Read Greyrawk (Book 2) Online

Authors: Jim Greenfield

Greyrawk (Book 2) (6 page)

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
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"Can't handle it yourself? That's not you, Loric. Have you been drinking more than usual?" asked Hobart Hufflen. The little Tuor held a mug of ale tightly and his upper lip showed the foam from his last slurp.

"No, well maybe, but that's not the point."

"What is the point?" asked Kerreth Veralier, the leader of the Talos Company. Kerreth stood six and a half feet tall with large pale blue eyes. While not appearing fit the heavily muscled man was quite strong and agile and favored two identical swords; identical except for a blue gem in the hilt of his right one and a red gem in the hilt of the left one. His love of ale contributed to his soft mid-section and a wider girth than he needed. The chiseled looks of Loric Greyrawk were not Kerreth Veralier's, but he was content in who he was. His father was said to be half Men, but his mother had been all Zidar, one of the oldest but long dead races on Landermass. His shaggy brown hair and blue eyes would allow him to fit into most Men communities without notice if not for his huge size and ferocious appearance. His thick mustache was braided into two strands twisted into his beard and he favored a helmet with horns of some forgotten creature. The beast's head was carved just above the brim of the helmet adding menace to Kerreth's countenance where no extra was necessary. But the most striking part of his appearance was the two short tusks pushing out from his lower lip, a legacy of his heritage.

Moria Albalen's father had also been Men, but her mother was a Daerlan, Taina Talos, daughter of Altair Talos, the founder of the Talos Company. Moria's feline features were framed by short brown hair. Her skin was a lighter olive than most Daerlan and she smiled more than her mother's kindred.

"We need to go to Castle Greyrawk," said Loric. "I feel an awakening is going to happen soon."

"An awakening?" asked Moria. "What is that?"

"The Celaeri are trying to return to this world," said Loric. "Centuries ago they were defeated by armies of Men and faded into a shadow existence without further interaction in our world. If they return they will try to conquer Amloth again. We mustn't let it happen."

"Aren't you part Celaeri?" asked Hobart. "Are you sure you don't want them to return? Did you do something you regret now?"

"Hobart! No, think a little deeper for once. I am only part Celaeri, not even good enough to be included in their councils. Better than Men, but not as good as Celaeri."

"So let them return," said Hobart. "Where's the harm?"

"Yes, but you don't understand about the Celaeri."

"I think you had better explain the Celaeri to us," said Kerreth. "Keep in mind that if we decide to go, there are only six of us here, the others cannot reunite with us for many months. Taina is leading a mission to south Wierland. They may already be there by now."

"I know, but I must do something. The Celaeri ruled the eastern part of Amloth for countless years. When Men crossed the sea and began to make their homes in Cresida, the Celaeri enslaved them. When the kingdoms of Anavar were strong enough they defeated the Celaeri and liberated the slaves. The Celaeri moved northward, abandoning their ancestral homes. As centuries passed Men recalled the Celaeri as faerie creatures with enchanted music, but little else. The Celaeri are bound to their ancestral homes and if they spend too much time away they begin to change into shadowy creatures."

"Shadowy creatures? What do you mean by that?" asked Kerreth.

"I've never seen it myself, but I heard the Celaeri elders speak of the 'Shadowed Ones' in hushed voices and when they saw me, they fell silent. I did notice that the population seemed to be shrinking over the years and there seemed to be plenty of young ones around to keep the population growing. No one spoke of it, as if the Celaeri that vanished never existed."

"And that's all you know? How can we help if we do not know what there is to do?"

"I know. It something I feel in my stomach, a foreboding. It's worse than the knot I felt in my gut twenty years ago when Aryar Greyrawk died. Celaeri blood connects us all. My hands shake and I'm afraid to sleep lest the Shadowed Ones come in my sleep."

Kerreth shook his head. "I know you haven't been drinking that much. Let me discuss it with Elberra. We will need all six of us. Your words do not comfort me, Loric."

"The Celaeri may have withdrawn as Men spread over the land," said Loric. "But the Celaeri are not a peaceful people. War raged throughout their history, both civil war and wars against other races. They are a patient people but they will not be merciful to their enemies. More than one race had been reduced to near extinction by the armies of the Celaeri. They will be a mighty people again. The cost may be the blood of Cresidians. Once they are established it will take a mighty force to defeat them."

"Can we send messages to the king of that region?" asked Kerreth.

"King Haldane of Cresida lives in the city of Andara at the southernmost port of Amloth. He seldom troubles with the northern nobility leaving them to settle quarrels themselves. He will not be concerned with the Celaeri until they are on his doorstep or they harm the trade of Andara and its wealth. Then it will be too late. The armies of Men will not stop the Celaeri this time even if all the kingdoms of Anavar and Amloth band together. You must understand the danger, Kerreth. Can you call all the Zidar to join us? Or Anetheans? Daerlans? Turucks? The Celaeri will be content in Cresida for a while, but I fear they will take measures to make sure they are not pushed aside again."

"Who in Cresida can help us? We will need more than the six of us if the Celaeri return in numbers. We may not prove to be more effective than if you go alone."

"Anyone of Talos Company would be of tremendous help to me. We can organize the defense of the Cresida cities. The most powerful northern noble is Dacu Belderag, a man of some repute as a warrior and leader, but little renown for a magnanimous spirit."

"Well, we should start with him," said Kerreth. "Where's Dvorak?"

"He's over at the Great Elk Inn," said Hobart. "Fresh stew today."

"You're not keeping him company?"

"No. The Anethean stew is much too hot. The roots they toss in make my mouth tingle and my stomach grumble. Dvorak is welcome to it; little bothers his stomach."

"Go and fetch him, Hobart," said Kerreth. "I will find Elberra. We will meet in one hour to discuss Loric's quest."

"It's not a quest, really. More a preventative measure, than a search. I really don't want to find the Celaeri that would be too much work."

"We expected no less from you," said Moria sweetly.

 

An hour later they occupied Kerreth's room. Dvorak Annis slumped in a chair, his latest feast inducing him to slumber. Elberra Turan was clearly distressed. The Anethean paced the room, her wings snapping in her anxiety. She glared down at Loric who smiled back. Elberra snarled and bared her pointed teeth.

"I do not wish to cause you distress, Elberra," said Loric. "But I must go and I need everyone who is willing."

"Yes! Willing!" said Elberra. "If I do not go I am not supportive of the Talos Company. I am singled out for being selfish."

"Not at all," said Kerreth. "If you do not wish to go, that is your decision. We will be stronger with you than without you, but you are not forced to go."

"And if someone is killed, it will be my fault for weakening the company. Can no one else join us - Blackthorne? Taina? Darkin Root? Navir?"

"No. The rest are too far away. I don't expect Taina to join us for months yet. I have no word from Blackthorne. Only the gods know where Navir is. Our only other help is him." Kerreth jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the spectral shape of Prince James of Eslenda.

"He's of no use. Hasn't even spoken to us yet. Why do we have a ghost following us around? He's the reason why my kin won't come here to meet you."

"Give him time," said Kerreth. "He seems more interested in what we are doing lately."

"Will he be interested in watching us die?" asked Hobart. "Maybe he'll talk to us if we're ghosts too."

"We aren't going to die," said Kerreth.

"Kerreth, you do not appreciate the danger of the Celaeri yet," said Loric. "This may be our last adventure. A full blood Celaeri is faster and stronger than any other race, even Zidar. They are difficult to defeat singly. With an army they would be unstoppable. They may appear slender like a Daerlan and fair featured, but some are black inside. There is no way to anticipate their planning."

"You make it sound like there is no use in going to Cresida," said Moria. "We will die and that is that."

"Could be," said Loric. "But I must go. My blood compels me."

"Kerreth? You are the boss," said Hobart.

Kerreth nodded, still in thought.

"We go to Cresida. Buy supplies and be ready in two days. I'm sorry Elberra, but I want you to come with us."

"Some choice."

"I'm not giving you a choice. We need you with us. We will return to Anethe once this task is complete."

"What is the task?" asked Moria. "I was never quite sure. Loric was less coherent than usual."

"I heard that!"

"Yes, well, here's what I got from his words," said Kerreth. "The Celaeri are trying to return to our world and reclaim their old lands. They are fierce fighters and the Men of Cresida are in peril. I remember the Celaeri and their king Jerue Adan. I had some dealings with him early in his reign but in the later years I grew out of touch. I kept mostly to Anavar in those days."

"And we need to stop the Celaeri from coming," said Loric. "Once they arrive in force, it will be bloody."

"Where are they coming from?" asked Dvorak Annis. "I was never clear on that part."

"The shadow world."

"Oh, of course. Obvious."

"Do not mock me, Dvorak!"

"Please Loric. You display yourself as a joke most of the time. How else should I treat you?"

"Enough, both of you," said Kerreth. "The Celaeri are coming from another world to our own and I assume there are only a few places they can cross, is that right, Loric?"

"Correct. I do not know exactly where those places are, but I should be able to sense crossing sites once I am closer to them."

"How do you know that?" asked Moria.

"I've been to Cresida, my dear. I do have Celaeri blood. These crossing portals will be attuned to Celaeri so I should get some sensation when I am close to one. I already have felt tremors which must be the first Celaeri crossing over."

Elberra walked to the window and gazed upon her people.

"I once vowed never to return while the Sorcerer Nagthagora ruled here. Now I can finally come home and you want me to leave."

"But you are leaving by choice this time," said Kerreth. "You are not forced to leave this land."

Elberra sighed and turned to Kerreth, either smiling or grimacing, it was often difficult to tell with Anetheans.

"Small distinction, but it will work for me. For now anyway. Let's get packing."

 

They set off on a bright morning with their three pack mules loaded with supplies. Kerreth rode in front with Moria. Hobart rode with the mules, Elberra and Dvorak just behind him and Loric brought up the rear. Two of Elberra's sisters watched them depart but no other Anethean was in sight as they followed the road out of the hills to the rolling plains leading northward to the edge of Anavar. There the distance between Anavar and Amloth was the shortest and usually the sea crossing to the city of Andara took but a day.

Kerreth led them on a leisurely pace, steady but not straining the horses. Loric sighed loudly and rode ahead to scout. Elberra took many opportunities to glance behind her at the land she was leaving yet again.

"Kerreth is the danger as great as Loric indicates?" asked Moria.

"He does exaggerate it is true, yet something in his voice this time, tells me he is speaking what he believes to be true. That may be a slight difference, but he would not push us to this course without cause. He has Celaeri blood, perhaps he is responding to instinct more than reason. Perhaps he can feel the Celaeri breaking their bonds. It could be that he cannot fully articulate what he senses. In any case, we shall have a nice journey to Cresida. If Loric's fears are false, we merely return to Anethe."

"You make it sound so normal and calm. I cannot yet read you as well as my mother can, so I will have to believe your words."

"Did Taina ever give you reason to think my words were false."

"Kerreth, I love you and would never say anything against you."

"That is news. You told Blackthorne that I snore."

"You do. Besides, I think he knew. I think everyone is aware of your snoring, even people you haven't met yet."

"Hey!"

"At least it keeps the bandits from our camp."

"Moria, if I have to take you over my knee…"

"Don't make promises you can't keep, dear Kerreth."

Behind them, Dvorak was grumbling.

"I do not enjoy riding. Why can't we use a wagon?"

"Besides the obvious?" asked Elberra. "Is your backside so soft you cannot endure your saddle? Dvorak, every year that passes you gain more weight and less patience. You must endure this journey in silence."

"Why must I? It's my right to complain."

"Complain so I do not hear it or see it. I am not happy at leaving my home, but you will not make it worse for me."

"Oh, it's all about you now."

"Best remember that, fat man."

"Oh, I will. Especially if you are wounded and need my care."

"Come along!" shouted Kerreth. "You are falling behind. I mean to reach the port in two days."

"Look to yourself, Dvorak Annis," said Hobart. "Bad luck to have an Anethean angry with you."

"I'm lucky to have any kind of luck, bad or good," said Dvorak.

An arrow thudded into Dvorak's shoulder. He moaned and slumped over his saddle. "Ohh, there's my luck again."

"Kerreth! We are under attack!" yelled Hobart.

Arrows flew from both sides of the road. Kerreth charged into the brush on the left and Elberra shouted and attacked the right. Kerreth's horse trampled two archers and two more fled toward Moria. Moria drove her sword into the stomach of one and the other tried to push past her but Kerreth was upon him, jumping from his horse to drive the man into the dirt. The man moaned and lay still. The attack was over in seconds.

BOOK: Greyrawk (Book 2)
12.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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