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    Kyle Aarons
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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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 - 13. Chapter 13

Aster chatted off to the side with Conner, “Do you think there is a chance we are brothers?”

“It sure sounded like it the way the strange voice spoke to us, but I don’t see how. I was the oldest and was forced out of my home. Besides, you showed up after I did.”

“I know, but it kind of fits. You even said so yourself the day I was brought in by the city watch.”

“I did?”

Aster grinned, “Yea, you said it was nice to see a bother Elf!”

Conner broke down laughing, “I remember that, but I really said it so the other kids would know you were under my protection. Besides, they all knew I had magic and the stories about me burning a Mage apprentice were running rampant at the time. Combined, it all but guaranteed no one would mess with you because they were scared stiff of me.”

"I know, and it worked like a charm! You have to admit, though, you and I have never once had a fight or even really argued. The staff even referred to us as brothers once and a while.

Conner took a deep breath, “If by some chance we are, I would be the happiest Elf on the planet. The real problem would be which one of my brothers sent such massive assistance. The only one who would be old enough would be my Halfelf brother and he would be just about my age in equivalency. Kandric was my favorite brother, but I cannot see how he could have gained such a massive favor.”

“Kandric?” Aster felt his eyes bug out at the name, “As in the little red haired Halfelf who happens to be the only kid my age or younger in any Guild who currently has a higher guild rating than I do?”

Conner felt a shudder of excitement, “Kandric was my brother’s name and my brother had red hair! He is guilded?”

“Oh, yea!” Aster replied showing some surprise, “You have not heard of him? He is the talk of Protector’s Keep!”

“Hey, I’m a thief trained street kid, I never get close to Protector’s Keep.”

“Yea, but you still had to test at the Keep.”

Conner nodded with a bit of a grin, “Yea, with a quartet of Watch guards hounding me the whole time.”

“Security can be quite tight.” Aster agreed with a laugh before turning very serious, “Kandric, a red haired Halfelf, is currently the only child in the guilds younger than I am with a higher rating. He is a Secondary Shaman, Step two, but Master Lannet said he saw the kid cast two more spells right after leaving the testing chamber, one was a Secondary Echelon one.”

“By the gods, he would have to be at lest a step four!”

“Yea, and his test was several months ago.” Master Lannet tried to get a team to follow him, but it turned out he is being trained by one of our independent scouts, probably the best scout the Watch has ever had. The man refused any help from the Watch stating Kandric would become the youngest Teacher in the history of the guilds. Master Lannet asked me to work hard to show up his rival and I have. I am a step five, and judging by what I saw you are not far behind."

“I am positive I could pass the step five test. Sounds like it runs in the family!”

A soft whisper rustled through the tent, “Boys, you both know better. Do not lie to you own brother. I do not think Kandric would want his own kin playing deceitful games with each other. He has had enough of such things.”

“We are brothers then?”

“Half brothers, all three of you.” The voice spoke again, “Just like all three of you are Teaching Echelon.”

Conner spoke first after exchanging a surprised glance with his best friend and half brother. “Why tell us this now?”

“Because we cannot directly interfere too often without attracting unwanted attention, but we know of your brother’s plans and he will face an enemy the like of which he is not prepared to fight. He has helped you through us, and now we would like you to return the favor.”

Conner hardened, “Tell me how goddess!”

Aster was almost crying at the idea of finally having a family, “Please goddess, tell us!”

“He will soon head down to the swamps of Everone by opening a Mythling gate, but he has no way of knowing the fight has been joined. The Prince of Black Dragons and the Queen of Red Dragons are massing forces as I pass this on to you. Other help is moving in but he needs you there. I can say no more.”

“Goddess,” Aster called as he felt the presence move off, “Can you do us one last favor?”

“Name it, and I will certainly try, although I be a Sleep Spirit not a goddess.”

“I am sorry I didn’t know. Can you please contact Glaster, the Master Shaman who trained Kandric, and also pass this information on to Master Lannet, Animal Adept Guild Master at Protector’s Keep?”

“Consider it already done young Teacher.” The wind swirled though the tent healing wounds and refreshing men and women as it went, “For before they wake they will know. I will make sure of it!”

Although no one else had heard the conversation, the passage of the Spirit was felt by all. They all looked around wondering what had just happened. A final command shook everyone as the ground rumbled announcing the god of earth was also taking a very personal interest in this matter, “Thank the red haired Halfelf and go to his aid. Let the rivers take you to where you need to go without ever raising a sail!”


Captain Pontarious clutched the center post of his tent to remain standing. The instructions had been both heard and felt. Yet, he would take the wait and see approach. For if Crytrall, goddess of fresh water, wanted him somewhere he would follow. He looked to a pair of Swordsman, “Go to the Thunder Rapids! Get me a report as to the river!”

Both Both men nearly ran out of the tent after picking themselves up off the ground.

Pontarious looked down at the ground once he was sure his guards were out of earshot, “No insult intended Argon. I just have a different outlook than those who don’t ride the waves.”

“No insult taken.” The voice boomed, “I am sure you will be happy with what your men find!”

Pontarious stood looking at the ground for a few more minutes. There was no doubt the gods had come to the aid of his men and the small caravan earlier, but this was direct intervention with spoken commands to him, a mere mortal, which, outside of a Channeler, was next to unheard of and even Channelers seldom received such an honor. Somehow he had become a pawn in a game he could not see or yet understand, but he knew he must now be ready for anything. Looking back over the hours preceding his arrival in Lennic, the gods had brought him here right when they wanted him. It seemed someone had been guiding him by the gods’ hands already so he was no longer sure if his fate was in his own hands. However, he was determined to do his best to at least turn the fates in his direction. To this end he pulled out his Traveling Mystic kit and immediately started restocking the potions he had used. Using some very strange and rare ingredients as he added in a pinch of mandrake into an extract of fire root followed by saliva of Red Dragon. Mixing with a silver spoon he let out a little puff of smoke from an Autospell and smiled as the liquid turned into an bright yellow, “Well, at least I have enough to make a few extra firewall potions.” he stated to himself. “I am sure my boy and little Quavis will be happy to have a way to keep themselves away from any superior enemy forces. I wonder if the other two boys would like one as well?”

After giving it a moment of thought his mind pictured the scene of the two exhausted boys thanking him for the firewall. They sure seemed like good kids. He went to work mixing again as he whistled to himself. “If the gods want children to do their fighting, I will even the odds as best I can!”

Somewhere far bellow the ground rumbled as an Earth Spirit chuckled, “Even the odds? Just sending them in tips the balance in our favor!”

Pontarious watched the liquid shake with some concern for a few moments. He could almost hear the laughter from far below. Somewhat puzzled and with a sigh of relief, he returned to his task as soon as he was sure the ground had ceased its upheavals. Argon was a strange god and prone to fits of rage. He relaxed as all signs of the earth moving below him ceased. The last thing he wanted was to accidentally drop a firewall potion!


Aster and Conner hugged each other as their brother status was confirmed. Somehow, some way, their younger brother had helped them from far away and it was their turn to repay his gift. They talked for several minutes with most of the conversation centering on Aster’s clear relief at having a family.

The conversation was interrupted by a female Druid from the Thunder Rapids holding a cage with a small furry critter in it, “You be a Guilded Animal Adept, right?”

Aster didn’t stand but instead wrapped his left arm around Shade and his right around Dart, “I sure hope so. Otherwise I would not have sliver Guild pins.”

The woman took a step back, “Secondary Echelon?”

“Yes my brother and I both could pass a step two test without batting an eyelash.” Conner stated calmly. “My brother already has. What can we do for you?”

“You are boys!” The befuddled woman nearly shouted

“True,” Aster smiled wiping the tears of joy from his eyes at knowing he was no longer an orphan. “Would you like my brother to cast a Secondary Echelon spell to prove his point?”

Conner started reaching for his book, but was stopped.

“No, no. I am not in any mood to challenge you. I was kind of hoping you could explain this, though.” She handed down the wooden cage with a little white squirrel-like creature. Its body was sleek with wings of white feathers. It was desperately clawing at the bars trying to get away. Around its neck was a Dwarvin Blue Steel collar with a lock, a fine Dwarvin lock.

Aster frowned, as he took the cage and opened it, “Hey little guy, why would anyone put such a cruel thing around your neck?”

“I am a Druid, but can see no reason whatsoever for such an expensive piece to be put around such a little creature. I checked. It is not magical. The creature, however, most certainly is.”

“Where did you find it?” Conner asked as he watched his brother go to work comforting the terrified winged rodent.

“He was at the camp of the people who attacked you, in a tent with an engraved obsidian ornament. We looked for the key, but could not find one.” She handed the black medallion over for Conner to look at.

His eyes hazed over with rage as he saw the engravings, “Gambra’s symbol!”

“Who is Gambra?” The Druid asked

Aster also looked over for an instant. “Isn’t she the one whose apprentice you burned?”

“Accused of burning.” Conner growled. “I simply deflected Parnell’s spell back onto him with my magic defiance and a smoke puff.”

The woman looked at Conner strangely, “Magic defiance does not deflect spells it simply protects you.”

“Not when it comes to Dark Magic.” Conner hissed.

“Dark Magic?” the woman gasped out.

“He will tell us more latter.” Aster promised, “First we need to calm this little guy down and your voice tones are not helping.”

The woman started to say more, but a light growl from Shade changed her mind, “Very well. Mind if I watch?”

“Not at all.” Aster grinned, “I like to show off sometimes.”

Aster reached in with an open palm and set his hand in the bottom of the cage keeping it perfectly still.

The fuzzy bundle trembled fearfully as it first tried to bury itself deeper into the cage’s corner.

Aster switched to his Animal Adept training and felt some of the creature’s inner torment and a huge reserve of power. Cautiously he pulled his hand back and picked up a few pieces of cooked meat. Slowly he reinserted his hand while speaking, “Hey little friend, I’m not going to hurt you. Take the food.”

The eyes peered out suspiciously at first then looked into Aster eyes and listened to the boy’s gentle voice. Slowly it advanced and sniffed the meat. It paced back and forth a few times before finally grabbing the food and scurrying away again to finish the prize.

“Someone has hurt you haven’t they little one.” Aster spoke softly while keeping his hand outstretched. Within seconds the small creature climbed into Aster’s hand. “Wow, you are cold to the touch!”

Aster withdrew the trembling ball of white fuzz and feathers and pulled it into his chest while petting it. “I’m not going to hurt you, but we need to get this awful collar off. I know this thing is somehow keeping you from using your power so don’t hurt me when it comes off, OK?”

It took only a few more minutes for Aster to have the animal totally calmed and yet another few before it would let Conner close enough to work on the finely crafted lock and the Dwarvin Blue Steel Collar. Aster grinned as his brother’s lock picks worked the very first time, which next to astounded the Druid kneeling close by watching along with a few others from the Thunder Rapids. Dwarvin locks were known to be a fight for both spell casters and the most talented of Lockmasters.

The small animal hopped off Aster’s lap the second the collar was removed and started to grow. Within a minute the cute little ball of white fur and feathers changed to a Winged Griffin of over 100 Kilograms. It radiated quite an intense cold.

Everyone in the tent drew weapons, but Aster jumped up to defend the animal while ordering Dart and Shade to do likewise.

The Druid held up her arms, “Can you control it?”

Aster nodded, “Please put your weapons away you are scarring him!”

Conner joined his brother, taking a defensive stance, “I will keep my eyes on them Aster, get to work before someone does something stupid!”

Aster took a breath and turned to the now fearsome beast. “I have never seen anything like you before. But I want to be friends, come on. Calm down.”

Its eagle head cocked to the side and gazed at Aster for a moment then it started to pace back and forth. Its talons on its front legs made clicking sounds as it moved across rocks while its back lion legs looked as if they were ready to propel it on a mighty bound to take it into flight.

Aster’s soothing voice along with the fact the Druid had managed to get everyone to at least lower their weapons helped the beast’s demeanor a great deal. Half a minute after the first Swordsman had panicked and pulled his weapon, Aster moved up and allowed the creature to nuzzle him.

“Can you turn off the cold big guy?” Aster pleaded after a few moments. “I’m getting frosty.”

The majestic animal cocked its head one more time with a look of intelligence, saw Aster shivering and noted the puffs of breath as the boy spoke all the while still making an effort to pet it. Within a few seconds the icy temperatures radiating from within the creature vanished

Swords and other weapons were lowered further. After another few minutes of working with the winged animal, Aster had it shaking talon to hand with Conner and exchanging sniffs and nuzzles with his other pets. Shade seemed somewhat protective of Aster but they were getting along remarkably well considering the time span Aster had spent.

Within an hour Aster had it shaking hands with everyone in the tent and was allowing it to chew lightly on his own arm as he played with it.

This caused some tense moments as Shade growled and Dart screeched, but Aster turned to share his playing with the other animals. It became clear to everyone watching, Aster had fully trained the animal in less than two hours time and it took him only another two to work in other commands.

The Druid watched the boy and new pet as they got to know each other and the other animals with him. “He has to be Teaching Echelon!”

Benem’s Teacher watched on, “He is extraordinary! I am Teaching Echelon and could not have pulled off such a feat! He never had to dominate it at all!”

“Did you see the other one take off the lock?”

“Yes. He is also as good as I am. He is Teaching Echelon as well. No wonder they managed to drop so many bandits before we joined the fight!”

“Why am I suddenly a little scared?” The Druid asked the man.

“You know, I was wondering the same thing. The Swordsman they have with them is also now Teaching Echelon according to our first mate, as are all the members of the Watch they are with except the tall Druid, she is Expert. With myself, Captain Pontarious, and our first mate Sorcerer, we have more Teachers and above here than anywhere other then Protector’s Keep within 100 leagues and it seems we are all going to the same place. The Gods must be expecting to need a massive amount of fire power.”

“OK, now I am really concerned.” The woman said tersely. “Until you added in your little tidbit, I was simply referring to the fact there are two boys who cannot be half my weight over there who are my superior within the Guilds by well more than a full Echelon!”


Kandric exited the tent while Vondum, Gablon, and Klorna continued to finish off the details of the fate of Porma and Emroc. He knew from seeing Vondum work, Emroc would be in for a very rough thrashing. To this end he sought out the boy. Being an Outdoorsman, it took him only a few minutes to find the lad crouched down around his own little campfire.

Emroc looked up and saw Kandric’s expression, “The news ain’t good, is it?”

Kandric shook his head, “Vondum has demanded a very stiff punishment and it has already been agreed on. Once Vondum is done, and as soon as you are able, meet me down by the fresh water spring next to the bog.”


“Because I will heal you, but cannot allow Vondum to know about it. He would only demand to do it all over again.”

Emroc shook his head, “I don’t want ya gettin’ inta no trouble. I says I’ll takes what I’s got commin’”

“I know, but we are friends now, and friends look out for each other even if there is some risk.”

“How’s I suppose ta tell my caravan merchant? He’ll want me feelin’ it to.”

“I’ll take care of it. Trust me.”

Emroc nodded then smiled, “You be a best friend I ever had.”

Kandric patted Emroc on the back as he stood, “I am very sorry Vondum is so upset. I know it will be the worst thing to ever happen to you, so be at the spring as soon as possible, OK?”

Emroc shuddered at the warning but managed to keep eye contact. “Even though I get what I’s deserve, I’ll be there. Thanks Kandric.”

“You are a friend now, and a friend would do no less.” Kandric responded as he disappeared into the woods before Vondum had a chance to find out about his act of kindness.


Glaster stirred slightly as a strange wind blew into his tent splashing moonlight across his face as it ruffled the flaps of the fabric. His dreamless sleep was interrupted buy a sweet sounding boy’s voice, “Kandric will need you very soon, head to Everone. Head to Everone. Head to Everone. Remember and believe my words Shaman. Kandric has need of you by month’s end. Head to Everone.”


Elsewhere, within the walled city of Junsac, Master Lannet was fighting off images of the terrified faces of the dead bodies he had seen at the Slave Guild Master’s home. The Dark Magic was used to rip the life-force out of each being then turn it into a Demon Larva. Their agony had shown clearly on four of the five victims. The other, a dart in her arm, had been spared the torment of knowing what was going on. When suddenly the rain stopped and the clouds cleared for a few minutes.

His tossing and turning was interrupted as a small woodpecker used its beak to fashion a hole in his shutter. Although the sound did not wake the slumbering Dwarf, it did calm his nightmare. Seconds later a beam of moonlight seeped in through the hole perfectly to spill directly across his face. A voice of a boy spoke to him as well. “Use a Watch Marker, for Aster needs a new team to meet him in Everone! Heed my words Dwarf, your student will need the full help of the Watch in Everone by next moon’s first light!”

As the moonbeam faded it took with it well over 250 years of age, leaving Master Lannet much younger, stronger and healthier than he had been in over two centuries, while leaving his skills fully intact.


The moon dreams did not stop there, they had three more stops before the night drew to a close. The first was an almost identical message to the slumbering figure of Falk as he slept on his cot next to his roaring fireplace. A snapping of wood from sap in the fire tossed out a piece of back, deflecting a mirror just enough to deflect moonlight onto his snoring form. “Use one of your Markers old friend.” A deep gruff voice demanded. “Send a second Watch team to Everone. Mark my words and remember them. Everone is in jeopardy and will need extra support shortly after moon’s end.”

Seconds latter the clouds again gathered over Junsac and the rain began to fall in earnest once again.


In a small village of Macar a few leagues outside of Junsac, a crack of lightning sheared off a branch knocking it into the shutter of a small room just above the Ghoul Drool. A cloud parted just enough to allow moonlight to shine through the rain onto Klent’s face before he could fully awaken from the sounds of the lightning, thunder and the smashing of the shutter. The voice of a woman sounded soft and compassionate as it spoke. “You helped him once and have not forgotten him. He is sorry he tricked you, but he really does require your help. You have the type of friends he will need to survive. I beg you to meet him in Everone within the month with whatever friends you can trust!”

Klent shook his head as the message played though his mind. As the moon continued to play off the raindrops falling in mass from the sky, a rainbow like effect shimmered for a moment and showed him Quavis’ face. He stood in an instant, grabbed his gear and began to organize his thoughts. He had to get down to Everone. The image of the boy had plagued his dreams ever since he had put down the silver for the lad to toss daggers in the tavern below. A huge part of him dearly wanted to be closer to the boy and trickery or not this might be his last chance to find the boy again.


The last being visited by the strange phenomenon lay curled in a large bed with silk sheets in his small farmhouse just south of Junsac. The terrible storm had brought some of his younger students inside due to fear and missing their families. The Legendary Mage and Wraith Sect Warrior gently stroked the hair of his youngest student who had begged to stay the night in his bed.

The peaceful smile of the nude 8-year-old boy caused him a great amount of relief. Only a month before this poor child had been offered for sale by his own uncle because the boy’s father could not pay off a debt to the older brother. The uncle now had the money owed him along with two broken legs and two dislocated shoulders. The money had not even been enough for him to receive total healing at the Healthman shop.

Moonlight suddenly cascaded across the room from an opening in the clouds even as the storm raged on. The boy’s smile faded as he spoke in his sleep. “Conner is in need of help. He faces grave danger in Everone in the time the moon renews itself.”

The boy’s face suddenly returned to its former peaceful state and the moonlight vanished behind a bright flash of lightning and a huge cracking of thunder.

The rather fatherly looking man who to anyone looking on would seem only to be a low merchant wanted to get up and leave at once, but looked down at his young student and shook his head. Muttering to himself so softly he didn’t wake a single child not already startled to wakefulness by the thunderclap, he cast a spell to put everyone back to sleep who had been awakened by the near passage of the Lightning strike. Satisfied he sighed, “A month is a long time. A simple magic spell or four will get us all there. You all rest, for even the youngest of you will soon be tested to your limits. Conner needs our assistance, and we shall give it to him.” He picked up the two daggers stolen from Aster’s shop from his nightstand, “And in doing so we shall vindicate his good name, and expose the real thief, Gambra. She is rapidly becoming more of a problem than letting her live justifies.”


Gablon stared at Klorna sitting across from him for quite some time after Vondum left his tent. His confusion and frustration showed in his eyes and his tight shoulders. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded haggard. “You didn’t even try to lessen the punishments on the boys!”

“He beat me to it.” Klorna sighed, “Porma will be given freedom when he makes it to adulthood and will not be maimed. Emroc will be caned, probably until he is unconscious, but he spared the boy’s testicles and gave us assurances his chest would not be hit so there is very little chance of a major injury. I guess I should have discussed the type of cane to be used, but even then, what could I have said?”

Gablon frowned, “I have never seen you not fight for one of our members, no matter what they had done.”

“I have no support.” Klorna paused, "None.

“There is not a teacher or senior guard willing to back me up. Besides, I personally think both boys deserve a hell of a lot worse. If Kandric had wanted to make this public, we would all be running for our lives.”

Gablon shook his head, “I doubt it would have gone further than both boys being flogged for three consecutive days and each of us getting twenty lashes, but you have a point. How do you want to go about this?”

“Vondum made it pretty clear he didn’t care as long as his demands are met, so I think the best way to handle this is simply escort both boys to the hut they are using in the morning. I will stand watch as Emroc gets his beating so there will be no question in Vondum’s mind about the possibility of pushing it further. Porma is another matter. I am betting he will try to run the second he sees Vondum. We may want to lead him there in chains or at least tied.”

Gablon stood and flung the table they had used for the dinner into the corner of the tent snapping a pair of poles used to hold it up properly. As the tent started to sag making the cramped confines even tighter he shouted. “Damned ungrateful brats make me look like some sort of monster! In my worst nightmares I could not have dreamed of being put in such an awkward situation!”

His loss of temper caused the slave boys who had served the meal to cower in the opposite corner. Two younger boys who had been rescued from the Orcs, and had attended to smaller matters such as pulling out the chairs for every one and removing dirty dishes whimpered and started to cry. Gablon ignored them as he pounded his fist into his open palm.

Klorna felt her own cheeks redden in embarrassment but she took a moment to pat the younger boys on the head, “The young Shaman didn’t help. I am amazed you let him push you like he did. I never dreamed anyone could talk you out of four slaves, three wagons, and all the supplies he will certainly load the wagons up with.”

“Kandric has been taught by the same teacher I had.” Gablon seethed, “Back when I first met our mutual teacher, I was told the best merchants were the ones who found an advantage and didn’t let go. It seems the boy learned it far better than I did! He set the hook and let me wiggle on it until I was forced to concede something. Actually his counter move against me serving the meal got him everything he wanted. He had you angry enough to call him greedy when we were the ones supposed to be apologizing. I had to cover for you before we lost what little respect we had left so I didn’t have a chance to take the boys off the offering table. Like it or not, the reason these four belong to Kandric right now is your fault, not mine.”

As it dawned on Klorna just how expertly she had been maneuvered by the boy, she put her head in her hands and groaned, “I did, didn’t I?”


“How in the name of the gods am I ever going to be able to repay you?”

“You have more times than I can count Klorna. They are only worth a couple thousand sliver below the Silver Spine Mountains so don’t sweat it. The wagons hurt far more than the loss of four slaves.”

Klorna patted the two younger ones on the head again. “I’m sorry boys. I hope he finds you a good owner.”

In order to divert his growing disgust over the whole situation Gablon switched subjects, “What about the attack on the Gnolls? Of all Kandric’s demands, it took me the most off guard.”

Klorna moved to brace up the tent as its sagging continued to worsen. She pointed at the older boys who had done the serving while motioning for them to bring new poles. "Well, if anything can be found positive about tonight it is the fact we are going to see first hand what the men and women Vondum got for us are made out of. The captives from the assault on us have been nice enough to pinpoint their home. It is actually a small village with a couple of caves where they have a forge and a storage area. From the way it sounds all the best warriors in their tribe hit us, so they should be fairly easy to take out, but there are still some warriors and a pair of spell casters back at the village.

“The only concern I have is my gut. A combination of instinct and their eyes tells me there is something they are all hiding. I don’t know what though. They are scared, I can assure you, terrified even. Their voices shook as I asked questions about their camp. Some even get a lip quiver. I have never seen Gnolls so worked up.”

Gablon chewed on his lip, “You are the only one who knows their language, so give me your best guess as to why they are so frightened.”

“I really don’t know. Most of the captives we have are juveniles though, so there is a bit of youthful fears. Some are worried about mommy and daddy; others saw daddy, or a brother or another family member fall so they are understandably upset. Some certainly expect to be killed at any moment while others are in absolute dread of slavery. Yet even with all this there is something they don’t care for us to find out, at least the feeling I get when I talk to them says so.”


Pocet looked over the cave a final time making sure everything had been reloaded into the wagons. As he did so he thought of the three good men he had worked with for the last year and a half who would no longer be around to joke with, to play cards with, or to watch his back in a fight. Forcing himself to stay strong looking, he wiped the tears out of his eyes as he kicked one of the dead Illorcs in the cave.

He turned only to find little Zoldon watching him. The dark haired boy lowered his gray eyes an instant before Pocet could make eye to eye contact. Seeing the child shuffle his feet he advanced a step and knelt, “Do you need something?”

“No master.” Zoldon squeaked in some fear as he held out the small finely crafted Elvin Steel shod staff. “I was told by one of the Swordsmen to give this back to you.”

Pocet took the weapon, and realized instantly it had been made for a Halfling, its small hand holds and length were ill suited for any other race. “You know how to use this, correct?”

“Yes master.” Zoldon’s brow crinkled in some confusion and fear. His eyes showed he expected to be hit with the small staff at any moment for even having it in his hands. “Master Dabaff allowed me to use it in the fight.”

Pocet gently placed his hand under the child’s chin and raised it so the boy was looking at him, “Do you think you can be trusted with it?”

Zoldon nervously glanced down at the weapon then back to Pocet, “I do not understand Master.”

Pocet sat on a rock and pulled Zoldon up onto his lap. The boy’s stiffening muscles was the only indication as to how terrified the youngster actually was and how well conditioned he was to being beaten. Pocet shook with fury over such a child having to endure such a life, even a slave deserved far, far better.

To calm both himself and Zoldon, Pocet started to rub the boy’s back, “I am not your owner, Zoldon. Aster is. But I have gotten to know Aster very well. He does not want to see you hurt again any more than I do. You are a very sweet beautiful boy. What I am asking is if you are allowed to keep this staff will you try to hurt Aster, me, or any of the others Aster puts over you.”

Zoldon’s eyes went wide as if the very idea of him harming his owner truly shocked him, “No master!”

Pocet smiled as he stood, picking up Zoldon and the staff as he did so, “Then, unless Aster says otherwise I want you to keep it.”

Zoldon clutched the staff and hugged Pocet as the man took him to the lead wagon. For a brief moment he remembered being held in such a kind way while dressed in fine silks. The memory faded as he was set on the wagon seat. A second later Pocet climbed up and took the reigns.

Pocet could clearly see the look of a boy who didn’t want the brief hug he had just received to end, so he wrapped a protective arm around the youngster.

Zoldon looked up apprehensively for an instant before sliding over and putting his head on Pocet’s side.

“Rest easy Zoldon,” Pocet said as Zoldon squiggled into his side to get away from as much rain as possible, “The gods themselves would have to fight us before Aster or I would allow you to get hurt again.”

Zoldon gripped the captured staff and nodded off to sleep before the wagon even started to move. The last thing he saw was Pocet pulling his cloak around him which would mean the man would get drenched while he would stay dry.


Glaster stretched as he woke. The dawn had not even started to make an appearance yet as he slipped out of the tent to check on the boys in the caravan. A pair of guards on watch nodded to him as he looked in on slumbering boys nestled tightly in bed rolls. Coming up on the Prince’s wagon he chuckled as a small cloud of insects buzzed about.

With a short phrase and a wave of his hands a dark mist bellowed out of the ground under the wagon. The insects that did not flee died. Within seconds sounds of Klandon coughing from the fumes could be heard. Glaster knew from experience the boy would have a runny nose and upset stomach the rest of the day, but as long as he didn’t cast the Toxic Earth spell again for a few days there would be no further effects. As he held his breath, Glaster walked up to the wagon and rubbed his hand over the area he had put the Attract Insect glyph on the evening before.

He stepped back and waited for the Toxic Earth spell to fade before making his way into the back of the packed wagon. As expected, he found Klandon crying and coughing. Almost every inch of him was covered in small insect bites and his hair was matted down with more than a few ticks and lice. Fortunately, they were dead and would brush out with no ill effects other than a great amount of discomfort to the young Prince.

“Ahh, there you be dear boy. Looks like you have had a rather rough night!”

“I wanna go home!” Klandon wailed as he saw the on Glaster’s face.

“You are home Klandon.” Glaster cruelly taunted, “This wagon is everything you will have for the next several months.”

“I wanna see dad!” The boy cried as he tried to roll into a tighter ball on the floor of the wagon.

“The first ‘wanna’ I can let slip because of your less than pleasant night, but now you have repeated the poor language and again spoke as a peasant about your father.” You will get your filthy, bug infested body up, wash in the stream with your choice of who brushes out the bugs in your hair, and report to Tylek for 20 lashes this instant or I will start lashing you until you do so!"

Klandon refused to move until he felt leather against his lower leg. Yelping in pain he looked up only to see Glaster counting down from five. When the man reached “one” the small leather strap he held crashed down onto Klandon’s other leg. Even as Glaster pulled back his mouth again softly spoke “Five, four, three…”

Klandon scrambled out of the wagon into the waiting arms of his bodyguard. Sobbing he held onto the man. “He’s beating me!”

Tylek nodded, “I kind of figured as much Klandon. The only question I have is why?”

Glaster hopped off the back of the wagon. “Are you going to tell him, or am I going to continue?”

Realizing he had not a chance to escape getting punished, and a delay would only mean more pain he cried, “I spoke bad again.”

“Spoke bad?” Yarnay asked as he slid out of his tent, “Come on your highness, even I know how to speak better than such a low peasant.”

Klandon panicked as Glaster snorted in some disgust. The Prince’s voice wailed. “What did I do wrong now?”

Lylan looked over at his brother in shock as they each crawled out of their respective tents. As the frustration set in he looked directly at the Prince, “What is wrong with you? My brother and I have been covering for you from the day you got back from the Isles! You have the same Teachers we do for languages and we know what you said was incorrect. You speak badly not bad! I was still kind of sleeping and I know what you said was below any merchant caste being!”

Mylan pushed his brother lightly, “Hey! He is still my friend even if he does not want me to be.”

Lylan shoved back hard pushing his bother to the ground. “I don’t care any more. He does not deserve to have any friends! I am done covering his back both in the royal courts and in public, even though I still have to do so in combat! Had it not been for him telling us to break the course Master Glaster had set for us with roll the hoop game, we would have never gotten close enough to the walls to ever get arrows shot at us! You’re a fool if you still want his friendship!”

Mylan looked at his skinned knee, jumped to his feet, and threw a viscous punch for an 8 year old. His brother’s head snapped back under the impact. “You may have taken an arrow for him then, but I got slashed by a dagger once and had my fingers broken by a club another! Don’t tell me who I should be friends with!”

Two guards started to move forward. Glaster shook his head and grabbed Yarney as the boy tried to bolt past him to break up the fight. “This is between brothers, and should be allowed to be concluded in a way satisfactory for both of them.”

By this time both boys were in each other’s grasp rolling on the ground hitting, kicking, and cursing at each other. Neither cared or even thought about anyone else watching on as they flailed away at each other. Lylan held a bit of an edge, being a swordsman trainee, but the advantage was basically erased by both kids’ anger. Neither made any attempt to resort to what combat training they had been given, so it would come down to whoever backed down first.

Glaster had gotten to know both boys well enough to realize their father had taught them one thing very well: Never quit. This showed as they continued even after both had clearly lost. At last Glaster walked up grabbed both by the backs of their ripped, bloody and dirt stained shirts, and pulled them apart. “Had enough yet?”

Lylan glared at his brother while wiping his bloody nose. He refused to give up, but at the same time didn’t try to pull loose.

Mylan reacted in almost the same way, except he shook free of Glaster’s grip, tearing his shirt a little more in the process. With what was left of his shirt sleeve he wiped his split lip, then spat out some blood from inside his mouth. Like his brother he made no attempt to move forward, nor did he show any intentions of backing down.

Klandon’s lead guard moved up nodding, “Tougher than most royal brats. I have to give em that!”

“Indeed.” Glaster pushed Lylan his direction, “Would you mind giving him a once over and making sure there are no serious injuries?”

“No Problem.” The Elf grinned, “I gather, there isn’t to be any healing handed out above halting the bleeding and getting the cuts washed out and bandaged?”

“You are on the same page as I am.” Glaster confirmed as he pointed to one of the Dwarves Kaznal had hired, “Would you be willing to take care of the other?”

“Sure.” The Dwarf chuckled as he motioned for Lylan, “Come here you tough little bugger!”

Mylan managed one more glare at his brother as he glanced back over his shoulder before obeying Glaster and the Dwarf.

Glaster pointed at Kaznal and Sibler, “Report to Tylek with your respective boys for ten lashes, then you are to deliver ten strokes with his belt to the boy you are taking the punishment for.”

Sibler looked horrified, “Master, I cannot hit Lylan. I am his whipping boy!”

“I know who you are and you will do as instructed, unless you would prefer to see Tylek hit Lylan 20 times with his strength behind each blow instead of yours behind only 10.”

Kaznal looked at Sibler, “They will be better off with us behind the belt.”

Sibler didn’t look happy, but nodded. “You’re right, but we are indentured to them.”

“Tell you what boys.” Glaster kept his face neutral, “Why not give them the choice?”

Klandon grunted, “I’d prefer to get double the lashes from a guard before letting a servant hit me!”

Glaster shrugged, “Sounds good to me. Tylek, give this boy a choice of having Yarney deliver his punishment or double the discipline he was to receive. Once all punishments are handed down, the children are checked over, and the camp site is broken down, report to me in my lead wagon.”

Glaster climbed into his tent as he heard Prince Klandon cry out in pain, after two more blows the boy’s voice begged for Yarnay to finish. He smiled as Tylek called Yarnay over and told the boy to start from a count of one. A second later a shimmering spell leapt from his hands and surrounded him. A moment later Glaster vanished.

Glaster took a deep breath as he walked into the palace gates. He spoke quickly with King Wyhrem for a few moments as the man ate breakfast. After filling him in on the fist fight and Klandon’s poor attitude over it all he carefully proposed a very dangerous and drastic solution. Twenty minutes later he filled in the Duke on his sons’ actions and suggested the same thing. Within an hour he had both men’s consent in writing and magically transported himself back to his wagon.

Almost and hour later Tylek entered the wagon as he replaced his weapon’s belt, “It seems Lylan and Mylan were more quick witted than Klandon. Neither hesitated in letting their whipping boys dish out their punishments.”

“Excellent!” Glaster nodded, “How are the brothers treating one another now?”

“Not talking, but neither are they glaring at each other any more.”

“Good, I hope they learned from this.”

“Commander, I must admit I am not sure what the point of letting them fight each other accomplished. I mean I understand the beatings, the use of the whipping boys, and even not letting them get a real healing, but why didn’t we break it up before they both got a pair of black eyes and had multiple cuts?”

Glaster’s posture hardened, “If you feel strongly about something, and wish to fight for it, then someone else who disagrees fights back, should I step in?”


“But what? Was either child more right than the other?”

“Mylan, He wanted to defend the Prince!”

“I never heard Lylan say anything about not defending Klandon. All I heard was him saying the Prince didn’t deserve to have any friends. I cannot disagree with his views, nor could I say Mylan was incorrect in wanting to continue to stand by Klandon and still try to be a friend.”

“Then why punish them at all?”

“Because they are brothers. Siblings should not raise arms against each other, especially these two. Within 15 years they will both hold huge amounts of land and have troops under them. To fight one another could well mean civil war within the kingdom! Had Mylan or Lylan showed any common sense they would have talked it over and agreed to disagree. They chose to prove to one another how strongly they held to their views though, so I let them. Unfortunately, it seems they find the idea of might makes right being the solution to all their problems. We are about to change their views.”

“Oh?” Tylek could see the expression in Glaster’s eyes. They held the same deadly edge as the day he had shown up to crush the assassination attempts on Prince Klandon. The grim determination scared him enough to make him wish he was not in the same barony with the man let alone the same wagon.

Glaster handed over the two scrolls sealed by King Wyhrem and the Duke. “Read these, pass on the new orders then assemble the guards. The boys seem to think fighting is good, and our Prince believes he is above it all. Let us see how they react to being in a war torn area of the kingdom they are soon to be responsible for.”

Tylek popped the wax and glanced at the new commands. He looked up in shock. “We are taking them to Everone first?”

“Yes. War is necessary some times. But until you see its effects, you should never be allowed to declare one. Our charges’ fathers agree.”

Tylek started to say something, but no words seemed to fit his emotions. Instead he exited the wagon shouting for everyone to assemble.

Glaster took a deep breath and spoke aloud, “OK, Kandric. I just put my best friend’s son in direct danger along with two of my students, but I am on my way.”


Kandric patted Jamon on the back as the boy shuddered with each and every blow struck on Emroc. It took every gram of control for Kandric not to beg for Vondum to stop. The fact Emroc refused to cry out helped a great deal, but it was still by no means easy to keep silent.

Jamon, on the other hand, could not watch. Each swish of the cane followed by the thud of the blow sent shivers of fear down his spine. His thoughts might have surprised those around him. For he really was not nearly as concerned for Emroc as he was thankful for having Kandric as his master. He was totally convinced if Kandric had not bargained for him, it very well could have been him, hands held above his head by leather straps, getting blow after blow by a thick ribbed cane. Even having Kandric there reassuring him with a hand on his back strengthened his devotion to the Halfelf.

Kandric’s mother surprised everyone by showing up fully dressed as a Vindayin Priestess. Her armor looked a little loose in a few areas where hard work and little food had taken off some of the excess of her former build, but otherwise she looked quite majestic. It startled more than Vondum when she insisted on moderating the caning as an independent party. Her lack of complaints helped keep Klorna’s other guards in check.

They, in turn, distracted themselves by keeping a close eye on Porma, who looked absolutely terrified at the idea of being handed over to a man capable of dishing out blow after devastating blow all the while looking quite calm and relaxed.

Finally Vondum stepped back and handed the cane over to Klorna, “I will forgo the last three blows, I think I felt a rib break and apologize. It was not my intent to cause such injury.”

Klorna took the cane as graciously as she could muster, all the while wanting to pull a blade on the man. The cane had bits of flesh and more than a little blood on it. How anyone could willingly use a ribbed cane on a child was beyond her understanding. In her way of thinking, such implements of torture should have been reserved for murderers or the practitioners of Dark Magic.

Klorna nodded to two of her guards to undo the straps holding Emroc up. One gently supported the shaking child while the other cut the leather cords. As Klorna watched this horrifying spectacle she shook her head in a combination of pity and hidden admiration. Most men would not have been able to stay conscious let alone a child. Emroc’s spirit was something to admire, but if he had blacked out he wouldn’t have felt every single blow. She then waited until Vondum left the small shack before doing likewise.

Once outside Klorna pointed at a young boy holding the reins of her mount. The boy, wearing a loose slave collar, instantly came over and handed over control of the animal while taking the bloody cane with wide eyes.

“Clean it and return it to the big warrior.” Klorna commanded as she got a stretcher ready to take Emroc back to the caravan’s camp.

Kandric watched on in hidden concern, not even realizing Jamon was desperately trying to get his attention.

It wasn’t until one of the guards exited his hut and spoke up, “He says he can make it back on his own. He refuses any help at all and keeps pushing us away.” Before Kandric realized Jamon was actually pulling on his cloak.

Kandric turned sharply, somewhat aggravated by Jamon’s actions. His anger faded instantly as he saw the face of the boy he owned. Jamon’s jaw was slightly open and his eyes were looking off in the distance fixed on something. Kandric glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the stare, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Shrugging he turned back to Jamon, “What’s the problem?”

Jamon pointed in the direction he was looking, but no words came.

Kandric again looked following the finger and continuing his stare off into the distance. The only thing he saw was the slave boy kneeling by the icy cold water of the swamp washing Vondum’s cane. Puzzled, he decided to investigate.

The walk down the hill toward the bone-chilling mist at the swamp’s edge allowed Jamon to regain his composure, “May I speak?”

“Jamon,” Kandric stated with a smile, “you don’t have to ask when we are alone. As long as you act properly when there are adults around, I will let most of the requirements slide when they are not.”

Jamon thought it over for a moment, “You don’t really want to treat me like you have, do you?”

Kandric stopped and made eye contact with Jamon, “You want an honest answer?”

Jamon nodded, “I think so.”

Kandric took a deep breath to compose himself then shrugged. The facts may hurt but fiction would probably be worse over the long run, "The truth is I really don’t know Jamon. Part of me likes being in complete control of you and the other slaves I now own. The problem is, another part of me hates myself for enjoying it. I don’t always care for the way Vondum treats others, yet I get a real excitement over seeing him handle and control his slaves. I will say this much. As I have gotten to know you, I realize I like you, not only as a slave but also as a person. I am glad I was able to prevent some of what Vondum was sure to have put you through and I cringe when I give you some commands.

“At the same time, I really like the power of having slaves and I have found a side of me I am not sure what to make of yet. When I was first given control of you, I enjoyed forcing you to do things. I actually look forward to doing many of the same things with the new slaves I have. I don’t know if this is the answer you wanted to hear or even if it was an answer at all, but it is the truth.”

Jamon frowned due in part to some disappointment, yet he also knew Kandric had been very straightforward with him. He gazed down toward the icy edge of the swamp with some thought before making up his mind to tell Kandric what was going on. He hoped it was the right decision. “The boy washing the staff is Conth’s younger brother.”

Kandric stopped and refocused his attention on Jamon. “Are you sure?”


“How in the name of the gods did Gablon end up with him?”

“I don’t know, but he and my brother were still in the wagon when we were taken out.”

Kandric knelt and thought aloud, “It had to have been after you and Conth were turned over to Vondum at the Orc camp. None of the Orcs were given boys, only women and girls.”

Jamon felt his jaw drop as all the pieces of the fateful night his caravan had been attacked fell into place. “You were the one following Vondum!”

Kandric put his hand over Jamon’s mouth and looked around. The only one who had heard was the small boy washing the cane, Conth’s brother. “Yes, then by strangest set of circumstances I ended up saving one of Vondum’s men and taking out a few Hobs and in the process found myself taken in by him.”

“But you were trying to rescue us!”

“Keep you voice down!” Kandric hissed. “I never intended to become one of Vondum’s troops, but I did, and I am. Now I count the man as a friend. Do not think for an instant I would openly oppose him. You are only partially correct; I was trying to get information, food and money. Your rescue was not my top priority.”


Kandric held up his hand, “No more Jamon, I know what happened at the camp and have a full picture of how you came to be captured from what little you have told me and the nightmares you have in your sleep. I do feel for you, I always have. I wish we could have met as friends, and believe it or not I count you as a friend, but I will not directly oppose Vondum, ever.”

Jamon hung his head a little, “I understand.”

Kandric felt like he was being torn it two. He tightly clenched his fists and took a few calming breaths, “Jamon, I made a promise to you to find your brother and purchase him. Knowing where I stand on this, do you still want me to get him?”

Jamon didn’t look up. Instead he brushed away a tear, “You will be good to him won’t you?”

Kandric put an arm around Jamon, “I would never do anything more to him than I would to you, and I think you know what I mean.”

“I do.”

“This is up to you. Do we find your brother?”

Jamon closed his eyes and wiped the last of the tears away, “If he is to be a slave, I would prefer someone like you owned him.”

“Very well. Let’s go talk to Conth’s brother and find out what we can.”

Kandric moved closer until the young boy could see who was with him.

The boy’s brown eyes lit up with a combination of surprise and joy, “Jamon!”

Kandric motioned his OK for Jamon give the boy a hug then stood back.

Jamon gratefully knelt and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy, “Loxer, is my brother with you?”

Loxer shook his head as he wrapped his small arms around Jamon’s neck, “Sanef was sold to one of the Healthman in the town down the road.” His arm pointed in the direction of Slome.

Dread and disappointment cascaded into Jamon’s features as he turned to look at Kandric with hopelessness in his eyes.

Kandric smiled, “Jamon, take him back to Gablon and request a meeting. Do not give him any information. I will meet you back at the shack shortly.”

Loxer looked up at Kandric with a smile showing off missing front baby teeth. “Are you Jamon’s friend?”

Kandric started to say yes then stopped himself. Instead, he looked to Jamon. This was not a question he could answer with such certainty as he would have liked to.

Jamon didn’t at first realize Kandric had balked from the question until Loxer’s little forehead crinkled in confusion. Jamon wanted to say ‘no’ just to strike out at someone, anyone. The pain he felt in his chest was pure sorrow at knowing he had missed his brother by only a matter of days. Yet he also knew there was some strange kind of friendship there. Besides he owed Kandric a great deal for not letting Vondum keep him. He even started to say ‘no’ then stopped. Shaking his head he turned to face Loxer. He decided to go with a middle ground, “Kandric is my owner, Lox. He is nice though.”

“You are not here to rescue me?”

“Not exactly.” Jamon stated sadly, “My master was going to try to keep me and Sanef together though.”

Loxer looked heart broken, “What about me?”

Kandric’s heart nearly split as he saw the look on the boy’s face. He moved up and put a hand on Loxer’s shoulder, “I will be negotiating for you and trying to find a way to get Jamon’s brother. You must not tell Gablon or anyone else this information though. If they know I want both of you before I come up with a bargaining position he, as well as the Healthman who has Jamon’s brother, may well demand too high a price.”

Loxer wiped away the sudden welling of tears and looked considerably happier but still frowned as he glanced over at Jamon, “Where is Conth?”

“One thing at a time.” Kandric spoke up not wanting to get into a subject he could do nothing about. “I have to take care of some business so you two get going and set up a time for me to talk with Gablon.”

Jamon couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “You are still going to get Sanef?”

“Jamon,” Kandric’s voice hardened, “My master taught me one thing above all else. My word and my knowledge is all I really have. Everything else can be taken. I gave you my word I would do everything I can to get your brother and I will. Set up the meeting with Gablon.”

Jamon nudged Loxer, “Come on. Let’s do as we are told.”

The younger boy shook his head as he wiped the cane one last time. “I have to give this back to the mean man first or I will be in trouble.”

“I’ll take it.” Kandric stated firmly. “If your owner has a problem then he can talk to me about it!”

Jamon knew by the tone the discussion was over. He grabbed Loxer’s hand and headed up the hill.

Kandric waited until the pair moved out of sight before slipping deeper into the swamp. He knew Emroc would not be able to move fast, but the finding of Conth’s brother meant he could already be at the spring. He moved rapidly in the all too familiar ground jumping over snags and dodging holes from memory. His knowledge allowed him to make up for the unexpected conversation and then some.

Kandric used the fresh water spring to wash up a little and refresh himself while waiting for Emroc. In his mind he could see each strike of the cane and the resulting welt. He still could not understand what pleasure Vondum could have taken from dishing out such a punishment, but the man had, there was no doubt. The disappointment could even be seen in Vondum’s eyes as he handed the cane back over to Klorna. Part of it might have been the fact he had made a mistake, but only part.

Movement in the bushes shattered Kandric’s thoughts. He didn’t even turn at first as he spoke, “Emroc take your time. I am here and I know every step you take must put you in dire pain.”

A few seconds latter Emroc emerged falling through the last line of brush. His arms and legs showed additional scrapes from thorn bushes and branches. He had clearly fallen several times trying to make it to the spring. “How’d ya know it be me?” the boy managed to squeak out through clenched teeth and a haze of pain.

Kandric turned to offer his hand, “No insult, But you are moving desperately, and I can smell your blood. On occasion having a good nose is an advantage for an Outdoorsman. Other times, like now, it is worse than a curse.”

Emroc accepted the hand up and stifled a cry of pain as he got to his feet. The one thing he could not avoid was clutching at his ribs. “It got to da point I don’t even feel much until dat last blow. Now I’s startin’ ta feel all of em though.”

“Let’s see how much I can take care of.” Kandric started to rub his hands together to gather every gram of magical energies he could muster only to be stopped by Emroc.

“You don’t have ta do this none.”

Kandric shook his head in disagreement, “Yes I do. I would never be able to live with myself otherwise.”

Before he could be interrupted again he spoke a magical phrase and watched his hands until they glowed brightly. He spread his hands and pushed them onto Emroc’s wounded back.

Emroc let out a surprised grunt of pain followed a few moments later by a sigh.

Kandric had to grab Emroc quickly as the boy’s eyes rolled up into his head and his legs buckled. Magic healing was quick but the body could not always accept the fast nature of the body mending. Many times, like this one, the person being healed passed out. Carefully as he could, Kandric lowered the boy to the ground. This was not an easy task for Emroc was quite a bit bigger and better built than Kandric not to mention he had an extra two equivalency years of growth on his frame. Quickly Kandric pulled up on the unconscious boy’s bloody shirt only to see most of the angry stripes had completely stopped bleeding but had not diminished nearly as much as he had hoped. A few of the nastiest ones still had small opening where blood welled up from underneath. Kandric bit back tears, “I am sorry Emroc. I should have done something to stop him before he hurt you this badly.”

A new movement in the bushes was almost missed by Kandric, but his Outdoorsman training took over. His hand drew his sword and he stood to face the sound before the rest of his mind realized the potential danger.

Klorna came out holding her hands up, “Relax little Shaman. I mean you no harm.”

Kandric resheathed the sword as he again knelt over Emroc, “What do you want?”

“Nothing really. I was curious why Emroc was so determined to leave under his own power so I followed him. I must admit I was quite surprised to see you here and judging by what I heard this whole thing had been pre-arranged by the two of you.”

Kandric stood determined to take all the blame, “It was my idea and mine alone.”

Klorna again held up her hands, “Whoa, if you think I would argue about him getting healing after such a thrashing you would be very wrong. My only question is why would you heal him? You were ready to kill him a couple of days ago!”

“He came to me and apologized with no prompting and even admitted to my mother what he had done. Besides, my brothers think very highly of him. I set this up so Vondum and my mother could feel justice was served while cutting out as much of his suffering as I could. The only problem is, I thought I would be able to heal more damage with a Teaching Echelon spell than I ended up being able to. I could do another one, but sometimes…”

“I know.” Klorna nodded her understanding, “More than one healing spell from the same person in one day can cause problems with natural healing.”

Kandric nodded, “It also does not work as well. I am Teaching Echelon, and know a great deal about magic, but I do not know how to use my magic as well as I thought.”

“Don’t fret, you are extremely young and you will learn. Besides Emroc already understands how healing spells work.” Klorna stated comfortingly, “He was hurt pretty badly by Gnolls on the way up here. It took three days of castings plus the work of a Healthman to put him back together properly.”

“I could try to get my mom to heal him, but I do not think she would be terribly happy doing so.”

“Don’t worry Kandric. He will be fine in a few days. Your spell did quite a job. His rib is no longer looking bent out of place and almost all his wounds are down to welts instead of bloody stripes. This way Vondum and the others will be able to see the effects of a beating while Emroc here will not be suffering too much. I am sure he will be thankful when he wakes.”

Klorna could see her words were having only a partial effect so she decided to change subjects, “Mind if I ask an unrelated question?”

Kandric nodded as he pulled out his bedroll and covered Emroc so he wouldn’t get too cold lying on the icy ground so close to the spring’s edge, “Sure.”

“Why bother with the Gnolls?”

“You mean why do I want them finished off?”


"Because they will come back if we don’t. They lost a great deal of respect and need to regain some honor if they expect to keep their clan intact. Other Gnolls will see the opportunity to absorb them if they just let this defeat stand as it is now. This will make those absorbed into lower cast members in the Gnolls society, even the remaining warriors will be striped of their position.

“They are too smart to attack us or you. The defeat we handed them will prevent them from even thinking about us, so they will select easier prey. They only thing around here is the Slums or Slome and they have no chance at all against Slome.”

“So you’re saying if we do not finish the job they will strike out at your home?”

Kandric nodded gravely, "If we had simply driven them back, there would not be such a need on their part to save face, but we crushed them, killed most of their warriors, and had to come close to eliminating their clan spell casting capabilities. They can either regain honor or be subjected to a servant’s roll in another clan. We must prevent either from happening. If another Clan takes them in, it would be very powerful and would be tempted to take out the Slums or even attack Slome outright to prove their new found strength.

“From what I hear you already eliminated an Orc clan, following such actions up with the destruction of a Gnoll clan will certainly cause others to avoid this area. This will really help everyone here as the amount of game available to hunt will increase as will other food such as fish and edible plants. I was given a chance to help my people so I decided to take it.”

Klorna chewed on her lip in thought for a few moments, “Your actions are more of a royal leader looking after subjects than a boy.”

“My teacher promised I would one day have a noble title.” Kandric smiled with a little embarrassment.

Klorna laughed as she picked up Emroc and hoisted the lad over her shoulder. “I am willing to lay odds he is correct! I’ll get your bedroll back to you later today.”

“I’ll pick it up. I want to talk to Gablon about some business anyway.”

The Dwarf turned as if the extra weight of the boy didn’t bother her at all, “Something I can help you with?”

“Maybe.” Kandric stated, “I would like to know where you got a couple of the slave boys. One you sold the other you still have.”

“Most came from the village here, the rest from the Orc caves, why?”

“I am interested in the possibilities of purchasing the one and finding out more about the other.”

“You have that kind of money?”

“No, but I have captured a fair number of spell pages from casters I have taken down in the last month. I am sure we could do some bartering.”

Klorna’s eyes shot up, “Now there is something Gablon would definitely be interested in. What type of spells?”

“Mage and Druid. Mostly Mage. I already sent my slave up to arrange a time.”

Klorna snorted, “Gablon does not make favorable arrangements with slaves. I’ll talk to him and have our Mage there to look over what you have.”

Kandric exchanged a handshake with the powerful Dwarf and watched her move off. He smiled as she cursed to herself about Emroc weighing so much. He could see it was more for show than out of really being burdened. The fact was, she did not even bother breathing through her mouth as she lugged the lad back to Gablon’s camp.


Vondum stared down at Porma with a look that would have scared an army of demons off a battlefield. “So I have to give you up when you appear sixteen and you have to be certified as a Primary step one Swordsman by then and not crippled or dead. Everything else is forfeit for you.”

Porma shuddered making the chains he was in clank together lightly. He had seen the beating administered to Emroc. There was no question he would get far, far worse although he could not figure out why he had been handed over to this mountain of a man while Emroc had not been. For the first time in a very long time Porma started to cry.

Vondum kicked cruelly at Porma’s leg while making fun of the boy’s tears, “Oh such a little scared boy. Do you want your mommy?”

The humiliation and painful kicks only increased Porma’s out-flowing of tears.

Vondum’s lips twisted upwards in the most depraved grin Porma had ever witnessed which, after serving several years on a Pirate vessel, said something. His shaking only increased.

Vondum glanced back to Sy, “We have a couple of days before we hit the Gnolls, think you can make it to camp and back before then?”

“Snow be still pretty deep boss.” Sy replied, “I’d make ’er but I’d have ta switch out to a new mount fer the return. I don’t think the animals would be good fer nothing fer at least a full day if not more either.”

“We won’t need mounts to hit the Gnolls. Get goin’”

“Fer what?”

Vondum kicked at Porma again, “I don’t want him growin’ up too fast on me.”

“Yer not thinkin’ about given him the liquid are ya?” Sy asked in some shock.

“Oh yea.” Vondum chuckled evilly enough to make Conth shiver. “Get one of them half strength ones from our Mystic. I don’t want no baby!”

“You know it might kill him!”

“Yea, But he looks pretty healthy so I doubt he’ll die from it. If he does, so be it, I’ll just have Monarch reincarnate him. He’ll still live that way. One way or the other I’ll keep my word to Gablon.”

Sy cringed while looking down on Porma with some pity, “Yer the boss, but ya know if he be reincarnated as a female or another race, you’ll have no real proof you kept yer word.”

Vondum shrugged, “I’ll let a Mindmaster scan me if it comes down to it.”

Sy raised an eyebrow, “Like I says, yer the boss.”

Vondum put his hand on Conth’s shoulder, “Oh, one other thing.”

Sy turned, “Name it.”

“Bring back some basic traveling gear for Conth here. He’ll need it when Kandric opens the gate.”

“Be better off buying it in Slome boss. I don’t want no extra weight slowin’ me down none.”

Vondum sighed, “Good point, should have equipped him better before I left. At least bring back some of the lighter weight gear so I don’t have to spend a fortune on him.”

“Will do.” Sy started to leave then turned back, “You know Black Rapids will be wondering about you if you don’t make an appearance.”

“I know,” Vondum nodded, “Send word I have picked up the trail of Gambra and must not lose it.”

Sy’s eyes went wide, “You’ll buy yourself a good month or two, but what happens when you come back empty handed?”

“I won’t” Vondum smiled, “She has failed Monarch one too many times. It seems the Prince has once again slipped through her grasp and we no longer have a lead on where he is at. Someone else has already been instructed to take over her operations.”

“Without the Prince our plan is doomed!”

“Not completely.” Vondum replied with an air of confidence, “Monarch and I are already working on an alternative which may work even better. Unfortunately, it will mean having to expose much of Gambra’s operation.”

“So what?” Sy scowled, “If Gambra be out, why care about her doin’s?”

“Because we will have to rebuild it from scratch. The only reason we have put up with her this long is her ability to get solid information out of Junsac.”

“She will not go down easily.” Sy warned.

Vondum snorted, “You’re telling the student. She introduced me to the fringes of Dark Magic and how to do things like check a person’s Echelon by grabbing a piece of their magic auras and tasting them. Such practices are not illegal, but they are damned sure frowned upon. What Gambra can do with her Dark Magic makes what she taught me look like the purest forms of Light Magic.”

Sy cringed then gazed back down at Porma, “Are you really sure about puttin’ this one through the liquid?”

“Absolutely! Be the last time he even thinks of messin’ with one of my people!”

Porma saw Conth shake his head and look down with sad eyes. Seeing someone show a slave such pity only increased his fear. He looked around for a way to escape. His actions didn’t go unnoticed.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere boy.” Sy chuckled as he headed out the door, “Them shackles be riveted on. I’ll take a Metalworker ta get ’em off!”

“Conth,” Vondum turned to face his boy, “Keep your eye on this one and Kandric’s new boys. I’ll be back shortly.”


Klorna deposited Emroc in the Healthman tent before making her way to Gablon’s tent. Sitting outside crying was a boy wearing one of the caravan’s engraved slave collars. She looked down, “What’s the problem?”

The boy’s lower lip quivered, “I,,, I…”

“Speak up child!” Klorna commanded.

This only caused the boy to break out in a new wave of tears. Through his sobs he managed to speak, “You.. are… to… lash… me… five… times.”

Klorna frowned, “Why?”

“The stick, I didn’t get it to the warrior.”

Klorna patted the boy on the head, “I saw it with Kandric. He will get it to Vondum. There is no need to punish you for handing it off to the other boy.”

“But master Gablon…”

“I will talk to him. Go play for a while. You have no duties for the rest of today.”

Loxer wiped his snotty nose with the back of his hand as the words sunk in. “I can play?”

“Yes, but do not leave the campsite. If anyone, and I do mean anyone, tries to tell you to do something tell them to see me.”

Klorna watched as the boy stood up and looked at her. Once he realized it was not a trick he bolted toward the small creek and started trying to make rocks skip across the patches between the frozen water. She smiled and pointed to one of the guards Vondum had found for the caravan, “Watch him, but make sure he is left alone to have some fun.”

“Yes ma’am.” The young man saluted.

“Military?” Klorna asked as she returned the salute. This was something she was very unaccustomed to.

“Ex-military ma’am.” The man responded, “Many of Slome’s guards trained in Black Rapids. Those you have working for you did our four years of service in Slome’s militia in exchange for training and one favor to the city of Black Rapids. Captain Vondum called in our markers saying two years of service to you would take care of the favor owed as long as you pay us fair wage.”

“Oh, well you’ll all get a fair wage. Gablon takes care of his people,” Klorna started to enter the tent then stopped, “By the way, I am just a sergeant. There is no need to salute me.”

“No ma’am. Vondum said you were to be treated as our lieutenant.”

Klorna’s eyes shot up, “A promotion huh?”

“Yes ma’am” the man smiled.

Klorna pulled at her beard for a moment then nodded, “Sounds good to me. Lieutenant it is then!”

Gablon heard much of the conversation with the guard and came out of the tent, “Yes, and a well deserved promotion it is. I only wish I had thought of it. How did things go?”

“Porma is one very unhappy camper and Emroc will not soon forget the lashing he received, Otherwise everything is now settled between us and them.”

“Excellent. Another three days of work and our wagons will be ready to roll again. When do we attack the Gnolls?”

“Day after tomorrow.” Klorna stated confidently, “By then almost all our wounds will be licked and our people will be ready to get a measure of revenge.”

“Sounds like things are well in hand.” Gablon looked around, “Where is the young whelp who was outside my tent?”

Klorna held up her hand, “He turned the cane over to Kandric. He did nothing wrong.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.” Seeing an opening Klorna decided to take it, “Speaking of Kandric he wants an appointment with you.”

“I know.” Gablon spat in aggravated disgust, “He sent a slave up to pass on the message!”

Klorna grunted in some amusement knowing she had Gablon figured out far better than he would have liked. “I know, but he had other business to take care of, and yes it was pressing business.”

“How important of business can a boy not even a teen have?”

“In this case it was pretty important.”

“OK, so now I should send word back I have finished thinking it over and have agreed?”

“Up to you, but he has spells for sale.” Klorna kept her voice as disinterested as possible.

All sarcasm left Gablon’s Voice, “Real spells?”

“Yes. Captured spell pages from both Mage and Druid spell books.”

“Well damn!” Gablon growled, “If I had been so informed we would already be talking! Send word to him immediately. I will meet him at his earliest convenience!”


Only a few hours after his conversation with Klorna down by the spring, Kandric emerged from Gablon’s tent with a smile. As it turned out, only a few of the spell pages had been damaged upon the death of the owners but even those Gablon willingly bartered for at a reduced price because Gablon’s lead Mage assured the man he could fix them with some time and proper materials. He was actually quite pleased. The number of spells he bartered off was not nearly what he had been prepared to part with to get Conth’s little brother.

Kandric had always known a spell book was a living extension of the caster and were quite expensive but until this meeting he really didn’t understand exactly how complex a spell book and its pages were. The Mage, however, had been only too happy to explain it all to him for the cost of one Primary Echelon spell page. Kandric’s lust for knowledge bowed to the request for the single page worth about 100 silver.

The woman explained carefully as she showed him hers, describing how the book’s bindings were held together with the caster’s blood and thus “felt” damage done to the caster. On the same token a captured spell book could be used against a caster, for as pages were ripped out, real damage could befall the book’s owner. Only problem with ripping a page out was it totally destroyed a very valuable spell book page.

She went on to demonstrate how spell pages could be added and removed from a spell book with no damage by the use of a simple magical phrase from the book owner. Only the owner could do this without damaging the book and the spell.

So close was the bond between a caster and his book, it was well known a book could “die” if not touched by the caster every so often and the book would “die” when the caster did. This is what had happened with the spells Kandric had captured. Upon the death of the caster the book’s bindings had crumbled leaving behind only the spell pages. Unfortunately, the “death” of the book had damaged some of the pages in the process.

In Kandric’s opinion, it was the best reason ever to want to be a Shaman. He had no books to worry about. He was still confused on how the Orc clan had gotten possession of the younger boys, but Gablon and Klorna both confirmed they had been found in cages inside the caves. Sooner or later he would have to talk to one of the younger boys and find out what transpired and when. Shaking off his thoughts surrounding all this new found knowledge, he nodded towards Jamon. “I know who purchased your brother and where the man’s shop is. As of right now, Loxer belongs to me.”

Jamon took a deep breath, “Now what?”

Kandric handed the ownership papers over to Jamon, “I am going to give you control of Loxer and my other new slaves while I go into Slome and deal with a certain Healthman. I am trusting you to explain what is happening as far as Loxer’s brother goes. You know there is no chance I will be able to gain control of Conth, and he needs to understand this as well. You also need to go over my rules with Loxer and the others so they all know what I expect.”

Jamon nodded understanding then flinched, “Will they have to learn the other stuff too?”

“You mean how to use their bodies to please me?”

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Jamon sighed.

“Jamon, I will go slowly, just as I have so far with you. You, along with the others will have to learn to endure being played with and more. You may even enjoy it after a time. I did.”

“What about Vondum?”

Kandric’s voice turned sharp, "I told you I will not directly oppose him, however, Vondum will not harm you, Loxer or your brother. If I can even get your brother, that is. I may let him enjoy you like he did when we were at the hot springs, but you belong to me, not him. If he wants to harm someone he has Conth, Porma, Tyfod, and I suspect plenty of others to have his way with.

"On the other hand, you must always treat Vondum with the utmost of respect. If you do something to him, or disrespect him, I will have to allow some measure of punishment to be handed down by him. I will never do so on a whim or without some hard facts, but if you push at all he will push back. Do not put me in the position of needing to stand between you and him.

Jamon could see by the stance alone, Kandric had drawn a line he would not let Vondum cross. This allowed him to breathe a great deal easier. “I understand master. I will make sure Loxer and my brother will as well.”

“Good.” Kandric nodded, “Make sure it is very clear to Loxer. There will be many times he will not like the way his brother is being treated. If he speaks out there may be nothing I can do to protect him.”

“Understood.” Jamon replied gravely.

“Loxer is down by the stream. Tell him the news of who owns him. You have the rest of the day to do what you want as long as you and the others are at my shack by nightfall. Stay close to the caravan or the Slums though. There are some very angry Gnolls out there.”

“Where are you going to be?”

“In Slome.” Kandric responded with a sly smile, “Probably getting tossed in the jail.”


Kandric giggled, “If I am not back by nightfall tell Vondum I went in to town to settle a score.”

“I don’t understand.”

“All the better. I know this may be hard for you to do, but you need to trust me on this.” Kandric paused to let his words sink in, “If I am not back by nightfall, tell Vondum I went to settle a score in Slome. Got it?”

“Yes master, but I really am confused.”

“Like I said,” Kandric smile broadened, “all the better.”


Master Lannet stretched as he woke. He stopped and frowned knowing something was wrong. Again he extended his arms and legs and he again stopped. Something strange was going on, but he could not put a finger on what. He glanced down, noting a pair of his winged panthers didn’t seem to be concerned, as both were curled up on the floor wings wrapped around each other sleeping peacefully.

Lannet was not a man to take chances. He lived this long as a Watch member by trusting his gut. He slowly reached under his bed and grabbed his staff. As his fingers closed around his most trusted of weapons, it suddenly dawned on him what was wrong. His fingers didn’t creak and grind as they found their hand holds, nor did the rest of his body ache with the dull pains of old age. For a moment he wondered if he was dead and living in the realms of Brandal, god of death.

His stirring woke one of his trusted beasts. The animal came over and greeted its master with a nuzzle and a rubbing of its warm face up against his cheek.

Lannet looked around again then down at his arms. All the wrinkles were gone, replaced by the former strong muscles of his early adulthood. Quickly he felt his face. His long beard remained but under the thick bush of facial hair, he knew his skin was soft and free of the marks showing the passages of centuries.

Cautiously he petted his beloved animal. It didn’t seem to notice the startling changes in the Dwarf. Lannet realized fairly rapidly the animals would not notice: They relied too much on smell. He remained in bed petting his gigantic winged cat wondering what was going on. As if out of the blue the words spoken to him the night before played through his mind. He kissed his pet on its nose as he jumped up and grabbed his tunic.

Going into deep concentration he fingered his Watch pin. Quickly he sent word of his desire to invoke one of his Watch Markers to Protector’s Keep. Once he was certain the wheels were in motion he dressed, only to find his clothing no longer fit. His old man build was gone, replaced by the physique of a young powerful Dwarf.

Smiling, he summoned one of his slaves.

The young woman at first balked. She could see it was her owner, hear his voice, but the body she saw looked very much different. Once convinced it was indeed Lannet she hustled out into the early morning to find her owner new clothing.

Lannet peered into his large mirror. The face looking back to him was out of a distant memory. Recollections filled with hard work and the ability to do tasks he had not been able to do for well over a century flooded him with mixed emotions. Part of him longed to once again be young while another part felt cheated. His old age garnered some respect even from those who didn’t know him. Looking like this, those encounters would vanish as would the kind words from those younger than himself.

His gaze fixed on the shutter damaged by the woodpecker and somehow knew the change was permanent. For better or worse he was now a young man again. Glancing down at one of his winged panthers he smiled, “Well my long trusted pet, it looks like you will finally get a chance to join me in battle!”

The massive animal rubbed up against his leg and purred in devotion signaling it was more than ready to defend its master.


Falk slammed his fist on the table at the Junsac Barony Watch meeting hall held deep within Protector’s Keep’s fortified walls. “My reassssonssss for demanding a team to go to Everone are different than Masssster Lannet’ssss. He is sssssending hisssss team in to protect Asssster, I am sssssending mine in to sssscout for our King!”

Several watch members cringed at this rare display of emotion from one of the most feared beings ever to join the ranks of the Watch. A handful still argued about this latest Watch marker, however.

A Human female stood, "Lord Falk, I understand yer wishes, but we already have two teams goin’ to Everone plus the one we already have there protectin’ the Marquis. We are stretched pretty thin right now and to draw more forces away from Junsac would be ridiculous.

“Maybe,” Falk’s voice boomed, “But I have submitted my marker!”

“Looks like we need a vote then.” A dark skinned elf stated, “And I vote no!”

“You would Master Gonnel.” A husky voice growled from the back of the room, “I happen to be a voting member as well, though, and I vote yes.”

Gonnel shook his head “You never were one to stand up to stupidity even when it slaps you across the face Locnos. You really would have us tossing our resources to the winds on this wouldn’t you!”

A Pantherling spoke up, “This leaves us needing a third neutral voting member and I do not feel Master Lannet is terribly neutral on this. We need another Master or Legendary Watch being to vote on this.”

The female who had also voiced opposition stood again. “All the other voting members have chosen to abstain from this vote for their own reasons.”

“Not all.” A young voice sounded out from the back of the room.

All eyes turned to look at the lanky boy shuffling his feet nervously in the back corner.

Gonnel spoke first, “Child why don’t you keep your moth shut and let us figure this out.”

The Pantherling snarled, “Master Gonnel, you may hold rank on me, but if you ever address a Watch member in like fashion again, I will challenge you to a dual and it will not be simply to first blood! This is an open forum and he holds a Watch pin like it or not! He was brought in by his friend, Aster, and has served us quite well within this city getting information we otherwise would have had to pay for.”

Many others assembled in the room nodded agreement. Gonnel took a step back realizing his move had not gained him any support and may have even lost him some respect, “You are correct Sir Saxez. My apologies to you and the lad.”

Saxez crossed his arms and motioned, “You had something to say Hontel?”

“Yes sir.” Hontel managed to squeak out through a suddenly dry mouth. He took a couple of sips out of an offered glass of ale before continuing. “Glaster, Master Shaman, is still a Watch member and could vote if he would like. I have not heard his name mentioned.”

Falk’s eyes blazed at the thought of his marker being in the hands of Glaster but the boy had a valid point. If by chance the man voted in his favor, Falk would do everything in his power to repay him, if not, well he would have to think it over some if it came to a no vote from the Master Shaman. “Contact him and get hissss vote if he caresssss to make one!”


Glaster signaled for the caravan to move out well before the sun had reached its peak in the sky. As they turned off the road heading toward the Silver Spine Mountains, Glaster’s newly replaced hand tightened around his scimitar. His head had been spinning since he woke after getting the message about Kandric.

The additional information about the Watch and his subsequent vote to allow Falk’s marker had shook him up a great deal as well. The fates along with the gods were pulling the strings in what was shaping up to be an immense show of power of some sort. Still many questions were haunting his every thought.

Was their any way of tipping off the King as he and his Knights assembled to move out to a suddenly very popular destination? Why would the gods care enough to send him a message? Worse yet, why had the Watch suddenly summoned two more full teams to proceed at all haste to the city of Everone? Last but not least, how had his wonderful little red head ended up in Everone?

Each bump and jostle of the wagon moving over the rough road added new questions, but also calmed Glaster some. Leading a caravan was what Glaster did best and liked the most. So even as his future was full of too many questions to even contemplate, the simple tasks required of a Caravan Leader allowed him to be at peace with himself. He had made the decision to go and would not turn back, could not now. The King and his most trusted Duke both had all but ordered it thanks to some carefully worded persuasion on his part.

His long chain of thoughts was suddenly interrupted by the sounds of a young voice. Glaster shook his head and looked around before his eyes finally settled on Mylan riding next to him talking.

Glaster frowned for a second, “Who is driving your wagon?”

“One of my guards Master.”

Glaster pointed down in a bit of a scolding manner, “How are you supposed to address me?”

Mylan slapped his mouth is self rebuke cringing some as he hit one of the bruises left by his brother from their fist fight earlier in the morning, “Sorry sir.”

“Make sure it does not happen again and I will forget all about this slip.”

“Deal sir.”

Glaster managed a grin, “What can I do for you?”

“Well, umm, Yarney had an idea and we talked it over, and umm…”

Glaster’s face twisted in humor over his student’s uncharacteristically nervous voice. “You might want to grab the cat.”

Mylan frowned looking around, “What cat sir?”

“The one grabbing you tongue.” Glaster kidded playfully.

Mylan giggled, as he did so he loosened up a great deal. He made a point of pulling on his tongue getting not only Glaster to laugh, but several of the guards watching on. “Bad tongue. Bad tongue.” Mylan joked after a moment.

“Now what was this grand idea Yarnay came up with?” Glaster asked still chuckling.

“Yarney thinks all the things in our wagons should be sold now and we should be allowed to restock on new goods before we go much further. Sibler and I agree sir.” The look on Mylan’s face told of a return of uneasiness.

Glaster raised an eyebrow, “You know our plans were to put some distance between us and the capitol before I gave you a chance to do anything of the sort, correct?”

Mylan seemed to cringe, “Yes sir we do.”

“So why the request for a change?”

Mylan struggled to keep his nerve as he looked up to the Master Shaman his father had paid to train him and his brother. He looked back and got a nod of support from one of his guards so he forced himself to take a deep breath and continue, “Sibler came up with the fact our wagons are loaded heavy with things of pretty high value for a merchant. As he talked about it, Yarnay realized the reason some of our goods are so expensive is because they come from far away. If we sell here they will be more valuable than if we take them away from here.”

“Do you know for sure they will be less valuable elsewhere?”

Mylan sighed, “No sir, but I kind of think what we have in our wagons will sell better here than where there is a war.”

Glaster pulled on the reigns of his wagon team slowing them down as his interest got pricked, “What would make you say such a thing. None of you have ever been to a war torn area before.”

"No sir, we have not. However, I cannot see a person wanting finely crafted silver chalices when food supplies will be of more interest. Nor can I believe someone would be more interested in bolts of silk over a bow and a few quivers of arrows when their family may be in danger.

"I don’t know what we will see and I am afraid, but I know from what our teachers back at the palace told us about war. The old legends of the great Dwarf-Elf Wars talks about how the humans and other lower races were forced into taking up arms because the war had brought plague and famine to all the lands.

“If all wars are basically the same, which our teachers said they are, I bet food and weapons will sell better than crystal glasses, silver place settings, perfume, and silk.”

“All three of you feel this way?”

Mylan could tell his words were being listened to. This, in turn, helped his confidence a great deal. “Yes sir. We request to make an early merchant stop before we get too close to the fighting.”

“Have you talked with your brother about this?”

“No sir!” Mylan barked harshly, “He is not part of my group.”

Glaster’s lips tightened in some disappointment until a new idea came to him, “You might want to consider it. I will put it to a vote tonight and if it comes up as a tie I will cast the tiebreaker. Your actions over the course of the day may well swing my vote toward your group if it comes down to it.”

Mylan nodded after a few moments thought before turning his steed around to go talk with his brother and Kaznal.

Glaster rolled his head to loosen up his back and neck. Silently he bet Mylan would be very unhappy to find out he would have gotten the tie breaking vote regardless of his actions. The fact of the matter was Glaster wanted to switch out some goods from his wagons as well since there was a drastic change in where he was leading the group.

Glaster had to grin slightly though. The plan Mylan’s group had come up with showed their interest and a great deal more forethought than Glaster would have ever given boys of only 8 credit for. He wondered if their results would equal their expectations.

Glaster shrugged to himself, as he realized it didn’t matter what happened as long as his students stayed safe and learned. For making money or losing money was the class. As long as they took the lessons to heart, one way or the other they would gain valuable life skills.

Satisfied in the knowledge at least three of the boys were taking this whole merchant caravan thing seriously, he nodded to one of his own hired guards to take over so he could get to work creating his own list of things to sell and things to buy. At least this way he could concentrate on things which he could do something about!

Copyright © 2000-2021 Kyle Aarons; All Rights Reserved.
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I believe that all of the groups together will be the best way to defeat the enemy they are going to face. I really believe Kandric is going to be the best possible owner he can be with all of his slaves, he has shown that in the way he treats Jamon. I wish them all the best in the battle they will soon face.

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This just keeps getting better and better.  I really think the writing has improved, although it was good from the start.  The pacing and plotting has been very even, except for the one chapter I noted earlier.  Can't wait to see what is next...

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