My brothers and I wrote this story when we were about ten years old. I've published it as-is.
0. The History of the Spheres
1. Green Sphere
i. The boy
v. Grey forest
c. Ice Mountains
i. The tunnel
ii. Guardians of the passage
i. The camp
i. Moving the camp
ii. Time runs out
iii. Opening the portal
2. Blue Sphere
i. Things have changed
i. Jagged mountains
c. Ancient city
1. The tour
2. Meeting the masters
3. New kid
4. Settling in
5. The eggs
1. Master Edindas
3. The eggs again
e. Portal again
i. The fanfare
ii. The farewell
iii. Opening again
iv. Crossing over
3. Green Sphere
i. Ice Mountains
ii. Grey Forest
iv. Nearing home
d. The problem with power
In the Beginning the Great One formed the Seven spheres.
Three of these spheres He made into the Living Spheres, created specially for each of the three kinds of peoples. The Blue Sphere He made wondrous and vast, and filled with secrets and beauty, surpassing those of the other spheres. Upon this sphere He placed the people of the Elves. The Green Sphere He made fertile and vigorous, and placed on it all kinds of living things and creatures, He filled it with grandeur, and life. Upon this sphere He placed the people of the Humans. The Red Sphere He created strong and hard, dangerous and full of many fell creatures, pits of stones and gems, and great veins of minerals, this sphere, above all others was filled with trials and great strength. Upon this sphere He placed the people of the Dwarves. Of each people He created male and female, and commanded them to maintain authority over their respective spheres. The Great One saw that what He had made was good.
The three peoples grew in wisdom and knowledge, and love for the Great one. They discovered that there were other spheres besides their own, and sought to reach them. The dwarves rode the great dragons across the distance between the spheres, and explored the Dead Spheres. Then they traveled to the Green Sphere, and met the Humans. The Dwarves were amazed at the abundance of the Green Sphere, and asked for some of the fruits to take back with them. The Humans desired to see the home of the Dwarves, so they went back, along with many of the fruits of the Green Sphere, to the Red Sphere. All these things pleased the Great One, as all the peoples knew His ways and followed them. This began the long commerce that would continue after the Rebellion.
The Elves observed this travel through their crafts, and sent messages with great skill to the dwarves, desiring to also share in the fellowship of the dwarves and Humans. The dwarves were greatly pleased that there was another people who could share in their praise of the Great One. Once united the three peoples shared all things in common, and marveled at the creation of the Great One. All these things pleased the Great One.
At this time, the Elves gathered together some of the best things of each of the spheres, and created a place of magnificent splendor in honor of the beauty that the Great One had placed in each of the spheres. This place they called “Bledaliakanti” and all the peoples came and marveled at the work of the Elves. However, some of the dwarves and humans decided that they would live forever in Bledaliakanti and forsake the care of their spheres. All the Dwarves and Humans joined them in this decision, to forsake the command of the Great one and enjoy only the things that the Elves had placed in Bledaliakanti. The Elves were happy for this, and although they did not forsake the care of their sphere, they did not deter the humans and dwarves from laying aside the command of the Great One. This is the Rebellion. The Great One came and spoke to all the peoples, and cursed them for forsaking the beauty of their own spheres to only admire that which the Elves had built, and He cursed the Elves for not deterring the other peoples from breaking His command. Then all the peoples were scattered from Bledaliakanti, and in time it fell into ruin, and before the end of the first age, its great splendor was ruined, and none rebuilt it.
But the peoples returned to their own spheres, and the first age began. There was much wickedness on the spheres because of the Rebellion. The Curse that was pronounced on all the Spheres because of the Rebellion struck many creatures, turning them on each other, and on the peoples. Theft, murder, death, and disease plagued all the peoples. Then some of the dwarves and elves returned to the ways of the Great One, but the humans were unrepentant. So the Grunders grew to horrible size on the Green Sphere for the first time, and ravaged the land, until the humans turned to the Great One and followed his ways. The three peoples increased in knowledge and power. The dwarves once again traveled to the other spheres, although they refused to take anyone with them, they traded their creations of machinery for food on the Green Sphere, and knowledge on the Blue Sphere. In this time, the Elves discovered the power of their mages, and began to discover the laws of magic.
Soon, however, the dwarves grew greedy, and desired to take control of the other spheres. They used the great strength of the dragons to attack the other peoples, and subjected them to slavery. The dwarves ruled all three of the spheres for forty cycles. But were overthrown by the Elves on the Blue Sphere, who built secret armies, backed by the first mages. These armies attacked the dragons, which fled the Blue Sphere and stranded their dwarven masters. At the same time, the Men on the Green Sphere enticed and won over the dwarves’ dragons by promises of lands all their own on the Green Sphere. Once the dwarves were defeated, the Men granted these lands to the dragons. The end of the Dwarves reign over the three living spheres also ended the first age.
At the beginning of the second age, the Humans discovered that a very few of them were also gifted with magic as the elves were. Soon they discovered that although they were not as versatile in their skills, the power of their mages exceeded the power of the Elven mages. Also during this time, the Human mages discovered that they could possess the bodies of animals, and after some practice, control them with their mind. Slowly developing this art, the mages found that the bodies of the peoples, elves, dwarves, and humans could not be controlled. It was not long until a crafty mage named Culianis possessed the body of a dragon, though this was a grave sin the eyes if all; for men yet considered the Kalihal, that is the great beasts, to possess spirits but dimmer than the peoples’. However, after driving out the dragon’s spirit Culianis found that a dragon’s mind is very different from a human’s mind and the dragon’s body retained its soul. This made controlling the dragon’s body extremely difficult. In the thrashing, Culianis’s human body was destroyed. And so the alien soul tormented Culianis who had not foreseen this turn. He grew twisted in heart and mind, and at length disappeared into the voids. His peers were only too thankful for him to be gone. Some advised he be hunted and killed but fear and leisure overcame all bold enterprises. Culianis was to remain in restless bondage for yet an age. Dragons sleep long and age at no set rate but are consumed inwardly in accordance with the decree of the Great One, which no one knows and no dragon has spoken of.
So it was that the dragonkind appealed to their overlords that their kindred driven from his body not be left to wander houseless. Pity for the animal overcame the Elves’ aversion towards the humans and human aversion towards the elves was overcome by shame. So the greatest mages of both races met and with their combined lore constructed a great relic of stone ingraved with symbols, which men had found to serve as passive spells although not spoken. The spirit of the dragon rested upon the monolith and the Great One made him bright.
Now it was that the dragon assumed a name, Kalen, and he grew restless and roved from his stone. Although he could not remain away long he could travel far and see the workings of the spheres. The races learned of his talent and came from many places to learn from his store of knowledge, which was vaster than any of the peoples’. Kalen at certain times of the cycle might even glimpse the workings of the future, which was denied to the housed, and revisit the past, which was reserved only in memory. So it was that the first oracle was born. In these times many of each race had strayed greatly and few men worshipped the Great One. Many heresies formed and both the dwarves and men chased idols. Kalen to some became a god although he discouraged them when he communed with the peoples. All the peoples began to lust after the power of Kalen, forgetting that it was the Grace of the Great One that made Kalen bright. All this while Culianis remained away and the wise began to forget.
Hundar bent his back to his labor as he sent the wood chips flying into the brisk morning air while the clouds gathered above contemplating another shower. The ax head slashed downwards and sent on another spray of chips. Up again it traveled and then slashed down. A few drops of rain pattered on the back of the lone solemn figure. He wished they would go away and leave his soaked clothes to dry. His mind wandered back home and left him to his work. Mother was probably cooking and father was undoubtedly on a patrol. It worried mother that his father was in the King’s army even though at the same time she took pride in it. And her fear had increased now that The Evil had come to Correx. A glancing blow shot a chunk of wood into the young boy’s leg making him cry out in pain. Pain was common these days. His mind traveled further away to the very thing that brought fear to his mother and every day could destroy his father. No one knew quiet what The Evil was. All it left was a field of death were once people had lived happily. Some thought it was the orcs marauding on the borders, but orcs would leave more of a trace of their destruction. And besides the orcs had been vanquished in the Great War and were weak. Some thought that a great orc chieftain had re-opened the Dark Portal and brought aid from one of the other spheres, but orcs would leave more of a trace of their destruction. A dragon? No, for a dragon would have made some mark of it’s coming. So the only thing left was a fear and a shadow, a ring of death was the only clue. What could this Evil be? For it only attacked towns near the eastern border. What was it 10 no 12 towns gone and several travelers missing. All this would have made little difference to Hundar’s 9-year-old mind excepted that if this Evil was not stopped he knew it would grow stronger and then… even though it was crazy, he knew he would have to confront it. And when he did, it would give no parley.
But what was this? The rain had stopped… no… it was still raining. He could clearly see that it was falling all around him, but then again it was not getting him wet! As he began to wonder about this strange occurrence the rain began to fall on him again as it had and his clothes began to dampen. It was time to go back home, for he had chopped a large pile of wood. Probably just the trees, or the wind, yet in his mind he knew that these were not the answers.
A patter of feet on the fallen leaves. A shadow racing through the forest, it’s body outlined against the evening sky. Fast as the wind, more evil than the cruelest beast. Inhuman eyes roving for prey. It slows as it comes to a pre-set destination. An insentient beast but strangely intelligent. A lone figure stands in the clearing ahead. The figure is a small boy of 9 years. The beast slows and stops as it makes an impossibly human-like gesture of satisfaction. It crouches near the ground waiting for the right moment. The small boy moves and looks in the direction of the beast, yet his young eyes do not notice the shadow hunched near the ground. The beast’s eyes widen in haunted terror as it sees the lad’s gaze come its way and its face contorts with an expression of fear and horror. Slowly it backs up and turns to flee. A shadow racing through forest in search of a less powerful prey.
“The Judgment has come! It will take us all in the night! Run! Run, I tell you! Make the journey to the Portal and flee to the other Sphere! I tell you, you must go now or it will be too late!” The cry of the beggar’s voice is drowned by uneasy laughter from the crowd. “No listen! The Judgment is coming because we have fallen from the way of light! If we had followed The One who had delivered us from the hand of the Orcs this Jugement could not enter our land.” The beggar’s pleas were met by an angry shout from a man in the crowd.
“Do you really believe the elvish tales? You must be crazy! How dare you say that some God of the elves saved us from the orcs! Why it is by our own might that the elves survive at this very moment!”
The beggar’s face deepened with anger. “ How do you think we won the Battle of the Sur? A mere 10,000 men and elves against several million orcs!”
The beggar’s reply was countered by the shout of soldier’s voice. “Ha! It was by cold steel and strong hand that we won!”
“Think what you like but I can see that you are young and can not have possibly had first hand experience of the battle. But listen to me, I was there and I can tell you that there was hardly a man in camp that doubted the truth of the elves’ belief!” The face of the old beggar’s eyes brightened with the memory of battle. “There we were. 10,000 strong with the orc host rushing down the mountains toward us. We fought hard, but great numbers were slain on both sides. Now this is the part that neither man nor elf will quickly relate. There were about 300 of us left and in a matter of minutes we would join our slain comrades. Death was in every man’s mind as he wielded his weapon. Then the elves in our company raised up a song, and as long as they sang the praise of their Lord no arrow nor blade could do us harm. 6 days we fought with no food or drink or sleep of the least kind. In those six days we slayed 3 hundred-thousand orcs and I have not a wound to show for it.”
A man called out from the crowd, “Oh we know the story, but everyone here with a clear mind can see that you and you 299 comrades made up that lunatic tale to try to make us believe the elvish beliefs.”
“No! I tell you the truth!”
The beggar was cut of as large proud figure pushed his way through the crowd to where the beggar stood. “Do you think you can scare us away with your stories, old man! We aren’t going to let a few marauding orcs on the boarders drive us from our homes!” The Man’s rebuke was met by hearty agreement from the crowd.
“Orcs! Orcs! Don’t tell me you believe the story of orcs! Do you think that a storm just HAPPENS to start right before The Judgment strikes? I know orcs and their ways. 12 years in the King’s army, I served. I have been to the place were The Judgment has struck and I can assure you this! It is no orcs who have been destroying our homes and pillaging our land!”
“If you have been in the King’s forces for so long than why do you beg on the streets? Did you drink your wages down, or did you waste them on tales from the Storyteller!”
“I have never spent a foolish coin! And yet when the King did injustice I was the only man in the whole Royal Guard to speak against it! The King took my pay and gave it to his minions. May the God of the Elves have mercy when The Judgment overcomes him and this whole corrupt nation!
“Be quiet old man! The King’s forces are gathering as we speak and will soon put an end to this work of orcs! You will see! Why even now I am planning to join their company and teach the orc scum a lesson.” With this the man gathered most of the crowd went on his way leaving the beggar alone on the cobblestone street.
Alone, that was, except a small boy. His hair was golden and a far off look was in his bright blue eyes. The boy took a few steps forward and then said in a quiet voice. “Sir, I think you’re right there is an evil coming. I know it.” And with no other explanation he turned and walked quickly down the street.
Hundar burst through the door and laid his package on the table. The smell of cooking food drifted through the house. His mother had stood near the fire stirring a large wok.
His mother looked up with a tired worried look on her face. “Did you hear any news of your father?”
Hundar hesitated. “No, but I got the things you wanted from town.”
“That is good.” His mother said weakly.
Hundar offered to help. He knew his mother was as worried as he was about his father. As he helped his mother around the house his mind began to wander as it often did. He could see the picture of the battle that the beggar had awakened in his mind. Men and elves fighting side by side. A great song was taken up on their lips. He could almost hear the cries of the orc warriors and the clash of the weapons. He wondered if what the beggar had said was true about the elvish beliefs and all about falling from the light. There had been a Great War with the orcs about 20 years before he was born, and although the orcs had been soundly defeated, the elves land on the green sphere had been destroyed. As a consequence the elves were now living in Correx. He had often heard his father talking how corruption and crime was taking power. Now his mind tired of the subject and went on to what he had been learning in his studies at the town school. He had learned the history of Men, elves, dwarves, and orcs. He learned about the ancient legends of Wizards and the making of the portals. He learned about the lands in other Spheres and their crafts and lore. He learned quickly and remembered forever. He recalled what he had learned about magic. Sometimes he wished he was a great wizard and could make fire and lightning. His thoughts were interrupted by the crack of thunder in the distance. This was nothing new to him. He often found himself thinking about something that was happening. He guessed his mind was lazy and wandered to whatever was occurring at the moment. He returned to his thoughts but did not get far.
HHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEeeeexxxxxxxxx! A horrendous shriek deafened him for a moment and the sound of rain pounded on his young ears. All the lights in the house suddenly went out. Hundar’s mother cried out in surprise, and the wind howled all around. The windows exploded in brilliant ivory light, then the thunder smote the earth as a Titan’s fist.
HHHHAAAIIIIIIIEEEeeemmmmmm! Again the horrible sound tore across the landscape, shook the house, and screamed with all its might. The sound died away into the rumble of the thunder. Hundar lit a candle and helped his mother to a chair. After a struggle with the fire he managed to get it burning again. Hundar shuddered. The Evil had struck again!
Hundar stretched as he sat up from bed. The storm had passed but the fear it had brought him had not. He looked around the small cottage from his bed on the floor. A chest was open next to his resting-place revealing Hundar’s sparse belongings. The fire had gone out during the night and a few coals glowed on the stone hearth. His mother slept on the other side of the house in a rough bed. A table sat hunched in the middle of the room, a few items spread out on its uneven surface. Hundar dressed quickly in the cold air and went outside to tend the few family animals. His mind was drawn away from the previous night and contemplated happier things. After looking to the animals he went in and tried to start the fire.
His mother awoke and smiled at him. “Thank you for looking about things, but you really should have woke me.”
Hundar set down a pile of wood near the crackling flames. “That’s alright mother, you need your rest.”
Hundar’s mother got up and pulled a curtain across the small room. After she had dressed she gave Hundar a small sack and asked him to go collect herbs and roots from the forest. The air was fresh and cold as it is after a rain. Hundar looked around at the world awakening around him. The search took him to a large clearing covered by tall grass. The grass waved slightly with the cool breeze. Something moved in the distance. Hundar’s keen eyes made out the figure of a saddled horse in the distance. He could see no man ridding it. The horse was running at a full gallop and if Hundar were closer he would have seen a wild fear in the animals eyes. Suddenly the horse seemed to collapse into the tall grass. Hundar stood shocked wondering the meaning of what he saw. The golden stalks shook violently as if the horse was being attacked. Despite the obvious danger of investigation Hundar ran forward dropping the sack. As suddenly as it had happened it stopped. Hundar came panting to the place where the horse had fallen. He reeled in horror at the sight in front of him. His father’s horse lay lifeless on the ground. Cruel claws had torn its body. Whatever or whoever had done this had fled at Hundar’s approach. Weeping, Hundar ran to tell his mother.
There was no joy in the small cottage that night. There had been rumors that the king’s vanguard had gone to the scene of the destruction shortly after the storm started…and disappeared! Hundar’s father had been part of that division. Still the horse was the only thing that had been left after an attack of the Evil. Hundar’s mother left for the King’s host to learn more of Hundar’s father.
As she tearfully kissed him goodbye she said. “I’m sorry Hundar, but you know that children are not allowed to the camp.”
“I know mother.” Hundar said stoutly. “I’ll be all right.” Hundar did not feel even close to right as his mother mounted the wagon and road off to the army camp.
Hundar walked gloomily down the streets of the small town. He tried to hide his emotions, but inside he was torn. His father had been dear to him. And he could not believe that life could be so unfair. The town was not large and he only passed a few people on the streets. His feet took whatever path was offered and he started to wonder about the beggar’s words. He had said flee to the portal, but everyone knew that the Portal had been closed for 150 cycles and no one had been found powerful enough to open it again. He must have been crazy to tell people to go to the portal. What good would that do them? They would just be chased and destroyed. A rider galloped down the street in the direction of the Town Square. There seemed to be grimness about him. After a pause Hundar ran after. A rider meant urgent news and news would take his mind from his father. The rider reined his horse, and dismounted. He produced a piece of paper, nail and hammer. He walked briskly up to the well in the middle of the Town Square. WHAM! WHAM! And then the rider was back on his horse and galloping out of town. Hundar strode up to the notice that had been posted on the frame of the town well. It read:
The elves that have lived in, under the rule of and protected by Correx have moved from their homes and are gathering south of the Yanter. The King has ordered them to return to their dwellings. The King has also decreed that all his subjects are not to leave their homes unless under dire need or otherwise permitted. All who help the elves will be punished and considered villainous traitors to their country and King.
This was news indeed! The elves rebelling against the King, under whom they had found protection? This meant a battle for sure since once an elf makes up his mind about a thing he rarely changes it. But why were the elves fleeing their homes? Hundar drew a map of Correx in his head. The elves lived near the eastern boarder and the Yanter was far west of that! In fact if he was not mistaken the elf host was gathering just west of the town. While Hundar thought the clouds were slowly piling their masses overhead and the wind had paused as to add emphasis on the doom that hung nearer with every stoke of thunder. Hundar’s mind went back to what the Beggar had been saying. Then it struck him! The beggar had not been the only one who had thought of fleeing to the portal! The whole elven nation was heading for the portal. And now the King’s Army would be positioned right between where the Evil had last struck last and the elven host. But more importantly the town was positioned between the King’s army and the Evil! Hundar located on his map where the Evil had struck. The path of destruction was making for the King’s army with no exceptions. A soft rain began to fall and terror seized Hundar’s mind. A crazy fear, the Evil would strike tonight and it would strike here. Boom! Thunder rumbled in the distance.
Running, running on and on. Hundar did not care what the Evil was but cared less to meet it. The rain was pounding down by now. Hundar ran over the cold stones that led out of the town. The path sloped gently up into a forest that bordered quiet fenced fields of wheat. Hundar had decided to head for the King’s army despite the notice that had been posted in the town. His mind froze. What about all the people living in the town? He couldn’t leave them there to die! Then Hundar remembered about how the beggar had been scorned and how the people had laughed at him. Why should they listen to him? He had no friends and they all thought him a rather odd boy. He would just waste precious time and change no one’s mind. Just as Hundar had reached the edge of the forest it happened.
Without warning the sky went pitch black. Rain came down in sheets, then HHHHHHHIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEXXXXXXxxxxxxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!!!! The horrible scream ripped over the countryside. Hundar stumbled off the path and fell into the deep grass that stood near the road. HIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!! The scream echoed back from the nearby hills. Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiememememem. Lighting tore the sky in two and the thunder laughed at the terror of those below. Hundar decided that if he were to be saved at all he would have to climb up a tree. With a little effort he hauled himself up into what he thought to be the lower branches of a tall snabroot (A gnarly trunked tree that is covered with deep teal blue leaves). Then he shut his eyes and clung to the trunk with all of his might! Sounds of destruction had pervaded throughout the darkness. There was a rushing, as if of many wings. The stench of death and burning choked the air. Hundar gasped for breath as the cries of the dying echoed throughout the hills. Lightning flashed and thunder shook the earth. Hundar could have sworn there was an earthquake sometime during that horrible night. Yells prevailed throughout the void. They were strange and unearthly like nothing that Hundar had heard before. “HHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEXXXXXXXMMMMM!!!!!” The terrible cry shook the earth itself. The stench of burning grew so strong that Hundar had to breathe through his shirt to keep from choking. There were mad cries for help but no help came, just a death that seemed to pour in from the East.
A cold breeze tinted with the smell of death awakened Hundar. He lurched, almost causing him to fall from the highest most branches of the tree in which his body slumped, at the realization of his sleep and the fate it could have brought him. The forest all around him was burnt to the ground, and yet the tree that he was in had not even been scorched! Where the town had been, stood ground works of huge proportions. A great mound of earth was heaped to make a ring around smaller mounds of earth. This ring ran not in a perfect circle but was laid out on the barren field, sloping out along the rises in the ground as if to take advantage of the strategic points. From his roost Hundar could make out shapes moving from place to place in this ring. As he strained his eyes he finally made out the form of reptilian beasts like he had never seen before. None of these beasts strayed from the fortress, but all seemed busy carrying out some unknown task. The fort seemed to be filled with the strange animals. They were not gruesome but rather sleek, intelligent, and somehow beautiful. They all stood on two legs and all had tails. Hundar wondered if these creatures where really the cause of all the death he had seen. They seemed content to go about their business, and yet there was an air of cold cruelty about them. As he watched a group of the creatures smaller and sleeker then the rest about 20 in number ran over the rampart and dash into the forest. Hundar tried to track their movements, but lost them to the overgrowth. His eyes turned back to the beast’s fort. He looked closer at the mounds of earth enclosed in the wall. They were about 10 feet tall and tunnels led down through openings in the mounds. Could these beasts live in the earth and strike from below? Could these animals be from the pits of the underworld, or were they a work of great wizardry? Anger was kindled against these creatures in Hundar’s mind for the pain they had caused him, but surely these creatures seemed harmless. Just like missed placed lizards or something of that sort. Hundar thought about climbing down but quickly dismissed the idea until he found the intentions of the creatures below him. The day was not hot and fog was pouring into the quiet valley from a low point in the hills. As the fog thickened Hundar again contemplated climbing down and fleeing, but the thought of being chased by unseen beasts in the growing fog again dismissed it from his mind. And for the rest of that dreary day Hundar sat in his tree and contemplated his fate.
The fog was still thick when Hundar woke the next morning and he could no longer see the ground due to the swirling mists at the base of the tree. He had almost convinced himself to climb down from his haven when he heard a sound that made his heart leap for joy, the sound of marching feet and the drum of hooves. The King’s army had come and soon the ridiculous lizards would be exterminated off the face of the sphere. Clearly his panicked terror of the “Evil” had not lasted long and he felt sure that the beggar had wasted his voice in foolishness. Oh, how he wished to see the battle and smell the scent of the wrath to be poured out on these stupid creatures. Suddenly the fog parted so that the valley was laid clearly out before him, yet in his mind he knew the fog had not lifted. This “knowing” was not conscious, at least not very. It was more like a quiet knowledge that was not to be questioned, mentioned, nor taken into account.
The King’s army was entering the valley from Hundar’s right side with the lizard’s barricade in front of him. Lines of men mounted and on foot marched forward in a vast display of the might of Correx and its King. The banners and waved gently in the rising breeze but strangely the fog did not disperse. The lines skirted the woods and halted at the strange sight of the mounds of earth. The army continued to flood the valley and Hundar became aware that the men would fill the clearing long before even half of them had emerged from the forest. As the lines of soldiers drew themselves into order the creatures also drew themselves behind their mounded walls of earth. It was now that he realized that there was not only one type of animal in the small colony, but at least 3 types of scaly animals working together! The most numerous type of lizard was a man height sturdy limbed creature, there was also a type that looked similar than the first but was a different color and had a long horn on the top of it’s nose. There was one more type that Hundar could distinguish which seemed stronger and taller then the other ones; this was the kind that was moving toward the battlefront.
The King’s infantry began to advance.
Hundar was astonished! The lizards were ordering themselves! The larger lizards were forming up behind the horn-nosed ones who in turn took up their places along the top of the barricade.
The men had drawn their swords, spears, and bows but were looking quite unsure as they halted to see what the animals would do next.
What did happen next astonished both the army and Hundar “watching” from his roost. For the smoldering trees began to wail, and what was left of the grass bent, as if heavy with dew. And then from one of the bigger holes there arose a titanic form! A body so great that it could hardly be an animal! At lest 20 feet tall it stood, and sparkled with the shining jewels of it’s scales! But in its eyes there was only destruction.
The men of the army gasped to see such a fearsome hill of hard scales and muscle pitted against them in this shrouded battlefield! And then, the huge creature spoke.
“I am, the judgment you have made for yourselves with your wickedness.” He proclaimed to the now quite shaken troops. “I and these creatures have been placed here to destroy. And that we will do!” His fearsome voice poured out of his body and filled the valley with a quivering terror “And King…” He signaled out the once confident ruler. “…you will pay for all of the misery you have caused this land! You and all of Correx! Yet before you seal your doom I must give you a chance even now to flee to the other spheres. Do so now or you shall reap the death that you yourselves have sown.”
There was a pause for a brief moment and then the proud ruler breathed deeply and replied. “Why should we coward before such beasts?” his voice was filled with reproach, “We will not run like pigs, but fight like men and soon you will have what you have promised us.”
Hundar could have sworn that the great beast smiled at the fool before him. Then, without any warning, great cries of slaughter rang out from the forest where the bulk of the king’s host waited. Hundar stove with his eyes to pierce the forest canopy with his gaze. He could see movements as the trembling of branches and yet the trees were still and the veiled masses below them quivered. Hundar could see patches of battle under the trees. Barking orders the king sent divisions of men rushing of into the wood. As Hundar continued to watch and listen to the muted sound of death and strife he found himself looking on at a wall of pikes.
The world was surreally quite; the world was beating with a roaring softness. The fog crept in patches across the leave-blanketed floor and the mists from the sea swirled as shades among the branches. A breastwork of men spanned the forest and was lost among the trees. Each one dressed in leather wielding a lance. Hundar’s vision turned and he saw the rush of feet and the tide of beast materialized out of the fog. And then the breastwork was gone breached through by the terrible wave.
Hundar’s mind returned to him and he saw that now the battle had spread from the wood. Hundar saw the tumult in the wood waver and the flow, slowly at first and then faster as the men routed and rushed towards the clearing. Now the battle was in earnest. The glint of steal flashed in the morning sun and the sound of thousands of swords loosed from their sheathes resounded through the air. The two waves met and sent up a crash of cries. And the lines of men and beast met as the foam and spray that fills the sky with its thunder and mist. The tide of men melted in a swirling mass of glittering steel and liquid beast. When the beasts found that their claws and teeth often failed to puncher the men’s armor they tore it off and quickly ended their victims life. The human lines seemed to melt away and soon the animals were rushing through gapes in the lines. At least two thousand knights leveled their lances and met the on-coming creatures. Hundreds of the beasts went down impaled on the iron tipped death and a cry of joy escaped Hundar’s lips. The knights strode above their foes raining down blows with a cold efficient rhythm. Yet the knights were no match for that swirl of inhumane strength. Death yells of man and beast alike pierced the clouds. The charge of the knights had, for the time, checked the Evil’s victory but soon to the dismay of the King the larger beasts swarmed out of their stronghold and tore through the mass of engaged foes. Hundar strove to find the King among the swarming mass. He caught sight of him in time to see several huge beasts drag him off his horse and raise him screaming high above the ground. A burst of flames issuing from a beast’s mouth engulfed the panic-stricken King and the animal flung the charred husk into the foaming tides of death. The slaughter had hardly begun when the sky darkened and sub-terrainial fire sprang from the ground. Dark mists and smoke filled the valley and obscured almost all sight. Confusion and chaos followed. Running wildly men fled away from the fray and the Evil let them go. It knew they could not get far. Wild fear ran like fire through Hundar’s veins. He was aware of several shapes moving below him. Peering down into the dark depths he saw a company of at least a hundred men running mindlessly trying to escape the battle. They paused beneath the tree and stood breathless, hooked swords glinting in the moon eerie light, planning their next move. Between their heavy breathing and talking over each other, Hundar picked out snatches of the conversation.
“…Too tough! The King…insane…monsters!”
“True, I struck…down myself!”
“SAY! If we could…fill our…like kings!”
“…try. Besides if we…no better off.”
The group of armed men stole away into the misty darkness. The cries and yells of the dying continued throughout the night and the very stench of burning and death almost choked the life out of Hundar's aching lungs.
Sometime during that horrible night Hundar noticed that the sound had stopped and that thousands of the creatures were rustling around him. Hundar’s heart seemed to stop. What if was discovered? Would they kill him outright or let him die slowly? Hundar closed his eyes and clamped himself onto the tree, but the expected never came. Eventually the noises grew farther off, and as they did so, so did conciseness from Hundar’s exhausted body.
The unearthly fog that had shrouded the battlefield once again hid it from Hundar’s eyes as he came to. But now, instead of wreathing all in its damp sightlessness, only the ramparts and bloodied stubble of the morning before were hidden from view. Now in the late evening Hundar could no longer see the death he had witnessed, but he could see that a large number of the creatures had moved off to his left and carefully circled the place where he had held his vigil for the past 2 days. This path continued in a straight line southward, he could only guess at its next target.
Hundar thought about this for a moment. Why had the demonic evil not gone directly under where he sat in his lonely tree? Why had they detoured from their plainly set course? Whatever the reason, Hundar would not follow them. He had seen enough death to contemplate for the rest of his life, which would be quite short, unless he got out of his comfy tree and found something to eat! Getting down proposed somewhat of a problem because even though Hundar was sure that he had not climbed more then 3 branches up the tree he now was having trouble getting down from the top limbs of the tall sinbacus(A straight trunked tree with evenly spaced branches, and broad translucent green leaves). When he finally landed on the brittle black ground he looked again at the spectacle around him and, although an adult would have been riddled with cramps from sitting in the same position for 2 and a half days, began stealing nimbly towards the nearest edge of the forest.
After the morbid passage through the small expanse of charcoal-turned trees Hundar was amazed to find that outside of the still warm devil ring there was not even a blade of grass or a fragile flower petal that was singed by the once scorching heat. After quenching his insatiable hunger with a few still green fruits Hundar decided that he too would make the great journey to The Portal, being the next most adventurous thing to following The Evil, and much less dangerous.
The week that followed was a hard one. Still staggering from the blow of losing all that he had in one day, Hundar often found himself wondering what would befall him in the months to come. Hundar’s old home had lay at the foothills of the Crunthar Mountains. Now he was traversing the sweeping expanses of the plains that lay between him and The Portal. Hundar, although never full, was also never famished because there were many farms in the area. All of which appeared to have been abandoned. Aside from this fact, Hundar’s trek was mostly uneventful which gave him time to think. What would he do when he got to the portal? Everyone knew that The Portal had been closed for over 130 cycles! How did the elves expect to get through! Was there a great and powerful mage in there midst? Did they just expect someone to show up, go POOF, and open it for them! Or was The Portal just a common meeting place that they had agreed upon for times of trouble?
If I had great powers I would destroy The Evil! He promised himself. I would fix those vile lizards so that they would never come back! His anger was turned to hate. But are they a force that you can defeat? Or are they just spirits that you can see and touch; can they even be killed? His thoughts turned to the beggar that had been in the town and had warned the people. What had happened to him? Did he escape to safety? Was he killed when The Evil had attacked? Hundar was confused yet his only hope was to find the Elvin host and travel with them to the Portal or, if he could not find them, travel alone.
Climbing a small knoll Hundar caught sight of a company of soldiers. Now imagine the joy of a mother whose only son journeyed on a voyage yet was not heard of again. For twenty years the woman waits and weeps for her sons return. Then one day while she’s at her loom her son walks in and she sees him in the threshold. That joy was Hundar’s when he saw the soldiers and as he watched them, not yet convinced he dreamed, tears sprang to his eyes. Marching at a fast pace, the troops winded their way through the grassy hills. Spears and shields slung across their backs and swords arching forward in a cruel hook. They carried the two bladed shafts that were used in the red sphere. Then the cry that had risen from the depth of his loneliness was cut off by an awful growing fear. Mercenaries, famous in times of war and infamous in times of peace, pillaging, murdering, they were a scourge. Yet, apparently, the King thought he needed such red sphere scum but in the face of such terror they were to no avail. Again he almost followed his first instinct to yell and again he pushed it away. Then something caught his eye, drawn be several, likely stolen, oxen were five iron cages. Hundar wondered what they could be for. His eyes strove over the band. They were following something. Hundar realized what it was. It was the Evil’s tracks. But the tracks told fewer numbers then the thousands he had witnessed in the battle. Now Hundar knew that the evil had split up. And what were these madmen attempting to do? Realizing, he was must be very visible against the bright morning sky, he dodged behind the hill and continued his journey, weeping and lonely.
Later that day, resting under the shade of one of the lone snabroot that dotted the fields, Hundar spotted someone emerging from the nearby thatched hut. Ducking quickly behind the tree, Hundar watched carefully as the person peeked out of the door, showing himself to be only a boy, no larger than Hundar. Assuring himself that the boy surly could not be dangerous, Hundar stepped from behind the tree and called out a friendly “Hello!” The boy, however, apparently believed that Hundar really was a ferocious mercenary because as soon as Hundar had finished his salutation the boy spun around and shouted, “Go away! You already took everything! I have nothing that you want!”
“But I don’t want anything from you. I am just a boy!”
“You are? Why yes, you are! I am so glad to see you! You have no idea how lonely it gets when...” the boy trailed off, his eyes moistening.
The boy lowered his head, “Yes.” Then Hundar lowered his head also, sorrow for the boy and for himself weighing down his high spirits at having found a companion. The two mourners stood facing each other for several minutes, the one in the shade of the tree, the other in the shade of the house, both under the shadow of grief brought by The Evil.
Finally Hundar broke the silence, “I am going to The Portal, do you want to come with me?”
“I must take care of our home, it is the last thing that my…my mother…she.” The boy broke off, and crumpled up against the side of the house, weeping in silent tears of grief to great to make any sound. An eternity passed. Time stopped. Finally the boy raised his head, “I am sorry, I cannot leave yet. I am sorry, so sorry, and tired, so, so, so…” The thought trailed off, and left the two boys with nothing more to do, but for Hundar to follow the thought over the hill, towards a dream of happier days.
Slowly the hill came to an end, and Hundar rested at it’s top surveying the land ahead. The river Napsmatm lay before him. It roared down a steep hill in a straight line and then curved, turned and ran down a valley with hills on either side. Somewhere beyond the horizon hidden by the gathering mists it would stretch out and touch the sea. A great city lay twisted and dead on the valley floor. The Evil had struck here too. Be it had headed south and he, east. Had it redirected its course or was it now striking at more than one place at a time now? The Evil was now between him and the elves. Hundar shuddered at the thought. Hundar, all alone, sighed and sat down to think.
Once Colfry had been a great industrial city. Its life springing from the fast flowing waters of the Napsmatm. He remembered when he had come to the city with his father once. It was a memory he prized for he saw little of his father. He was not a righteous man but Hundar had loved him. Fast waters indeed! Hundar thought. The water that sprung down the side of the hill traveled at an incredible rate. Although the river was not wide it was very deep and extremely cold yet it never froze. The nature of the river was in fact so peculiar it had been named one of the wonders of the Spheres. Some even clamed it had no equal.
Now Hundar was faced with choice. The sun was setting, stretching its golden fingers to gather the purple clouds back to the sea; he would have to find shelter. He did not feel at all safe staying in Colfry. The city, although clearly destroyed by the Evil, could hold stragglers, looters, and the desperate panicked minds of those who had thrown hope into the deep channels of the city’s river and possibly the hostile looking group he had seen before he entered the city. Thus although he could not go on Hundar feared to stop. He looked around himself at the darkening world. The last gray clouds were swirling away and the starry sky was ripping open the deep blue canvas whose picture was rapidly fading. Although he had slept in the open many times before, he felt that it was unsafe to do so now. He spotted a fortress crowning the top of a nearby hill and guessed it would serve as well as any other place. He ran down the shallow slope and then struggled up the steep embankment that held the fortress at the top. Panting he reached the crown of the hill. The massive steel, mortar and stone structure towered above him, its pinnacles scraping a chasm in the sky. The huge gates were flung wide open. It was left there by the soldiers’ mad rush to escape the unknown. Hundar slowly stepped into the fort. He saw that the small building inside had been set aflame. Dead bodies lay around him. He closed his eyes in the horror of the slaughter before him. Some men had been brutally hacked down and others stared up at the night sky with glassy sightless eyes, arrows piercing their bodies. It was clear that many of the people from the city had for some panic induced reason stormed the fort. All lay dead, cut down by the trained killing hands of the soldiers. He wandered about until he found some food. It seemed every door was left open or was simply torn off its hinges. He could not eat. He actually threw up everything he eaten that day. Wasn’t it enough that some crazy animals slaughter his countrymen? Did they have to massacre each other in this brutal manner? Yet as he thought upon this meaningless death, he saw that it reflected Cortex’s moral decay. The people had not thought or cared as they sought shelter from The Evil. Little did they know that the fort would offer little or no help against the enemy. It would just prolong the tortuous fear that came before death. They had just thought of their own worthless survival. Weeping with the renewed grief of loss he curled up in a dark cold corner and fell into a bottomless pit of sleep.
Phantoms and shades tormented him in the black void. He again witnessed the destruction of the town, slaughter of the army, and death of the citizens at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them. However this time he was there, he could see the men cut down before him, the screams and agonized cries of the dying. He saw The Evil again, the cold sleek skin of the ruthless killing machines. Their liquid eyes betraying their intelligence but holding no sign of feeling. The great beast rose before him, towering as a great mountain against the night sky. It laughed with the thunder in the distance at the fools who died before him. He drank his fill from the souls cast into the abyss. Putrid death, rotting flesh, screams, weeping, waking. The cold morning air chilled Hundar as he scrambled to rise from the floor. The horror of the night seemed to still lurk in the shadows around him. He, the living, would spend no more nights here among the dead. Before he left, however, he decided to gather some of the things that were left in the fort. And so he plundered the fortress of a sword (although he had no idea how to use it) a bow and arrows (with which he had the same amount of experience as with the sword) a sharp knife, some provisions (mostly dried tilnip (A small kind of fruit that, when dried, forms a tough but crispy husk around a slightly moist seed.)) and a pack to carry it all in.
As Hundar tromped heavily from the dead fortress and made for the city, he wondered how he was to cross the great Napsmatm. He had seen (or rather not seen) the remains of the bridge from the fortress and knew that he would have to find another way to cross the mind-bogglingly swift river. Wandering through the streets of the city he found the same signs of The Evil as were in the fortress. Smoldering wreckage, battered and torn bodies and scattered possessions throughout the streets. One of the buildings that had survived the wreckage was a humble abode among a street of charred and blackened houses. The house showed no signs of damage or panic that had undoubtedly filled the city at one time. On entering the house he found no bodies or scattered goods, this house among the hundreds had not even been shaken by the attack of The Evil. The house was clean and neat, most of the household things were gone, and it appeared that the owner had weathered the destruction and then calmly packed up and left! Hundar did not know what had caused such protection but he had more important things to dwell on, like eating.
He took some food from the abandoned house and walked up and down the riverside. There were no banks on the river. The side just dropped off straight down into the murky depths. He walked onward down the paved stone streets. The smell of burning still clung to the wind, reluctant to be lightly tossed away. He came to pile of stones on the side of the river. It was a bridge or what remained of it. It must have collapsed into the brown swirling waters of the Napsmatm. To his dismay every bridge he came to was destroyed. Only a few crumbled remains were left. He began to get desperate. What if there were no places to cross. Maybe he could make a makeshift bridge out of some wood. His search for wood was met with failure. Everything seemed to have been burnt. He remembered the undamaged house. Hundar ran back through the desolate town to where he thought the house was. But it wasn’t there! He ran back to the bridge trying to remember were it was. He then retraced his steps, but it was no use. He was lost. He sat down on the ground and wept with despair. He was lost, no food, no friend, family, everything gone! A soft breeze played gently with his yellow hair. Something spoke within himself, “Hundar, get up Hundar. People need you. Get up.”
“Why?” He screamed in anger, “I’m just, just nobody.” He was surprised with himself. It was stupid to scream at his own thoughts. Yet were they really his? He slowly rose from the ground and wiped his eyes. Slowly trudging through the streets he continued until the charred remains there had been buildings became less abundant. He glanced up. The bright afternoon air warmed him. He suddenly realized that he was starving. He took out some tilnip and munched on it glumly. Then he saw the fortress off on the hill in the distance. He scrambled to his feet and set off in its direction. Perhaps he could find something to make a bridge with in the fort. Hundar made his way though the suburbs and into the countryside. He jumped scorched fences or simply kicked them so that they crumbled. Hundar trotted over the parched fields. It was late after noon when he came to the hill. He clambered up the steep burnt hill until he made it to the top. He entered the grinning gates. A happy gathering of carrion birds had assembled. They quickly dispersed at Hundar’s arrival. To his severe disappointment all the wood in the building was burnt. The only reason the building was standing was because it didn’t include wood in its supporting structure. He looked again over the dead city. He squinted his eyes and scanned the metropolitan below. Then he saw it, a small white speck among the charred buildings. The un-burnt house! Hundar Ran down the hill, slipped, and tumbled downwards. His head struck a stone and he was finally thrown on the ground in a senseless heap.
It was evening when he awoke and the sun had set the sky aflame in solemn remembrance of the cities burning. He head ached badly but other than that he was uninjured. Trying to remember where the house was he stumbled through the morbid town until he found it. Almost yelling with joy he ran to the house and flung open the door. At last a place where he could rest. It was too late to build a bridge. Hundar ate and then curled up on the floor and went to sleep.
He had a strange dream that night. He dreamed that he was walking through the deathly city. As he wandered the city slowly came back to life. People walked about it. The buildings were renewed and everything was set in place. Hundar saw the evil of the people who lived there, the immorality the wickedness. Hundar saw killing, saw theft, saw unspeakable evil that made him shudder and scream for a stop. The sky went black again. The Evil struck as he had seen it do before and the city burnt and smoldered. As he passed through the once again desolate city he eventually came to a river and he paused, staring into its deep running depths. Depths that had always been there, always would be, always flowed, bringing life, carrying the dead away on their pyres, eternal, powerful, and to look upon it was a solace from the world. Whispering, the wind, although carrying the swirling ashes of the fire, brought a sweet smell, the smell of relief and peace and justice. Then a voice spoke, “Hundar.” It urged softly. “Hundar, now do you see why this must be? But it is not over. I bring life after death. But people need you. They need you, Hundar. I will hold you. Hundar watched his body slowly raise its leg and set it on the rushing water. It then took another step yet it did not sink. And another, and another, and another… The dream ended and Hundar awoke.
Hundar stretched and sat up. He jumped up and scrambled to find his weapons. He found them in a nearby bush. When he awoke he had been sleeping in a field. Nowhere near the city. Was it all just a bad dream? His sooty hands and torn clothes told him the answer. He looked out and saw Colfry in the distance. Across the river. The fortress was a speck on a hill behind it. He was at a loss to how he had crossed the Napsmatm. Then he remembered his dream. He remembered the voice but it was only a shade. Had he walked in his sleep? But he would have had to walk on water to cross it. Hundar wondered. Plucking up a small plant he held it in his hand and closed his eyes. “Fire!” he shouted, “FIRE!” Nothing happened. “Dotolb.” (A mild swear word. Roughly translated it is ‘darn it’ or ‘shucks.’) Hundar quickly gathered up his belongings and set off towards the portal. Just over the next rise Hundar could hear the sound of voices coming from a deep streambed.
After Hundar had crawled to the edge of a narrow tributary overhung with trees. He peeked through the grass to behold a heart wrenching sight. Around 20 men women and children were huddled against the oncoming cold. A makeshift camp of old blankets and worn out sails looked as if a light wind could swirl it away. There was no fire. The lack of food and clothing was immediately apparent, and the inhabitants of the refuge camp themselves appeared to be made of paper.
Joy gripped his heart and he ran stumbling down the hill, speechless with joy.
As he reached the bottom of the steep slope one of the men who was acting as a lookout spotted him. “Hey! You there! We won’t do you any harm. Though I doubt that we’ll be able to do any good either.” He raised his voice over the rising wind.
To happy to speak and still unsure of if he was dreaming Hundar ran into the small fluttering camp. The sturdiness of the camp’s construction was revealed in the fact that there were still tents on the ground instead of in the air, for there was now a huge volume of air being channeled into the ravine and blasted at the seemingly frail structures with incalculable force.
Hundar was bustled by the lookout into his tent and given a threadbare blanket to wrap around himself. Inside the tent Hundar was protected from most of the wind, and as the cold slowly receded from his body Hundar examined his benefactors lodge curiously. Several packs lay on the ground. The single candle’s light glittered off the naked blades of two long swords, nearby stood a great spear. As he looked his gaze fell upon the watchman who had first spotted him. There, sitting huddled in no more comfort then himself, his graying hair flung about his head like a ship on the great waves, sat the beggar. Hundar gasped from this unexpected surprise. The beggar, who had been watching him, wondered at his startling and understood as the mist withdrew from his memory, “Ah, now I remember you. You were the only one of all those fools… nay, poor fools, but you believed my words. You have been saved by your faith, if nothing else.” The beggar’s voice was horse from shouting over the wind, yet beneath the dry cracked surface, the words spoke of love and joy, immeasurably deep.
Hundar still felt as if in a dream. Wishing that the wind would stop, Hundar found himself listening to a serene stillness, and shook his head, wondering for his sanity.
“Ha, our friend the wind has decided to be merciful to us.” The beggar spoke again his face tense with inquiry. His voice was rich with the remnant of honor and the memory of valor, “But were you the only one that survived? Did no one else take heed of my never heeded warning?”
All the terror of his flight welled up inside of Hundar, all the moments of despair, and his hopeless contemplations that he had dwelled on during his journey now returned to him, “Yes, it is as you say. They all,” Hundar broke off and then continued, “they all died.” He thought again of his family and his home, all that he had lost. Sadness welled up inside of him again and he flung himself, unexpectedly, into the man’s lap. Great sobs shook him as he released his despair into the loving arms of the man that he hardly knew.
The beggar paused with remorse and replied, “I do not know how many more tidings of death my ears can bear to listen to. Death is never welcome but alas, never evil.”
Hundar’s eyes misted with unbelief, “Never evil? Never Evil? How can you say such? My father deserved no such death nor my mother….” Hundar cut off, his voice quivering, as tears welled up in his eyes.
The beggar placed his hand on the tearful boy’s shoulder, “Now listen lad, I know your pain.” The man’s face was brimming over also.
Hundar cut him off, “Feel my pain? No one can feel that which I feel now!” Suddenly he felt ashamed. Did he really think that? No, others had lost as much or more. Hundar looked up into the beggar’s eyes. The dark spheres were well set into the beggar’s face and were full of understanding. Hundar apologized, “I’m sorry, I’ve been foolish.” He then asked, “ What have you lost?”
The beggar sat back and smiled weakly, “Much, very much. Friends and what little family I had. But that is passed; we must rise to meet every challenge as steel meets steel on the fields of war. Stroke for stroke and strength for hardship. I know that you have felt much pain and even now it dwells in your heart, but if we wallow in our feelings and let our emotions take reign we will destroy ourselves, for mans’ feelings, unreigned, are thoughtless and blind.” The beggar continued slowly, “When I said death was not evil I spoke truly. Death is only awakening to what we cannot see, the spirit world. The Great One of the elves will judge each soul justly and every deed will be accounted for.” Hundar had heard only very little of the Great One. He wiped his eyes and listened with interest. “It seems you do not understand this great judgment that men call the Evil. They are wrong in their naming. It is the long waited for and much dreaded Judgment that was prophesied of many cycles ago. It will free men of their bodies to be judged. This proud nation did not take heed of that great prophecy of doom nor the signs of its coming. The mages concealed their fear and all common signs of death were ignored. Men could not and would not believe that anything would happen to destroy their prosperity.
“But they were fools and did not see that their evil would be their end. They were blind to the sky’s message and did not head the rising numbers and size of the feared Grunders, those very animals that accompany every judgment a sphere has known. The common people did not head the elven prophets that came among them and their end came and is coming even as we speak.” Hundar shuddered and watched as the beggar stared off into some long passed time when there was spoken the prophecy that had spelled out the doom set for the sphere long before the wicked generation would arise to receive it. His voice came slowly, softly and clearly, “The peoples wickedness shall surpass that of every sphere and their doom shall be seven fold that of their evil. Their judgment shall be called the Evil and all will flee before it. One will be chosen to end it but will fail and ten will overthrow it.”
As Hundar pondered the beggar’s words a cloaked figure stepped in to the tent shielding its face with its cloak. Hundar saw that it was an old, kindly faced woman carrying two bowls of steaming stew.
The beggar greeted her, “Ah, Mentha, come in.”
The woman placed the bowls on the earth before them, “I brought something to fill your stomachs.” She turned to Hundar, “How are you? I imagine you have had a rough journey.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.” Hundar replied, “Thank very much.”
“You could hardly expect less.” After briefly talking to the beggar she again wrapped herself in her cloak and stepped out into the darkening world.
The beggar thoughtfully sipped his stew and at length spoke, “Come now, I’ve been a fool for not think’n of it before. I haven’t even learned you name.”
“My name is Hundar. But surely if you’ve been a fool so have I. What is yours?”
The beggar leaned back on a pile of bags, “My name, I always thought that one should be named after their personality. I was named Lindon by my parents or in the elvish language ‘The Wolf’, but I later earned my name fighting for the king’s army and my name was extended to Lyn Lindon by the elves I fought with. It means ‘The White or Mighty Wolf’. I have tried to give it honor in return for the honor it gave me.” Lindon paused and then muttered softly to himself, “Hundar, ‘The promised’…”
Hundar caught Lindon’s words. The promised, what did that mean? When Hundar saw that Lindon was deep in thought he decided to not inquire of the meaning. But a question still nagged him so he gave into his curiosity, “Lindon, why were you camped in the river bed where the wind was strongest?”
Awaking from the depths of his thoughts Lindon replied mildly, “Grunders. Their keen noses are confused by all the smell such a blast of air carries. But the wind stopped.... I will have to post sentries. It will be a long night” Then the wind shook the tent and howled once again. Lyn Lindon laughed and eyed Hundar, muttering under his breath, “A mage then...” But Hundar was too far gone into sweet sleep to hear. Faintly aware, Hundar watched as from as distance as, coming in again, Mentha scooped up Hundar, surprisingly strong for her apparent build, and carried him through the wind to a tent where a cluster of children slept among their watchful parents.
From experience past Lindon drew counsel and suddenly rising, his large frame threatening to knock over the frail structure, he stepped out the door. The wind kicked up a blizzard of leaves and twigs as Lindon struggled against its current towards the largest tent. He leaned as he entered and was greeted by several voices.
"Ah, the Wolf is back!" cried one.
"Yes, Kall, I am and with grave good news."
"Well, don't stand there! Sit down and unfold." Came the voice of small ragged man.
Lindon sat gratefully and when all were quiet he began, "The new comer, his name is Hundar. He holds the name of the prophesied. His eyes tell me he has power. His manner tells the same."
All were sent into thought by these words. The small man spoke, "If he is, and not that I doubt you for there may be a mistake, then we must make with greater haste and vigilance for the portal. The Grunders must not catch us for our numbers are too few to fight them."
"Yes, but we cannot make plans without thinking of the women and children. We must not push them too hard."
One of the men spoke in agreement, "You speak truly, but at least we have weapons from the fort. We may yet defend ourselves."
The men gathered sat in quiet thought until Lindon spoke again, "Let us rest now and march tomorrow. The boy must be safe at all cost."
There were murmurs of agreement throughout the tent.
Roused by the noise of waking children and busy preparations, Hundar quickly arose and made his way over to where it seemed food was being served. Seated on the ground quickly eating the rations, sat at least twenty children. Some, about Hundar’s age were talking excitedly, seemingly undecided in argument. One of the mothers led Hundar over to them and introduced him. Wondering how she knew his name, Hundar figured Mentha must have told the others while he slept.
“Fair head,” cried the oldest of the group. “Come sit down, have some tryrish before Jithen the Curious here, as we call him, devours it. Once you’ve eaten, you can tell us your story while he packs our burdens for the travel.” Hundar was soon seated and found himself arguing that for the 36 ollin side in the discussion of how far a high a sky beast can fly. After the meal the children scurried off to get their stuff packed. Hundar found himself helping Jithen and his older brother Nohn, the one who had greeted Hundar, pack their things. Jithen the Curious lived up to his name yet Hundar and he were soon friends, their ages being very closely the same. While he helped Hundar was asked to tell his story but only shook his head crying a little and feeling ashamed at it. Nohn, put his hand on Hundar’s shoulder saying, “It’s alright there. We’ve all had hard times and we’d rather hear your laughter then tears.” When Hundar regained himself he saw Lindon standing behind him, slightly smiling but the smile seemed to be meant for Nohn. Addressing the people in the tent Lindon drew all attention at his first words, “The Grunders are at our heels so we’ll take the riverbed south and then cut across the hills to the Gray forest. From there the Guardian Pass in the Ice Mountains will allow us a week’s journey to Portal Wood.”
The group again set into motion and Lindon stood thinking, turning to Hundar he stated, “You seam ready to start to learn the use of weapons as the other children. The journey will take at least a month, and as these are dangerous times you will need a way to defend yourself.”
“Hundar looked up excitedly. He had always wanted to learn how to use the devices of war. He hated killing but something about weapons fascinated him, “When do we start?” He questioned.
“Today.” Lindon replied.
So the journey to the portal continued. The small band passed through great expanses of forest and innumerable towns. The sky was the color of the steel that Hundar was taught to use. Lindon was proven an able teacher, and although Hundar was often frustrated with some finer point of handling or using his equipment, Lindon was always right and seemed to have an uncanny tendency to say just the right thing to make a point clear. Grasses and shrubs that grew with abundance along the riverbank hindered progress, snagging and grabbing at the pilgrims. Hundar shared the burden of the supplies with others. He often had to be relieved by Lindon until his feet and legs were accustomed to the endless march. Each day Hundar collapsed exhausted and each morning he was forced up and pushed on. In addition to the wearying journey, learning the use of weapons further demanded his strength, now Hundar was glad that he had regularly chopped wood and run long errands for his mother. Often Hundar, with Jithen and the other students would run further ahead of the group, accompanied with Lindon and practice until the others caught up with them. The work drove bitterness from Hundar’s mind and the fear of the Grunders kept him going. Yes, The Grunders tracked them and were following there every move. Everyone soon became aware of the increasing number of the beasts and as they drew closer to the hills the Grunders became bolder. Twice Hundar had caught sight of one of the massive beasts and cried out to Lindon, but every time the monster showed its great speed and vanished.
Hundar was taught to use the sword, spear, and bow. Learning how to use the bow and sword he had taken from the fortress at Colfry had its own certain appeal, somewhat like finding a way to use a tool that you had never thought of using before. And as the journey wore on, Hundar’s skill in learning was shown. Once, on a whim, Hundar loosed his arrow, whizzing, straight through a dribblefruit(A leathery sack like fruit containing seeds and pressurized juice. When the fruit is ripe, or is punctured it ruptures violently, spraying seeds and bitter liquid over a wide area.) from over 50 paces, “Good shot!” exclaimed Jithen, “I would say you must be almost as good as the older boys.
Lindon, standing nearby, said, “Now you must let experience hone your skills. Fetch your arrow and we will stow away the bows for now and practice with the swords.”
Hundar enjoyed the sword and soon he found that he could almost predict where the next attack would come. He often begged Lindon to continue teaching him long after dark and once to his surprise he bested Lindon. But soon they could not travel far from the group for fear of the Grunders and Hundar’s lessons were stopped. But Hundar did not stop drawing from Lindon’s knowledge. He inquired and learned of the elves’ long twisting history and wondered at how much Lindon knew of it. One day Hundar asked this question. Lindon’s face deepened and he replied, “I was not always as you see me now. I once was a thief. Yes, a pickpocket.” Lindon smiled a bit, “I was actually quiet good at it but my greed got the better of me and through a series of events that would probably bore you…”
Hundar cut him off, “No it wouldn’t. I’m sure of it and besides I fear the boredom of silence would outweigh the weariness of your speech.”
Lindon smiled, “Well if you must know I will tell you.
“In those days I lived in Tothla near the Elven lands. Let me think, it must have been snowing because I remember being cold. It stung the flesh under my rags, but I kept my eyes open for a good prospect and a fat purse. I spotted such a figure. He was tall and his adornment showed him to be of higher rank. I waited and just at the right moment I stumbled into him and apologized. When I was a bit farther away I surveyed the loot that had been liberated from him. It wasn’t much a few coins and several other trinkets but what caught my attention was a piece of well-worn paper. I unfolded it carefully and read. Most of it I didn’t understand, referring to military maneuvers and whatnot, but there was one smeared sentence. It was only one sentence but it spelled out my doom. It read: Under no circumstances is this document to be read by anyone save His Majesty and Commander Intor on the penalty of death.
“As I read those words my blood ran cold. I thrust the paper away from myself like it was some vile rotting carcass. A lost purse would be forgotten but such a paper brought sure death. I could hear voices of soldiers. I knew my deed had been discovered. Running madly I rushed down the streets and dodged into a nearby alley. I wondered what to do next. The time passed slowly and then I was aware of hundreds of voices and feet coming my way. I panicked and scrambled up between the closely pressed buildings. Several arrows whizzed by. Eventually I reached the rooftops. I continued my flight until I ran out of buildings. I wasn’t high up so I leaped to the ground. Luckily I sprained my ankle and-,”
Hundar interrupted again, “Luckily, why?”
“Well you see,” Lindon continued, “I would never have had to climb on the wagon if I hadn’t hurt my ankle. Now if you want to hear the story than don’t make any competition for it. As I was saying I climbed onto a nearby wagon and buried myself beneath the bundles. I seemed like hours before the driver returned to the wagon and started. I eventually fell asleep, but when I awoke and looked about I was in a place that few men have seen, the Elven Lands. I was adopted in a way, and I learned their customs and way of life. Later I left that happy place and returned to the world of men. I joined the King’s army and fought in the wars. My life has taken many more unforeseen roads since than. But I found something there that few other than the elves have found. That is their Lord. I have found him and believed in him, so have the ones you see around you.”
Hundar wanted to ask more questions but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. As soon as the group left the cover of the riverbank and headed into the hills, Hundar could tell that the Grunders' courage was growing. He often listened as the men talked in hushed tones of the animals. But the group continued through the high grass that blanketed the hills. The second day after they left the river, the Grunders attacked. It was noon and the band had stopped to eat, soon it was clear of the Grunders’ intentions as they appeared in packs from the underbrush.
It was the first time Hundar had clearly seen the Grunders in their beast form although before he had seen the small rodents while wandering about the forest. But now they towered as mountains of iron muscle and fang. The men quickly counseled together and the word was given to march on. The band slowly crept away from the terrible beasts. The animals growled and then gathered up their mass of muscle. Lindon “The Wolf" cried out and drew his sword. Every able-bodied man in the group snatched up a weapon to meet the oncoming wave. The beasts let out terrible unearthly screams and rushed towards the pitiful band. “Run! Run for your life!” one of the men yelled over his shoulder to the cowering women and children “We will hold them off!” “The Wolf’s” eyes blazed and snatching up a firebrand he leaped forward, "Do not fear death! Only fear lack of faith for we are in God’s hands!" With these words "The Wolf" plunged his sword into a charging beast. The blade pierced the scull and the animal toppled into Lindon. Lindon leaped from the dead Grunder and planted himself in the path of another charging animal. Now Hundar had his own trouble. A huge beast was rushing towards him. Hundar dodged to the side and cast his spear at the animal. The shaft caught it right below the shoulder. Screaming it wheeled and clawed at it's wound. Hundar drew his sword and ran for his life. The beast lashed out with its claws. Hundar swung his blade, sending the beast reeling backwards. Blood dripped from it's severed hand. Before Hundar could run again the beast lunged forward and tore Hundar’s arm with its claw's. Blinding pain shot through his arm. There was a flash and the huge beast toppled onto him pinning his legs. Hundar grew dizzy from the pain and bleeding. The sky went dark and Hundar heard the scream from hell,
HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!. Terror gripped him. Struggling in the animal's grip he glanced at the horizon. It was dark from storm clouds. Shadows sprang from the hills. The slender forms of the Evil landed all around the fighting creatures. Hundar saw two clawed feet dig into the back of a grunders neck. The grunder howled in pain and reared onto its back feet. Its blood poured onto the ground. Even though the Grunder was easily ten times the size of the reptile latched on to its back the, matted mass of flesh and hair toppled over as its spinal cord was severed with one crushing bite. Hundar stared agape with wonder and terror at the sight. Then one of the grunder’s huge flailing sinewy arms lashed out and the world went dark and fell into shadows.
When Hundar came-to he was lying in a tent. The first thing that came to his mind was that he hadn’t died. He tried to sit up and winced with nauseating pain, maybe not dying was a bad thing! After lifting his head to look around, he recognized the familiar packs and gear that he had carried. The old worn out tent made him remember the first day he had met this small band. The Evil hadn’t killed him and evidently it hadn’t slaughtered the refugees either, well not ALL of them. Hundar slowly and painfully raised himself on his unsteady legs and went out of the tent.
The sky was magnificent shades of red and gold as if the entire horizon was on fire. To the west Hundar could see the rolling hills and to the east slept the huge Ice Mountains. Their heads were blanketed with gleaming snow that seemed to reflect the light of the setting sun and send it scattering over the fields in a million colors. Starting at the foot of the mountains and sweeping across the plains towards him was a forest. The trees were all a dull green-gray that gave it a look of foreboding. Hundar squinted his eyes and looked about himself. The other tents were still there. Across a short space of lush grass sat Lindon with several other men. They were resting around a fire and talking. When Hundar approached Lindon turned and saw him, “So, you’ve finally decided to wake up. I was worried for a bit there.”
“Yes, but where are we and how did we escape the Evil?”
Lindon scooted over to make Hundar a seat by the fire and then spoke, “Well, to answer your first question we’re on the Gray Plains that lie in the shadow of the Ice Mountains.”
Hundar wrapped his cloak about him for protection against the cooling air. Lindon continued, “The Judgment came and killed the grunders attacking us and held off the rest until we were safely away.”
“They saved us?” Hundar asked amazed, “I mean why didn’t they kill us like all the others?”
“Because” Lindon said sternly, “We are fleeing to the portal. They cannot harm us because we are obeying our Lord. In fact they must protect us.”
Hundar gazed into the fire. The men continued to talk and he to wonder about the Judgment. He was brought food and he ate in silence. The next day the band continued. The shadowy woods drew nearer. Now Hundar traveled with less fear but more bitterness. The Judgment would not harm him but it had still killed his family. They entered the Grey forest and they were shut off from the blue skies and the bright clouds. The rolling hills and green slopes were slowly replaced by the dark shades of under brush, the quiet song of meandering streams by the calls of strange birds. Hundar noticed that the deeper they traveled into the forest the more often Lindon would uneasily finger his sword. Something evil must live in this wood for before they had entered Hundar had spotted many small abandoned cottages and hamlets but now he had not seen even a trace of human dwelling. The tree’s branches cast flickering beams of light on the forest floor. What was an aura of unease during the day turned to a foreboding atmosphere of doom during the night. The half moon would create weird shadows of twisted animals. The calls of birds would be replaced after the flaming sunset by the sounds of night animals hunting. The trees would seem to snatch and grab at Hundar from above whenever he closed his eyes. Hundar may have thought little of the trek through this dreary forest later if it hadn’t been for company. The third day after entering the wood Hundar noticed the signs of a group of humans. When he called Lindon to examine the trail, Lindon confirmed his finding and found something else. Whoever had left the trail was dragging several large heavy objects. Hundar remembered the band he had seen when he had first started the journey. He told Lindon what he had seen and what had originally hope of finding companions for the journey turned to unease. Lindon led the refugees away from the trail and headed in a more northerly direction. Hundar now traveled with a bow slung over his shoulder and stayed closer to Lindon instead of his usual habit of wandering a bit away from the group to have a look at some object or another.
For hundreds of years the shadowy sambacterdorn hid in the Grey Forest, biding the time allotted to it, growing stronger in the newborn forest. Always waiting, always watching, waiting for endless years to meet its match. Reptilian, menacing, claws outward turned to grasp the trunks of trees, scales hard as steel, eyes cold as death.
The only consolation any of them had during their whole dreary trip through the deserted forest was that every night all of the people in the bedraggled band would gather around the large fire and sing. Apparently this custom had been going on for quite a while, but at the beginning of his stay with the refugees Hundar had been so tired at the end of each day that he had gone straight to bed. Now that he was stronger Hundar was not so tired at night and as a result, he had trouble going to sleep at night with all of the strange woods stretching for miles in all directions (except up and down of course). So this night he stayed to hear the songs. The songs that they sang were not rousing, exiting, loud, or even very beautiful, they were just peaceful and calming. Like the kind of song you could sing a baby to sleep with, or the kind of song that sounded like it could calm a storm or quiet the wind. For the refugees (huddled around the fire, driven from their homes) sang with such peace and power that Hundar could barely help but be comforted. The few words that accompanied the songs were meaningful, even though they often repeated themselves. He heard among the wandering notes the faithfulness of the Elvin God and the wonders of his power. He did not understand most of it, but perhaps here was the key to what he yearned to understand.
The next morning, as they continued on their march, the woods became more and more dense. The trees crowded the sky to catch the life-giving rays of the sun. The grass along the side of the beaten path gave way to nettles and then scraggly bushes, starved for the golden warmth of the sunlight. The trees no longer had any lower branches but strained and pushed to best its neighbor and catch a few more precious rays on its broad, thick leaves. But instead of making the company feel less confined it only served to make them feel more exposed, the thick heavy roof of trees and the twisted thorny undergrowth with the cavernous empty space between showed just how empty the forest really was. As the day faded to night an unusual quietness fell upon the forest as if the elusive element of death was about to strike.
As Hundar was helping pitch the tents something caught his eye, it was the moon. This was not so unusual except that he shouldn’t be able to see it through the canopy, and the moon was full, when it had been just a sliver the night before. The pure iciness of the moon caught him by surprise! He had often observed that on cold nights the moon seemed to be made of crystal, reflecting the light of the Sun back to the Green Sphere, but now it looked as if it was a great ball of ice, suspended just below the leafy tops of the trees. The moon moved, it squinted. It rolled down and revealed a large black blemish of swirling menace. The moon was an eye!
“Lindon?” Hundar wheezed barley above a whisper “Lindon!” He managed to croak. The eyes of the monster were fixed with his, and although they terrified him they also made him feel as if he were standing up to the monster. For one short moment Hundar’s eyes blazed with fire and the ice of the eyes thawed momentarily. Then there was a great noise and the creature leapt at him, landing not ten feet from where he stood and with one swift movement severed the trunk of a huge tree. Hundar looked on helplessly as the log feel towards him. There was a crash and Hundar found himself uninjured but tightly pinned beneath the tree. The menacing form of the creature retreated through the forest as the feet of men approached.
“What happened?” “Did you see it?” “Are you all right?” “Help us push this tree off of him.” “Get out of the way!” Lindon gave this last command as he shouldered his way through the thickening group that was quickly becoming the whole camp. “Alright men all get on this side of the tree. Ready and Aghhh!” Lindon was cut off by a sudden searing heat that emitted from the fallen tree, to the wondering eyes of the crowd the solid wood glowed, cracked, shriveled, and then crumpled into a pile of smoking ash. Hundar was frightened, because just before this miraculous happening the settling tree began to crush his leg. The heat, however uncomfortable, did not hurt him and dark fine ash fell from his clothes as he stood up. The crowd gave a murmur and stepped a short ways back. It was Lindon who broke the short uneasy silence. “That was a magical creature, ehh Hundar? Come on to the main tent and you can tell us the whole story.” Lindon spoke bravely, but as the crowd agreed and bustled Hundar off to the main tent, Lindon stooped and examined the ash and the marks on the severed stump, and then murmured, “He is more powerful than I thought.”
The story came out little by little as Hundar regained his tongue. The eyes, the claws, the slash, the falling tree was all heard of and everyone agreed that the creature that had attacked Hundar was quite a magical creature in deed to have burned up a whole tree after it had left. Lindon was unusually quiet during this discussion and afterwards he voiced his wish to talk with the men of the camp. As the guards were posted and the women and children went to bed, the light burned on in the main tent and so did the discussion.
The cold and lonely sentry stood watch at his post, his spear supporting him on one side, his mug of crinse (A kind of alcohol that makes you very alert for eight to twelve hours, but then you sleep for a day and a night.) supporting him on the other. Guarding the mercenary camp was not fun when one knew that all of ones friends were fast asleep. A huge creature poured through the shadows with a fluid like motion, leaving scoured marks on the trees. “What from tarpas (A great volcano in the Red Sphere whose pit was said to descend to Karcotac (the Ginthar’s mythological underworld hell).) was that?” the sentry muttered in amazement. He walked up to examine the deep gouges on the tree trunks and then decided that this would be a good time to get some help. “HELP!! Someone help!” he yelled as he ran through the camp.
After the initial shock of the attack, life on the march continued as usual. March, camp, sleep, pack, and march again. Even Hundar’s lessons had stopped and Hundar ceased to learn anything new. And what was there to learn? He thought. There is nothing new in this forest, nothing new to eat, nothing new to see, nothing new to smell, just the old dry leaves underfoot and the dark shadows of trees overhead. The monotony of the scenery had worn off on Hundar and, although the ground had become warped with small valleys and hillocks that were steadily rising, he had begun to think that the march through the woods would go on forever.
“Ho there!” shouted a voice
“Ho where?” returned Nohn, who was walking a little ahead of the group.
“I say now! What a little traveling band of vagabonds!” For now the speaker had come within sight of the group and the group within sight of the speaker. He was a stocky one and gave the impression that he was searching for something by the way he was always squinting.
“If we are vagabonds then what does that make you? The Lost Fool? Come now how did you come to be in this forest in troubled times as these?”
“You should watch your tongue in troubled times as these, for you never know when you may need a friend.”
“I shall do that, but to my question, where are you from?”
Hundar was watching the exchange, and the newcomer, with great interest. Lindon came up behind him to watch over Hundar’s shoulder.
“Looks like military gear! Probably a mercenary turned thief now that the army is scattered.” Lindon turned and addressed Kall, “His companions are probably waiting behind the next rise in the ground, or I’m a fool. We should post some guards on the flanks just in case.”
“And who has made you the skeptic all of a sudden?” He questioned in return.
“I don’t want to be taken by surprise, that’s all.”
“As you wish, my lord!” Kall bowed in mock honor.
“Away with you,” returned Lindon laughing, “before I send you to the headsman!”
Kall strode off and Hundar returned to watching the mercenary. But the bantering was over and Nohn came to talk to Lindon. “He says that he is traveling with a group of bricklayers looking for work in these parts. His eyes tell a different tale, he is lying or I’m a flambus (A very small and furry animal that has the unsettling talent of mimicking almost any sound, including speech.).”
“I agree with you,” scoffed Lindon, “his story is the most unlikely and ungainly I have ever heard. Layers of traps and ambushes rather than bricks are more likely. Tell the men to arm themselves. We stay awake tonight.
The night was quiet, but not quiet enough. Hundar heard not the sound of the night creatures, but rather the faint clanking of metal that the sentries reported the next morning. Lindon had cautioned the men not to break camp until they had some knowledge of the suspicious movements of the “brick layers.” Late in the afternoon Hundar greeted Lindon as he returned from a scouting party, “So? What are they doing? Where are they going? Are we going to fight them?”
“Slowly, slowly now, all in good time” reassured Lindon, “but if you want to be the first to know, the ‘bricklayers’ are really mercenaries. Their camp is just a few miles from here, due south, and they have with them many large, very strong, cages.”
“Yes, your guess is as good as mine!”
“Do they wish to take captives?”
“I assumed so at first but they have nothing in the cages and there is no reason to use them anyway. There is no point to prisoners of war and slavers use chains, not cages. My guess is that there is some terribly strong beast that they are hoping to capture, maybe the Grunders, maybe ‘The Evil’”
“No one can stand against The Evil, can they?” wondered Hundar, aghast.
“The judgment is only one of animals, however clever they may be. But the real power lies in The Great Destroyer. This thing was only hinted at in the prophecy, but it seems that the judgment will only last as long as The Great Destroyer stands.”
“I have seen it.”
“I have seen The Great Destroyer. His voice was like the roar of the surf, the voice of great waterfalls, and his eyes were flames of doom, wringing men’s hearts of courage. His breath withered the grass and his words crumbled the rocks…” Hundar spoke in a monotone, his eyes focused on some object long past.
“Hundar? Hundar come back, the beast is far away.” Lindon reassured.
“Sorry, but it almost seemed that he was there again, in the valley wreathed in fog.”
“You are not the first to have felt that way, come I know something that you can do!”
Lindon busied Hundar for the rest of the day, carrying supplies to the center of the camp, fletching arrows, and cutting firewood. As the sun glowed red through the trees, Lindon left Hundar building fortresses out of the firewood. Quickly, Lindon gathered the men of the camp together and began to tell them what he had heard.
“Hundar just had a remembrance! Only the elves have had remembrances before! Do you know what this means?” Lindon exclaimed.
“No, our lore and wisdom are far below your par.” Kall reminded Lindon.
“It means,” continued Lindon, unperturbed, “that Hundar is capable of using the gifts of the elves! The mages of men have been powerful, but they are limited to the powers that they are capable of. The elves are not so restrained, and they are able, with practice, to create and do anything that the mind can conceive. Hundar has both the greatest power, and the greatest talent, his world is unlimited!”
“Then we have no need for weapons! Hundar will fight our battles for us!”
“But it is not that simple, Hundar can not use his power yet, he will need much training. Remember the closing of the second age, he could, without guidance, become dangerous.” The men sobered at the mention of the end of the second age. It had been a time of war, bloodshed, injustice, and powerful, evil magic. “Come, the preparations at hand wait for able ones.” Lindon turned and headed back towards the center of the camp.
Just then the sun lowered below the horizon, and mercenaries attacked the camp from. Even as if the light of day had restrained them, so the night seemed to give them courage. The defenders, however, rushed to defend their meager belongings. Blades were unsheathed, bows were strung, and prayers raised. Men, women, and children alike lifted their hearts to the God of the Elves, asking for protection and courage. Hundar, startled from his contemplative construction, ran to join the group of children, women and a few men that had formed around the piles of supplies. The rest of the men hastened to the aid of the piteously outnumbered sentries on the east side of the camp, which resisted the impact of the mercenaries with surprising resiliency. The Wolf leapt. His eyes flaming. His sword striking. His enemies falling.
Two cold eyes watched the battle, calculating the cost of attacking now, or later. Calculating weather they could carry off one of the humans without the others knowing. Calculating the chance that the Powerful One would see them.
Right before the two sides met the mercenary group let off a flight of long shafted javelins. It was a common tactic to release a flurry of long-range weapons right before impact causing the opponent to defend himself from above and impede his defense of the charge or risk a blow from a six tractic lance. Those of the refugees who had shields raised them and those without felt the hard sting of the “shafted death.” Trying to flank the outnumbered defenders two groups of mercenaries rushed toward the outskirts of the engagement. Although heavily engaged in the heart of the battle the Wolf’s eyes did not miss the mercenary’s move. Raising his sword above his head he redirected the over powered blow of his opponent into the face of a swarthy looking mercenary who was about to make short work of a disarmed man with a downward cut. The mercenary went down, struck dead almost instantly. As soon as his opponents sword went wide the Wolf lunged and dispatched the mercenary with a stab that rented his iron studded armor and plunged into his vile heart. Now unhindered with an opponent the wolf struggled to the back of the battle hoping against hope that it wasn’t too late. Breaking from the fray the Wolf shouted commands sending soldiers to meet the flankers with a stout wall of spears. The soldiers rushed to their appointed places, the Wolf took a deep breath wiped the blood from his sword and launched himself back into the fray.
With the expected quick victory nowhere in sight the mercenaries began to withdraw and the battle floundered in the skirts of the forest next to the road. The refugees holding their position firmly, the mercenaries haggard paused but for a moment and then again, with a hoarse cry, rushed the stalwart defenders with renewed bloodlust, eager to break through into the camp. The chorus of singing, swords, and shouts shook the trees and the ground. “Who is winning?” questioned Hundar, to short to see past the dull brown of trees and men.
“The mercenaries are pushing hard,” returned one woman “and I think they may break through, but not one of our has been killed although many are wounded, we have truly been blessed.”
“Yes.” Hundar remembered the words of Lindon about the Battle of the Sur and replied, “The God of the elves is truly powerful! May he distract them from their task.” At that moment the sky beyond the Ice Mountains glowed with a blue tint before settling back to the dark purple of late evening, there was a roll of thunder and a tremor passed through the ground. Hundar stared in awe and then his gaze returned to the people who had backed away from him as if he was a placernus bush (Placernus bushes are plants that grow in certain regions of the Red Sphere. They have mottled red and orange limbs that form bulges after two or three months. These bulges, if punctured, broken, or ripe burst into violent flame. No one knows why they do this but the bulges are harvested and sold for their extremely useful properties.), ready to burst into flame. “I sometimes think of things, just as they are about to happen.” Explained Hundar to the uneasy children and mothers. This seemed to help but the uneasiness remained, for the children were not used to such explanations, and the mothers knew the meaning of the events that had passed.
Meanwhile the battle had again faltered, when the thunder and earthquake had come, the engagement broke off and the mercenaries withdrew to a safe distance. The wolf was just about to press the attack when a shout was heard in the camp. The wolf risked a moment of carelessness and turned to see what had caused the disturbance that was now rippling through the clearing. What he saw was not comforting. A huge form was hovering among the trees on the other side of the road, and the people of the camp were fleeing before it. The shape turned and revealed eyes of crystallizing menace, and numbing cold. Suddenly, the beast leapt, hurtling its mass between the trees, flying on its wings of branch, bough, and bole. The wolf cringed as the sambacterdorn came to a sudden crushing halt, straddling the road and turning its head this way and that, searching for its prey. But the road was deserted, the mercenaries had fled away when the creature had charged, the warriors were hiding in the trees at the edge of the road, and the people of the camp were huddling shakily behind the piles of goods and supplies in the center of and throughout the camp. The wolf knew in his heart that he must do something to rescue the helpless people in the camp but his body and mind were frozen by the utter strength of the creatures will. “Oh God,” he prayed “you are the ultimate source of power, give me just a little of your strength so that I may glorify you in defeating this menace to your people.” The strength was granted, a wolf of a man, matching the beast in power and might leapt into the road. “You have attacked a gathering of Men who believe in the One God of the elves. Leave, or your doom is sealed!” In response the beast only released one of his claws from the tree it was encircling and lowered it’s posture, staring defiance at the insolent human.
Hundar peeked out from a bag of tilnip to see what Lindon was doing. The beast was hanging suspended from three trees, swinging its tail and clenching and unclenching its impossibly backward claws. The wolf was advancing, walking steadily forward, and his sword shone naked and deadly in his hands, swinging with his stride. Undulating, the watery mass off muscle and bone surged between the trees. In the flash of an eye the beast was upon the wolf and its claws were slashing the road before it, notching trees and churning the ground. The wolf was, in a moment of divine intervention, somehow faster, ducking under or jumping over the slashes of the beast with uncanny foresight. After another duck, the wolf plunged his sword into the back of the monster’s bony, sinuous hand and was immediately thrown backwards by the monster’s reflexive jerk. Bellowing in rage, the beast waved its arm around, violently attempting to dislodge the metal spar so skillfully thrust between the tissues. Again the wolf leapt, this time onto the beast’s neck, and quickly pulling his dagger from its sheath he plunged it between the scales again and again. After one last thrust the body of the beast, writhing in agony, crashed to the ground, held askew by the still clutched claws that clenched the trees, a silver monument in the moonlight. Lindon slid off the neck of the corpse and trudged weakly over to the pierced hand, drawing his sword out with obvious effort and then kneeling before the dark and foreboding hulk to thank his God.
Hundar, the warriors, and the rest of the camp slowly emerged from their respective hiding places, congregating to Lindon. The voice of a young girl lifted up a song of praise to the God of the elves. Quickly the theme was joined by many voices and Lindon wearily rose.
“Go and gather many stones, but do not wander far from the camp. We will build a memorial alter here.” The people murmured words of agreement and dispersed, each one bringing back a single stone, as large as they could carry, for the forest floor was littered with stones from the mountains. Quickly, a pile of stones grew next to the dead beast, and just as quickly Lindon built them into a sturdy alter. After everyone had brought a stone, many branches were stacked on the altar and lit, producing a great beacon in the darkened forest. After this, the deeds of the battle were recalled, Lindon was asked to tell his part many times, even though he remembered very little of it, and the other men recalled the close calls, miraculous maneuvers, and fabulous feats that had occurred in the twilight battle. After many a good cheer and song of praise, the men and women of the camp went off to bed, weary from the long evening’s events.
Lindon was just entering his tent when a woman’s voice called his name, “Lindon, I have something to talk to you about.”
Lindon turned to see Mentha standing behind him, a siloett against the dying firelight. “Yes Mentha, what is it?”
“It is about Hundar. He professed that the God of the Elves is truly powerful, and asked for a distraction. It was after that that the ground shook, and the heavens rumbled, and the blue portal shone with an unspherely light.”
“These are strange tidings, thank you for telling me. I will have to ponder them at a time when I am less weary. But for now, thank you and an untroubled sleep to you.”
For what seemed like weeks, but was really only a few days, Hundar plodded with the weary group through the forest. Despite the heavy sentry that had been posted and the many scouts who scourged the nearby land no trace of the mercenaries was found. Hundar was glad that the treacherous men had left but the endless forest seamed to have swallowed him and his companions up and doomed them to wander for eternity. Then, all at once, the trees disappeared and they were face to face with the turrets and ramparts of the Ice Mountains. Their white garments, fringed with blue streams that watered the forests, their dark knees, dripping with the last casualties to the summer while the clouds gathered, as they had for years unknown, to the heights of the mountains. The soaring cliffs of frozen rock, forever embattled with the snow and hail, which stood with their broad feet firmly planted on the forested slopes, glowering like white warriors, barring all ways to The Portal.
“Where is the pass?” Hundar questioned Lindon, “I cannot see any pass!”
“There are no passes in the Ice Mountains, or any of the other guardian mountains, but there is a passageway, built by the makers of the mountains, when the portals were still hot from their birth. The passage is long and wide, and is guarded at both ends by great fortresses, but they are uninhabited now, and we should be able to pass in peace.”
“Is it a long tunnel?”
“As long as the mountains are tall, and it runs ever upward, at a slight degree.”
Hundar was amazed at the knowledge of Lindon, “How do you know these things?”
“I have lived among the Elves, who remember the things that have passed in the ages long forgotten by men. There, they have great stores of knowledge, both in the form of writings and in the minds of the Elves. I know only the most general knowledge about the history of the portals, an educated elf can tell you how many rooms are in the guardhouses of the guardian tunnels, and how many days it has been since any one wizard opened any one of the portals.”
“The elves are an amazing race. Is that why the One True God is named ‘the God of the Elves’?”
“The elves are the only race that have been true to the One true God, for they remember the curse put on their people, and on all races by the Powerful One, and fear him as should all beings.”
“The curse? What curse, surly the Elves are the most blessed of the races!”
“They are the least cursed, and by that you may say most blessed, but the story is long. I will tell you some other time when you are not walking and at the risk of hurting yourself if I put you to sleep with my monologue. And besides that, it has been many years since I have reviewed the history of man, elf, and dwarf, and you would do better to wait until we join with the elves at the portal, or on the other side of it.”
“How long will that be?”
“Not more than a week. And if you will put your mind to other things it will seem as but an hour. Now have you kept your swordplay up? Come, show me how to fight!” And so saying Lindon drew his sword, and struck a fearsome pose. Hundar did the same and soon they were engaged in a furious mock battle…
Reaching the entrance to the tunnel at midday, the group made camp between the knees of the mountains. The Fortress that guarded the tunnel was indeed empty, but foreboding nonetheless, poking out of the mountainside, half in and half out, the stronghold was situated in a deep crevasse. Into this crevasse the road wound, ending at the left side of the gaping door-less entrance, from the right side of which a raging torrent escaped. Towers and parapets, windows and arrow slits all glowered helplessly at the trespassers who dared to journey under their gaze.
Approaching the entrance while everyone else erected the tents, Lindon and Kall cautiously advanced. The stone arch, waited patiently. Rotten teeth of a rusted portcullis showed dimly in the shadow of the stone walls far above. Within the arch, passages ran off to both sides, still sealed after countless years by doors of rusted steel. Threefold gates stood open, welcoming anyone who dared to enter the ancient citadel. The atmosphere of long vigilance hung heavy, and every doorway seemed to conceal unseen eyes. However, no challenge was made, and they returned the short distance to the camp with news that they should have no trouble passing through to the portal plains. The rest of the day was spent arranging the supplies and resting for the journey into the mountains.
Early the next morning, the refugees were once again on the move. After passing under the main gate, the road ran straight as a rank of soldiers upwards into the belly of the mountains, the rock on one side, and the river on the other. Hundar gazed in awe at the tunnel, an arch, fifty feet high, twice as wide, all running without a falter or flinch towards the dim light that shone at its end. Hundar’s hair was ruffled by a slight, damp breeze that flowed continuously down the passageway, and for the first time he saw that there were many tunnels leading off from the left side of the tunnel, door-less arches dark and cold.
Hundar, standing to look down one such regularly occurring passage, was left a little ways behind. Peering intently into the darkness, Hundar could make out a faint light shining down on a spiral staircase. Momentarily forgetting the group, Hundar stepped into the arch, and bent to see if he could make out where the light was coming from. The sound of running footsteps echoed off the walls. A form leapt behind Hundar, grasped him under the arms and bodily lifted him from his feet. Lindon quickly swung Hundar around, set him down, and ran a short distance into the side tunnel. After peering about for a moment, he turned and walked back to the bewildered Hundar.
“I would think that you would stay with the group when we are traveling in unknown territory. This passage, although not apparently guarded, may have strange sentries that have slept these long years of peace. From now on, I want you to stay in the middle of the group. Don’t wander off.” Lindon was now kneeling in front of Hundar, looking straight into his eyes.
“All right. I’m sorry.” Hundar said.
“I’m sorry if I scared you, but it would be a great grief if you were hurt or killed. Please be careful... you mean a lot to us.” And with a grunt, Lindon lifted Hundar to his shoulders, and carried him up the passage to the group, which was waiting expectantly for their return. As they started off once again, Lindon whispered a few words to Kall, who looked at Lindon with surprise, whispered a few words back, and then continued with the rest. Lindon turned to face back the way that they had come, and remained standing there for some time.
“What’s Lindon doing Kall?” Jithen asked in his unintentionally annoying voice.
“Just watching to make sure no one is following us.” Kall said in a patronizing tone.
Waiting another few minutes, Lindon finally began to follow the group, although at a distance. By now the end of the tunnel behind them was only a small arch, reddened by the setting sun. In the middle of the tunnel, the group halted, and began to prepare for the night. A few fires were started, and the heat was a comfort against the cool of the damp air that flowed down the tunnel. The fires cast flickering yellow light around shadows, which dodged this way and that over the walls and floor of cool stone. Lindon entered the camp just as some bread was being distributed. Eating the meager meal, clusters of refugees gathered around the beacons of warmth and comfort, and began once again to sing praises to their God. In songs so ancient that even the elves could not recall their authors, the refugees raised a chorus of thanksgiving.
Once again, Hundar was struck by the strangeness of the idea that these who had so little could thank their God for giving them so much. What knowledge did these people have that could comfort them, driven from their homes, and seeking a foreign race in hope of being sheltered and aided. Was there some secret, which they were guarding from him? Or was it really and simply that they believed that their God could provide for their every need, and that nothing was happening that He did not have control over? Hundar had heard the stories of deliverance. He had seen with his own eyes how the Evil, which had killed his family, turned to protect the refugees. He had witnessed how no man had been hurt in the battle with the mercenaries, and yet there was still something that did not makes sense. How could the God who protected some people, also destroy his parents, friends, and so many others who had never done him wrong. Where was the justice? If this God is real, then he must also be a merciless killer to allow this to happen. Hundar thought to himself. And the songs continued.
A slight tremble ran through the ground, a dull thud resonated through the tunnel; and another; and another; they grew stronger; nearer. Everyone was looking all around to see if they could find the source of the sound. The feeble light of the fires pushed the black of night down the passage only a little way. Men readied their weapons, and stood facing at both ends of the camp, both up and down the tunnel. Now the noise was clearly discernable, and seemed to come from behind them, following the way that they had come. Hundar huddled with the other children around one of the fires, glancing at one another with questions written on their faces. Lindon stood with the other men, but did not seem to be afraid; instead, he steeled his features, for he knew what was coming up the tunnel to meet them.
Soon a form appeared, moving quickly for its slow pace. An enormous form, filling the entire path with its huge limbs came inexorably toward them. All drew back a few paces, and even Lindon faltered in his resolve; however he mastered himself and with a loud voice he called out, “Peace to the envoy of the guardians! What rouses you from your rest?”
The creature took one last step, and turned its huge head. No eyes could be seen, for the beast was a creature of the tunnels, and although it spoke, there was no mouth visible in its armored hide. The voice echoed, a whisper louder than the shouts of an army. The words struck every hearer with the understanding that what was said here was backed by warriors, and although they carried no terror, a sober spirit entered their minds with the words. What was said here could not be recanted.
“Greetings to your leader. Please allow me to speak with the man in authority here.”
“I am that man.” Lindon answered simply.
“Good. You are bold to meet me face to face. Tell me, why is the fortress in disrepair?”
“Envoy, the fortress has not been maintained for over 100 cycles! You must not assume that your masters could have remained vigilant through all. You are the last remnant of the force that once guarded these passages. It is thought that even you had died long ago. Did not the elves tell you these things when you spoke to them?”
“I am aware of no elves that passed this way. My orders were to awake only if a mage powerful enough to open the portal came by this tunnel. As to the fortress, do not try to lie to me. If your words are false, you will not escape; however I will assume that you speak truthfully. Why are you traveling these ways, since they are abandoned and the portal remains closed? Does your mage hope to open it?”
“Our mage has no training. We are traveling to escape the Judgment, and are following a great host of elves who we believe passed onto the portal plains by this tunnel.”
“You travel in vain, for there are none among the elves strong enough to make the portal give passage to you. If your mage is untrained as you say, you may wait long on the Portal Plains for his skills to develop. But this is futile, I will consider your words, and if you are planning treachery against my masters, you will be found out. Be assured that you are watched closely. Once awakened, the guardians do not sleep easily.”
“You will see that all I have said is true.” Lindon stated.
“I will see all. Now, order your men to forget this exchange, only you and I must retain memory of it if our existence is such a secret as you say.”
“My men have no training in the methods of memory erasure. You must understand that we are mere refugees, and not trained Ladikuur.”
“Then I will do it myself. However, I will not remember kindly the strength that it will consume. Travel in peace and care, all your deeds are seen.” And with that the massive beast turned and crawled into the rushing current that flowed always beside the road. The torrent quickly pushed the creature down the tunnel, until it was lost to the light of the neglected fires.
Murmurs began around the camp. What were they doing again? There was something important that had just happened, but no one could remember what. Only Lindon remained silent, and bowed his head under the burned of lonely understanding. “Do not worry about it.” Lindon comforted them; “We should all rest, for we may reach the elves tomorrow.” This announcement cheered everyone, and soon the strange event was nearly forgotten. The next morning, as a patch of light blue appeared far up the tunnel, all awoke, ate a small breakfast, and began the last day of their journey. Within every heart, excitement raised that this would be the day that their journey would be at an end. Walking for several hours, the end of the tunnel approached at an agonizingly slow pace. Continuing up the tunnel, the group came to the place where the river emerged from a wall of rock, and the path continued on, now stretching from one side of the tunnel to the other. The path continued to climb; Light continued to grow; Hope continued to rise; Now they were almost there; now the children began to run; now all blinked at the bright of midday; Now they emerged into the light of the sun! The tunnel terminated in the side of the mountain, and before them was spread out the Portal Plains. A circle of grasslands and forests watered by melting snow from the Ice Mountains, and perched in the perfect center, The Portal.
But nearer still, was the one thing that had the power to make the hearts of the tired, lonely travelers melt in gratitude. Spread over miles of rivers, forests, and fields, rippling with the daily movement of people and supplies, the entire elven population of the green sphere undulated with life and strength. Flags flying and voices murmuring, the glint of tent posts and spear tips made the camp glitter with the rising sun. A thousand fires wafted smoke, a thousand feet raised up dust; a thousand voices at once one murmur audible even high upon the cliffs of the Ice Mountains. They had reached the elven camp at last.
Hundar and all the camp stood in the entrance to the inner fortress, absorbing the sunlight and fresh air. In another moment, the Elvin watchmen posted in the remains of the ancient fortress sighted the refugees and a horn was blown, signaling the arrival of newcomers. Startled from their awe, the group turned to see the guardsmen. A solid slab of stone ground on its rollers to reveal a tall elf.
“May the Lord bless and preserve you! We have been expecting you. The guards heard your feet and voices a day ago and I have been sent here to welcome you and guide you safely to the places that have been prepared.” The elf that spoke was slim and strong although of only medium height, and wore a gray-green cloak, hood thrown back, and a dark turquoise tunic concealing plates of chest armor fastened around the waist with a belt that looked as if it was made from solid steel, and under his feet were the depths of his knee-high dark green boots. The elf’s armor, which glowed with a soft blue sheen, covered his shoulders, the back of his arms and front of his shins and thighs. The elf wore no helmet. A gray leather sheath hid all but the simple hilt of his long sword. Hundar who had been walking next to Lindon near the front of the company was in an excellent position to observe the elf and upon further inspection he spotted a long double bladed knife blade fastened into a half a tractic long wooden shaft. Wondering about such a curious device that would seam to be more of a hindrance in battle than a help because of its awkward construction, Hundar decided that elves seemed wise enough to decide for themselves what weapons to use. Still, he wondered about the lack of a helm.
“My name is Thy’lun.” Firmly stated the elf addressing Lindon, “What is yours?”
Lindon smiled as he clasped hands with the elf, “My human name is Huthyr Kyln but I am remembered by your peoples name for me, Lindon. I hope I can honor it. You’re not the one that brought down the Grundar Lord on the hunt of Jyther year, are you? If so I gave and give witness to it all. (This is the formal way of the elves to acknowledge another’s greatness.)”
The elf’s face lit with a smile that hinted at remembrance, “Yes the very same, and you are you not the Shade slayer on Mt. Jireck? The one who the storytellers still remember? (Yet another elven way to acknowledge another’s achievement.) Or the Sky Beast’s Bane, the human among elves who gloried his elven name. Good Lord, I wish all men could honor their name as you and all elves also.”
Lindon paused for a moment despite this praise and said, “Men and elves may win honor and praise but it is the Lord’s praise which should be striven for. If one could win such honor than he is great indeed.”
“Well spoken.” Cried the elf and he too in turn fell silent in thought. “Come get your people together we have a long journey. I will summon the others.” So saying the elf produced a small, whittled twig and placed it between his lips. Puffing his checks out three times and than several times in rapid concession he replaced the twig into the folds of his cloak and stood scanning the horizon.
Hundar tugged on Lindon’s cloak, “What did he do right then? Why didn’t you tell me you did all those things?”
Lindon smiled warmly, “It is an elven whistle that cannot be heard by dim human ears and for that reason the elves use it to signal each other. And as for your other question often the greatest man is the man un-sung.”
Turning, Lindon addressed the group in a loud voice, “The elves have sent a messenger to greet us and show us to our appointed places. The elf has called an escort. Do not fear them. Now praise the Lord for he has kept us thus far and we are not far from our destination.” Thus being said, murmurs of hope and encouragement ran through the band.
Suddenly about twenty elves clad in the same fashion as Thy’lun appeared as if having sprung from the ground. And as they did so Thy’lun spoke and pointed out a clearing to Lindon as to show their aim and then Lindon called to the group and once again they were in motion beneath the sea blue sky that tossed the grass in shining waves and caressed the skin with its breeze. Closely behind Lindon, Hundar walked. His spirits were high as the clouds that rolled across the sky and cast dark sailing shades on the grass. He had liked it when the elf had praised Lindon. He was proud of such a leader and he hoped he could show himself to be worthy of such a man’s friendship.
Jithen half ran as to fall into step with Hundar, “What did they say?”
“They talked about each other’s names.”
Hundar was in a mood for thought and not talk, “Stupid, that’s how the elves introduce themselves.”
“I don’t know maybe because they like it.”
“What about the people that don’t have a name they like?”
“No no, see Lindon explained it to me once. An elf’s name is only as great as the elf so by telling a person your name you tell them about yourself.”
“What about the people who don’t do anything great? Wouldn’t they feel silly?”
“Maybe that’s why it’s a custom. So you have to do something worth mentioning.”
By this time Hundar was getting frustrated with Jithen’s questions but looking up at Lindon he thought he saw a brief smile. Jithen, satisfied, fell silent and at length Lindon spoke, “It will not be long before you learn that elves do everything for a reason. The practice of remembering one’s name is done to honor those who have earned it. Elves believe in silent boasting. They tell you their name and if they have done it enough honor than it will be renowned and heard of by all. If your name is honorable than it will be praised if you have dishonored it you will be shunned. It is a practice which I think often more a hindrance to the soul than a encouragement.”
At this Thy’lun spoke, “I agree you will find that some elves are more concerned with their name than with their soul. They cannot be trusted.” Hundar and Jithen both walked on, silent in thought.
The group trotted down the path, the Elves leading, and the refugees following excitedly on their heels. A silver tipped and oak shafted arrow, cleaving the road to the Elven camp. “How long will it take us to get there?” Jithen questioned Hundar.
“I don’t know, maybe a half an hour…ask Lindon.”
“He’s talking to Thildum.”
“You mean Thy’lun, thi-lun.”
“Whatever, anyway they are talking about something like training, mages, the portal, you know, fancy complicated stuff. I tried to get his attention, but he said that he wanted to talk to thaedum, at least until we got to the camp.”
“Jithen, listen to me, Thy’lun has worked hard to honor his name, at least try to get it right! It’s Thy’lun, t-h-y-l-u-n, Thy’lun.”
“I AM trying! I just can’t remember as well as you. Hundar, Why do the trees look different here?”
“I don’t know!” Hundar burst out, becoming quite fed up with Jithen’s incessant chatter. But nevertheless, Hundar examined the trees that now lined the road and carpeted the bowl of land on either side of the road. Having been so interested in the Elves, Hundar had failed to notice that the trees that grew inside the Ice Mountains, although clearly a species of sinbacus, were different somehow. They seemed to have grown taller, or thinner, fuzzier, or less real, and more like sunlight shining on the top of a thick white cloud. Hundar decided that the long journey in the passageway through the mountains had dulled his vision, and now the normal sunlight on normal objects dazzled him.
The murmur of the camp grew nearer, the road curved around and the tents came into view. Colored the shades of the forest, green, brown, gray, some blue, a few yellow, a few red. The road continued among the forest of tents and trees, and like the branches of the trees ran byways, paths, and alleys, branching from the road. The group followed the main thoroughfare onward, passing occasionally through clearings and over small brooks. The sounds of life, feet on leaves, the murmur of conversation and discussion, the occasional squeal of a child at play, met the ears of the refugees, who were now among their own. Bewildered with the realization that the long journey was nearly over, many marched with renewed vigor, glad to be surrounded by the mighty company that now lay assembled on the fertile plain. At long last their objective came into view. A magnificent domed structure, rising three times taller than the tallest trees, constructed of what seemed to be glass the color of the sky after the rain.
“What’s that?” Jithen immediately asked.
“It looks like it might be that place that the mages built,” replied Nohn, “for assemblies and councils and stuff. I think the name is translated The Skydome, or something like that.”
“It looks like a dome, and it looks like the sky! The Skydome!”
“Actually,” Corrected Thy’lun who had finished his discourse with Lindon, “Skydome is only the most coarse translation, a nearer representation would be The House of the Firmament. But the builders were proud, and Skydome is a more fitting name.”
“But why are we going there?” Hundar inquired.
“It is where the Captains of our people are assembled, as they are every day, to hear the news, complaints, and grievances of the people. I have tidings that I must deliver, and there are men in your band that must be heralded in due ceremony.”
Hundar immediately swung his head to look at Lindon, but Lindon only smiled a little bit and gazed fixedly on his boots. After a pause he turned to Thy’lun, “You need not trouble the Captains with my arrival.”
“Not only yours, Lyn Lindon,” and again Lindon’s face creased into a humble smile, and turned towards his feet, “there is another which knows not his renown.”
“Is it not better to wait until we are sure?”
“I am sure, are you?”
The smile now dawned full and bright “If you are sure, then so am I.”
“Then why withhold news of joy and hope, hope which is badly needed in these times of trial?”
“The wisdom of the Elves is not to be trifled with!” Laughed Lindon, “Do as you see best.”
The caravan had reached the Skydome and the group was directed to a shady grove nearby where they could rest in peace. Giving instructions for the group to wait until his return, Thy’lun briskly trotted away to be lost in the shadows and councils of the Skydome.
Under the trees, the families sat in groups and clusters. A few children ran freely among the trees, while others slept peacefully on the laps of their parents. Lindon, a little removed from the group, slumped against the bole of a tree, his arms limp at his sides, his breathing smooth and steady, his eyes closed. Hundar stood off to one side and hesitated momentarily. Although he had made many friends among the group during the long trek, and though the group had become closely knit, and though all knew him, Hundar looked around and saw many families. Many complete, a few missing a loved one, but all at peace. Hundar was alone. But then he saw Lindon, the wolf, the beggar, the strong leader, the slayer of the sambacterdorn, the human hero of the elves, alone. Running gleefully to Lindon’s side, Hundar snuggled up against the man he adored. Lindon blinked awake a little, then draped his arm over Hundar, and for the fist time in many months, both slept in peace and security.
Two hours later, Thy’lun returned. A train of young elven boys followed him, each wearing a dark blue tunic, each carrying several bundles of cloth. Upon the arrival of Thy’lun, there was a general stir in the grove, Lindon and Hundar awoke and Lindon rose slowly to greet Thy’lun.
“It is good to see you back. What is the news? Where are we to set up our tents?”
“You will have no need for your tents, for the Elven weavers have been at work, and there is an allotment of all goods set aside for the newcomers. Upon this subject, I have been instructed to give each of you a cloak, a blanket and two new tunics. Your old clothes you may keep, but since you will no longer need them you may donate them to the weavers, who will unravel them and remake them into tents, blankets, or whatever is needed. I am also to give to each family a new tent and a water skin.”
“What have we done to merit such gifts? Are the elves so rich now that they may give new cloths and tents to all those that come their way?”
“None are rich in these days, and though the elves are not poor, this is all we can spare. I reported the sorry state of your followers and was granted permission to bring these gifts; most refugees that come to us are in a better condition than you are. Also, you will all have to apply yourselves to earn your food, for he that will not work, will not eat.” After these words, Thy’lun instructed his helpers to lay out the bundles, and oversaw their distribution. Everyone received the promised supplies, the clothes in a shade of light green, and the tents a hue of gray. Thy’lun then continued, “These elfie (The plural of young male elves.) will show you the place where you are to camp. Lindon and Hundar will tarry with me for another hour or two. The rest of you may set up your tents and then wander about the camp, rest, or attend the councils and hearings, whatever suits your whim.”
After these glad tidings, the group gathered up its supplies and trailed after the blue clad elves, who moved off in a southerly direction. Hundar looked up inquiringly at Lindon, but Lindon only smiled and motioned for Hundar to follow him. Thy’lun seeing the group depart, turned to Lindon and stated, “The time is ready.”
Following Thy’lun closely, Lindon and Hundar approached the over-arching translucent disk, bowed upward from the inside by the lofty thoughts of its builders, bowed downward from the outside by the weight of their deeds. There were no partitions, walls, or doors in the place, for the entire structure consisted of one huge dome, supported around the rim by vine-like pillars. The twelve pillars rested on huge monoliths of marble protruding from the ground. Beneath the inverted horizon of the glassy dome, spread a plain of dark stone, smooth and polished by the years, rising to a low hill beneath the apex of the bowled structure. A pedestal over fifteen feet high stood in the exact center of the Skydome reached by a spiral staircase, and surrounding the pillar was a ring of hundreds of stone seats, raised slightly and hewn out of opaque silver stone. Scattered about the inside of the Skydome were groups of elves and men, discussing matters amongst themselves. An elf stood on the central pillar addressing the few occupants of the seats.
“Come Hundar” Lindon nudged Hundar, who had stopped to take in the surroundings.
Thy’lun did not pause, but proceeded to the ring of seats, where he sat down with his hands on his knees.
After several minutes of waiting, Hundar asked Lindon, “What is happening?”
“Thy’lun has something to say, so his is sitting with his hands on his knees, to show he is ready to get up and speak when the present speaker is done. I wish you could understand elven, they are discussing the opening of the portal.”
“Has someone arrived who is powerful enough to open it?” Hundar questioned.
“Yes.” Is all Lindon that said; a faraway look came into his eyes, as if he was thinking about some great and glorious event of the past. The elf had come to a conclusion and was walking down the staircase. Thy’lun rose, ascended the central pillar and took a deep breath. Surprisingly his tone was not that of a speaker making an address, but of an announcer proclaiming a decree. The background conversations silenced and only the elven words were heard punctuated by murmurs and exclamations from the crowd. When Thy’lun had finished his elven decree, he repeated it in the language of the Green Sphere.
“Elves, and men, I bring the announcement of a man of note entering our camp. The renowned Huthyr Kyln, also Lyn Lindon. He will be residing in the fifth southern camp. Anyone who desires his council, company, or expertise may freely go and meet him there.”
Lindon smiled, and murmured “A true traditional welcome, well said.”
But Thy’lun was not finished, he continued in the same tone. “Elves, men, and Dwarves, I bring the announcement of a man of note entering our camp. The renowned Promised one, the Great Mage, the Powerful restorer, also Hundar.”
Hundar’s head swam, he looked up at Lindon thinking there must be some mistake, but Lindon only turned slowly and bowed low to Hundar. Thy’lun continued,
“He is not to be disturbed by inquiries and timtie (Pronounced teem’-te: a formal request, usually to a mage, for blessing healing or other forms of benevolent use of power.). He is not yet strong, or experienced, but will be exercised until he is able to open the portal. So give thanks to God that he has blessed us with the fulfillment of prophesy in our generation.”
Hundar was overwhelmed. Him, open the portal? It was unthinkable! Hundar turned to Lindon. “Tell me this is a joke!”
“It is no joke.” Replied Lindon, the entire population of the Skydome was now looking at the pair. The tall strong Lindon, proven leader, and hero, facing Hundar. The small skinny Hundar, untested boy, and powerful mage, glancing around in amazement.
“But, but, how...why am I...?”
“Calm down Hundar. Your skills will not do anyone any good if you cannot face the truth. You will start training as soon as you like, it will not be easy, but it will be rewarding. You can still live with us if you like, and the elven mages will come to train you. I must also warn you, power is a dangerous thing. You must always remember the One who gave you your power, and who can take it away.”
Hundar again looked around, searching for a snicker, or smirk that would tell him that this was all some elaborate joke, but there was only respect and awe. His whole world was once again changed, his entire story rewritten. Hundar looked into the eyes of his friend.
“Please, Lindon, carry me.”
Lindon did not answer, but leaned over and scooped up Hundar in his big arms. Hundar cuddled close to Lindon’s big shoulder, and in that way they walked through the amazed crowds, through the forest of trees and tents, and into the quiet tranquility of their own camp.
Rising over the spires of the forest, the sun launched its blazing shafts downward into the sleeping camp. Penetrating between the branches and trunks of the trees, the beams impacted the forest floor, creating small patches of blurry light, which shifted slightly in the morning breeze. Beneath the shadows of the sinbacus, Hundar focused intently on the wizened, yet tall Elf sitting before him. An elder named Funu’tsitas had been assigned to teach Hundar. His first lesson in magic had begun. Beneath the lightening sky, and among the muffled sounds of the camp and the distant forge, Funu’tsitas outlined the basics of magic.
“Magic can be divided into three main qualities. The qualities are position, energy, and matter. These categories are not absolute, but are useful for grouping extensions for easier reference.”
“What is an extension?” Hundar interrupted.
“Ah yes, I get that all the time, I really should know better. An extension is the formal word for what you might call a spell or an enchantment. The origins come from a mage extending his mind to effect things around him. Now, back to characteristics of magic. The quality of position deals with the distance from the mage which the effect takes place. The quality of energy deals with how difficult an extension is to force, this differs from mage to mage. The quality of matter describes whether a spell takes away matter, adds matter, or only changes existing matter. Often the qualities of matter and energy are linked. Do you understand?”
Hundar thought for a moment before replying, “I think so. A light extension would have a low position, a low energy, and no matter?”
“You are nearly correct, an extension for light coming from your hand would be described as local, low, and plus. The plus comes from the fact that light is a form of matter (something discovered in the ((what)) age), so a light extension is very slightly adding matter. However, for all practical purposes, light equals no matter.”
“Will you tell me how to cast a light extension?”
Funu’tsitas smiled, “There will be plenty of time to practice extensions, but it is very important that you understand what you are doing. The first few extensions that you cast will be very difficult and tiring. It will feel like you have just concentrated on a very hard problem, your mind will be dazed. This is normal, and the more powerful you are, the longer it will take to get the used to it. Even when you are accomplished, different extensions will require different amounts of energy. The three main factors of energy need are proximity to other people... Are you listening?”
Hundar had been staring off into the forest, wondering how long it would take before he could do any really neat extensions. Aroused he stammered, “I’m, I’m sorry, I was just thinking.”
“Well, I guess that’s a start!” Funu’tsitas laughed a high staccato laugh. “You need to listen now, you will have plenty of time to think later. As I was saying, an extension will take more energy if it is near another person, or if it is doing something complex, or if it is adding or removing a lot of matter. The opposite is also true; an extension far from other people, doing a simple manipulation of existing matter is fairly easy. This, like most of your early lessons, is an oversimplification, and as I have said some mages have more trouble than others with certain kinds of extensions. Are you understanding all of this?”
“We learned something like it at school, but our teacher didn’t know much about magic.”
“Understandable, to cast an extension you must concentrate, that is where your mind becomes so important. The more difficult an extension, the harder you must focus. Today I want you to practice concentrating very specifically on something. Try to focus for a prolonged period of time. That is all for today, and don’t worry about extending accidentally, trust me, you will not.”
Hundar rose, thanked Funu’tsitas, and started back in the direction of the tents. Before his lesson had started, Funu’tsitas had led Hundar away from the noises of the camp, and out towards the Portal. Now, Hundar returned to the camp, and sat by a stream that passed nearby. ‘Well, he said to concentrate. Here it goes!’ He gazed into the stream, focusing on a pebble on the bottom. The water rippled and creased, forcing Hundar to flick his glance down and up, round and round, to keep the pebble in focus.
But then, Jithen walked up, “Hey Hundar! What are you doing? Did you drop something in the stream?”
“Go away Jithen.” Hundar snarled through gritted teeth. “I am trying to concentrate.”
“What are you concentrating on?” Jithen persisted.
“That pebble in the creek, now stop bothering me.” Jithen sat down next to the creek and for a few seconds, gazed intently into the rippling waters.
Hundar gave up. Diverting his eyes from the stream, he brought them full to bear on Jithen. “Why do you always have to ask so many questions? I am trying to focus like Funu’tsitas told me. If you want you can talk to him about it.”
“Who is Funu’tsitas?”
“Go ask Lindon.”
“He just sent me away because I kept asking him about the stick he was carving.”
“Jithen, I will answer all your questions about whatever you want if you will just LEAVE ME ALONE for the next hour!”
“All right, fine.” Jithen rose to go but as he was walking away, he called back, “See you later big mage Hundar.”
‘Big mage Hundar?’ Is that what I am? Again Hundar turned to the stream and gazed into its shallows. Picking a different pebble this time, he once more narrowed his eyes and designed to keep the small rock in the center of his vision. The water rippled. The ripples were familiar, but they were never the same. Focusing on the small rock, he noticed that it was a light brown, unlike the ones surrounding it, which were all shades of gray. Focus, concentrate. Slowly the rock became blurred, darkened. Now all the rocks had taken on a brownish tint, as if they were seen through murky water. As hard as he might try, Hundar could not keep his gaze fixed on the pebble. Standing up from his crouch, Hundar sighed. The creek was completely opaque, muddied by activity further up stream.
Oh well, I suppose I can play with Jithen now. Hundar thought.
Racing up the shallow incline up to the tents, Hundar looked around for a sign of an exasperated grownup, which would be a sure sign of Jithen’s unrelenting questions. Suddenly Hundar spied Lindon sitting at the base of a tree and remembered what Jithen had said about Lindon carving something. Hundar ran over to Lindon.
“Hey Mr. Lindon, what are you making?” As he said this, Hundar craned his neck to see the piece that Lindon was whittling.
Lindon looked up and smiled. Holding the long piece of wood with three fingers so that Hundar could clearly see it, Lindon asked, “Can you tell me?”
“It looks like one of those things that the Elves were carrying, only without the blades.”
“Yes, it is called a semper-bane, the Elves designed it, and it has long been their favored weapon. Since I am once again in the presence of several powerful mages, I thought it good to fashion another for myself.
“How do you use it Lindon?”
“When I am done with it I will show you. However, if you must know now, go north and ask directions for the sparring rings. I sent Jithen there a while ago, you might check on him. Be back here by noon…” and with that Lindon went back to his carving, sometimes holding it in his hand, sometimes staring at it, sometimes whittling slowly and patiently.
“Thanks Lindon!” Hundar smiled as he dashed away along the path northwards. The path was well trod, and Hundar only stopped a few times to ask directions on his way. As he drew near to the practice rings, he could hear shouts, scuffing of feet, and the ring of metal. Suddenly, the trees cleared away, unveiling a crowded clearing, beneath a cloud of rising dust. Hundar turned his head back and forth, looking for Jithen. Giving up his search Hundar ran over to the nearest ring and climbed up on the railing. The competitors faced each other; sweat streaming off their faces in the hot mid-morning sun. Their armor was similar to that of Thy’lun, but lighter. One wore a cloak of green, the other of light blue. Both held a long staff, tipped on either end with a padded but still dangerous blade nearly a foot long.
Hundar watched in a trance as they shifted their feet, raising small puffs of dust from the well-trodden arena. Then suddenly, without any preliminary movement, the blue warrior shot forward, his weapon held tight to his body; the weapon thrust out, almost catching the side of the warrior in green; with a slight movement of his staff, green deflected the jab. Now, blue was overextended; green grabbed his spear with both hands and swung the bottom blade up at blue’s face; blue snapped his weapon up to deflect within a movement so fast Hundar’s eyes missed it. At first Hundar thought Blue had shifted his grip on his semper-bane as to allow one end to swing freely into front of his face but in retrospect he realized that Blue hadn’t changed his grip at all- his weapon had simply, suddenly, inexplicably, truncated.
Now Blue’s weapon lashed out on the right then scythed up from the left. Hundar blinked, shook his head, and stared; Green’s weapon had just gone supple whipping twice overhead, snake-like before striking mid-staff against Blue’s raised staff and wrapping three times around. Each time the weapon curled around the padded blade sliced mere finger widths from Blue’s face. Releasing his entangled weapon with one hand, Blue reversed his stance, pulling his blade with seeming ease from the coils as if from a sheath and then swinging its full length with a grip on the most extreme end. The staff dipped low into the grass before arcing up to Green’s thigh. Green parried with a neat double gripped block. Blue caught his staff slightly forward of center with his other hand then backpedaled while spinning his blade into a blur. One hand outstretched in balance, the other spinning his weapon, Blue settled into a half couch before spiraling his weapon overhead, over his left shoulder and then tucking it neatly beneath his right arm.
Green smiled dryly and choked up his grip on his weapon. As he did, Hundar started to see the end beneath his hands shorten until it was nothing but a hilt, and the length above adjudge into a well-proportioned sword-like weapon.
“Cotas!” someone yelled. The two warriors relaxed, bowed slightly to each other and exited the rink. Another pair entered from the opposite side, and now Hundar noticed that there was a long line of armored elves and a few men stretching almost halfway around the rink. He turned to a nearby spectator, “Are they all waiting to get into the rink?”
“To train. Yes.”
Hundar spent all the rest of the day at the training rinks. Wandering from ring to ring, he watched as the elves and men trained against the chance of attack. Early in the afternoon he ran into Jithen, and together they watched the sparring for many hours. Finally, Mentha came and found them and brought them back to a late meal of hot stew and crispy rolls. Gathered around one of the fires, Hundar, Jithen, and Nohn hungrily devoured their dinner.
“I hear you were haffing fun down at the twaining rings!” Nohn commented with his mouth full of stew.
“Yeah!” Jithen replied, “We saw a bunch of elves using a semper-banes and another bunch using bows and we even saw one that made a flash of light with an extension!”
“Yeah, well, guess where I went today?”
“To the top of the Ice Mountains over the Guardian pass! A group of elves were going to see if they could spot any new groups of refugees. We could see all the way past the Grey Forest, and all of the Portal Plains, it was really neat! They said that if I want I can come with them again.”
“How did you get there?” Jithen inquired
“There are some stairs in the fortress that guards the tunnel, they go all the way to the top of the mountain, and there is a little perch up there that has windows on both sides of the mountain.”
Just then, Kall leaned over the group of children and declared, “So, who wants to go see the forge? Dingman, the master blacksmith said that the children could watch him tomorrow, so that they stay out of trouble. “
“Yeah!” all three exclaimed.
Kall added, “Oh, I almost forgot; Hundar you have to go see Funu’tsitas when you are done eating, he is waiting for you in the Skydome. I’ll take you all over to the forges tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks Kall!” Jithen called out to the receding figure. Hundar finished his stew and stood to go. “So, when can you do extensions?” Jithen called after him. Hundar kept running and called over his shoulder.
“I don’t know!”
The jog to the Skydome was nearly familiar now, so it seemed to take no time at all. When Hundar arrived, he slowed to a reverent walk. The interior of the Skydome was lit with a warm but un-flickering fire-colored glow. Funu’tsitas sat in the center, on the pedestal, illuminated from above by a steadily glowing haze. “Come up Hundar.” Funu’tsitas beckoned in a clear voice. Hundar realized that he had stopped, and continued over the cool stone floor, up the winding stairs, and to the feet of Funu’tsitas.
“I have some news for you, Hundar.” There was a long pause and when Hundar did not reply, Funu’tsitas continued, “Lindon has told us of your skills with the sword and bow. I have met with the elders and the council and they have agreed that you should be formally taught in the arts of weapons and battle. Therefore, tomorrow you will meet Lindon at the sparing rings along with several other warriors. When you are done you will meet me here and I will instruct you in your lesson.”
“All right!” Exclaimed Hundar.
“But! You must be warned, it will be hard work, you will exhaust both your body and mind, and you will have little time to play. This must be your own choice, we will not force you.”
“I want to learn how to fight! And I want to learn magic too.”
“Good. Now go to bed, you have a long day ahead of you.”
“But Funu’tsitas! Can’t you teach me some more?”
Funu’tsitas smiled, and stood. “Did you practice concentrating?”
“Yeah, I was concentrating on a pebble at the bottom of the little stream, and it was really hard because of the ripples in the water, and then someone stepped in the stream and it got all dirty and plus that Jithen kept bothering me and...”
“I think I get the idea.” Funu’tsitas deftly interrupted, “That is a good exercise, do it while you are waiting for breakfast tomorrow. That is all, you need your rest.”
Hundar opened his mouth, looked up at the stern face of Funu’tsitas, and then started slowly down the stairs. Once he was at the bottom he broke into a sprint, which slowed to a jog. Quickly reaching his tent, which he was sharing with several other boys, Hundar explained that he would not be able to go to the blacksmith because the warriors were going to train him to fight. After the cries of disbelief and “no fair” had died down one of the boy’s father made them all lie down and all were soon asleep.
Hundar’s mind woke up, and then he remembered. Leaping up from his mat, he dashed outside. Sky between the trees was streaked with crimson clouds; Lower to the horizon an inferno of yellow shot through clusters of leaves and left blinding white streaks on the forest floor; Blazing upper branches sang out in a green chorus, joining with the tones of the brightening sky. The trees stood in smooth dark tones, casting light patches on the otherwise damp ground. A clump of grass hung heavy with dew. A bird called out. A day began.
Hundar did not learn much that morning, he spent most of it showing the other warriors what he knew and what skills he possessed. They complimented him on his accomplishments, and also said there was room for improvement. However, Lindon just smiled like a proud father, and watched from a distance. After a large meal of hard cakes and roasted chicken, Hundar began his studies of the history of the spheres, and of magic. “Why do I have to learn history?” Hundar protested, “I don’t need to know this stuff!” Funu’tsitas only replied cryptically, “If the leader of a caravan falls into a hole, shouldn’t you watch him, and avoid the place where he was walking?”
Slowly his body strengthened, gradually his mind focused. Although his fighting skills increased, there was no discernible fruit from his long studies, exercises, discussions, and instruction. One day after greeting Funu’tsitas Hundar asked, “When will I be able to do an extension? I have been working for three weeks now! You said that most students take only about two weeks.”
“Hundar.” Funu’tsitas leveled his eyes with Hundar’s, “You will become a mage of exceptional power. If you are indeed the Promised one, then you are the most powerful mage that will ever be. I have told you before that the time of training required before the first extension directly relates to the power of a mage, and the amount of effort he puts into his training. If you wish to speed the process, you must practice mental discipline always, at every moment be honing your mind as you hone your body for battle. Memorize the passages that you are studying, think about what you are learning. Don’t let your mind wander, but direct it’s course with diligence. The most powerful mages have taken five or even six weeks of hard training in the best Elvin schools before their first extension. You have some of the best teachers here Hundar, but we cannot train for you. I am not saying that you have not worked hard, I have rarely had a better student, but the harder you work, the sooner you will be able to make your first extension.”
And so Hundar continued to labor in body and mind. For another month Hundar fought, studied, slept, woke, fought, studied, slept. (add more about fighting and sparing) The days wheeled above, the moon waxed and waned, more refugees arrived, weapons were forged, the days turned bitter cold, and one day the ground was covered with a light layer of frost, which melted with the rising sun.
“Pack up everyone!” The call traveled as fire through the camp. Rubbing their hands together for warmth, the men packed the tents, loaded wagons, bridled horses and set off. Hundar, now well acquainted with his teachers, traveled with Funu’tsitas. “Hundar, I know that you have been working hard, and I want to congratulate you on your progress.” Funu’tsitas stated after an hour of walking, “However, you must endeavor to make an extension. With winter at the door, we cannot last long in tents. Our choices are to build houses, or move to the portal and hope someone can open it before the weather gets too cold.” There were a few minutes of silence.
Hundar spoke, “Everyone is hoping that I will open the portal, aren’t they?”
“Yes, Hundar.” The tone was grave.
“Then teach me now, we can’t waste time.”
“Yes Hundar. You speak with wisdom beyond your age.”
The day passed in exercises, examples and training. Under the night sky, Lindon came looking for Hundar. Although he had been studying with the best teachers, Hundar still slept in Lindon’s camp. “How are the studies going Hundar?” Lindon asked as they pitched a tent.
“I don’t know. Funu’tsitas says that I have to make an extension soon, so that I can open the portal, but so far I haven’t even been able to make a light or anything.”
“Just do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you. It is normal for the first extension to take several months to accomplish.” Lindon paused, and looked up at the nearly dark sky, “But Funu’tsitas is right, we need to be through the portal in a month at most. Work hard Hundar, we are all praying for you.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep trying.”
The moon rose and the camp slept, but Hundar was unable to doze off. Lindon’s words echoed in his tired mind. Work hard Hundar...Funu’tsitas is right...month at most...work hard...work hard...we are all praying for you...Funu’tsitas is right... Hopelessly, Hundar rose, wrapped himself in his blanket, and walked outside. Breathing the cold damp air, Hundar turned to the outside of the camp, and beheld a breathtaking sight. The high moon cast razor-edged shadows on the forest floor, leaving yawning abysmal voids where the trees denied it’s light. Below the trees, the camp had taken on an otherworldly cloak. Although wrapped in darkness, the odd shadows and great voids of darkness gave the illusion of small islands of bluish light, suspended within an infinite black cavity. A breeze rose for a moment, and the vista rippled in a spreading shudder. The world recoiled at the disturbance; a million islands appeared and then broke up in a moment. “It’s almost familiar.” Hundar muttered to himself. Standing on the edge of an uncertain world, only partially revealed, unreal, unfamiliar, and unwelcoming. Suddenly sleepy, Hundar stifled a yawn, entered the tent, and fell fast asleep.
The journey to the Portal continued, and every day the black arch grew higher in the sky. Rising as high as a mountain, the portal seemed to grow with every footstep. Twin pillars of solid black stone stood rooted in the flowing grass. Up from the roots sprang the giant roughly hewn midnight stone reaching toward the sky. The black stone stood out against the clouds and faint stars of evening, facing the cool gusty breeze. Then up at the top the two pillars curved towards each other and were joined together forming an arch, a doorway to the other world. A single curved groove twisted its way along the rough black stone. It joined with two more grooves and formed an entwining symbol. The lines undulated in and out of each other’s loops, circling separating, and then rejoining. Snaking they suddenly swerved and spread out along the black stone. Down they ran, through the coils and shapes of other grooves. Down they ran, down over the stone that curved away from its apex. Down they ran over the huge blocks of stone. Down they ran and then split to form the branching shape of roots that sink into the ground. And there they ended at the massive base of the Portal.
Hundar’s walk slowed, and then halted, “It’s so big!” He exclaimed. “You could fit a whole town through it at once!”
Funu’tsitas walked up beside him, “Intimidating isn’t it? Don’t be afraid, it has no power outside of a mage to open it.” And here he patted Hundar on the shoulder. He means me! Hundar thought to himself, but Funu’tsitas continued, “You should probably go find Lindon and help him set up.”
Hundar ran off between the rows of people in search of Lindon. Quickly finding him, Hundar helped to unload tents, and belongings, and then set them up. By the time everything was done, the sun was well down below the horizon, and the air had become bitter cold once again. “Can I run up to the closest pillar of the portal?” Hundar questioned Lindon.
“No Hundar. It’s too dark now to see anything, you can explore in the morning.” Lindon responded.
When morning came, the camp once again rose, and began the daily chores. Smiths stoked their forges, bakers heated their ovens, weavers tightened the warp, and the captains of the elves met on the wide stone threshold, beneath the dizzying arch of the portal. This was no ordinary meeting. The scouts had returned with strange news, but what it was no one could find out. All the leaders of the elves and men were there, and as the morning revealed the waking camp, plans were revealed in the council of the host.
Once all were gathered, and seated upon the hard black foundation, the leader of the Elves, Lyn Makun, stood and said, “I have called you together to hear the news of our scouts, and to take council as to what our actions should be. May the Great One have mercy on our council, and give us guidance.” With that, he motioned to one of the seated Elves, who stood, bowed, and began,
“We were out in the forest running a scout patrol, when we saw a large figure coming through the forest. Naturally, I had my men set a standard tree ambush, while I waited to see what was coming. Within a few seconds, I realized that it was a tunnel guardian” several murmurs ran through the group, and many sat straighter, aroused by this unexpected news, “so I gave the challenge, and asked it why it had extended its vigilance to the portal plains. In response, it told me that the guardians had decided that our forces were planning treachery against their masters, and that we had taken the fortresses by force, and were holding their leaders captive. He also informed me that they know who are mage is, I assume he meant Hundar, and that the guardians will not allow us to escape through the portal with their leaders. Knowing that it is futile to argue with a guardian, I asked him how much time we have to return their leaders. He said that we have two days, and after that the guardians of the pass will come and take them by force. He then ordered my men, although I do not know how he became aware of them, to forget the encounter, which they did. After that he turned and tromped back towards the fortress. That is all I have to report, thank you for hearing my words, consider them well, for they are all true.” The scout sat down.
“Thank you.” Lyn Makun said, rising again, “Is there anyone with further news that will aid our council? I see, Lyn Lindon that you have something to say. Your council is valued, please speak.” Lyn Makun again sat and Lyndon rose, and addressed the group.
“I too have had an encounter with the ambassador of the guardians of the tunnels.” Lindon related the encounter in the passages, many weeks before, and the warning that he had received. “Be warned, that what the guardians lack in analytical powers, the make up for in observation. Even now, our council is marked. They know that Hundar is not yet able to open the portal, but they do not understand that we do not hold their captains, and if they attack us, they will kill all until their captains are found. Seeing that we do not have them, they will not rest until every one of us is destroyed. We can now only hope that Hundar will be able to open the portal, or that God will deliver us from the claws of the Guardians.” Lindon sat again, and all sat in silence for a moment. Finally, Lyn Makun rose and addressed the group. “I see only two plans, of which we may use both. One is to build fortifications, in hopes of defeating the Guardians. The other is to urge Hundar to attempt to open the portal.”
“But he has not even extended once!” Funu’tsitas objected, “I know that the first extension is in proportion to the power of the mage, but opening a portal as a first extension is absurd!”
Lindon now replied, “We understand, teacher, but the Great One has mercy and lends power to those who delight in Him. It may be that this is the way that He will deliver us from the Guardians. If not, then we will be delivered through some other miracle, for no great army has ever defeated the guardians of any of the portals, and we are not a great army. I apologies for speaking out of turn. I had forgotten the ways of the Elven council.”
“You are granted forgiveness.” Lyn Makun stated, “We have heard the reports, and the council. Who will object to it?” He gazed across the group. All sat with heads bowed. “Then we will place these words to action. Lindon, oversee the setup of the defenses. Funu’tsitas bring the boy to the portal and explain to him the procedure for opening it. All the rest, prepare for battle, and ready your people to move through the portal if Hundar is successful. May the Great One have mercy on us.” With those words, all the leaders rose and said “May the Great One have mercy on us.” Then each one departed, first Lindon and Funu’tsitas, and then all the others. Finally Lyn Makun also departed for the camp, and the portal was left alone, silent as ever, and waiting for the small challenger who would attempt to wake it.
“You want me to do what?” Hundar asked in amazement.
Funu’tsitas stood over Hundar, shading him from the morning sun. His face betrayed that he was old, even for an elf. The ancient wisdom derived from long years of study now shone through his eyes, which were fixed to those of Hundar. “Just what I said, the council wants you to attempt to open the portal. I will take you there now, and tell you the procedure. I will not attempt to deceive you, it will be very difficult, but I think that your training has prepared you well for the task. Will you try?”
“No, Hundar, if you will try, you will try, there can not be conditions.”
“All right, I will try.”
“Good, now follow me, there is much to do.” Funu’tsitas turned and walked towards the rising sun, which now shone above the sublime arc of the portal. Rising from where he had been studying, Hundar dashed to the side of his teacher, and matched his pace to the long strides of the elf. Beneath the branches of the trees the master and student walked in silence. The trees abruptly stopped, leaving only the grass and the wind between the two lone figures and the jet-black portal. “Do you remember the account of the creation of the portals in the second age?”
“Yes.” Hundar responded.
“The dwarves desired to be able to move large amounts of materials between the spheres for trade and construction, but the dragons refused to be made errand runners, and the dwarves could not devise another method of travel, so they called together all the wisest elves, and asked for their wisdom. The elves deliberated over the matter, and decided that the best way would be to create enchanted doors, which would allow you to simply walk or ride from one door to the other, with no space in-between.
“There was much discussion about how this could be done, and in the end the men were called upon to remove from seclusion their great mages. Using the power of the human mages, and the skill of the Elven mages, the six portals were created, two on each of the living spheres. The creation of these portals exhausted the strength of all the great mages, and for their services, the dwarves bestowed on them much wealth and authority.”
“Good, Hundar.” Funu’tsitas commended him, “You remember much, and although much more could be said on each of the points, you have enough knowledge to understand the procedure for opening the portal.”
By this time, they had reached the portal, and were now standing where the grass ended, and the great base of the portal began. Now so near, the towering arch of the portal loomed over them like a tremendous mountain, hollowed to produce a door too huge even for a giant. The black stone sucked in the light of the late morning sun, and cast a great curving shadow near the feet of the pair who now contemplated it in silence.
In a near whisper, as if not to disturb the silence of the portal, Funu’tsitas said, “Hundar, I must warn you, if you feel too tired at any time during the opening of the portal, you must not continue. The portal will wait, and it is not worth ruining your mind and body on a heroic effort. Be careful, opening a portal is not a thing done lightly.”
“Okay.” Hundar responded in the same reverent tone.
“The first step in opening the portal is to fix its form in your mind. To aid this, each portal was made with it’s own pattern engraved on the surface of the pillars. Study the portal, and memorize every line. When you have done that, come and find me in the camp, and I will tell you the next step.”
“Get a mental picture of the portal?”
“Yes, when you close your eyes, you should be able to bring up a picture of the portal in your mind, and look at it from all angles, have a model of the portal in your mind so that you can see it’s construction and patterns, which distinguish it from all the other portals.”
“I will try.”
“Good, work hard Hundar, I will be waiting for you in the camp.”
As Funu’tsitas turned and walked away, Hundar gazed up at the portal. The maze of grooves and figures seemed almost impossible to untangle. Where do I start? Hundar thought to himself. Gazing upwards, Hundar set his eyes on the extreme apex of the tremendous arch. There, Hundar saw a huge symbol, which gazed down at him from its lofty perch. This was the symbol of the Blue Sphere, conceived in the age before the Rebellion. The two channels ran up from the combined patterns further down the portal, and approached the symbol from both sides. Splitting into three groves, the channels branched off, one encompassing over the symbol, one swooping under it, and one running into the center, dividing and joining together to make a picture of the swells of an ocean, beating against two stone spires. The symbol was at once childishly simplistic, and yet masterfully inclusive. No more lines could have added to the realism of the picture, no fewer lines could have been taken away and the image still be recognizable. As Hundar contemplated it, and endeavored to fix the pattern in his memory, he could almost smell the salt spray, and feel the throb of the ocean dashing itself on the stone towers. Slowly, Hundar worked his way down the pillar. Carefully, he memorized each line. Finally, he reached the base.
But then he noticed that, although the pattern ended at the roots of the pillars, there was also a very simple image engraved on the threshold. A single deep line ran straight through the middle of the portal, from the middle of the one pillar, to the middle of the other. However, there was another set of lines, and these ran outwards from the pillars in a shallow arc to a small circle only a few paces away from Hundar. He wondered why he had not noticed it earlier, and stepped on to the stone slab to investigate. The circle was about four feet across, and within it there was a silhouette that even a child would recognize...a pair of footprints. Hundar gazed at the footprints with interest. Sitting down, Hundar pulled off his shoes. The stone was cold and hard. Stepping into the circle, he placed his feet onto the footprints. He was amazed that his feet fit perfectly into the two outlines engraved into the black stone.
Greetings, mage. The thought entered Hundar’s mind. You are standing on the teaching steps of the great portal linking the Green Sphere to the Blue Sphere. Please have patience as I explain to you the procedure of opening the portal. If you at any time wish to end these instructions, step off of the prints on the foundation. Respond verbally when you are ready to continue, or with any questions you may have.
Hundar was amazed. The portal was going to tell him how to open it. It would be great to surprise everyone and open the portal without them knowing it. Hundar thought to himself. “Continue.” he said in a contemplative voice. Once again the words flowed through Hundar’s mind.
Whenever you open a portal, it is important to memorize the configuration of the patterns on the portal. Create an image of the portal in your mind. Respond verbally when you are ready to continue, or with any questions you may have.
“I already did that!” Hundar excitedly exclaimed.
Now that you have form of the portal in your mind, you must understand the idea of a portal. The whole point of opening a portal is to bring the portal here, to the portal on the Blue Sphere. You must draw the portal’s membranes together with your mind. When you are done, end the extension. Respond verbally when you are ready to continue, or with any questions you may have.
“How do I do that?” Hundar asked confused.
Envision the two portals, parted by the great expanse, which separates the spheres. Now grasp the two portals and draw them near to one another. Remember the image of the portal, place your mind into the portal and make it yourself. Gaze off to the blue sphere, and pull the membrane of the other portal to yourself. At the same time push the membrane of your portal out towards it. When they meet, end the extension.
Hundar now closed his eyes. He summoned up the memorized picture of the portal, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be the portal. He placed his view at the top of the portal, and looked down on his own body. Suddenly, it happened. An extension. Magic. His body was now the portal, and he could see his small form, now insignificant, standing on the base of his stone body. The massiveness and age of the portal was now his great form and ancient endurance. He was now aware of a fine sheet, pliable and rippling, filling the portal, and attached to it. Looking far away, he could see the Blue Sphere, and tiny on it, but still visible, the portal. It too had a membrane of rippling fabric, and now Hundar understood what he had to do. He concentrated on the barrier of the other portal, reaching out and grasping it and drawing it towards himself. The membrane responded, and stretched. Hundar could feel the strain of the other portal, wishing to return to its relaxed state, but his mind was strong from weeks of discipline, and he continued to hold on and pull the now taught membrane towards himself. He how understood the great distance that separated the spheres, and why the portals were built. And he continued to pull. It became harder and harder to draw it, and the further he stretched the fabric, the more he felt like just giving up and resting from the constant concentration that was required. The membrane of the other portal was now three quarters of the way across the great distance, but he could not draw it an inch further. Something stirred in the back of his mind. Something that the portal had said to him. Something about pushing. He thought back to what the instructions had been, and his grasp slipped. With a crack that shook his body the membrane escaped the grasp of his mind and snapped back across the baffling distance far away to the Blue Sphere. Oh yeah, now I remember. I was supposed to push my membrane out to the other portal at the same time. I guess I will just have to try again. Once again Hundar fixed his sight on the portal far away, and began to pull...
Crack! The air of the camp was split by the great sound of thunder. All heads turned to the portal, for although there had been no lightening, the sound had come from that direction. Murmurs spread through the host.
Lindon was running to find Funu’tsitas. He spotted him, bounding with strength obviously lent by an extension. Lindon followed him; he was heading for the portal. The air had begun to stir, and there was a deep rumbling coming from somewhere deep within the ground. Soon Lindon cleared the trees, and beheld an awesome sight. All around the portal, trees were splintered to kindling. The very ground throbbed with energy. Lifting dust, a wind rushed towards the portal. It shredded leaves and ripped up the grass. Cruelly, the wind tore at the trees, filling the air with the pungent odor of snibacus. A hint of rain spattered the grass, and was quickly snatched up to fill the void in the portal. Flying debris pelted Lindon. The air trembled with power. The ground began to groan. The portal, unshaken, remained.
Lindon now regained sight of Funu’tsitas, who was nearing the base of the portal. Looking ahead of him, Lindon now spied his aim...the body of Hundar, slumped in a heap on the threshold of the portal, his golden hair unstirred by the wind. Lindon began to run too. What has happened? He thought, is he dead? Has he opened the portal? Now Funu’tsitas reaches the limp body. Now Lindon joins him, the air strangely still. Funu’tsitas cries out a prayer to the Great One. Lindon raises his voice as well. Hundar’s body twitches. The portal shudders. The maelstrom continues.
The Membranes had reached each other, and now Hundar was wondering how to get back to his body. I guess if I just envision myself back in my body, I can go back! Hundar thought. Looking back down, Hundar finally spotted the two tiny men couched by his now limp body. Lindon and Funu’tsitas? Looking arround, he saw the splintered trees and the storm gathering above their heads. Wasting no time, Hundar focused his mind, but nothing happened. Again, Hundar wished himself back in his body, but it was not for the wishing. How did I get here? Hundar tried to remember. I envisioned the portal, and tried to make it myself. Maybe I have to do the same thing now. Hundar looked down at himself, and then closed his eyes. He looked at his own small frame, and his short blond hair. For a moment he was tempted to stay in the portal, so strong, so noble, so enduring. But then he envisioned himself back in his body, his arms, his legs, his head. Hid mind was so tired from the labor of bringing the membranes together. Just concentrate! And then he was back.
“Hi Lindon!” Hundar mumbled excitedly, “I brought the membranes together, but I don’t think I’m done yet. The portal said to come back when I was done, but I’m really tired. That’s okay, because I’m sure Funu’tsitas will be able to finish up, right Funu’tsitas?” Hundar looked over at the amazed elf. Vacillating between amazement and joy, Funu’tsitas only could nod, “You have done just fine!” was all he could say.
“Thanks!” Said Hundar, as his eyelids began to close. In a few seconds he was fast asleep.