29 December 2008

Went to the Ocean Today

The pier was being confiscated by a gang of pelican-like flying creatures.

Neptune, looking as stoic as usual.

" I saw the footprint of a man's naked foot!"


The best time to go the beach is during winter on a cold, blustery day. The tracks were due to people, some seagulls, and some to the small herd of puppies chasing one another while wearing these funky sweater things.

28 December 2008

The Marshwigglers

I discovered these in an outdoors shop last Friday. These extraordinary cool shoes are officially called Vibram Fivefingers, but I prefer to call them The Marshwigglers.

27 December 2008

Some Christmas pictures

I know I haven't been writing much lately. . .what most would read, so here are some Christmas pictures I took the past few days.

Shopping in Morgantown.

I found these two hats in a closet. They had never been worn.

17 December 2008

The end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8

There might be some notes here that I've not deleted yet, but basically this is the gist of things.

I also left out a few pages where the fellows see the remnants of a mammoth-like creature because it seemed awkward-I'll try to add the mumakils (mammoth-woolly rhino creatures) in at a later date.

Warily, they approached the Gates. Malchius, Aidin, and Jorlath drew their daggers and Atma put an arrow in his bow. Finally, the great gates lie directly in front of them. Myridon led the way in silence. As they quietly entered the ancient city they looked around. Nothing seemed changed from their previous visit. Through the entire length of the city they walked. Atma stopped and peered closely at the ground.

“What do you see Atma?” asked Malchius.

Atma looked up and replied in a rather hushed tone. “Blood, and what appears to be the footprint of a man.”

After a long pause Myridon placed his hand on his great beard. “How old is this print?” he asked.

“One, two days. Perhaps even three.”

“Then it’s safe to say that their owner is far away. Still yet, we’ll split up and search the city. Something feels amiss about this place. Did you notice how quiet it is?”

“Yes,” replied Atma. “The very air feels full of dread, almost as if Megisteron himself passed through.”

The group separated and agreed to meet in half an hour. Malchius wondered if it was the wisest thing to wander about alone but kept this to himself. Fortunately, five minutes later Jorlath whistled loudly for the others. He was halfway up a set of stairs that led up the outside of a guard tower in the main gate facing the Layam. The others quickly scurried over and before anyone had an opportunity to question him he signaled for silence. Jorlath climbed down and told them what he’d seen.

“A troop of horsemen bearing the ensign of a black hand are riding north of the city. What their business here is beyond me but they’re galloping hard.”

“How many did you see?”

“Twenty riders and all carrying long spears.”

“Did you see anything else?”

“Yes. I saw a man lying on the ground at the far end of the city wearing the same black garb as the riders.”

“Come, Malchius,” said Myridon. “We will investigate. For now, you three will watch the riders from this abandoned guard tower and warn us if any return. Malchius and I will return presently.”

When they were out of earshot from the others Malchius asked Myridon. “Who are these riders of the black hand?”

“Bandits most likely. Perhaps they’re some of the ones from Maligmia. We’ll find out soon enough.”

They soon found the man lying on his back in the middle of the remnants of a large house or temple. Cautiously they approached him. He appeared to be dead until Myridon tapped him with his staff. The man let out a soft moan. Malchius bent down and poured water over his face. He opened his eyes and stared at his two new visitors.

“Who are you?” thundered Myridon in a commanding voice.

The man mumbled something unintelligible then closed his eyes. Malchius bent back down and poured some water into his mouth. Myridon repeated his last question. This time he opened his eyes and coughed violently and cracked out the word ‘Anvar.’

“Anvar. Is that your name?”

The man nodded.

“Why are you lying here like a dead dog. Where are you from?”

The man coughed violently once more. Malchius gave him another drink.

“If I tell you will you promise to spare my life and not return me to my master?”

“I will make no such promises. This, however, I will say. If you make any attempt to escape you will meet with an early death. For two of our party are deadly archers and can hit an apple a quarter mile away at dusk.”

“It seems I have no choice in the matter. Well then, here is my story.”

“Dagornash is my master. He is a powerful man in Maligmia and I was his personal servant. After we raided some villages about Velusia I became ill and he left me here to die...”

Anvar once more took hold of another violent fit of coughing that lasted a full thirty seconds.

“The riders we saw riding north of the city, Are these from Maligmia also?”

“Yes, they were anxious to return to their stronghold in the mountains. Dagornash is their leader.”

“Where is this stronghold?”

“An hours ride north of this city. There is a system of caves where we worked from.”
Malchius helped Anvar up into a sitting position.

“What does this Dagornash want with these outlying villages? Isn’t Maligmia a kingdom of great wealth already?”

“Quite right. Dagornash tells me nothing of his true aims.”

“Perhaps he was ordered to raid these villages,” said Myridon. “This Dagornash may be a vassal of Megisteron.”

“Never! He was a cold master but just.”

“Times have changed Anvar. Many upright men with good intentions go astray, especially in this age. Already Megisteron has turned the hearts of valiant men to evil and the love of many has grown cold. And did you not say he tells you nothing of his thoughts?”

“No. I still think you are wrong.”

“Very well. Wrong I may be, yet if I am not, he must be caught and punished or be driven from the land. We are in need of haste or we would have you show us his hiding places. As it is now, you will go to Velusia with Atma.”


“But they may recognize me,” he stammered.

“That’s a risk you’ll have to take. I shouldn’t worry too much about that if I were you. If you truly were a slave to Dagornash you should have no need for fear. Perhaps if you plead your case before Khiron he will show you mercy.”

Anvar had no reply. He slumped back to the ground and closed his eyes.

“Let him lie here,” said Myridon. “Go back to the others and tell them what we’ve heard. Aidin, tell Atma to come back and carry him to one of the guard tower rooms. I’ll return later. I want to examine this city a bit more while the light lasts.”

Malchius ran back to the tower.

“What did the dead man say?” asked Aidin.

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough,” he panted. “Come. Jorlath should stay here and keep watch. We’ll carry him back here. No. I don’t think he’ll run off. He’s glad to have different company. The riders we saw earlier, he was a personal slave to their leader.”

Malchius, Aidin, and Atma went back to Anvar. He still seemed to be sleeping so they left him there while they searched for something to carry him on. Presently they found two long poles which may have been used tp prop up a roof at one time but lay half buried in a pile of rubble. They wrapped a blanket around the poles to make a type of bed. They placed Anvar on the device and carried him back to the tower just as night was approaching.

“Brr,” Aidin shivered. “It’s cold in here. Where’s my tinder box? I had it by me just before you came back.”

“I’ve got it,” said Jorlath as he entered the guard tower. “I thought of making a fire but then it may have drawn attention to who knows what dark creatures lurking nearby.”

“Wise choice friend,” said Mal. “Did you see anyone else?”

“Nay, only Myridon clambering upon some rocks on the far reaches of the city.”

“He should return soon.”

Atma climbed the crumbly dusty stairs of the watchtower to stand guard. The other three, after making Anvar as comfortable as possible, tried to get more words from him but he simply muttered the same story as before. Soon, Myridon returned quietly. In his hand he carried something in a tattered cloth rag.

“Ho! Wizard. What have you got there?” asked Aidin.

“Something useful I think.”

He opened the contents of his bundle and held up a clay pot. Carefully he removed the lid to reveal a chalky red powder to the curious travelers.

“What is it?” asked Malchius. “It doesn’t look so useful to me unless we can eat it.”

He stretched out his hand to take some.

“Stop!” shouted Myridon. “This is mummy powder, very useful and very dangerous. Just a little powder on the flesh will cause irreparable damage. It is used for killing. A simple dusting of this powder about the room of a sleeping man and he will die by morning. The riders probably dropped it on their way out of the city.”

“Mummy powder?” asked Malchius.

“Yes,” replied Myridon. “It is an extract of Tantleweed, commonly known as Dragon’s Breath. A fell herb that grows only in the courts and gardens of Megisteron’s palaces. It is not a hardy weed and requires constant care. This Anvar knows more than he speaks.”

He eyed the weary Maligmian lying in the corner. The wizard glowered at him and asked.
“Where was your old master journeying?”

Anvar tried to talk but his voice quavered. “Here, drink this,” Myridon said as he gave him a sip of his cordial. Anvar drank and hoarsely replied,
“It is to the west as far as the western isles on the great sea, Dagornash has set in his mind to travel. He has great stores built up from plundering to furnish such an expedition.”

“The great sea is a thousand leagues away and only a score of riders did we see. Are there more riders hidden in the hills?”

“We leave a few men behind to guard the stores.”

“Anvar, listen to me carefully. Can you lead me to these caves in a months time? I deem that they may be useful. We’ve very pressing business to attend to that cannot wait much longer.”

“That I think I can, though it won’t be easy. We can see anyone from afar and the few men that Dagornash has are vigilant.”

“Other paths exist that you may know not of and we’ve also men among us who can at times walk unseen.”

“I will lead you then. It is the least I can do to repay you for saving my life.”

Early the next day, well before sunrise, the company was on it’s way. They took care not to leave the ruined city of the dead by the main gate. Instead, they took a winding, twisting circuit climbing over great stone slabs covered with slippery lichen. An hour and a half later and they were finally on the outskirts of Palo-Enlil back on the trail.

**(name of trail? Enlil Way, Enlil road, Ancients road?)

Anvar thought that Dagornash wouldn’t take the trail** as they always used paths well hidden and unknown to most. As a precaution, they took it in turn to send a scout ahead, usually Jorlath. The return to Velusia was without any event(bereft of any danger) and except for one false scare they were in site of the city only two days later.

They made camp in the middle of an ancient field that night. They laughed and told one another stories of the previous month together. It was the first night since leaving Mt. Danyabad that any of them had a really good laugh. The night grew long. Jorlath was on watch but Malchius lie restless. He rose and walked up the dark hill where he found the Rodamine gazing into the darkness.

“Tell me, Jorlath. One the day you found me at your doorstep. As I was recovering consciousness, you said that I was a kingsman. Yet I had not the garb of one. Why did you say that?”

“Mizraim of late has been losing many men to the Plague. Many foreigners have been joining him as mercenaries. They are a sinister race and seem as if no blood runs through their veins. They refuse to wear the blue and black. When I first saw you, you were as pale as they. Something held back my arrow though it was trained on you. A great doubt shadowed my mind. It saved your life.”

“When I awoke you still thought me a kingsman, did you not?”

“Perhaps Malchius. I think maybe I did, yet I was not certain. Myridon allayed my doubts. But not to worry now. I have no doubts. I once thought you were a kingsman, now you have become a kinsman! Come, we have spoken much tonight, and that is not wise. Speech makes me weary though I enjoy your conversation.”

Malchius took over the night watch. Jorlath, the silent one, formally an enigma, had now begun to open up.

The next morning was cloudy and overcast and a rain was in the air. It was a very somber mood for Atma especially. He had grown almost a brother to the rest of the party, except Myridon. One found it extremely difficult to know just exactly what he thought. They trudged the remaining miles to Velusia and finally arrived at midday. They stopped and looked at one another each feeling somewhat self-conscious. Atma broke the silence by saying.

“Ah..almost a pleasant sound to my ears.” Then turning to Jorlath said, “Farewell Jorlath the Silent. May your silence be a blessing for those who seek peace and solitude,” and then with a grin added, “You’re really great company when one wants to be alone.”

Myridon, Atma, and Anvar walked apart from the others. They talked quietly among themselves for some minutes. When they had returned Malchius noted a slight uneasiness hung about Atma but Anvar seemed more relaxed.

“We mustn’t delay any longer,” began Myridon. Already I feel time pressing a weight on me that I’ve not felt for ages.”

At that moment a horn sounded in the city. “Ah, that would be the sixhour bell. Quickly now! The gates will close in three hours time and I would be well to be in my fathers house before the hour is gone. Farewell...”

“Farewell Atma! Farewell Anvar!” they cried.

They watched the two march down to the main gates half a mile below them. Soon, the remaining four travelers turned their eyes towards the Aeldorland and began walking.

A tear appeared on Malchius’ cheek.

16 December 2008

Chapter 7 The Saga of Cheese Continues

There was little speech that evening. Everyone retired to an early bed. The night was with out incident and the dawn rose and went. They crossed the Beren the second time in the same place as before and made a sharp right turn. They started up a tall ridge south that led to the ring of mountains around the Layam. The going was rough and they found no trail to follow. Old gnarled trees of twisted firs and endless thickets of brambles were the only things that grew there. The air was dark and no breeze blew. Indeed the land seemed strangely quiet. Towards the afternoon, the brambles became less. Later they ceased altogether and the trees grew further apart, enabling them to see quite a ways into the forest. They spent the day following old animal trails that circumvented the Layam. That evening they thought they could catch a glimmer of light from Brontes cave but were never too sure. Atma promised Malchius that he would show him how to make Moglat howls. Around the campfire Atma made good on his word.

“Watch closely to what I do now,” said Atma. Malchius watched as the little guide cupped his hands to his mouth. For the next fifteen minutes he gave a series of long, how whistles. At the end of each whistle he made a sort of hoot-hoot-hoots. They watched and waited. Five minutes, ten minutes. Nothing. Atma then had Malchius try. Malchius tried for five minutes or so and again they waited. Still nothing.

“Ha, ha, ha Aidin laughed. “A rum lot you fellows are. Try again tomorrow night, Perhaps you’ll hoot one in.”

“I don’t understand” Atma said.

“Usually they respond when I call.”

“Perhaps they sleeping,” muttered Myridon who was lying down. “And I think its time we all got some sleep too.”

They took his advice and spent a quiet night. The next day was spent in much the same as before. Walking along narrow paths that overlooked the Layam. Nothing extraordinary happened that day nor the next. The night of their third day from Danyabad, however, was different. Jorlath was on watch and heard a snuffing sort of sound just outside the edge of camp. He grabbed a burning brand from the campfire and walked over the investigate.
“Who’s there!,” he said in a loud voice.

Slowly he extended the torch above his head to see better. A pair of golden eyes stared at him from behind a stone. Jorlath pick up a stick and threw it at the eyes.

“Ha! Take that. Come out from there whatever you are.”

The eyes disappeared and at the same time his torch went out. Quickly now, he went over to wake the others. Atma was the last to get up but when he rose he laughed and said,
“What’s the matter, Jor? Moglats got you on the edge?”

“Moglat or not, what I saw was evil-looking.”

The company each took a flaming brand and walked around the camp but nothing could be seen.

“Nothing here exclaimed Malchius. The others agreed and promptly went back to sleep. All except Atma who took over Jorlaths’s watch. Just as the sun was breaking over the horizon Myridon was helping Atma search for tracks. None were found, but Atma found a few tufts of long grey hair stuck in a bush near the spot where Jorlath saw the eyes. He walked triumphantly into camp as the others were eating breakfast.

“Look here!” he cried.

“Moglat fur or I’m a fool,”

“Ah, then I did see something last night,” said Jorlath

“Yes, probably a solitary moglat though. Myridon is still out searching.....hey, here he comes now.”

The wizard strolled in and reported nothing. He looked at the few tufts of grey hair. Atma brought in.

“This certainly is Moglat fur. Let’s just hope it’s the only one we see.”

He turned toward Atma. “And no more calling tonight. Understand?”

The group finished up and resumed their path towards path. Malchius saw Atma and Jorlath, who were out in front, stoop down and picked up something. They immediately walked back to Malchius and showed him a partially ripped food sac one of theirs. The wizard and Aidin, following last came up and looked at it.

“Well, seems your friend was a bit hungry, eh Atma.”

They continued on. That night a ring of torches was erected around the camp. The next two nights they did this every so often yellow eyes peered at them but they quickly left when someone thrust a torch their direction. Once a long howl was heard and after that no more eyes were seen for the rest of the night. Malchius questioned Atma about the howl who said it was only a wolf. This startled Malchius, but Myridon wasn’t so sure.

On their sixth day after leaving the Beren river they saw the Gates of Layam from afar. They halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the heat of the sun had already exhausted them. The night was cold and cheerless and none of them got much sleep.

Their seventh day from Danyabad began as the previous six. Atma cooked breakfast Aidin and Jorlath packed the supplies. Myridon and Malchius scouted out the land to see if any type of danger was lurking about.

“The plan for the day,” began Myridon, “is to make for the plateau of Girishad. There is, or was, a bridge that crossed the Girishad Trench that led to the plateau. Somewhere, according to Atma, you could descend into the plateau into a sort of hidden pathway at the bottom. There we’ll be safe from any prying eyes which could see anyone from afar if they were on top. After all, I’m not quite ready to have the world see me. Not that I mind meeting new people you see. But I’d prefer to meet them on my own terms. Exactly where the entrance to the hidden pathway is located is not certain, however, it is believed to be across a small river ten to fifteen miles further away. We’ll stop and make camp on the side of the bridge where it is still forested. We’ll stop and make camp on this side of the bridge where it is still forested.”

The travelers walked the trail at a leisurely pace. Except for one small hill, the ground sloped downhill at a gentle angle. Their path was covered with small mosses that dampened the sound of their feet. It also had a cushioning effect. Myridon said it felt like walking on a carpet such as a king or wealthy landowner might own. The flowers began to get more numerous as they descended. To Malchius it seemed a strange sight after having spent the past week looking at a cold cheerless land of rocks and little plant life. Scattered boulders scattered everywhere gave a slight feeling of apprehension to all. Malchius could almost picture a dragon or a giant hiding behind them. A great mound of turf had been dug up appeared in front of them. Jorlath questioned Atma about it.

“Ah,” he said. “In the winter, great beasts migrate here to feed. The mounds you see are the signs of the great wooly mumlak. They are a mysterious creature rarely seen nowadays. My fathers would hunt them for food and for their skin. They would come to the pools by the hundreds, it is said. Now to see one from afar is considered lucky.”

“What do they look like?”

“Hmm, well I’ve only seen two in my lifetime and they were far away. If we make it back to Velusia I will show you. We have artisans who can paint their likeness so that they appear almost lifelike. As to their description, they are huge. They are as big as a house and covered with long dark fur. The males have two long white teeth with which they fight one another. Their ears are enormous too. Perhaps that is why they are rarely seen. They have excellent hearing.”

“They seem more terrible than dragons,” replied Malchius. “What do they eat?”

Atma pointed to a few scraggly trees dotting the rocky mountainside.

“Mostly these. Although when hungry they will eat almost anything that grows. These great mounds of turf you see here are the remains of mamluks digging for food.”

They continued on down the mountain trail at a good pace. Aidin saw something rather strange about one particular boulder. It looked almost as if the top of it moved. He paused and took a second look. He saw it again. Something was moving on top of the rock. He grasped Atma by the arm and pointed. Atma looked and said to the others in a low voice,
“Caution friends. Perhaps my eyes deceive me, but I believe I see a gargoyle on that large boulder resting. If it is, we shan’t be in much danger for they sleep during the day and are more or less blind when the sun is out.”

“More or less?” asked Myridon. “What tell me exactly do you mean by that?”
“They’re nocturnal creatures. They sleep in the sun to warm themselves and hunt by night. It’s rather far away and could perhaps be a large moglat.”

“If it’s a moglat, it’s by far the largest we’ve seen thus far,” said Jorlath. “And this creature has no hair and scaly skin.”

“Wait here,” said Atma. “I’ll return shortly.”

“Wait,” said Myridon. “I’m coming with you. I’d like to have a closer look at this ‘hairless moglat’ of yours.”

The wizard and the Velusian tiptoed stealthily from boulder to boulder. Soon they were out of site. The others waited. Five minutes, ten minutes, and hour went by.

“Do you suppose they woke up that creature?” asked Malchius.

“I hope not,” replied Aidin. “Blind or no. I’d rather let it alone. That thing gives me the creeps.”

Jorlath looked at the creature for long whiles in silence. He felt as if the sleeping creature knew of their presence and was dreaming of how to catch them once night set upon the land. Presently Atma and Myridon returned. Their report wasn’t encouraging either.

“So,” said Malchius. “Did you find out anything?”

“Yes and no,” replied the guide. “Yes it is certainly a gargoyle and it appears to be alone. This is strange. Usually they congregate together for protection. I don’t know why this particular one was solitary but it appears to be an old gargoyle. Very old for their race.”

“It has a crest on it’s head, much like some of the birds found in Khirons palace. That is also strange. Maybe the others chased it out of the tribe,” said Myridon.

“Did you find any clues that suggest more in the vicinity?” asked Aidin.

“I cannot say for certain,” replied Atma. “They are even more mysterious than the mamluk or even moglats. Very little is known about their habits. Except what I told you earlier, not much else is known.”

“One more thing,” Myridon added in a low voice. “It is said that they only eat living flesh. The sun will set in only a few hours, but fortunately there is a full moon tonight. Let us make for the bridge in all haste. It wouldn’t be wise to be found walking in the open once that old gargoyle wakes.”

“The bridge crossing the canyon to the plain of Girishad was built five hundred years ago,” said Atma. “It was built as a shortcut to the mountains. Traders would hunt the mamluk and other large creatures in the mountains and sell their skins to traders. The bridge was a link from the mountains to Palo-Enlil. Nowadays only dwarves use it on their long journeys from Dangmar to South Girishad.”

The bridge was only a few minutes walk away when the party caught their first glimpse of the canyon. Evening was approaching so they hurried on, wanting to cross the bridge before the sun set. The minutes passed. Atma grew increasingly agitated. “The bridge should be visible now,” he thought. “Surely they weren’t lost. There is only one path leading from the bridge to the mountains.”

As they came to the edge of the canyon no bridge was seen, only two great pillars stood. Here and there the ground was strewn with bones. Most appeared to have been gnawed by some ravenous creatures.

“Well this is a fine one,” quipped Aidin. “How will we get across now?”

“Hopeless,” muttered his brother. “If we only had wings like that old gargoyle.”

Atma crouched to the ground. With a stick he carefully prodded and poked at one of the longest bones.

“Well, Atma? What happened to these creatures. It looks as if we’ve come to a feeding place for lions or something.”

“Lions don’t leave the bones of their prey half uneaten like what you see here. No creature that walks on four legs would do such a thing?”

“Well? What caused this?”

"Do you remember that gargoyle we passed earlier?”


“And do you recall that strange wailing sound last night?”

“How could I forget.”

“This is a gargoyle circle. And that is bad, very bad. Even worse than dragons gargoyles are.”

“This news is not encouraging friend. Perhaps we should turn back.”

“Is there any way to cross it”

“None that I can see.”

“Well, we certainly can’t go back, unless of course you want to ask the kind ole’ Mr. Gargoyle to fly you across.”

“No. I’d rather not, thank you. Perhaps there’s another way across.”

“No, there isn’t. At least not for twenty miles. And by that time the gargoyles will be awake.”

“So this is it , huh.... Pretty poor way to die if you ask me.”

“No come on everyone. Think. I don’t know about you but I’m not ready to die just yet.”

Atma walked over to the lip of the canyons looked down. It was a sheer drop five hundred feet if not more and twice that to the other side. He sat down and studied the cliff walls closely, Noting it’s jagged edges and cracks. One crack seemed darker than the others. He peered closer and stared. Something about the crack just wasn’t normal. He picked up a rock pebble and dropped it onto a small ledge jutting out from the crack. The rock hit and bounced back off. He watched it plummet to the ground. It seemed to take forever to hit the bottom. 3....4....5.....seconds he counted. He picked up another rock and dropped it on the ledge a second time. This time the stone hit the ledge and bounced into the crack.

“Why I do declare. I believe that’s some sort of cave.” he said and then to the others.

“Myridon!, Malchius!, Jorlath!, Aidin!” come here. Take a look at this.”

Michael, the first to arrive , got down on his hands and knees and peered over. Atma pointed to the dark hollow cavity fifty feet below. Atma’s bringing in the mountains made it easier to find a way down.

He envisioned a route down to the cave. A line of rocks were protruding from the cliff face just above it. They could spend the night in the cave if they could somehow make it down, for surely the gargoyle wouldn’t climb down there. It was going to be exceedingly dangerous at best and simple foolish at worst.

The Rodamine brothers and Myridon saw Atma plan it once and began to look for every spare piece of rope in the peaks. Minutes later they returned with about two hundred and fifty feet links. Atma and Malchius were just discussing the best route down when a loud piercing howl was heard. The five cowered to the ground.

“Was that the gargoyle?” asked Malchius

“Can’t be” replied the Wizard. “They don’t stir during daylight. It’s probably a moglat wailing from loneliness.

“Well it sure sounded like the one we heard last night.”

“I think this time Myridon is wrong,” said Atma slowly.

The wizard glowered at him.

“Just exactly what do you mean?” He said.

“I mean,” continued Atma

“That before they stir at night, if they’re extremely hungry or angry, they’ll wait and moan just exactly like. . .”

The wailing began again, only this time at another place. Moments later another sounded
“There’s more than one. . .they’re signaling one another.”

The Wizard looked at Atma.
“Now why, pray tell me, would gargoyles be signaling one another now--an hour before sunset? That is, even if they are gargoyles.”

“Something has disturbed them. Something very powerful. I can feel it in my bones. It’s strange though. I can’t seem to sense what the thing is. Just something very powerful.”

A chill went up Malchius’ spine at Atma words. For at times, he too sensed, or thought he sensed, a great presence in the lands. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Myridon interrupted his thought by saying. “You fellows are spooked. And spooked, quite well. I still say they’re moglats. Yet, I do agree we’d have a safer night down below. So let’s get going. The quicker we get down to that hole, the safer we’ll be.”

After Myridon, Atma, and Jorlath turned to get the bags Atma looked at Malchius and rolled his eyes.

“He hates it when he’s wrong. Did you notice how he started blinking his eyes when I told him about the gargoyles wailing? He didn’t expect that. It’s just like a wizard you know.”

Malchius smiled.

“Yes, your right. He’s very wise nonetheless.”

“The best solution,” said Atma minutes later, “is to climb down is to tie the two ropes together and wrap one end around a tree overlooking the cliff.”

”And when we got down? Asked Myridon.”

Atma looked at him puzzled and replied. “Why we’d be down of course.”

“Yes we would. We’d also leave a nice little calling card to any gargoyles that might come slinking about. We might as well say Hello Mr. Gargoyle, down here, yes that’s the way. Have you any idea on how to bring down the rope after we get there?”

“Well, not really.” said Atma.

“There’s only one way left,” said Malchius. The wizard and Atma looked at him. “Only one way, and that’s to climb down without the rope.”

“Rather dangerous don’t you think? With the possible exception of Myridon, that night was one of the longest nights any of them had ever experienced. All night long they shivered and shook. Several times the gargoyles shadows could be seen moving on the rock face as they soared in the moonlit night. Their thin crackling voices echoed strangely in the cool night air. At one point a voice was heard saying that they had simply vanished and the search was in vain. This uplifted the company’s hopes but they were soon dashed when moments later they heard another voice saying.

“Lorcan, you fool, don’t be such a coward. They’re around here somewhere and we must find them. Don’t you want fresh meat tonight or are you still hankering for some old fare?”

All night long the creatures searched but fortunately they never found the five in their cave. Dawn eventually came and the gargoyles left. Myridon was the first to stick his head out to take a view. Slowly, he scanned the horizon. He looked in the bright morning sky, above to see if the way up was safe. He was a bit amazed to see how steep the way down was. He pulled his head back in after a few more minutes.

“Could you see anything?”

“Nothing for miles around not even any birds. What’s up top where we would’ve camped-I can’t say. Well have to climb up and take a look.”

“Did you hear anything?”

“No. Nothing except the wind of course. You’ve welcome to look for yourself.”

“Malchius stuck his head out and almost instantly became woozy. The bottom of the mountain was perhaps a mile away. Malchius bit his lip and held his breath. Malchius, who was uneasy climbing trees, could hardly fathom the position he was now in. Knowing that he had to climb up to the top without rope didn’t made him feel any easier either. Down below, wisps of clouds flitted past. He could just barely make out a small stream snaking its way to the north. Not long after he struck his head back in.

“Back so soon?” asked Aidin.

“Ah, er, yes,” he said in a somewhat shaky voice.

Aidin grinned and looked out. He let out a long whistle and said.

“I didn’t realize how high up we were last night. Those white things we saw must have been the fog rising up form that stream.”

“We at any rate we’ve got to get back to the top, and the sooner the better.”

Malchius didn’t much like this proposition but he couldn’t stay here for the rest of his life. Aidin and Jorlath made ready for the climb back up. Malchius, who had just recent acquired a mysterious stomach ache laid down at the back of the cave. Myridon sat looking on the ledge, thinking.

Aidin led the way. Fearlessly he stepped onto the ledge and looked up at the rocky wall. For a long while he stood there until at last he said,
“I’m ready now. I see a line that looks safe. I’ll begin Myridon will follow. Young Michael, you had better stay with Atma and Jorlath until we reach the top. When we do, we’ll let down a rope. That should help a little anyway.”

Aidin and Myridon began their climb to the top. From the ledge Malchius watched their progress which seemed painfully slow. He wondered how long it would take him to climb to the top. They still had twenty miles to walk to reach the pass. What the gargoyles would do to them if they didn’t make it in time, Malchius didn’t want to think.

It took Aidin and Myridon an hour and a half to reach the top. They quickly tied one end of the rope to a sturdy looking fir tree and led down the rope. Atma caught hold of it and pulled the rope tight. He turned to Malchius,
“Well my friend, are you ready?”

“As soon as I’ll ever be,” Malchius replied.

“Good. Still nervous?”


“Even better. Nervousness makes for better climbing. It makes you strong when you are weak.”

Aidin tied the rope around his waist and almost effortlessly started climbing. In only half an hours time he reached the top. He threw down the rope which landed with a loud ? To Malchius’ ears. Jorlath picked up the rope and placed his hand on Malchius’ shoulder.

“It’s time. Come, for we must hurry, already it is two hours after dawn.”

Malchius stood on the ledge and grasped the rope.

“You’ll have to help me with the knot, I’m afraid.”

Jorlath tied the knot tight around Malchius’ waist. Carefully then, Malchius started up.
“Be sure to test the rocks first, then grasp the rocks firmly with your fingers when you put your full weight on them.”

Malchius made no reply, only nodded his head. Carefully his tested each rocky hold with his hand as Jorlath said. Halfway to the top he paused. It wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be he thought. Only about thirty feet to go and I’ll be done. Slowly he began climbing again.
“Now only fifteen more feet. He felt much more relaxed now. Atma, Aidin and Myridon were looking at him from above. Now only ten more feet to go. He placed his left hand over a dark colored rock and pulled his body up. The rock crumbled in this hand. With no time to yell, he felt his body come away from the wall and he fell. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth but he stopped. Aidin and Atma caught the rope in time. Malchius, now dangling in mid-air, caught a glimpse of the bottom. The wooziness came on him again but soon passed.

“Get back to the wall!” called Aidins voice from above.

Malchius swung on the rope haplessly for another moment, then swung himself to the wall. He made it to the top about fifteen minutes later. Aidin and Atma reached down and pulled his weary body above the lip of the canyon and there he lay, exhausted. Aidin let down the rope for the last time. Jorlath climbed up fairly easily. They ate a hurried meal while ???

Now the five were safe at the top. Atma filled the water skins. Then they were off for the pass. The time was mid-morning and they needed to get there before night. The travelers made only one brief halt in the afternoon. An hour before dusk they saw the pass in the distance a mere three miles away.

Hardly daring to pause for more than a few moments they started jogging towards it. They arrived just as dusk was approaching. Atma gazed uneasily in the sky. Their camp last night could not be seen but dark clouds hovered in the sky from that direction. He squinted his eyes and thought he saw something flying in the air but he wasn’t sure. He felt an uneasiness in his heart but told not the others what he thought he had saw. He did feel the need for haste though and said,

“Quickly now. We must cross the river before night comes.”

The others agreed and they hurried down the long sloping hillsides of the pass to the river. Atma led the way through the river just as the thin red crescent of the sun dipped below the horizon. A large thicket of rhododendron lay before them. Atma felt it wise to spend the night there and so they tramped on for another fifteen minutes through the dark shrubs. Together they plopped to the ground and went to sleep. Jorlath on first watch saw and heard nothing of the gargoyles. Indeed he heard nothing but the cool nighttime breeze. At midnight he roused Malchius.

Early the next morning Malchius looked up. They were actually in the plateau now. The gargoyles couldn’t get down to them or even see them. The walls of the canyon sloped inward as they reached the surface. A narrow sliver of light from the top diffused so that it seemed to be perpetual evening in the rocky labyrinth. The path was wide enough for two horses to walk abreast.

“We should arrive at the Gates of Layam tonight if all goes well,” said Atma. “No gargoyles can get through the top--even in the night.”

“Let’s make this a quick trip,” said Jorlath. “I’ll feel much safer.”

The hidden path was smooth and fairly level. No great obstacles were lying in their path. Water was found in plenty from the sides of the walls. The little waterfalls, found every few hundred feet, were the homes of great ferns. Mist would rise from the ferns giving them a dream-like quality. Malchius noted how much they resembled the Sephirotic Tree. One closer inspection he found that they had no fruit. He plucked one of the fronds and began chewing it. Quickly he spat it out. It would be days before he got the nasty taste out of his mouth. Sometime in the afternoon they came to the end of the path. The familiar sands of the Layam Desert came to view again. The last few hundred feet of the path grew brighter and brighter as the top gradually separated. Soon, the five travelers found themselves blinking in the bright sun on the edge of the desert. The Gates of Layam were clearly discernible in the distance.

“We’ll rest here for a spell and fill our water skins with water,” said Myridon. “We’ll have to hurry quickly to the Gates now that we know that dragons are about.”

“Wither our plans once we venture back to Velusia?” asked Aidin.

“Nay, this time I think we’ll bypass the city entirely,” replied Myridon. “Atma will lead us back to the outskirts on the far side of Velusia by lesser known paths. Khiron has perhaps forgotten us now, yet if wind of our journey gets to his ears he may try to confiscate the Sephirotic leaves. Atma can return to his home if he likes.”

“Yes. It would be good for me to return. I miss my family very much. I should like to go to the Aeldorland soon if all goes well. I want to see this fair land of yours.”

“You may get your wish sooner than you think,” said Myridon as he stretched himself out and closed his eyes.

One hour later found them stepping on the hot desert sands. Their eyes were peeled to the horizon looking out for any great beasts lurking about. Fortunately, none were in sight. The Gates loomed larger and larger as they drew nearer. Small scrubby plants began to appear now, then a small stream. They were only a half-mile distant from their goal when Myridon pointed to the sky. Dozens of great vulture-like birds were soaring overhead.

“I wonder what lies yonder?” said Malchius. “Some great beast must lie ahead.”

“And not quite dead if the vultures are still aloft,” said Jorlath softly. “Caution friends. Keep a sharp lookout everyone. We’re not home free just yet.”

* * *


Return to the Gates of Layam (Palo-Enlil)

08 December 2008

One version of the end of chapter 6

* * *

“Anyhow we’re all safe and sound with most of our baggage intact, which is more than most people can say who’ve met dragons in the wild.”

“Yes, I guess you do have a point there.”

“I sincerely doubt that we’ll encounter a dragon for the last few hours march. However, it’s a risk that must need be taken. We’ll reach the gates of Layam, I think, next Thursday. If we hurry we’ll arrive sometime mid-morning. From there, we’ll return the way we came. Malchius, I, along with the others will return to the Forest of Ambia and make further plans for Malchius to take the Sephiroth to the villages.”

A half hour later they were on their way again. Malchius looked back to take one last glimpse of the Sephirotic tree, but saw nothing but a thick mist. Carefully, they climbed back to the base of the mountain Danyabad. They began to breathe easier as they descended. This had the effect of making them feel more lively and of course made Aidin more talkative than ever.

Unlike the others, Basnu had openly doubted the existence of the Guardian. At first, he kept this to himself, but at times he uttered a phrase or half-muttered sentence that expressed his contempt of such an idea. Nevertheless, he did have an image of the Guardian in the back of his mind. He didn’t know why but this fact bothered him. It also made him uneasy, edgy, and rash when the others discussed it. Now that they were actually on the mountain he found that the part of his mind that still half-believed in the protector of the Sephiroth was practically silent. So it came as no surprise when he heard Malchius’ description of how he acquired the Sephirotic leaves he became fully convinced Malchius merely imagined an unseen ‘presence’ and that the cold air and harsh climate caused it.

Basnu had a love for his people that few among the Velusians could match. The outbreak of the Plague or enemies affected him so much so that he took it as a personal attack. Three years previous, dragons had wandered from the Northern Reaches and had killed some sheep and cattle. Krenos called for one hundred men to guard the outlying houses and fields. Basnu was the first to volunteer. He proved himself to be a capable hunter and tracker of the beasts and soon became a leader for others to follow. Capable as he was as a hunter, his rashness and over eagerness put the other men in needless danger. Krenos overlooked his shortcomings for he never failed to let any dragons live. Months later, the remaining dragons migrated back north and the men went back to their homes.

Just before a steep bend in the path Atma and Basnu, walking ahead of the others, started talking.

“Do you think Malchius’ leaves will be enough?” asked Basnu. “I mean, after all, suppose they accidently get mashed or lost in one of these crevices?”

“Remember the words of Merops, answered Atma. He said that only one. . .”

“Yes, yes, I know what he said. But after all this trouble we’ve gone thru and jolly nearly getting killed what would a few more leaves matter in the long run?”

“The Guardian. Have you forgotten him?”

“What Guardian, He didn’t see anyone or anything up there. He only felt something.”

“They say he will know.”

“Oh come on Atma, that’s old wives talk. Think of the good we can do for the Rodamines. No more long expeditions into the northern marshes for fenwort. No more deaths among the newborns. And don’t forget Saris.”

At the mention of Saris something like a sharp pang hit him in the heart. Saris, Atmas betrothed, had died two years ago and the bitterness of her death was still fresh in his mind.

“Saris’ death couldn’t be stopped. Nearly everyone had somebody from their family die, from the Plague.”

“Yes, and that’s it. . .if it ever comes back. We’ll have the cure. We’ll be ready for it. Don’t you see?”

“So what are you proposing?”

“Simply this tonight I’ll be on watch. We’ll just climb back up and pick a few more leaves.”

“Hmm, that does sound interesting. However, I still refuse to go.”

Basnu in a still lower voice said, “Well, think about it for now. Perhaps you’ll change your mind later.” And with that he strolled away back down to camp. Atma gazed down at the others. His hands in his pockets looking for all the world like nothing happened.

Atma began thinking about Basnu’s words. True, the extra leaves would help the Velusians. Perhaps Saris’ death could have been thwarted by some of the leaves extract. But Merops said only one leaf was to be taken. Why? The words planted in his mind by Basnu began to grow. His mind ran wild thinking of the good and worthy causes he could do. Oh, if only he had more leaves. However, the old prophet’s words kept coming back into his mind. Merops was always right in his prophecies. His father had told him of the time during the years of plenty that Merops foretold of a great farming. Sure enough, the next year a great famine struck the land. Merops was also correct in his prediction of the Magna incident, Atma swayed back and forth between the two choices. Finally he let out a long sigh and muttered.

“He’s right, I simply mustn’t be greedy with the Sephirotic Tree. Tonight, I must stop Basnu from going back up the mountain. The fool will be killed if he’s not.”

He felt a heaviness leave his mind, and presently joined the others around the campfire. Eventually, the group reached the large block of ice where they had rested on the way up. They flopped down to the ground beside it and gazed at the Beren River below. It was decided that they would camp here for the night. Atma secretly wondering if Basnu had anything to do with the decision.

Basnu and Atma didn’t say much to each other the rest of the evening. The rest of the gang was all up in happy spirits and already they were making plans to storm Mizraims castle and save Arweena. Gradually one with one they fell asleep. Basnu looking around to see if all was clear nudged Atma awake. Atma, feigning sleep, rolled over and groaned.

“What do you want?”

“Well, do you want to come or not? It’s now or never. We’ve over got a few hours till the others awake. Fortunately, the full moon will help us.”

“No, I’ve decided not to go. I’m not climbing it. And you’ll be asked to do the same.” Humph! Basnu grunted as he stood up and crossed his hands.

“Then, it seems that I’ll go alone. You’re a fool to miss out on an opportunity like this.”

“Perhaps in your mind I am. Nevertheless I wish you luck. You’ll need it for the Guardian.”

“Bah on your fanciful “Guardian!” he whispered hoarsely. “I’m off!”

And with that he stormed off into the moonlit night towards the Sephirotic tree. Atma gazed after him for a few minutes till he was only a dim vague shadow in the night. He rolled back over and stared at the fire.

“Might as well keeps watch if Basnu’s gone, he thought. There’s no telling when he’ll come back. As the hours crept by Atma becoming drowsy and drowsier. His head nodded on his chest when suddenly just as dawn was approaching he heard a low blood-curdling shriek somewhere high on the mountain above him. He quickly roused the others and told them of the situation. Myridon became very cross and said.

“Why didn’t you tell me last night. We could have stopped him.”

“He’s my brother. I knew how rash gets at times. Usually he settles down. I didn’t think he’d actually make it to the Sephirotic tree.”

“Come on! said Malchius.” We’ve got to look for him”

Off they rambled up the mountain sides in the general direction of the Sephirotic tree. After an hour’s scrambling and much yelling Jorlath came across a dark object in the snow. He turned it over and saw with a horrified expression the body of Basnu. He was dead. Clenched in his hand were six golden berries. He waved the others who came around. Atma, who arrived last with Malchius, upon seeing his brother fell upon him. “Basnu! No! It can’t be! Why? My brother, why?”

The others stood around silently while Atma went, Jorlath touched Atma gently on the shoulder and said, “My friend, your brother was a noble man. Not many would risk their lives for a token.”

“Yes, he was a brave man. But, alas he was foolhardy." He related the conversation held last night. After a moment Myridon said.

“I believe he meant to do well. He will be long remembered by the Rodamines. Yet, his rashness led to his undoing. He will be sorely missed.”

Aidin suddenly cried “look!” At his hand!” The others looked at Basnu’s hand and saw the berries emitting a thin silvery colored smoke. Within seconds they were completely gone, only a bit of ash remained.

“And so ends that,” exclaimed Myridon.

“Let us bury him,” said a solemn Atma.

They carried the body of Basnu to a relatively sheltered spot on the mountain, and piled stones over his body. Atma said nothing as he sat and watched the others. The rocks made an uncanny sound in the cold silent air. The mound became bigger and bigger until the body of Basnu was completely covered.

The company stepped back. Atma, arms straight down by his sides, knelt down. The others, too, bowed their heads in respect.

After some time the company began the long trek down the mountain. The sky was cloudless and no wind blew. Each one kept his thoughts to himself. The stones underfoot made an uncanny sound in the cold silent air. At last the silver-colored Beren River came in sight. Soon they heard the tinkling of the water over the stones in the river. Myridon broke the silence by saying.

“Tonight, we’ll camp by the Beren. I’ll keep watch tonight. I’ve got much to think upon. This has been a long day for us. Tomorrow, will start off a bit later than usual.”

02 December 2008

Chapter 6

Things get complicated here. I've at least 3 different versions of this chapter.

Here is a the most complete version of the opening of chapter 6. Like the others posted so far, it is in serious need of editing and rewriting, but I felt the need to post (something) on this blog.

Chapter 6

Malchius had not seen any of the others for quite a while. The afternoon was getting late and it was high time he got back to the others. He saw a little ways off, a smoke or haze, that seemed to be coming from the very rocks themselves. The haze was perhaps half a mile from where he was standing and he really should have returned to the meeting stone, but as it was, his curiosity got the best of him.

Presently, he reached the spot and sure enough, smoke was rising from a mound of orange-red colored rocks. He stepped closer for a better view. Suddenly, Malchius felt the ground give way beneath his feet. He grasped vainly but everything he touched fell down with him. Fortunately, except for a few bruises, he was unhurt. He scrambled to his feet and dusted himself off. He had meant to climb up and out of the hole he had fallen into, but something held him back. It was not a hole he had fallen into but rather a sort of tunnel. Not a very long one for he could see a golden-colored light coming through the other end.

‘It’s fairly safe,’ he thought. ‘Perhaps climb up at the other end.’

So, to the other end of the tunnel he went. What Malchius saw the moment he stepped into the golden light nearly took his breathe. He found himself standing at the base of a natural amphitheater. The place was rocky as the rest of the mountain but, unlike the areas lying outside the tunnel, none of these rocks were ice-covered. Mounds of smoking rocks and a faint hint of sulfur met his nostrils. But the most exciting thing about the place was the large tree that grew in the middle. He had never seen anything like it, and he knew the search was now ended and the old legends were true.

He took a drink from the spring that rippled from the base of the tree. It was the coldest and most refreshing water he had ever tasted. The tree itself resembled an enormous fern. The bark was thin and papery and gave off an agreeable odor. The Sephirotic Tree was laden down with large copper-colored fruits that looked like apples, but on closer inspection, he found they were more rounded like oranges and bigger.

Malchius remembered Merops’ warning about the Guardian. He walked up to the great leafy fronds and plucked a single branch of leaves, and placed them in a small leather pouch. Gradually, the desire increased until almost without his realizing it he plucked one of the great copper fruits off a limb. He had to wrench and twist it fairly hard to do so.

‘What harm could there be if I take just one fruit?’ It’s very selfish for any Guardian to have such a wonderful tree all to himself. Why think of the people one could help if a wise and benevolent ruler, an immortal.’

"Oh!" he said aloud.

He was startled at how loud his voice sounded in that lonely and desolate place. He felt an urgent need to make for the tunnel. He turned and made quickly for it. Now, what happened next Malchius could never quite explain. Halfway there he seemed to hit a brick wall. It seemed to him that the very air became thicker. At the time, he said later, it felt like he was swimming against some invisible current. Very slowly Malchius made his way back to the tunnel. When he was just in reach of the entrance, the temptation to turn back to the Sephirotic Tree reached a peak. He slowly turned to catch one more glimpse of it before returning.

"I’ll just sit here for a spell. Surely that’s not forbidden."

But deep inside himself he knew that this was the one thing he must not do. Now it is a curious fact of nature that the longer one goes about trying to justify an act that is itself not wrong, but, will almost inevitably lead to a wrong, one generally succeeds. That is exactly what Malchius was doing. He convinced himself that he wanted one more look at the fruit. He stood up and took a step toward the Sephirotic Tree. At once, the invisible wall seemed thinner. He took another step. The boundary lessened even more. He took three more steps and the wall pretty much vanished altogether. Malchius sat down. His mind was clearer than it had been a moment ago.

"No. I’d better simply return. I’m sure to be late now as it is."

He stood up again and made for the tunnel. Immediately, the air thickened as before only this time it was stronger. Malchius knew he was in trouble. He had already wasted precious time tarrying here and now was caught. Resolutely, he set himself, tightened his belt, and ran for the tunnel. The barrier was stronger than ever yet he made it. He stumbled to the ground in exhaustion. After a few minutes a deafening boom! roused him to his feet. The ground trembled and shook and he had trouble with his footing. Malchius ran through the tunnel blindly with his last remaining strength. Half a minute later he came out the other side safe and sound albeit extremely dusty.

He easily climbed out and soon was on his way back to camp. Soon, he saw the familiar dark blue of Myridon sitting hunched over a fire. Myridon was intensely interested in the description of the Sephirotic Tree and the sight of the leaves made him even more frantic with excitement. At this time the others began arriving.

"Some kind of invisible wall of resistance, eh?" remarked Basnu.

"Now I wonder if that was the Guardian?"

"Couldn’t be," replied Aidin.

"Why not?" asked Atma.

"Invisible walls and great invisible beings aren’t the same," said Aidin. "What’s your opinion Myridon?"

"I have no opinions," said the wizard. "However, I will venture a possible explanation. The Guardian was not there at Malchius’ arrival. In his absence he contrived this spell to keep out trespassers. There is another possible explanation as well. The invisible wall was the Guardian. At any rate we can’t go back and look."

"Why not?" queried Basnu.

"Did not you just hear Malchius? Only by a great will was he able to muster the needed strength to leave the domain of the Sephirotic Tree and if it were not for the earthquake that may not have happened."