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Authors: Jim Greenfield

Greyrawk (Book 2) (3 page)

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
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"We do not know, but they have killed livestock and people. Whatever they are, they are real. Few ride forth after sundown and no one rides alone. I have heard whispers from the villagers that the creatures come because there are no Greyrawk's."

Greyrawk chuckled. "I've heard similar talk-not about creatures but about the harvest. Seems we Greyrawks were fertility gods."

"Do not scoff, Ian," said Lady Nunderburg. "I know a good deal of history of this area. There are many legends outside of our tidy world of men. Centuries ago, a people call Celaeri lived in these lands. They were a nocturnal people loving music and the land flourished under their guidance. When the first Men came, the Celaeri allowed them to share the land, but generations later enslaved the Men. They had a king named Jerue Adan who decreed Men to be inferior to Celaeri and killed those who tried to escape slavery. It was only after the rise of the great kingdoms of Anavar that the Celaeri withdrew into dark places. Some caves to the north of us it is said, are filled with music when the sun sets.

"Greyrawk castle is said to be built on ruins of a major Celaeri castle. Perhaps their blood still flows in Greyrawk veins."

"Daerlans in the dark?" laughed Charles.

"The stories are true," said Nunderburg. "At least, the legends exist. Grandmother told me some of them as a boy. I do have written accounts of sightings stored in the tower."

"You were always a dreamer Walter, "said Charles.

"I've heard the music," said Roderick. "Five years ago up near Balder Rock. I took shelter during a rainsquall. The night closed in and I began to hear the faint strains of music from deep within a cave."

"Did you have a bottle with you?" asked Charles.

"No. I did not. Mock me further, Charles, and you will feel my fist."

"Gentlemen," said Nunderburg sternly. "And I give you the benefit of all doubt on that salutation. Do not force me to cast you from the castle. The sun has set."

The brothers grumbled to themselves but did not argue more.

Nunderburg smiled at Greyrawk and shook his head.

"The music was very faint at first," continued Roderick. "It reminded me of something forgotten - a memory just beyond my grasp."

Roderick stopped talking and his eyes stared into the past, remembering his story as it happened. "It soothed me, yet also set my mind wandering on nameless roads unfamiliar to me." Charles made drinking motions behind his brother's back.

"Tell me more of the Celaeri, Lady Nunderburg," said Greyrawk. "What legends tell us of them and what did they look like?"

"Descriptions varied. Their hair was reported as white, a luminous blue, black and more. Their skin was always blue and their eyes copper or violet. Slender and swift, but taller than Men, they moved amongst shadows unseen until they strike."

"What did they strike?" asked Greyrawk. He felt the hair on his arms rise.

"Unwary travelers, I guess. They were warriors in the stories after we Men arrived. I never heard that they were hunters or farmers; all the stories portray them as killers of Men."

"Stories to scare children?"

"Perhaps. Some stories said they protected the land, but against what, I do not know. Some said they are here still, unseen by those unworthy. There were many stories, but they all centered on Adan's Hill, once the location of the Celaeri capital. The same Adan's Hill now called Greyrawk Mountain where Greyrawk castle was built and thrown down. Your home was once enchanted, Lord Greyrawk. Is it still?"

"I cannot say. However, when I sat upon the ruins I did not feel alone. It was comforting in some way. Would that count for haunted?"

"I sense the humor behind your words. Please do not take the matter too lightly. You have not lived here for many years. I was raised two days ride north of here at Anor and the legends of the Celaeri are very real to my people. Dark words against the Celaeri bring ill luck."

"I shall remember to have more courteous words, Lady Nunderburg. Thank you for your instruction."

"You are quite welcome. If will excuse me, gentlemen. I must retire."

"I think I shall too," said Nunderburg. "It is getting late. Greyrawk, your room is the second one on the left at the top of the stairs."

"I will have some wine before bed," said Roderick.

Greyrawk drained the last of his wine and retired to his room. His body was fatigued but his mind still raced.

Chapter 2

 

The Altenguds walked among the mortals who worshipped them and the gods rejoiced in the lives of the people. The Altenguds remembered the darkness of chaos before the world was made and they ridiculed the Jungeguds' contempt of the world. The Altenguds cherished the world more than they did themselves. The Altenguds observed more than intervened and their presence dwindled from the world.

The Jungeguds did not recognize the value of the bright world. However, the Jungeguds recognized the value of worshippers and cultivated their attention. They learned early not to show themselves often for their countenances were hideous, a sharp contrast from the Altenguds. The Jungeguds filled legends as monsters and demons, but found enough worshippers for them all.

From Gerrand's Histories of Landermass.

 

 

Greyrawk did not sleep that night. He stood at the open window of his chamber gazing out over the darkened landscape. The chill night breeze snaked its way around him into the room. The fire still smoldered in the fireplace, but gazing into its dying glow soon lost his interest and he did not desire its warmth. His eyes looked far across the shadowed fields. A slender strand of song reached his ears, but whether it was from a shepherd or the Celaeri, he did not know. It seemed wistful, perhaps sorrowful, and he thought it familiar. Other than that, the land was quiet and shadows and trees dotted the fields. Greyrawk could see no movement, but he sensed that he was being watched. He tried to spy out shapes of the creatures that had attacked him, but even the memories of them seem dimmed already. Perhaps like the Celaeri, they were creatures of magic.

He heard footsteps in the hallway outside his room. They paused in front of his door as if someone was listening, and then moved on. Greyrawk almost expected Lady Nunderburg to tap on his door in the night. He was familiar with the look she gave him. Nor did he miss the way her eyes followed him. As the night waned, he received no visitor and that was refreshing, especially the fact he may have misread her. He had become jaded over time. His thoughts returned to Jaele, and the last time he saw her-the morning light glowing on her skin. He did not think he would miss her so much.

The footsteps came back later.

A soft knock on the soft and Greyrawk opened it. Lady Nunderburg came in. She looked boldly into his eyes. She smiled as she entered the room.

"I'm not here for the reasons you think, however intriguing that might be. Festin sent you here to meet me, not my husband. Walter is a lapdog for Belderag, despite the venom in his voice. He will do nothing to gain Belderag's anger. In fact he will send word to Gornst that you are here. Count on it. Do not tarry in the morning and leave as swift as may be."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Your mother was my aunt. Do you know nothing of your northern relatives? You and I are cousins and have scores to settle with Belderag. Because of the connection to Greyrawk, my family was treated poorly by Belderag."

"You don't blame the Greyrawk's for that?"

"I did, when I was younger, but I see clearer now."

"Does my return pose any danger for you?"

She smiled and shook her head. "Thank you for your concern but there is nothing connected to your return that I cannot handle. There are people in Gornst whom you should contact. Festin will know how to reach them. I will send word to those in the countryside that can be counted on. You will have allies and if you do choose to reclaim Adan's Hill, you will have local support."

"Lady Nunderburg, you are too kind."

"Nay, it is the least I can do for family. The opposition to Belderag has been growing but not openly. He is a vicious man. We need to act together and we have no strong leader. Perhaps you may be leader we need. Your name alone will draw people to you."

She put her hand on his arm.

"One more warning, the Celaeri are real and very dangerous. There have been rumors of a connection between the Greyrawk family and Celaeri. I do not know the truth of it, but remember, they are not Men and their desires and goals may not be ours. They are alien to us and cannot be trusted. Be wary of Celaeri. And don't underestimate Belderag."

She opened the door and peered out, then left silently.

Greyrawk chided himself for misreading her so badly. Jaele would be laughing at him. Jaele was a distant cousin on his mother's side but she too must be related to Lady Nunderburg. Did Lady Nunderburg know Jaele? Had Jaele sent word he was coming north? No matter where he went he found himself out of his depth.

As the sun lighted the sky, he heard music again and this time he knew no Men voice made such a sound. It pulled him towards the northern hills and he leaned out his window toward it. The music faded into the sunrise. Then he heard a cockcrow. He had not slept.

The sky brightened and the noise of the castle activities rose to his ears. He saw the carts of farmers and merchants on the roads. The faerie world gave way to the world of Men and Greyrawk felt a bit melancholy. He watched for several minutes. Finally, he turned away from the window.

He joined his host for breakfast. Only Lord Nunderburg was in the great hall.

"My brothers won't be joining us. Neither will my wife. It's a bit early for them, I'm afraid."

"The land appears prosperous. Has Belderag ruled the land well?"

"Well, I have no complaints financially. My lands have produced well."

"Why would you feel he is unfit to lord over these lands if you have done so well?"

"Good question. I will try to answer it. Belderag is a hard man and he gained his position by force. And with force he has kept it for many years. I have been fortunate but others have lost their land to him by various means, but the main issue was lack of money. They couldn't pay him what they owed him so he took their lands. There is much resentment and those who have vocalized their complaints disappear. It would not be a bad thing for Cresida if Belderag lost his power, despite my good fortune during his tenure. At the least I would be free of the stigma of my success being linked to Belderag's influence. I do work hard and treat my workers fairly."

"I heard rumor that some farmers are unhappy with the yield of their lands."

"I can't give any truth to those rumors, Lord Greyrawk. Northern Cresida covers a wide area and the land quality varies. As I said, my lands have produced well."

His face grew serious as he prepared his words.

"I want to warn you Lord Greyrawk, that Lord Belderag will move against you quickly once he knows you are here. He is a vicious, vindictive man. He tolerates no opposition and he deals harshly with those who betray him. Where do you go from here?" There was something in his voice that disturbed Greyrawk, but he was unable to identify it.

"I may just return south for now, although you have given me much to ponder. I had not thought of returning permanently to the north, but your words have swayed me. I am thinking through the ramifications of raising an army and reclaiming Castle Greyrawk. I have many friends in the south that would follow me."

"I see. That is marvelous. When you return, I shall be at your side. I am looking forward to it. We shall put Belderag in his place."

"I appreciate that, Lord Nunderburg."

"Yes, well. I wish you well. I have some pressing issues to attend to this morning and must leave you. The running of my lands takes much of my waking hours and there are times when no one else can handle the situation. I hope you will forgive me. I apologize for not being a better host but I had not expected a guest. Feel free to stay as long as you wish."

"Thank you. But I believe I shall leave right after breakfast and take the road home. I appreciate your hospitality, Lord Nunderburg, especially to an unexpected guest."

"It is my pleasure, Lord Greyrawk, my pleasure." His host left him to finish his breakfast alone. By the time Greyrawk left Castle Nunderburg there was still no sign of Nunderburg's brothers or his wife.

 

Greyrawk rode south until he was out of sight of Castle Nunderburg, then he turned west to the forest and from there north again. He found a high place to look across the valley and saw a band of soldiers coming long the road from Gornst. When they reached the crossroads there was no hesitation: they turned south on his trail. Someone had ridden hard from Castle Nunderburg to Castle Belderag with the news of his arrival. Word had been sent most likely with Nunderburg's blessing. The acorn does not fall far from the tree. He suspected from their initial meeting Nunderburg would not aid him. Greyrawk's ability to read people had long proved useful and helped him escape many an awkward situation. He turned northward again. He would scout the area north of Nunderburg up to Karac and Deet and perhaps go east down to Gornst. One thought remained with him and that was the music of the night. Would he be able to hear it from Castle Greyrawk? On Adan's Hill? It seemed that it would please him to do so.

He rode slowly, enjoying the bright colors of the fields and the cool breeze from the hills. He had grown up in the dry lands in the south and while the browns and grays of that land were beautiful, the colors of the land of his birth astounded him. The enormous flows of green grass covering the land were especially new and wonderful. Repeatedly he stopped and ran his hands through the grass and pulled some up to smell it. There were wild flowers and he thought of how Jaele would love them.

The land was beautiful and he wished he could have brought Jaele to such a place, full of life. The desert held its own appeal but Jaele would have loved this land. The flowers so varied and the fragrances new to him. If the fragrances would remain, he would pick many to bring to her, wherever she was now.

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
10.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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