Authors: Kira Morgana
Laying his sword to one side, Virrinel drew his dagger. “Thank you.”
Joran drew his own dagger. “Ready?”
Together they slashed their left palms. The blood ran brightly and they clasped hands, squeezing so their blood mingled and dropped to the floor.
Joran spoke first.
“In the name of Espilieth, Lady of Magic and Kaela Mensha, Lord of Blood, I claim Ser Virrinel of Alethdan as my Brother. When we face battle, my skills shall guard him; when doubts assail him I shall speak only truth and when happiness is his, I will rejoice with him. No matter where he goes, he may call upon my aid until the end of time.”
Joran blinked as the lamplight flared and the fire roared for a moment before Virrinel began to speak.
“In the name of Tyr, Lord of Honour and Fiörna, Lady of Warriors, I claim Lord Joran of Nor as my Brother. When we face battle, my skills shall guard him; when doubts assail him I shall speak only truth and when happiness is his, I will rejoice with him. No matter where he goes, he may call upon my aid until the end of time.”
A whirlwind swept around them, pushing the two men closer together. A voice spoke out of the wind as it coalesced into a humanoid form.
“As the duly appointed representative of Lady Keiliare, I sanctify and bind these men together as Blood Brothers.”
The two men stared at the creature beside them.
“Well? Get on with it, I have a message to deliver and I can’t hang around too long or Lord Fiör will notice,” it snapped at them.
“Oh, right.” Joran shook himself. “Let the bind be sealed, the cuts be healed and we two forever joined in blood.” Virrinel echoed him, and then they embraced.
When they parted, the door to Julissa’s room opened and the bard entered the sitting room. “Finally. I thought you were never going to finish that. Good Evening Sul.” She said to the Wind spirit.
Joran looked from Virrinel to Julissa and frowned.
“What’s going on?”
“Part of Keiliare’s instructions only became clear once we met you,” Virrinel explained. “You see when—”
The wind spirit giggled. “Yes, well, you can explain it later. My mistress wants you to enter the dungeon tonight. She was having a bubble bath when she summoned me, so I blew all the bubbles away! She looked so funny with bubbles in her hair.”
“Sul, why do we have to go in tonight?” Julissa groaned. “We’re tired. Qin-Dar and Tavia went to check the tunnel out. I’m sure they’ll be back soon.”
“My Mistress said that if you didn’t go tonight, your quest would be unsuccessful,” Sul said. “I don’t know what she saw, though. She doesn’t tell me anything.” And with that, she whooshed up the chimney, making the fire roar in the hearth.
* * *
As they slipped out of the tunnel behind a hinged bookcase, Qin-Dar felt a tingle in her forehead as the tiny horn formed.
There is evil here.
She nudged the cavalier’s arm. “Tavia, the dungeon is inhabited.”
“It was purified years ago, there’s no one here.” Tavia looked around.
Now, where would be the best place to get rid of them?
“As a Cleric, I can feel when evil is near and I am getting so many conflicting directions on those feelings that the dungeon
to be occupied; there could be no other reason.”
Tavia rounded on her.
“Qin-Dar, this is an abandoned library in a cleansed dungeon. We are alone and you are being paranoid. Now come on, we need to check out the route to the treasure vault; that’s the only place that Keiliare’s harp could be.”
“All right, Ser Tavia,” Qin-Dar grumbled. She followed the cavalier into the library and they wove through the bookcases in silence.
There’s no dust on the shelves.
Qin-Dar noticed and put one hand out to run a finger along a nearby shelf.
Tavia knocked her hand back.
“Don’t touch anything. You don’t know if they’re trapped or not.”
The cleric laughed.
“There are no traps in this room at all.” Her eyes narrowed as the two of them stepped out into an area with tables and benches. Around one table sat three black robed mages with books in front of them. “Abandoned dungeon library in a cleansed dungeon, hmm?”
Tavia rolled her eyes and slipped her rapier out again.
“Can you hem them in with magic?”
“I’m a cleric, not a mage.” Qin-Dar closed her eyes and her horn grew again, glowing. “
Gadael I y Duwiesau Beirdd arweiniad fy bŵer; selio’r y hud a lledrith yr hai sy’n dywyll ger fy mron i, gwneud yn mwy nameidrolion, agoredi’r llafnau
.” She whispered.
Tavia blinked as the three mages gasped and turned paler than a snow giant. They turned towards the two women, stood up and fainted.
“Well it’s a bit more than I wanted…” Tavia sounded disappointed.
“I don’t tell the Goddesses how to answer my spells.” Qin-Dar picked her way delicately around the three bodies. “Do you believe me now about the inhabitants?”
Tavia followed her.
“They could have just been in here for the books. Three dark mages do not constitute inhabitants.”
Stepping out into the torch lit corridor, Qin-Dar attuned her vision to trap hunting.
“Pit trap, four paces, swinging pendulum trap, six paces,” she muttered. “Stay behind me.”
Stepping forward carefully, the cleric found the trapped paving stone, knelt next to it and using a thin bladed dagger that glowed white with a holy blessing, cut the cord between the stone and the trap’s trigger. The door over the pit swung open, showing gleaming steel spikes protruding from the bottom of the pit. “Those look almost brand new, Tavia, are you sure that you don’t want to revise your assumption as to the state of this dungeon?”
Tavia spluttered. “Doesn’t prove a thing.”
Leading the way past the pit, the unicorn paused on the other side. “Stay beside the pit for a moment. I didn’t notice this one before; it’s an incredibly subtle magic trap.”
She began muttering in elven as she paced forward. A gleam of rainbow light spiralled out from her horn and wherever it touched, a mist rose.
Tavia watched the cleric in awe.
How does she do that? It’ll be a real shame to carry out the High Kings orders and remove such a talented cleric.
Biting her lip, Tavia steeled herself against the feelings.
I have to do it. Or I lose my life.
As the mist dissipated, Qin-Dar disabled the swinging pendulum trap, catching the heavy, scythe bladed pendulum that swung down from the ceiling as if it were a wind-blown tree branch in the forest. “That could have been nasty if you’d been affected by the magic from that last trap.”
“Why what did the spell trap do?” the younger woman said.
“It slows you down. By the time you had moved across the area affected by the scythe, you’d have been sliced into chunks.” The unicorn frowned. “Males tend to prefer mechanical traps; the magical one had a feminine energy to it. That suggests it was added recently.”
“Are there any more traps along here?” Following Qin-Dar carefully, Tavia pulled the map out of her pouch.
“None yet.” Qin-Dar paused and turned back toward her. “Which is the best route for the party to take to our objective?”
Tavia frowned at the sheet of parchment, thinking. “We need to take the tunnel opposite to get to the Kitchen. From there it is a single passageway to the treasury.”
“Thinking about going in without us were you, Tavia?” Lady Julissa’s voice made the Cavalier jump.
“I wondered when you were going to catch up,” Qin-Dar muttered sliding the holy dagger into the sheath at her waist.
“I came as soon as I could get away.” Julissa swung her glare back to Tavia. “Thankfully, Lord Joran kept an eye on the proceedings.”
“You were spying on me?” Tavia shot Joran a hurt look as he walked into the circle of light cast by the torch behind her.
Joran raised one eyebrow at her.
“I have my own orders, you know.” Both Tavia and Julissa looked at him and he flinched. “Just because I am a blood mage, doesn’t mean I take my orders from Kaela Mensha. He’s imprisoned, remember?”
“Then who?” Tavia blurted out, her face paling.
Please don’t tell me the king has…
“That’s not your business,” Julissa snapped. “My Mistress sent us down here. We need to find the harp tonight and get out of here as fast as possible.”
Tavia’s jaw dropped open.
Is everyone joking with me, or is there more going on with this mission than I thought?
She swallowed the thought on a wave of fear.
“Who is your Mistress? I thought you were on a mission for the Queen of the Elves to stop the border war.”
“Yet again, none of your business.” Julissa frowned. “You got us into this dungeon; you have done your job. You may wait here until we return.”
“What?” Tavia blinked. “I was ordered by the King to take care of you while you were on this quest and that is what I shall do.”
“Then follow and do as you are told.” Julissa turned back to Qin-Dar. “Lead on, my friend.”
The corridor became a crossroad.
Qin-Dar said. “I can feel a massive beat to my left. The heart crystal of this dungeon still beats, even if it is slowly.”
Joran pulled a small wooden box from his pouch.
“Allow me to save you some energy and send a friend to see what is on either side.”
“By all means.” Julissa nodded and watched, fascinated as the mage removed the lid.
A bat crawled out, its body fur a bright scarlet and its wings the colour of dried blood. Joran carefully took the bat onto his hand and whispered into its large ears.
The bat opened its mouth. Joran allowed it to bite his thumb and drink a little of the blood that welled up thick and fast, before whispering again. The bat flapped its wings slightly and stopped drinking.
Joran healed the bite, then tossed the tiny creature up into the air, waiting as it caught the air with its wings. Then he sat down and closed his eyes.
“What sort of animal was that?” Tavia whispered.
“Blood Bat,” Qin-Dar told her. “They serve as messengers for the Blood Mages.”
“A Vampire Bat?” Tavia frowned. “But they’re evil.”
“A Blood Bat is the natural version,” Virrinel said. “The Vampires were one of the first mutations that Tzeentch created before he was imprisoned after the War of the Gods.”
“Shh,” Joran said. “I see through my little friend’s senses and your voices are causing too much noise for him to fly straight.”
Tavia flinched at the tone of his voice.
It’s all going to go wrong, isn’t it?
She thought, pulling back from the group a little.
“Of course it will, child. But if you do as I tell you, then I shall make sure you escape the carnage that is about to happen.”
The voice in Tavia’s mind was smooth and hypnotic.
“What was your mission?”
“I was just supposed to bring them here, make sure they died, then report back,”
Tavia replied inside her head, not quite certain why she was talking to no one.
Qin-Dar looked at her, lazily. Tavia felt a shiver of fear.
“Don’t worry, child. The Cleric, despite her great age and power, cannot hear me. Only you can hear my voice, for you are favoured above all.”
The voice seemed to come from Tavia’s right and she found herself drifting to the edge of the adjoining corridor and peering around it.
“Where are you going?” Julissa hissed.
“I heard something coming from the room on the right,” Tavia improvised. “I’ll go check it out and come straight back here.”
“Try not to get caught. We can’t come and rescue you.” The Bard seemed relieved that Tavia wanted to go somewhere on her own.
“That’s the complete opposite of what she wanted earlier. Are you doing something?”
Tavia asked the voice.
Nothing that sounds that nice could be evil,
Although there’s that old saying ‘If it’s too good to be true’”…
“But of course. It is your destiny that you and I meet, child,”
the voice told her.
“Come into the workshop and find me.”
Tavia nodded. “All right. I’ll be careful.” She said to Julissa before she slipped away down the short corridor to the right, keeping a sharp eye out for any traps.
“The traps the Gremlins have set shall not activate for you, my dear,”
the voice seemed amused.
“It wouldn’t look right if I didn’t,”
she replied, skirting the edge of a large lumpy floor stone.
The door to the workshop had a large hammer emblazoned onto the oak in brass. It swung open easily at Tavia’s touch and she stepped into a fire lit hell. She made her way through the machines and equipment, admiring the craftsmanship of the weaponry on the racks and marvelling at the odd shaped machines which whistled and belched steam.
A gigantic troll like figure moved beside a machine that poured sparks out as the figure guided the edge of a blade along a grinding wheel. Tavia jumped; the creature had four massive red pupilled eyes; two that were intent on the steel it handled, one peering off into the distance and the fourth watching her.