Authors: Sam Ferguson
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2015 by Sam Ferguson
All Rights Reserved
For Dana T. and Juvi G.
Thank you for your continued support
Tales from Terramyr
(Short story anthology)
Return of the Dragon
The King’s Ring (Coming Soon)
Son of the Dragon (Coming Soon)
Cyrus grabbed Janik’s left shoulder and stopped him mid-step. Janik turned around to regard the old wizard. Cyrus stroked his beard and narrowed his eyes on a far distant point.
“You aren’t backing out now are you?” Janik asked.
Cyrus casually shook his head. “When we approach the lair you must remain vigilant. Lady Caspen will be well guarded, and her captor will have minions of his own to throw at us.”
Janik nodded his head. His hand went down to the battle axe tucked in his belt. “Yes, well I have a few tricks of my own.”
“Don’t get too cocky there, warrior,” Cyrus said. The wizard adjusted a sapphire ring on his left ring finger so that the gem was in the direct center of his finger. He then reached back and took his staff from a holster near his saddle. The horses whinnied and shied away, pulling at their guide ropes. “It appears as though the horses don’t want to be here any more than I do.”
Janik shrugged and started his way through the forest. The early morning air was cool, but warming by the minute. The silvery light of dawn had just begun to break the blackness of the night. Janik and Cyrus walked through the forest as quietly as they could, stealing their way up a large hill and winding between pine trees and aspens. There was no breeze, nor movement of any kind. The area around them was silent, devoid of any signs of life.
When they crested the hill they could only see a narrow entrance to a cave next to a very shallow stream. Cyrus pointed to the cave. Janik nodded, he knew that was the lair. Lady Caspen had been abducted several weeks before, and it fell to Janik and Cyrus to save her.
Janik pulled his axe free from its holster and made his way out by the stream toward the cave entrance. The closer he got to the entrance, the more he could feel a warm, putrid breeze. It carried with it a strange odor, something like iron and sulfur mixed together. Janik paused at the entrance, peering in and leaning side to side to gain a vantage point as he tried to spy further down the tunnel. In the blink of an eye Cyrus was at his side again. The old man stopped and then the wizard pointed his staff into the cave and muttered a simple phrase. A yellow spark leapt from the end of the staff and hovered in the air before them. The spark grew to the size of a man’s fist and then floated into the cave, illuminating the tunnel and laying bare its secrets.
With the aid of the spell, Janik could see that the cave was narrow for perhaps fifty yards ahead before it disappeared around a curve to the left. Jagged rocks of gray, brown, and black jutted out from each side, promising to gash or bash any unwary traveler who was careless in his advance through the cave.
“Have you ever hunted a Shadowfiend before?” Cyrus asked.
“I have hunted two,” Janik replied. “However, both times I was in a party of twelve warriors.”
Cyrus nodded. “Well, I suppose that had the previous parties sent to rescue Lady Caspen not all vanished, perhaps we would have found ten others to join us.” Cyrus motioned for Janik to enter the cave first.
“Age before beauty,” Janik said with a smile.
“Beauty before brains,” Cyrus replied with a sneer. Janik ceded the point and entered the cave. Cyrus remained two yards behind Janik at all times. This would allow the wizard to wield the staff not only to cast spells but as a melee weapon as well. The two of them rounded the corner to the left only to find that the cave ended in a small chamber spanning three yards across and four yards high, with jagged stalactites dripping a green, algae filled water from their points.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Janik said. Janik took his hands and pressed into the wall. The stone was cold and damp to the touch, worn smooth from years of weathering. Janik followed a rivulet of water with his eyes upward until he found a small fissure in the ceiling above. Algae grew around the sides of the crack. “There isn’t anything here. There should be a cave here. It should be right here. There should be a cave that goes all the way into the lair.”
Cyrus patted at the air with his left hand to quiet Janik while he studied the stone intently with his eyes. “Give me a moment.” Cyrus raised his staff and tapped on the stone before him
Tap tap tap.
Everywhere he knocked his staff, the stone clicked and clacked, creating an echo in the small chamber. Cyrus let out a small sigh and then tapped his staff to the floor three times.
“I told you, there’s nothing here.” Janik threw his hands up in the air and started to turn around to leave.
Cyrus raised his staff one more time and then slammed it on the floor. A great wave of golden light shot out from the top of the staff. The light filled the room and then vanished through the stone. After the golden light had radiated through the stone, a small red circle on the wall shone brightly. “This is it,” Cyrus said with a nod. The old wizard moved to the piece of stone and touched his staff to the red spot. Without a sound, the stone wall on the north side of the chamber vanished as if it had never really been there at all. “A vampire’s illusions are among the strongest, save for those made by a dragon.” Cyrus smiled and then pointed down the newly opened tunnel. “As I said before, beauty before brains.”
“I thought we were after a Shadowfiend?” Janik asked quickly.
Cyrus laughed and shook his head. “A vampire is similar. Now go, he will know we have come before much longer.”
Janik snickered at the old man and brushed past. The new tunnel was not nearly as rough as the first portion of the cave had been. There were no jagged rocks jutting out from the sides, and there were no more stalagmites either. The cave went straight out for roughly a hundred yards before a stairway dropped down sharply. The steps descending downward were carved from the gray granite meticulously. Each stair was level and as tall and wide as the last before it. The walls on either side were smoothed but had not been polished for a very long time. Instead, they were left dull and dark without decoration or garnishment of any kind. The air continued to get warmer the further down they went into the lair. The little golden orb of light conjured by the wizard went before them faithfully, illuminating the path.
When they finally reached the bottom, the walkway opened up to become roughly fifteen feet wide. The floor spread out smoothly before them. Janik noticed the slabs of granite were carved to resemble tile flooring, cut into large squares.
The two heroes walked forward cautiously. The golden orb flickered and flashed, struggling to pierce the darkness around them. Cyrus twirled his staff in its direction and the light was strengthened, but it managed only to illuminate roughly ten feet before them, and only just managed to dispel the shadows from the walls at either side.
“I am afraid that is the best it can do for now,” Cyrus commented dryly. “We are deep enough in the lair that the vampire’s magic is already countering my own.” He flashed a confident grin and winked at Janik. “Not to worry though, when it comes to a battle, he will find that I am the better magician.”
Janik sighed and shrugged off the comment entirely. “Let’s just get a move on.”
As they continued to walk along the path, the darkness closed in on them. The walls faded out of view and the way before them became murky as if covered in dark, thick fog.
Janik felt Cyrus’ staff tap him on the shoulder. He stopped and turned to regard the old wizard.
“Perhaps it is best if we walk side-by-side now,” Cyrus suggested. “The light is not faring so well.”
A High-pitched squeal sounded in the darkness and the two froze immediately.
“What was that?” Janik asked
Cyrus put a finger to his mouth and leveled his staff before them. As they stood, waiting for the source of the shriek to reveal itself, the golden orb grew dimmer by the second until it barely illuminated the area immediately before their faces.
“Can’t you strengthen the light again?” Janik whispered.
“No time for that. If you are ready, the enemy is about to test your mettle,” Cyrus told Janik. “It is time to earn your pay.” Cyrus raised his staff and shouted loudly “Aka eek es eser!”
“What language was that?”
The old wizard didn’t answer. A great flame burst out of the staff and encircled the two adventurers. A pair of winged beasts swooped in from above. Janik barely caught a glimpse of their leathery bodies, sharp fangs and crooked claws before he was forced to swing his axe. His first strike hit true, sinking deep into the neck of the first beast. Blood sprayed out landing droplets onto Janik’s leather armor. As the vile liquid connected with the leather, it hissed and smoked as it burned through.
A flash of lightning jumped out from Cyrus’ staff and struck the second winged beast. The foul monster exploded into a puff of smoke. The third monster managed to circle around behind Janik and came in for an attack. It screeched loudly as it dove for him, but Janik rolled away safely while Cyrus flipped his staff over and used it as a club and smashed the top of the winged monster’s head. The beast fell to the ground and Janik jumped in quick as a snake to drive the killing blow down through its spine.
The two heroes looked around, studying the chamber they were in and looking for any sign of other foes. Even with the circle of fire around them, the darkness was too thick to see into very deeply.
Cyrus summoned seven orbs of light and set them in a rotating fashion above them to push back the shadows and allow the heroes a greater field of vision.
“The enemy surely knows we are here now,” Cyrus said. “That was likely only the first challenge.”
Janik didn’t say anything. He nodded with his head and moved forward. The two of them walked for another ten minutes, taking their time to allow the seven orbs of light to pierce the shadows before them as they walked. Fortune smiled upon them and there were no other creatures that attacked them before they finally came to the lair’s entrance.
Cyrus poured more magic into the orbs until the entire chamber was illuminated fully. Janik let out a hushed whistle of amazement as he studied the structure before them. The chamber spanned forty yards from where they stood to the front of the castle. The front wall itself spanned the entire width of the chamber, roughly twenty-five yards across, and stood tall stretching from the floor all the way up to the ceiling some thirty feet above.
Two towers stretched from floor to ceiling, standing at each edge of the wall. Large, arched windows broke the stone towers in the middle and again at the top. The windows were not filled with glass, but rather they were left as open passageways. Between the two towers, in the center of the wall stood a large skull made from granite black as night and shinier than any gem Janik had ever seen. It shimmered and glimmered as the seven orbs of light spun overhead as though it were a black diamond. The two eyes of the skull made up the only two windows in the main portion of the castle’s front. The nose was broken off short and rigid. The door, Janik presumed, must have been in the back of the mouth. The mouth was filled with sharp, curved fangs longer than a man was tall and stood as ever-watchful sentries before the entrance.
“The entryway is closed,” Janik said.
Cyrus nodded. “I had expected as much.”
“Perhaps we can use the windows in the towers,” Janik offered.
Cyrus scoffed and shook his head. “I intend to live to see tomorrow,” he said. “Just wait a moment and I will open the door. He raised his staff. A soft, red glow emanated from the staff’s top as Cyrus began to chant in a whisper that Janik could not fully understand. The red glow stretched out from Cyrus’ staff toward the large skull façade.
A voice, at once deep as thunder over crashing waves and shrill as the hiss of a snake, called out to them from the castle. “I have not invited you here, what have I to do with you?”
“We come searching for Lady Caspen, of course,” Cyrus replied.
The voice in the castle cackled and laughed. “Oh, but you lie.”
“We are here for Lady Caspen,” Janik insisted. “Open the doors now and I will make your death a quick one. Resist, and we will enter anyway and we will destroy you.”
The laughter grew until it echoed off of each wall in the large chamber. “Foolish warrior, it seems that only one of you is here on a noble quest. The other has ulterior motives at heart, or can you not see that with your simple mind?”
Janik glanced at Cyrus.
“Vampires are the masters of cunning and trickery,” Cyrus cautioned.
“Oh are we?” the voice inquired from the castle. “I can smell the truth of the situation from here” the voice said.
Cyrus gestured to get Janik’s attention. “I can open the door. However, you should know that as soon as that door opens, we are not going to make an easy time of whatever comes out.”
Janik nodded his understanding and fixed his grip on his axe. Cyrus stamped the butt of his spear onto the ground four times and then he shouted in a language that Janik could not understand. The red light reached in toward the castle, flowing between the closed fangs and causing the mouth of the skull to glow brightly as though a great, glowing ruby sat within the mouth. Thunder broke the silence as bolts of lightning flashed inside the closed jaws and blasted the granite teeth apart.
As Janik watched the stone shatter and fly every which way, he saw a dark mass moving behind the red glow of Cyrus’ spell. It took him a moment to fully realize the mass was not really one moving thing. It was a multitude of moving things. Out they came, flowing out of the mouth as if the great skull had opened its maw and retched. There were more beasts like before, their dark wings curved over their slick backs. Those with wings took to the air, while other beasts with large arms and wickedly spiked tails ran upon the ground. The monsters running upon the ground used all four limbs to propel themselves forward at an amazing speed. As they ran, their front arms made a strange, loud clickity-clack upon the floor.