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Authors: Jim Greenfield

Greyrawk (Book 2) (5 page)

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
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"What does that mean for you?" asked Greyrawk. "Will you be alive? What is the shadow world?"

She sighed and her eyes looked through him to another place.

"This world is warm and alive. The shadow world is cold, and full of death. There is no joy, only duty. It may be the longer we stay in the shadow the more we become like the Vlakan. No feelings, just harshness and cruelty. We do not want to be exiled there. After all this time we may not even be true Celaeri anymore, but we hope we can be once more. We want to return to this world and be part of it again." She was silent.

"Tell me how Adan's Hill looked when your people still lived there," asked Greyrawk.

"We built with stone and wood. Not the stone blocks Men use, but stone found in the land, chipped, and shaped to fit in our walls. The shapes varied. Our homes did not line up like so many boxes. How do you Men find your way home? Each Celaeri dwelling had its own identity, one matching the occupants. Wood was used for ceiling beams and the roof. Our doorways had no doors; we do not close ourselves off from each other and the land was warm enough for us.

"Streamers of many colors were tied from tree to tree to dwelling and they flowed in the constant breezes that caressed the hill. It gave a feeling of floating. And up there to the south was a fabulous walkway arched over eternal gardens whose flowers gave a fragrance that soothed all ills. The flowers wilted long ago. Ah, I cannot say more, my heart is in my throat." She looked at the hilltop, her eyes seeing the ghosts of the past.

"How am I involved?"

"You are one of us and so very much a part of this world still," said Ioane Adan. "We believe the force behind the Vlakan is manifest in two separate beings, one in the shadow world, and one in this world. As I said, so few of us can affect anything in this world, we need help and you are the only one we can ask."

"What is it you ask me to do?"

"Destroy the Vlakan leader in this world when we destroy the Vlakan leader in the shadow world. We do not have enough strength in this world to destroy it. When the Vlakans are pushed back into the shadow world, we will be able to return. Then the Celaeri will take back what was ours."

"Take back..? You will push Men aside. Will you kill us?"

Her eyes were cold and her voice flat.

"We must survive. We will take back Adan's Hill. That will be enough. Men must allow us to live in peace. We shall no longer give way to Men. We shall fight and we fight well."

"You ask me to help kill my own people? I will not! I am no betrayer."

"You are one of us Ian Greyrawk." She looked into his eyes and touched his hand. "Fight with us. You will live longer and better as Celaeri. You will benefit in ways you cannot imagine. Let me show you." She stood up and removed her armor. Her eyes never left him. She removed her undershirt. She caressed his cheek and lifted his chin to look into his eyes. He saw the history of the Celaeri in her eyes, and he saw himself. The wind rose and howled.

 

Greyrawk awoke the next morning, alone. The air was cool but he was wrapped tightly in his cloak with a blanket draped over him. Suddenly, he remembered where he was and jumped to his feet. He was unsteady and put a hand on a crumbled wall stone and looked around. He tried to remember the previous night but could only recall fragments. His mind was unsettled and he felt exhausted. The sun shone over the horizon and the air was calm. The ruins did not look so strange in the morning. He noticed a ring on his little finger. He recognized it as one Ioane Adan wore. He could still smell her hair. What did he fall into this time? Jaele's face came to him and he felt ashamed. He didn't have any choice - he was bewitched wasn't he?

He ate and stood on the crest of the hill, among the ruins where Festin had found him two days before. He tried to imagine how the hill looked with the Celaeri dwellings and colors. Much livelier than the stone castle his grandfather lived in. He could almost hear the voices of the Celaeri as they enjoyed their life on Adan's Hill. Was it his right to deny them a return to that life? No one lived on Greyrawk Mountain now so where was the harm? Just Belderag's greed, but the friendship of the Celaeri would probably give more benefits to Belderag than the loss of revenue. Perhaps he should hear how he could help the Celaeri. North Cresida needs to be shaken awake again and throw off the grasp of Belderag.

When he came down from the hill, horsemen were waiting for him. Their hands were on their reins and their swords still in their sheaths. Greyrawk shook his head. How fast did news travel in this land? The men appeared of different dress than the ones that pursued him the previous day. These men's clothes were tailored and of high quality. They all wore the same burgundy tunics with the grey sashes around their waists.

"Good day to you," said one of the riders, a tall man and heavily muscled. His jaw was set and his dark eyes bored into Greyrawk. "My name's Brandalay. These are my men. You had some trouble with brigands yesterday, I gather. We're here to protect you on your journey."

"How kind of you," said Greyrawk. "Where does my journey take me?"

"Gornst."

"Am I to be a guest of Belderag?" He flexed his fingers as his hand moved to his sword.

"Belderag? Ha, that's up to you, Greyrawk. We have no plans to deliver you to Belderag. Wouldn't be prudent. My employer is unknown to you, but does not bear you ill will."

"Then why you? Why can't I travel without your escort?"

"Because if you were invited to come to Gornst alone, Belderag's men would insist you be his guest and my employer would not have the privilege of speaking with you. And there are not many who can deny Belderag what he wants. The road south is watched and the road to Gornst is not safe for you to travel. They will be waiting for you. Once you are in Belderag's hands no one would see you again. The dungeons are quite dark and damp."

"Fairly spoken, Brandalay. You are more courteous than I would expect from a swordsman. Are you a lord?"

Brandalay winced, and then smiled.

"Once. Let it go at that. Are you ready to ride?"

"Just a moment or two to secure my belongings."

Greyrawk mounted and led the men back to the road. Brandalay rode alongside him. They rode in silence for some time. Greyrawk soaked in the view of the land.

"Tell me, Greyrawk, why did you decide to return and reclaim your land?"

"I don't know that I am reclaiming my land. My appearance seems to have starting tongues wagging. I do not know if I have the money or power to take back my family's land. Before this week, I had not considered it. I am just a mercenary turned innkeeper."

"Consider it, then," said Brandalay. "Belderag is no different than you. Despite his title, his behavior is as mercenary as anyone."

Greyrawk watched the man next to him, but Brandalay said no more. The road swept down from the hills and followed the river all the way to Gornst. They rode in silence for several miles.

"Brandalay, I cannot help but notice your men staring at me. I never thought I was too odd looking. Or are they in awe of a mighty Greyrawk."

"They wonder how good you are with that sword."

"I can show them, if you don't mind."

"Actually, I do. While I am hired to bring you to Gornst, I hired these men to help me and I guaranteed their wages. So I am obligated to pay each in full even if they do not make it home safely. I would ask you not to sate your blade on their curiosity."

"If you insist, but I do like to stay sharp," smiled Greyrawk. "I have much experience as a hired sword and I fought in the war with Mordyn a few years back."

"So modest. I heard of a Greyrawk who led a ranger company behind enemy lines and captured the Mordyn High Priest and his personal guard. Could that have been you?"

"Stories grow in the telling, but yes, I was involved in that exercise."

"If time permits in Gornst, I will cross blades with you as a courtesy to you as a guest."

"I look forward to it."

The sun still shone when they reached the outskirts of Gornst.

The city wall did not protect the outlying homes. A few dozen houses had been built close to the wall, but outside it for the city was crowded within the walls. Roofs of houses popped up in every direction, with the church steeple rising above them. The Castle Belderag overlooked the city of Gornst and the castle's walls rose twenty feet, closed to the city by an iron gate wrought by the dwarves of Grashka a century earlier.

Greyrawk's escort rode silently through the outer houses and Brandalay was waved through the city gate. Almost immediately, the stench of the city rose like a wave and Greyrawk gripped the reins tightly to remain in the saddle.

"I had forgotten the appeal of city life."

"Never leaves you entirely." Brandalay grinned. "I like to say it's the aroma of Belderag."

They rode deep into the merchant section of Gornst at the furthest point from Castle Belderag. It was poorly lighted but no one could be seen.

"Belderag's guards don't bother with the merchant section; they've been well paid."

"What about thieves?"

"The Thieves Guild and the Merchant Guild have an understanding. One that focuses on coin, I assume. There are no thefts in the merchant district. Quite safe. That is why you were to be brought here. It's quiet this time of day as most people are at the market near the castle. In the afternoon the merchants do most of their business."

They rode into a courtyard and the gates were closed behind them. Their horses were led to the stables. Brandalay led Greyrawk into the main building where several groups of people spoke together. They walked toward a woman in the center of the room.

The woman turned toward him and he noticed several things at once. One, she was missing her right arm at the shoulder, two, her right blind was blind, three, she was as muscular a woman he had ever seen and her red hair flamed in the light.

"Greyrawk, this is Arenna Aduk. She commissioned me to escort you here."

"Thank you, Brandalay. You may break your fast in the kitchen. I wish to speak to Lord Greyrawk alone." She took his arm and walked to the far side of the room.

"How was your journey? I trust Brandalay was courteous?"

"Yes, very. It was plain I was to come with him, but he made it feel as if I had a choice in the matter. What can I do for you, Lady Aduk?"

"Lord Greyrawk, I am surprised you have returned to this land. But since you have I wish to ask you to help me end the reign of Dacu Belderag."

"So I surmise. What can I do? I have no army, I am just one man."

"No one ever told me I was just one woman. I have accomplished much despite my obvious handicaps. I lost my arm and eye when I ran afoul of Dacu Belderag. I was just eight years old, but the anger has never left me. I mean to have my revenge. He shall be crushed, body, soul and treasury." Her voice grew with excitement.

"Will you join me, Ian Greyrawk?" She turned toward him, both the green eye and the white.

"What would you have me do?"

"I would ask you to be bait for Belderag. I would ask you to lure him out to battle, either in the lists or on the field; I do not care. Once he knows you have returned he will search for you. He would not resist it. He spoke of nothing but your family and his victory over your grandfather to me since I was a child."

"Child? Why would he speak of such things to a child? And why you?"

"Dacu Belderag is my father, but only by blood. He is a creature of darkness and must be vanquished back into the blackness he crawled from."

Arenna's eye flash with passion, the passion of killing and Greyrawk felt himself pull back from her madness.

"We shall see my father tonight at a feast he is giving for all the Lords of the nearby land holds. He will not be able to do anything openly, he does not have the full support of the other Lords to be so obvious, especially at an event where he has guaranteed the safety of the guests, but his mind will churn. In two days, you will leave here, riding toward Greyrawk Mountain. He will try to capture you. When his Men do not return, he will ride after you himself. Separated from his soldiers, we shall have him."

She turned from him, walking quickly across the room.

"Talla! Clean up our guest! He's coming to the feast with me."

Greyrawk looked up to the balcony where Brandalay toasted him with a mug of ale, then shrugged his shoulders. Greyrawk felt the old hands of Talla pull him in the other direction. He could no longer remember why he felt he had to return to the north.

Chapter 4

 

Every child grew up on tales of the Talos Company, a band of mercenaries led by immortal beings performing heroic deeds through the history of Landermass. They traveled to every continent; Anavar, Amloth, Cathar, Kolstaar, Ryammar and the Isle of Cothos. The Captains of the company were always of a long-lived race and the foot soldiers were of all races. Founded by Altair Talos and his brother Gorm this elite group never failed at their tasks. Adults listened to the tales with their children and reclaimed their own youth. The names of Taina Talos, Moria Albalen, Loric Greyrawk, Blackthorne, Hobart Hufflen and Elberra Turan rolled off the children's tongues for generations. But the name revered above all others was Kerreth Veralier, the giant leader of the Talos Company as large as a bear with tusks jutting up from his lower lips; the dual swords cutting a swath through his opponents. Ah, the tales of youth. Why did I never suspect that the tales were true before Kerreth laid his huge hand on my shoulder and turned me so slowly to look into his face?

From Gerrand's Histories of Landermass.

 

 

"Tell me again, Loric," asked Moria Albalen. "Why do we have to go north? I like it here in Anethe. It's fun being the odd people with all these blue skinned winged Anetheans around. Besides, I don't think Elberra is ready to leave yet. She'd been away from home for so long. I don't think she has said hello to everyone. We can't ask her to leave already."

"I recognize that and I would not hasten our departure, least of all Elberra's, but I sense trouble in my homeland," said Loric Greyrawk. "I would go on my own, but I fear the situation will need the Talos Company. It is bigger than I can handle alone."

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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