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-- DargonZine Volume 7, Issue 2 08/04/94 Cir 1127 --
-- Archives at fir.cic.net in pub/Zines/DargonZine --
-- Contents --
Laraka III (Part 2) John Doucette Yule 19-22, 1014
The Evening After Bill Erdley Yule 21, 1014
Love an Adventure I Orny Liscomb Yuli 2, 1016
1 Campaign for the Laraka III
Decision at Gateway Keep - Part 2
by John Doucette
Gateway Keep, Royal Duchy, Baranur
19 Yule, 1014 B.Y.
Goren stared, for the fifth time that afternoon, at the
blood-stained floor where his brother had lain. Tiny shards of the
Crystal still gathered in the corners of the room, and the left overs
from Ne'on's magical mixtures, books, and components remained in the
shelves. He hadn't taken the time to clean out the room, and couldn't
spare the manpower on domestic cleaning - with Beinison warriors
surrounding the keep, Gateway had needs more pressing than aesthetics.
"Lord Keeper," spoke the man at the door. Goren turned to look at
him. Lord Morion had traveled hundreds of miles with thousands of men
to defend the Laraka's basin, only to be overwhelmed by the size of
the attacking force. No one had planned on a military front forming on
the western coast of Baranur. The driving force had initiated in the
north east, and the south; Baranur had been unprepared for the
campaign Beinison had designed on the Laraka. Thus, Beinison now
occupied the Laraka from its basin at Shark's Cove, through Port
Sevlyn, up to about a quarter of a league west of Gateway.
"Lord Keeper," Morion repeated. There was a look of urgency on
his face, one which Goren could not understand, in light of the
situation: Beinison was not going to be entering Gateway any time
soon, even if Gateway was cut off from the rest of Baranur, and
Gateway was not in any condition to launch an attack of its own.
"What is it, Lord Morion?" Goren answered. "Do the men need more
food? Water? We've got enough to last a few weeks... maybe less. By
that time, perhaps, Baranur will be taken and we'll be pledging
ourselves to a new liege."
The Lord of Pentamorlo flinched, barely keeping his hand from
flying out on its own to strike the boy who stood in front of him.
Fealty to a new liege indeed, he mused. "Lord Keeper, I lost well over
a thousand men, two days ago. And there are over twenty regiments --
that's twenty thousand men! -- sitting outside our walls. Perhaps you
don't think so, my lord," he continued, "but there are more pressing
worries than food and water, just this moment. Ten of them, to be
specific." Goren looked quizzically at Morion. "Their siege engines
Five menes later, standing on the parapets of the inner keep,
Goren could see the boats docked half a league down the river, just
beyond the tents of the Beinison officers. Large contraptions of
steel, wood, and rope were being hauled off the ships, and the area
was being scouted by the enemy for the best positioning of the engines
"They'll move a few onto the hill," Goren said, indicating the
hill over which the enemy had emerged yesterday morning.
"Yes. And there, by the road," replied Morion. There was a small
knoll just south of Gateway's main gate. "They'll stay far enough out
of reach of our archers, but those catapults have a good range. Look
at the sun reflecting off the buckets," Morion pointed. "Steel.
They're equipped to launch fire."
"Captain of the guard!" Goren yelled. Within moments, the captain
was standing in front of him. "Make ready with the bucket. If Beinison
dumps fire on us, I want to be ready to quench it as quickly as
possible." When the captain left, he added, "Not that Gateway couldn't
use a good purge."
"My Lord Keeper," Morion stepped forward and spoke intently. "I
understand that as a nobleman you deserve the respect and honor given
to you by the King's own hand, but so help me, if your depressing
attitude costs me one man - one man! - I'll throw you right to the
enemy and let them deal with you as they please."
Approaching them from a short distance was a middle-aged man with
well-worn armor. The armor was simple, but effective, and interfered
neither with his movement nor his vision. The armor of a foot
soldier... or an archer who expected to enter combat. In this case, it
was Castellan Ridgewater.
"My lord, the scribe needs an official recount of the King's
decision to place you as Lord Keeper. I thought you might like a meal
as well, and instructed her to meet you -"
"Her?" Goren interrupted.
"Aye, boy. Your brother... insisted the previous scribe was
incapable of service. The new one, Lara... well, she dresses like
something other than a scribe, but I suppose she does her job." Almost
as an afterthought, he added, "Whatever that may be. She's waiting in
your father's hall." The look on Marcus' face lead Goren to believe
the man was entering battle: hard, determined, and gauging. Goren
guessed the war affected everyone differently.
"I'll eat in the hall, then, Marcus."
"Lord Winston, if I may suggest something militarily - " Morion
interjected before Goren left.
"What is it, my lord?"
"The catapults which the enemy is assembling. Can we reach them
"I don't know. Marcus?"
Marcus looked at where the engines were being moved. "I'll see
about it. Perhaps we can scare them away from those points."
"See to it, then," Goren added and walked down the steps toward
his father's home.
When Goren was out of earshot, Marcus lowered his gaze and stared
Morion in the face. "I wouldn't make trouble with the boy, Lord
Morion. He's well-liked in these parts, and the people here wouldn't
take too kindly to his being pushed. Do you understand what I'm
Morion's jaw set, and his eyes burned intently. "Are you
threatening me, Castellan? I have several hundred men occupying
Gateway Keep. If I weren't putting up with lousy decorum, I'd take the
blasted place myself and lock you up!"
Castellan Ridgewater didn't blink a lash. "Morion, the boy's got
a lot on his mind. Don't be bothering him. You may have men here, but
I've got a full regiment. And we know how to bother back. Now, if you
have nothing else to say, I'll be gettin' about those catapults."
"I have PLENTY left-"
"I didn't think so." Marcus interrupted, and turned away.
Morion stood staring after him, the veins on his brow coming to
life. "Haralan," he whispered to the air, "by Nehru's pointy nose, I
didn't want this damn job."
Gateway Keep, Royal Duchy, Baranur
20 Yule, 1014
"Goren," Marcus looked across the table at his lord. The boy
still didn't eat more than enough to keep him alive. Marcus' own best
effort at distracting him, in the form of a scribe named Lara, had
failed miserably. She didn't even know how to write! And Goren became
less concerned with his surroundings every day. "The south-east wall,"
he continued. "There's a problem."
"What is it?" Morion interjected. Morion did not normally
interrupt a question aimed at someone else. However, in Goren's case,
he made the exception. Goren was not dedicated to the task at hand. He
was not concerned with the welfare of the troops packed within
Gateway's walls. He did not have the stomach to order men to their
deaths. Morion did not like Goren Winston, the Lord Keeper of Gateway.
He liked the castellan even less.
Castellan Ridgewater looked at Morion and smiled. Not a genuine
smile, but definitely an attempt to be civil. "They're going to
crumble," he said. "Mid-day... Maybe later. The catapults have been
pummelling them for a full day, and they are weakening."
"Blast," Morion muttered. One day of catapults, and the walls are
already weakening? What was this keep made of, wood? "Well, then,
Castellan Ridgewater," Morion began with his own attempt at civility.
"Let's get some fortifications built up within the walls, in the
south-eastern section of the keep. That way, when the enemy rushes the
breach, we'll be better defended."
"Agreed." The castellan found himself saying. It was an odd
moment for both of them. They had grown accustomed to being on
opposite sides of arguments.
Morion raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Excellent. Then we'll
have to block off any access to the inner keep from atop those walls,
as well as any-"
"Now, don't go givin' me orders, Morion." Marcus' ire was
instantly fired. "Goren's the one in charge, and I'll take them from
"Listen, Castellan," Morion suddenly found himself out of the
surprising agreement with Marcus, and into the familiar heat of
discussion. "I'm certain Lord Winston will agree with me that these
precautions need to be taken-"
"Oh, I'm certain as well, Pentamorlo," Marcus interjected. "But
let's let him make the order. Advising him would better become you."
"'Become me?' If these walls were made out of something more
sturdy than aelo hide-"
"Did you build these walls? No-"
"My Lords!" Goren yelled. His headache had not been eased by
their argument. In fact, Goren thought, his headaches for the past
three days were primarily due to the two of them being in too close
quarters with each other. The lord of Pentamorlo and the castellan of
Gateway stopped, surprised, and looked at Goren.
"My lords," he continued, "make the plans for the defense of
Gateway. Morion, see to the construction of the fortifications.
Marcus, make sure the keep is secure from the expected breach. Most of
all, I want the two of you to STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER."
Goren got up, looked at the men, and glanced towards the door to
the hall. "I'm hungry. I've got a lot to deal with, right now. We all
do. But if I have to listen to the two of you argue one more time,
I'll tie you together and throw you to the enemy. If you're bickering
doesn't drive Beinison away from Gateway, nothing else will. Now, go!"
As Goren sat back down, Morion and Marcus stood. They looked at
each other, then Goren, and headed towards the door.
Captain Greerson waited for Marcus by the door to the main hall.
While he had no qualms about entering the room and reporting to any of
the men within, he did not want to be the object of anyone's anger.
Even Lord Winston, who had been reclusive since his return to Gateway,
could be heard yelling within the hall. Those doors were daunting,
The wooden doors opened abruptly, allowing Lord Morion to exit
the hallway quickly and without pleasure. Morion headed east toward
the inner keep walls. Outside, the low thud of siege engines, followed
by a heavy crashing sound, paid its toll on Gateway's walls.
"You have news for me, Captain?" The castellan was standing in
front of Greerson, now. He was in about as good a mood as Morion.
"Only a lack of it, Castellan." Greerson looked away. "Your son
is still missing."
"But he wasn't with the members of the Hand when you fired on
"No, sir." Greerson replied. "None of them escaped, and your son
was not among the dead."
"Then he's got to be somewhere. Check with the other boys he
trained with, find out who saw him last... Maybe one of them knows
where he might have gone, or what he's doing."
"Right away, sir." Greerson turned to go, but was stopped by
"Wait a mene, Captain." Marcus took a good look at the man.
Greerson's eyes were puffy and dark. His skin was pale, and his face
was gaunt. "You haven't slept in a while, have you?"
"No, sir. Not since the day before yesterday."
"Right. I'll get someone else to look about Thomas. You get some
sleep. When those walls come down, it won't matter where Thomas is...
we'll need every able man to fight off that Beinison horde. Now get
As the captain of the guard made his way to his barrack, the
Castellan thought about his son. Where could he be? What could he be
doing? All the old barracks of the Black Hand had been cleared out...
Ne'on's own quarters had been searched, and the dungeons under the
keep. Most of the boy's belongings were still at the Castellan's
residence, excepting a suit of chain and a short sword. But Thomas
trained with a broad sword, like his father...
Lieutenant Lianna Fellthorne stood atop the makeshift wall where
she and one-hundred seventy troops under her command waited. She was
not used to commanding such a large force: Lieutenants typically
command only one company at a time. Her captain's dead body still lay
in the fields outside of Gateway, where he had fallen in the rush for
safety. Six other lieutenants from her regiment lay there as well, not
lonely among the hundreds of bodies. No one had picked them up. No one
had buried them. It wasn't likely that they would be buried any time
soon. Certainly, their burial would not be a ceremonial one.
One more loud crash fell against the wall she was watching. It
began to creak and bend. A good hundred feet from the wall, she knew
she was safe, but she ordered her men away from the area. "Clear away,
there... it's going soon." At various points of the defensive
semi-circle within the wall's boundaries, other lieutenants and
captains were issuing similar orders. The wall would be breached,
soon, and the hell would start.
Suddenly, Lord Morion was beside her. "How are they, Lieutenant?"
"Sir?" she asked.
"Your troops. Are they stable?"
"As can be, sir. We're about to be invaded." Three dull thuds
were heard in the distance. "Down, sir!"
As they ducked, three large boulders crashed against the wall.
Stones shattered, metal creaked, and the wall wavered. When they
lifted their heads, they saw the sight for which both armies had been
waiting: the wall bent in, bowed, and crumbled amidst a cloud of
mortar, stone, and dust.
More thuds. More crashes. Soon, the wall would be so much rubble.
"Looks like a storm is coming our way, my lord." Lianna had to
yell to be heard above the din.
"Not yet," Morion replied. "Maybe not until the morrow."
"Why do you say that, sir?"
"They haven't deployed their forces, yet, Lieutenant." Morion
checked the position of the sun over the western wall. "And it's
nearing evening. They don't want to fight us in the dark, in our own
keep. They'll wait 'till morning, when they'll have plenty of light to
"Then I'll order my men back under cover," she reasoned. "No
sense in letting stray boulders kill off anyone else."
Morion nodded to her and made for another section of the
defensive perimeter. "Not like they haven't taken enough toll already,
Lieutenant," he muttered to himself.
20 leagues South of Gateway Keep, Royal Duchy, Baranur
20 Yule, 1014 B.Y.
"General Verde," Luthias Connall approached where his junior
officer was standing. Sarah Verde had been up late into the evening
for the last five days, walking the perimeter and spot- checking the
watches. She looked as tired as she felt. She's normally an attractive
woman, Luthias thought to himself. Now she looks ten years and several
The newly-appointed general turned to her friend and senior
officer. "Knight Captain," she greeted him formally, "it's very late.
You should be resting."
"The same can be said of you, General. This isn't the first night
you've been up this late."
"Still early for me, sir. Still used to night watches and early
morning drills. Never left time for sleep, back in those days. But you
didn't have those days, did you?"
Sarah struck a sore spot on Luthias, and was regretful the
instant she saw the look on his face. He still didn't believe he was
deserving of the titles which had been bestowed upon him over the last
two years. He had risen very quickly from a possible barony to higher
status than he had ever dreamed: Count, General of the Cavalry, and
now Knight Captain of the Northern Marches. He had never even formally
served in the Royal Militia, let alone the Royal Army. But he was a
knight, and knights of exceptional quality were treated with
exceptional praise. He supposed he must have done something right in
the last two years.
"General," he began, but Sarah interrupted him immediately.
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean it that way. Just that you
wouldn't have those memories."
"Forget it, Sarah. What I was going to say was... well, we're
going into a major battle tomorrow. I need you to get all the sleep
you can. So far, we've managed to encounter only two squads of scouts
from the enemy, and they were easily defeated. Beinison knows
something's up, they just don't know what. If they've got any
surprises for us, tomorrow, I need you awake and level headed."
"I'll be awake, same time as usual, Knight Captain."
"Don't get all formal on me, Sarah. The sun's been down for
almost three bells. We're marching on third watch to get to Gateway
before noon. Get to your tent and get some sleep."
"Now, General. That's an order."
As Sarah almost sulked back to her tent, a smaller figure in
foreign armor came silently up behind Luthias. Reaching his hand out
slowly, the Bichanese native tapped Luthias lightly on his left
"What?" Luthias jumped around, pulling his fist back ready to
strike. "Oh, it's you, Michiya. How are things with Kirinagi?"
"The general wishes to see you return to your tent, Luthias-
sama. His men are already prepared for the morning's battle, and are
sleeping to gain strength. General Kirinagi has much appreciation for
your skill as a warrior, but all men need rest some time."
"So, now I'm taking orders from Bichanese generals, is it?"
"And your friends, Luthias-sama."
Luthias sighed and stared off into the night. Not a fire had been
lit, and a breakfast as cold as the night's dinner awaited he and his
men. He thought briefly of Sable, and how on a hot summer's night she
had burst into his room, naginata in hand, ready to defend his life.
He thought of the past quite frequently, these days. Roisart and their
father... Clifton's father, the old Duke of Dargon... He silently
prayed to the Stevene that the war would end soon.
Sighing one last time, he put his arm around Michiya and headed
toward his tent. "We both need sleep for tomorrow, Michiya. Get to
your tent and rest well. Death waits for no one. Might as well get
plenty of rest before we meet her."
1 league south of Gateway Keep, Royal Duchy, Baranur
Sunrise, 21 Yule, 1014
"Knight Captain!" General of the Cavalry Sarah Verde called to
her commanding officer. They had been travelling for four bells, since
third watch of the evening before, in order to reach Gateway by
morning without tiring the horses. Luthias had been right: they were
all going to need the rest they had gotten the night before.
Luthias saw what Sarah was pointing out. There was a breach in
Gateway's walls, and the enemy was already making its way into the
keep. Fighting was still going on, however. That meant the breach was
recent. And Beinison wasn't exactly pouring into Gateway, which meant
their was strong resistance within the keep. Fortifications...
ditches... the light infantry would be the first to attack, saving the
heavy infantry for when the ground was more stable, easier to
"Form ranks, General." Luthias ordered.
"Already formed, Luthias." Sarah replied.
Luthias looked at his cavalry. Eight regiments strong. Sarah
would lead the first wave of four thousand. Michiya, Kirinagi's force,
and Luthias would lead the last four regiments in the final wave. As
he retreated, Sarah would redirect her force, and the process would
Stevene give us strength, he thought. "First wave," he called.
Four thousand horse pounded out the distance between the hilltop
south of Gateway Keep and the breach in its south-eastern wall. A low
rumbling sounded through the ground for miles. As the Beinison troops
slowed their entrance to the keep, the commanding officers looked
suddenly at the wall of cavalry approaching them. Buglers sounded, men
scrambled, some small resistance was organized.
When General Verde was within quarter of a league of the Beinison
force, she could see the small patches of organized resistance.
Looking back, the Luthias' cavalry had already begun their approach.
She raised her sword high, kicked her mount, and yelled. "CHAAAARGE!!"
The light infantry attacking Lianna's section of the perimeter
were just beginning to break through the defenses when the rush
slowed. Several of her comrades lay in bloody heaps about her. More
Beinison soldiers lay in front and around her. As another approached,
she parried the attack and thrust low into the man's groin. He fell
screaming, if not dead. The wetness on her face increased, but it
wasn't her blood. It wasn't the enemy's blood. As she hacked at the
enemy around her, she swore. And she cried.
She was a fisherman's daughter. Her mother sold the morning's
catch in a market at Port Sevlyn. But that was before the war. She
knew what had happened to Port Sevlyn: the burning, the slaughter.
Innocent people were killed for no reason. Fishermen strangled with
their own lines. Women raped repeatedly before being slowly bled to
Another Beinison soldier made for her. Angrily, she lunged at the
man, knocking his blade aside. Her helm almost fell from her head in
her desperate attack, but she continued. Her sword found its point in
the man's neck and he fell, blood sputtering from his throat.
"Lieutenant," someone called to her. Checking to see no enemy
approaching her, she turned briefly.
There was her sergeant, standing in a pool of blood. At his feet
lay an enemy soldier who had gone around her. And in his stomach, the
Beinison's sword had found a weak link. "Bury... me... in-"
She could only stand there as he fell to the ground in his own
blood. She stopped crying.
Michiya swung meticulously at the enemy beside him. His katana's
sharp blade slicing through the woman's breast plate, he used its
momentum to come down on the man below him. Grasping now with both
hands, he lunged at a Beinison soldier who had ridden up beside him.
Three deaths in three movements, he thought. Some would see this
as poetic. Graceful. It is but death making its way through a world so
full of life. He spurred his horse to catch up with Luthias.
"Luthias-sama," he called. Luthias parried a blade aimed at his
skull, and brought his mailed fist into the soldier's face. The
Benosian fell from his horse, nose bleeding, only to be trampled by
his own mount. The horse knew better than to stand between two armies.
Luthias looked over at Michiya, and the battle surrounding him.
Beinison was not having a good time of it. While Baranur was
definitely taking losses, Beinison had been unprepared for the
cavalry's attack. They had been hoping to gain Gateway before
reinforcements could arrive. They were almost successful.
"Luthias-sama, General Verde is about to make another charge."
"Right. Find the bugler, Michiya," Luthias called over the din.
Steel rang against steel everywhere he looked. Horses bucked, riders
fell, and blood made the ground slippery for the infantry they fought
against. "I'll be damn glad when this day is over."
Morion cut down another Beinison. There was a small squad which
had made its way behind the eastern line of defenses. If not for
Luthias' timely arrival, he thought, we'd have been driven out of here
just past morning. He looked up at the mid- day sun. They had been
fighting for five bells.
Another Beinison was crawling up the rear of the defenses, just
twenty yards from Morion. The soldier wasn't watching the lord of
Pentamorlo, she had her sights on the colors of Gateway's defense.
Castellan Ridgewater had his back to the rear line, five archers
standing with him, firing arrows into the oncoming enemy.
"Castellan!" Morion yelled, but he couldn't be heard this far
away. His voice was sore from shouting orders all morning, and the din
of battle drowned out what volume he could still muster. He smiled. He
knew there was time before the Beinison could make her way up the
defenses, and there was another way of gaining Marcus' attention.
Picking up a small piece of stone, he hurled it at the
castellan's back. A small ringing sound erupted, and Marcus turned
around, fuming at the man who had pelted him.
"We're in the brink of battle, man, and you're picking on me with
Morion pointed at the Beinison soldier five feet below Marcus,
and the Castellan looked down. The Benosian, suddenly realizing that
she was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, dropped her
"Take your helmet off, man." Marcus yelled at the soldier. The
frightened woman did so, and Marcus swore. "Nehru's pointy nose. Just
like a woman to sneak up on you." Raising his bow, he brought the
wooden portion of it down, hard, on the woman's head. She fell,
unconscious, to the ground.
It was mid-evening when the fighting slowed, then stopped. Both
sides were tired. Hungry. The cavalry's horses would no longer charge,
and did little to support their riders. Gateway was in ruins, the
north wall having been breached at mid-day.
Beinison's forces were battered, but now more organized. The
original force which was to be deployed at the north wall never had
the chance. If not for the commanding officer's decision to divide the
forces, even more Beinison soldiers might have been caught between the
defenders in Gateway and the cavalry which arrived from the south.
Things were, for the moment, at an impasse. When Michiya had seen
that the siege engines were still pummelling Gateway, he commanded a
squadron of cavalry and destroyed them. Luthias had regained the
defenses Morion's troops had built four days before, outside of
Gateway. Beinison had retreated out of Gateway's catapult range, and
was fortifying its camp. Luthias knew he was lucky, that day. If he
had arrived a bell later, Gateway might have been taken. If he had
been earlier, the Beinison army would not have already been committed
to the task.
"Sir Luthias," a man -- if such an apparition could be called a
man -- approached him on horseback. Luthias had watched him from the
small hill Luthias had claimed as his own. Lord Morion, covered in
blood, dirt, and sweat, dismounted.
"Lord Morion," Luthias returned his greeting. "Welcome to... what
passes, for the time being, as my pavilion."
"Thank you, Count Connall," Morion replied. "Welcome to...
whatever you want to call this situation. The lines are drawn, so to
"Yes, they are. But I don't think it will be long."
Sarah Verde and Ittosai Michiya approached the two leaders.
"Knight Captain. Lord Morion."
"Lord Morion," Luthias introduced, "I believe you know General of
the Cavalry Sarah Verde, and Ittosai Michiya."
"Indeed I do." Morion replied. "General. Michiya."
"Luthias-sama," Michiya began. "We -- General Kirinagi, General
Verde, and myself -- We are wondering what the next plan of action is
to be. You ordered us to dismount and rest our steeds. The supply
train is still not arrived from last night's camp. I fear we will have
little food for the evening's meal, or feed for the horses."
"I believe we can take care of that in Gateway, Michiya," Morion
offered. "If I can get that damn castellan to listen to me."
"The castellan? What about the Lord Keeper?"
"Useless brat, if you ask me. Hasn't been helpful since he killed
Luthias scowled at Morion, knowing both what it meant to kill,
and how it felt to lose a brother. Having to kill his own kin would be
difficult, even for one who had seen death as much as had Luthias.
"The boy didn't even fight in the battle," Morion continued. "In
my opinion, Goren Winston isn't fit to defend a major military
stronghold like Gateway."
"That's a pretty strong statement, Lord Morion." Sarah Verde
shifted her scabbard for comfort. "Perhaps we should all convene in
"A good idea-- What's that?"
In the distance, a man on horseback was riding from the Beinison
army toward the hill Luthias occupied. He carried the white flag of
truce, and rode weaponless. A captain called to Luthias, and Luthias
waved him on. When the soldier was within twenty yards, he dismounted.
"Who is the commanding officer?" he requested. He had a thick
Beinison accent, but spoke Baranurian quite well.
Luthias stepped forward. "I speak for him."
The Beinison looked at Luthias and recognized the Baranurian
insignia's of rank, as well as the knight's chain around his neck. "I
speak for General Vasquez, of the Beinison army. We claim the right to
gather our dead from the field of battle before the conflict
continues. It is late in the day, and much blood has been lost on both
"Tell your general that he may gather his dead as soon as we
gather ours." Luthias replied. "It is our land, and we would not want
our dead to be dishonored upon it."
"The general will accept," the herald responded. "When you leave
the field, we shall enter it and remove our dead."
The herald moved to his steed and mounted. He turned his horse in
a tight circle and sped down the hill to his own encampment.
Luthias looked at Sarah. "Tell the healers -- Damn! Tell everyone
to gather the Baranurian dead. Stevene willing, it won't take much
time. I'd like to be done with this by nightfall."
Gateway Keep, Royal Duchy, Baranur
22 Yule, 1014
"Goren!" Castellan Ridgewater called down to the grounds from
atop the sturdiest of Gateway's remaining walls. "I think you'd better
Goren made his way up the courtyard stairs in the early morning
light. Morion had gone to Luthias' camp the evening before without
telling him, leaving some pompous captain in charge of his men. Marcus
was cursing up a storm all evening because there were Benosians all
over the field but Morion had sent word not to fire at them. They were
gathering their dead.
Marcus had fired one arrow, though. A man was running from body
to body in the night, bending over each one momentarily, and rushing
to the next. Marcus' keen eyesight had picked him out, and the man
slumped over with an arrow in the back. Pilfering from the dead was
the least honorable thing Marcus could imagine.
When Goren got to the top of the wall, he looked across the empty
field. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Have ye lost your eyesight, boy?"
Goren just stared blankly at the field. Other than the usual
signs of any bloody aftermath, he could see nothing.
"Don't you see the enemy, Goren?"
Goren did not.
"Exactly it, boy. They're gone."
Goren looked again at the field. He looked up the hill to where
the Beinisons had retreated the previous evening. He looked to where
Luthias had made camp the previous evening, as well. Nothing.
"Lord Morion!" Goren called, but he did not need to yell. Morion
appeared behind him.
"Lord Morion, what is the meaning of this?" Goren demanded.
"Well, Lord Keeper, the Beinison army isn't there. Vasquez packed
up in the middle of the night, just after second watch, and left. He
was only waiting to gather his dead."
"And Count Connall?"
"The Knight Captain, as I found he is now ranked, went after him.
He's going to chase Vasquez all the way back to Port Sevlyn and make
sure he stays there. He can't exactly assault seventeen regiments with
his cavalry, but he'll scare them enough to make sure they run."
Goren sighed. He looked at Marcus and at Morion. "What was the
outcome? We won, but at what cost?"
"The Knight Captain lost one thousand cavalry and two hundred
fifty horse. About." Morion said.
"Five hundred of Gateway's garrison died in yesterday's battle,"
"And Eighteen hundred of my own men died, since Beinison came
over the hill five days ago." Morion finished.
Goren was dumbfounded. "That's..."
"Over three thousand dead," Marcus finished for him.
"And that's not counting the wounded." Morion stated. "But the
Beinison losses were greater. Between the start of battle and
yesterday evening, they lost over seven regiments. Over seven thousand
"But they still outnumbered us... what... almost two to one?"
"Goren, we've got cavalry. We've got archers. We've got what's
left of Gateway's walls. We even have catapults left on a couple of
them. All they had left was infantry. We're in no shape to attack
them, and they don't dare attack us."
"Best thing they could do, Lord Keeper," Morion finished for
Marcus. "Is get out of here before we were rested enough to launch a
"And they did." Goren looked out at the field. He saw the blood.
The mounds of dirt piled up where heroes had defended themselves.
Holes in the walls where Beinison had broken through Gateway's
defenses. A few bloody swords and shields, maybe a mace, littered the
ground. "Ten thousand lives ended here."
"War isn't pretty, Winston." Morion said. "And there's no such
thing as heroes."
1 The Evening After...
by Bill Erdley
Three times today I should have died.
I owe my life to three different men. Well, actually two, since
the third is dead.
Tired. I'm tired and I want to sleep. I can't.
There's no real memory of the battle. There are pictures in my
head, but they all run together like the blood in the rain.
I killed my first opponent today.
He screamed as he fell to the ground. There he sobbed once,
gasped, and died.
There is no honor in killing. There is no honor in dying. Honor
exists for its own sake.
I try to roll over, but my body refuses. I got my first wounds
today. Bruises on my legs and sides, a nasty gash across my shoulder,
and a lump on my head.
Three times today I should have died.
Apart from those who stood, and fell, before me, I remember Sir
Luthias and Michiya. Like two demonic reapers in the devil's own
field, they swung and chopped and cut, harvesting a macabre crop of
souls to be sent back to wherever those souls came from.
Why can't I fall asleep?
Sir Luthias saved me by knocking me to the ground while
simultaneously parrying the swing that would have separated my head
from my shoulders. The mud was already salty with blood. It splashed
into my face as I fell, and when I cleared it from my eyes and spat it
from my mouth, my assailant was dead on the ground and Sir Luthias was
already on to his next combat.
My shoulder hurts; the deep, throbbing pain of a joint begging
I fought beside Sir Luthias.
They didn't seem to know how to counter one of the tricks that
Sir Luthias taught me. Again and again I used it. Swing, counter,
swing, twist, thrust; and my sword would bite a shoulder or a neck.
Once, my sword caught as a man went down. As I reached for it, another
man stepped in and swung. I dodged, but I was open for his next
strike. Michiya, without changing his rhythm, caught my opponent with
a backhand slash to the head, then continued to fight his own battle.
The dead man almost landed on me as he fell...
Never have I heard so much pain. Screaming. Moaning. Sobbing.
There was a constant sound. It was the sound of the dying. I never
knew death had a voice.
During a lull, Sir Luthias complimented my ability and
"tenacity", a word which he had to explain. I didn't tell him that I
was afraid; that I fought for my life. He already knew.
I just want to sleep. I try to roll over again.
It is the eyes, most of all, that I see when I close my own. The
sightless, fixed stare of the dead. My mistake was to look into those
eyes. Just once. I saw death's face.
There is no honor in killing.
I was struck in the shoulder by a man that I didn't see. I fell,
my sword falling from my fingers as my arm screamed out in pain. I
tried to crawl back from the fighting, but he came at me, a terrible
smile spreading across his face. A man from the company that I had
traveled with stepped between us and swung. I rose from the mud and
tried once again take up my sword. My arm screamed again, so I
switched hands. The man who saved me fell. His killer moved on to
another fight, perhaps forgetting me. I looked at my shoulder, and saw
the blood pouring out. I turned from the fighting to find a healer.
My head throbs to a slower rhythm now, but it still throbs. It
throbs with every beat of my heart. It throbs because I still live.
For that, I am grateful. Still, I wish I could sleep.
There is no honor in dying.
I tripped over a body while running back to the line. The
Beinison man lived, but his pain...
"Kill me." he cried. "Please, I beg you."
I shook my head. I showed him the sign for healer, then turned to
run and find one.
He cursed me. "I am defeated!" he cried. "To live with defeat is
worse than death. I will NOT live in dishonor!"
I fetched the healers, but he was dead when we returned.
The eyes. Those cursed eyes. How can I sleep when every time I
close my eyes I see theirs.
Honor exists for its own sake.
The tent flap moved and Sir Luthias entered, followed by Michiya
and a man in dirty white robes who looks like a healer. Luthias looked
at me and asked "How are you doing?"
*I* *Live* I manage to keep my injured arm quiet.
He nodded. "You will fight again."
*Fight* *Yes* *Sleep* *No.*
Again, he nodded. I think that he understood. The healer moved to
me and handed me a small bottle. "Drink this."
I did, and almost instantly felt my eyes begin to close, as if
they were too heavy to hold open.
*Question* *I* *Dream.*
Sir Luthias' voice sounded distant and vaguely sorrowful.
"I hope not."
1 Love an Adventure
by David/Orny Liscomb
"And so it came to pass that during the seventh
year of the reign of King Brad, the County of
Egilsay was transferred from house Sall to Count
Justin Petersson, as dowry in his marriage to Lady
Amigene of Sall. The dowry also included the lady's
handmaidens, seventeen sheep, and six barrels of
"Boy, it sure is dusty in here!" thought Dale, wiping his
watering eyes before turning back to the history his father had told
him to transcribe. Cavendish, his father and scribe to Duke Clifton
Dargon, had dreams that his fifteen year-old son would one day be
accepted into the scribe's guild, but Dale had other ideas.
He peered out the window of his bedroom, which overlooked the
lower half of the city of Dargon. Before him lay all the bustle and
ruckus of a city alive with the business of midsummer. Above and
between the roofs of the houses he could even see the slow-moving mast
of a sailing vessel arriving in the harbor from some faraway land.
Never in his life had Dale been more than a couple hours' walk
from the city, and he longed to explore all the places he'd read
about. That was probably the worst part about being a scribe: you
could read about all kinds of far-off cities and kingdoms, but you
never got to go anywhere!
He often went down to the port to watch the ships coming and
going, but he rarely talked to the crewmen. They were usually very
serious, and looked kind of dangerous. But he did talk with Simon the
stew merchant. Everyone knew Simon -- he would often spend a slow
afternoon telling the children about the adventures he had heard about
when he was a sailor. But Dale knew that he was Simon's especial
Dale cleaned his quills, grabbed a piece of bread and stepped out
into the street, heading downhill toward the docks.
Commercial Street really wasn't much of a street at all. It was
really just a big open area between the wharves where the ships
docked, and the warehouses where their cargoes were stored. Low carts,
drawn by mule and oxen, labored back and forth between the two:
slow-moving islands amidst a sea of people all moving at different
speeds in different directions.
Leftwiched between the warehouses were bars, brothels,
restaurants, general stores, rug merchants, provisioners,
confectioners, furriers, clothiers, and metalworkers. And on a warm
summer day, in front of every building, traveling merchants would set
up their wares: candles, lamps, hats, leather work, and every
imaginable type of food and drink. On Commercial Street, the swindler
hawking overpriced glass jewelry had to compete with soapbox
philosophers; whores and thieves rubbed elbows with priests and
children. And although it probably wasn't the safest place in the city
of Dargon, it certainly was one of the most exciting!
Just short of reaching Commercial Street, Dale ducked into the
side entrance of the Harbormaster's Building. His boots echoed loudly
on the varnished wooden floors as he made his way through the hallways
to the doors that faced out onto Commercial Street. The Harbormaster's
Building was the only building that faced the wharves that had steps
leading up to it, and Dale liked to use this perch to look out over
the crowd and see what was going on. Maybe someday he would live in
the second or third story of a building that faced the port, so he
could watch all the activity from his own room.
Dale stared out over the port. The unfamiliar ship he had seen
arriving earlier was tied up at Countryman's Pier, but he couldn't
make out her name. He scanned the edges of Commercial Street for his
friend Simon, the stew merchant. It took a couple minutes, but he
finally saw Simon's monkey, Skeebo. The monk had climbed up on top of
the small wooden roof of Simon's cart to shoo away a seagull that had
perched there. Dale left his high ground and plunged into the sea of
activity at street level, heading toward the place where he had seen
Dale pushed through the crowd and finally caught sight of his
friend, Simon Salamagundi. The stew merchant was talking with a man
who looked like a sailor, and hadn't noticed his young visitor yet.
Dale stood unobtrusively nearby and listened to the exchange. Simon
didn't notice him, but Skeebo did, and quietly leaped down onto his
"... not only lost the bet and had to wear a pink scarf around
town," continued the sailor, "but he lost the rat, as well!" He
doubled over in uncontrollable mirth, then slapped Simon's back and
bounded off. Simon shook his head in appreciation, then saw Dale as
the young man turned to him.
"Who was that?" the boy nodded in the sailor's wake.
Simon smiled a little. "He's a cook on-a 'Friendly Lion'. His
boy's a headstrong lad. Apparently he favors losing bets in foreign
Dale gestured toward the newly-arrived ship, sitting quiet and
stately a couple piers down. "Is that the 'Friendly Lion'?"
"Yessir. She just came in from Westbrook and Dar Althol with
quite a haul. Books, news, silver. Rice, nuts, barley. And a bard
named Kinwood. From Althol. Apparently very popular..."
Dale wondered about the places. He'd grown up hearing about other
lands -- Westbrook, Winthrop, Tench, Magnus -- places that he'd lived
with all his life, but had never seen for himself.
"So..." Seeing that Dale's mind was elsewhere, Simon changed the
topic of conversation. "What have you been up to, this beautiful
Dale managed a resigned laugh. "Hmph! Dad has me transcribing the
history of County Egilsay! It's so boring!!! I wish I could visit
these places, not just read about them!" Dale started to raise his
voice. "I'm tired of hearing other people talking about their
adventures -- I want an adventure of my own. Dargon is so boring --
nothing ever happens here!"
Simon knocked the young man on the shoulder. "Come on, I've been
to plenty of interesting places, and out of all those places, I picked
Dargon to live in. Do you know why?"
"Because it's boring and calm and you were tired of adventuring?"
"No! Because out of all-a the lands I've seen, Dargon is one of
the most interesting."
"If Dargon's so interesting, when was the last time you had an
Simon paused a second. "Why, I had an adventure just this
morning. I was cutting into a loaf of bread that Madame Nilson had
baked for me, and what should I find inside but a silver coin!
Apparently it fell outta her bodice and got mixed in when she was
kneading the dough! Hah!"
Dale scowled. "Simon -- that's not an adventure! Adventures are
heroes saving fair maidens or stopping pirates or saving burning
Simon shook his head. "Ah, no. Real people can have real
adventures, and they don't have to be as dramatic as all-a that.
There's plenty of adventure right here in Dargon."
Dale looked down and scuffed his feet. "Not for me. Being locked
up at home copying scrolls is about as exciting as... as..." Dale
threw his hands in the air. "Shit! I can't even *think* of anything
more boring! I wish Dad would let me go sign on as a sailor..."
"NO!!!" The sudden emotion in Simon's voice startled Dale. His
friend was usually the most even-keeled person Dale knew. Seeing the
confusion in his friend's expression, the stewmaker sighed and shook
"Dale, listen to me, straight? When I was you age I felt the same
way. My mama wanted me to be a artist. She even apprenticed me to a
sculptor! I thought it was the most boring thing in the world. So I
ran away and tried to join a trading ship. I talked to the captain,
and-a you know what he told me?" Dale cocked his head to indicate that
he didn't know. Despite his renown as a storyteller, Simon had never
really talked about himself very much.
"He said 'Boy, I'm not going to take you on, but here's a bit of
advice for you. You can go all around the world looking for adventure
and never find it, or you can walk the streets of your home town and
find adventure around every corner. You know why? Because all
adventure is, is doing something that you've never done before.'"
Simon crossed his arms with a satisfied "Hmpf!" as he mimicked the
captain. Then he leaned toward his young listener conspiratorially.
"But I thought he was full of wind, so I went to another ship.
This time, I didn't talk to the captain, but volunteered to help the
cook. He took me on, and my life of adventure had begun.
"Or so I thought. It was really the most boring time of my life.
When we were at sea, all we did was cook. My legs were bored off! When
we were in port, all we did was drink ourselves to sleep. That's when
I got to thinking about the old captain's words about looking for
adventure." Simon's faraway eyes returned to Dale.
"And that's why I'm telling you now -- adventure is doing
something you've never done before. It doesn't need to be something
big. You can find adventure every day, even in Dargon. I do! There's
no need to go running away from home to find it."
Dale shook his head. "But Dargon's so *boring*!"
Simon harumphed. "Well... isn't there anything you've always
thought you might want to do, that you never did?"
Dale thought about it. Sure, lots of things, but none of them in
Dargon! "I dunno. I've never had my fortune told, but that's stupid."
Dale shrugged. "I dunno. Dad always said it was a waste of money.
Simon smiled in victory. "Sure they are. But they're fun fakes.
What's the difference between paying a bard to play for you and paying
a fortune teller to read your future?"
Dale cocked his head again, this time in thought. "I guess you're
Simon smiled. "That's it. Dargon isn't so boring -- there's lots
of things in this city that you haven't explored! And don't put it off
-- go see if the fortune tellers are busy. Here." Simon threw a paw
into his pouch and pulled out a silver coin. "Use it."
"Oh, okay." Dale smiled, taking the coin. "As long as this didn't
come from old lady Nilson's bodice..."
Dale looked across at the fortune teller's booth. He was feeling
a little anxious inside, but what Simon had said did make sense, even
if he couldn't really see the sense in using something as stupid as a
fortune teller as an example. If adventure was nothing more than doing
something you'd never done before, it made life kind of different.
There were lots of things he'd never done, without knowing really why
he hadn't. The idea that you could wake up in the morning and find an
adventure just waiting for you certainly held the promise of making
life a little more interesting.
Again he looked across at the seer's booth. No one had entered or
left in some time. He glanced up at the sky, as if entreating the gods
to have mercy, and stepped across the street.
Dale poked his head through a curtain and into the booth to see
an old man in a monk's-style robe lifting a heavy crate.
"Excuse me..." he began. "Can I help you with that?"
The old man stopped and straightened up. Then he looked the boy
over. "Sure, boy. Bring 'er into the back room." Dale took the crate
by rope handles on the sides and heaved.
"Marabinga's Girdle, old man! What have you got in this crate?"
The seer let the oath pass. "A shipment of books from my mentor
in Magnus. It just arrived this morning on the Friendly Lion!"
Dale was reminded of his father and thought to himself, "Great.
Another old man with his nose in a book!"
The old man held aside the black curtain that led into the back
room. Dale stepped in, and took in as much of the room as he could in
the darkness. There were no windows, and the room was barely large
enough to contain the table and the chairs that sat at opposite sides
of it. The table was inlaid with a wheel with all kinds of mystic
symbols. There was a small bookcase opposite the entrance, filled to
overflowing with both books and all manner of mystic apparatus. The
room stank of the dirt floor and incense. The walls were decorated
with all manner of symbols and images, only a small portion of which
Dale had ever seen before.
"Just slide the box under the table, toward the bookcase; I'll
deal with it later," the old man instructed with a vague wave of his
hand. Then, to Dale as he rose, "Now, presumably you came to me for
Dale looked at the floor. "I'd like to have my fortune read, or
whatever... Whatever a silver bit will get me."
The seer seemed satisfied and accepted the coin. "Well, things
have been pretty quiet today. I could read your cards, that's quick
and easy. Or we could do a sand casting, which would take more time.
Or we could try the Table -- I've been having good luck with that
"That sounds interesting," Dale interrupted. He didn't really
care, and wasn't interested in hearing another scholar's lecture. He
got quite enough of that from his father!
"So be it. Let me get ready. By the way, my name is Zavut. Why
don't you sit down?" The old man indicated the smaller of the two
chairs, and inched around the table to the other himself. He reached
under the table and brought forth a stubby black candle, a cloth, and
a piece of fur. He began to clean the surface of the table with the
white cloth. When he was done, Dale could see the symbols in its
surface much more clearly. It featured a wheel with many spokes, each
inlaid with a different colored stone. Each spoke's stones were darker
at the edge of the table, and brilliant at the center, making several
clearly-defined concentric circles.
"KARK!" The tone of command in Zavut' voice startled Dale. The
candle was now burning, and Dale wondered how the seer had done that
so quickly. Clearly, he was supposed to think it was magic, by the way
the old man was smirking. Of course, Dale knew better -- he just
didn't have an explanation right at hand.
Zavut took up the piece of orange and white fur and very
carefully rubbed it on the table, following the contours of the wheel.
Then he also rubbed it on the candle, and repeated the whole
Zavut then stood up, took up the lit candle, and walked over to
Dale. "Please stand up." He then pulled the chair aside.
"This candle is made of beeswax and the blood of a bull. You will
hold it in your off hand, at shoulder height, and drip wax onto the
table. Try as hard as you can to keep the wax in the very center of
the wheel. I will tell you when to begin and when to stop. Do you
"Good." The seer handed him the candle and guided Dale's extended
left arm over the center of the table. "Concentrate on the flame --
see nothing else." Dale let his vision be drawn into the dancing
light. He'd thought the candle black, but near the flame it glowed a
deep, rich red. But the candle soon disappeared from his vision as the
bright flame swallowed up all less brilliant images. The flame danced
with the boy's every breath and flickered hypnotically as Zavut
removed his hands from Dale's arm.
After a few moments, Dale could feel his arm beginning to wobble
with fatigue and saw the result in the flickering of the candle. But
Zavut' voice came from beside him. "Continue to concentrate on the
flame. You may begin."
Dale slowly turned his wrist, but he couldn't tell whether any
wax was dripping from the candle. He saw the flame flicker crazily. He
noticed that he had turned the candle enough that the flame was
touching the wax itself. He smelled the pungent odor of burning wax.
His arm was beginning to ache, and he felt sure that he must have
covered half of the table by now, when he heard Zavut' voice again.
"Now, turn the candle back upright, bring it away from the table,
and blow it out." Dale complied. But after staring at the flame for so
long, his eyes weren't able to make out anything of the seer's
chamber. Zavut guided him back into his seat. "Now, you sit and let
your eyes recover, while I look at this casting and try to interpret
Dale sat for a while. He was able to see things on the edges of
his vision, but he couldn't see anything if he looked at it directly.
And closing his eyes wasn't any better, because of the dancing spots
left by the candle's intense light. Dale was annoyed and frustrated.
And it didn't help that Zavut kept making odd noises. First he'd
grunt, then he'd hmm, then he'd tsk, then he'd hunh...
Although Dale's vision gradually cleared, his understanding
didn't. Droplets of burgundy-colored wax were scattered around the
table, but mostly in the center. There were a couple very large
blotches just off-center. Dale tried to figure out what the symbols
meant for the spokes with the biggest blotches of wax, but they didn't
seem to have any inherent meaning. At least, none he felt comfortable
Zavut sat back with a dissatisfied "Hunph!" Dale gave him a
quizzical look, but the only response he got was a curt "Be patient."
The seer continued to contemplate the Table for a moment, then
addressed his customer.
"Well, this is an interesting cast, young man! I usually don't
bother explaining the Table to customers, but I think you might need
the knowledge in order to fully understand this casting and maybe add
your own thoughts to the interpretation.
"The most basic concept is that how far the wax falls from the
center is extremely important." Dale congratulated himself on guessing
that, while Zavut continued to explain. "In the grossest terms, blobs
in the middle represent long-term predictions and droplets at the
edges of the Wheel represent your immediate future. This is because in
the long term, it's easy to predict that you'll experience a balance
of just about everything. That's why the middle is so blotchy. The
center usually doesn't tell us much, so we look at the outermost
droplets to get an idea about what's going to happen tomorrow or next
Dale quickly tossed aside his previous guesses and reassessed the
wheel. There were only a couple spots at the edge of the table, with
no apparent meaning or connection.
"About the only thing the middle tells us about your life as a
whole is that you'll be well-liked and are of a literary bent." Dale
immediately suspected that Zavut had recognized him as the scribe's
son, but Zavut continued, apparently having discarded the comment as
"But there are some very definite things we can see in the coming
days. Look. These four are the only spots outside the fourth circle --
that should make matters very clear," he pointed out each one in turn.
"And although they're in different quadrants, their interpretations
might be very complementary.
"See this spot?" Dale looked where Zavut pointed. "This sign
represents a new approach -- a new way of meeting old challenges."
Dale was taken aback; this sounded an awful lot like Simon's
philosophy about adventure. The seer looked up at his customer. "Does
that make sense to you?" Dale nodded, but remained silent. After a
moment, the seer went on.
"And this spot over here is similar." Dale looked at the spot,
which was right next to a glyph of an ornately-decorated cup. "It
represents new friends and new relationships.
"The third spot," continued Zavut, "fell in a sign that is
interpreted as overindulgence or excess. And the fourth spot, here,
represents resolution of conflict by a dramatic, permanent change.
Mind you, I've put these in an order that makes sense to me, but that
may not be how you experience them..."
Dale sat back and pondered Zavut' words. The first spot had been
surprisingly on target, but he had no idea about the next two. What
were they? New friends, and overindulgence. And then a resolution. It
didn't sound like the rest of that applied, but the bit about new ways
of looking at things was right on.
Dale stood up. "Thank you, seer. When I came here, I had no idea
what to expect. But your wheel has given me some things to think
about. Perhaps I'll be back again sometime."
Zavut stood and parted the curtain for Dale. "Good. People try to
make something mystical about it, but that's really all that sagacity
is: giving people something to think about." He patted Dale on the
shoulder and stopped at the threshold of his booth.
Dale stood blinking in the afternoon sun. He'd actually enjoyed
the reading. But he wondered if he could call it an adventure. It
certainly was something he'd never done before, and it was kind of
exciting, too. He found that he wanted to tell someone about it. It
really did feel like a little adventure. Simon's philosophy seemed
pretty useful, after all.
Dale was curious as he thought forward to when his next
opportunity to put Simon's philosophy to work might occur.
He stood in the bright sunlight for a moment, wondering where he
should go next. Across the street, a handful of people stood around
the booth where Jenzun, the local instrument-maker, sold his wares.
Jenzun was entertaining the people by demonstrating his skill with the
dulcimer, and Dale made his way across the street so that he could
listen. As he approached, he noticed that one of the people who was
also listening was a young woman he knew named Erica. Dale admired her
quietly, as he had so many times before: burgundy hair that perfectly
framed her dark brown eyes and friendly smile. He picked his way
through the people and stood beside her.
As Jenzun began a new, lively trotto, he was joined by another
musician playing one of Jenzun's wooden box drums, and another on the
rauschpfeiffe. The audience started clapping their hands at the
appropriate points in the song, and Dale joined in. Noticing the
sound, Erica turned and saw Dale for the first time. Her eyes, deep
and mesmerizing, met his, and she smiled warmly.
Dale smiled, then looked down at his feet in embarrassment. He
wasn't any good at talking to girls, especially girls that he liked.
Fortunately, she turned back to the musicians, although that left Dale
to stand next to her, feeling as if his feet were twice normal size.
She was expecting him to say something. Dale felt each moment of
silence pass like an accusation.
Dale thought back to Simon's words about doing things he'd always
wanted to do. But this was Erica! This was *important*! But Zavut,
too, had said something about new friendships. And approaching Erica
would certainly be something he'd never done before!
More moments passed as he tried to formulate something to say. He
suddenly realized that the tune was coming to an end, and that if he
wanted to talk to her at all, he'd have to do so now.
"Erica?" As she turned, she was looking downward. Then she raised
her gaze to meet Dale's, and he felt like he was falling into those
deep, dark eyes of hers. He was completely in awe of her beauty. But
he had something he was going to say...
"Umm... You be interested in coming out to the archery butts or
Damn! It wasn't very eloquent, but he'd run out of time. And she
just stood there, looking at him and smiling in a faintly preoccupied
manner, as if musing about his ineptitude. Then she seemed to come to
some sort of decision, and took his hand up in hers and patted it.
"Dale... I'm glad I ran into you today. Later this afternoon, a
bunch of us are going swimming out at the quarry, and I'd like you to
The quarry? "But the quarry's off limits, isn't it? It's
Erica's eyes gleamed. She brought her face closer to his and
whispered to him conspiratorially. "That's just what they say to keep
the kids away. We've been there dozens of times, and no one has gotten
hurt. It's really lots of fun!"
Dale couldn't argue about something he really knew nothing about,
which gave him pause. How did he know it was dangerous if he'd never
even been to the quarry? If his father had been wrong about fortune
tellers, he could be wrong about the quarry, too, right? And Erica
said it was fun... And the prospect of spending an afternoon with
Erica was worth the risk. After all, if he went and discovered that it
really *was* dangerous, he didn't have to do anything he didn't want
to. And this certainly would qualify as an adventure, by Simon's
definition. It was something he'd never done, just because his father
had always said it was wrong. So it was pretty easy to come to a
decision with Erica looking at him like that!
Erica rewarded him with a smile. "Meet me at the quarry at six
bells? I've got to go pick up some things at home. Straight?"
"Straight. See you then."
She flashed him a final smile over her shoulder. "Bye!"
Dale watched as Erica walked away, then turned and looked at
Zavut' booth accusingly. "Yes!!!" he exclaimed, and ran off toward his
1 (C) Copyright August, 1994, 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.