Authors: Gary Alan Wassner
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #epic
GemQuest Book Two
Gary Alan Wassner
In this second volume of the GemQuest series, the battle lines have been drawn. The Dark Lord reaches beyond his realms in search of the heir, and the disparate nations of the world begin to recognize the magnitude of his evil. They rise up united and renew their bonds. From the dazzling ice kingdom of Eleutheria to the magnificent tree-top city of Seramour, revived allies succor and protect the Twins during the preparation for their all-important quest for the Gem of Eternity. But first Davmiran must be awoken from his spell of slumber. Colton dar Agonthea, nemesis of life, thwarted previously in the city of Pardatha, is determined to capture or kill the heir before he is revived, thus putting an end to the prophecy and preventing him once and for all from fulfilling his destiny.
“Many authors fall short with their sequels, but Wassner keeps the story going, bringing new elements into the mix.”
--Dag Rambraut, owner of ssfworld.com
“A grand and spectacular narrative of wizardry, dark magic and sentient trees!”
--Neil Cladingboel, author of the Erebus Equilibrium series and Flashbytes
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2001, 2007 by Gary Wassner
Published by E-Reads. All rights reserved.
I have to thank Judy Kronish first for her continued support. Second, I have to thank her for creating the glossary and constantly updating it as I create new characters. Finally, I want to thank her for never being afraid to be the first to read the chapters as they come off my laptop, for her enthusiasm, for her advice and for her genuine concern for my story.
Thanks go to thank Robert Sammelin for his amazing cover art.
Thanks must also go to Joni M. for inspiring me many, many years ago to be “more than a name on a door” Rickie, Ellis, Ron, Leonard, Eddie, Lucinda, Patty, Beth, Laura, Tim, Friedrich and Christopher.
I love you. I always will.
The shrouded figure huddled stone-faced against the scarred granite of the deserted building and gazed down the broad, ravaged avenue. Violent winds howled through the alleyways and streets, raising spirals of dust and debris that assumed brief lives of their own before they dissipated and toppled vapidly onto the growing piles of the disfigured and discarded remnants of this once proud city. The air was thick with the powder of disintegration. Steam rose in billowing clouds from the stones that paved the mighty roadways and it sizzled and hissed as it clogged the heavy breeze with its humid mass and pungent smell. The stench of death was in the air, and the hounds of Sedahar were not far behind.
Huge cracks and crevices ruptured the meticulous stonework of the avenues and emitted a caustic and almost liquid flow which covered everything it touched with a clinging, deciduous slime. Terrifying crashes shattered the melodious calm of the heat’s devastatingly silent decimation, signaling another collapse of a once grand and noble edifice. The charred and withered remains of what was at one time lush vegetation littered the sidewalks, entangled amidst the abandoned carts, wagons and other symbols of the civilization that thrived here. Piles of clothing and relinquished personal belongings, only a short while ago cherished by and meaningful to their former owners, were everywhere; a sad and poignant testimony to what erstwhile was.
Premoran tugged on the ends of his cloak and wrapped himself more tightly, a stoic expression etched upon his ancient face, as he mournfully witnessed the final death knell of his beloved Calambria.
“Come, Teetoo. It is time for us to depart. We can be of no more help here,” he said to his youthful, dark-haired companion, heavy-hearted and resigned. “The sooner we are on our way the better now.”
The almost human-looking boy partially hidden in the adjacent alcove, raised his chin sadly and his saucer-like eyes panned the evolving landscape. He stepped forward and nodded to Premoran slowly, clearly disinclined to accept his friend’s suggestion. Teetoo lifted his arm as if to point and the translucent, almost evanescent filament that ran from the bottom of his thumb to a point just above his waist, stretched and billowed slightly, filling with the blowing, acrid air. As he moved to raise his other arm, the older man admonished him quickly but gently.
“It is unsafe, Teetoo. Do not fly again until we are gone from here. Walk with me. We should depart side by side. That would be more appropriate.”
The youth frowned and dropped his arms, the flaps all but vanishing, so fine and delicate.
“You are probably right. I just wanted to look at the city once more from the heights. I desired that memory for myself,” he said, his eyes all the while scanning the skies expectantly.
“It is better that you remember Calambria as it was, not as it now is. Blessed are those who can find what good there is to preserve in that which is lost, rather than vainly seek what is no more and will never be again,” the older man frowned.
“I suppose so,” he responded, still yearning to take flight nevertheless.
Premoran motioned for the boy to join him as he stepped onto the precisely carved stones of the roadway. Teetoo was about to follow when a brilliant orb of shimmering light emerged from nowhere, streaked down the highway and burst directly upon his friend’s chest, knocking him hard to the ground. Dazed from the impact, Premoran fought to right himself and regain his footing, as Teetoo scrambled immediately to his aid. The boy bent down, lifted his friend’s head with the palm of his hand and gently leaned over him in order to look directly into his eyes. They were unusually clear and vibrant, despite the shock of the encounter, and it was apparent that he was not seriously harmed. The old man spoke softly and earnestly. It was instantly obvious that he was shaken by whatever had just transpired and that the event unequivocally weighed heavily upon his heart.
“I am the last now, Teetoo. She is gone. I have received of her what yet remains,” he spoke somberly and sadly, shrugging off the pain of the recent impact as he attempted to rise. “Calista is no more. She will be grievously missed. May the First protect us all.”
Teetoo remained silent for a moment, absorbing the heartbreaking news, as the forces whipping the city intensified suddenly. The clamor surrounding them grew louder and louder, drowning out their voices even as they attempted to shout to each other. Lightning lit up the southern sky and an oppressive blackness obscured what little sunlight struggled to illuminate the littered streets. The violent winds lifted the very foundations of the city and created a horrific and turbid uproar.
Premoran leapt to his feet, and with the grimmest of expressions etched upon his timeworn face, he stepped into the roadway. The raging gusts temporarily subsided in his immediate vicinity, whether out of fear or respect, as he silently strode across the paved avenue and headed for the shattered gates of the once mighty city and the broad avenue that stretched expansively northward. Teetoo followed closely at his side.
The space immediately encircling the two survivors remained calm and clear as if an invisible and impenetrable sphere encircled and protected them both, despite the earsplitting pandemonium that increased, concurrent with the renewal of the decimation of the city. As they drew closer and closer to their final egress, the mighty streets that they had regretfully abandoned erupted wildly, spewing forth molten lava and sizzling steam which engulfed everything in its path. The two joyless figures lumbered through the devastated entrance, departing their beloved city. As soon as their feet were clear of the gates, what remained of heroic Calambria imploded upon itself, collapsing and crumbling into the venomous jaws that opened wide to swallow it. Shooting shards of stone and debris, flames, destruction and fury signaled their final departure. The two friends walked defiantly forth and neither the Wizard nor the Weloh deigned to look backward again.
It was but one tiel and two ago when the great Lalas Acire, chose to die. For ages untold, she had watched over Calambria, and along with her Chosen Theran, insured the city’s well being. The Lalas grew upon a broad knoll south of the massive walls. Its root structure spread voluminously in all directions, solidifying the soil within which it radiated into an impenetrable barrier and thus shielding Calambria from anything and everything that sought to undermine its foundation. A river of fresh and pure water flowed beneath the splendid tree, constantly cleansed and refined by it as it passed through Acire’s mass.
Calambria occupied a place at the promontory of a narrow peninsula to the southwest of the elfin kingdom of Seramour. It was precariously near the forbidden territories of Colton dar Agonthea, but the presence of a Lalas as wondrous and prodigious as Acire provided constant reassurance to the entire populace. Theran was a noble Chosen of the tree, formidable on the battlefield yet gentle and kind when not engaged in combat. Concurrently, they assisted as Calambria grew to be the considerable power that it became.
The indigenous bedrock of the territory provided the citizens with ample material out of which they carved and constructed a magnificent metropolis. The people of Calambria were hard working and intelligent, and the cool waters that constantly flowed beneath its walls kept the normally hot southern temperatures down to a comfortable level. The city thrived for countless tiels, and was a shining example of a successful Republic. No monarch ruled therein, but instead an elected official governed. Political corruption was rarely an issue, as the prosperity of the city inured to all who lived there, generating little reason for anyone to be greedy or dishonest. The caves to the north that dotted the hillsides just above the sea’s lapping waters, were blessed with an almost endless supply of gems merely waiting to be mined. Calambria was the major supplier of precious stones to the surrounding kingdoms, and therefore the city rarely wanted for commerce, or the means with which to supply itself. Truly a Utopia, it appeared to many to be.
Premoran, the Wizard, took a special liking to this city, and he visited it as often as he could. He had a particularly close relationship with Acire and Theran both. Often, he would remain in Calambria for weeks on end, joyously participating in the good fortune of the populace.
There was barely a warning before the Lalas surrendered its soul to the earth. The people of the city had felt the pain of loss before, as another of the nearby trees had died a half-tiel earlier than Acire. Yet, no one ever expected a Lalas as great as theirs to succumb to whatever was plaguing the race. It was truly shocking the day that Acire died. The population mourned the loss so thoroughly and profoundly that it was difficult even to arise in the morning. Adults sobbed and children ceased their play. Even the animals walked around with their heads hanging down, lost and forlorn.
Premoran arrived the day after Acire departed the world. He had visited Calambria often in the past and the people always rejoiced in his company. This time though his appearance was hardly acknowledged, the people were so preoccupied with their grief. Furthermore, he brought with him a knowledge of events to come that even he was reluctant to impart to the city’s leaders. With the passing of Acire, Calambria was precariously close to disintegration itself. The great tree had kept the city safe from the lava flows which radiated outward from Sedahar, home to the Evil One, Colton dar Agonthea, the proponent of darkness, the bringer of death. Its massive root structure shielded the substrata from everything, prohibiting the undermining of the city. In the absence of the Lalas, nothing would prevent the destructive floes from destroying Calambria.
Premoran’s sad task in addition to bidding his farewell to Acire, was to advise the city’s leaders of their imminent plight. It was one of the most difficult and painful things he had ever had to do in his long lifetime. Everyone loved Calambria so, and with good reason. But, he advised them without any doubt, that the city was doomed and the sooner they began to make plans to evacuate it, the easier the transition would be.
At first, the officials looked for ways to remedy the situation. They refused to accept the cruel heart of fate and they searched in vain for ways to reinforce their underground borders. But soon enough, it became evident even to the most diehard disbelievers that the end was approaching. One morning, not long after the city council convened to discuss what options they believed they had, the main wells in the heart of the city began to emit a pungent steam. As the sun rose and the normal chores and tasks of the day commenced, the word spread quickly. All who ventured to the wells that sad morning were repulsed by what they discovered. The water was warm and cloudy, not clear and cool as before. It smelled of death, and panic quickly spread among the citizens. Shortly, everyone was up and about, gathering at the great fountains around which they formerly celebrated their good fortune.
The leaders convened with Premoran at their head. He gently reminded them of his initial warnings, understanding their disinclination to believe him at first, and bearing no ill will against any of them for it. But, as he reiterated now, it was time to begin the evacuation of Calambria.
Premoran did not know precisely how much time they had left, and in his own way, he prolonged the life of the city as long as he could. Nevertheless, he knew from the very day that Acire died, what would eventually become of this great metropolis, and he mourned according to his ways for both the city and its populace, as well as for his beloved Acire and Theran. These were tragic days indeed. He encouraged the leaders to organize the departure as soon as possible. The old man was fully aware of what would eventually become of those who remained. The city was dying and anyone or anything that stayed behind would perish with it.
The citizens of Calambria naturally resisted the acceptance of the need to abandon their homes and livelihoods. The city was ancient and it had survived so much in the past that they could hardly believe that its demise was imminent. Premoran exhorted them, along with a very cooperative council, and slowly but surely, many recognized what they had to do.
Initially, even the council believed that they could still save the city. They tried to divert the polluted waters elsewhere. They attempted to dam the flow of lava. They even endeavored to dig a channel and redirect the cool waters of the sea toward the city. That particular effort was doomed from the start, as the city was perched upon a hill above the waters and no matter what elephantine efforts the people exerted, they could not raise the water enough to accomplish what they required. Premoran allowed them their folly, knowing in his heart that the good people of Calambria needed to do whatever they could on their own before they would accept their fate.
One grey and steamy afternoon, during what had become quite frequent meetings on the part of the leaders of the republic, Premoran felt that it was in their best interests at that juncture to allow them to see what was in store for their beloved city, although it pained him terribly to have to do so. He had the council leader seal the doors of the chamber and then he removed from his cloak an ancient disk of an indiscernible nature which he placed upon the massive stone of the table. He spoke the words of power and an image of sad intensity began to form just above the disk. Within it, the city of Calambria literally sprouted. Recognizable buildings rose to great heights, while parks and fields and houses formed as if they were growing within the image.
It was at first quite beautiful to behold, and those watching were invigorated by the perfection of the vision. Shortly though, great fissures began to appear in the sides of the towers. Steam shrouded the streets and piece by piece, the buildings began to collapse into themselves. The avenue turned red with heat and the image glowed with a deathly fire. Premoran sought to spare them the worst of the process, as the circumstances were difficult enough to bear without the pain of seeing the final moments before they even occurred. But, he had to be certain that they realized the inevitable fate which would befall Calambria. He allowed them to suffer only as long as it took for true recognition to set in, and when he finally sensed their unanimous acceptance of what was to be, he allowed the image to disappear as quickly as it initially formed.