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D D A A R R G O O N N N Z I N N N E || Volume 6
D D AAAA RRR G GG O O N N N Z I N N N E || Issue 5
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-- DargonZine Volume 6, Issue 5 12/10/93 Cir 1109 --
-- Archives at fir.cic.net in pub/Zines/DargonZine --
-- Contents --
Startled Birds Carlo Samson (Guest Commentary)
Resolutions Carlo Samson Yuli 4, 1013
Sons of Gateway 6: Running Jon Evans V. 30-Yule 12, 1014
1 Startled Birds: A Guest Commentary
by Carlo N. Samson
Seasons Greetings to all our new and current readers, and welcome
again to another edition of _DargonZine_! Yes, the previous issue was
another single-story blockbuster; while we endeavour to have at least
two stories in an issue, sometimes a large story must be printed in
its entirety in order to preserve the narrative integrity.
Some of you may recognize two of the authors featured in issue
6-3. Jeff Lee ("Heroic Couplet") was a member of the Dargon Project in
1988, and his story "Stranger in the Mist" appeared in _FSFNet_ 11-1.
He is now back with us and is currently at work on his next story.
The other returnee is David "Orny" Liscomb, of whom I made
mention in the commentary for issue 6-2. Orny founded the Dargon
Project in 1984 and was its mentor until he stopped putting out
_FSFnet_ (the predecessor of _DargonZine_) in mid-1988. At that time
he, like many college graduates, dropped off the net and was never
heard from again. "'Bout 'Majin'" is his first story since returning,
and he also has a considerably more ambitious story that is currently
in the editing cycle. We're glad to have his familiar style gracing
our pages once again.
Lastly, in this issue we have the sixth installment of Jon Evans'
"Sons of Gateway" series, as well as one by this writer which wraps up
most of the loose ends from my previous stories. Upcoming issues will
feature the conclusion of the "Campaign for the Laraka" series, in
addition to stories by Bill Erdley and Max Khaytsus. So stay with us,
tell your friends about us, and let us know how we're doing.
by Carlo N. Samson
(Author's Note: This story takes place about a year before the
Brynna Thorne stood alone at the top of one of Crown Castle's
many towers. She leaned on the rough stone battlement and gazed out
over the city of Magnus in the direction of the Laraka River. A warm
breeze caressed her long dark hair and brought with it a mixture of
scents: the briny smell of freshly-caught fish being unloaded on the
docks; the sweet fragrance of bright flowers from the Royal Garden;
and the faint, familiar smell of the river itself. The sight of a
small merchant ship slowly moving downriver under the broad grey
expanse of Kheva's Bridge brought on a twinge of longing; she wished
she could be out there on the river, back aboard her own ship, instead
of being cooped up inside the cold walls of a castle, even the
majestic residence of the King of Baranur.
She heard a voice in the distance; it sounded like someone was
calling her name. Brynna looked around, and spotted a figure waving
vigorously to her from far down below in the courtyard. It appeared to
be a woman, and next to her was one of the castle guards. Brynna
politely waved back, unsure of the woman's identity. Apparently
satisfied, the woman spoke to the guard and the two of them
disappeared into the castle proper.
Brynna's brow furrowed as she mentally reviewed the list of all
the people she knew in Magnus. Within the first week of her arrival,
before the trial started, she had visited with all the friends whom
she knew still lived in the city; a few of them had moved away since
the last time she was in town.
She was still pondering over this when she heard footsteps behind
her. Turning, she saw a tall young woman in a simple white and green
dress coming toward her from the tower entrance. The woman's
sandy-blond hair was tied back with a lavender ribbon, and her oval
face was dominated by a wide full-lipped mouth, beaming with a broad
Brynna felt herself returning the smile as recognition came to
her. "Kadie! So it's you!"
The other woman extended her arms as she closed the distance
between them. "Brynna Brynna Brynna! Surprised to see me?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," Brynna replied. The two women briefly
embraced. "The last time I saw you was...how old is your son?"
"Sons," Kadie corrected her.
"Another one?" Brynna shook her head. "Don't you and Alexio ever
Kadie giggled. "Well, what do you think we talk about?"
Brynna rolled her eyes. "You still look like the same old girl
who used to hide whenever boys came around."
"And you look--darker," Kadie said, squinting one eye. "But at
least you've kept your mage mark." She reached out and touched the
streak of blue that colored the strands of long ebony hair near the
left side of Brynna's face.
"As if I could get rid of it!" Brynna said with a laugh. "Now, do
you want to tell me just what the freezing hell you're doing here?
Dawna said that you moved back to the country two years ago."
Kadie looked over the battlements. "My, but we're high up!" She
gathered her skirts and sat down in a crenel. "Anyway, my husband has
friends in the castle guard, and one of them came by a week ago for a
chat. He happened to mention that the whole city was talking about the
trial of some famous pirate who had been brought in by a woman ship
captain. And I thought to myself, there's only one woman who that
could possibly be! So I...persuaded Alexio to take me here to see you.
He had to call in many favors and do a bit of persuading himself, but
it all worked out and here I am!"
"I'm impressed," Brynna said. "And I'm very glad that you did.
Living in the Castle isn't quite how people imagine it to be."
"So what exactly is your part in all this?" Kadie asked. "I
thought you'd be away in some far-off port seeking ancient treasures
or the like."
"Well, it's...it's quite a story," Brynna said.
"You know how much I like stories."
Brynna sat down against the parapet. "Well, the whole thing
started a few months ago with a book."
"A book? What book?"
"I was on a trading run to Dargon, and a day before we were to
leave I wanted to get a birthday gift for my father. So I stopped in
at a local book shop and ended up buying this very unusual tome--I'd
never seen it's like before. The owner suggested I take it to a scribe
The scribe's name was Genarvus Kazakian, and he lived in a
private residence east of the marketplace. He was middle-aged, shorter
than Brynna, and dressed rather more formally than she expected. He
seemed a bit nervous when he answered the door, but was pleasant
enough as he ushered her into his small but comfortable study. A boy
of about fifteen years was busily cleaning the fireplace; he
straightened up as they entered the room. Kazakian introduced the boy
as his assistant Abiro, and sent him away to make them some tea.
They sat down at a table in the center of the room. Brynna
watched Kazakian examine the book; he used a large round lens mounted
on a wooden handle to peer closely at the cover and pages.
"It is certainly very old," Kazakian murmured after several
minutes. "And the writing is very precise." He put down the lens and
"What about the language it's written in?" Brynna asked.
"That I am not entirely sure about. The letters do not belong to
any script or alphabet that I am familiar with. Although, I do have an
idea...." He got up and pulled a book from a nearby shelf. Returning
to the table, he opened the new book to a certain page. He used the
lens to scrutinize the cover of Brynna's book, then looked over to the
open pages of the other book. After a few minutes of reading, his
expression became triumphant. "By the beard of Ol! I cannot believe
this!" He turned to Brynna and said excitedly, "Captain Thorne, you
have purchased a most significant tome!"
"How significant?" asked Brynna, her interest mounting.
"Firstly, have you ever heard of the Mystics?"
"Of course. They were an ancient race that lived on Makdiar about
three or four thousand years ago. My mother used to tell me stories
Kazakian nodded. "But if my suspicions about this book are true,
then it may be that the Mystics did not merely exist in stories, as
most people believe."
Brynna was about to ask him what he meant when Abiro returned
with the tea.
"Just put it over there, will you?" Kazakian motioned to a low
table in front of the fireplace. "And fetch my writing desk." Abiro
nodded and moved to comply. Kazakian turned back to Brynna and
continued his explanation. "You may know, Captain Thorne, that the
Mystics are widely considered mythical by most scholars, and that
those who do research on them are generally scorned. I fall into the
latter category, and have gathered much information during my years of
study." He went on to reveal that the Fretheod people, who ruled much
of Baranur over two thousand years ago, sometimes made references to
the Mystics in their literature, and even included samples of their
script in various texts.
"The symbol on the cover of the book you bought is exactly like
the one depicted here in this Fretheod volume on religion. The symbol
was apparently used by a Mystic sect known as the Ara'la Takkon.
Unfortunately, not much is know about the sect, but their 'holy book'
is commonly known as the Codex Araltakonia."
Abiro returned with the writing desk. Kazakian opened it and took
out a sheet of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink. Brynna moved
the books aside to make room on the table.
"Will that be all, milord?" Abiro asked.
"Yes, yes," muttered Kazakian. Remembering Brynna, he added,
"Unless you would like some tea, Captain Thorne?" She declined, and
Abiro left the room with the tea tray. "As I was saying, this book may
very well be the sacred text of the Ara'la Takkon. If so, it will do
much to prove that the Mystics did once exist." He paused and looked
at Brynna with a serious but hopeful expression. "If I may ask a great
favor of you, Captain Thorne--would you be willing to take this book
to Magnus for proper study?"
Brynna considered for a moment. The capital was a two-week
journey upriver from Port Sevlyn, her home and final destination. The
crew of her ship was due shore leave, though, and the ship itself was
in need of repairs; but it would be no trouble for her to continue on
to Magnus by herself, and besides, it would give her the opportunity
to visit some old friends there. "If it's that important, I'd be glad
to do it," Brynna said.
The scribe nodded his thanks and hurriedly scribbled on the
parchment. "It is imperative, then, that you get this book to the
Royal Scholar. He's an open-minded fellow--I met him while I was
studying at the University--and he will no doubt be very interested in
properly authenticating and translating the tome." He signed the
parchment with a flourish. "Present this letter to him, also. It
contains a brief summary of my conclusions, and instructions for you
to be compensated for delivering it there."
Brynna smiled in mild amusement. The scribe had certainly
loosened up upon determining the book's significance. "I had no idea
it was of such historical value when I purchased it."
Kazakian nodded vigorously as he imprinted his seal on the
parchment. "It is most fortunate that you came across the book and
brought it to me. A devout man might see the hand of a god or two in
"Do you believe it was written by the Mystics?" asked Kadie.
"Well, I looked at it very closely during the voyage," said
Brynna, "and as I said the writing wasn't like anything I'd ever seen
before. But in any case, as we neared Port Sevlyn the _Voyager_ came
under attack by Commander Challion--"
"He's the one who's on trial, right? Didn't he used to be in the
Brynna nodded. "He was Knight Captain of the Southern Marches,
but was discharged for forcing himself on a peasant girl."
"Disgusting," Kadie said, making a face.
"Exactly my thoughts," Brynna agreed. "After his discharge, he
became the leader of a band of pirates, and was widely sought for
various crimes. He wanted the Codex, but I refused to give it to
"You haven't answered my question," Brynna said. "Is this a raid?
If not, I'd very much like to get under way. Tell your mage--the
conscious one, that is--to give us the wind back."
Challion leaned over the rail. "I have one other objective, and I
think you know what I mean."
Brynna shrugged. "Do elaborate."
"The Codex Araltakonia, Captain Thorne. I wish to purchase it
Cydric turned to Mandi. "The what?" he whispered.
"That book you were looking at in the cabin," she replied in
hushed tones."The one on her desk--it's supposed to be as old as the
"Sorry. I don't have what you're looking for," Brynna replied,
folding her arms.
"No lies, no games, Captain! I know you acquired it back in
Dargon. But I'm prepared to offer twice what you paid for it."
"In truth, Commander, I never thought our paths would cross
again--the dragon whale seemed rather attached to you, as I recall."
"I got the better of the creature, in the end," Challion
answered. Hitching his trousers up around his ample waist, he said,
"Well, three times your purchase price, then. You'll be making quite a
"The knowledge in the Codex is beyond price. In any case, what do
you want with it? You're by no means a scholar--neither are your
Challion rubbed his fleshy face and exhaled loudly. "My final
offer--quadruple the amount you paid to acquire it! A fine trader such
as yourself cannot fail to recognize a wonderful bargain such as
"True, but I also recognize barjee squat when I hear it. And I've
heard enough," said Brynna. "Spear detail, forward!" Several crewmen
went over to the remains of the scorpion and picked up spears from the
storage box. After dipping the points into the tar pot, they lined up
alongside Brynna at the rail. Kayne lit up a torch and stood behind
"It always comes to violence, hey Skoranji?" Challion said to the
balding man. To Brynna he said, "Very well. If you do not wish to sell
the book, then I am afraid I will just have to take it."
"You and what battle fleet? Your men won't set foot upon this
ship," Brynna shot back.
The balding man spoke. "Truly now, m' dear? Be you willin' to
test your pups 'gainst me bloodseekers?"
"Would you be willing to bet on it, Captain Skoranji?" Brynna
asked, smirking. The _Voyager_ crew laughed. Even from his vantage
point, Cydric could see Skoranji turn red.
"Please, please, let's not bring my friend's fondness for
gambling into this," said Challion. "I appeal to your reason, Captain
Thorne. Give the Codex over peacefully, and we'll part on friendly
Brynna shook her head. "You raffenraker, do you seriously think
you intimidate me?"
Challion motioned to the green-robed man, who lifted his arms and
spoke a short phrase. An intense green glow limned his hands, then a
ball of light the same color formed and shot toward the _Vanguard
Voyager_. It came to hover over Kayne, then sped downward to strike
him full in the chest and knock him backwards. It then ringed his
neck, and slowly the First Mate rose into the air.
"Certainly not, Captain. I know better than to threaten you. But
a threat to your friend is another matter," Challion said, smiling.
"True men do not hide behind magic," Brynna returned coldly,
gripping the rail so hard her knuckles turned white. "Let him down,
Commander Challion. Now."
"We are going to board your ship. If you or any of your men
resists, mister Kayne will no longer have the use of his head."
"First let him down, damn you. Then I'll give you the Codex."
"The book first, in exchange for his life. That is your only
Brynna chewed on her lower lip, then finally agreed.
"You didn't!" Kadie exclaimed.
"Well, at that moment I didn't have much of a choice ," Brynna
said. "But when I found out that Cydric and Mandi were hiding on deck,
I secretly instructed Mandi to get my bow and arrows and have Cydric
make ready to kill the wizard when I signalled."
Kadie's eyes widened. Brynna slowly shook her head and sighed. "I
don't like having to kill, you know that. But sometimes it's the only
"I understand," said Kadie. "But then what? He was able to do it,
I suppose, or else you wouldn't be here telling me about it!"
"He did, and that enabled us to fight back...."
Gulping a quick breath of air, Cydric leaped up, drew a bead on
the _Black Swan's_ magic-maker, and let the arrow fly. It sped through
the air in a flash of silver, and smacked deep into the sorcerer's
The man screamed, clutched at his face with both hands, staggered
forward, and pitched over the rail into the river.
Kayne fell to the deck as the green ring vanished from around his
neck. "Battle positions!" shouted Brynna. The _Voyager_ crew surged
forward, scooping up their weapons and whooping in defiance.
Cydric ran over to check on Kayne. Challion cursed as Brynna
severed the grappling lines.
"Are you all right, sir?" Cydric asked, helping Kayne to sit up.
"Never did like wizards," the First Mate replied, rubbing his
Brynna instructed two crewmen to take Kayne below, then ordered
the spear detail forward again. She retrieved the torch and re-lit it.
Challion ordered the _Swan's_ oars back into the water, then
directed Skoranji to prepare the ballista for a counterattack.
Brynna handed the torch to the first spearman, who lit up his
weapon and passed the flame to the next man. After the torch made it
down the line and all the spears had been lit, Brynna gave the order
to let fly.
Several of the burning spears struck the side of the _Black
Swan_. A few of them landed on the deck, and one managed to hit a
sail. The fire spread quickly, forcing Challion to abandon his plans
for a retaliatory strike in favor of saving his ship from the flames.
Cydric and Mandi watched the action from the rail. As Skoranji
dashed madly about the deck of the _Swan_ calling out orders, a breeze
rippled across Cydric's cheek. At the same time the helmsman cried,
"We've got the wind back, Captain!" Cydric looked up and saw the
ship's sails billowing proudly once more.
"Get us under way immediately!" called Brynna.
As the _Vanguard Voyager_ slowly pulled away from the enkindled
_Black Swan_, Cydric could see Commander Challion standing motionless
at the rail, flames licking at his back. Suddenly he shouted out
across the widening gap between the ships.
"I will not forget this, Brynna Thorne! I cannot be defeated so
easily--revenge will be mine, in the end!"
Brynna came over and took the bow and arrows from Cydric. "Wrong,
Challion. It ends now!" she said. She nocked an arrow and fired. It
struck the Commander square in the chest, penetrating his breastplate.
Challion gasped and fell back into the fire.
"Was that really necessary?" Kadie asked.
Brynna was silent for a moment. "You have to understand, that
wasn't the first time he and I crossed each other. I was just so
frustrated and angry that he had attacked me and put my crew in danger
again. I really wanted it to end."
"And I suppose it has, hasn't it?" said Kadie.
"With the trial, yes. When we arrived in Port Sevlyn, I saw a
Royal Navy ship in dock, under the command of Captain Xane Hellriegel.
He's the one who actually went back and captured Challion and the crew
of his ship."
"And you rode with them all the way here to Magnus," Kadie
"Yes," said Brynna. "I was rather surprised to see how quickly
they brought Challion to trial, though. Apparently this is one case
the Crown wants disposed of as soon as possible. And, since I was one
of his victims, I testified against him. The King is going to announce
the verdict soon, so I came up here to wait."
"Well, I'm sure there's no doubt about what it's going to be,"
said Kadie. "But how did Challion even know you had the Codex?"
"He claims that a woman hired him to obtain the book from me and
deliver it to her, in exchange for a large sum of money.
Unfortunately, the woman he described hasn't been found, and he claims
he knows nothing else about her."
"What about the Codex itself?"
"The scholars have been debating over it since practically the
moment I brought it in," Brynna said with a grin. "They seem to have
divided into two armies--those who believe it's authentic and those
who believe it isn't. I still got paid, though."
"You've certainly made your mark on this city, haven't you,
Brynna?" Kadie said with admiration. Her emerald-green eyes took on a
faraway look. "Your life is so much more exciting than mine. You've
seen and done far more that I could ever hope to!"
"That's what many people think, but the truth of it is...well,
don't tell my mother this, but sometimes I think of giving it up. Just
settling down and raising a family like you've done."
"Would you really do that?"
Brynna half-shrugged and gave a slight shake of her head. "I
don't know--I mean, you remember what happened with Tarant?"
Kadie nodded, remembering the time when a 23-year-old Brynna had
accepted a marriage proposal from a young man, but later broke off the
engagement in order to take advantage of the opportunity to become
captain of her own ship. "So what you mean is, you don't know if you
even could settle down?"
Brynna sighed. "Well, I suppose I eventually will, but it won't
be for a while, at least. Maybe someday if I ever get tired of
They talked a while longer about family and friends. Presently,
the castle guard who had escorted Kadie came up the tower and informed
Brynna that the King was about to render his verdict.
"Oh, came I come too?" Kadie asked hopefully. "I've never been to
a trial before!"
"Of course. Let's go," said Brynna.
The Audience Chamber of the castle had filled almost to capacity
with various courtiers and nobles by the time Brynna and Kadie
arrived. The guard led the two women through the murmuring crowd to a
bench near the front of the room where sat the other witnesses against
Commander Challion. Kadie marvelled at the vast expanse of the great
hall, and expressed great interest in the colorful banners and huge
tapestries that hung on the walls.
A few minutes later, a black-haired man in a gold and green tunic
strode solemnly into the room from the double doors at the rear.
Brynna explained that he was the Falcon Herald of Baranur,
distinguished by the image of the blue falcon in the center of his
tabard, and by the silver circlet he wore on his head.
The Falcon Herald reached the front of the hall and stood in
front of the throne. "Your respect for His Majesty, King Haralan of
Baranur!" he intoned. The room fell silent. A moment later, the doors
opened to admit an entourage that included several guards, the High
Priest, the opposing Advocates, various functionaries, then the King
himself surrounded by soldiers of the King's Own. Brynna instructed
Kadie to bow her head like the rest of the crowd as the King passed
When the entire assembly had installed itself at the front of the
hall and the King had seated himself on the throne, the Falcon Herald
motioned for the congregation to be seated. Commander Challion was
then brought in, flanked by guards and iron-shackled at the wrists.
Brynna saw that although his arrow wound had fully healed, he still
carried himself as if he was in great pain--no doubt a ploy to gain
the King's sympathy.
The guards made Challion kneel before the throne. King Haralan
stared at him for several long moments, stroking his chin. Brynna's
heart pounded in her chest as she waited to hear the verdict. Finally,
the King stood up. A page handed him a golden scepter, which he
pointed at the large man kneeling before him.
"Artemus Challion, former Knight Captain of the Southern Marches,
the accusations that have been brought against you are most grave. You
have committed crimes against your country and stained your honor. It
is my judgement, then, that you be declared guilty of all charges, and
The hall exploded with scattered cheers and excitement. Brynna
leaped up and shouted with elation. Dimly, she heard Challion shouting
in protest. The Falcon Herald called for quiet, and when the noise
died down the King continued.
"Because of your past service to the Crown your life shall be
spared, but you shall be held in the dungeon for fifty years, or until
the end of your days. Furthermore, all of your possessions shall be
seized and used to pay restitution to those whom you have caused
injury. This I decree, before God and the Kingdom." He handed the
scepter back to the page. "This tribunal is concluded."
"No!" shouted Challion as the guards forced him to his feet.
"Your Majesty, please! You cannot do this to me! I implore you--" He
roared in defiance as the guards began dragging him away. Catching
sight of Brynna, his face contorted with rage. "I *will* have my
revenge, Captain Thorne!" he snarled. Brynna gazed coolly at him,
smiling faintly in satisfaction. When he was finally out of the room
Kadie remarked, "My, but he was angry! Aren't you frightened?"
"Not at all. He won't be bothering anyone for a long while."
The High Priest said a brief benediction, then the royal
entourage moved out of the hall. The crowd broke up, some leaving the
hall, others milling about.
"So what do you do now?" Kadie asked as she and Brynna headed for
"I collect my restitution, I suppose!" Brynna said with a laugh.
Just then she spotted a familiar face coming towards her out of the
crowd. "Come on, let me introduce you to someone."
A tall well-muscled man in the uniform of the Royal Navy stopped
and congratulated Brynna. She thanked him and gave Kadie a little push
forward. "Captain Hellriegel, may I present Acadia Farrondale."
"A great pleasure," Hellriegel said, taking Kadie's hand and
pressing it to his cheek. The young woman gave a nervous giggle.
"Ah--it's--I'm delighted to meet you," Kadie falteringly replied, a
wide grin on her face.
Brynna explained that she and Kadie grew up together in Port
Sevlyn, and that Kadie moved to Magnus upon her marriage. "And didn't
you say you moved again?" she asked, casting her friend a prompting
"Oh--ah, yes, we did," Kadie answered, casting her eyes shyly
downward. "After my second son was born, my husband decided that we
would need a bigger place to live, and so we moved to a town not far
from the city." She flicked her gaze up at Hellriegel, then over to
Hellriegel made small talk with them for a few more minutes, then
asked Brynna if she would like to join him later at a local dockside
"I'd like to, but..perhaps some other time," Brynna replied.
"Are you sure?" asked Hellriegel. "You do, after all, owe me a
Brynna smiled. "We'll see."
"That's as good an answer as I'm going to get, eh?" Hellriegel
said with a slight nod of his head. "Hope to see you, then, Captain
Thorne. A pleasure, Lady Farrondale." He smiled as he took his leave
Kadie stared open-mouthed at his retreating back. "Did you hear
that? He called me lady!" She put a hand on her chest and turned to
Brynna. "WHY didn't you accept his invitation?"
Brynna shrugged. "I...it didn't seem appropriate."
"You spent two weeks on a ship with the man! Don't tell me
Kadie sighed and mimed slapping Brynna across the face several
times. "Is your mind still there, Brynna? HOW could nothing happen
between you and..." She glanced back and breathed a sigh. "And him!"
"Don't let Alexio hear you talk like that. He might get jealous."
"Realm of the gods, Brynna, it looks like you're not even
Brynna put a hand on her friend's shoulder. "You haven't seen the
Royal Gardens yet, have you? They have the most beautiful variety of
roses that my mother would give anything for. Would you like to go see
Before Kadie could reply, a young disheveled-looking man dressed
in red and gray scholars' robes came rushing up to them. "Captain
Thorne?" he asked breathlessly, looking at Brynna.
"Yes, what is it?"
"My name is Cullan, I'm with the Scholar's Council at the
University of Magnus. May I speak with you?"
"It's about--well, we, that is, the Council, would like to make a
proposition--I mean, we'd like to make an offer, uh...."
"An offer of what?" asked Brynna with slight annoyance.
The young scholar visibly composed himself. "Are you available
this afternoon? The Council would like to see you before you leave
Magnus. It's about a possible expedition."
"An expedition to where?" Brynna asked, concealing her sudden
rise of interest.
"That will be discussed at the meeting. Will you be able to
"Yes, of course. Thank you," Brynna replied.
"Very good, Captain. Um, someone will be sent for you at around
Brynna nodded, and the young man departed.
"He seemed excited," Kadie observed. "Do you know what he was
"I'm not sure. I should have at least asked him about the Codex,"
Brynna said. She turned to Kadie. "Well, why don't we go see those
Meanwhile, in the infamous Fifth Quarter of Magnus, a gaunt
dark-haired man angrily made his way into a pub called the
Silverchance Tavern. The man swept through the common room and pushed
through the crowd in the gaming parlor until he came to one of the
private booths at the back. He flung aside the curtain and stared
wordlessly at the older, more expensively dressed man who sat at a
small table with a slender auburn-haired young woman beside him.
"Ah, Veltain! What news, eh?" the older man said, turning from
his young companion.
"Challion has just been sentenced," Veltain said tightly, eyes
"At last," the older man replied. "Well, sit! Tell us about it."
The gaunt man stood for a moment, breathing heavily, then ripped
the curtain back across the booth's entrance and slammed himself into
a chair. "You were wrong, Javaro. Challion has only been sentenced to
imprisonment, not death!" He rested his elbows on the table and cupped
his face in his hands.
"Then it would seem that the King is in a merciful mood today!"
Javaro chuckled and took a sip of wine from the silver goblet before
Veltain looked up, annoyance clear on his face. "Don't you
understand? They may interrogate him further--he might even lead them
to her!" He stabbed a finger at the young woman, who calmly took a
long puff on the pipe she was smoking and exhaled in Veltain's
"Why must you always be so scared?" she said in a smooth voice.
"You're nothing but a mouse in a pit full of snakes." She looked away
and sucked on the pipe.
"Damn you, Taja!" Veltain said tensely.
Javaro sighed. "Calm yourself, Veltain. Nothing has changed.
Challion still knows nothing of us. What does it matter that he wastes
away in a rat-infested dungeon instead of twirling at the end of a
rope?" He slipped his arm around the young woman's bare shoulders.
"And do you really think he could recognize her outside any of her
Veltain slapped both palms on the table. "The true issue here is
that the Codex is now lost to us, thanks to your total mishandling of
the whole matter! If you had done as I suggested--"
Taja looked at him sharply. "If we had done as you suggested,
every mage in Baranur would be knocking at our doorstep! You have no
concept of subtlety, mouseface."
"You call hiring pirates subtle?" Veltain sneered. "I would call
that desperation born of ineptitude. I'm going to recommend that the
both of you be expelled from the Triarch at once!"
Javaro leaned across the table. "There's no need for that,
Veltain," he said in a low voice. "The situation may still be
"You utter fool!" Veltain spat, nearly rising from his chair.
"Without the Codex, the Triarch will remain no more powerful than a
band of street urchins! I find it incredible that they entrusted the
task to you!"
Javaro's eyes narrowed. "One cannot foresee all that may go
wrong," he said. "Nor can one accurately predict the actions of
Veltain smirked. "You thought retrieving the Codex would be
simple, given that Captain Thorne is a woman." He ignored the look
that Taja threw him.
"I am a patient man, Veltain, but I am starting to become annoyed
with you," said Javaro, gripping the stem of the goblet.
"You've become soft. Soft and weak. You have no place with us
Taja took the pipe out of her mouth. "You quivering little
mouse," she said with sharp disdain, her pale blue eyes mocking him.
"Why don't you go find a cat to put you out of your endless state of
"Bitch," Veltain said.
"Meow," replied Taja.
Javaro frowned. "I don't want to ever see you again, Veltain," he
said. "Leave us."
Veltain threw up his hands and quickly rose from his chair,
nearly knocking the table over. "Gladly." He turned and made to open
the curtain. Suddenly he spun around and with a motion almost too fast
to see, hurled something at Javaro. Taja screamed as the man's eyes
popped wide, a many-pointed metal star embedded in his throat. Blood
bubbled from the wound as Javaro gurgled and slumped over.
Veltain's arm flashed again. Taja jerked aside as another metal
star buried itself in the wall. She ducked down and shoved the table
hard against Veltain's legs. The gaunt man lost his balance and
tumbled backwards, bringing the curtain down as he fell. Several of
the patrons in the gaming parlor looked up in startlement as Taja ran
out of the booth, screaming wildly. Veltain scrambled to his feet and
started to pursue her, but changed his mind after seeing the young
woman tearfully imploring a pair of leather-clad men to help her.
Veltain almost made it to the back door before the two men caught
him. At Taja's insistence, they took him outside into the alley behind
the tavern. Taja followed, sobbing. Her expression changed as she
watched the men punch and kick Veltain. After a few minutes she told
them to stop. She took a pinch of tobacco from one of the pouches she
wore around her slim waist and sprinkled it into the bowl of her pipe.
After lighting it, she told the men to stand Veltain up against the
wall and move away. She approached the man's bruised and bloody form
and put her face next to his.
"You shouldn't have killed Javaro," she said icily. "And another
thing; just because you're dealing with a woman doesn't mean that
things will be simple." She took a step back and puffed on the pipe. A
moment later, she exhaled a cloud of smoke into the gaunt man's face.
Veltain coughed and waved his hands in front of him. Taja and her two
confederates watched from further down the alley as Veltain's coughs
became ragged gasps for breath. Soon he was on the ground, wheezing
violently. He kicked and struggled, clawing at his chest. Finally a
tremor rippled through his body and he lay still. Taja smiled with
satisfaction as she led the men away.
1 Sons of Gateway, Part 6: Running
by Jon Evans
My name is Cara Shem Fenib. I lead my clan. It is the cold time
in the plains, but we have survived. I have been a good hunter, so
there has often been meat, instead of the hard roots that leave my
insides almost as empty as not eating at all. Sickness among my clan
also has been rare: the wind spirits have been kind.
This light time marks the middle of the cold time. If we survive
now, my clan lives until the next cold time. But, the last few hunts
have not gone well. Each member of my clan gets hungrier, and with
hunger comes desperation: a young one challenged me, earlier. I
refrained from hurting him, and avoided hurt for myself, but if the
hunts do not improve, things will get worse.
I sent the mothers and the weak to the thick trees in search of
roots. I and my brothers will hunt what we can, and alert the others
if we kill. Separation is bad for the clan. If we kill, it will take
longer for the others to arrive, and another beast or clan may claim
it before the rest of my clan arrives. But, at least the hunters will
have eaten. I have no choice. Our mothers will starve, and will not be
able to make milk for the young when the warm time comes and our loins
My brother's call disturbs my thoughts: he has found a fresh
trail. It is near the darkness, now is the best time. The tracks are
from a large beast. The depth of its tracks show much weight. The
scent tells us its taste, and our legs tighten, and our stomachs cry
out to be filled. We follow quickly.
The scent gets thicker in a spot: it rested by this tree, it does
not know we follow it. The trail continues, away from the thick trees,
and we see a structure lit by Spara-Kla, the burning air. There are
many worshipers around it. They are the Spara- Klani, the man-beasts,
and they do not travel without the burning air. They roam the fields,
burn the land, and hunt in the thick trees with the long claw and the
flying stick. And they kill my clan when we are many and strong. We
war with the Spara-Klani, but we are too weak now.
The trail continues past here, back to the trees, and we follow
it, knowing that it is the riding-beasts of the Spara-Klani that we
"I couldn't reach you until I was about a hundred feet away,"
Kenneth told Rho as they rode through the darkening woods. They left
the burning tent and its occupants behind, trying to put out the fire,
find out what its cause was, and control the slaves at the same time.
"I know. The device must be very powerful." Rho looked over her
shoulder to Goren, who sat in the saddle behind her. Kenneth, it
seems, was only able to acquire one extra horse from the camp ground,
and wasn't expecting any company. The silk clothes Goren and Rho had
been wearing in the tent were not nearly warm enough for the winter
evening, even with five layers of the material wrapped about them, and
sharing the horse allowed them the double benefit of sharing their
"I am thankful for your rescue, Kenneth," Goren spoke as a way of
getting into the conversation. For some reason, Kenneth had not
treated him terribly respectfully in the past half bell. Goren wished
he knew why. "My family will reward you greatly for my return, when we
get to Magnus. I'll make sure of it."
Both Rho and Kenneth turned and looked at him disapprovingly when
he said this, but it was Kenneth who spoke next, as if Goren wasn't
"I would have warned you if we had the time, but I was being...
"Looks like nothing's coming, now," Goren said, glancing back to
make sure there was nothing behind them. This time, Kenneth did him
the courtesy of acknowledging his remark.
"There are other ways of knowing when you're being followed, boy.
We are still in danger of those who are behind us." He looked down at
Rho, almost scolding her with his expression.
"I had to make a decision, didn't I?" She seemed almost childlike
to Goren with this remark, and he glimpsed a softness that he hadn't
seen from her in the tent. He wondered if he could like this
demanding, oppressive woman whose angelic eyes concealed experiences
he didn't wish to live, and a fire he feared... and shared.
"It was wrong," was Kenneth's only response, and he looked
forward and down as if to end the conversation, but he mumbled one
last phrase in the next half bell. "The Fenib still have to be fed."
The trail enters the thick trees, again, and I send my brother
for the mothers and the weak. We are close now, and the man-beast will
be stopping, and our numbers will be greater. It is very dark, and the
Spara-Klani do not travel in the darkness.
A strange thing happens: a man-beast walks toward my clan, not
covered in its usual hide, and lays down in the white cold. My brother
starts forward, but my bark stops him. The Spara-Klani are not to be
I step closer, coming near his leg. He does not move. Smelling
him, I do not sense fear. This disturbs me, and I warn my brothers.
But this man-beast is foolish. The white cold surrounds him, makes him
weak, and all we must do is wait.
Then I feel him in me, speaking to me, showing me, and I know:
this one is for us. I wait, and the white cold takes his heat and
leaves him with the smell of the Black Fenib. I bark to my brothers:
we shall survive this cold-time.
Cold air greeted Goren as he stirred from under the blankets he
and Rho had shared to keep themselves warm. The small lean-to which
Kenneth had built the night before kept some of the wind out, and most
of the snow, but the rest of the blankets and materials were needed
for the horses. He looked around, searching for his many layers of
thin clothes and found only a few of the items with which he had left.
"Here, wear these," were the first words Rho greeted him with as
she entered the slight structure, a gust of wind following her. She
threw a small pile of clothes - a cape, suede vest, thick white pants
and a pair of white boots which were a little large for him, and added
as she walked out, "We're leaving soon."
He dressed quickly, finding that most of the items fit him rather
well, over the thin layer of clothes he had taken from their previous
lodging. What was that place, anyway, he found himself wondering, and
where are we going in such a hurry? And where were these clothes last
night, when I needed them? And what's happened to... He left the tent.
"I don't understand," was the first thing he said to her. She was
dressed in some new clothes, also; probably taken from the saddle bags
she was strapping onto the horses. She gave him a hard look, filled
with sadness and determination.
"He left last night," was her only explanation. This did nothing
for Goren's need for information, and only made him wonder who he was
dealing with, now that they were free.
"Oh, so he always just gets up and walks off without his clothes?
In the middle of the night?"
"The Fenib had to be fed." She looked at him, almost accusing.
"Who in Risseer's feast are the Fenib?" He was getting very
annoyed. He knew she could knock him on his back, if she needed, but
he didn't care. He only wanted answers, something she owed him at this
"Inhabitants of these woods. Creatures who live in the winter
because we help them, because they need help. All Stevene's creatures
need help, some time or other."
"Nehru's pointy nose! A Stevenic!" He threw his arms up in the
air and began pacing around the fire Rho had built earlier. "Listen, I
don't care what religion you follow, as long as it's not bloody Saren.
All I want is answers. Why did he leave, what's happened to him, and
why am I wearing his clothes? These are his clothes, aren't they? I
mean, is he coming back, or isn't he? How does he intend to feed the
Fenib? No one in their right mind just wanders off into the winter
night without anything to wear. No one can live through..."
His words trailed off slowly, their meaning finally hitting home.
He knew why Kenneth had left, now, and what had probably happened to
him. He had only one reply. "Ol, that's disgusting."
Again, she said, "The Fenib had to be fed."
This question only resulted in Rho's accusing glare. He didn't
know why, but he had the feeling she thought it was his fault. Then,
"I'm sorry, it's not your fault. It's mine." Goren understood
this statement about as well as he did all her opening thoughts, so
she reinforced it. "If I had not taken you with us, you would have run
on your own, when the tent burned, wouldn't you?" Goren nodded. "Well,
you would have been caught by the Fenib, and they would have fed on
you. You would be dead, now, and not Kenneth."
"He gave his life...?"
"I didn't know! The magic field around the tent was preventing me
from contacting Kenneth. The Fenib were in danger of dying out."
"But he's a human being!"
"It doesn't matter, in the long run. There are plenty of human
beings, but the Fenib who hunt in winter are slowly dying off. It's
our fault, you know."
"What?" That last one was a little much. As hard as it was for
him to understand that Kenneth's life had been forfeit for his own,
that Rho thought she was the reason for Kenneth's death, and the Fenib
had to be fed, he had no concept of why she thought the Fenib's
inability to survive was his and Rho's fault.
"Not 'ours' meaning yours and mine, but 'ours'... the human
race's. We kill them in the summer, when they hunt the game we think
of as our own, the game we cage in to make the slaughter that much
easier. It reduces their chances of surviving the winter."
Goren looked at her, seeing pain, happiness, confusion, and
remorse all over her face. It crumbled, her eyes became cloudy and her
shoulders drooped. He thought of going to her, resting her honey-brown
head against him, but she stiffened immediately.
"There. You have your answers. Now, we head for Magnus to return
you to your family."
Goren began scooping snow into the fire and listening to it
simmer as the flames became lower and lower.
"What can possibly be taking them so long?" Ne'on asked no one in
particular as he looked at his map of Baranur. He traced a line, once
more, from Gateway to the Nar-Enthruen where he had sent a company of
men to take the Stone of Strength. That gem was a giant piece of an
important spell component. With it, he could open a gate the size of
Ne'on paced in front of the fireplace slowly, reflecting on the
comfort of the warmth. Lifting his black hand, he tilted his head back
slowly to empty the goblet's contents down his throat. What was that,
his third this evening? He hadn't kept count. He didn't care, anymore.
Things had gotten out of control. He could barely even remember how he
had gotten here. He reached for the bottle.
Everything had gotten so chaotic. And then there was Phos. Phos,
whose logic was infallible, who rationalized everything so
convincingly until, before he knew it, Ne'on was sitting on the Seat
of Gateway and heir to House Winston. Phos, whose magic filled him,
gave him the strength to do the things he couldn't control on his own.
But it felt so good when the energy filled him. It was better than the
wine he was drinking. It was better than anything he had ever known.
He could fly, if he wanted, or make lightning strike from the sky.
And people listened to him. Yes, he admitted, that was definitely
something to consider. The power and respect that he commanded. The
way people accepted what he told them, listened to his instructions,
and things went along so smoothly. There were actions which had to be
taken before that happened. Ne'on didn't like to think of those times.
He could hardly remember them happening, as if he had dreamed them
during the night, only to wake up and find himself here, now. Phos had
taken care of them. When things became confused, and Ne'on didn't know
what to do - that seemed to be happening often, in the last few months
- he called Phos. All Phos asked in return was a way into this world.
Ne'on liked to think of Phos as his guardian angel.
"Why not look for them?" Clay suggested from the edge of the
firelight. "You have magic..."
"That wouldn't work for our - my - benefit. It'd be like turning
on a bright light in a forest. Equiville would pick it up in an
"I don't understand," Clay returned, stepping out of the shadows
to peer at the bottle of Lederian red. Why not? he thought, and
reached to fill an empty flask with the wine.
"I thought you didn't drink."
"I don't," Clay returned, and swallowed a large quantity of the
Ne'on stared silently at his Captain. There were a lot of things
he hadn't bothered to learn about Clay. He hadn't thought he needed
to, but perhaps now... no. It would all be over in a few weeks. This
damn magic - it can take control of a man.
"Picture yourself sitting in the hills, watching a field. It's
night time, heavy clouds, no moon. Someone is in the field, but he's
not using anything to light the way. Can you see him?"
"Very difficult," Clay answered. He finished the rest of his
goblet, and put it back on the table. Instictively, he wandered toward
the edge of the light. "But what does that have to do with it?"
"To use my magic," Ne'on explained, "I would have to lower the
Garthian Blind. That would be like lighting a torch in the middle of a
dark field. Gateway would become very visible to Equiville's senses,
and we can't afford that... not yet."
Bartholemew Clay stepped back into the darkness.
"Just remember what I told you," Rho's voice, surprisingly
neutral, reminded him. "Don't stay at Gateway too long. You're not
meant for that, anymore."
"I still don't understand what you're telling me. First-"
She looked at him again, and he became silent. The winter thaw
had come and gone on their trip to Magnus, and the horse he had ridden
had broken a leg in the muddy trail. They were forced to kill it.
Something else for which she would remember him. She had a way of
making him feel sorry, making him want to repent for simple mistakes.
She had an influence on him which he had never known by his father,
and couldn't remember from his mother. No one, in fact, had ever made
him feel so much like a child, an inexperienced, immature infant. Yet,
it wasn't malicious. It was more like... being instructed.
"Don't understand, Goren. Just listen to people who know what
they're talking about. Go to Gateway, do what you have to do, and then
"What am I supposed to do after that?" He scowled slightly when
he said that, realizing that he had been taking orders from her for so
long he began to rely on her input. "Forget it. I'll find something to
"Good." She began to walk away, then turned around. "Remember
what I told you about Stevene. He'll forgive you, as long as you
forgive everyone else. And He loves you, no matter who you are, or
what you do."
Goren waived as she pulled her horse in front of her, down the
cobblestone drive, and onto the road that would eventually lead her
out of Magnus. She wanted him to go to Dargon for some reason. She
hadn't said it exactly like that, but he knew she would be there...
maybe he would go. She was very trying, as a friend, he thought. Never
gave him an inch. He smiled as he turned to walk up the steps... he
liked her like that.
Haralan squinted his eyes, surveying the battle plans his
advisors and War Council members had drawn out before him. It didn't
appear favorable on the field, out-manned and out-horsed by the
Beinison Army, but Magnus - and Crown Castle, particularly - was
strong, and held the loyalty of every good citizen. It would take more
than Beinison had, he hoped, to claim victory here. But these Councils
went on forever; and with Marcellon's condition...
"My Lord King," Edward Sothos, Knight Commander of Baranur's
Armed Forces, spoke slowly and intently. "If the Beinison Armada makes
its way down the Laraka and joins forces with the Emperor's Fist and
the regular army in our Southern Marches, Magnus *will* be endangered
seriously. It may be necessary to draw plans for evacuation."
"Surely," spoke High Priest Redcrosse, "such plans were drawn up
years ago. This discussion hardly seems necessary."
"Surely, they were, my Lord High Priest," the Knight Captain of
the Northern Marches, Luthias Connall, interupted, not a little
contempt for the pompous clergyman in his voice. Haralan realized just
how much Luthias had aged these past two years, with the beard roughly
outlining his tired face, but he had yet to learn the complete wisdom
of restraint. "However," Luthias continued, "those plans were drawn up
over one hundred years ago, when Magnus only had three sections. Only
chaos, confusion, and death would result if we tried to implement
those plans today."
"Well, then," returned the clergyman, "surely we should consider
the safety of the Church-"
A loud noise from the hall outside the chamber, followed by the
main doors opening, interupted the High Priest.
"Your Majesty," announced a guard, "Goren Winston of Gateway Keep
insists on appearing before you."
One more thing, he thought. The King sighed heavily, sat back in
his throne, and motioned for his council members to sit down. "Show
A ragged, tired, and disshevelled man appeared before the throne,
hardly presentable to a king under normal circumstances. "My Lord
King, my name is Goren Winston," he began, and the King's patience,
worn thin by the demands of war and unhelpful clergymen, failed
"I am quite aware of your name, your title, and your heritage, my
Lord Keeper. The Winston Household is one of the most well known among
the minor nobles, and your resemblence to your father -beneath the
dirt and blood on your face - is a striking one. I am also aware that
you are now Keeper of Gateway, following your father's demise, and
that you hold one of the key strongholds at the joining of the Laraka
and the Vodyanoy rivers. Am I to surmise, then, by your appearance and
your urgency, that we have lost that stronghold to the Beinison
invasion, or have you finally decided - after six months of delay - to
take the time away from your country's defense in order to receive
your formal title by my hand? In light of the desperate situation the
first example places us in, I prefer to believe that the leader of
this potential military point of contention hasn't the wits to realize
where he is needed most! Further more, the question of who was left in
charge comes to mind, with the only possible answer being Knights of
The King rose from his throne, and Goren stared haplessly about
the room, receiving no help from its other occupants. "My Lord King?"
"We are at war, man - do you know what that means?"
"War..." the word came out slowly, comprehension sinking in
deeply and suddenly.
"Yes, war - or haven't you been reading the royal messages sent
from duchy to duchy these past months?" Haralan could not believe that
Gateway Keep had been ignorant of the movement and news of the
Beinison and Baranurian armies. He had sent a message less than twenty
days past to the Lord Keeper, who had replied with Gateway's
"Begging your forgiveness, your Majesty," Goren began, "in the
past six months I have witnessed my father's death, been imprisoned by
my brother, beaten by guards, hunted by slavers, and told that the
feeding of a man I hardly knew to a pack of beasts was indirectly my
fault. I have spent the last three months trying to cover the two
weeks' distance between Gateway and Magnus for the sole purpose of
clearing my name and requesting the aid of your Majesty in bringing my
brother - the true murderer of my father - to justice. The idea that
this country was at war never entered my mind, nor are royal messages
passed on to slaves from their owners to keep them abreast of world
Haralan returned to his throne, raising his hand to halt Goren's
speech. "Something, then, has halted your freedom, my Lord Keeper.
Lord Marcellon informed me four months ago of your situation and
dispatched a letter to a fellow practitioner of the arts in order to
reinstate your position by royal decree. Obviously, this was never
executed. We had thought you in the Keeper's Seat these last two
months, at least."
Haralan searched about him for a quill and parchment, moving the
maps and scout reports and hypothetical troop movements out of his
way. "This letter of appointment will have to do," he continued,
dipping the quill and scratching it onto the parchment, pausing every
so often to speak. "I can't... afford the men... for an envoy... but
reveal this to... Castellan Ridgewater, isn't it?... whom, I am
told... was very loyal to... your family." Haralan signed his name
with a flourish, dripped some wax onto it, and punched his ring
finger's royal seal into the wax.
"How am I to deal with my brother, Ne'on?"
"We all have our situations to deal with if we're to overcome the
Beinison forces, Lord Keeper. See if your uncle can spare a few of the
House Guard to accompany you. And please, do the court a favor and
find your uncle's baths before you embark. Looking like that, you're
not likely to instill loyalty in a dog."
Goren sighed deeply. "Thank you, your Majesty."
"If you'll excuse us, Lord Keeper, we have a War Council to
continue. You'll be receiving orders from us shortly, so take care of
your business as quickly as possible."
"Yes, my Lord King." Goren bowed for three backward steps,
turned, and exited the hall.
Edward Sothos looked at the King. "A little hard on the boy,
"He's no boy... Untar is younger, and his scheming threatens our
nation. It's time Winston started accepting the responsibility for the
title he's claiming."
Sir Luthias nodded his head in grim agreement.
1 (C) Copyright December, 1993, DargonZine, Editor Dafydd
. All rights revert to the authors. These stories
may not be reproduced or redistributed (save in the case of
reproducing the whole 'zine for further distribution) without the
express permission of the author involved.