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    CarlHoliday
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Ben - 3. Chapter 3

Gregor slumped in his rocking chair with ancient vellum scrolls strewn about. The last one he’d read, in a flowing script of silvery ink said a lot about gnomes, none of it good. All of the scrolls said the same thing, if Ben crossed the veil as the little boy who left, there was a good chance, if he came back alive, he’d not the same as the little boy he was before.

There was the growth potion the gnomic poison instilled which caused the human body and muscles to grow at an astonishing rate. It was, also, meant to give subservience while increasing the size of the victim. Originally, the poison worked wonders for the gnomes’ slaves because they became the strongest, yet most docile workers in the real and netherworld.

Then the elves showed up and offered seedlings of trees and plants from the real world. The price? The gnomes could have any of the elves’ offerings; all they had to give up was a slave. After awhile, of course, as things tend to be after awhile, the gnomes had more seedlings than they needed, but the elves were hooked on the human flesh offered by the gnomes.

It still worked out to the detriment of the human, as being eaten alive by a bevy of elves was worse than anything imaginable. Elves tended to start with the soft, icky bits of the abdomen before branching out to the crunchy bones and stringy muscles. Sometimes, they’d draw out the screams by pulling a sharp claw through the skin splaying it open like a surgeon’s scalpel opened an incision. Usually, though, the bevy just dove right in, ripping and tearing at the skin to get it out of the way so they could get at the bloody parts. A person could only hope death came quickly to smother the agony.

The words clamored in Gregor’s brain as he pictured little Ben under the elves’ ripping claws and gnashing teeth. There had to be something he could do, but the scrolls had been very adamant. Gnomish magic was very strong, so strong in fact, few creatures could see past their barriers. Sorcerers, even the mightiest of all the sorcerers in the world, were hapless against the gnomic wall.

“Papa?” asked a voice barely breaking Gregor’s troubled thoughts.

“Papa, there’s a man at the door,” Trudy said in her soft mousy voice.

Gregor looked up, but he barely registered her existence, much less her words. He did notice she left.

“Gregor! Wake up, there’s a man at the door who is offering help.”

Gregor looked up and saw Brother Timothy, in his monk’s robe, standing over him. Oh, yes, it was mushroom and herb day down in the forest. He’d meant to tell them to stay around the cottage, but forgot.

“Gregor! Wake up!” Brother Timothy exclaimed.

“Not now, Tim, I’m not in the mood,” Gregor mumbled with a wave of his hand. “Go away, I have to think.”

“I’m not here for that,” Brother Timothy said. “There’s a man who says he might be able to help.”

“Where?”

“He’s outside on the porch,” Brother Timothy said. “And, Gregor, there’s something strange about him. I can’t figure out what it is, but be careful.”

The most striking feature of the man was his height, at least a full head taller than what someone would take for a tall man. He wore a brimmed hat of some sort of waxy material that Gregor assumed must be rain repellant. His flaxen hair was long, but clipped at the shoulders. The face was weather burnished to a golden brown. The bushy, black eyebrows above shadowed dark eyes full of what, suspicion or curiosity? The long, straight nose with slightly flaring nostrils hung above a bushy, black mustache that hung down at the ends and over a thin upper lip. The mouth was unsmilingly stern. There was no beard.

He wore a short robe of the same material as his hat and it came down to just below his knees where tall, black boots filled in the space to the ground. His hands were large, muscular and experienced at whatever his trade. A sheathed dirk hung from his leather belt, a bow hung from his left shoulder, and arrows were quivered in the backpack resting at his feet. His wooden staff was a head taller than he was, with indecipherable carvings along its length.

“I am Gregor the Sorcerer,” Gregor said holding out his hand.

“Arvald,” the man said taking Gregor’s hand in a firm grip. “I am the Mountain Ranger for this area of the Hinterland. News of you has reached the more northerly communes and I was asked to investigate.”

“I wish you had been here sooner,” Gregor said as he suddenly remembered his manners. “Here sit.”

“What may we offer as repast?” Gregor asked, watching the Ranger unburden himself of his belt, bow, robe, but he kept his staff close when he sat in the offered chair.

“Ale if you have it, mead is acceptable, or water, I live on water on my journeys,” Arvald said. “If I may ask, do you have some bread, maybe some cheese and a sausage, too?”

“In that case, come inside, you’ll be more comfortable at the table,” Gregor said offering the door.

Arvald followed him in and took a chair to the right of Gregor’s place at the head. He’d brought his staff, which he leaned against the table. In the dim light of the cottage, the staff gave off a faint, bluish glow.

Magic, the Ranger has brought magic into my home, Gregor thought. I must be careful. Edwina came out of the kitchen and looked at the men.

“Well, what’s it to be?” she asked.

“Our guest requires sustenance and a heady beverage, too,” Gregor said as he sat down at his place.

Harold flew down from his latest hiding spot and landed on the staff. He stepped around a bit as the bluish glow enveloped him. Then he suddenly faded to nothingness. Gregor watched the wry smile come across the Ranger’s face.

“Haw!” Harold exclaimed as he reappeared on the table in front of Gregor. “Magic good, but not good enough for Harold.”

“Thank you, Harold,” Gregor said as his own magic tingled about him. Yes, the Ranger had magic enough to handle wild beasts, dangerous creatures from the netherworld, and bandits, but it was nothing up against the magic of the great oak.

“The bird talks; what matter of magic is that?” Arvald asked looking at Gregor.

“Not magic bird,” Harold said, “Harold raven, very old raven. You tell him, Gregor.”

“He’s a ghost,” Gregor said, “but he talks, too. Said he picked it up from his parents, but I’m not too certain about that. I met him in the castle that used to be here, before I destroyed the demon.”

“Then it was you who did it,” Arvald said. “We, the Rangers, heard that the demon was no more, but no one seemed to know how it happened. You used magic, I assume.”

“Magic was part of it, but the local pixie seer knew what I had to do and he gave me instructions until the demon was sent back to the fiery lake and the castle was destroyed. That’s been nearly ten years now. Seems much longer. So, what can I do for you?”

“I’d appreciate knowing what degree you are,” Arvald said as Trudy put a plate of bread, cheese and sausage before him. Edwina brought in two tankards and poured ale from a ewer.

“Degree? I don’t understand,” Gregor said after taking a sip of ale.

“Ah, dwarf ale, I haven’t had this in ages,” Arvald said. “You must have friendly dwarfs about. They’re good to have around and you said something about pixies, too. Oh, yes, I need to know what degree of sorcerer you are.”

“I still don’t understand,” Gregor said, wondering what this was all about.

“The Sorcerer Society of Hinterland confers degrees on its members,” Arvald said after swallowing a piece of sausage. “This is good, from hereabouts I take it.”

“Well, I’m not a member of that society, whatever it is,” Gregor said. “And, the sausage comes from the farm in the valley.”

“From speaking with the farmwife, I understand her man is gone right now,” Arvald said with a darkening of his eyes. “Well, I’m afraid I will have to report this discrepancy to the society and I’m certain they’ll set things right. Can I ask what university you attended and if you majored in metaphysics or were in a doctoral program for sorcery?”

Gregor got that feeling, again. This wasn’t going to be good. Edwina was going to yell at him because of all the burn marks in the furniture, but there wasn’t anything he could do with this thing sweeping over his body. The power rose out of his core and thunderbolts danced around the room. Trudy and Bea ran into the kitchen a second before a bolt grounded out where they’d been standing. The power was growing. It was beyond control, now. It was taking over.

“Degree? University? I don’t need a degree!” exclaimed Gregor as he rose cross-legged out of the chair and floated over the table. Lightning danced around the room. The Ranger’s staff took a direct hit and was instantly turned to ash. “I am Gregor, eighteenth in the line of the Psimilias Sorcers of Hymballia. I have the power of sight. I claim the right of Psimilia. I am Gregor the Sorcerer!”

Then as the lightning subsided, Gregor slowly returned to his chair and closed his eyes for a moment. After opening them, he said, “Sorry about your staff, but I can’t control that very much, yet. When I was first captured by the demon, I didn’t even realize I had the power to do magic, but that all quickly changed. It was the pixies who first figured it out. Then a number of years ago we had a problem with a dragon and I found out I was the Eighteenth Sorcerer of Psimilia. I have to say it like that or it goes off, again. As I said, sorry about the staff, I suppose I’ll have to get you a new one. Maybe the great oak can come up with something. I’ll have to ask.”

Dumbstruck, Arvald just sat there staring somewhere behind Gregor, who realized the Ranger’s magic had been concentrated in the staff. The man was harmless, now.

“You scared the children!” Edwina screamed as she came out of the kitchen. “How could you do that?”

“He asked too many questions,” Gregor said. He took a swallow of ale and continued, “I suppose the magic was riled up about it and decided to teach him a lesson. Do you think he’s alright?”

“Don’t know,” Edwina said walking over to where the Ranger sat.

“Sir Ranger, are you okay?” Edwina asked jostling the man’s shoulder.

“Oh, yes, uh, well, I see, no, well, this kind of changes everything,” Arvald said. “Hymballia, huh? Haven’t heard that in a long, long time, seems like ages ago. The Sorcerer Society uses it in their rituals, but it certainly doesn’t do anything like that. Eighteenth you said. I’ll have to check that out. Do you go to that other place?”

“Yes, I’ve been there a couple times,” Gregor said. “It was a bit troubling at first, but I’ve gotten used to it. Mostly, though, I go there in my mind, you know, let the magic take me there.”

“Oh, yes, oh, dear, this changes everything, everything. They certainly won’t like it. I know that. There hasn’t been a real, actual, without the book, sorcerer in the Hinterlands since people forgot all about Hymballia and that was scores of years ago. As the legend goes, Psimilia was a school of sorcerers until one day a few of them decided to take over. There was a horrific fight and nearly all died. Psimilia the White, who held the power of sight at the start of it, won out in the end, destroying all of the evil sorcerers. Or, at least, that’s what I remember of the legends. Eighteenth, huh? Um, they’re not going to like that. You know, I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, is there someplace I could have a good lie down.”

“Male or female?” Gregor asked. “Or, both?”

“Male or female what?” Arvald asked.

“For a bed warmer, do you prefer a man, a woman, or both?” Edwina asked.

“I haven’t ever had both,” Arvald said. “Does that mean giving and receiving at the same time?”

“We can do that,” Gregor said, “but we can do that with two men.”

“Done that,” Arvald said. “Haven’t done that with a woman though. Where do we go?”

“In the bedroom,” Edwina said. “Trudy! Bea! Mummy and Papa are going to have a lie down. Stay inside, please.”

“Yes, Mummy,” Bea hollered from the kitchen.

* * * * * * * * *

 

“Did you feel that?” Percy asked no one in particular. They were in the dragon’s sphere under an encampment of elves. They could look up and see them eating some beast they’d roasted on a spit. Elves roasted beasts to kill the taste, as they preferred sweeter tasting flesh, like humans or pigs if they had to.

‘No, what?” Karn asked at his ear.

“There was a burst of magic coming from where we left,” Percy said.

He knew what it was and didn’t want to disturb the others. If Gregor figured out he could come here with the full power of Psimilia, there’d be a reckoning in the netherworld. Gnome orchards would burst into flames, elves would be thrown about until their bones broke, and the darkest creatures, those deep in the furthest reaches of the netherworld where even dragons feared to tread, would quake with fear.

In many ways, Percy wished Gregor would come and clean out some of the disreputable elements of this region of the netherworld, so at least most humans would be safe. There’d still be a problem with things that go bump in the night because you never could get rid of those creatures, but at least they killed quickly and left little evidence. Sometimes it was just one drop of blood behind the woodpile to indicate something evil was afoot, sometimes the victim’s footprints simply stopped and no one knew what happened. No, even Gregor couldn’t get rid of those, but he could get rid of the gnomes, rescue his son, and toast a few elves in the process.

“We need to camp here and wait until morning,” Percy said as he lowered himself so the others could scramble off his back.

“We have to go on until the next zenith,” Karn said. “We have to rescue the boy, now.”

“No, we’re close now,” Percy said. “The walnut orchard is just a half-league ahead. We’ll strike at the morning meal, if someone else hasn’t beaten us to the task. Cold rations tonight.”

“Who’s going to get there first?” Karn ask. “Gregor? He said he doesn’t have the power to penetrate the gnomic magic.”

“But, he does, he just doesn’t know it, yet,” Percy said. “I think he’s close to discovering the power he needs and, hopefully, he’ll use it before we have to undertake the rescue. Now, just a minute, I need to work off a little pent-up energy.”

Whereupon the dragon reached upwards through the edge of the sphere and pulled down an elf. Blue flame burst out of his mouth, turning the elf into a pile of dirty ash in less than a moment. Then he did it again and again until the elves above them got the message and ran for their lives.

“That was fun,” Percy said as he curled up and went to sleep.

Copyright © 2011 CarlHoliday; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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