Its folded sails, though, made it easier for them to see its flag waving from atop the empty central mast.

"Let's not jump to any conclusions just yet, " Sabu said calmly, then turned to shout out towards the Captain. "Captain, what make you of that ship?"

The Thirdocian looked out at the waving flag on the other large ship, before he gave his answer a few moments later.

"She flies the King's colors, " was the answering shout.

"The King's?" was Sabu's puzzled response. "What would he-"

Sabu was interrupted by a sudden sound echoing out from that other ship. All ears perked up as they heard a loud deep cry bellow out from across the water, echoing out over the island.

A smile suddenly appeared on Quickfoot's face as he began jumping up and down with unrestrained glee.

"What in the name of Indra was that?" Candol asked as the yell still echoed loosely about the nearby cliffs.

"Quickfoot, what's wrong?" Lindel asked, noticing the small one's antics.

Puzzled faces looked around as Quickfoot dived under Bronto's legs, ran around Lindel, and jumped up on top of the ship's railing.

"I'd recognize that bloated, pus-filled, cud-chewing, flea-scratching, brain-dead voice anywhere, " the small one smiled.

Quickfoot stood atop the rail, balancing his small form with his fur-covered bare feet, as he cupped both hands around his mouth to shout out to the other ship.


As they neared the other ship, his high-pitched scream was answered by a large form jumping up and down on the other deck, waving his large trunk-like arms overhead like some huge ten-foot hairy child, while several sailors dived out of the way of his twenty-five hundred pounds of bouncing bulk.

"Well, I think we can consider them friendly, " Bronto chuckled, "but we'd better get over there while their ship's still intact."

"I wonder what magic wood their deck is made out of, " Sabu pondered, "I would have thought that all that bouncing up and down of one so large would-"

Sabu was once again interrupted, but this time by the sound of a distant crash as the large ogre vanished from sight through a new hole in the deck.

Their own ship had at last dropped anchor nearby the other ship, another one of Sindar's magical planks of light providing them easy access to the beach, while the other ship sent out a longboat to greet them there. Blag-ak, no longboat being able to hold his weight, just jumped overboard and swam ashore, or rather with his height, walked more than swam. The Captain of the other ship got off his longboat and, two sailors by his side, came over to Sabu, Sindar, and Eldar, saluting before he spoke.

"I am Captain Marek. Prince Filmar sends his regards, " the other Captain, also a Thirdocian, began, "and his assistance. We carry supplies, materials, and tools for building whatever structure that you wish, to start you off on your new home."

"I would think that you'd want to start with your own ship, " Eldar smiled, "after that new hole of Blag-ak's."

The Captain returned the smile as he replied.

"We also have with us one skilled in the magic of construction, " he said. "He has already repaired the damage and is also at your disposal."

"Two ships now, " Eldar commented, "pretty soon we'll have our own little navy."

"Please thank Prince Filmar for us next time you see him, " Sindar put in.

"The Prince regrets not being able to come in person, " Captain Marek went on, "but reasons of State kept him at home."

"In other words, his parents wouldn't let him out of the castle, " Eldar giggled.

"Eldar, " Sabu softly admonished, although he himself had to keep from smiling.

"I also have something to give to Master Shong, " Captain Marek went on formally.

"Me?" Shong said puzzled, as he walked over closer.

The Captain reached into a pocket, brought out a small box wrapped in colorful paper, and handed it to Shong. Shong took it and began to carefully open it up.

"Who would send me anything, " he wondered as he opened it.

Inside were three straw-yellow flowers, still preserved in their simple beauty.

"They are from the princesses Teenya, Tanya, and Tonya, " the Captain replied, "one from each of them."

Shong began to blanch as the others began to smile.

"They said to say, " the Captain went on, "that they chose the flower to remind you of the color of their hair, and that like their love for you, it will never fade."

The Captain had delivered this in a completely formal manner, with no change of expression in his voice. The others around Shong, however, were in various states of restrained laughter, even the sailors on either side of the Captain finding it hard to suppress their smirking.

"I don't know if I-" he stammered, "I mean, I'm sure that. . . I wouldn't want. . . I mean. . . Well, I guess if you could send my thanks. . ."

"Killed and back from the dead, survives horrors without end, yet with the ladies, " Eldar smiled, "he is as timid as a field mouse faced with a hawk."

Shong's moment of embarrassed timidity was gratefully interrupted by a loud splashing coming from out of the ocean. There was a sharp cry as Quickfoot's tiny feet rapidly padded out to meet the slow plodding of over a ton of seaweed-covered bulk coming up to the beach.

"Blag-ak, you dumb rock, " Quickfoot ran up and kicked his large friend in the leg, "you don't go walking under the ocean, you swim! I swear, what trouble you must have gotten into without me."

"Blag-ak miss you too, " the large ogre rumbled as Quickfoot pulled off a few strands of seaweed.

The large ogre hadn't changed any, even his supply of skulls hanging around his belt had been renewed with several goblin heads.

"Blag-ak kill many goblins, " he smiled, "get new heads."

"We are ready to start building immediately, " the Captain broke in, "as per your designs. We are to be at your disposal until construction is complete."

"We'd better start soon, " Lindel put in. "Remember, we've got dragon eggs that might hatch any time now."

"He's right, " Bronto said, "it's no use putting off a little hard work."

"Hey, " Quickfoot shouted from several feet away, "with Blag-ak here to help, we'll have it done in no time at all!"

"Yes, " Mauklo said to himself, "if we survive his help."

R.K.: 9, 990, 40 Planeop:

Construction is now well under way. The engineer mage that Captain Marek brought with him has helped facilitate the rapidity of the construction. Blag-ak, also, has been of a great help. . . you just have to be very careful that you word your requests as simple as possible. Like, when you tell him to clean up the beach, that you don't mean the sand as well. Quickfoot, though, has been very helpful as an intermediary with the large fellow. Between Blag-ak and Bronto, land-clearing has been rather easy, if somewhat entertaining when watching the two turn a simple clearing of trees and rubble into a small-scale mock battle.

Lindel has found a cave up in the cliffs in which to put the dragon eggs. It faces inland, overlooking the forest. This way, he says, they can be born with a view that is more natural to what they should have. It also makes it easier to get to the cave to care for the eggs than if it was facing out on the sea side, those cliffs being rather sheer on that side.

R.K.: 9, 990, 51 Planeop:

The main structure of our castle is almost finished, construction being rather fast with the help of magic. It is placed on top of the highest part of the mountain ridge, with a few underground sections that we've begun to carve into the mountain. Sindar and I have used what magic we possess to try and afford our new abode some additional protection. Even Mauklo pitched in a bit in that regard.

Blag-ak has found his own home, in the form of a large cave in the mountains, nearby to that of the eggs. Apparently he prefers it to something more indoors.

Blag-ak, by the way, has taken a liking to the eggs. Lindel showed them to him, telling him that they would hatch into nice friendly dragons. Now he cares for them like a large mother, leaving Lindel to worry about the forest. I will have to agree with Lindel, though; those trees look like they've seen better times.

I begin to think that the stories of how the Sea Of A Thousand Islands came to be have some truth in them. Our little dalnsa looks like it's a ragged piece torn off of a greater whole. The mountain ridge doesn't taper off into the sea, but ends abruptly at the beach, as if it had once gone on as part of a real mountain range. It makes me wonder at what forces tore this land apart. Especially considering that the Sea stretches on for some thousands of miles in any direction.

R.K.: 9, 990, 9 Faleomar:

Construction has finished, allowing me time to continue my studies of the dimensio-books while others worry about interior furnishings. We were indeed correct about the dimensio-book of History; it now reads only the history of Maldene with nary a trace of that of Devoon's. As important as are my studies of the book on magic, I feel that a knowledge of history may help us figure what to expect from Destiny. So, while Eldar ponders the mysteries of alchemy in the third book, Sindar and I are going through the other two books.

Lindel says that the dragon eggs should hatch towards the end of Fall, which would give us some three motabs until the big event. Also, Blag-ak has turned out to be a pretty good mother for those eggs. I think that he will continue to be a good protector for them long after they hatch. After all, dragons are hard for even him to break.

Although, apparently large oak doors leading to one's study aren't.

Lindel's landscaping goes well. He appears to have a talent for anything of Nature and has started the forest back on towards recovery. We may yet have a beautiful home.

Mauklo has stayed to himself within his own section of our castle. I wonder about what he does, especially because of Sindar's prophecy concerning him.

R.K.: 9, 990, 15 Faleomar:

The knowledge contained in these books is fantastic! Just from glancing through the book on history am I amazed. I had not thought the history of our world to be so long or involved. It would appear to go at least many tens of thousands of rels back farther than anyone had yet suspected. There may even be some things in here to help us. There are some stories I've found of a lost place, one that may have that which may help us reach our goals.

Oh yeah. With the help of the dimensio-book of Spells, I may have solved the problem of getting around from our rather distant island without having to resort to long ocean voyages. I should have it finished in a few rises, which should make both Eldar and Quickfoot happy, as they've both been itching for a place with large crowds of people in them. Eldar says he's been too long from a good tavern.

The construction being finished, and food and supplies being in ample and very renewable quantities, we've dismissed both of the sleems, giving our regards to both the King and Filmar. It was Eldar's thought that maybe Shong should also send his regards to the three young princesses whose hearts he appears to have.

Shong didn't appear to like that idea, but it was a bit amusing seeing the discomfort on his face.

At any rate, we bid both of our good captains a farewell but a single rise ago.

Learned young scholar poring over immense volume of magical lore. Footsteps, quiet and stealthy, creeping up unawares upon he who studies. Turning through large page after large page of old knowledge that but the very few could understand, while oblivious to the approaching steps. Cloaked figure approaching from the shadows, arms slowly raising, poised for attack upon the young mage, too young to die.

A loud screech of a battle cry came out of the throat of the figure poised behind Sabu, a cry of coming death. His arms came crashing down to either side of Sabu's unmoving shoulders.

"Hey Eldar, you ought to have a look at some of this, " Sabu said unperturbed.

The figure behind Sabu stopped where it stood, bent over, mouth a scant distance behind Sabu's head, suddenly silent. He then straightened up, puzzlement and obvious disappointment now showing on his elven features in the dim light. A slight pout crossed Eldar's face as he kicked at an imaginary pebble by his foot.

"You're no fun, " he said, disappointment in his voice. "How'd you know it was me?"

"There's some interesting things about those Hevon Gems mentioned here in this magic book, " Sabu continued, oblivious to his friend's disappointment.

"Like what?" Eldar asked, with mild interest.

"Apparently finding them isn't just a matter of knowing where to look for them, " Sabu went on, "but more a matter of being chosen to find them."

"Oh?" Eldar said raising an eyebrow, failed joke now forgotten as his interest began to pique.

"It says here, " Sabu said, turning one of the large four-foot pages with both hands, "that they can only be found by those fitting certain criteria."

"Like what, " Eldar bent over Sabu's shoulder to read along with him.

"Well, " Sabu went on, "you have to be judged by Fate to be worthy in both capabilities and potential before their locations will be revealed. Which means that these fire gems of ours were placed there by an agency other than that of the Dragon Lord. They were put there for us to find."

"Hey, " Eldar said, perking up with a smile, "that makes me feel special. How many of these things do they give out?"

Sabu read down the page a bit before answering.

"Ah, here it is, " he said at last. "It says, in all the multiverse, only a very small handful have ever been handed out."

"How small a handful?"

"Under five people ever found any, " Sabu answered, "and then no one has ever found a complete set save one."

"Wow, " Eldar exclaimed, "you mean that the number of us that now each have one of those gems is greater than all others who have ever found some?"

"Yes, " Sabu nodded, "they would appear to be rather rare."

"That's an understatement, " Eldar said. "Isn't there an easier way to get them, other than just being chosen?"

"Yes, " Sabu assented, "one could try and hunt them down throughout all the Planes of existence where they might be found, but that would be hazardous in the extreme. But they aren't just given to you. Each cache of gems has its own guardian."

"Now that sounds fun, " Eldar smiled. "I don't think I'd like it if they just gave them to me anyhow."

"And the guardian usually doesn't know that it is a guardian."

"So, that metal golem that held the fire gems would be considered a guardian, " Eldar said.

"A lesser one, yes, " Sabu added. "They would seem to get tougher as time goes on."

"Hmm, " Eldar thought, "so, who chooses the worthy ones?"

"It's rather vague about that, " Sabu said, looking through the page in front of him, "it just says that recipients have to know the study of magic and have a strong personality. Beyond that, it just says that Fate, or some servant thereof, makes the choice. It doesn't seem to give any requirements of personality or morals."

"Well, " Eldar straightened up, "if we've been chosen, then it sounds like it might be fun to try and go after the whole set. Who knows, we just might get it."

"We might have to, " Sabu said, very serious, "because of who happens to be the one person anywhere that does have a complete set."

Sabu just pointed to a name on the page of the book. Eldar bent down to look at the name pointed to.

Eldar grimaced, as if from tasting something overly sour.

Beneath the castle on the cliff-tops there were a series of caves. In one of them a large hairy figure stood watch over several large eggs. A mother hen couldn't have watched her eggs any closer, nor a large bear with as much ferocity.

"Blag-ak be mother, " he said to himself, as he knelt beside his charges. "Mother to big flying lizards."

"And a pretty mother I'm sure you'll be, " came a small voice from an even smaller figure walking into the cave. "With your ugly puss to look at they'll surely think themselves most handsome."

The big ogre looked up to see Quickfoot walking towards him. A misshapen smile crossed his face as the smaller one came over to him.

"Come see Blag-ak's pretty little eggs?"

Quickfoot looked at the large eggs, each a good two feet or so long.

"You're the only one I know that can call those eggs 'little' and get away with it, " he shook his head, "I thought I'd see what trouble you were in."

"Blag-ak in no trouble, " he said getting up, "he do fine."

A misplaced foot, as the large one stood up, sent a large egg rolling for the edge of the cave. Shock registered on the ogre's face as he saw it rolling towards the rather steep downward drop outside. He bounded across the cave, shaking the grou

downfall of the Evolins a minor prize?" Eldar exclaimed, more than a bit indignantly.

"He's right, " Sabu interrupted, "it all points to something of a much larger scale. Something whose stakes we don't have enough information to even guess at. Whatever his game is, and whatever his true foe is that he battles all these long eons, we have no way of knowing. At least not right now."

"We've got to get more information, " Sindar said. "Get enough facts, history, and whatever else we can find, to try and guess at what he plays."

"Which brings me to my main point, " Sabu said. "Each fall did have one major point in common. Each fall occurred on or shortly after, a Donjflou."

Bronto looked up from his latest drumstick.

"I thought that only an old story, " he said. "It's real?"

"Only too real, " Sabu said.

"Never heard of it, " Kilinir said. "What is it?"

"Our calendar, " Sabu explained, "in whatever form it's had over time, was long ago calculated on the basis of our world's orbit around the sun. It was calculated so precisely that, unknown time past, someone discovered that it was off by some very small amount of time each rel. To make up for it, an extra rise is inserted, once every five thousand rels."

"That's carrying precision a bit too far, " Shong said. "It sounds like stuff only of use to sages."

"If it were just an extra rise, yes, " Sabu said, "but with each Donjflou come great events, good, bad, or indifferent. It is a very mystical day. Events arising on that rise are guaranteed to have their effects felt for hundreds of rels thereafter; anyone born on that rise will surely have an important destiny. It is a time both greatly feared and greatly welcomed."

"I don't know, " Kilinir said, "it doesn't sound like it comes too often to worry us."

"Yeah, " Lindel said, "it is a rather long period of time for us to worry about right now."

"Wait for the bad news, " Eldar warned Lindel with a smile.

"The next one occurs in almost ten rels from now, " Sabu said, "and it would appear that Miro knows how to use them to his benefit."

The room suddenly quieted, with not even a goblet being heard this time. The air seemed to get heavy upon everyone's shoulders as this news permeated through everyone's consciousness. Even Mauklo seemed to be carefully thinking over the consequences. Finally, the slurp of Kilgar drinking from his goblet of milk caught everyone's attention.

"Good, " the young one said calmly, "that means I'll be old enough for the big fight."

"Kilgar, " Shong began, "I don't think that you realize what-"

"No my friend, that's the scary part, " Bronto grinned, "the kid does realize what it means. A boy after my own heart."

"That doesn't give us much time, " Sindar said. "How do we start? Where does one go to learn to fight such planning? Surely none of those old civilizations knew how to even spot him much less stop him."

"Ah, " Sabu smiled, "but I did find one that seemed to actually fall of its own accord; without Miro's help. And it may be that this one held more than a few secrets that could help us."

"So, in Indra's name, which one is it?" Candol asked.

"Ten thousand rels ago, " Sabu explained, "there was founded, the first of the Great Human Kingdoms. Each kingdom was ruled by a single great nation-city. Much larger than any castle, both city and small state these great cities were, each controlling the land for many hundreds of miles around it. So great were these cities, that their names were often prefaced with the title of 'Th?r', meaning 'great city'."

"Hey, " Eldar put in, "the King's castle is called Th?r Glomd?ita?or."

"Yes, " Sabu said, "it's the first city in five thousand rels to be great enough to have earned the ancient honored title. For you see, the last of the Great Human Kingdoms fell about five thousand rels ago. The Kingdoms had gradually fallen aside to more natural causes, until the last of them finally went."

"Hmm, " Sindar thought, "they were founded on one Donjflou and lost on the next. Interesting."

"The influence of the Kingdoms was great, " Sabu went on. "Even to our present way of numbering rels: R.K. stands for Rel of the Kingdom. It was to these old Kingdoms that that dating system originally referred. Everything before the founding of the first Kingdom was referred to as 'Old Times'."

"How does this help us?" Bronto asked, finally finished eating, sitting back with his mug of wine. "Unless you've found where one was."

"I have, " Sabu smiled. "The Capitol of the last, and perhaps greatest of the Kingdoms, was Th?r T?orca. It was the last to fall, but its fall wasn't like the others."

"At its height of power, " Sabu continued, "there arose a mage of great power. His name was Beltor, although later they called him Beltor The Black One. He used his powers to gain control of all the armies of Th?r T?orca, and then used them to try and conquer all that he could. This would be normal enough for most nations of the time, but his conquest was one of great destruction, death, and little regard for anyone not involved in the battles. He was cruel and evil, but with great magic with which to hold his power. He brought ruin upon all in his sight. At the height of his power, he was finally betrayed and cast down by the good people of that great city. In the process though, he brought down total ruin and disgrace upon the city. After they buried Beltor, deep where no one might find him, they left the ruins of their once great city, taking only personal possessions and leaving behind all of their great treasures and works. Soon after that, the rest of that last kingdom slowly dissolved and faded away. All that is left of them now are stories."

"And you've found its location?" Eldar asked eagerly, smelling adventure in the air.

"Yes, " Sabu said, standing up to stretch, "it is said to be in what is called the Valley of Many Lights, within the Dragon Mountains."

"Not more dragons, " Quickfoot said, suddenly a bit frightened.

Quickfoot dived under the table, with only his hand to come up afterwards to reach for another sweet bread.

"Which, according to my research, " Sabu finished, "is someplace in the western half of the dalnmar of Catho."

At this point, Sabu gave a brief wave of his left hand. The light above the table seemed to shimmer briefly, then form into a large map floating in the air. The map was an image made of colored lights that seemed almost solid enough to touch, though one could still see through its translucent surface. The image was such that, each person in the room could see it as if it were facing right towards them, even if they sat across the table from one another. It was a map of some part of the world, the oceans colored a deep blue, land a bright green, with patches of brown tracing out mountain ranges, and the occasional speckling of white for snow-capped peaks.

Several eyes widened briefly as the image's sudden appearance caught them off guard, while Mauklo and Kor-Lebear remained outwardly unperturbed.

"Hey, " Eldar exclaimed, "neat trick. One of the Books teach you that one?"

"Tis but a minor spell, " Sabu said, shrugging off the display as commonplace. "This map shows a part of the Northern Hemisphere of our world. This large continent here is Cenivar."

Sabu pointed a finger and one of the land masses pulsed softly from green to yellow and back again. The massive continent took up about two-thirds of the image. At the southern end of the continent, near the middle, there was what appeared to be a small bay connected to the ocean.

"Don't let the scale of this map fool you, " Sabu said, "that bay at the bottom is the Harbor Of The World. With the Harbor at about seventeen hundred miles across, that should give you some idea of perspective. Now, this smaller continent to the north of it is Catho."

He pointed his finger again, causing Cenivar to stop pulsing and a smaller continent above it to start its own weak pulsing. Shaped somewhat like an oblong triangle, its finger pointing the way East, while not near as big as the immensity of Cenivar, the scale of the Harbor suggested Catho to be a large continent in its own right.

"As you can see, Catho isn't as big as Cenivar, " Sabu continued, "but, it's big enough. Across the ocean to Catho's north lie the Northern Wastelands, which puts Catho almost halfway across the world from where we are now."

Sabu waited a few moments for everyone to look at the map, and then, with another wave of his hand, dispelled the image.

"I've never been to Catho, " Lindel said.

"They say that travel broadens the mind, " Bronto said.

"But that's on the other side of the planet, " Eldar sat back in his chair, disappointed. "We'd never get there!"

"I've been working on my transport spell, " Sabu said, "and while I can't get us to Catho, for the simple fact that I can't transport us to a place that I don't know, I can get us to the Harbor Of The World, which I have been to. We could then get a ship there and sail the rest of the way. That would cut our journey in half."

"Hey, Harbor Of The World, " Eldar said bolting happily to his feet, "now there's a place to have a good time! Lindel, I'll show you a few things there that your forests ain't never going to have!"

"Sounds good, " said Bronto, putting down his goblet and slowly getting up.

"You said 'treasures' earlier, " Kor-Lebear asked calmly. "Of what type. Surely you don't suggest such an expedition for just gold? That isn't the way that you think."

"Observant, as always, Kor-Lebear, " Sabu said. "No. The treasures of which I speak were that which originally kept the Kingdom strong. Items of great power are said to be there. Also knowledge of both magiks and history. Perhaps we can glean more clues to the nature of Miro's deviousness. If nothing else, surely some of those lost items of power can help us against him. We may also gain some much needed experience and practice in our various arts and magiks; experience that may also help us against him some rise."

"So, we go there to find something with which to fight Miro, " Candol summed up. "A quest indeed worthy of this humble servant of Indra."

"No set of items, no matter how powerful, will ever win against Miro, " Mauklo said calmly, "and no amount of experience will ever ready us for him. The King cannot fight him, so how can we?"

"We need not fight him directly, " Sabu answered, "he still has armies and many vile creatures at his command. It is these creatures and minions that we can fight. Deprive him of the means and personnel with which to wage his plans."

"At least it would be a start, " Bronto said, standing up to his full height. "I tire of how everyone cowers at his name, not even bothering to put up a good fight just because it's him."

Bronto looked stern as he slammed a fist against the table, sending the whole large oak table to shuddering.

"If resistance need start with us few, then so be it, " he continued, ferocity and emotion in his voice. "I may not be able to handle Miro himself, but from henceforth, will I ready myself to take out his chief General, no matter who or whatever it may be! No assistance will he have in the leading of his troops, not when I pull that assistance apart with my bare hands. That, at least, I will deprive him of!"

"How do we even know that he plans to use troops?" came Quickfoot's small voice from underneath the table. "He could just decide to zap everybody himself. He may not need armies."

"The small one makes a good point, " Kilinir said, as under the table she massaged Kor-Lebear's leg with her hand.

"The dimensio-book of History, remember, is always self-updating, " Sabu answered. "It also tells of history as it is being made. And in that book I have read of recent events in My-Thov that would give me concern. Movements of creatures in the mountains, deep in dark forests that no elf will go near, and in hidden places where not even the Book's magic can penetrate. I believe that he is secretly amassing an army that even the King would be hard pressed to match. And that's just what I know of. He may have other allies waiting."

"So, it's confirmed then, " Sindar said, "he plans a war."

"With whom, though?" Candol asked. "My-Thov is on the opposite side of the world from the King on Degaloth. That's tens of thousands of miles away."

"I would say, " Sabu said, "that he plans a war against the entire world, at the least."

"That would be a pretty big war, " Shong said.

"What do you mean 'at the least', " Lindel asked.

"I'm not sure, " Sabu said thoughtfully, "yet."

"He will launch this war on the Donjflou, " Mauklo stated. "Only that way can he make full use of that time's effects."

"It's so helpful to have our own devious thinker here, " Eldar said, nodding towards Mauklo.

Mauklo just smiled pleasantly.

"So, do we go there then?" Sabu asked.

"Wait, " Eldar said, sitting back down, "I just need a little assurance that this is the right way to go."

The elf looked over at Sindar, question on his face.

"Sindar?" was all he asked.

Sindar seemed to just stare out into the air. All heads turned towards the wizard, waiting expectantly. Even Quickfoot peeked his head up from under the table, fearful eyes watching, waiting. The silence, though but brief, seemed to last forever, before Sindar spoke.

"I foresee this trip as the key to unlocking our destinies, " Sindar said. "Either we will come back, ready to wage war against Miro's dark forces, and become embroiled in a war that our world has not yet seen, or-"

Here, Sindar paused briefly, as ears leaned just a bit closer, before he continued.

"Or, " he finally continued, "we will all die. I foresee no intermediate outcome."

Eldar seemed to think this over for a moment or two before he stood up again, straightened out his shirt, and spoke.

"Okay then, " the elf said, "as long as I know what trouble we're getting into. Let's go then."

"Very well, " Sabu stood up, "everyone agreed? Anyone not want to go, just speak up."

Quickfoot just whimpered and crawled slowly back under the table. There were no other dissenting voices.

"Unanimous, " Sabu said, ignoring Quickfoot's noises. "Ready what you need, then. We leave in two rises and I don't think we'll be back for a while."

"That new portable portal of yours should come in quite handy for getting back and forth if we need to, " Sindar said as they all started to get up.

"This is going to make that expedition to that Son of Traugh look boring, " Eldar said cheerily. "It's going to be some fun!"

"The change will be nice, " Kilgar said, stepping over to Bronto. "I'm still not used to being surrounded by all this water. It's bad enough without any reassuring sand under your feet."

"Blag-ak will be wanting to stay with those eggs until well after they hatch, " Lindel said stretching. "I hope that ogre doesn't wreck half the forest while we're gone."

"This looks like it's going to be exciting, " Bronto said as he walked out of the room.

The others started leaving the room, each to go about his own needed preparations. The last to leave, Kor-Lebear and Kilinir walked on either side of Mauklo as they were about to leave the room.

"Half of what they plan is foolish, " Kor-Lebear was saying. "I see this whole thing as folly."

"So, " Kilinir asked Mauklo, "what do you see this whole expedition as?"

Mauklo just smiled, spoke but a single word to echo lightly upon the empty room.


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