A mighty wizard embarks with his friends to the land of dragons to end an ancient war.
|Galen stood atop the highest spire that rose like a king’s scepter among the castle of Rune at twilight. The gentle wind blew his azure cloak in shifting gusts and the raven black head of hair that was slicked back adorned the visage of the man in contemplation. He was the Wizard King, a noble soul who sought to use his power and that of the wizards under him to vanquish the perilous dragons of Braun. He brooded over the present situation and peered down at the rocky surf below from the cliff which the castle was founded on. The ambient silence was disturbed by a deep voice that crossed over to him from the entrance to the balcony behind Galen.
“My Lord, the assembly awaits your presence.”
“Thank you Corian,” he said to the old wizard behind him. Galen hesitated for a few moments then turned about and marched swiftly into the castle as his cloak flailed as he passed with Corian at his side. Inside the chamber a doorway led to a stairwell downward with small fire hearths imbedded into the stone walls. As they descended, Galen addressed his second in command next to him.
“What word comes from the border?”
“There has been minimal resistance my lord. I believe it to be a sign of scheming on the part of Thourn. He is biding his time to smite us unaware with the full force of his dragons.”
“Thourn is a devious ruler. I would expect such a thing from a dragon powerful enough to be master of our ancient foes. We will decide our action when the meeting has commenced.”
Both of the wizards exited at the bottom of the stairs and came into the central hall with vaulted ceilings and large pillars that formed a circle. In the center was an immense round stone table that resembled an altar. Scores of men in purple cloaks sat around it on cushioned chairs with golden backs. It was like a meeting of kings with Galen as the high overseer.
As the wizard king entered the chamber all his apprentices stood. When he had taken his seat the men at the table did likewise.
“Wizards of Rune, Corian has informed me that the dragons have mysteriously abated. We believe Thourn is planning something. The task at hand is to determine his intentions and to act as soon as possible.”
A tall, stout young man stood up and spoke. “I suggest we send a spy to their lands by cover of an invisibility spell.”
“That would not suffice Euticus.” The reply came from a tall, slender man with a bushy white beard named Mortivus. “Dragons have excellent smell, up to a few hundred yards. I believe a transformation spell is in order, perhaps a crow or a vulture.”
Corian shook his head at Mortivus’ response to Euticus. “That would only work if there are no hatchlings about for the obvious reason that they prey on small animals such as birds.”
Then a timid, scraggly man slowly came to his feet and spoke with a low trembling tone.
“If, if I may my lord, I have something to offer.”
A shocked look came over everyone and the whole company of wizards looked at each other in disbelief.
“You have never been one to speak out good Naison . Please, I am curious to hear your suggestion,” said Galen.
Naison looked at the table then slowly lifted up his eyes. “It may be that they are looking for the Oracle of Naught.”
A wave of sarcastic comments and disdain moved through the throng of wizards in bustle of commotion.
Mortivus spoke to Naison directly. “It is well known that the Oracle is an ancient myth. In the oldest books and scrolls in all the realm of Rune that I have read, the talisman is mentioned only twice by name alone. Nothing else infers its existence.”
Then the wise Corian rose up slowly and every eye focused on him. “Our good Naison has some merit to his clause.” He paused before continuing. “The oracle of Naught may indeed exist.”
Corian quickly motioned with his palm to silence any reaction. “I chose to keep this piece of knowledge even from our benevolent Lord Galen.”
A spark of dire concern and surprise flickered in Galen’s eyes.
“Forgive me Lord. I feared that you would disclose such a thing to the rest of the company. It may have incited some to seek it out.”
“I understand your discretion. What compels you to believe it may exist?”
“Many years ago, before the dragons incinerated the western temple, I came across a manuscript there that not only showed the whereabouts of the oracle but a picture of its physical form; a stone engraved with a language of ageless origin encased in a spherical blue gem. It lays in a deep underground cavern, deeper even then the lair of Thourn himself. As it is known, the caves of Braun plunge down further into the Earth than any cave system of Rune. It could be that he is sending all the dragons to search it out. I suggest we use conventional stealth tactics to find out if they are looking for it and stop them if they are.”
The young wizard Euticus spoke up. “I thought they could smell us. Keeping out of sight will not help in that case.”
Corian looked down with a chuckle. “The answer is…cranberries.”
Everyone was dumbfounded.
“If we smear ourselves with cranberries, it will hide our scent.”
Lord Galen then raised himself up with grace having a stern face as he addressed the company of men at the table. “The task is possible after all. I will lead the way to Braun. I will require three wizards to aid me. The plan is to slip in unaware in the midst of the warfare at the border. While we are there, we cannot aid the wizards who are fighting lest we be discovered.” He looked at each wizard one by one that he would name as his companions. “Corian, Mortivus, Euticus; you all will assist me. We will commence our endeavor immediately. Let us first…”
Galen gave Corian an embarrassed glance and sighed before giving the silly command.”…douse ourselves with cranberry juice.”
All the wizards kept back their urge to laugh. Galen and his three chosen went to the garden where they gathered a small barrel of cranberries and made a mashed juice concentration. After applying the mash to their cloaks, they headed to the stables where the four men quickly mounted and rode off to the castle gates. With a magical wave from Galen, the gates opened and they rode off into the plain.
Mortivus expressed his complaint as they went. “Is there not a spell that would create the scent of cranberries?”
“Of course not, there would be no feasible reason to create one. This situation is unforeseen and quite an exception,” said Corian politely.
“How long until we reach the border to Braun?” asked Euticus eagerly.
“It is about half a day’s ride from here. Speaking of which, we’ll need to set up camp soon. When we enter the Shadow Forest that will be the time to do so.”
“What about the reports from some of the wizards who travel through it? Is it possible that they are true?” said Mortivus squeamishly.
Galen responded with ardent determination. “If the forest is indeed haunted with the spirits of slain dragons; that will not stop us. We press on no matter what.”
“Yes my lord.”
It did not take long for the four companions to reach the Shadow Forest. When they were forty-five minutes into it, they set up camp. Their surroundings were eerie. They saw no animals anywhere, like all life had fled from a malevolent evil. Sleep came difficultly and their dreams were strange and disturbing. When dawn came, they set off right when they arose without tarrying. As they passed, the features of the terrain began to change repulsively. The trees took on an ashy color and the leafy, sodden ground was starting to become barren. The smell of the forest altered as well. A slight sulfuric essence carried in the stagnant air and a green mist began creep through the trees like writhing snakes. It was easy to infer that they were reaching Braun, the dwelling place of the dragons.
Suddenly a loud roar thronged through the stillness that seemed to come from every direction. Then the green mist began to gather into a nebulous, body like form. The first thing they made out was a pair of glowing red eyes and next the hideous manifestation of a scaly, translucent creature with wings and horns. The most terrible detail about the abomination was the gaping jaws filled with teeth curved like scythes. It roared again but did not attack. After a few moments, the ghostly dragon spoke with a deep, gargling voice.
“It would be wise for you to turn back,” it said.
The four wizards were not afraid of the specter before them as a man would naturally be for they were powerful wizards and especially since Galen the mightiest of them all was present.
“You do not know who you address dragon spirit. I am Galen, the wizard king; the most powerful wizard in all the lands.”
“My name is Nathaal and it matters not who you are. None can face the great Thourn.”
“Why does it not attack?” whispered Euticus.
“I think I know why,” said Mortivus calmly. “We had nothing to fear from the spirits because they live on a different plain. It is so obvious to me now.”
“I know your plan and you are mad. Although my spirit is kept in this forest, the dragons of Braun will thwart your feeble attempt.”
“Enough!” yelled Galen. “Be gone with you!” The mighty wizard inhaled and blew out a powerful gust of wind that dissipated the foggy manifestation.
“Let us be on our way,” said Galen as he galloped ahead of the three. Mortivus, Euticus, and Corian were still contemplating what had just occurred and looked at one another before following their leader.
Soon they heard the sounds of crumbling ice and thunder booms accompanied by blue flashes that lit up the thinning of the forest and roars that struck the air like axes. It was the elemental attacks of wizards and the cry of dragons that shook the Earth. They were at the border.
“We must abandon the horses.” All the riders did so and Galen gave the next order.” Time to escape from view. Use your invisibility charms.”
Each of the four wizards mumbled a few cryptic words and then clapped their hands and vanished from sight. They crept across the battle field avoiding both the attacks of the dragon’s fire and the wizards’ magic. Just as Corian had said, the enemy was small in numbers; only eight. About thirty wizards were laying siege to the minimal dragon force. Galen and his men carefully delved into the ranks of the vile creatures, moving from boulder to bolder and dry craters to crater for cover. Right before they had succeeded in the first part of their mission, Euticus cried out as his cloak caught fire. Corian immediately cast a water spell that put out the flame.
“We must lead him away from the dragons! The fire has burned off the berry scent!”
Galen tore off Euticus’ cloak and wrapped the young wizard in his own one and the two ran together in order to pass behind the battle field literally right under the noses of the dragons. Mortivus and Corian followed feverishly as all four wizards began to tire greatly. They pressed on, slowing down gradually for what seemed like half an hour. Finally they were sufficiently in the clear.
They all collapsed to catch their breath. Euticus had sore burns over his torso and he moaned in pain until Galen administered a healing spell that took a few minutes to fully cleanse him from his wounds.
“We must keep going,” said Corian. Without a word they continued through the hellish land scape of Braun. Mortivus took a glance behind him and saw the battle from afar still being fought. The clouds were a scarlet red that crackled with yellow lightning from cloud to cloud. Volcanoes were seen in the distance that spewed out ash and cinders.
“How long until we reach the caves?” asked Euticus.
“I believe it is close,” said Corian.
Soon they reached a large mound of rock and dirt with cave mouth that looked as if it had been made by an immense worm.
“At last!” Mortivus exclaimed.
Galen pulled out a small orb from his cloak and uttered an incantation that caused it to light up with a mesmerizing blue hue. “Dot worry,” said. “Only we four can see the light. Any dragons are blinded to it.”
They entered the cave and began the descent to the bowels of the earth. Because Euticus’ scent was no longer shielded, he was instead covered with ash from the walls. Then they saw the first dragon. It was red with ram like horns lined with bony spikes running along its spine to its tail.
It was crawling downward and the four wizards followed. Soon it met another dragon and the two behemoths began to talk.
“When will Thourn absorb enough power from the oracle to destroy the humans?” said the red dragon to a slightly smaller snake like one.
“Within a few days he will unleash his wrath upon our foes of old,” it hissed.
“And then the Earth will be unprotected from ruling over the entire land. I must report to Thourn,” said the red dragon.
“They have it! It’s too late! They have found it!” said Mortivus.
“Not while I still draw breath. We must find where Thourn is and take the Oracle of Naught. We are invisible after all. Let us follow the red dragon to his lair”
It was like hours had gone by until finally they came to a marble bridge over a lava pool that led to a passage way that was in the shape of a dragon’s open mouth.”
And within was the dragon king himself, Thourn! He was monstrous with a crown of horns and protruding teeth like cedar trees. His head and neck were black with a red belly with scales like bucklers. His vile wickedness was reflected in his immense eyes that burned with a red flame. In front of him was the oracle as Corian had described it. It floated in midair as a stream of white light went from the talisman to Thourn’s forehead.
“This should only take a few moments,” said Galen as he reached out his hand as though he was grasping it.
Instantly the oracle shot right into his hand and he became visible. Thourn spoke with a rumbling voice that vibrated the ground. “Wizard, how dare you enter my lair?! Give me back the oracle, you’re surrounded.”
Mortivus, Euticus, and Corian were alarmed except for Galen.
“Not true Thourn, with the power of the Oracle combined with mine you are no match.”
A massive torrent of fire erupted from Thourn’s mouth. Galen held up the talisman and the flames dispersed around them as though an invisible shield was before the wizards. Galen’s three companions covered their eyes from the light of the fire. Then Thourn stopped his attack.
“Impossible!” cried Thourn. He then commanded the red dragon and those around him to retrieve the oracle. “Kill the humans and bring me the oracle!”
Five dragons closed in on them ready to devour the four intruders.
“Use your magic! I must concentrate completely on Thourn!” Galen said as he continued to hold up the talisman to the dragon king.
Mortivus stretched forth his arm and a terrific barrage of sharp icicles blasted from his hand in the direction of one of the dragon’s eyes. It reeled back in pain and it spiraled down from its flight onto the ground sending shards of rocks and dust into the air from the impact.
Corian prepared for the next attack and held up both of his arms. With a flash of blue, a spread of lightening stuck three dragons pushing them back slamming them into the cave wall.
Euticus dispatched the last dragon with an earth attack. The young wizard made an intricate motion with his hands and then clenched his fists in the air. An immense boulder broke through the earth bellow and lunged right into its stomach and hurled it down like a hammer hitting an anvil.
Galen stood with the oracle before him and gave Thourn one chance to yield.
“Now you see my power. Surrender and you will live.”
“I would rather die then submit to you!”
Galen veered his eyes and shook his head. “You stubborn fool. I thought you would be wiser than this Thourn. I have the power to annihilate every dragon in this cave. Would you have me exterminate all dragons off the face of the earth?”
Thourn was silent for a few moments. “I am impressed by your mercy. For the sake of my empire I will adhere to your offer.”
“You have made a prudent decision. I therefore charge you to stay in Braun and never trespass over its borders to afflict any province on Earth.”
“So be it,” said Thourn.
He turned to his three wizards who were in amazement. “Let us be going. I miss our home. At last it is over.”