Chapter Twenty Eight
(Fate, Duty and Destiny)
Inzveer and the twelve were tireless and annoyance was not an emotional luxury that Draugar would indulge in, but they were perplexed when they happened upon farm after farm that was deserted. They sniffed and poked about trying to discern the reason for this odd turn of events. Finally Inzveer made a deduction. “Mussst be the trullsss. They’ve driven off the peeeplesss.” They now sat heir mounts overlooking Glemmeden. The reptilian beasts hissed and snapped at each other while Inzveer stood in the saddle and scanned for any sign of life. There was none. Weeds and debris blew up the main thoroughfare and dust devils swirled, but that was all.
“Follow’, ordered Inzveer and spurred his mount down the steep grade toward the town.
Any time the general population up and migrate for whatever reason, there will inevitably be the hangers-on that will take the opportunity to stay back and loot and plunder whatever goods and stores might have been left behind. Glemmeden was no different. Outside of town was a hovel populated by a family of ne’er-do-wells by the name of Hogg. In Glemmeden this day were Hup and Ferd Hogg and they were presently in their cups and availing themselves of the grog and canned victuals at the Filthy Fiddle tavern. There was much in the way of food and drink that just represented too much weight and space to warrant their being taken along. The brothers were now sucking down mead as fast as they could and were singing the only song they knew at the top of their lungs. So when the Manion Draugs slunk silently into the tavern they went completely undetected until the brothers were surrounded. The Hoggs were unceremoniously hauled kicking and screaming into the street where they were tied hand and foot and strung upside down by the heels from the branches of the town’s massive central tree.
“Yooo tell mee where all the peeeplesss go. Ssss.” Inzveer emphasized his inquiry by using his claw-like nail to carve a long bleeding trail down Ferd’s torso, eliciting a tortured wail from the lad. “ARGHH! Please…uh, uh I don’t know. I…I…” With this Inzveer turned his attention to Hup who’d already soiled himself. Dwoom, who’d been standing closest to Hup, smelled his accident, tore open the fellow’s pants and smeared the excrement all over him. Inzveer bent at the waist and hissed, “Wheere peeeplesss gooo?”
Hup began to pour forth information, “They all went south…Fjellhiem I think. They went for protection…the…th…trulls. Please, please don’t…NOOO!” Dwoom bent down and with lightning speed reached out and plucked out Hup’s right eye, leaving the lad screaming in agony and horror. Dwoom smiled and tossed the eye to the other draugs.
Insveer lanced Ferd’s lower abdomen exposing his innards and said to the others, “Bring the steeedsss”. When the reptilian ormhests were led over to the horrific tableau, Inzveer hissed, “Feeed, my pets…feeed.”
The Hoggs screamed in agony, then fell silent. The only sound now was the crunch and slaver of the ormhest’s feeding frenzy.
Inzveer stood facing south, eyes closed and swaying to and fro. “Fjellhiem…yesss.” he hissed
While the Hoggs were breathing their last agonizing breaths the meeting in the library to plan the expeditiont to Mount Gunderbad was adjourning. Arnaald went straight to the High council to bring them up to speed on the events as they had unfolded. Garr, Dolf, Smuntley and the rest of the troupe went to their respective quarters to pack. They’d decided to leave in the early hours before dawn of the next day.
Later that day Garr received a message from Briar Flynn asking him to join him at the Keep when Garr was finished with his preparations and packing. Garr had lunch with Lai and filled her in on all that had been decided.
“Garr, I have to admit that for the first time I am fearful for you. I don’t know what I would do if I lost you. I’m worried, Garr”.
Garr exhaled and wiped his mouth. He caressed her cheek and gazed into her eyes. “Lai, I think we are going to have to get used to such things. There is going to be danger on top of danger in the days to come. This thing is bigger than all of us and it’s growing in magnitude…and seriousness by leaps and bounds. I didn’t even know if I was taking it seriously at first. I feel like I was playing at warrior. I’m in it deep now and there’s no turning back. I’m eighteen years old and I’d better get used to how serious things are and I’d better focus or I’m liable not to see nineteen. I don’t want to see you worry, but it is unavoidable. The fact is…and I thank the Norns for this…we are going to be entirely too busy to get much worrying done.” He took her hands in his, kissed one and then the other. “Know that I love you. I don’t care about being King, I don’t care about riches or pomp and circumstance. I care about getting through this with enough of me left to bring back and live with you in peace of mind for the rest of our lives. I want to have children with you and raise a family. But this must come first. I won’t raise a family and ask them to go through what I’ve been through. I’m at least that much of an idealist.” They put their foreheads together and laughed.
At this point a young warrior in training came riding up, dismounted and delivered Briar’s note. “From Master Briar, my Lord”, he said. Garr read the note and said, “Thank you. Tell Master Briar, I’ll be along directly.” The messenger bowed, turned and left. Garr looked dubiously at Leorrelai. “I swear I’ll never get used to that ‘m’lord’ stuff.” He rose and buckled on his sword, grabbed his heavily stuffed pack and bedroll and secured them to Baldur’s saddle. He turned to kiss Leorrelai. She kissed him deeply and more passionately than she ever had and gazed long into his eyes.
“You come back to me…’My Lord’”, she said.
At the Keep, Garr found Briar in the great hall. There was a heated discussion taking place between Bromar and King Gronn.
“I don’t care if you are a King and I don’t care if you are a Dwarf. My fealty is spoken for and I won’t be cow-towin’ to your whims and wants. You boss your toadies around all you want but don’t try that crap with me…king or no, I’ll kick your arse”
Arnaald was separating them with his staff.
“What’s that all about?” asked Garr.
“Ah, Garr, there you are. I came in late. Far as I can tell, Gronn was told that he wasn’t being asked to go on the expedition and if he wasn’t allowed to go, he forbade Bromar to go. Feels he can boss Bromar around because he’s a Dwarf.”
“Oh boy!” I hope Bromar doesn’t kill him. That’ll be bad.”
Briar chuckled, “Agreed. Come, I have something for you. I think they can settle this without us.” He turned and led Garr out of the room and they walked in silence to the armory. Briar walked to the hearth and pushed a chair into place, standing on it, he reached up and lifted down a longbow of highly polished two-tone wood. The riser or grip was done in braided leather and the overall length was six and a half feet. Briar held it at arms length and said, “Take it, it’s yours.”
Garr accepted it whistled. He couldn’t believe his eyes the bow was a thing of beauty. “This is a bow beyond my skill. Briar, I don’t deserve this.”
Briar scoffed. “Nonsense, you forget, I trained you. I think I’m a fair judge of your skill and worth. Anyway, now is no time for modesty. This bow belonged to Ragnar, my father. It is a laminate of Yew, bamboo from half a world away and bone. It has a one hundred and eighty pound pull. With the bowstring of Sigfried the gods only know how lethal this could be. Come, let us retrieve the items of your birthright. Now is the time of their employment.”
He strode to the wrought-iron safe unlocked it and withdrew the parcel. “Put your sword back in its place on the rack. It’s time you bore Nothung. It is time for you to string Ragnar’s bow with Valkyrian’s gift. And the phial of Fafnir’s blood… only you will know the time and purpose of its use. But their time is at hand, son, as is yours.”
Chapter Twenty Nine
(So Be It)
The High council was faced with a momentous decision. They’d all just up and left their families and countrymen to attend this summit meeting and they’d successfully formulated coordinated plans for cooperation on a hitherto unprecedented level. Arnaald was now wondering at the miracle that he’d witnessed over the winter months. Races that had been defined by their animosity toward each other, had worked through those emotions toward a common goal and surmounted their racial differences and histories to do so.
“Daydreaming, old boy?” Smuntley was suddenly standing next to the wizard and snapped him out of his reverie.
“Just reflecting on the miracles that take place when there is sufficient need. Just the mention of such a possibility to the ancestors of those gathered here, would have bordered on heresy or treason, and now look; Dwarves studying maps with Elves, Men dining and drinking with all the other races, Svartalfar and Lyktalfar sharing battle strategies…”
Smuntley grinned and nodded toward Drizzit and Tallor sitting together on the windowsill. “I dare say that’s not all they’re sharing.”
Arnaald laughed out loud. “My point exactly, my friend, my point exactly.”
Smuntley sobered. “Arnaald, Since my arrival here I’ve been working in my spare time on a rudimentary warning system. As you can imagine I did not take off and go jumping willy-nilly about the dimensional universe without a means to repair my equipment. I looked long and diligently for a place to settle. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve found it. In the short time I’ve been here I’ve met people and made friendships of a truer and deeper quality than ever I experienced in my home-world. You people have heart and purpose that where only vague memories where I come from.” He turned and looked meaningfully at Tallor and Drizzit and sighed. “But I digress.” He rifled through his bulging rucksack extracting all manner of thing-o-ma-bobs and doo-dads, None of which drew any sign of recognition from Arnaald. Finally, “Aha…here we go.” He removed a small box and four things that Arnaald took for crystals attached to flat, shiny black plaques about six inches square. He closed his pack and set the items on the table before them and thumbed his suspenders proudly. Arnaald looked from the items to Smuntley and back again. “Um…Okay.”
Seeing the problem, Smuntley reconnoitered. “It’s a solar-powered early warning system. It’s powered by the energy of the sun. You see…this is the sender and these four are the receivers. This is an LED…a light bulb. When this switch is thrown on the sending unit the lights on the receivers will light up…so.” He threw the switch and all four lights immediately flared to life.
Arnaald looked from the lights to Smuntley and grinned broadly. “Magic.”
Smuntley just sighed, nodded and said, “Right. Anyway, it doesn’t matter how far from the sender the units are, they will light up within a split second of the switch being flipped.”
The lights certainly did not escape the noticed of the rest of the council, none of whom had ever seen such a thing. Soon everyone in the room was gathered around the table in rapt attention. Smuntley was now leading a class on the apparatus’ usage.
“Since you all are preparing to leave and make ready whatever preparations face you at your respective homes, this”, he held up one of the receiver lights, “will tell you when the plans go into action. The sending unit will be kept here under lock and key and in Algar’s keeping. What this will do is basically give us a more accurate commencement of our attack plans. Obviously we will be forming up at the valley surrounding Heldahl. You all have those particulars well formulated by now…routes, travel time, etc. Instead of sending runners and depending on responses, all of us will be given an allotted amount of time, to be decided upon by wiser heads than mine, when this light goes off all our plans will go into action. It will serve only to more efficiently coordinate our efforts, the particulars of which, as I understand it, have already been decided.” He looked around the table and was comforted to see all protagonists nod in agreement. “Oh…there is one unit for the Dwarves, one for the Light Elves, one for the Dark Elves and one for Men. The units are solar p…um, powered by the sun, so they must spend at least two hours in the sun per day. So…that’s it. Pretty simple.”
The council unanimously agreed that, one month would be sufficient to return to their homes and put things in readiness. They spent the rest of the day finalizing intricacies and tying up loose ends. The evening was spent in one last feast and a renewal of vows of fealty, camaraderie and purpose.
Arnaald stepped out of the keep stuffing a pipe and breathing the fresh spring air of the mountains. He walked along the catwalk and noticed the figures of Drizzit and Prince Tallor in an embrace. He smiled and turned, deciding to allow them their privacy and walked south along the ramparts through the barbican and out to the southwest battlements. Here he leaned on the wall, lit his pipe and said a silent supplication.
“Odin, I think we’ve done all that we can to put things in preparedness. The unforeseen is your dominion. We are a stalwart group of honest souls. Our mission is just. Our cause is righteous. Yet I worry. I worry for the young and innocent lives that may be taken. I worry for the fate of the Earthlands. I worry for the rustic and simple people in our aegis and I worry at our ability to protect them. But most of all, Odin, I worry for my own strength and my ability to face and vanquish Doden. He’s a vile one…and strong. I don’t doubt my resolve but I doubt my ability. I know I will die if it comes to that, but I fear what may happen to those I leave behind. So give me power, Odin. Buoy my efforts and strengthen my resolve. Give me anger when I need it and clear vision always. Smile on our purpose and deliver us. So be it.”
In answer, the mountain wind carried the laughter of good will from impossible friends, and the wizard smiled.
So ends book two of The Bloodaxe Saga.