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    Kyle Aarons
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Mature story contains dark themes involving graphic violence and taboo topics that may contain triggers for sensitive readers. Please do not read further if this bothers you.

The Kandric Saga - 28. Chapter 28

The upper floor of the Green Goblin had become more of an infirmary than the Inn it was meant to be. The lead Healthman for the caravan rented an extra room following the arena matches and spent most of the night trying to put kids back into some semblance of one piece.

As dawn broke, the man once again entered Glaster’s room after a brief nock. “Commander, I once again must recommend you do a magical healing, at least on Klandon and Mylan. It will be another day if not two before they will be fit for anything other than bed rest if you do not. The human slave boy is even worse off, both his ankles are broken.”

Glaster glanced up from a scroll he was reading with a shrug, "Putting them back together magically does not exactly teach much. We brought them down this way to show them what a war is like and part of knowing war is to understand how those fighting for you have to deal with being wounded. Even this slight lesson is not really as realistic as it should be, because after a major battle the average soldier may wait days, if not weeks, to get treatment by a real Healthman. Magical healings are saved for the most important or elite. Now, granted, Klandon and Mylan will be elite someday, but right now they are my students, nothing more. If anything, if Mylan can move around and help, this could be an invaluable chance to practice his Healthman skills, especially on the slaves.

"The new Swordsman, Tazen I believe he said his name was… The one I selected at the arena as a good training guard got his guild rating as a Primary Step One last night. He also passed our Mindmaster test of character so I have no question as to him being a good addition to the caravan. This should be a good chance for you to evaluate his skills and get him some practice on treating combat wounds as well. The only one I will be willing to heal with a spell is the golden haired boy, and only if his burned hand cannot be healed properly in the next couple of days. You need to check him to make sure he has been circumcised and do so if he has not, however. The same thing goes for the slaves. I will not take an uncut boy to bed.

“The slave boys both fought well, but if you think I am going to waste a spell on a pair of youth slaves unless their lives are in danger, you are very much mistaken.” Glaster snorted, “Neither of them is even over pleasing to the eye, although I have never taken a Drow to bed before, so I am actually looking forward to the new experience. Now, if you can clear up the complexion of the other boy, then he would probably be considerably more interesting, but even then…” Glaster snorted, “They were certainly not bought for their looks and they were not exactly well taken care of, especially the human.”

Glaster pointed to the collection of scrolls on his desk. “Right now I am far more interested in what I can do to the five who tormented the golden haired lad, who is probably the cutest child I have seen since I left my home above the Silver Spine Mountains. He, I fully look forward to him being well enough to take into my tent for a full night…” Glaster sighed. “Perth’s thumb being wrapped for another couple of days is not something I wanted to hear about, but like the others, a combat wound treated by non-magical means may teach him much. A cold bed for a night or two will be worth the lesson taught.”

Glaster reached over and held up a scroll he had set off to the side. “You know, just before the collapse of Kronar, a student was once handed over to the Garm after harming one of their students and was never seen from again?”

The Healthman cringed at the thought. “So you want to give the five students away as slaves?”

“No, worse, much worse. The instigator I have a special surprise for.” Glaster’s sinister snicker sent a chill down the Healthman’s spine. “All I need to do is find a precedent for it. Sometimes I wish I had been allowed to become a Ruinseeker instead of a Lockmaster, but the father of our beloved King felt my skills and deviltry were much more suited to being a Lockmaster. Such a waste of my skills, I only use them when hunting prey in a city. Still, I am certain I will find something to make the lives of four boys and one girl so miserable it will be written down for others to tremble over.” Glaster picked up another scroll, “Is there anything else? If not, I need some time to make sure the time of high sun is the last pleasant thing five youth will remember for a very long time.”

The Healthman gave a short nod and left the room. The King had warned him of Glaster’s harsh teaching methods and the man’s extreme interest in good looking boys. It was something the King was willing to overlook, so to argue further would be to go against the King. He reentered the makeshift infirmary and glanced over to the newly promoted Primary Echelon Swordsman teen who was just as green at being a Healthman, but he certainly was primary Echelon in those skills as well. Tazen was doing his best to make all the kids more comfortable by passing out another round of orange berries.

The lead Healthman nodded his approval. “Your efforts to assist are very much appreciated.”

Tazen glanced up and gave a slight sigh as he saw the man’s expression. “So the master will not do a magical healing?”

“No.” The lead Healthman shook his head somewhat sadly, “He would prefer both you and Mylan get some practice in dealing with combat wounds.” Seeing the look of disgust on the teen, the Healthman managed a slight smile. “I know it appears harsh, but he has a very valid teaching method. These kinds of injuries are not something you see outside of combat, so to be able to get a chance to work on them now will certainly make your first battlefield duty a bit easier. On the other hand, it appears we are going to need more herbs.”

The golden haired boy raised his hand.

The Healthman nodded his direction. “Go ahead… Um, you have yet to tell us your name child. What is it anyway?”

“Rylan, Rylan Oldsurn.”

“Two names?” Klandon asked with a great deal of curiosity. “Why two names?”

Rylan let out a long sigh, “It really does not matter any longer.” Seeing the looks he was getting, however, made him want to quickly brush it under the rug. “My grandparents simply called me Ro, so whatever you wish to call me is fine.”

“No it’s not.” Mylan spoke up. “If you have a proper name, then we should address you as such. ”But I have only known a few who have two names and all but one of those were one name with a dash. So you must have a reason you have two names."

Rylan rolled his eyes, clearly wishing he had never said anything. “It goes back, way back and it is now meaningless…”

“No, no it is not.” The Drow spoke for the first time since being brought to the inn on the back of a cart. “Are you truly of the blood of Oldsurn from the kingdom of Kronar?”

“Yes…” Rylan started, in clear surprise anyone knew of his name’s history, only to get interrupted before he could say more.

“Oh, the dark one speaks!” Klandon spit out with pure hatred. “You and your Dragon loving…”

The Drow sat up with a massive cringe of pain. “Not all of my kind are allied to the Black Dragons, boy!”

With a loud clap of his hand to cut off the sudden heated nature of the conversation, The Healthman fired a rather harsh look at every child in the room. “Klandon, I understand you have something against the Dark Elves, but this one has not wronged you and Dark One, you are a slave and if you ever speak to a free child of any station like you just did again, I will punish you in ways you will not find even slightly pleasant. Understood?”

The Drow was the first to gulp and nod. “I am sorry for my outburst, but…”

“No.” The Healthman warned, with a dangerous edge to his normally very friendly and kind voice. “There is never an excuse for a slave to speak to a free being like you just did. Now we have set down no rules for you or your friend yet, however, there will be no more warnings on this.”

Before Klandon could speak up the Healthman waved a warning finger at the prince. “You had no right to interrupt either, so hush. Your outburst created this mess. Now you new arrivals to this group, I have a question. Have you been circumcised?”

Rylan lowered his head and rolled his eyes, clearly knowing why the question was being asked. “Right after I was indentured. The man of the house didn’t like the way I cleaned it, gave me one chance to get it right, still he was not happy so…” he shivered involuntarily, “I’m not sure what was worse, getting my hand burned or having to walk around for the first week or so after the foreskin came off.”

Tazen’s eyes got a bit wide, “I have not…”

“The master has not, as of yet, given me orders about you. To be honest, since he hired you on as a guard, I do not think he sees you as bedding materiel. However, if you wish to offer yourself in exchange for extra coin, he will demand you be cut first. Much like your younger friend’s former master, my commander sees it as a health issue and I strongly suspect an aesthetical thing as well.”

Tazen shook his head, “If it means getting cut I’ll pass. If he orders it,” the boy let out a long breath, “Then I guess I will comply, but will ask for extra coin.”

Rylan cringed, “Make it a lot of coin. The pain is… well it kind of feels like Dragonling claws tearing into you, only in a much worse spot and then each step makes it rub inside the loincloth; it was beyond horrible.”

The Healthman gave a bit of a nod, “So I have heard. Fortunately, I was done at birth so it was not an issue for me. You both may go, but young one, your hand is still not fully healed. I do not want you getting it dirty for at least another couple of days. As it is, you are very lucky the assault was stopped before you lost it.”

“It was close.” Tazen stated, “Had the guard not stepped in, I know I would not have been able to treat it without removing the hand.”

The Healthman seemed to harden, “I hear the five responsible will find punishment decrees handed down today and none will be happy, one in particular will be very unhappy. Speaking of which, you both need to be here at high sun so you can see what punishments the commander has in mind.” The Healthman tossed over a pouch of coin to the teen. "Get to a shop and get us a hefty supply of the basics and then get yourself and our newest student outfitted in quality gear, no bronze crap. Our commander does not let anyone in the caravan travel with bronze equipment.

Rylan shrugged. “To me it is over. If any of the five need to get an extra punishment, it should be Devkiln. He is the one who pretended to be my friend. I really thought he was different.”

Tazen shook his head fiercely, "He’s a punk and his father is a very well connected Mystic. There have been questions since I was old enough to walk about the Gloom Fire Mystic Shop having some less than legal potions and elixirs. I know for a fact the guy has a thing for slaves since my father works at the market and talks about how many females the man has bought. Dad says he has a thing for brown eyed, darker skinned ones who are in prime child rearing ages.

“One thing is for sure, he will fight anything the Commander wants done to his son.”

“Then he will not be very happy by the end of this day.” The Healthman stated with a grunt. “Because, up till now, I have not seen the Commander not get what he wants, when he wants, how he wants it.”

“Somehow I believe it.” Tazen responded. “Just having him stare at me at the arena entrance was enough to scare the crap out of me.”

The Healthman openly laughed. “I had the same feeling when he was introduced to me. ”There is something… well… maybe almost sinister about him, especially his eyes."

“Good way of wording it.” Rylan stated with a shudder. “The way he made me tell him the names of those who burned me was really pretty creepy. He did not do anything other than make it look like his hand was on fire and kind of threatened me, but his tone was scarier than having a Black Dragonling slam its claws into me and throw me in a river. The look in his eyes was even worse.”

“It is all in the eyes.” Mylan confirmed from his bed. “I swear he could glare at a demon and make it break out in a cold sweat.”

“Or have it run to a corner and cry.” Klandon added in, getting a round of chuckles. “Wait till he is mad at you then tell me about his eyes!”

Perth, whose whole thumb had been broken by the first wild punch he had thrown and it was now in a thick wrap of bandages and herbs, nodded in agreement. “I’d prefer to have his whip across my back than have him look at me when he is mad. The whip is way less scary.”

The human slave boy managed to roll over some and brace himself up with his elbow on the bed and his head in his hand. “I has not been cut, but can I ask… I mean was him really honest about freein’ us when you’s trained if’n we work hard fer him and stuff?”

“Oh, yes.” Mylan nodded vigorously. “Since we won the combat you were given to us but we had to promise to free you upon completion of our training or when we switch teachers before we are trained. He will still take command of you, though, and he is very well connected. He could, if you are good enough, have a member of high royalty sign off and erase any trace of you being a slave. It will be up to you.” Mylan kind of cringed, “However, from what I have seen, he will still take you for his pleasure sometimes.”

The youngster shrugged, “I am property; he does what he wants to me. Plus, if it means earning freedom, I’ll do whatever him er you wants no matter what. I was born a slave and sold to the arena when I was five. Been there ever since. This be the first time sleepin’ out-a them cages ever since my former owner traded me fer a wounded gladiator.”

Mylan looked over with a degree of sorrow. “If we had not been told we would have been given to you for a few days, I’d a let you win.”

“Speak for yourself.” Klandon grumbled, “You have not been trained by a Drow and Black Dragons …”

“Neither have you…” Mylan started to respond only to get cut off by Klandon.

“Yea, I have!” He spun to look at the Drow and switched to the Drow tongue, “Your kind did things to me and before this trip is through I will make sure some of those same things happen to you!”

The Drow’s eyes went wide with a degree of fear mixed with frustration as he responded in his native language, “I know not what you speak. If one of my kind did something to you, then I am sorry. However, if it also involved a Black Dragon then you have King Blathamort to blame far more than what is left of the Drow in the sunlit world. The Black Dragons ruined us and soiled us to where we are now… well, we are all but nothing.”

“As you should be after what your Gardagam did to me…”

The Drow’s eyes went wide and he gasped as if he was punched in the gut. “Gardagam-Koladic? The Gardagam-Koladic?”

Even as hostile as Klandon was, he could see the effect of the name on the Drow. This caused him to lower his voice slightly and switch back to Northman. “I heard him called the full name only a few times, but yes, he had the second name of Koladic.”

“NO!” the Drow next to shouted switching back to Northman as well, “It is not a second name; it is his full first name. All Drow have a common name and a full name. The common name is what is before the hyphen. The full name is the common and the name after the hyphen. If you want the bastard’s last name then you would want to say it this way; High Prince Gardagam-Koladic Menar-Tylacid. It was his family in allegiance to the Black Dragons who ruined us! There are many Drow who would pay everything they own to find and kill him and end his line once and for all!”

Mylan and the others watched the exchange with a degree of astonishment. Mylan was the first to be able to speak. “High Prince? There is a Drow high prince?”

The Drow slave glanced downward, “Yes. The remaining Drow have known for a very long time one of the Council of Under River escaped and tried to reopen a passage. He failed, but there is so much more…”

The Healthman slapped his hand on the table cutting off the conversation. “Slave boy, how do you know this?”

The boy looked down, “I cannot say.”

The Healthman’s eyes narrowed. “You are a slave boy and I will punish you…”

Mylan held up his hand, “Sir, if I may, please?”

The Healthman started to say something but stopped. Mylan may not be allowed to use his royal title around those who didn’t know who he was, but the Healthman knew who he was and an eight, almost nine, year old son of a Duke was way above his stature. He gave a slight bow, “Sure, go ahead.”

Mylan glanced over to Klandon, “Look, I know you have some serious hatred here and you keep saying you are getting memories back. You really have not told us much, but it seems to be focused on the Drow as a whole, but other than fighting for his freedom, this one has done nothing to you, right?”

“No…” Klandon spoke with underlying fury. “I see where you are going though, and I have to agree. We have yet to decide who we own and even though the Drow is technically of more value because of longer life and probably training potential, it would be best if you take him as your property. Cause, if I get him, I will do horrible things to him. Technically, we both own him since we are on the same team, but if you keep him and I keep this other one, then I’ll be better off, since I am sure I will be punished for what I really want to do to him.” Klandon pointed at the Drow.

“You would.” The Healthman confirmed. “The Commander has already made it clear to all the teachers in the caravan he will not allow outright abuse of either slave by you or anyone else, especially the Drow. He will, however, bed the Drow, of this there is no question.”

“All Drow males are cut at birth, at least…” The Drow stated with a resigned look of hopelessness.

“Well, there is a plus at least.” Mylan kind of shrugged trying to hide the fact he was pretty happy he would not have to give himself to Glaster like he had known the man wanted. “But right now the least of your concerns is being taken to bed by our master. Plus, as you just heard, Klandon is giving you to me so you belong to me whenever our commander does not want you. I have nothing against you and you speak very well for a slave so I suspect you are hiding something. However, as your owner I am demanding you tell us how you know all this information, how certain are you of the accuracy, and who you are!”

A tear lid down the Drow’s cheek as he lunged for a small knife the Healthman had been using to cut bandages. Even though this did extra damage to his banged legs and wracked the lad with pain he managed to get to it. Before the Healthmen could move closer, the Drow held the knife up to his own throat. “Master please do not make me say. I have pledged an oath to take my own life rather than reveal what you ask.”

“One less of you in the world,” Klandon spat at the boy. “Do it!”

Mylan glared at Klandon as he slid off the bed so his feet touched the floor. The pain in his side from the fight the day before almost took his breath away but he continued until he was sitting up. “No, stop…”

The Healthman stood and moved to the door. “I am getting the Commander!”

“No! This needs to be between him and me!” Mylan all but begged while glancing over at Klandon. “Come on, even you can see we are missing something here!”

Klandon sighed, “OK, but it better lead to me getting my hands on one of those who hurt me!”

“It will, I hope.”

“OK.” Klandon looked over at the Healthmen, “Give my cousin a chance then we will see where we’ll go from there.”

The Healthman eyed the boys knowing they were using their titles without really doing so, but one of the boys was his crown prince and it was just not something he could ignore completely regardless of his orders. “OK boys, however, you both know you are treading on less than stable ground, right?”

Mylan nodded, “I will take a punishment if needed.”

The Healthman took a deep breath, “I would be a great deal more comfortable if the slave would remove the blade from his throat.”

“That makes one of us.” Klandon muttered while he lowered his head back on his pillow.

Mylan fired another nasty look off at his cousin before he turned his attention back to the Drow slave. “Can you tell me what your vows are, what are you not allowed to tell us?”

The small blade didn’t move much, however, it moved enough to let other everyone else in the room to see the kid didn’t really want to kill himself. At the same time, those watching could see an internal debate within the child. “The vow I took seemed very clear at the time, but now I can see some grey areas.”

“What was your vow, boy?” The Healthman all but demanded to know.

The Drow took a long breath and glanced over to Mylan. “I am not to reveal who I am, what we are trying to do, or those related to me in any way. There can be nothing leading back to them or the goal.”

“But as a slave,” Rylan spoke up, “You belong to your owner and it includes everything up to and including your body. You cannot refuse your owner information!”

“Yes I can, son of Kronar.” The Drow fired back, “I just have to be willing to live with the consequences of doing so…. Or even die, which I am prepared to do.”

“What if we ask around the fringes of your vow?” Tazen wondered aloud, “You’re vow was just to not reveal those certain things, correct?”

“Yes.” This time the dagger wavered a bit more this time.

Rylan instantly understood where Tazen was going, “OK, so I could ask you about how you know the information and you could tell me, without telling me exactly who taught you, correct?”

Mylan grinned in sudden understanding as he saw the Drow slowly and thoughtfully nod. “There are all sorts of things you could tell us. The first thing I want to know is why you are a slave, because you are clearly not a normal slave.”

“Nope,” The other boy grunted, “Him be sold to the pit only a couple of moon ago by some of his own kin. Them got 483 sliver, way less than them wanted, but they wouldn’t go no lower. The one calling him his great uncle even put somethin’ in called a buyback fer 600 silver.”

The Drow shook his head, “Only if another did not buy me. I am sure my family never expected anyone to do so, since we go for so little and tend to be feared. As for why they sold me, I volunteered.”

Everyone’s jaw, even Klandon’s, dropped some. While a round of gasps echoed around the room it was Klandon who forced himself to sit up and spoke first. “You have got to be lying!”

“No.” The young man sighed, “Money was needed quickly and we didn’t have enough. The amount paid for me was exactly how much was needed to get the needed passage to stop a ship from sailing. If I tell you more, I would be way to close to breaking my vow for me to not slit my own throat.”

“What could be so important to you?” The Healthman all but begged to know.

“On this I have to be very careful, but this has way more to do with my people than anything else. If the ship sails, then what is left us will be doomed.” The Drow lowered his head while looking in the direction of Klandon then to Mylan, “You now own me, and I will serve you in every way. If it gets me my freedom I will be forever grateful and if you wish me to stay around I will remain loyal and even guard you with my own life. I will submit to whatever Thought-scanner you wish as often as you wish. But I cannot tell you more about this and I beg you to just let it go. It is a Drow august matter, and nothing to concern yourself with, so I swear with my very blood.”

Klandon had a totally confused look on his face, “You do not sound like any Dark Ones I had to deal with before.”

Rylan responded with a degree of subservience in his voice before the Drow could speak, “Because he is not.” The young Swordsman trainee glanced over and gave a slight bow, “You may not have wished to give this away but you did. You may as well tell the others you are a member of the Conclave.”

The Drow’s eyes went wide as he heard this and his grip on the blade tightened. Before the blade could do more than start to draw a line across the Drow’s throat, Tazen sprung and grabbed the boy’s wrist. A moment later Rylan moved over and used his good hand to squeeze the boy’s hand.

The Drow yelped as Rylan’s fingers dug in and hit nerves forcing the hand to open. “NO! Stop!” He shouted as the small blade clattered to the wooden floor. “I must die!”

“First, your life is not to take.” Rylan spoke firmly as he twisted the older boy’s arm up into the small of his back and forced him to lean forward while nodding for a very amazed Tazen to back off. “You are the property of the boy over there. It is his decision if you live or die. You say you gave yourself up as a slave so you are duty bound to be one. Is the word of a member of a Conclave family so meaningless?”

“I failed…” The Drow sobbed.

“No, you have not.” Rylan again spoke this time a bit more softly. "None of us know who you are, only what you are. We know your family needed money, not why, and we do not know of your family or what goals they have. Looking around, I do not believe anyone here other than the two of us even knows what being a Conclave family means.

“Now why not take a step back and think over all your vows. You made yourself a slave and you have no right to take your own life. You have already told us you cannot divulge your family’s name, but you can give your first name so we can at least hold a civil conversation with you. You can also start being the subservient slave you gave your free self up to become.”

The Drow managed a nod as tears of pain and hopelessness ran in streams down his cheeks. “My full first name is Chark’ash-Shunral. Within my family, it was not uncommon for those over me to call me Chark.” Still keeping his head down, he gave a quick glance in the direction of Mylan. “Master, I am sorry for my outbursts.”

“Better.” Rylan let out a long breath and glanced over to Mylan. “Although I do not really want to nor recommend you do so, Chark’ash-Shunral is your property. Do you wish me to punish you property since you are not able to at the moment?”

Mylan shook his head. “I just want to know what a… this… um, Conclave thing is.”

The Healthman nodded in agreement. “I am also becoming more curious about you, Rylan.”

Rylan let go and quickly grabbed the small blade. As he moved back, he put it well out of Chark’ash’s grasp. “I have not been here very long, however, what I have gleaned is you are a merchant caravan and you have several children who are very wealthy with you and plenty of teachers of different arts. I do not know if you have one, but if you do, this may be a very good time to have a Ruinseeker join us, a good Ruinseeker.”

Chark’ash kept his head down. “You may wish to get all of the others. This could be a very long and interesting history lesson. Between what the family of Oldsurn has to say and what I can pass on, I believe we have well over a millennia and a half of little known history to cover.”

“At least,” Rylan managed a snicker.

“Not until I know what or who you both really are.” Klandon demanded. “I am totally lost, and I ain’t the smartest, but I sure know when I’m missin’ something.”

Rylan could see the Healthman was deferring to the boy, which seemed very odd, but since this was clearly the case, he moved back so everyone could see him. “How many know what Kronar was?”

Mylan spoke up quickly, “It was the former kingdom which all the other kingdoms sprung from after its fall at the end of the Mythling wars.”

“Not quite master.” Chark’ash spoke up, “Kronar was the name of the only non-Mythling controlled kingdom to survive intact after the Mythling wars. You are correct in your knowledge of it being the base from where all the other kingdoms sprung up from after its fall. But its fall didn’t happen until the last king was assassinated at the end of the Dragon War. However, it was already in decline since most of the oldest nobles left to become the gods worshiped throughout the lands today. In simple terms, it was the kingdom of the Mythlets.”

“I really want to hear more, but what does this have to do with either of you?” Mylan begged to know with a degree of awe at the implications of the history he was hearing.

Once again Chark’ash spoke, “Because one Mythlet family stayed behind in attempt to hold things together and did so until the King was killed and his family forced to scatter by a combined attack of Green and Black Dragons in an attempt to gain a new homeland for the Greens. It was only thwarted at the last moments by a combined Silver and Blue Dragon counter attack which also saved a few of the king’s family, including the boy who should have been handed the throne and crown. The last King of Kronar, who never got a chance to rule it, was a Mythlet by the name of Gilidon Oldsurn.”

Looks of shock all tuned to Rylan. It was Tazen who managed to speak first. “You are the bloodline of Gilidon Oldsurn?”

“I am. I was third born, but when my brothers were captured I was sold into indentured servitude to get them back. Much like Chark’ash-Shunral, I also volunteered because there was a slim window to get them back and my family’s hidden wealth was not close by. I do not even know if they got my brothers back, but I can assure you my family will be searching for me, thinking they are going to buy me back. The rest I have told your commander.”

Rylan managed a shrug, “However, the second piece of this is just as interesting and since I can tell you want to know more about Chark’ash-Shunral, and you will probably not believe him; so I think I need to fill in some more history here.”

“We’re all ears,” Klandon spoke up.

Rylan managed a bit of a grin as he looked over to Chark’ash-Shunral. “He accidently gave it away when he said it was a Drow august problem. The only ones who use such a term are either part of, or forces for, the Conclave.”

“What is the Conclave?” Mylan asked as he struggled with what to call the boy talking.

Rylan glanced over to a very dejected looking Chark’ash-Shunral and shook his head. "I am probably not as good in Drow history as he is, but my family and the Conclave fought side by side during the Mythling War. At the time, the Mythlings were very close to winning, but the city of Under River saved all of us from those we now know as the Demon Lords. But Under River would have never risked itself the way it did unless the above ground Drow royalty did not push for it.

"Much like Alphar, the Elvin lands are now ruled by princes with a central council, so was the above ground Drow Empire; they called themselves the Conclave. At the end of the Dwarven-Elvin War, the Conclave fractured. Some wanting to stand with some in Under River who wanted peace and the others sided with those who didn’t. Those who didn’t gained favor of the Black Dragons, in particular the then Prince Blathamort, now King Blathamort.

"The problem was, the side wanting peace couldn’t stand up against the combined might of the Black Dragons and the Drow who wanted to continue to fight. Most of the Council of Princes in Under River who were against continuing to fight were slaughtered as were the peace wanting princes of the Conclave. We do not know what happened in Under River, since it was locked up, but we do know what happened up here. The Black Dragons joined with the Drow and fought a lengthy war which resulted in the Drow losing almost everything while the Black Dragons moved in and took it over, leaving them as one of the most powerful Dragon houses in existence. They then took the Drow who survived the purges and added them to their militia, making them the only semi-Drow friendly kingdom left, but only friendly to the Conclave members and Drow who fought till the end.

“The rest of the Conclave was all but wiped out. My family lost contact with the last two houses around a century ago but we continue to try to help rebuild some kind of friendly kingdom just south of the isles, now all but controlled by the Warlords of Morden. Rumors have been flying over the last few years of an attempt of the former Under River prince who wants to take over and there is even an island controlled by a group of Black Dragons and pro War Conclave princes who are trying to rebuild the old Drow Empire. The only thing I know is there appears to be a Dark Mage connection to this.”

“There is,” Chark’ash-Shunral spat, “Her name is Gambra and the Prince of Under River’s name is High Prince Gardagam-Koladic Menar-Tylacid, House of Tylacid. They had the backing of someone by the name of Monarch, but it seems this Monarch realized he was being played and pulled out funding. However, it may be too late to stop them. My sale was needed to get equipment to try.”

Chark’ash-Shunral let out a deep breath. “In case anyone cares, it was the Tylacid family and their Black Dragon brethren who destroyed us Drow by assaulting the Dwarven Fortress of Scarlet Rock and killing everyone inside, including the murder of ten score by a hundred youth. It turned everyone against our kind and we have been vilified ever since.”

Mylan listened and kind of shook his head. “This is nothing like the history we have been taught.” He stopped and shook his head, “Well it kind of is, but…”

Rylan made a snorting sound, “Because history is not written by those who lose. The truth is hidden behind the ways the victors can best cover their own butts. In this case the combined Alphar and Garm houses touched up things so they came out smelling like roses and then fled to the deepest and most dangerous parts of our world.”

“They still live?” The Healthman gasped in total shock.

Chark’ash-Shunral rolled his eyes, “Who do you think controls the Deathland Mountains and the Emerald Mountains?”

“No one!” Mylan stated fiercely. “No one goes there.”

Rylan snickered, “Oh, people go there, they just don’t come back… and if they do they talk about the horrors of the monsters who live there. This is because the Garm and Alphar push the worst of the creatures out away from their settled lands which puts those beasts in between us and them.”

Mylan felt his head spinning with the sheer amount of new information. “OK, so you, Rylan, are technically a prince.”

“We have so little land what I am matters little.”

“Still, you are a prince and of the line of the gods, right?” Klandon asked with wide eyes.

“Yes, but I am not the only prince here.”

Seeing eyes go wide, and not realizing Klandon was one, Chark’ash-Shunral let out a long sigh, “Yes, Rylan, so am I, but now I am a slave first and a prince second. If my slavery leads to my people stopping the House of Tylacid, then my own life will have meant something.”

Mylan glanced back at Klandon with a bit of a relived look upon hearing this information. At least Prince Klandon’s position remained unknown. Still, he had to try to open his cousin’s eyes to the situation at hand. “Come on, you have to see he wants the same thing you do. If you were ever held by this Gardagam of the House of Tylacid, then your goals and Prince Chark’ash-Shunral’s are the same! We can get him and his people help.”

“How do I know he is not lying?” Klandon half mumbled.

“He is not,” Rylan all but hissed. “Nor do I understand a way for you to help him short of freeing him.”

Chark’ash-Shunral looked over nervously. “I will submit to a Thought-scanner if you have one you can fully trust. But we have first hand information of those who the free Drow are going against being active in this area and even wanting to find a prince by the name of Zoldon…”

“Zoldon?” Klandon frowned deeply, “I remember someone on the ship calling me by the name Zoldon.” Klandon started to rub his forehead as the memory demanded to be brought forward, but the magical blocks started to create pain. Klandon started to rub his temples more firmly to ease the tension building inside his head, “Why can’t I remember things right? It’s in here; I know it!”

The Healthman’s brow crinkled as the name Zoldon struck a nerve. Zoldon was a name he had seen written on the Royal Crypt, the dead son of King Wyhrem, Klandon’s brother. It made no sense, but seeing the way Klandon was acting told him there was a much larger problem and the more the boy struggled the more pain he seemed to be in. He leapt to his feet. “Boys, stay put and open the door for no one. Do not discuss this further until I get back. I want no harm to come to Klandon, so do not try to force your memories. I will go get Glaster and the others, along with the needed herbs. Until we are all assembled here there will be no more talk on this subject.”

He then turned to the young Swordsman, “Tazen, you are a guilded person here and my backup Healthman and as such I am giving you command of this room until I get back. If you feel the need to physically discipline anyone in here for any of these outbursts or to prevent further talk about this Zoldon, be my guest, but no one enters or leaves here until the Commander is here to say otherwise!”

 

Deep in the passages between Bloody Rock and Slome another battle was unfolding. This was not one being fought by those on the surface. Many in this underground fight were not even part of what was going on above. More than a few didn’t even care about the largest battle since the last battles for the above ground Drow Empire were unfolding above them. They had different reasons for fighting and their hatred went back even further than the Drow War. The problem was neither side could do it alone; they needed help and their allies were both from the same empire.

Red Dragon allied forces slowly pushed deeper into the sub-chambers of a long forgotten labyrinth. Cavelings, Morg, Hobgoblins and a smattering of other races fell by the scores, nothing more than annoyances for the major contenders of the two clashing sides. Red Dragonlings and a few Red Warrior Dragons reinforced with a large force of Bandurlok supporting Black Dragonlings, Warrior Dragons, and Hobgoblins suddenly gained the upper hand as a Green Warrior Dragon was cut down. They pressed their advantage to the fullest. They had no intention of giving Prince Bassork’s forces or his Green allies any leniency.

Another Green Warrior Dragon moved up, to fill the hole in the line, but it was too late. A quartet of Red Dragonlings had already pushed past, cutting down a Human Mage and a quintet of the human’s underlings. The Green Warrior Dragon turned to see what it could do, but found this attempt to save the group a fatal error. A Bandurlok allied Black Warrior Dragon moved in from the side and snapped his jaw down on the Green’s throat. Bones snapped and wisps of poisonous gas curled out from around the wound as the dying Green tried to breathe at the last second, only to find it was a moment too late.

This totally shattered the Green’s lines and left almost two dozen Bassork allied Black and Green Dragonlings surrounded. They were cut down even as they tried to surrender. A hint of flame curled up around the lead Red Warrior Dragon as he surveyed the carnage. Speaking in Dragon Tongue he glanced over to a Red Dragonling. “Secure this room and make sure there are no passages which would allow them to wrap back around us. If there are not, then they are totally cut off from reinforcements from Bloody Rock. If they run to Slome, I am sure the Blues and Silvers will be more than happy to deal with them for us!”

One of the Red Dragonlings who had first managed to create the break in the line ripped the throat out of a teen who had started to cast a spell. As the young woman’s book burst apart, it screamed as if in pain. Another Red Dragonling moved over and glanced down at the body and the chains leading to three boys she had been escorting. “A Dark Mage and some slaves…”

He moved closer to the three boys and looked them over. He glanced back over his shoulder. “I do not see any body parts removed Pangam.”

A much larger Dragonling moved up and looked down with a bit of a hissing grow as it spotted nearly a dozen spell pages with blood coated edges lying on the ground around the dead girl. “Gather those up and see if one of the real dragons will be willing to waste a breath and breathe on them so they are destroyed. It is just like a Green Dragon to consort with the Dark Mages!”

Pangam ignored the underling as he turned his attention to the boys and switched over to Northman. “You three little whelpssss, have any of you given a piece of your body yet?”

The oldest boy looked up with terror in his eyes at seeing yet another type of Dragonling, but managed to shake his head. “N…nnnnnn…no… um, sa sa sir… None of us. One of the girls did. It is in her p…ppppp pouch.” The lad pointed to the dead Dark Mage."

Pangan yanked off the pouch from the dead Dark Mage’s belt snapping the leather cords like they were threads. Not wasting time he used a claw to cut through the leather and emptied the contents on the ground. He then used a dagger to poke through it. He quickly spotted a small toe and a vile of blood mixed in with the coins and small gem stones. “Did the dark bitch do anything other than take it and put it in her pouch?”

The youngest boy nodded with tears pouring down his cheeks. “She dumped a liquid on it and said something about no one eating it.”

“Toxic…” Pangam shrugged, “But the dark bitch did nothing more.”

“Just took her blood from the wound and put the toe in the pouch. She then gave Tarastala to a man who then took her and the others down a different tunnel.” The youngest one spoke while shivering. “She yanked her up by putting hooks into her ears and started shaking her. She had to cut it off and give it to her!”

“Your friend isss lucky I got to both the blood and her toe before it became too late.” He flipped the toe over to a Black Dragonling and motioned for it to dribble some of its acid on the appendage. Once he saw it start to dissolve he used the back of his dagger to shatter the vile of blood. Satisfied he had put an end to any Dark Magic he returned his gaze to the three boys. “They did not take you all, why?”

The middle boy spoke, sounding totally exhausted. “The Green Dragon-thing said we were more the type needed by someone in a place called Everone. The rest were taken out of a small cave so they could magically be taken to someplace called Rolling Dale.”

“The resssst? How many exactly are you and where do you hale from little one.” This time Pangam looked squarely at the middle aged boy since he was clearly the best speaker and the least afraid, although the fear level was strictly relative since all three had long ago pissed and messed themselves and had not been given a chance to clean up.

“We come from Slome sir. There were almost twenty of us, but I don’t know how many are left, if any.”

“Were you captured and brought out of the town?” Pangam cocked his head to the side, “If not, why are you out here?”

“Our teacher brought us…” the older boy started only to stop as he saw the Dragonling glare at him.

The middle boy spoke up, realizing he had somehow been picked to talk to the massive beast. “Teacher Kandric found out about something in Bloody Rocky and convinced the Governor to…” Seeing the look on the Dragonling’s face he stopped talking and whimpered slightly.

“Kandric? The Kandric of the Black Rapidsss Ssssoutssss?” Pangam gasped, “The red head be a Teacher?”

The younger one looked up with a degree of awe at finding a Dragonling knew of Kandric and saw a slight flicker of hope, “Yes sir, we all saw him cast a Teaching Echelon spell. You know him?”

“Know him?” The Dragonling burst out in laughter, “I have fought along ssside him and hisss commander, Vondum! I watched asss he took down half a ssscore or more Gnollsss! Can it be, he issss behind all of thissss?”

The middle boy sniffled, but like the younger one, he found the first bit of hope he had seen in days. “Yes sir. The Green Dragon over there,” he pointed to the body of the Green Warrior Dragon with the crushed throat, “said Kandric killed King Blathamort and one other. They said some Green Dragon by the name of Gebetthia was dead and they were very angry about it.”

The whole room fell silent as this information circulated with astonishing quickness. Some of those looting the dead even dropped what they held in their hands and claws. A Red Warrior Dragon moved up and looked down. “Are you positive Gebetthia issssss the name given boy?”

A new wet spot appeared in the front of all three boys at the sight of so many teeth and the feel and smell of the incredibly hot breath washing over them. The middle boy spoke again, but it came out as more of a squeak. “Yes, and they are really mad!”

The Red Warrior Dragon glanced over at the others in the room and switched to Dragon Tongue, “The Greens lost Gebetthia!”

A jubilant roar of Dragons, Dragonlings, and even some Hobgoblins echoed throughout the chamber.

“And you three are under the guidance of Kandric?” The Red Warrior Dragon asked with a great deal less hostility.

The middle one answered again, “Yes sir. He is one of our official teachers since he took over for teacher Saslara and…” the boy paused as he felt his head start to spin. “Sir can we please get something to eat and drink… it has been days since we were allowed to eat.”

“Pangam,” The Red Warrior Dragon spoke with a tone of absolute authority, “The three children belong to one we owe a gargantuan debt of gratitude to. Take them back through our linesss and get them fed and make certain they get back to this Kandric in a much better condition than they are now. When you find him, find out what he wantssss from our Queen, and we will get it to him!”

 

Even as the chains were being broken off the three boys, a Black Dragonling scout moved up and talked to the three boys and provided them their first meal in quite some time. As soon as he was certain he had all the facts, the scout moved back into the shadows and waited until he could slip away unnoticed. Once he was clear of the front lines, he took off at a dead run with the information. As soon as he delivered his report to Bandurlok’s lead commander above the Silver Spine mountains, a spell caster was summoned to gate the scout directly to the gates of the Obsidian fortress. Less than two hours after the three boys were rescued, a shimmering portal allowed the scout to step through only a few hundred meters from the front gates of the very seat of power for the Black Dragon homeland.

It took several minutes for the frustrated Dragonling to convince those manning the gates to let him in, and they only did so after stripping him down and locking him in thick iron chains, on the off chance he was some sort of assassin sent by Prince Bassork. Finally, he was escorted into the throne room. The main throne sat empty, magically protected from any other Dragon sitting on it other than the King and since no line had been established by King Blathamort, and there were two contenders for the spot, it prevented either from establishing a totally clear line of Rulership.

Bandurlok, on the other hand, had moved his own princely throne into the room and sat in it as if the room was owned by him. He glanced down with a skeptical eye at the rather scrawny Dragonling. “I understand you bring word of something monumental?”

“My soon to be king,” The Dragonling knelt as if before his king as he started speaking, “I bring word of the death of Gebetthia, princess of the Greens.”

Bandurlok smiled with a bit of humor. “This I already know my loyal messenger. She was the first burst of Dragon Death we felt. However, since you were able to find this out, it tells me your report holds much more information I may not have. Please continue.”

“I was not aware, nor do I think anyone else was, as to your knowing about Gebetthia. However, we also now know name of the one who killed them.”

Bandurlok’s head tilted to the side and his eyes flickered with a brief twinge of uncertainly and fear. “Are you saying they were both killed by the same being?”

“Yes.” The Dragonling trembled as he spoke. “The fatal blows were struck by the one and the same person. From what I was able to find, it sounds like it was without much, if any, assistance.”

Bandurlok paused as his heart raced. It took a few moments for him to realize this was fear and it wouldn’t just stop so he pushed on doing his best to hide his feelings. “And what terrifying thing could do this?” True fear was not something he had much experience in, but this was certainly one of those times.

“My soon to be king, I still find this hard to believe, but it is a boy, a red headed Halfelvin child by the name of…”

“Kandric…” Bandurlok spoke softly somehow knowing in his heart it was true.

“You know of him?” the startled scout asked without much in the way of royal protocols.

The fact Bandurlok overlooked this said more than his words did. "I have had multiple reports on this child. It started with a report from our Red allies and after sending up scouts to make sure the caravan which broke the blockade of Slome stayed protected, I have had more. In truth I have dismissed the reports surrounding the child, even those of him walking around in Slome as if he were some sort of Quasi leader.

“He has also been a large thorn in the side of the Governor of the town, a man our former King allied himself with, which now looks even more unwise than what I thought originally. The man was too connected to the Greens and their Nasty Dark Arts friends for my liking. I will do much to further this kingdom, but not even I will stoop to working with those who steel life to empower their incantations.”

Bandurlok stopped his musings as he refocused on the scout. “This Kandric…he is a boy… a child… there can be no way our great King was felled by a mere child… can there?”

"My soon to be king, the pieces all fit. The boy warrior, Kandric, led a group of students into Bloody Rock and they were separated. The students we got from the Greens and a Female Dark Mage tell of this and how the magic happened only after Kandric separated from them. They were actually on their way to where he was last seen when the first death occurred below them. In addition, they even heard part of the conversations. The Greens who captured them filled in the rest and the three children passed it all on to me as we fed them.

“They all talk about this Kandric as if… well as if he were some sort of god.”

“If he fell both King Blathamort and Princess Gebetthia in the time span we felt, he may well be one.” Bandurlok countered, “If not, he probably has the power of one now. Not even Rovnar was able to take out a pair of Great Dragons. He only took out two True and one Great, but it was enough to elevate him to godhood.”

“But Rovnar was a Mythling…”

“No, my fine scout, he was a Mythlet.” Bandurlok corrected the Dragonling. “But whatever this Kandric was, Wilderness Scout, Halfelf, swamp trash, or whatever, it matters not. He is now one of the elite, and I am betting our King put protections around him to prevent us from harming him or his kin. I sure would have if he had killed me. To do less would be to admit being felled by a lesser being. He may also know who our King wanted to rule. If not, he could decide.”

Bandurlok shook his head in a great measure of disgust. “This may be the single worst day of my life.”

“Why, my soon to be king?”

“Because,” Bandurlok grumbled, “Kandric was seen wearing a command medallion of the being I hate the most in this life and probably the next. The problem is, if I don’t ally myself with Kandric soon, then Bassork might and I cannot let this happen.”

Bandurlok’s paw smashed into the floor of the throne room with enough force to crack the floor. “By the gods I never thought in a pair of millennia I would do this…” He glared down at the scout, “Unfortunately, I see very little choice.”

The Dragonling gulped, “What do you need my Lord?”

“I need you to take a flag of truce across the battle lines and speak to this Kandric and let him know if I get his support I will make a full truce with Monarch.”

The Dragonling tongue fell out of the side of its mouth in shock.

“Yes, you do understand just how painful this is to me.” Bandurlok growled in total displeasure. “As a sign of good faith let this Kandric, who better be taking some sort of title, know I will grant him a pair of favors if he is willing to side with me in our civil war and we will give Monarch all of the land surrounding the Missing Finger Mountains as his own kingdom and even establish full diplomatic relations if he will side with me in our civil war.”

 

As a gate spell started to open outside of Rolling Dale, it sputtered a few times then vanished. A moment later it reappeared, but not in the same location nor in quite the same way. The single gate leaving the deep swamps on the fringes of the Split Rock Knolls fractured, creating a baker’s dozen of smaller gates scattered over five kilometers, a full day outside of Rolling Dale. All those who stepped through would later swear they heard a giggle before being all but tossed out of one of the small thirteen portals.

In the all but empty hall, a woman glanced over to the only other being in the immense chamber, “Are you messing with mortals again?”

“No more than your crazy weather is doing to them.” Rovnar snickered.

"My weather has a purpose. My storms are speeding up or delaying those we need to fill in our little puzzle so Kandric can have everyone where we want them. Ever since he destroyed the force behind the big storm put together by the Green and Black Dragons I have done nothing more than tweak things a bit. If things work out properly, we can give the mortals a long autumn so their food crops grow properly and everything will balance out. Besides, the Dragons and the Mythlings poured out vast quantities of magic to keep things colder so I am really not having to expend much to keep things going in ways to our liking.

“I cannot sit back and not make sure everything is perfectly set so our next god gets the support he needs, when all I need to do is send a few lower spirits to play with the fabrics already set by those who stand to lose the most, after all.”

Rovnar shrugged and finger rolled a pair of daggers in each hand. So fast did the four blades move they looked more like a constant blur, creating the illusion of a band of metal wrapping around his fingers. “I cannot let you have all the fun, Syria, nor take all the credit.”

This comment peaked the Goddess of Weather’s curiosity. She moved over to the central table to see what Rovnar was looking at. She frowned, “And how does scattering slave children and a few adults all over a forest help Kandric?”

“These are not just children, Syria. Many are his students from Slome, and those escorting them do not own them, not yet… and if I can help it, not at all.”

“Ah, but this is not help he has asked for.”

“Neither was pushing everyone down toward Everone so we could put all the pieces in place in Rolling Dale to make sure Kandric gets noticed enough to gain mortal worshipers.”

“True.” Syria frowned slightly, “I know we do not give you the credit you are sometimes do, but making the Mythlings believe we were making our move in Everone when we are actually doing so in Rolling Dale was a brilliant move. Getting Lord Falk and Master Lannet down there to hold the line and keep them properly distracted was even more devious.”

“I am not worshiped as the God of Trickery for nothing.” Rovnar snickered.

Syria peered into the spinning orb again and kind of shook her head. “I do not see what good you have done these children, though.”

“Wait and watch. If this does not go as I expect, then at the very least I will have put another crimp in Gambra’s plans and there is someone we do not want the Mythlings to sponsor for a Demon Lord spot. She is bad enough on in the realms of the mortals.”

“True. But it would be you who has the most to lose on this since none of the current Demon Lords are really opposite of you. She would probably be earmarked for such a spot.”

“She already has been by a few higher ranking demons according to some of my spirits. While she is cunning and those who want to bring her into the fold of the Demon Lords are even more so, they really have no idea who they are messing with. I am not letting her get anywhere.”

“Be careful, if the Mythlings trace magic back to you, we could end up with a direct confrontation and I don’t think we want one until we have Kandric in the fold.”

“Worry not. These mortals were foolish enough to cast the spell on the edge of the Knolls focal point. Not even Salam would be able to tell their spell was messed with. The interference of the focal point won’t even let you replay it. Try if you wish.”

“I have lost way too many bets with you, my slippery fingered friend, I’ll pass.”

Rovnar snickered as he continued to play with his daggers and watch the mortals deal with the mess he had just placed them in. Playing with mortals was just not something he got to do often enough and it was so much fun to watch and listen as they dealt with the totally unexpected.

 

Klent glanced out the front of the tent flap noticing the ground once again had a fresh coat of snow. Muttering in some disgust, he shook the boy given to him by the magistrate and ran his hands down the boy’s body. “Your nightly duties to me are at an end; time to start your daytime chores.”

As the boy’s eyes opened, Klent once again ran his hand down the boy’s nude body. At least the kid didn’t fight it this time, which was a marked improvement, Klent grinned at the thought. He rolled out of the warm bedroll, dressed, and knocked the snow off his tent. A bit of a frown crossed his features as he realized the boy had still not gotten out of the bed roll.

Klent shook his head, reached in the tent and yanked the boy out of his bedroll. Before the boy could more than yelp, Klent tossed him into the deepest snow he could find and moved up with a glare. Even as the kid tried to stand, Klent’s hand had already secured the boy’s hair. He yanked the boy up and smacked his butt hard with the flat edge of his sword. He then drug him back to the tent, tossed him a light cloak and pointed to the fire pit. “My men need a fire boy, get to work! No shoes, no britches, no shirt until everyone is around a warm fire and fed. Let this remind you of your place as a slave boy. Until you get it in your head you don’t even get a name, and don’t say a word. Your old name is gone. I will give you one of my liking.”

Lidevar kind of chuckled from inside his own small tent, “Having a slave boy around is kind of nice, Klent. I don’t even have to get cold while I wait for a fire.”

Jory poked his head out of the tent on the far side of the small camp. “Well, sleeping with Pouncer between me and Pulon is kind of nice. The fur ball sure keeps it warm. But I agree with you Lidevar, having the kid is a nice benefit.” He glanced over to Klent, “And it sure keeps you in a better mood.”

Klent snickered. “Well it is nice to have something to keep me entertained and a bit warmer at night.”

Garvol glanced over from the far side of camp while wrapping his winter cloak around himself a bit tighter. With the others waking up for the day, the need to have his weapons ready diminished some, but he still kept his eye on the path leading to the makeshift camp. “Too bad we have to pull guard shifts. A full warm night would be a nice change.”

Klent nodded in agreement. “It sure would, but we haven’t found anything close to what we were sent to find. I’m thinking we try pushing down toward Everone today. The main pass is probably a bust, but there are plenty of smaller paths and game trails off of the heavily beaten track we could check out. It may also give us a chance to hunt some and if we are lucky we can find a small cave to hole up in tonight. The weather feels heavy. I really am beginning to wonder if Syria is up to something.”

Jory stood, fully dressed, and moved over to where the boy was struggling to get a fire started. He rolled his eyes and yanked the kid back. “Man, you are lucky you are cute, cause you ain’t good for nothin’ else.” He knelt down and extended his hand at the stack of wood. With a pair of words, sparks shot out of his hands and ignited the wood. “There. Now start cooking and get us some food before I have to treat your feet for frostbite!”

Immeck moved out of the woods on the far side of camp where he had been keeping the last watch and made a beeline for the fire. “I’ll help. His cooking ain’t worth a horse turd in a stable.”

“It has less to do with cooking and way more to do with being close to the fire.” Lidevar teased as he stood and kicked the bedroll in his own tent. “Come on boy, daylight’s burning.”

Klent grinned as he nodded to Lidevar to join him at the edge of camp.

Pulon glanced over with a bit of a smirk as he looked at Jory. “Looks like Klent’s bed wasn’t the only one warm last night.”

Jory glanced over, “Well, Lyrod did it to himself.” He sighed a bit sadly, “He hasn’t exactly pulled his weight so I guess he had it coming.”

“You actually sound sorry for him.” Pulon grunted with some humor as he moved over to the cart and grabbed some barely cooked meat for his giant raccoon.

“Have you ever had to sleep with someone before?” Jory asked bluntly.

“No…” Seeing the look in Jory’s eyes, the smirk faded from Pulon’s face. “Guess I am about the only kid here who hasn’t huh?”

“So it seems.” Jory let out a long breath and watched as it swirled upwards in the cold before vanishing. “Look, I’ve done it, but I don’t exactly like it none, even if some of it feels good. No matter who it is, their hands are all over me and I feel like I am nothing more than a toy for them to play with. Depending on who it is, it can be slightly uncomfortable to flatly painful too. Now, if Klent pays me, I’ll let him take me. Same can be said for the guy who is employing us; actually he has already all but bought me as an on-call bitch.”

Pulon gulped at the mention of Glaster. “Yea, well, if the guy payin’ us wants something I doubt anyone in this camp, even if we all stuck together, could tell him no and get away with it.”

“Nope,” Jory concurred, “and he is filthy rich too.”

“I never thought I’d meet no Master, let alone work for one.” Pulon sighed, “I wonder what it is like to have money to spend whenever you want, however you want. I’ve been poor my whole life. Getting trained by my grandmother’s sister, I thought there was a chance of me being able to make real coin…”

“You got a gold one from Klent.”

Pulon dug deep into a hidden pouch and pulled it out. He gazed at it for a few seconds before replacing it and stuffing the pouch deep in his gear again. “Yea, and I don’t think I’ll ever spend it ’cause I doubt I’ll ever see another!”

Jory shook his head, “You may be too old for him, but I saw what the Master Shaman likes and if you let your hair grow a bit more and clean yourself up some he may take you for a night.”

“Would it be bad?”

“With him…” Jory’s mind flashed back to the night with Glaster, “Yes.” He shrugged, “But beyond profitable. If you have really never done it before he may even pay a bonus. If you are really interested, I’ll ask him about you.”

“Let me think about it.” Pulon’s voice told of his torn feelings.

“Think hard my new friend, because once you give the go ahead and I ask, there is no turning back. If he says yes then he will expect you…”

The conversation was interrupted as Garvol flipped his cloak open, pulled his war hammer, and let out a light whistle.

Instantly, Immeck pulled his sword while Klent and Lidevar moved out from where they were having their private discussion.

Jory nodded to Pulon and pointed to the tent where Lyrod was still getting dressed while he moved over to the slave boy and pushed him in the direction of Klent’s tent. “Get in there and stay until told otherwise.”

Klent moved up, glanced back at the fire with a frown, then knelt next to Garvol. “What do we have?”

“Not sure. But I got the feeling, but just for an instant. It was one of the weirdest things ever.” The burly man stated while twisting his mustache with the fingers of his non-weapon hand.

“I got nothing.” Klent stated as he concentrated on the sounds around him and the woods in general. “Still, I know you are not the jumpy type so let’s play this safe.”

“Agreed,” Garvol glanced back. “Get everyone armored up in pairs while the rest of us keep watch.”

“The fire?” Klent wondered aloud.

“Keep it,” Garvol grunted. “And get everyone to loosely coat up over their armor so we don’t look as ready. ”If somethin’ is commin’ and if we look like a group of well equipped travelers we be better off. Should they want to make a move then we’ll have the advantage of a bit a surprise since all we’ll have to do is drop our coats and move directly into combat.“ Garvol’s lips twisted upwards, ”besides, if’n I be wrong, then I don’t want the others all pissy at me for forcing them to eat a cold breakfast."

“Solid thinking,” Klent snickered while motioning for Jory to go get his armor on.

Pulon nodded as he saw Klent point to the tent with Lyrod. “Get your armor on lover-boy, we may have trouble commin’.”

“Screw you.” Lyrod grumbled, clearly in some discomfort.

“Man, this ain’t no time to mess around. Garvol’s looking jumpy.”

“Be out in a sec, but don’t be expecting me to move very fast.”

“You never do.”

“Again, screw you. Lidevar is hung like a Dragonsteed and he got tired of me playing around. He just wouldn’t take me sayin’ maybe for an answer last night.” A few seconds later Lyrod winched slightly as he came out of the tent. As he held up his spiked gauntlet to allow Pulon to help tighten the leather straps, he took a couple of deep breaths, “Man, that was… Let’s just say what I did to get trained in the first place was right on par with last night.”

“You were quiet. I didn’t hear nothing on second watch after me and Jory took over for you and Lidevar.”

“I learned better years ago,” Lyrod griped, “but it wasn’t easy.” He grunted as he shuffled his feet, “I’m sure Klent has set watches so I’m going to be with Lidevar from now on though, so I better get used to it.” He shook his head and glanced away, wanting to take his mind off of it and to avoid any questions he held up his other gauntlet and glanced around. “So what’s the deal?”

“No clue.” Pulon finished securing the straps on the second gauntlet, “Mind watching my tent while I armor up?”

“No prob.” Lyrod walked showing some lingering discomfort but each step seemed to get a bit easier. He stopped just before he got to the tent flap and pulled his bow as his hearing picked up a distant clanking sound. “Hurry up, we got company coming.”

Inside the small tent Jory glanced over at Pulon. “Let me help you get your armor on first, I can cast a spell if I have to.”

Lyrod’s actions of pulling and starting to string his bow were not missed by Klent. He moved back, “Did you see something?”

“No. But there are sounds coming from the other side of the ridge. They are faint, but getting louder.”

Klent concentrated and shook his head. “Damn, I don’t hear a thing. You sure?”

From inside the tent Pulon spoke, “If he is looking up hill past the back of our tent, then yea, cause Pouncer is looking the exact same way.”

“OK, get yourselves battle ready and drape your coats over your shoulders so you don’t look it. There shouldn’t be anything coming at us from behind the ridge. Immeck and I checked it as the sun went down last night, it is nothing but thick underbrush and brambles leading down to scummy looking, half iced over, pond.”

 

Rylop felt his stomach heave a bit as he was all but catapulted out of the teal colored glowing portal. Had he been allowed to eat anything in the past two to three days, he was certain he would have puked, but his captors had been far from kind or gentle.

He hit the ground hard, but was cushioned some by the rather thick evergreen bush he was fortunate enough to land on. As he shook off some stars and rubbed his shoulder against his ear to get rid of the weird giggling sound he could have sworn came from inside his head, he heard a yelp. He watched with a great deal of interest as one of the four guards who had been escorting him and several students flew out of the portal. This guy was nowhere near as fortunate. He missed the bush and slammed directly into the ground. He had also just eaten so even as he puked, the wind was knocked out of him which caused him to start choking.

Rylop didn’t hesitate to take the momentary advantage. Even though his hands were chained behind his back, he legs were free. He lept up delivered the hardest kick he could manage to roll the guy face up then jumped up and pulled his legs up so his knees landed right on the stunned guard’s face.

The man shrieked in agony and tried to roll, but found the man was ready for this.

Rylop spun so his butt was over the man’s badly bloodied face and the front of his body was looking at the guard’s feet. As soon as the guy tired to move, he flipped his wrists so the chain holding his hands together went under the guy’s head. He then spun his whole body so the chain wrapped around the guy’s neck and he pulled with everything he had left in him. A gurgle was the last sound the man under him made. The unmistakable sound of neck bones snapping followed only moments later.

Rylop spun back around and pulled free of the dead body, looking around for other guards or students as he did so. He saw and heard other portals in the distance as they made a strange sound, kind of a crunching sound, reminding the swordsman of what a wagon makes when rolling over freshly crushed rocks. One by one he saw others launched out of them before they snapped shut with a kind of bubbling and slurping reverberation. The only problem was, none of them had been close enough for him to see who had come out.

He shook his head rather relieved no one else had come out of the portal he had come out of. It was something he fully intended to take advantage of too. He tucked himself into as tight of a ball as he could and wiggled and squirmed until he managed to get the chain under his feet. He stood again and stretched; thankful his arms were at least out in front of him. He glanced at the manacles around his hands and noticed they were pinned in place. With a sigh of relief he moved over to the dead body, kicked it once for good measure, and pulled the man’s boot knife. It didn’t take long to fish the knife under the pin, and twist it. After nearly sixty hours with the fairly tight metal bands around his wrists, getting them off felt as fine as good sex, almost.

Rylop shook off the thought as he tossed down the chains and stripped the man, who up to a few days ago had been a fellow guard and Rylop had thought was a friend as well. Of course he had thought the Governor was a good guy as well. But after the man had betrayed him and the other students, both his own and those from Teacher Saslara’s school, Rylop really wanted to snap his neck as well.

Rylop paused and looked down at the dead body as he briefly thought about the man’s wife, daughter and two sons. The widowed and fatherless quartet would not be getting any help from him, which would be a first for Rylop. Normally, he was among the initial ones to show up and help out the families of fallen guard members.

Rylop even briefly wondered if Kandric would let him add all of the man’s children to Kandric’s prison brothel. It would be a good payback after what he saw the man and his buddies do to two of the female students. Even as bad as it was to sit helplessly as the girls screamed and pleaded, what bothered him even more was the betrayal of his trust and the town of Slome as a whole. He still found it hard to believe the Governor had been working with the Green Dragon and knew what was going on inside of Bloody Rock. It made him physically sick to think he had spent the last five years of his life working for such a man. At the same time, he wondered who would take over. Of course, he would have to get back to Slome to let everyone know first, and there was no guarantee it would ever happen. If it meant taking another magic door spell, or whatever the heck he had just been pushed into, then there was no way he was going back, not willingly at least.

Even as these thoughts spiraled in his head, Rylop wasted no time slipping on the dead man’s armor and securing the weapons. It was standard Slome guard issue and thus had adjustable buckles which meant, even though the guy had been slightly bigger, the armor was easy to adjust down to his frame. He muttered some as he found his own dagger buried deep in the guy’s gear. The slightly magical blade had been passed down for generations in his family and to think he had almost lost it did not sit well with him.

On the other hand, the man had a few days of rations in the pack as well as some small hunting traps. These were better than gold to Rylop. He quickly stuffed a few handfuls of the mixture of dried berries and nuts in his mouth and took a healthy swig from the guy’s water skin. He took another few minutes to secure all the rest of the man’s gear while forcing himself to eat more slowly. Getting himself sick was the last thing he needed to do. Besides, there were students to help and enemy guards to take out somewhere fairly close by, since he had seen the other portals open.

Just before he stood, he dropped the shackles in the top of the pack. He would get great pleasure slapping those on one of the other guards who had stuck the preverbal knife in his back if he found them, especially Healthman Velert. For about the hundredth time, he wondered why Kandric and Vondum had focused in on Velert. Had they known about the man or was it just coincidence?

Velert was the least of Rylop’s problems. He knew, even in his weakened state, he could drop the Healthman without much effort. The real problem would be the Governor. There was a man Rylop knew he could not take down alone. The man was an Expert Echelon Swordsman. For not the first time, he wished Kandric was by his side, because he was now certain the small redhead would be able to take the man and would probably take great pleasure in doing so.

Rylop pushed all these thoughts out of his mind as he really looked around for the first time. He noticed with some degree of satisfaction the guard he had killed had actually been the unlucky one, since the guy had landed on one of the few rocky areas not covered by the dense brush. Looking around more, he realized the land looked nothing like the area around Slome and even the trees were different; there was way less pine and maple and a ton of birch, cedar, and cottonwood. The underbrush also told him he was in a normally warmer climate, although it was quite cold and there was fresh snow on the ground. “Where in the name of the gods am I?”

Before he could do more he heard sounds up the hill directly in front of him. Since it included the clanking of chains, he figured it had to be one of the students. He made sure the dagger and flail were easy to grab before angling up the hill toward the noise.

 

The last few days had been nothing more than an endless nightmare for Tayac and Gapon. The pair of students from the Slome Swordsman School had been two of the closest ones to the tube leading down to where Kandric had gone. Because of this, they took a considerable pounding from the first magical explosion. The Second burst of black energy had been far worse, however. Both boys had been knocked cold and when they woke they found themselves in a rubble strewn, partially collapsed, passage with the body of the school Healthman half buried under a huge stone. Neither child bothered to do more than look once, since the pool of blood under and around the man told them he was beyond the need for mortal help.

They looked around for a few hours and made contact with other students, but none were on the same side of the collapse as they were. Finding no way around, they took the only exit they could find, the one Kandric had taken. The problem was, something was blocking it, but whatever had broken loose had opened up a small passage out of the tube, which the pair took. They moved on, always trying to angle upward. This stopped when they heard the sounds of fierce combat.

Deciding they didn’t like what they were hearing, the pair backtracked and ran right into a pair of Green Dragonlings talking to the Governor of Slome. Even as the two listened it was clear the Governor of Slome had known for quite some time what was going on inside Bloody Rock and was actually behind some of what Kandric and Saslara had come here to stop. The two tried to back away, but Gapon slipped and hit the wall hard enough to be heard.

The two boys didn’t make it more than ten steps before a spell curled around them. They both tried to struggle, but the magic was too strong. The last thing either of them saw before waking up with chains around their wrists and rope tying the two of them together was the gauntleted fist of the Governor as it descended into their faces.

Although, they both had blackened and swollen eyes, the pair realized they were not alone. All around them were other students, both from the Slome School and the Governor’s Merchant School. A few of the kids looked way worse off, especially the girls. Still, when the guards or the Governor were not in earshot, a pair from the Governor’s school talked of possible rescue since Teacher Saslara had overpowered a guard the day before and escaped with two of the students, one from each school.

The others didn’t seem as hopeful, however. There was talk from many of Dark Mages and Mystics who had interest in them. Some even said three of the others from the Governor’s school had been taken by a young Dark Mage female and were on their way out of Bloody Rock already. Another told of a pair of Black Dragons taking the youngest three from the Slome School for some reason. Regardless, things didn’t look good and the next couple of days seemed to give this overall feeling a great deal the credence.

The whole group was moved numerous times as the sounds of fighting grew close. Some of these seemed hurried and not well thought out. The Green Dragonling leading them just took the first passage he could find to get away from the sounds of combat. Other times, the Green Dragonling assisting the leader seemed to find something it was looking for and directed the group. A few times the group stopped where there was a fresh pool, so everyone could get drinks, but no food was given and when there was no water or those leading them decided they needed to move quickly no water was given either.

At one point Gapon stumbled and took Tayac down with him. The hunger and thirst were just too much and he didn’t think he could go on, but somehow, Rylop endured getting struck by a whip multiple times and manage, even with his hands behind his back to help both boys up and then even took another pair of whip strikes meant for the boys. This had given them enough heart to push on until they were once again allowed to rest and drink out of a pool.

Another day went by, but this one was not quite as bad. There had been no sound of combat so the group moved slower. Everyone in the group, except Rylop, was given some food. Everyone except Rylop was also cut loose and allowed to bathe and wash their soiled loin cloths, but as soon as they were cleaned, they were re-chained and tied to their partner again.

While the food had given them some strength back, it had not been nearly enough. All of them were once again hungry and near exhaustion by the time the Green Dragonling pulled them out of the passage and into the freezing cold swamp. For both Tayac and Gapon, leaving the near endless caves had come as a giant relief, but to come out of the cellar of a crumbling structure in the swamps was not exactly the place they wanted to be nor was what else they saw. Directly in front of them they found themselves face to face with a real Dragon. Over twenty meters of green scaled death, with huge claws, massive teeth, and eyes the color of emeralds towered over all of them.

Beyond the Dragon, the kids could see hills pushing out of the swamp and just over the first hill was a stone tower, or at least what was left of it. The west side had totally crumbled showing the inside floors.

Tayac hugged himself as he realized where they were. “Split Rock… We are at the edge of Split Rock!”

The Dragon heard the words and moved over to him. “Very perceptive, child.” It turned to look at a clearly, very nervous guard and the Governor of Slome. “Is this one of yours?”

The Governor knelt, “No Master Gorradan, he is one of the trash getting trained by Saslara.”

“Well, trash or no,” Gorradan spoke slowly so it didn’t slur the Northman words, “He managed to overlook me and pushed past his captivity to figure out where we are while all other eyes remain on me. I am, to say the least, impressed.”

Gorradan moved up to Tayac and looked down, “So boy, in you I have interest. How would you like to belong to me instead of going to Rolling Dale to be a play thing for our Dark Mystic friends?”

It took everything in Tayac’s very fiber not to pee his pants as the emerald eyes met his own. He fought himself to not just break down and say yes. After nearly a minute and almost hyperventilating, he managed to speak. “Only if my friend, Gapon, can be with me.”

While others looked shocked to hear the boy all but demand something from a Dragon, Gorradan turned his massive head to prevent accidentally breathing any poison gas on the boy and laughed. It looked down again. “And would the whelp tied to you be this Gapon?”

Tayac gritted his teeth to hide his terror. “Yes.”

A claw popped out of Gorradan’s right front paw and slowly ran down Tayac’s face. “You know most of my kind would kill you for your impudence.” It snickered. “But even now you do not sink to your knees and I can feel the power of both Princess Gebetthia, and King Blathamort on you. You were close when they died, very close.”

Tayac’s eyes went wide, “Kandric killed King Blathamort, the Black Dragon King?”

The Green Dragon stopped and looked down. “You know the one who killed our Princess and the Black King?”

Tayac gulped, but managed a nod. “I was… he is one of our teachers, Teacher Kandric. We heard the conversation before the big explosions.”

“Bullshit!” the Governor jumped up. “Kandric is a swamp trash bo…” the rest didn’t get out as all the claws of Gorradan’s left front paw burst out and encircled the man.

Gorradan turned with a look of rage on his face as he started to squeeze. “If you are wrong and you have dishonored this Kandric in any way you will be signing your death warrant in one of our Queen’s deepest, darkest, torture chambers unless the Black Dragon Empire wants you for dishonoring one who killed their King. Are you sure you wish to continue speaking in these terms oh mighty Governor of Slome?”

The Governor could barely breathe and he felt his ribcage starting to crush, “No…”

Gorradan loosened his grip slightly. “So Governor, is it even slightly possible?”

Being able to take some sort of breath allowed the response to come out a bit more clearly, “Possible, but he is a mere swamp slum boy, a…” He stopped as he felt the claws start to close again. The rest of the words came out as forced gasps“… but he is a Teacher, so the magic in him is… deep… and he is not one to be afraid… even of me.”

“You?” Gorradan snorted, “If this spectacular boy took out a pair of Great Dragons, one of them being one of our last four breeders then you are below nothing to him! You should be above honored to even know such a being and should be kissing the spots his feet walked on! Am I making myself clear enough?”

“Yes…” the Governor managed to wheeze out.

Gorradan turned his full attention back to Tayac. “So you, student of Kandric, how sure are you he is the one who killed the Great Green.”

“Of the first one?” Gapon asked with knees trembling so badly he had to get help from Tayac to stay standing. Seeing the Dragon nod, he continued. “Positive. We heard it all, just didn’t see it. The second one, well, there could be no one else. All he had with him was three other students with him, Mr. Green Dragon, sir.”

Gorradan leaned back and tossed the Governor into a particularly muddy spot in the swamp, a good fifteen meters from the foundation of the structure the group had emerged from before looking back down at the pair. “So you are both students of Kandric?”

Gapon started to say something only to get elbowed by Tayac. “Yes Mr. Dragon. Several of us are.”

“The others are weak though. Clearly the teachings of Kandric have not rubbed off on them enough yet.” It gazed down at Gapon, “Some has found its way into your friend, but not nearly enough.” It smirked showing way more teeth than either boy had ever wanted to see in one mouth. “Still, it has an impressive build for one so young and it spoke, so there is enough to be admired.”

Gorradan turned to where the Governor was trying to pull himself out of the mud, “These two, I claim and will pay very well for when I get back down to Rolling Dale. They better be handed back to me in the same or better condition than they are now. Should you let one of those playing in the Dark Arts so much as touch them before handing them to me; I will have your skin peeled off you in layers while these two watch from my banquet table. I care not for the others. Do with them as you wish and have your human fun with them.”

Seeing the Governor glare at the two boys, Gorradan flipped up a claw, “I would highly suggest you control your urges to do these two harm. I will have them carefully checked from head to toe. Anything you do to them will be revisited on you one hundred fold. From this moment, until I see you again, your very existence depends on getting them to me healthy and unharmed. Now feed these two so I can gate you all out. We are way too close to Split Rock for my comfort.”

Minutes after the Governor fed the boys, out of his own rations, Gorradan cast a powerful gate spell and winced as if in some pain. “Get them through!” The True Dragon snarled, “The power of the Knolls is twisting the spell somehow!”

Quickly, the Governors guards and the pair of Dragonlings started pushing the others through the swirling greenish-blue portal. The Governor grabbed the rope tying Tayac and Gapon together and pushed them in, then quickly followed behind. A moment later the pair of boys saw the door on the far side split and multiple pathways opened leading to several different smaller doors. At the same time those around them started getting sucked down toward different doors at an incredible rate of speed. Behind them they heard the Governor screaming about it not being right and one of the Dragonlings responding with fright in its voice, but the exact words were lost.

A moment later the pair of boys got to where the paths split and they felt like they were being grabbed as they flew down one of the passages. At the same time, whatever force was pulling on them flipped them around enough to where, somehow, both of them ended up with their hands in front of them only to then get unceremoniously spit out into a tree a good ten meters up.

Tayac gripped onto a branch and held on for dear life while Gapon swung below him. “Grab a branch or something!”

“I can’t!” Gapon gasped at seeing how far up they were. “Can you swing me?”

Tayac gritted his teeth and started moving his butt back and forth as best he could. This maneuver caused Gapon to start swinging back and forth, since the rope tying the two together as around each of their waists. “You best hurry case I can’t hold us both. The chains around my wrist make it to where I can’t even wrap my arms all the way around this branch!”

Gapon finally managed to grab a few smaller twigs which allowed him to pull himself over to a larger branch. Once he had his legs wrapped around it and did the best he could with his chained arms he braced, “OK, let go.”

“What?” Tayac gasped.

“Look, the only way we are going to get down is if we drop branch by branch. The quicker we do this, the better chance we have to get out of here before the Governor finds us. From what I saw while hanging down from your butt, the other doorways were pretty close and after the way the Dragon talked to him, the Governor is going to come after us!”

“Good point.” Tayac conceded. He forced himself to let go. A moment later he used his feet to grab another branch. “I can’t get a good enough grip. There isn’t enough slack.”

“Do your best. There is one right below you which might be close enough for us to untie ourselves from each other so we can climb down.”

Tayac took a huge breath and clamped his thighs around the limb he was on as tightly as he could before nodding. A massive sigh of relief escaped his lips as Gapon grabbed the branch directly below him on his very first try.

“Whew!” Gapon shivered as he managed to slide down far enough to where he could stand and untie the rope around Tayac’s belt. “You know, this might be kind of fun if we were doing it to play around.”

“Someone sure found the passage getting here fun.” Tayac shook his head and wiggled a finger in his ear. “I think I can still hear the laughter.”

“Me too, but I think it was inside my head. Makes me wonder if one of the Governor’s students isn’t one of them Mind-talkers or whatever they are.”

Tayac quickly started climbing down the tree. “Well, if there is one, he is a spy, since there was nothing fun about these last few days. I don’t think we can’t trust none of them.”

Gapon dropped the last two meters to the ground, making a pretty loud clanking sound with his chains. “Agreed,” He knelt and looked at the shackles around his wrists. He tired a few times to get his teeth under the bent pins holding them tight then tried half a dozen sticks before giving up. “Without a knife or something thin and strong, I don’t think these are coming off any time soon.”

Tayac jumped down, tried the same thing and shook his head, “Which means we are going to make all sorts of racket.” He stayed kneeling next to his best friend and looked around. “I’m open to suggestions on what to do now.”

“Me too,” Gapon kind of teased. “But since I am the Outdoorsman and Metal Worker and you are the Ruinseeker and Lockmaster…”

“Hey, only you know about that…”

“And I am the only one here, so we can talk about it. Besides, it wasn’t like I didn’t want to join the robber guild in Slome. The guy just didn’t think I was cute enough.” Gapon complained.

“He just used it as an excuse.” Tayac snickered, “He doesn’t even sleep with us like he lead you to believe. He rents out those who screw up or don’t follow his orders though.”

“So why didn’t he take me in?”

“Because you are built like a plow mule,” Tayac reached out squeezed the boy’s biceps. “You are too big to slide between bars and your hands are way better suited to working in a forge than picking a lock or pocket. Even the Dragon noticed how strong you are!”

“Uh Huh, and he noticed how quick and smart you are.” Gapon rolled his eyes. “Still, I’d prefer to pick a pocket over working in a hot forge during the summer.”

“And I’d prefer to work in a hot forge during the winter instead of hanging out on a cold dark street being a lookout.”

Both boys snickered at each other before turning serious again. Tayac reached out and ripped Gapon’s coat, finishing off the already badly damaged sleeve. He wrapped it around the chains holding his friend’s wrists together. “This will muffle the sounds but we still need to be careful. The back of my coat is trashed so rip off a section so I can do the same thing to mine then pick a direction and get us out of here.”

 

The Governor of Slome was ejected out of the portal he had been pulled toward with extreme force. The location of the portal proved to be problematic as well for the hapless Swordsman, as it was only a meter away from a particularly large cottonwood. His face impacted with the tree, knocking out three teeth and loosening another half a dozen others while breaking his nose. Making matters even worse, his coin pouch split wide open as his pack got caught in one of the upper branches and the straps ripped, leaving the pack stuck over thirteen meters up while he plummeted downward and slammed into the base of the tree. As some kind of final insult, he badly damaged his weapon hand’s wrist as he tried to protect himself.

He rolled over and cradled his wrist into his stomach for over a minute and puked a pair of times before forcing himself to stand. “When I find whoever found this fun enough to laugh, I’m going to kill them!” he muttered as he looked up in the tree. Spotting his pack, he started throwing rocks at it with his off hand. A few hit but didn’t help the situation. Shaking his head in frustration he made one attempt to climb the tree, but the combination of the bad wrist and the lack of close to the ground lower branches made it impossible. He put his back to the tree and sat. “I don’t think even Rovnar himself could come up with something this screwed up.” He complained aloud to himself.

Once again he tried his hand at throwing rocks, this time larger ones, at the pack only to watch in some horror and disbelief as the last rock hit it, knocked it off where it had been hanging only to fall and get much more firmly stuck in the next branch down. Even worse, he could see where his wood cutting axe had actually fallen and dug into the branch further anchoring the pack. His good hand crashed into his forehead as he cursed his horrible luck. He stood there another couple of minutes looking at the pack before finally shrugging. There was nothing he could do about it.

On the other hand, he did take the needed time to adjust his weapon belt so his sword was on his non-weapon side. It wouldn’t be the first time he had to fight with his off hand and he needed to be ready to since he had no clue where he was at. He then took time to pick up as many of the coins and gems which had spilled out of his split coin pouch as he could find. After nearly twenty minutes of searching, he was not happy since he ended up with well less than a quarter of what he had before his face met the tree. Many, he guessed, had disappeared into the fresh snow or had bounced off braches sending them further away. “Some lucky peasant is going to end up rich at my expense.” He mumbled.

Still, he recovered enough to where, once he found a town, he could have a Healthman fix up his wrist and get a room for a night or two and still have some left over. He looked around, seeing nothing but a large rocky hill on one side and rather nasty looking icy pond below him. The thickness of the underbrush made seeing even more impossible. For the first time his thoughts turned to the two young captives he was supposed to deliver to Gorradan. Once again, he looked around, this time nervously. Misfired spell or not, the Green True Dragon would not be happy about not getting the two boys.

Not being an Outdoorsman, he did the next most logical thing he could think of. He moved uphill as fast as he could, hoping the boys were close and figuring no one would want to go down toward the pond below. He also kept his eyes open for tracks. Normally he couldn’t follow, but in the fresh snow any tracks would stick out.

 

Healthman Velert squealed in fear and pain as he tumbled out of the portal. Skin shredded as the force of his discharge propelled him deep into a particularly large and nasty clump of pyracantha, also known by many as the burning bush. The thorns dug into his face, arms, neck and a few even found their way through his leather armor. One particularly nasty thorn punctured his boot, went into the ankle of his left foot, and broke off fairly deep inside.

Velert chewed his lip in agony as he extracted himself as carefully as possible, but still he ended up with well over a score of new impalements. He finally got loose and knelt next to a tree to survey the damage. Blood openly oozed from over fifty locations, most on his hands and face. His hand moved to grab his Healthman pouch only to find it wasn’t there.

His shoulders slumped as he saw it, almost mocking him, from dead center in the middle of the mass of bushes. Making matters worse, his dagger was right next to it. Getting to them would cause more damage than it was worth at this point. Shaking his head, he dug into his pack and pulled out an extra shirt and lightly dabbed it on his face. As he pulled it back he cringed at seeing just how many spots of blood were on it.

He used a mirror to survey the damage and managed to pull out almost a dozen thorns. He tried to get the one in his foot, but without his specialized Healthman tools it wasn’t going to happen. He whimpered slightly as he pulled his boot back on and stood.

His hand moved up to a painful spot on his head, only to find another thorn broken off under the skin of his scalp. He bit back yet another yelp as he tried a couple of times to remove it before giving up. With a long breath, he pulled up his water skin only to find it had fallen victim to the thorn bush as well and was empty, with dozens of pin sized holes in it.

“Just my luck,” Velert spat. This caused a new wave of pain and allowed him to notice, for the first time, at least one thorn had even gotten inside his mouth. One particularly large and nasty one had somehow pierced his tongue. He reached in, yanked hard and fast knowing it would hurt less, but in this case less was strictly relative. The pain was enough to make him disgorge the contents of his stomach in two massive heaves.

He tilted his head back and took a couple of deep breaths before standing again. “Even this is Kandric’s fault.” He muttered. “I swear I will have nightmares the rest of my life because I sent the little shit to jail for a night!”

Still muttering about wanting to kill off every red-headed child he ever met the rest of his life he started moving up hill, thinking he would get some kind of a view from on top of the rocky hill.

 

Kandric moved up to the street and looked over the damage created by the Alphar fire arrows with a degree of awe. He glanced back at the Alphar scout and over to one of the Griffins, “I gather those come from my grandfather’s fortress?”

“Indeed they do Premier Kandric, but do not look at them as mere animals; those are True Griffins and they are quite intelligent. They even have a language of sorts.”

“Yes, I know.” Kandric moved over to the nearest one and made a few weird chirping and clucking sounds. The Griffin instantly turned and responded showing a great deal of astonishment.

Kandric turned sharply. “It says you are feeding it too much of the same kinds of meat. They want some variety.”

Kyltoss looked over in stunned silence as Kandric continued to converse with the creature for a few seconds. Finally he gained his voice, “Premier, you speak Griffin?”

Kandric grinned, “I had to learn it to cast a few very special Shaman spells known only to Griffins and Great Eagles. The Avian tongue was one of the most difficult I have yet to learn. It says its rider needs to stop pulling back so far on the reigns, too. A slight tug is all it needs and it hurts its neck when he pulls back hard.”

Kyltoss tried to speak but the words caught in his throat. Instead he glanced at one of the riders.

The rider was equally astonished but gave a deep bow, “My prince, I will inform all our riders!”

Kandric nodded but did fire off a nasty glare, “Please, if you must use a title, use Premier, not prince. I have not agreed to rejoin this family my fool grandfather tossed my mother out of.”

The Alphar Griffin Rider cringed at hearing his prince called a fool, but the look on both the boy’s and Kyltoss’ face told him to argue or even stand up for his liege would not be a wise move. “My apologies, Premier, I will let the others know of your desire to be called by your Dragon Slaying name.”

Kandric shook his head, “Don’t bother, just take better care of your partner’s friend and when he brushes her underside, take a few minutes to very lightly go the wrong direction. She says it tickles and feels good.” He then nodded at the Griffin and made a couple more weird bird-like sounds before moving on.

Kyltoss finally found his voice, “Premier, are you saying Griffins can cast spells?”

“Some can, yes, and I just told the two I was talking to not do so for any of you until all of you take better care of them.” Kandric shook his head with a great deal of displeasure. “I do not understand why none of you have bothered to learn their language and I am even more amazed they stay loyal to you since you have not.”

“Premier, the last time we had any who could speak with them, was almost a thousand years ago. When Prince Amberwood fell to Prince Blathamort at the gates of the great Shadow Citadel, we lost the last of the trained Griffin Knights. We have not had an actual Griffin Knight since, because to be a Griffin Knight he has to be able to talk to his steed.”

“Well, since I am currently wearing part of what is left of King Blathamort, I would have to say any blood feud between the House of Amberwood and the Black Dragons should be declared over. As far as having a Griffin Knight, I would think since Alphar have the life span of right at nine hundred years, a few riders should have been able to devote enough time to learn the language.”

“The last four princes, since Amberwood, did not see it as important enough, Premier.”

Kandric shook his head in disgust. “The more I am finding out about my linage the less I am liking it.”

Before more could be said a sewer grate slammed into the street in front of the two, coming from a back alley. A moment later a circle of five Red Dragonlings appeared, two of them showing heavy wounds. In their midst was three boys.

“Reds?” Kyltoss stated in horror as he tried to move past Kandric to defend the boy.

Kandric’s eyes went wide as he saw a burst of poisonous gas get countered by the largest of the Red Dragonlings, who used its own fire breath to destroy most of the poisonous cloud. Kandric stepped forward and knocked the ice arrow out of Klytoss’ hand before he could get it up to his bow. It fell to the ground and shattered forcing both Kandric and Klytoss to step away from the bitterly cold burst of air it created. “Stop, I know him.”

An instant later, the rather large head of a Green Dragon poked its head around the corner and snarled. “You have used your last breath red sssskum! Now give me the brats so I don’t have to kill them as well!”

“No!” the Red Dragonling countered, “We pulled them away from your forces and are going to return them to where they belong.”

“They belong to usssssss!” The Green Dragon hissed and it started to push its way from under the streets of Slome, ripping up a large section of the alley as he did so.

Kandric’s eyes narrowed to mere slits as he spotted kids from the Slome School. “No, they are MY STUDENTS!”

Kandric knelt and stuck his hand in the cobble stone. He muttered a long phrase and forced his fingers to wiggle around the edges of the stone. A moment later the whole street heaved upwards knocking down all those between himself and the Green Dragon, but as it grew closer to the Dragon it picked up size and speed. By the time it got to the wide eyed Green it was a wave of dirt, rock, and cobblestone over seven meters in height.

It slammed into the Dragon and the buildings on both sides of the alley, causing them to fall in on the Dragon as well. Bones snapped by the score. Kandric stood and shook off the effects of his first Master Echelon casting and advanced on the pinned and crippled Dragon. At the same time a score of Griffin riders swooped in and circled the area while a patrol of Alphar Dragonsteed riders arrived with lances ready.

“The Reds are my friends!” Kandric barked loudly. He continued to move past more arriving Alphar warriors with total fury in his eyes. “Pangam! Fall back through us! The Dragonette is mine!”

Pangam’s head jerked at the sound of the boy’s voice as he picked himself off the street. “Kandric… Lord Kandric… Gedatrag is no Warrior Dragon and although he has expended a lot of breath, he is one of their commanders and can rebuild enough to breathe a small cloud quickly!”

Kandric ignored the words as he closed on the gravely wounded beast, “You dare to try to take my students?”

The True Green Dragon Gedatrag’s eyes meat Kandric’s and went wide upon seeing the Black Dragon armor made from King Blathamort and noting the swirling energies of the Great Green Gebetthia around him. “You? You killed them both?”

Kandric once again wrapped the magic of a force punch around his fist and slammed it into Gedatrag’s mouth snapping teeth like they were no more than icicles. He then grabbed one of the largest teeth and shoved it into a tube on the side of Gedatrag’s mouth, plugging the passage to exhale the poisonous gas before staring straight into its eyes while switching to Dragon Tongue. “I asked you a question Dragonette.”

Gedatrag’s eyes told of his pain and outrage, “The name is Gedatrag and I am a True Dragon, and Commander of Green Dragon forces above the Silver Spine Mountains. I did not know they belonged to you Dragon Killer, but you are still very lucky I am still half under this street, or I would be killing you right now for insulting me.”

“If you had not been half under this street my spell would have killed you and you know it. The only reason you live is because your ribcage was somewhat protected. Had I known you where partially under my street still I would have pushed the spell further and you would not be talking to me right now.” Kandric countered with a deadly clam voice. “And, actually, the lucky ones are those three students, MY STUDENTS.”

Gedatrag tried to force gas out of the tube with a hard shove from his gland but failed. More pain rippled over its face. “And why are they lucky?”

“Because,” Kandric pulled one of his throwing daggers and shoved it into Gedatrag’s eye and kept pushing his hand in deeper, “Now they get to have armor made out of you.” He ignored the Dragon’s screams of agony and gave another hard shove burying his arm all the way up to his shoulder which pushed the small blade in enough to where it entered the brain.

A few moments later a large bubble of Green magical energy rippled over the town of Slome and expanded outwards for quite some distance. Several buildings cracked and a few of the worst ones toppled. Those within a hundred yards were flung back and the airborne Griffins all had to fight to keep enough lift to stay airborne. Two minutes later everything calmed and those who were closest to Kandric noticed the boy had managed to say on his feet through the whole thing.

Kandric withdrew his hand which was now coated in gore, including a copious amount of grey mater, and spit out some of the Gedatrag’s blood. He moved back through the silent troops and up to the three boys. He looked down at the most senior ranked. “Bonif, I assume these fine Dragonlings did indeed rescue you all?”

Bonif looked out with wide eyes, totally speechless.

Senole noticed this and managed to nod. It took a couple more seconds and three separate gulps before he found his voice. “Yes Teacher Kandric, they saved us and even fed us and equipped us.”

Kandric once again offered his hand to Pangam, this time helping the much larger creature to stand. “I would offer to heal your wounds, but it appears the death of Gedatrag has taken care of it.” Kandric held up a finger to show he needed a second, turned and spit again. “This is the second time I have had to drink some Green Dragon blood and it tastes just as bad the second time as it did the first.”

Kandric took a couple of steps back and spun his hand in wide circles over his head while casting another lengthy spell. A few seconds later a small dark cloud appeared over his head and it started raining warm water. Kandric used the rain to rinse off most of the sticky mess before dismissing the spell. He then cast a pair of Dry Autospells before stepping back up to Pangam. “I apologize for getting some of Gedatrag’s vital juices on you.”

Pangam knelt, “Your killing of Gedatrag healed me, Lord Kandric, and having a True Green’s blood on me does me great honor. There is nothing to apologize for.”

“Actually it is Premier Kandric.” Klytoss moved up and eyed the Red Dragonling carefully.

“Premier it is then.” Pangam paused to kiss Kandric’s hand and spoke ultra slow to make sure not a single word was slurred even slightly. “It is a very fine designation chosen out of an almost forgotten past, and one very fitting to you.”

Kandric rolled his eyes and pulled making it clear he wanted Pangam to stand. “I am glad you approve, since everyone all but forced a title on me. When I was told of the meaning, I felt it was a good way to show honor to you all. Now, please, this is the second time we have fought a common foe. The first time you helped save my brothers and now my students. You owe me nothing.”

“Not true, Premier Kandric.” Pangam shook his head lightly. “This time I would not have lived and nor would these three fine lads…”

The conversation was interrupted as Prince Rovanall pushed through the lines of Alphar and shouted in outrage. “What is this? My forces come to protect this hamlet to have some Red Dragonling and a boy almost knock it flat? Who do you think…”

The left side of Kandric’s mouth twisted upwards as he looked over the royal crests. “Shut up.”

Prince Rovanall’s face went totally flush, “Who do you think…”

“Grandfather,” Kandric’s voice took on one of the most disgusted tones anyone had ever heard come out of the boy, “if you do not shut your mouth and stop insulting my friends, your next stop will be at the local Healthman Shop. I will be more than happy to point the way now, if you wish.”

“Prince Kandric,” Prince Rovanall’s Captain of the Guard spoke forcefully as he stepped forward, “I feel the need to remind you, you are talking to the head of your house and a Prince.”

“My house is in the swamps.” Kandric countered while pointing in the direction of the Swamp Slums, “Where my ELF mother moved after my father was killed outside of Junsac.”

Prince Rovanall’s open hand swung out only to get stopped by Pangam. The Red Dragonling growled deeply. “Prince or not, you swing on Premier Kandric and you will find yourself facing several combined Dragon houses. You may wish to rethink trying this again. You may also want to look across the street. He took out a True Green Commander by himself and your troops, Prince, saw it.”

Kandric snorted. “Thank you Pangam, but to be honest I really WANT my weak kneed Prince want-a-be grandfather to try it again.”

Prince Rovanall didn’t need a second invitation; being insulted by a child, any child, was more than he could stand, but this was much worse. The little smart mouthed brat knew who he was talking to and clearly didn’t care. Such impudence needed to be punished. His hand swung down with everything he could put into it, even pumping in extra force to enhance his strength.

Kandric reacted with blinding speed. Just before the blow landed, he spun out of the way, grabbed the hand, put a Ferret Sect Warrior grip between the finger and thumb and twisted.

Prince Rovanall let out a sharp gasp of pain. He tried to pull free only to feel his grandson administer some sort of ultra painful and totally controlling wrist lock. The strength he had added by using his Warrior Adept abilities didn’t help him in the slightest. The hold was just too expertly applied. Even as he looked back for help he found himself running next to Kandric who was expertly and quickly guiding him toward the bloody carcass of Gedatrag. “What are you doing, child?” He shouted in pure anger.

Kandric switched his grip, turning the wrist lock into an arm bar. As he got right up to the dead Dragon his other hand grabbed the back of his grandfather’s helm and shoved the Prince’s face deep into the open eye wound. He yanked on the back of the helm, pulling the head back out so his grandfather could take a deep breath and plunged it in again. He pulled it out a second time and spoke with a venomous tone. “I want to make sure the good Prince Rovanall of House Wellaras knows what fresh Green Dragon blood tastes like. It is only fair since his grandson, PREMIER Kandric, has had to do so twice now while you sat on your butt and even kept your Captain of your Guard back from the fighting so you could have a body guard!”

“How dare you…”

“Clearly you did not hear me when I told you to SHUT UP!” Kandric’s voice seethed with rage as he moved his grandfather to the center of the street so he was surrounded by the Prince’s shocked and somewhat sickened troops and twisted the arm again. This time, he flipped Prince Rovanall and let go, leaving him face down in the street.

Kandric took a few steps back and snarled. “Come on oh great Prince of House Wellaras, get up! I am not done yet!”

From a side street, now littered with rubble from the combination of the death of Gedatrag and Kandric’s spell, Duke Mathard, Vondum, Zeltoss, Seldnat, and Lorthorn all finished digging their way out from under the rubble created by Kandric’s spell. Their wide eyes, and shocked looked, however, told they had seen or at least heard everything. Behind them, several Garm and Alphar troops also started pushing out into the street. All of them stopped to look at the body of the Green Dragon while knocking copious amounts of dust and chunks of debris off them. Vondum stepped forward, “Premier Kandric, my most loyal and impressive of scouts… if you do not mind, next time try not to bring down a large section of the sewers right after sending me down in them on your behalf. On the other hand, I believe your actions have secured the walls of Slome since the main passage is now totally blocked.”

Kandric cringed, “To be honest, Duke Mathard and Vondum, I never thought about what my spell would do to those under the city streets.”

Mathard snickered and shook his head before he stared at the dead Dragon again and then back at Prince Rovanall. He then glanced back at Vondum, “By treaty, I am not allowed to say anything defaming about an Alphar Prince, however….”

Vondum snorted, “I’m not under any such treaty, Duke Mathard. Kandric’s Grandfather is just plain stupid. Not even I am going to try to slap a boy who just dropped a Dragon.”

Prince Rovanall’s hand started to move to his sword while he used his other hand to wipe the blood off his face with his royal cloak. His maneuver to pull his weapon stopped before his hand got to the hilt, however, as he caught sight of whom else had been watching the exchange. He went into a deep bow and stayed down. Still his mind raced. ‘I am going to kill them all. I will start with the human, Vondum for him daring to insult me and the Alphar as a whole, be he is only the first! I will take a new wife, and create a whole new line! The one my former daughter has created needs to be expunged!’

A stunningly beautiful woman moved through the lines of wide eyed Alphar troops and cleared her throat while shooting Vondum a look of annoyance, but not outright disapproval, before she turned her full attention on Kandric.

Kandric spun at the sound, staying in a fighting crouch, but the instant he saw the crest on the woman’s Elvin Silver Steel breastplate he realized why his grandfather had so suddenly switched stances. He dropped into a perfect bow and stayed down. Others around the woman did likewise.

Prince Rovanall forced himself to maintain protocol, but the sight of Kandric performing a bow of equal grace to his own further enraged him. His thoughts turned even darker. ‘You insult me yet again. How dare you try to upstage me? Before this day ends you will feel my blade on your throat!’

Queen Jostallis surveyed the scene and glanced over to her guard commander with a slightly awestruck glimmer in her eyes. “Well, he fights like a general, bows like a king, and has the beauty of the most fiery of sunsets.” She turned to look straight at Kandric, ignoring everyone else. “Prince Kandric, or Premier Kandric, if you prefer, please stand.”

Kandric rose, gave another perfect Alphar bow, and moved his hands away from his weapons before fully standing. He gulped slightly, “Queen of the Alphar, I must fully apologize, I do not know your name or I would address you fully and properly.”

Prince Rovanall had to force himself not to grin. ‘Yes, show your stupidity. It will give me reason to snap your scrawny body like a twig.’

Queen Jostallis waved her hand showing she saw no insult at Kandric not knowing her name. “Very few outside of the Alphar and Garm nations do know, so there is nothing to apologize for. Feel free to call me Queen Jostallis. It is more than adequate, Premier.” She smiled despite the scene and situation. “Which, after witnessing the last several minutes is a title very befitting of you, Prince Kandric.” She glanced back and motioned to a guard behind her. Two guards moved around her, each one escorting a boy. “I understand these two belong to you and your Wilderness Scout Commander?”

Kandric’s eyes went wide as he saw the slight scar running down Jamon’s neck and disappearing as it continued under the new Elvin Silver Steel chain armor. “Jamon, are you alright?”

“Yes master,” Jamon spoke nervously, “but I don’t really know how.”

Kandric moved forward and put his arm around the boy, showing just how much he cared for him. “Who did this to you?” He ran his finger down the scar showing more than a little anger.

A Garm footman moved up and knelt, giving Kandric a bow of high royalty. “He fell protecting the other slaves. I was not able to get to him before a Green Dragonling did. I ask for forgiveness, my Prince. Had it not been for the Blue and Silver Dragonlings, he would have died. The great Queen Jostallis of the Alphar Nations lead Shaman was still needed to get him up to the point where he is now.”

Prince Rovanall had to fight the urge not to scream at this point. It was only the fact he was Alphar and having years of court practice that allowed him to stay down and unmoving. Nothing in the Alphar court moved quickly and staying in a deep bow for hours was not uncommon. Still his mind found the whole thing unacceptable on all sorts of levels. ‘How can he be getting away with paying attention to a slave while my Queen is talking to him? Has everyone gone mad? This is yet one more reason for me to withdraw my offer to bring my daughter back into the fold of my royal house and should give me all the reason I need to rip out the hearts of all her bastard children!’

Kandric once again ran his hand down the scar and let out a nervous but clearly relieved sigh. He openly hugged Jamon and pointed at the slave bands around the boy’s wrist. “There is nothing more you could have done, but if you would be kind enough to remove those now, any debt you feel you owe me will be considered paid. ”

Kandric quickly turned to Jamon as the Garm footman moved forward to remove the slave bands. “Jamon, you fell in defense of my property so I free you and your brother to your care, but I hope you will be willing to continue to be by my side.”

Jamon took a deep breath as the bands were removed. “I… I may be free but I still feel like I should belong to you…”

Kandric let out an audible sigh of relief and put his arm around Jamon before turning his attention back to the Garm, who was in the process of stepping back.“My home, the Swamp Slums, is it secure?”

The Garm again knelt. “My Prince, the attack was beaten back and it is now firmly under the control of a mixture of Garm, Pantherlings, and a contingent of your Illorc allies.”

These words actually caused a minute tremble of disgust to shoot through Prince Rovanall. ‘The little swamp urchin was friendly with Illorcs, Orakin,’ the very thought of it made Rovanall slightly ill. ‘How could any Alphar not side with him? Certainly he now had all the proof needed to end his daughter’s line as nothing more than bad seed.’

Queen Jostallis watched the way Kandric was dealing with the now ex-slave boy with a bit of interest. There was not a being watching who could not see a degree of love wrapped up in Kandric’s concern for the child. Nor was there anyone with a gram of common sense who could not see the former slave boy was very much committed to Kandric for some reason. While some were a bit disgusted by the open display of affection for a mere slave boy, Queen Jostallis only saw it as further proof Kandric was someone special. It was clear he didn’t really care what others thought of him. She smiled slightly. “Blue and Silver Dragonlings also have detachments inside the area and I sent some of our engineers in. They are working on changing the living conditions for all of your people.”

While she spoke, Conth was gently nudged in Vondum’s direction. Like Jamon, the boy was totally outfitted in Elvin Silver Steel chain armor and had weapons which shimmered of their own accord on his side. Vondum couldn’t help but notice his Wilderness Scouts crest, circled in chains, was on locked wrist guards on both of Conth’s wrists. The boy also wore a Training Echelon Step Two Warrior Adept Pin.

Queen Jostallis turned her attention elsewhere; not liking the look in Vondum’s eyes as he somewhat roughly grabbed the boy and pulled him next to his side. It was not her concern, but something else certainly was. She looked over the mess which was Prince Rovanall, who was down in a proper bow, but still had the gore of Green Dragon eye juice and blood all over him. She then glanced over at the Dragon and shook her head in some degree of bewilderment. Even as she started speaking again it was clear to all those listening she had seen way more than just the last few moments of combat between Kandric and his grandfather. “I must say for an Alphar Prince, I am a bit shocked, Prince Rovanall. What in this life or the next would possess you to try to slap anyone who just singlehandedly took down a Dragon? A named and somewhat known, even by us, True Dragon I might add, just to set the record and my words straight.”

She waved her hand dismissing the question before it could be answered. “It is of little to no importance at this point. We will deal with all of this later. Right now, Premier Kandric of House Wellaras, we have other matters which need your immediate attention.”

‘No!’ Prince Rovanall’s mind screamed. ‘I will not let this whelp be my downfall. I will not be disgraced by the entire Court! I will end this even if I have to send an assassin!’

Kandric couldn’t help but smile at the longer title, giving him credit while still showing he was from an Alphar house. Queen Jostallis was certainly a very quick witted and ultra sharp diplomat. Her wording of his title all but calmed those who had witnessed the fight, Alphar, inhabitants of Slome, Red Dragonlings, and the smattering of Garm helping to provide security to the Queen. Kandric, somewhat begrudgingly, even had to admit he liked the sound of the longer title.

“Queen Jostallis of the combined Alphar nation, what can I do for you?”

“For me, nothing,” She spoke, “You are in overall command of our armies, including every Alphar here including your grandfather, Prince Rovanall, so this is about you, not me.”

Hearing from the Queen of the Alphar he was in overall command sent a shiver down his spine and added a huge weight to his very core. He took a deep breath, started to say something and decided to take another breath before speaking. “Queen Jostallis, I beg of you to let me know of this pressing matter.”

Queen Jostallis turned her head and motioned with her left hand. “An emissary came to us and asked to speak directly to you and only you. Since he carries the flag of truce with a royal crest, and you are in command, I felt I should personally bring him to see you.”

A line of Alphar Royal Court Guard and Garm High Council Guard quickly formed a clear path. At the end of the path was a lone Black Dragonling with a white banner of truce.

Kandric’s eyes betrayed his confusion and astonishment. He glanced back to Pangam and whispered in Dragon Tongue, “Any idea?”

Pangam looked at the armor worn, the shoulder boards, and the banner. “All I can tell you is he is a scout from Prince Bandurlok. He was with us when we rescued your students, and he carries the flag of truce with Prince Bandurlok’s personal insignia. I am sorry I cannot tell you more, Premier Kandric. I had no idea he could speak for the Prince; and he was certainly NOT one of their better warriors.”

“Your information is beyond helpful. Thank you.” Kandric quickly turned and moved down the line of guards. “So you come with a message from Prince Bandurlok?”

The path made by the combined Alphar and Garm allowed the rather small, not quite two meter tall, Dragonling to see the body of Kandric’s latest victim. It scared him to near terror as he realized the boy speaking to him was wearing scales of his former King. He closed his eyes to at least cut out the sight and knelt. "Premier Kandric, Prince Bandurlok wishes to offer a hand of peace between himself and Monarch in exchange for you siding with him in the rapidly expanding Black Dragon Civil War. He has also stated he will grant you two favors upon his eventual crowning as King.

"As part of this truce, should you accept, all his forces above the Silver Spine Mountains will fall to your direct command and the territory around the Missing Finger Mountains will no longer be contested, giving Monarch his own small Kingdom.

“As a final showing of his good will, I was told to tell you many of the other students who accompanied you into Bloody Rock were taken by the Green Dragons and magically transported to the City of Rolling Dale. Should you wish to attempt rescue, My Prince will cease hostilities against King Wyhrem and will instead divert them to help you take them back from the Dark Mages and Mystics who currently control the city and much of the surrounding lands.”

Prince Rovanall had to grit his teeth at this point. ‘How could a Black Dragon Prince offer such a thing to a swamp rat child who was not even old enough to pass on his linage? Did this red haired imp have the whole world fooled? What was next? Would people start worshipping him or something? It was beyond sickening. The boy had to die.’

Kandric felt his eyes go wide and his heart speed up at hearing the news. “Some of my students were taken by Dark Mages?”

From behind Kandric, Bonif spoke, clearly not understanding royal protocols in the slightest. “Teacher, we were in the hands of a Dark Mage before we were rescued by these Dragons and we heard the Governor of Slome and Healthman Velert say they was taking some a the others to someplace called Rolling Dale.”

Kandric found it hard to swallow. “The Governor was part of this?”

“Velert…” Vondum snarled just loudly enough for those around him to here, “Looks like my next stop is Rolling Dale.”

At the same time as a dark rage was building in Vondum, Pangam spoke, “The Governor of Slome has been an ally of the Green Dragons and the Dark Mages for years, Premier Kandric. One of the reasons so few spell casters are in this area is because he funnels many of those who come to his school to control their casting down to Rolling Dale and the Dark Arts masters who all but control the city.”

Queen Jostallis moved forward and looked down at the somewhat confused and overwhelmed boy. “Premier Kandric of House Wellaras, if I may, this is quite a bit of information to digest and a decision on what to do with it does not have to be made quickly.”

“Good Queen Jostallis of the combined Alphar Nations,” Kandric took a few deep breaths and bowed again just because it felt wrong not to, “I must respectfully disagree. If Dark Mages get my students to a place where they can hide and torment them, they do not stand a chance. In addition, all those fighting this battle continue to die when we could swing this whole thing and totally crush those facing us if half of the Black Dragon Homeland forces change sides to fight for us… for me… As a matter of fact I bet their lines will collapse if half of them so much as pull back. Is there any chance you can get word to Monarch of this and see if he agrees to such a truce?”

“I will go myself if you so wish it, Premier Kandric.” Klytoss spoke firmly from where he remained down in a perfect Elvin bow honoring Queen Jostallis.

This time one of Prince Rovanall’s feet quivered slightly as he heard one of his own officers offer the scamp his assistance and loyalty all in one breath. Hearing one of his own house turn against him was pretty much the final straw. No matter what, he would see Kandric dead.

Kandric looked up to ask only to see Queen Jostallis shake her head. “This is your war. I am not in command. You are.”

Kandric glance over to Kyltoss and nodded. “Do it, but take escort. See if you can get a Blue or Silver Warrior Dragon to provide extra cover.”

“Premier Kandric,” Pangam spoke, “I can get a pair of Red Warrior Dragons to provide escort and get them here very quickly, but you will need to spread the word of us being under your command.”

“So we will have the full support of the Red Dragons if this truce happens?”

“You already do, Premier Kandric.” Pangam couldn’t help but snicker some, “You killed a Great Green Princess and now a True Green Dragon Commander. You have done more to help our fight against the Greens in the past week then we have done in the past 1400 years combined! I think you will probably find many of the battle lines already crumbling, because moral will have plummeted after the death of their Commander.” Pangam nodded in the direction of the dead Dragon with a wide smile.

“Then get your Dragons up,” Kandric commanded. “Let Monarch know I find the deal to be something he should approve. Tell him to meet at the gate stone with some of his best warriors if he agrees, because the second this is finalized and we crush those facing us, I intend to gate as many as care to go, directly to Rolling Dale.”

He turned to the closest group of Griffin Riders and took a few seconds to speak to the Griffins before he spoke to the riders. “You all, spread the word of our newest allies, the Red Dragons, and do it quickly. I have told your mounts to use whatever spell capabilities they may have to speed the journey so be ready for just about anything.” Instantly, the fifteen riders sprang to their mounts and took off. Four of them found their mounts opening gates to get them straight to their destinations while three others cast some sort of increased fly speed spell and disappeared from view within seconds.

He then refocused on the Black Dragonling, ignoring the stunned looks of the Alphar who realized there was once again an Alphar who could talk to the Griffins, while others gasped at the sight of Griffins casting spells. “So, on the off chance Monarch says no, would Prince Bandurlok be willing to simply pull his forces back instead of turning his forces over to me and honor all the other stipulations you put out if I agree to support him in this brewing Black Dragon Civil War?”

Prince Rovanall’s hand moved a fraction of a centimeter closer to his blade. ‘Now he upstages me and knows how to speak to my Griffins. My whole house is turning against me. Killing you is not good enough, I am going to make it slow and painful. Maybe I can find a way to turn you over to the Dark Mages.’

The Black Dragonling’s voice quivered slightly, showing it really was not comfortable changing the terms set by Prince Bandurlok, but his orders were to get the boy on his Prince’s side or not come back at all. “It would save us a great deal of fighting power, so I would believe so, Great Premier.”

Kandric nodded slowly never really thinking he would see fear in the eye of a Dragonling let alone see dread of himself in one. The look of the messenger only caused his nervousness at this whole situation to increase. He really was beginning to think his gut was twisting in knots. Part of him still saw himself as swamp trash and to see such powerful people deferring to him was beyond terrifying. In addition, every word he spoke seemed to be life and death for those who were following his orders as well as those who were against him.

He wanted nothing to do with this, but each step he made seemed to pull him deeper in. The very fact the Blue and Silver Dragonlings guarding the walls and looking down didn’t question him bringing in the Red Dragons told him his current authority was complete since there was a great deal of bad blood dating all the way back to the Dragon Wars between them.

The final straw, however, was the offer of a truce with Bandurlok. These extremely high level political exchanges were not the kinds of discussions he ever wanted to be part of, let alone be in charge of. To think each word he spoke in such negotiations held the lives of thousands upon thousands in the balance scared him to near tears. Not really caring what those looking on thought of him he took a deep breath and moved away to lean against a building, noting for the first time, just how much damage his last Dragon kill had done to Slome. He ran his hand over the long crack running up the wall of the building and shook his head.

Finally, his eyes turned to the Queen again. “Queen Jostallis, I badly need the best military advisors you and the Garm houses can get me. I have no skill in large battlefield combat. I am not the one who should be giving any commands to any of the troops who are fighting and dying for us. To be honest, I really do not have a clue what I am supposed to do right now when every bone in my body wants to be down in Rolling Dale getting my students back.”

‘Finally he admits fault.’ Prince Rovanall let out the tiniest of snorts. ‘Now maybe the rest will see him for the refuse he is.’

The glimmer of hope inside of Rovanall vanished as quickly as it appeared as Duke Mathard gave Queen Jostallis an extra bow, glanced at Kandric, and made a slight hand gesture showing he felt he might be the right one to deal with the clearly overwhelmed child.

Jostallis gave a quick nod and spoke. “I am not a battlefield commander either, Premier Kandric of House Wellaras. However, I do know Duke Mathard of Winter Creek is. I think we should give him the floor at this point.”

Kandric let out a long, obviously relieved, sigh. “My good Duke and trusted friend, I would love to hear your thoughts.”

Mathard moved forward, "Premier Kandric, no one expects you to lead them from the front. Instead you, as the overall leader, need to pick commanders who can do what you want done. To this end, if I were you, I would set forth what you want done and allow the rest of us to recommend leaders to help you get it done. If you are dead set on moving down to the Rolling Dale, there is no reason you cannot do so with a sizable force. First, however, you need to give orders on what you want done and make sure lines of communications are left open so you can contact your commanders up here.

“With this, both the Garm and the Alphar nations can help you with, as I am willing to bet the respective Dragon races can. I have zero knowledge of the Pantherlings or your Illorc allies, but we can help get them messages as well. What we need from you is what you want, then be willing to get reports and send new orders as the situation changes. So, Premier, the questions you need to answer are what you want done now, what plans you have going forward, and what your priorities are.”

Kandric calmed some and scratched his head in an attempt to get more time to think. It never occurred to him, he had as much time as he wanted since all eyes were on him and were simply waiting to hear what he wanted. Finally, Kandric spoke slowly and carefully, “First off, if this agreement goes through, I want to end this and end it fast but with as little bloodshed from our troops as possible. I need commanders who want the same thing, but I do not know who would be best or how this could be done.”

One of the Queen’s guards stood with a bit of nervousness and pointed to Prince Rovanall’s Captain of the Guard. “He is one of our best, Premier Kandric. He was the one to drive back the Harpy hoard in our last major combined house action and we kept casualties very low because of his commands.”

Kandric looked at the Alphar Warrior with a strangely satisfied smile, “You are now a general. I want you to get with the best Garm strategist Duke Mathard of Winter Creek can find you and draw up battle plans on either contingency I have discussed with this spokesman for Prince Bandurlok. I want this to end so I can get a much more powerful force down to Rolling Dale than just me and those who will join me.”

Prince Rovanall’s Captain of the guard bowed deeply, “It is an honor, Premier Kandric of House Wellaras.” He turned to Duke Mathard, “My Duke, I can see our Premier trusts you a great deal so it may be best if you and some of your best accompany him to this place called Rolling Dale, but I also know you are one of the best large scale strategists in all of the Garm Empire. Do you have any thoughts?”

“I am only as good as those under me.” Duke Mathard spoke forcefully, “I strongly recommend my commander, Korbow and Duke Axegrind’s commander, Waviked as very good subordinate generals to you.”

Kandric took a deep breath, “I also want you to ask the Pantherling, Wek, who he wants to help and get one commander from each of the Silver, Blue and Red Dragons.”

He glanced back over at Pangam and grinned, “As a long term goal, once we deal with the mess around Bloody Rock, I want the Dagger’s Teeth directly north of here cleared of the Troll and Cyclopes menaces and the whole of the Dagger Spine given to the Red Dragons under the condition they sign mutual defense packs with both the Silver and Blue Dragons and sign total non-aggression pacts with the Garm, Alphar, Monarch, the Pantherlings, and the Elvin tribes on the edges of the Spine. They also must agree to only expand their land hold deeper into the Spine and the Sawgrass Glades beyond to the west. They can then push outward into the islands beyond as long as they do not step on the toes of anyone in the greater alliance.”

A Silver Warrior Dragon glanced down from the wall, “You want us to help get the Reds a new Homeland?”

“Yes.” Kandric’s single word left no doubt as to this decision being final, “As long as all the treaties are signed and approved by all sides and me. No conditional languages either. The Reds agree to the conditions I set forth and the rest of you support them as long as they keep to the treaties. No time frames like the Garm and Alphar set up with the Black Dragons, either. It just gave the Black Dragon Empire time to build armies and then move out in force. We do not need to let something along those lines hang over future generations.”

Kandric glanced up to the Silver Dragon, “Besides, with a mutual defense pact with the Reds your problems from the White Dragons will be cut drastically, since if they try to move into your territories out of the cold southern icepacks and the lands beyond, you will have fire breathing help.”

Kandric then turned his attention to a Blue Dragonling wearing some sort of officer’s armor. "And likewise, your Desert Empire will be seen as quite a bit more formidable and will cause any thoughts of aggression from the Copper Dragons to decline if not vanish altogether.

“The only others who will have a problem with this will be the Golds and the Greens, but if we can expose the Green’s ties to those working in the Dark Arts, the Golds will have to fall in line or risk being seen siding with Dark Mages. As lofty as they are, they would never chance it.”

Pangam once again knelt, “Premier, if you can make this work you will have the undying gratitude of my Queen, all Red Dragons and Dragonlings. I cannot speak for my Queen, but I have heard nothing in your plan any sane Red Dragon would not fully agree to.”

Prince Rovanall was sickened by this point. The only ones it seemed who would want to resist the little delinquent would be the one this Prince Bandurlok was directly opposed to. A plan started to form in his mind which allowed him to calm a great deal.

Kandric leaned back against the wall, “The only other detail I want dealt with is to get some serious protection to the caravan my brothers are traveling with. I know they were planning on pushing up to Black Rapids but I do not have a clue which path they planned on taking.”

“Leave it to me.” Queen Jostallis all but commanded. “My personal scouts will find them and we will get them the protections they need.”

Kandric once again bowed, still not being comfortable with not doing so to the Queen of the Alphar. “Thank you, Queen Jostallis of the Combined Alphar Nation. I guess the only other thing we have to do is wait for a response from Monarch.”

Duke Mathard moved up and stood next to Kandric. “There are things we can do to get ready to move a force down to this place called Rolling Dale and you, Premier Kandric, could use this down time to get some much needed and valuable rest.”

Begrudgingly, Kandric nodded then glanced over at his Grandfather. “Do not breathe easy, we are not done with our earlier conversation yet and you and some of your troops are coming with me down to Rolling Dale since you are under my command by Queen Jostallis’ decree. Your days of sitting behind the lines with a bodyguard are done until I do not have command over you and your forces!”

 

In the great hall of the gods, Rovnar felt the explosion of the death of Gedatrag and turned his head away from the swirling viewing disk as it turned bright green and sent a burst of magic through with enough power to make him see spots. “Come on Kandric, you are starting to make me look bad!”

Syria moved up and took control of the disk, “No… Another Dragon gone?”

The Goddess of Weather moved her hand in a counterclockwise motion and focused in on the town of Slome. She watched the entire event and cringed. “He is moving up our time tables and now, he has outdone you. He has a pair of Greats and one True Dragon to his name. He also did this one with the help of a Master Echelon spell!”

Rovnar spun the disk back and watched with a shake of his head, “And did so with very little effort. It also appears his name will now spread even more quickly. We better start assembling the others. The City of Rolling Dale is about to get very messy and we need all of us to counter anything the Mythlings care to throw out there and show them this needs to stay in the reams of the mortals.”

“Go and get the others.” Syria commanded, “I already have weather spirits in and around Rolling Dale so I can form a defense if needed before the others can assemble their own counters to the Mythlings. Make sure you stop off and let the High Guild Council know their time of hiding in their own little dimension will need to come to an end for a while as well. If they really want Lord Falk to join them, then they will need to assist down in Everone because the Greens will do everything they can to push up the passes and move to support their Dark Arts friends and Lord Falk will not even consider leaving the realms of the mortals while some of King Wyhrem’s lands are in such terrible danger.”

Rovnar held up a finger and pushed a bit more magic into the portal with a bit of a smirk. "There, Kandric, you aren’t the only one who can play with Dragons. Let me help add to the today’s Dragon death total. He then waved his arm and stepped into the glowing line his hand motion created and vanished from the Hall of the Gods.

Syria moved up and looked down at the disk, noting it was now centered on King Wyhrem. She watched and actually snickered as she watched the results of what Rovnar had just done. “Sorry, my nimble fingered friend, but a pair of Dragonettes is not going to steal even a little bit of the show Kandric is giving us!”

 

Conner cringed as some of the overflow from the death of Gedatrag found him. There was a huge difference this time, however. Unlike the previous two, this time the power was not overwhelming and the link didn’t totally vanish. Instead he suddenly felt connected to the source of the power and all the others the power had flowed into. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the rather powerful Dark Mage he was fighting, since the sudden flow of energy made his punch much stronger. His fist impacted the chest and came out the back of the Teaching Echelon Dark Mage killing her instantly.

The First Mate moved up in a great deal of concern and shock at seeing such a tremendous blow struck. He stopped short, however, as he felt the magical release come from far to the north. “Conner, what’s going on?”

Conner stood and shook his head while shaking his hand back and forth to get some of the blood off. “I don’t even want to know how I know this, but a Green Dragon just died and it was my younger brother Kandric who did it.”

Conner blinked his eyes, “And somehow I know Aster is here in Rolling Dale, which is not where he was supposed to be. I also have another older brother down to the south and other siblings’ way up north but they are kind of scattered. For a moment I saw them all and Kandric had some really wild stuff around him including some flying bird lions or something; they kind of looked like Frost only they were golden in color and some of them were casting spells.”

Taking a deep breath he managed to smile, “On the other hand, Kandric just replenished all my magical force, so even after spending all night casting and taking out a handful of Gambra’s street scouts, I am somehow totally fresh and replenished. It also allowed me to drop this hag without hardening my hand with death, so the timing was perfect.”

“Are you going to be OK?” Pontarious asked while sliding the potion he was about to use back into his belt.

“Yes.” Conner took the offered water skin from another ship mate and washed off the rest of the blood while another pair of Thunder Rapids crew drug the body of the woman back into the ally to hide it under some trash, knowing the rats would devour it before it could be found. “If anything, I am stronger, so when we do hit Gambra this early afternoon, it will be like I used nothing all night long!”

 

Aster stumbled and rubbed his eyes as they teared up from the overflow of Gedatrag’s death, while Shade let out a low snarl and changed into shadow form. Above, both Dart and Frost let out loud screeches and dove to get closer to Aster.

Pocet moved up and started to grab Aster only to see a brief glow of green surround the boy and seep in.

At the same time Stealth hissed and scratched the ground with its claws. “Aster, this is getting really old! Another Dragon just died by the hand of your brother!”

“Yea, I know.” Aster shook his head, “It was Kandric. I saw him. Actually, I saw like all sorts of brothers and I think a couple of sisters too! Wow, what a head spinner!”

He glanced over to Sardan, “I have no idea why, or how, but Conner is already in the city and he knows about Gambra. I felt him for a moment and I saw the blood of a Dark Mage on his hands. Pontarious and the First Mate were with him too, so they are already on it.”

“Then we need to pick up the pace, find Glaster and the other Prince and link up with him.” Sardan chirped. “Let’s move!”

 

Below the pass leading to Rolling Dale the death of Gedatrag changed everything. The early stages of the latest battle between King Wyhrem and the Black Dragon led forces went nowhere. After tweleve hours of hard fighting there was a virtual stale mate all along the battle lines. The subsequent night fighting benefitted the Dragon allied forces since they had vision capable of seeing much further than those facing them. As the first rays of daylight fell on the battlefield the Dragon commanders decided to push their advantage and decided on a full on frontal charge to shatter Wyhrem’s lines.

Just as thousands of beings moved out of the wood line on the far side of the small valley with twin Warrior Dragon support, Gedatrag’s death magic rolled over both armies. This had disastrous effects on the forces facing King Wyhrem’s army as both Warrior Dragons had to pull up and land to shake the effects off while the hundreds of Dragonlings in the advancing lines of troops slowed and cringed upon feeling the agonized scream of Gedatrag’s last moments.

This left a badly disorganized attack line with no Dragon-kind support. While Wyhrem and his Captain of the Guard also felt the weird magic ripple over them, they were quick to see the damage it had caused their foes.

Wyhrem glanced back, noting his new standard bearer had also been hard hit, but the boy gritted his teeth and forced himself to quickly stand. “Before we lose the advantage, order in our cavalry! Their lines are disorganized. We have to hit them now with every mounted soldier we have!”

The young elf raised the King’s banner high and sharply pointed the flag to the left while spinning it in a clockwise motion. Nothing more need to be said. Horns all along the King’s lines started to send out a warbling call. Seconds later smaller horns sounded while mounted cavalry moved out from around the exhausted front line troops. This second battle call ordered those held back as reserve to move forward while telling the front line to hold firm in case those pressing forward need to retreat to safety.

With the proper signals sent the boy moved down and knelt, knowing he was a long way from having a proper bow down. “My King, I know I ain’t suppose ta say stuff to you, but the two Dragons be confused and can’t fly none right now. We could take ‘em with your big rock throwin’ things, but ya gots to do it now!”

Wyhrem didn’t hesitate. He looked over at his captain. “Do it! Adjust all siege weapons to target those two Dragons!”

The Captain grabbed the standard from the boy’s hands and gave the signals himself, knowing the youngster didn’t have enough training to send such complicated commands yet. Even as he did so he looked down, “Boy, you could be opening us up. Once we show where those weapons are, they can be targeted.”

“It’s hard fer me to tell you how I know,” the boy stated firmly, “but a big Green Dragon just bit it, and it be me brother who did it. What we felt was a knife bein’ jammed in its eye.”

He rubbed his left eye, as if he felt it himself as he let out a deep breath. “I saw my brother. Him be a red-haired Halfelf, but him has lots a friends. I saw it and know the Dragons down there be hurt worser than most cause they be Green.”

King Wyhrem only half listened to the boy as he watched over two dozen of his largest siege weapons reveal their locations as they launched huge stones, burning pitch, and hundreds of fist sized rocks. He found himself crossing his fingers and asking a multitude of gods for help.

A few seconds later the first scattering of smaller stones blanketed the area, killing several Dragonlings and a handful of other beings while buffeting the Dragons badly. A few of the lager stones come in next. One hit the smaller of the two Warrior Dragons, crushing its back hip and tail. The second one bounced, which seemed very odd since it slammed into dirt without even leaving an indentation. But the defection caused the massive stone to nick the Dragon’s side and knock the beast into the path of another boulder which shattered its wing. The damage was more than enough to prevent either from fully recovering before the burning pitch turned the area around them into an inferno, roasting them alive.

A couple of minutes later the first of his mounted troops slammed into the disorganized attackers, shattering the lines totally. With the deaths of the two Warrior Dragons, and their lines in ruins, many fled while others tried to hold the line. Still others attempted an organized pull back to reform, but with no real organization the whole of Wyhrem’s forces were able to secure the whole valley in just a couple of hours while the bodies of well over three thousand of those facing him lay scattered over a wide area.

Wyhrem let out log relived breath as he looked over his assembled commanders. “The men need rest and our Shamen, Channelers and Healthmen need time to see to our wounded. Establish new lines and get your people fed. A victory like this is rare. We should enjoy it while we can.”

Wyhrem dismissed those around him giving them a brief nod in way of acknowledging their bows and looked over to the leader of the Watch team member assigned to protect him. Seeing the look in her eyes, he frowned and motioned her to come into his tent. Once he was sure they were alone, he spoke, but kept his voice down. “Considering the tremendous turn of fortune, you do not look at all happy.”

“My King, I cannot deny the victory you have achieved today will send a very strong message to the Black and Green Dragons trying to invade Everone. It will take them days to reorganize and they will certainly rethink future Dragon support. However, I bring other news which is…” the woman stopped as she found her voice failing.

King Wyhrem moved up and put his hand on the woman’s shoulder. “What news could possible trouble you so?”

“My King, I do not know the best way to tell you this… But… we have found strong evidence your son did not die.”

“My son?” The King paled, “My son is with Glaster… did something happen to him?”

The woman shook her head, “No, but we believe he is in great danger as well, and other than knowing he is in Rolling Dale we do not know exactly where he is at. There have been some rather unusual spells cast within the city recently which are hampering our Watch pins.”

“So what is this about Klandon not being dead?”

“No, my King, not Prince Klandon… I am talking about Prince Zoldon.”

“Zoldon? He was buried only days after his birth…”

The woman took a deep breath, “One of our Watch teams has found more than enough evidence to say he was not buried but instead taken and a Doppelganger put in his place. Instead, he is either now with Glaster or our Watch team. At this point we do not know which Prince is which, but both boys are either in or within sight of Rolling Dale and we now think a concentrated force of Dark Mages are after both of them.”

King Wyhrem felt his blood go cold as a few pieces started to fit together way too neatly for his liking. “My son… Klandon… he was replaced on the ship?”

“We now believe so, my King. The Watch team assigned to you missed it somehow.” The woman lowered her head, “We are summing them back to Junsac for questioning now.”

A tear slid down Wyhrem’s cheek as he took a couple of deep breaths. “Do not be too harsh on them, for his own father missed it as well. What did they do to my beloved Klandon and do we know who was behind this?”

“I wish we had more to go on, but Sardan had to pull away from the city of Rolling Dale to get us the report and even then it was broken somewhat. All I can tell you is this: there is a very strong Dark Mage connection and Sardan and his team are moving in to find Glaster to warn him.”

Wyhrem lowered his head and took a couple of deep breaths, “I have to get to Rolling Dale with a sizable force to help! Do we have anyone who can take over this army… someone we can totally trust?”

“As fate has it, we have two very senior Watch members, both of whom you have met, in the city of Everone with Watch teams who can either move up to Rolling Dale for you or take over for you so you can gate to Rolling Dale, but this is not the only word I bring my King.”

“First things first, who are these two Watch members?”

“Lord Falk and Master Lannet, my King. They have been in Everone for almost two weeks now and have established relations with a seemingly friendly contingent of Blue and Silver Dragonlings and a considerable force of Pantherlings. With their help, we have managed to break the siege of the city and get in supplies for the first time in months.”

Wyhrem paced back and forth for several seconds as his mind spun. “Lord Falk would be better to keep down there and maintain relations with the other Dragons and keep them friendly. Master Lannet is old, but he is brilliant. He could lead this army in my absence.”

“Somehow time has turned back his body to a much younger state; he no longer looks or feels as old as he once did. He would be an excellent choice to command, my King. However, you need this next piece of information, but for you to get it; I need your permission to bring an envoy from Prince Bandurlok into camp and to do so will create quite a stir and alarm.”

“Why, did he send a Dragon or something?” The King Wyhrem asked in a joking manner.

The woman cringed. “Ah, as a matter of fact, yes, My King, and not a Warrior either. He sent one of his generals, a True Dragon by the name of Bormastarm. He came to us just before those on the far side attacked, warning us of the action which is the reason our lines held off their the first charge.”

Wyhrem frowned deeply. “I do not understand… Why did this Bormastarm not join the fight against us? We slaughtered hundreds upon hundreds of his Dragonlings. Is this some attempt to assassinate me?”

"My King, we do not believe so. Bormastarm submitted to a Mindmaster scan by my teammate. He could find no deception even when I asked about doing you harm. The truth seems to be quite the opposite. Bormastarm insists, and our scan seems to confirm, he was sent to make sure you stay protected. Now, I must caution you, my teammate has never had a chance to scan a Dragon before, so he cannot say with certainty this is the truth, but he says this Black Dragon seemed to give him full access and even let him probe some.

“Unfortunately, My King, I cannot tell you more. Master Lannet, on the other hand, may be able to. We could get him here by the end of the day, but we would have to gate to Everone then gate him to somewhere close by known by one of your Mages. As I am sure you know, a Mage cannot gate to somewhere he does not have firsthand knowledge of without possibly doing great harm to himself and those he is gating. The deaths of the two Warrior Dragons are going to make this worse since their deaths have caused some weird ripples in the fabric of magic in this area.”

“No,” Wyhrem shook his head, “send for Master Lannet and let him know I need him to take command while I go to Rolling Dale. I will take the chance and speak with this Bormastarm, since to kill me would be to sign his own death and put the whole of the Black Dragon Homeland in a direct state of war with us. Should I fall, I want the Arch Duke given the control of the kingdom and let him know he will have to sort out what is going on with my children. If both are alive, he will have to figure out which one to give the crown to. I will even allow him to pass the crown on to one of his own sons if he so chooses, since both Mylan and Lylan have shown total loyalty to both me and who I can only assume is actually Zoldon.”

King Wyhrem stepped out of the tent and motioned for his flag bearer. “Do you know the signal of Guard for Truce?”

The boy nodded, “Yes, my King.”

“Give it and stay behind me. You fell a Black Dragon and the incoming envoy may be able to sense it.”

Wyhrem then looked at his Captain of the Guard. “We are about to let a Dragon in our camp. Keep our troops ready.”

The man’s eyes went wide, “Please tell me you are kidding me, Highness…”

“I only wish I was,” Wyhrem managed a slight smile then turned deadly serious. “As soon as our business concludes, I want a full company ready to gate to Rolling Dale. Make it the best one we have, and if it means using up magical healings then do it.”

The Captain of the Guard had a hundred questions but the tone of his King told him none of them mattered. The command was not going to change; instead he gave a quick bow. “I will see to it, Highness.”

Bormastarm moved into the camp glancing at the lines of terrified warriors. He forced himself not to smile as his nose picked up the scent of multiple urinations. Instead, he focused on moving up to Wyhrem and giving the best bow a Dragon could to a humanoid King. It was not easy since even as his head touched the grass in front of the man, his horns stuck up a meter above the King’s head. The other problem was the young Elf standing behind the King pulsated with the death of his king and it took everything it had not to look at the boy and instead stay focused on King Wyhrem.

Wyhrem was quick to motion for Bormastarm to raise its massive head. “You show me great honor. Please rise. I have never before conversed with a Dragon, so I am not sure how this is supposed to work, since clearly, you cannot easily show deference to me or my position.”

Bormastarm made sure his inhales and exhales didn’t buffet the King too much as he spoke slowly and carefully. “Mighty King Wyhrem, I come as an emissary of peace, sent here directly from Prince Bandurlok. I will do all I can to make you and your military comfortable, but like you, I do not know the exact protocols for a meeting like this. Normally we send Dragonlings for this very reason, but in this case Prince Bandurlok felt it would be better if I was in your camp. Although, after seeing your flag bearer, I am not sure you need a guard at all.”

Wyhrem glanced over his shoulder and back to Bormastarm, “As interested as I am to hear more about the young man standing behind me, I feel our business needs to focus on why you did not come to see me before the battle unfolded in the open fields below.”

“Mighty King, it would have only clouded the issue more. By me informing your people of what was going to happen, it allowed you to take the upper hand. However, the death of yet another Green Dragon to the north aided you a great deal. Rest assured, I was ready to deal with the two Warrior Dragons had such fate not intervened. To be honest, it would have made this meeting a great deal easier if I had.”

“You will have to pardon my ignorance, but why would you have fought for me and against some of your own kind?”

“While some of them may be my kind, they are neither from my House, nor any other of the allies of Prince Bandurlok, who has my House’s total allegiance. Instead you are facing the armies of Prince Bassork and his allies the Green Dragons.” He paused and looked over Wyhrem’s shoulder. “Your royal flagman… his sibling, a boy by the name of Kandric, now Premier Kandric, bested our King, who fell so fast and viscously he was not able to pass down a clear line of succession to the throne.”

“Kandric?” Wyhrem spoke softly and in deep thought. His eyes went wide as the only half heard words of his flag bearer returned to him. “My most trusted of advisors had a student by the name of Kandric. I met the boy once. He was a red haired lad…”

Wyhrem turned his head to glance back at the young Elf behind him. “You said you saw this and the boy you saw had red hair after the last magical rupture, correct?”

The boy looked up and started to answer ‘yea’ before remembering to take a knee. “Sorry, my King. Yes, me saw, but not know a name er nothing. Him take down a Green this morning though, me sure of it.”

Wyhrem glanced back at Bormastarm who was more carefully eyeing the boy. “The lad is part of my personal entourage, I would strongly recommend to leave him be and continue this discussion with me.”

“Mighty King,” Bormastarm spoke carefully to hide some anger and awe, “The child has nothing to fear from any Black Dragon who sees him. The great King Blathamort has placed his protection on Premier Kandric and as I can now clearly see, all of Premier Kandric’s siblings. Now, he could still get hurt by one of us if we were doing a fly by attack or were in melee and not given a chance to really look. But all Black Dragon Kin who see him for more than a few seconds will feel the protection decree of our fallen King on him. He is completely safe. I can also sense he has already shown the gifting was a good one since he has the kill of a Black Dragonette on him.”

“He does.” Wyhrem stated with a degree of pride as he reached back and pulled the boy even with him. “He prevented a sneak attack on me and my Captain of the Guard then delivered the fatal blow. He received no assistance.”

“A bloodline to be feared, even by me,” Bormastarm acknowledged with a hint of trepidation. “It is actually an honor to meet the boy and know he has the same heart as his brother, although I have heard the boy is a Halfelf, so he would be a half brother. Clearly this youngster got the better half, however.”

“Indeed he did.” Wyhrem nodded, “So, you come to me with a truce offer, but if I am not facing your forces, I do not see what good this does me.”

"Mighty King, I do not come to offer a simple truce. I come to offer you an allegiance. Even as we speak this young man’s brother is moving in on your city of Rolling Dale to combat a large infestation of Dark Mages and Mystics. While I am certain he will be victorious, your armies may try to resist such a massive force which will place you in direct conflict with Premier Kandric. This would be disastrous, since Premier Kandric has command of combined forces the like of which you cannot stand up against. At the same time, you would be siding with the users of the Dark Arts. This would destroy your kingdom.

“While it may seem odd Prince Bandurlok would care about this, he does. He has to.”

Wyhrem glanced over at the leader of his Watch detail only to get a slight shrug. He gave it a few seconds more thought. “Why does your Prince care?”

Bormastarm took a breath of frustration over the need to spell it out, but quickly shook it off. A mere humanoid didn’t have the brain power of a Dragon, after all. He forced a smile. “Because, mighty King, the Green Dragons are the allies of Prince Bassork and they are allies of those who use the Dark Arts. Should your kingdom fall and be taken over by them, my Prince would end up fighting both the remnants of your kingdom and Prince Bassork for control of the throne of the Black Dragon Homeland. However, if you side with Prince Bandurlok we could crush this incursion into your territory completely and allow you to send forces up to Rolling Dale to join with Premier Kandric and wipe out those who use the Dark Arts. This would greatly weaken Prince Bassork’s allies and would allow Prince Bandurlok to take the throne with a great deal less damage to the kingdom he is soon to command. This would also give you an ally on the throne of the Black Dragon Homeland instead of an enemy.”

Bormastarm allowed this to sink in for a few moments before continuing. “I can tell you this is not just Prince Bandurlok’s idea; it is also coming from Premier Kandric. In addition, we are prepared to provide proof of who now controls most of Rolling Dale.”

This really peeked King Wyhrem’s interest since he was itching to get to the city for his own reasons. “What kind of proof?”

“The Red Dragons are our allies and they managed to capture the former Day Slave Overseer of Junsac. He was a Dark Mage agent and a Wraith Sect Warrior. We can send for him and have him brought to your best Mindmasters, but I understand your Watch detail could get you a backdrop of proof against him as well since a Watch team was responsible for uncovering him. Unfortunately, he got away from them. He did not, however, escape our Red Dragon allies.”

Behind King Wyhrem the female Watch member touched her pin and went into thought. A few seconds later she moved forward looking a bit pale, “My King, Master Lannet confirms this. He also says the young Watch member who discovered this treachery, a boy by the name of Aster, is even now moving to Rolling Dale with word of a major Dark Mage problem and he is also the one we think has one of your two sons. Making matters even more interesting and troubling, it seems this Aster is also a half brother to this mysterious Kandric.”

“Captain!” King Wyhrem shouted having heard more than enough, “Belay my prior orders. I want to pull all of the forces from the Holgan Barony off the lines, other than their scouts, since they are our weakest actual combat formation and have them ready to move with us to Rolling Dale.”

No longer caring who heard what, Wyhrem turned to the leader of the Watch team, “Get Lannet here now so he can scan Bormastarm’s proof. If he is satisfied, then I will accept this alliance temporarily until a proper treaty can be signed. Also have the Junsac Watch uncover the Gate Stone I know they control and open a gate to here big enough to move an entire barony’s worth of troops through. Once we get to Junsac, they can then open a gate directly to Rolling Dale. Glaster warned me he didn’t like the feel of the place and I all but ignored him. I will not make such a mistake again.”

 

Klorna quickly moved up to the third wagon back in the caravan as it unexpectedly veered off the path and into the deeper snow off to the side. “Whoa! What’s the problem here gentlemen?”

The driver cradled Rathiter and held up a hand. “I was teaching him to drive when he suddenly grabbed his eye. He’s in a great deal of pain too. I think he just got hit with another magical spurt as well. His hands flared green for a moment. ”

The driver from the fifth wagon back shouted out, “Same thing with Darmoth, Lieutenant.”

Gablon brought the lead wagon to a halt and stood on the seat so he could easily be seen. “I felt another magic wave and both of them seem to be hit quite hard by them when they happen. Get them out of the wagons before they light something on fire or something again.”

Gablon jumped down and looked at one of the other guards. “We are about to move up even higher as we push up toward Black Rapids. With the winter they have had up here this year the pass is not going to be nearly as melted as we would like and we are clearly the first caravan into the city for the spring.”

Gablon pointed to the still snowy path leading up the mountain. “There are no wagon tracks to be seen. Let’s take this break to check the wagon wheels and hoofs. Also let all drivers know the second we start going up the pass we are going to take every wide area to switch lead wagons so our animals have to break as little of a trail as possible before the next wagon takes the lead.”

The guard nodded and started moving down the line passing on the new orders.

Gablon quickly moved over to Rathiter and pulled the boy’s hand away from his eye. Seeing a bit of redness, he pulled back on the eyelid to look for any debris. “I see nothing amiss. What happened?”

Rathiter blinked his eyes a few times as Darmoth moved up still rubbing his own eye and spoke, “Kandric killed a Dragon. I saw it!”

Klorna raised an eyebrow, “You mean Dragonling, like the ones who helped your brother after we got hit with the rocks, right?”

Rathiter shook his head, “No, Dragon! We saw one once when mom took us and brought us up here. It was flying over the pass and no one would take us up so we come up on foot. It was the real thing and it was way bigger than the one we saw when we was littler, too.”

“Way bigger!” Darmoth confirmed. “Kandric’s whole arm went into its eye!”

“It hurt.” Rathiter winced as he again rubbed his eye.

“Bad.” Darmoth added as he continued to blink out a few tears.

Klorna kind of chuckled. “Well, at least you didn’t burn anything this time, Darmoth.”

Before Darmoth could do more than blush over what had happened after the last magic explosion seemed to find him and his brother, Rathiter spoke up, “This one was smaller then the first two and not as strong.”

Gablon paused and looked over Rathiter with a great deal of skepticism and caution, “Are you saying your bother killed three real Dragons?”

“I think so,” Darmoth responded. “I saw it this time. Kandric was talking about two others and then stuck his dagger in the eye of the Dragon. I think I even saw Conner!”

“Me too!” Rather spoke softly and with a bit of nervousness, “but he’s way far away and his hand was full of blood.”

“He killed someone, for sure!” Darmoth concurred.

Gablon shook his head with some trepidation as he listened to the two talk. It was not the first time he had seen the brothers fill in each other’s words, which showed how close they were, but this time the conversation was making him more than a little nervous. He cleared his throat to cut off further chatter. “From what I was taught, Dragon Death Magic leaves a trail, so we best get moving up the pass as soon as possible! The last thing I want is to have some unhappy Dragon come looking for where part of this Death Magic ended only to find us sitting here looking like tasty morsels”

 

Glaster took the report of his Healthman with a totally neutral look while inside he felt his heart racing. The last thing he wanted was to let word leak out of the disappearance of Prince Klandon and the reappearance of Zoldon. Should the other powerful houses find out there would be a feeding frenzy as they would point out neither boy could be trusted with the crown since they had been taken and held for so long. This would force King Wyhrem to either appoint a suitable crown prince from another house or snub his nose at everyone and leave the crown on Klandon, or Zoldon, whichever he cared to call the boy Glaster had with him.

The rest of the information was interesting, to be sure, but it was what it was. The Drow were not his problem nor was this unknown House of Oldsurn. It was rather an interesting twist to the whole situation and it did give Glaster a way to make the punishment he wanted to dish out even more practical, since he could point out the five had intentionally injured a member of high royalty. The laws on this were quite clear, injuring a member of high royalty, known or not, was a crime punishable by anything up to and including death unless there was a war where the member of high royalty was on the opposite side.

On the other hand, this complicated matters for Glaster. He wanted to fully enjoy both boys, so he would have to change his lines of research. The Drow boy, being a slave should make things clear cut, but he had to make sure. The Oldsurn boy was another question. He was not a slave but had given himself to finish his training. Glaster had made it clear being a pleasure boy was part of this, and the boy had agreed, albeit with some mild coercion. However, Glaster had no agreement with the family, only the boy. Although this should be enough to allow him to use the boy for pleasure, he was not certain.

Glaster let out a deep breath as he realized he would have to make absolutely sure. He could not, would not, break any law within the kingdom purposefully. He had devoted his whole life to King Wyhrem and would never knowingly do anything to place himself in a position of harming the King or his reputation. He was beyond certain the King would brush it all under the nearest rug without so much as a shrug, but Glaster refused to put the man into such a situation.

Leaning back on his chair he rubbed his chin in some thought, which was way more centered on having the bodies of the Drow boy and the cute golden haired boy in his bed than anything else. While Glaster knew this was not what the Healthman standing in front of him wanted or expected, it was still the highest priority for Glaster. To this end he tossed the scrolls he had been studying down on his desk and stood. “Go get the needed herbs and round up the others. Tell them to keep their rooms, but to expect to stay here for a day or two. I will make arrangements to rent out the entire top floor, one of the two common rooms, and one whole barn. This will allow us to keep a better eye on everyone and everything, especially after this latest magical pulse from the north. Besides, if you are correct about us having Zoldon then we need to figure out what to do from here, and what to tell our King, and like it or not some of those decisions should come from the three boys since this is a matter of direct concern to all of them.”

“What to tell our King?” the Healthman gasped, “We must tell him what we know now!”

Glaster motioned with his hand for the man to keep his voice down. “First off, are you certain you know anything?”

“Well, no… but…”

“Until we all are certain,” Glaster interrupted forcefully, "to inform and worry our King could do great harm to the kingdom as a whole, because word will spread. Also, our King is leading an army and a false distraction right now could prove fatal to him and the men he is leading. If we lose the army he is leading the lower half of this kingdom will be all but defenseless. There is something I cannot live with.

“Do not get me wrong here; this needs investigation and I will contact the Watch team assigned to our King when Prince Klandon fell ill. We need to see what they know about the time the boy spent on the other ship and what, if anything, they noticed. For now, however, you know nothing and as a protector of our Prince, the last thing you should want to do is endanger him by spreading false accusations. However, you still have some serious concerns which we need to address, of this there is no question and we will do so starting now.”

Glaster turned back to the desk, leaned over, and quickly jotted down a short list. “While you are rounding up the others and getting herbs, I need you to drop these scrolls off at the city archive and exchange them out for scrolls on these subjects.” Glaster rolled the note, dribbled some wax over it, and sealed it with his signet ring before placing all the scrolls he had been reading in a large leather satchel.

“We are dealing with some delicate matters here, so let us make sure we do not raise any alarm bells. Our Mindmaster got some bad feelings from most of the staff at the archive. Hand this note only to the young dark haired man with the Primary Step Three guild pins. Tell him to put the needed scrolls in the case along with the original letter of request. There is no need for anyone to start digging into what I need to look at.”

As the Healthman nodded his understanding and left, Glaster let out a long sigh and touched his Watch pin. Instead of him feeling his mind meld with it, he got a light shock. It had to have something to do with the latest disturbance in the flow of magic, but still he needed to see where things stood on his Watch marker to find the ship Prince Klandon had been treated on.

He slipped into the spirit realm, but quickly backed out. Glaster could feel extra power building in the area and he was not about to mess with jittery spirits. They were temperamental enough normally and with the magical disturbances, the last thing they would want is to have a mortal poking around and bothering them. Growling, he tried again only to quickly withdraw his hand from the pin. “OK, fine, he grumbled in a barely audible voice, ”I’ll give it until after I deal with the five students and if I still cannot make contact I will gate to Junsac and get some answers first hand!"

 

Klent glanced around the camp again as the sounds of clanking chains and angry shouts got louder. “OK guys, we don’t know what is going on, so do nothing unless attacked or I tell you otherwise, but be ready for anything. For all we know some prisoner has gotten away from a patrol of guards and is being chased through the woods.”

A couple of minutes later a pair of children appeared at the top of the hill, chains around their wrists. Although the pair was wearing fairly nice bronze chain armor, the rest of them looked totally filthy. Their hair was tangled and matted, their armored leather britches were filthy, and both had multiple cuts and bruises on their exposed skin.

The lead boy’s eyes went wide with hope as he spotted the fire and small band of travelers. “Help us! Please help!” He took another couple of steps before tripping and tumbling down the hill toward Jory.

A second later a Green Dragonling appeared and snagged the back of the second boy’s chain shirt. “Thessssse two are mine,” it snarled. At the same time it picked up the bawling child and slammed him down like a ragdoll, knocking the boy senseless while certainly doing some nastier damage in the process. He then picked up the boy again.

Jory let the tumbling boy roll past him without even trying to help. Instead he purposefully stepped back to stand between the trembling boy and the Dragonling at the top of the hill. He also shot a quick glance back to Klent for instructions. Having only heard of Dragonlings before, seeing one pretty much scared the crap out of him. On the other hand, witnessing what the creature had done to the nearly defenseless boy above really irked him.

Pulon’s eyes also narrowed as he gulped, battling pretty much the same feelings Jory was fighting. “Pouncer, guard!” He pointed at the boy Jory had stepped in front of.

The giant Raccoon hissed showing its own desire to not get close to the Dragonling, but still did as commanded. It bounded over the boy who had just fallen down the fairly steep hill and curled its tail around the child showing it was willing to defend him.

Klent chewed on his lip and looked over to Lidevar. “Ever fought one of those before?”

Lidevar spat into the snow, “Nope, and ain’t really looking forward to it, neither.”

“Same here,” Klent stated with an uneasy, yet still humor filled snort. Klent took a deep breath and moved up to stand next to Jory who was the closest to the beast. “You own them?”

The boy on the ground behind Klent shook his head and managed to wheeze out, “They captured us!” At the same time the lad’s trembling fingers pushed into Pouncer’s side to find some warmth.

“They ssssssurrendered.” The Dragonling spoke with a nasty undertone. “They threw down their weaponssss and held their scrawny armssss up to me. It makessss them mine!”

Klent shook his head with a slight cringe, suddenly wishing he had not agreed to become one of the kingdom’s scouts. Had he not taken the oath, it would be easy enough to push this under the rug by simply letting the creature have one of the two boys or even both. But as a King’s Scout, he could not. “I think you are mistaken on what the Kingdom of Eaglecrest allows, good Dragon kind. You can’t, by law take a person just because you bested him in combat and forced him to throw down his arms.”

“I did not take them here!” The Dragonling roared while reaching down and grabbing the unconscious boy. “Now give me what issss mine and we have not trouble between ussss!” It started to move toward the camp with pure anger in its eyes.

Klent let out a long breath and glanced over to Lidevar and Garvol, “Guys, I am open to suggestions here…”

Before more could be said another boy moved up behind the Dragonling, jumped up from the top of the ridgeline, and wrapped his chained together hands around the beast’s neck.

An instant later another very well built lad moved up and kicked the creature in the ribs only to get knocked out of the way with a vicious backhand.

At this point Jory had seen and heard enough. He moved forward and struck. His barb smacked into the Dragonling, but didn’t do much more then leave a scratch. Jory audibly gulped as he realized his best weapon hadn’t done much.

Tayac snarled, “We didn’t surrender. The Governor knocked us out after you cast a spell on us, and we don’t belong to no one but Teacher Saslara and Teacher Kandric!” He continued to pull on the Dragonlings neck with everything he had as he felt it stop. “It’s getting ready to breath and I can stop it! Get out of the way!”

Gapon stood and charged again slamming into the Dragonling’s side forcing it to turn slightly just as it let out a cloud of poison.

This was just enough to allow Jory to roll out of way, to the edge of the breath weapon attack and strike out again with his Barb. Once again, he found the Dragonling’s scales and armor too tough to penetrate with any real effect. Still it was enough to get a hiss from the Dragonling, so he had done something to it to at least cause pain.

Pulon side stepped the lingering poisonous vapors and swung his sword only to get it defected by the small shield strapped onto the Dragonling’s arm. He fell back and winced as the creature’s claws managed to open up three long and fairly deep scratches on his arm.

Lyrod fired an arrow which stuck deep into the creature’s thigh. He started to nock another arrow only to find the kid the Dragonling had been carrying thrown at him. He went down hard and felt several arrows in his quiver snap as he landed on his back with the unconscious boy over him.

Klent moved up while pulling his flail, “Guys, there is a reason the Swordsman Guild says no one under Secondary Echelon should even attempt to take on a Dragonling and this one has armor and weapons!”

Lidevar pulled his axe and moved forward with a shake of his head, “Maybe ya should’a told our youngun’s before they attacked it.”

“Little late now.” Klent moved forward only to get kicked back onto his butt.

Lidevar fared less well as the small shield on the Dragonling’s arm smashed into the side of his face. He staggered back seeing stars and spitting out a mouth full of blood.

Jory saw this and rolled up to the beast while speaking a trio of arcane words. Before the Dragonling could focus on him he reached up and grabbed its metal armor with a glowing hand, sending a strong jolt of electrical energy though the entire suit.

A sharp grunt of pain escaped the Dragonling’s mouth as it stopped and twitched for a moment. Unfortunately, this same shock went through Tayac as well. The boy screamed as the chains around the Dragonling’s neck electrified and burned his hands and wrists.

Immeck, on the other hand, was able to take full advantage of the momentary twitch. His hammer slammed down into the side of the Dragonling’s face with enough force to pop its eye out of the socket.

Even this didn’t stop the creature from fighting. It turned on Immeck with a cold rage and bit down on the man’s arm.

As Immeck screamed in agony, another man moved down the ridge and joined the fight.

The new arrival slammed his mace into the Dragonling’s side, causing it to gasp and buckle slightly. This was just enough for Klent to jump up and plunge his dagger deep into its side.

Lidevar wasted no time moving up again. His axe swing hit in almost the same place as Immeck’s hammer had. The heavy blade bit deep into scales, flesh, and bone fracturing the Dragonling’s skull. Even as it fell, those looking on could see its chest rise and fall.

Rylop pulled out his family owned magical dagger and drug it across the Dragonling’s neck while pulling off the chains and thus Tayac as well. A moment later a small burst of green magic puffed out of the fallen Dragonling signaling its death while replenishing Jory’s spent force and giving everyone some mild healings.

Gapon ran up and hugged the large Swordsman. “Thank you!”

Rylop patted the boy and the back as he accepted the hug. “You have these guys to thank far more than me.” Rylop managed to say between deep breaths. He paused to eye the group “My thanks for rescuing these students. I am sure Teacher Kandric will be very grateful as well. But we need to get out of here.”

Jory moved over and started working on the bite on Immeck’s arm, noting the edges around where the teeth had sunk in had closed some, but not nearly enough. “Kandric?” The boy’s brow furled. “The man who employs us talked about havin’ trained a boy by the name of Kandric, but he was Secondary Echelon. He told me about the boy the night he rented me. He said his student was a Halfelf with red hair.”

Tayac groaned as he rolled over and pulled a dagger from off the Dead Dragonling so he could work at getting the chains off his wrists. “That be Kandric, all right, but I seriously doubt he’s just a Teacher any more, not after killing a pair of Dragons.”

Klent glanced over to Rylop, “Come on, a pair of Dragons?”

“We’ll be happy to tell you all about it, but we need to get out of here.” Rylop pointed to the Dragonling. “He was not alone and one of the others is a spell thrower and I saw the Governor moving up from way down the hill. He looked hurt, but he is an Expert Echelon Swordsman. The only good thing is he’s not an Outdoorsman, so he’ll be a while trying to fight through all the thorns and other underbrush.”

Tayac let out a sigh of relief as he managed to get the manacles off from around his wrists. He quickly moved over to Gapon while blowing on his electrically burned wrists. Still he shot Rylop a smile. “Looks like you had to have killed one of the guards since they took your weapons and armor.”

“Yea,’ Rylop shook his head in disgust, ”Onkec won’t be bothering anyone again.“ He tossed each boy a magic dagger. ”He had these in his pack and I know Zeltoss gave them to the two of you."

Klent frowned some as he pulled Lyrod up and looked over the arrows with a shake of his head, “So you were all captives?”

“Yea,” Rylop spoke and pointed in the direction of the other two boys, “even them. We were all betrayed by the Governor.”

“What governor?” Lidevar asked while thoroughly procuring all items of value off the Dragonling.

“Slome,” Gapon responded with a note of disgust.

“Where?” almost everyone in Klent’s group asked at the same time.

Klent let out a long breath, “One of the larger towns above the Silver Spine Mountains. You guys are a long way from home.”

“It ain’t my home no more,” Tayac snarled. “Not after the Governor set us all up by letting us go into Bloody Rock and even taking his own students in when him know what was in there.”

Even Garvol, who was by far the most cutthroat of those traveling with Klent, showed some shock as he heard this. “He sold out his own trainees?”

The boy who was still trying to warm up his nearly frostbitten fingers in Pouncer’s fur spoke for the first time. “Yes sir. He was going to ransom some of us back, the ones who have the richest parents and the others were going to be given to something called a Dark Mystic in some place called Rolling Dale.”

Tayac stood and pulled a small piece of paper out from in his loin cloth. “Yea, and they was going to try to find this kid.”

Jory glanced at the picture and felt his eyes go wide upon seeing the same picture they had shown Glaster the night they had first met him. “Klent, they be after our employer’s boy too!”

Rylop glanced over with a raised eyebrow, “How did you get one of those?”

Tayac shrugged, “When they took the chains off and fed us at the underground spring then let us watch, I kind of borrowed it from the hag who put my chains back on along with her pouch.” Tayack held up a fairly large and full pouch he had been hiding under what was left of his coat.

Rylop wagged a warning finger at the boy, “You were in the robber guild in Slome, weren’t you?”

Tayac’s eyes went wide for an instant but he recovered quickly, “Slome has a robber guild?”

Lidevar burst out laughing, “Well at least one of them will fit in with our group!”

“Without question,” Klent rolled his eyes, “But we need to get them back to see the merchant. He needs to know about this.” He pointed to the picture.

Klent glanced over at Rylop. I will let you join us for now and we can get you and the four kids back to Rolling Dale, I am sure there will be some sort of reward for the information your nimble fingered boy has, so you should be able to get a room for a night or two. Maybe you can hire on with us or something too. But for the moment, we only have two extra mounts and they ain’t the greatest. We took them off of bandits a pair of days ago."

“I’ll take one and my two,” He pointed to Tayac and Gapon, “can ride double on the other.”

Klent shook his head. “The muscular one should have his own and neither of the extras are in any shape to carry two. He can use the one normally meant for our slave. The slave will have to ride double with me for now.” He then pointed to the two from the Governor’s school. “Jory get the hurt one awake and treat any broken bones. The rest will have to wait until we get well clear. You take the wounded one on your mount so you can keep an eye on him, and Lyrod, you take the other. If either starts to slow us down we toss their armor. Let’s get some food in these five and pack up camp before we have to deal with another Dragonling or this Governor of Slome.”

Even as Gapon started to help pack up the camp he looked over to Rylop. “What about the others from our school?”

Klent shook his head. "We were barely able to take out one Dragonling, boy. If a spell throwing one finds us and is with an Expert Echelon Swordsman, you will both end up back in his hands and the rest of us will be dead or right with you. We’ll try to find someone to help you back in Rolling Dale. Maybe our employer can even contact this Kandric fellow since he seems to know him.

 

Duke Mathard glanced in on Kandric as he passed the room where the boy was lying down. He paused as he noticed the youngster staring at him. A bit of a smile crossed his lips as he moved into the room. “Not finding sleep easy to find, Premier?”

“No, my Duke, not even rest seems possible at this point.”Kandric admitted without hesitation. “I have never been so scared in my entire life. I really don’t think anyone should hold the kind of power I now seem to be able to wield. With every bite of food or drink of liquid, even apple juice, which is my favorite, my gut starts to churn.”

“Well, I think you will find those of us who have penned the treaties you have all but decreed happy to hear you say these words.” Mathard smiled warmly, “You are wise beyond your years to see why you should be so afraid.”

“If you are trying to make me more relaxed or calm, you are failing quite badly.” Kandric stated in a slightly teasing voice.

Mathard snickered and ruffled Kandric’s hair. Seeing the boy grin once again reminded him there was a fairly little boy still inside of Kandric and the boy needed and craved an adult to look to for guidance, support, and even love. To this end he sat on the bed and playfully ticked the lad for a few minutes before speaking. “So, do you wish to continue with some of the history lessons while we wait for Monarch and Bandurlok to come to some sort of agreement?”

For Kandric the few pokes and ticking ended way too soon, but upon being asked about history his whole demeanor changed. His eyes lit up, “Absolutely, my Duke!”

Once again Mathard ruffled Kandric’s hair. Seeing the smile it got to be similar to the ones his own sons gave him when he did it to them once again reminded the Garm Duke he was indeed dealing with a child. “So, what would you like to know about?”

Kandric thought it over for a few seconds. “There is one thing I just cannot get past or understand.”

“What?”

“The whole non-child thing just does not make sense to me.” Kandric took a deep breath, “I mean since the normal Alphar or Garm woman normally cannot have more than two kids and often times only one, it seems bizarre for any Garm or Alphar to toss out a child.”

Mathard gave it some thought before he responded. “Your question is a good one, but not one easily answered. I do not even know when the practice started, but it was way back, probably prior to the Mythling Wars, but it became a great deal more common at the end of the Elvin-Dwarven War.”

“More common?” Kandric frowned deeply, “When you needed children to rebuild your shattered races you started kicking more of them out?”

Mathard couldn’t help but laugh. “Your thinking is tilted toward what you have grown up to know. Since you have never lived in the Garm or Alphar Nations you cannot fully appreciate our views.”

“Although I am not sure I want to, can you help me to understand the thinking?”

"Yes, but you first have to put away what you are used to. Blood lines are not nearly as important to the lower races. In the time of the Mythlings everyone had a first and a last name. The last name was the family name and it needed to be passed on to ensure the blood line did not die. Males kept the name and females who married the male took the last name of her male husband. Royal families and even families with land holds kept the numbers of births low, since in the days before the Mythlings tried to take over, everything there was more magic than today and very few babies died. Those with land holds didn’t want to see their holds get divided between children so often times they stopped having them as soon as a male was born.

“The Mythling Wars changed everything. They started to try to take land holds by killing off the males and thus ending the last name and killing the bloodline. Since the land hold no longer had an heir, the Mythling who ruled over the greater land hold would simply claim it as his own. To counter this trend the lower races and at the time, the Alphar and Garm were lower races, fought back by having more children.”

"This had a twofold problem. First and by far the most critical was everyone was gearing up for war and food was not as plentiful. At the same time there were more mouths to feed. The golden age of magic came to a close as large pockets of poverty started to spring up and children started to die of starvation. The younger races, meaning the Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Humans were the hardest hit because they had higher birth rates. The Garm, Alphar and Highmen were not as badly affected but it created a problem for us as well, since we were now producing more males and our land holds were divided between brothers.

"This often times caused small civil wars between brothers who didn’t like the fact they had less than their parents did. The Mythlings were only too happy to see this. They continued their land grabs by setting families against themselves then allied with the losing side just in the nick of time to prevent defeat. They would then move in and take the land hold from the stronger side while the weakened side was too weak to fight about it.

"This is when the Mythling Wars really took off, as several of the weakened families started to band together in an attempt to take back land holds they saw as belonging to their family lines.

"Unfortunately, this meant those raising arms were already weakened and needed manpower. To get this they stripped their lands of men, since at the time only men were allowed to fight. After hundreds of years and constant defeats the more powerful of the remaining free nobles saw their own lands threatened. They stared siding with the weakened nobles. The rest you know. Under River supplied the free nobles which were for the most part Mythlets and the last Mythling stronghold, their capitol fell after seven centuries of fighting.

"All this fighting had another major impact to our world. There were simply not enough men to fight on either side. Women started to join in. As this happened, a rather interesting and unforeseen phenomenon started to take place. Since females had become equal to males on the battlefield many started to refuse to take the last name of the male. Last names started to fade.

"No race was immune to this, however, for the Alphar and the Garm, noble blood was extremely important; especially after the Mythlets left after the old gods became sick of us and moved on. The few who remained were then usurped by the Mythlings and the Mythlets who we now know as the gods and the demon lords.

"To keep the noble lines pure, or at least more pure, many Garm and Alphar started to arrange strict marriages or at least limit marriages to a certain few. Kids who refused were banished as way of warning to all the rest. Part of this was due in no small part to the fact the Mythlings often mated with Garm and Alphar and those lines were considered more important, since without the Half-Mythlings the Quarter Mythlings also known as the Mythlets would have never risen to power and the Mythlings would have won.

"This had a trickledown effect as even Elves and Dwarves started to do the same thing, only they could not just banish a child since mortality rates of the lower races were so high and there were so few adults left. Instead they started making their children mate young and sold children who didn’t agree to mate with a so-called good blood line. This also is trickled down further to become what you know today as standard practice of parents owning their children.

"At the end of the Elvin-Dwarven War many children had different views than their parents on ending the war. Many of the young ones saw peace as something preventing them from earning glory while the older generations saw it as the only way to save the empires from totally falling apart. It was at this point where the non-child thing really kicked into high gear. Children who rebelled and wanted to continue fighting were kicked out, banished.

“As a way to send a strong message to other children, those non-children were told they were adults and had no access to family money, lands or power; meaning they had nothing to fight with. This quenched the fighting in a matter of several decades. However, the door had been opened and it was never shut. The practice of making a child a non-child was in the record and bad acts done by a child were seen as detrimental to the respective empire. This made the parents look bad, since the children were seen as harming the empire the parents were part of. This changed into the failure on the part of a child reflected badly on the parent. Throwing a child out and declaring them a non-child was seen as an easy way to make it right.”

Mathard smiled, “In my opinion it means there are some very lazy parents in both empires who cannot handle disciplining their own kin so they kick them out and use it as a scare tactic for their other children, but I am very much in the minority.”

Kandric shook his head as he tried to see how it all fit together. Before he could fully process it all, however, word came back from Monarch. The offer to end the fighting with Bandurlok in exchange for Monarch gaining full control of his own small kingdom was just too good a deal to pass up. There were other almost instant benefits as well, since the other powers stopped looking at his Illorc force as controlled by some upstart warlord. Instead, now they were a royal controlled army. As word spread, the battle lines his people were holding became more integrated into the overall command and he was even able to send one of his generals to the meeting to discuss the best way wipe out all resistance once Bandurlok’s troops defected.

In addition, Vondum’s position was heightened, since he was once an officer in Prince Bandurlok’s military. The man’s knowledge of the Dragon Tongue, their tactics, and their command structure made him the perfect being to become their general since he was clearly trusted by Kandric. So his loyalty to the greater goal was not in question.

This, however, meant Vondum had to resign as Captain of Black Rapids Guards. After some talks with the seneschal of Black Rapids, who met with Kandric as part of her official meetings, Sy was promoted to take over for Vondum. At the same time, the woman who spoke with full authority for the ailing King signed a greater mutual defense pact with all the parties allied with Kandric.

It took some prompting from Vondum, but after she was taken to see Gedatrag’s carcass lying partially embedded in the streets of Slome, she even said she would hand over a company of Black Rapids City Guards to Kandric to help in any way he wanted.

Even though the wordings of larger treaties and pacts were being worked on, smaller temporary ones were signed. As the sun reached its peak, the largest allied force since the Mythling Wars had been created.

Queen Jostallis moved up and smiled at the look of determination on Kandric’s face. "Premier, what you are doing is technically an invasion of a foreign Kingdom. I understand why you are doing this, but understand this could quickly devolve into a prolonged war if you do not play your cards right. To this end, I have sent envoys down to King Wyhrem, as have the Garm High Council.

"I also understand Prince Bandurlok overstepped his bounds some and sent his own spokesman to King Wyhrem telling him something about what is about to happen, but there are no guarantees the King will see you as a force for good. This City of Rolling Dale certainly will not see your arrival as friendly, and if it is indeed controlled by the Dark Arts masters, they will fight you with everything they have and may even call up reinforcements from the Green Dragons and others.

“We will be ready to gate considerably more forces down at a moment’s notice, but your own orders have made this a bit more difficult since not only do we have to crush Prince Bassork’s army, but we also have to detail enough help for the Red Dragons to gain a stable foothold in the Dragger’s Spine. At the very best, we will be able to split resources between you and the Dagger’s Spine.”

“Queen Jostallis of the Combined Alphar Nation,” Kandric stated while giving a deep bow, “I understand this. However, I cannot claim to be a ruler of anything if I do not do everything in my power to rescue the very first beings who saw me as their leader. I would be living a lie and this is not something I could live with. I would rather die.”

Queen Jostallis nodded slowly. “As a child you are a better man than the Alphar nation has had in more than a few generations. I cannot be prouder to have met you and I pray to Vindayin this is not the last time we see each other. Good luck, Premier Kandric of House Wellaras.”

Kandric gave another bow before he moved up to the gate stone in the swamp and looked around. Above, a Red True Dragon circled, while further out a pair of Blue Warrior Dragons kept watch for any incursions. At the same time another pair of Silver Warrior Dragons strafed enemy positions and were backed up by a full company of Alphar Griffin Riders. Around the hot springs pool and clearing, Garm footmen and Pantherlings kept careful watch.

Kandric felt more than a little overwhelmed, but he kept up a brave face as he looked over to his three chosen personal guards, “Zeltoss, Seldnat, and Lorthorn these are your fellow students, but you do not have to come.”

“Where you go, we go, Premier Kandric.” Lorthorn spoke for all three, which was becoming more and more common place since he had a much higher understanding of royal protocols. The other two and Kandric were pretty much always around Royalty at the moment, which was driving Kandric crazy. So, by at least having Lorthorn doing the talking for the three guards, this took some pressure off of Kandric, since he didn’t have to cover for Lorthorn like he did Zeltoss and Seldnat. “Besides, all three of us have friends in the school. We want them back as much as you do.”

Kandric nodded and glanced over at Duke Mathard, “My Duke, once you come through with us, the whole world will pretty much know you exist.”

“They will know soon anyway, Premier. Moreover, by your orders, your Grandfather is going with you. By treaty when an Alphar Prince goes into battle outside of the Alphar Homeland, a member of the Garm High Council has to join him.”

Next, Kandric turned to Vondum, “I know you want to join in this initial assault, but I really need you here.”

“My place is as your General.” Vondum nodded in total understanding. “Once we crush the armies of Bassork and his Green friends I will gate down to be at your side. Of this you can be assured.” Vondum gave Kandric a hug caring none about what anyone or anything else thought of his actions. “You stay safe until I can get down there. If you are going against the Dark Mages, there is a good chance you will be facing Gambra and there is no one meaner or more powerful. Do not let their magics touch you and if you run across Healthman Velert, do me a favor and let him be so I can play with him.”

Vondum then turned to the hundred and forty four city troops gated from Black Rapids. “Premier Kandric is your commander now men and I can assure you Sy will not be happy if any harm comes to him. Your primary concern is not to track down Gambra, it is too keep our Premier safe. If it means you die, then you die. Besides, dying would be way better than facing Sy if you fail.”

Vondum paused as a few nervous chuckles rippled through the formation before his voice got very loud. “However, the ones who need to be worried are those you face! Remember this is your chance to remind the world why the walls of Black Rapids have never cracked even though they date all the way back to before the Mythling Wars!”

Vondum let the round of cheers go though the warriors before giving a slight bow to Kandric. A moment later he lept onto the back of a Black Warrior Dragon, yanked Conth up in front of himself and took to the sky to join the attack on Bassork’s lines.

 

Glaster leaned back against a wall as he let everyone from the caravan find a spot to settle in. He glanced around one more time to make sure no one was missing before he started talking. "Teachers, Ladies, Gentleman, students, and slaves; over the last few hours things have changed some. Most of you know this already, but those who do not, now need to know what I am about to say.

“Before I do, however, understand to divulge this information to anyone outside of this room will result in death, and it will not be a quick one. As a matter of fact, I can assure you I will oversee it myself and will probably even heal the offender a few times just so we can start from scratch on whoever was stupid enough to cross me.”

Glaster let these words sink in and held his voice for a few seconds longer so everyone started to get a little uncomfortable. “Now, since I am sure I have everyone’s undivided attention, we can start.”

Glaster pointed down to Rylan, “This young man is from a very old house and is technically a Highman Prince. He is still my student and has given himself to me, however, he still needs to be treated with the proper respect. Talking down to him as if he is less than a noble born being will not be tolerated.”

Glaster then turned to stare right at Rylan. “I have done some brief study on the name Oldsurn and laws of our kingdom and have found enough to tell me you did not need an adult to agree for me to be your trainer since you had started training and needed to find a new teacher. You did this on your own, which is your right as someone who is noble born, so our full agreement remains in force. Also, until you achieve Primary Echelon in Swordsman, you will not be formally addressed as Prince or any other title as was custom by the old Highman Empire. You are a noble student with noble rights, nothing more. Are we clear?”

Rylan gave a nod, just wanting the man’s eyes to look somewhere else. “I am totally clear and concur with your findings, Commander.”

“Good.” Glaster smiled with more than a bit of lust then turned his attention to Chark’ash-Shunral, "We also have the honor of having a member of a royal house of the Drow with us. I did some research, but there is very little to be found about Drow Royal houses. Because of this I have to go to our kingdom’s laws, and even this is murky since the only written law about royal slaves within Eaglecrest were some captured during wartime almost a century ago.

"However, there is an interesting line in the law saying once hostilities end the royal slave should be given a reasonable debt to pay off and then be freed, in essence the slave becomes an indentured servant. This I am offering you now.

“Upon earning seven hundred silver, in either hard coin or services, I will offer to free you. Any hint of slavery will be stuck from record, meaning you will even lose the taint of having been a slave. Extra coin can be earned based on your actions but will never be below one silver a week as long as you are loyal and do as any good Indentured servant would be expected to do. Failure to do as you are told will result in the sum being reduced to one copper for the week in which the action was taken. To make this fair and to assure no abuse of this clause, you will be given a second chance and a written warning will be given when your actions are deemed unacceptable to your master. Finally if your family wishes to buy you back, the amount they will need to pay is double whatever you have left on your debt. Is this agreeable?”

Chark’ash-Shunral leaned as far forward as his damaged body would allow, “It is beyond fair.”

“Very good. Now, since you are now in an indentured servant agreement, you are under the same guidelines as Rylan. You will be treated as a noble and not be talked down to, nor will your house or race be insulted in any way. Should this happen, I expect you to report it to me and I will deal with it. When I do not have special need of you, your place is with Mylan. Also, at some point you need to thank Mylan, because he is the one who decided on the amount and the terms after I talked to him. I recommended one thousand silver and half a silver a week for normal duties since you have such a long life span. Finally, you have not begun training, and I do not really understand why since my spell casting says you are quite highly gifted as a Warrior Adept, but whatever the reason, I do not care. You will start training as soon as you are healed up enough to do so. Are there any questions from you, Chark’ash?”

“None, commander.”

Glaster looked over at the human slave. “You, I agreed to free as well, and Klandon is your owner. He agreed to similar terms for you but you are not worth as much as noble or a Drow and you have a much shorter life span. Because of this we are setting the amount at three hundred fifty silver for you to buy your freedom, but unfortunately, since you were born as a slave, we cannot as easily strike the record. However, since you have the potential to be an Animal Adept, although it is not great, we will train you so upon your release you will be a fully trained ex-slave and will have a chance at a real life. You will be going to school with the other kids and will learn to read and write. Also, extra services will not be worth as much as Chark’ash’s but you can still earn extra coin for added services. In this we are not offering you anything. It is the way it is. Also Klandon has selected a name for you. Your name is Jolnart. You will need to pick a subfield to be trained in, and the only restrictions I am going to put on them are you may not be a Gemworker or a Lockmaster. You will also be circumcised tonight and will go through a rather painful herbal treatment of fire root and a few other things to clear your complexion.”

This time Glaster quickly turned to the next item. He really didn’t care if the boy understood or liked it. He wasn’t being given a choice. "Next on the things I need to cover and new additions to this caravan, it is imperative you understand it does not go beyond these walls. This is seriously a death decree and there are no second chances on it.

"Those you know as Klandon, Lylan and Mylan are all very high royalty. They are under similar restrictions about not using any royal title while they are under my care and training. However, these three are among the highest royal youth in this kingdom and if they demand you do something you best do it. Be aware, they very well could get in more trouble than their young butts can handle in one thrashing from me, but they are still royalty and unless I directly countermand them or give someone authority over them, their words are second to only written law or our King or Arch Duke. Should their lives ever fall into peril it is the duty of each and every member of this caravan to throw their own lives away to save any one of these three.

“What their exact titles are does not matter and I best not hear anyone asking. Am I clear on this?”

Glaster’s eyes moved around the room to each new member and waited to get a verbal reply. Still not satisfied, he glanced over at the Mindmaster. Getting a nod from the man allowed Glaster to continue on without much worry. "Next order of business, there seems to be some oddities to the fabric of magic around Rolling Dale and because of this you will all stay here until I clear you to go elsewhere. No one, other than a caravan teacher or myself, can authorize any of you to leave the fenced area surrounding the Green Goblin. Guard commanders, I expect large watches at all times.

"I am pretty sure this is tied to the recent magical disturbances many of us have felt, but I still do not like the feel of things, so I am taking this as an extra precaution. Teachers, you can set up combat courses in the largest barn since I rented the whole thing for the next week. Also, only caravan members should be on this floor. It is also rented to me and only me for the next week. Anyone who is found on this floor or in the barn who is not a caravan member needs to be brought to me.

"The last bit of interest is Klandon seems to be having some strange memories. We need to get to the bottom of them and since they seem to be breaking free without too much harm I would like all the kids in this caravan, servant, whipping boy, trainee, or friend to help him try to remember.

“Chark’ash, this may mean you hear some bad things about your fellow Drow and you may even be able to provide some helpful background. While this may mean Klandon has some anger or even hatred toward you, I ask you to overlook anything he says unless he starts verbally or physically attacking you.”

Chark’ash-Shunral gave a single nod, “The one who seems to have done this to Klandon has the scorn of all of my people. I will not be insulted by anything said against Gardagam or any of those following him.”

“Very good,” Glaster moved toward the door and pointed to Tazen and Rylan. “You two, it is time to head to the town square to deal with the young man named Devkiln and the four who were unwise enough to follow his lead.”

Copyright © 2000 updated Copyright ©2018 Kyle Aarons; All Rights Reserved.

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Great Chapter! It is Christmas in June. And the chapter is so big too! I love the scene with Kandric and his grandfather. The stupid man.

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As normal an epic chapter, but now I'm going to have to go back to the beginning and read it all again so I can merge this chapter in with everything else that came before. I'm not sure how I feel about Glaster, he's gone from being mysterious to being just a bit more than sinister to me.

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Awesome chapter, absolutely awesome! I have to agree with Mikelaing74 though, Glaster seems to be becoming a bit too sinister as this story goes on, I mean I know he has to be tough but he used to be a bit more fair in earlier chapters. I absolutely love the action between Kandric and his grandfather! The only thing I want to see now is the runification of Kandric and all his brothers and the Princes Klandon and Zoldon, now that will be the best part ever!!!

x

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Yay!!! A chapter, and a whole 6 months early!!! *dances* I love that the Griffons can do magic, that's awesome :D The whole playful rivalry that Rovenar has with Kandric is hilarious too :P Great work as always :D

 

TJ

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I agree with all those before me, YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Thanks Kyle, once again a stellar chapter and hope to see more soon. About how much is left to go you figure, and of course, more importantly, how long 'til the next chapter.

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It took a few night to read all of them. I must say, where in the world did get all of this? You created a whole new world as the story unfolds. It really brings up childhood memories because of the creatures that exists in it. Also, it is accompanied by a very strong storyline. I have not seen such a work of art for ages. There are so many twists I could hardly pick them up. For me, the only thing it lacks were tongue-twisting spells to add to the whole magical idea. I don't think I won't be seeing as exciting as this for a long time.

 

Anyway, I do not agree wit Mikelaing74 and Madeon of Glaster being sinister. He maybe a bit more strict but I'm not really on good terms with him either. My guts also tell me I shouldn't trust Monarch. I dunno why, I remember the phrase 'evil versus evil' a few chapters before. That counts Prince Bandurlok as well. And Gambra? Oh please, she's cornered. I also wonder how Aster's twin ended up saving King Wyrhem's royal ass and why the sudden intro? I don't care for Prince Rovenar. He needs a major attitude adjustment. Could I whip him for you? Please? Shoving him to the dragon's eyeball wasn't enough. I am excited as well when Klandon and Zoldon sees each other. And Conner needs more love. And are the gods really stepping in the mortal world? I wonder how the opposite force would react to this. This shall call upon a bigger war. Kanric being a god? I seriously doubt he would accept that easily. Keep up the good work. I can't wait. You had me speaking like a royalty for a few days. 

 

Oh, I have seen the artwork for the characters in another site. I thought they are teens in human equivalence? I was wondering why they looked like adults in the artwork. Still, it was better than mine. However, I still made a few rough sketches. I've done Kandric and Conner. I think I'll be drawing Aster in a few days. XD

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Great chapter Kyle! The story lines are starting to really come together and the tapestry is indeed a grand epic.

While others have liked the way Kandric dealt with his grandfather, I fear the old fool will still make life difficult for Kandric. Especially as he is dealing with some dark forces at Rolling Dale.

Hopefully, you will have the next installment as my Christmas present! Please! Pretty please!

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Hurrah! I get to go re-read the whole saga for a third time. Not a bad thing, mind you. I am so happy to see a new chapter. I just can't wait to see this finished so I can ensconce it in my Kindle library forever.

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Awesome chapter! It took me more than few nights to read it but it's totally worth it! I wasn't expecting this chapter till Christmas so thanks for the early gift! Hope you'll remember us by then too (double the love if you do before December)

 

LannisterEX, could you please give me the links to the artworks? I'd love to see them and yours too!

 

Keep up the good work guys

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this chapter had tied up alot of loose ends even though i always want more of kandric i am a little more satisfied now lol, So we have all the older brothers at leat in equivalency age moving in on rolling dale, i'm really excited and can't wait for them to meet up and i really want to know what is going to transpire there. I am also worried about the grandfather what he will do to kandric and the others he is already planning to sell them to the dark mages, then there is the students from the school what will it be when they meet glaster will they be able to free the others as well so much to anticipate in the next chapter. Awesome chapter .

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Noooooooooo there are no more chapters and everything is finally falling into place. Please tell me that you will be adding chapters soon. You have so many irons in the fire I want to see what happens.

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Over a year since this chapter was published. I'd love to see another chapter. This story has become one of my all-time favorites.

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Quote

 

Don't know how I got the quote box up; but can't get it to go away.

 

 

I just can't get into Glaster, there is something about him that repulses me on some level.  I did love the battle and how the others handled themselves.  This seems to be getting better and better.

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