Read Adventurers Wanted 1) Slathbog's Gold Online

Authors: M.L. Forman

Tags: #Fantasy

Adventurers Wanted 1) Slathbog's Gold (29 page)

BOOK: Adventurers Wanted 1) Slathbog's Gold
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“What more could you ask?”

“You said that dwarfs live longer than most men,” said Alex. “Are there men who live longer than dwarfs?”

“A few.”

“Can you tell me about them?” Alex pried.

“There are some men and women scattered through the known lands who live much longer than others. It is said some of them are like the elves. I have met a few of them myself, but I do not think they are like elves,” answered Arconn, his smile fading to a frown.

“Do you know why they live so long?” Alex asked.

“You said one more question, and now you have asked three,” said Arconn, his smile returning.

“But this is so interesting,” Alex argued. “I know so little, and things I thought I knew now seem to be wrong.”

“Very well,” Arconn replied. “I will tell you this one last thing for tonight, then you must sleep.”

“I promise.”

“The men who live so long are not like other men,” said Arconn. “Most of them are wizards of great power. A few are oracles like your friend Iownan. Others . . . others are neither wizard nor oracle, but live on just the same. Some of these men and women are good, some are evil, and some simply are.”

“Do all wizards live so long?” Alex asked, forgetting his promise.

“No, not all,” answered Arconn, his troubled look returning. “Only the most powerful, or the most evil. Now you must rest. We will talk of this again tomorrow if you wish.”

Alex left his friend sitting beside the glowing embers of the fire and made his way to his tent, his mind buzzing with additional questions. Alex’s feelings about magic were no longer as confused as they had been. And a part of him was actually beginning to like the idea of magic, even if he didn’t really understand it yet.

* * *

The next morning dawned clear and bright, and the company made good time across the open grasslands. By mid-
afternoon, they could see the outline of the Brown Hills on the far horizon, and seeing the hills seemed to please both Thrang and Halfdan.

“A few more days and we should reach the dwarf realm,” said Thrang while they ate dinner that night.

“I hope the stories of its greatness are true,” Halfdan added, a strange light in his eyes.

“And what are these stories?” Bregnest questioned.

“It is said that the halls of the Brown Hills are a wonder among dwarfs,” Halfdan replied reverently. “There are great halls carved from the living rock, and vast cities hidden from view. It is rumored that some of the old dwarf magic remains here in Vargland and that true silver is still found here in abundance.”

“Halfdan!” Thrang said loudly, an angry look on his face. “You should learn to hold your tongue.”

“Keeping secrets from the company?” asked Skeld, smiling slyly at Thrang.

“Not at all,” Thrang replied, embarrassed. “It’s just that . . . well, we don’t speak openly about the true silver of the Brown Hills. Not even among ourselves.”

“There is great wisdom in that,” said Arconn. “If half of what I have heard is true, the dwarf cities would soon be overwhelmed with traders seeking true silver.”

“And I daresay you’ve heard less than I have,” replied Thrang.

“What is true silver?” Alex asked.

Thrang looked around nervously before answering. “True silver is different than common silver. For one thing, it is much harder to find and thus worth much more—even more than gold. Once found and polished, true silver will never lose its shine.”

“It doesn’t turn black like normal silver?” Alex asked.

“No, it doesn’t,” answered Thrang. “But that has little to do with the value of true silver. It can be worked and forged into armor and weapons that are harder and stronger than any iron or steel. I suspect your wonderful sword is made of true silver, though it is difficult to tell. I don’t know why the blade is so dark, but I would guess it has something to do with the elf magic in it.”

“Dwarfs are keen on keeping true silver to themselves,” said Halfdan as Thrang fell silent. “Not so much for its value, but because of its beauty.”

“That’s true enough,” said Thrang with a smile. “True
silver can be shaped into wonderful things that never tarnish or break. It can also be used in cunning ways that others sometimes call dwarf magic.”

“Dwarf magic?” Alex questioned.

“Nothing like a wizard’s magic,” Halfdan said quickly. “Dwarf magic is more for making things like strong doors and tools that won’t break.”

“There are other kinds of dwarf magic as well,” Thrang added. “And not just any dwarf can do magic. Like starting and putting out fires, you have to have some magic in you to make it work.”

“But magic is magic, isn’t it?” Alex asked.

“Perhaps it all comes from the same place,” replied Thrang. “But dwarf magic is just used for things that dwarfs find helpful or pleasing. It’s normally not as strong as, say the magic in your sword or anything like that.”

“Do you think we will be able to see some true silver when we reach the Brown Hills?” Andy asked in a hopeful tone.

“Perhaps,” Thrang replied, sounding slightly worried. “But I would ask that none of you mention it to the dwarfs there. They’ll not be happy if they knew how much information we’ve shared. Too many questions will test any friendship they may offer us.”

“Then I will make it a command,” said Bregnest, looking at each member of the company in turn. “When we reach the dwarf realm, none of us will speak of true silver—except of course Thrang and Halfdan, who will know what to say and to whom.”

“A kind gesture,” said Thrang, getting to his feet and bowing to Bregnest.

There was little more talk before Bregnest and the others began rolling into their blankets for the night. Alex sat with Arconn by the campfire to keep his watch.

“You seem much more interested in your magic book tonight,” Arconn commented.

“A bit,” Alex replied with a smile.

“So you’ve decided you like the idea of magic now?”

“I’m still not sure,” answered Alex slowly. “I’ve been a little afraid of it. You know, after what you said about power and responsibility. I’ve also worried that magic can be dangerous if you don’t really understand it.”

“But your fear is starting to fade?” Arconn pressed.

“Yes, it is,” replied Alex. “I think it might be useful to know a bit more magic than I do now. When Thrang and Halfdan were talking about dwarf magic being used to help the dwarfs with things, I thought maybe I could learn some magic that would help us as we travel. You know, something more than just how to start and put out fires.”

“Indeed,” said Arconn. “But don’t forget the responsibility that comes with your knowledge and power, Alex. Any use of power has to be accounted for.”

“I’ll remember,” said Alex, closing his book and moving toward his blankets as his watch ended.

The next day remained sunny and the Brown Hills grew larger as the days passed. Arconn continued to bring Alex items from the roadside, though now there were very few of them that Alex could not name.

“Your knowledge has grown quickly,” said Arconn, glancing quickly at Alex and then back to the road. “Soon you will know all the plants in the book the Oracle gave you.”

“The plants, maybe,” said Alex, smiling at Arconn. “Though I know little of the potions and less about the
animals.”

“That will come in time,” said Arconn, laughing. “It seems another fire has been lit inside of you—a fire of learning.”

Alex did not reply, happy to ride along and watch the Brown Hills grow into mountains in front of them. Arconn was right, he thought. His desire to learn was like a fire inside him. His nightly watch always seemed too short, and he would often stay into Arconn’s watch to ask questions of his friend.

“Here is a sign,” said Thrang loudly, interrupting Alex’s thoughts.

Thrang pointed to a large stone pillar standing by the side of the road. Hundreds of small, neatly cut markings covered the pillar, and Alex realized that the markings were some kind of writing.

“We are now entering the lands of the dwarf realm of Vargland,” said Thrang happily. “The pillar says we should ride forward until sunset. We will be met as the sun sinks into the west.”

“Met by whom?” Bregnest questioned, looking at the pillar.

“It doesn’t actually say,” answered Thrang. “If they follow custom, though, we should be met by soldiers and a warden of the king.”

“Soldiers?” Andy questioned nervously.

“Not to trouble us,” said Halfdan. “But as a sign of respect.”

“And in case we’re troublemakers, I would guess,” Thrang added. “If we look like trouble, they may attack, but they would probably give us the chance to withdraw first.”

“Are you sure it’s safe to go forward?” Bregnest asked, sounding unhappy about the soldiers and Thrang’s words.

“’Course it is,” said Thrang with a grunting laugh. “It’s not as if we’re here to make trouble.”

“But will your cousins know that?” Skeld asked slyly.

Bregnest didn’t wait for Thrang’s reply. He asked Arconn and Thrang to change places in line before the company continued. Arconn smiled at the request, though Thrang seemed a bit put out by it.

“It’s really not necessary,” Thrang protested loudly. “It’s not as if we’re in any danger.”

“But you should have a place of honor,” said Arconn. “And most dwarfs are not overly fond of elves in any event.”

“You’re right about that,” Thrang admitted, taking his place as the company rode forward. “But I’m sure you’ll be well received, and if you’re not, I’ll have something to say about it.”

“Then let us hurry to the reception,” said Skeld loudly.

Following Bregnest and Thrang, the group rode past the stone pillar, heading for the Brown Hills. As the sun began to drop behind them, they suddenly came to a halt.

“Declare yourselves,” a loud voice called out.

Alex looked, but he could not see where the voice came from.

“Silvan Bregnest and company,” Bregnest called back. “We are a company of adventurers, traveling to the east.”

For a few moments there was silence, then the voice called back again.

“We see two of our kinsmen among your company. Have them come forward.”

Slowly, and with Bregnest’s approval, Thrang and Halfdan moved away from their companions toward the voice. For several minutes, the rest of them heard nothing, and then the voice called again.

“Your companions have vouched for you. You may approach,” the voice called.

They all moved forward, following the road and looking around as they went. Alex spotted several dwarfs standing in the shadows of large rocks on either side of the road now that he was closer. The fading light made them difficult to see.

“Hold and dismount,” the voice commanded as the company rode into the shadow of a large hill.

They did as instructed, moving forward to stand in a line with their horses behind them.

“Welcome,” said a round dwarf, stepping out of the shadows. “We seldom see such a company in these times. Your companions have spoken well of you. If you will come with us, we will lead you to the city of King Osrik.”

“You are most kind,” said Bregnest, bowing. “My companions and I are grateful for the hospitality of the great dwarf realm.”

BOOK: Adventurers Wanted 1) Slathbog's Gold
12.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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