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.