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| There Ain't No Justice |
| #48 |
-Aristarchus of Shiran: 01 -
by Tal Meta
The traveller paused, there upon the cliff overlooking Tyen-Zur, the
great earth's wound that stretched north and south to the limits of his
vision. Beneath him the waters churned a deep and disturbing red, pinkish
foam beating upon the ochre stained base of the cliffs. His mount, zebra
strippled and fearful, sought to pull him away, snorting at the scents this
great and unnatural lake produced. But the traveller held fast, scanning
the lakes horizon for a glimpse of the Misty Palace, where the one he
sought must surely be. On the chasms far side, the deep green of the
Kyrbizmyth forest could be seen, whose twisted growths became animate by
nightfall, and who sought out the living in their domain to add to their
number. Some day, perhaps, he would return and slay the primal tree, who
held the rest in bondage, and thereby free all the wretches there entombed.
But not today.
The reason for his present quest was one Elissa of Eor, who had once
shown him kindness many years before. An enemy called Kelanor had sought
her out and imprisoned her here, beyond the walls of sleep, in the palace
that floated upon the blood red waters of Tyen-Zur. A challenge, that, and
one Aristarchus could not ignore. He had entered this world aided by the
immortal known sometimes as Talosis to the people of his own world, but
known as Talgor in this one. Brought by that one to a palace of carven and
polished blue stone, Aristarchus had run overland thru desert and swampland
to the city of Aalabothe in the land of K'kholar. There he spent many days
provisioning himself and learning the legends of the land before travelling
to this abyss. Two mighty rivers were said to feed this lake, and both ran
clear and fresh until the falls, where they became as red as blood itself.
Caused, so the legends tell, by the blood of the earth, shed when gods
warred upon this spot, and a misstruck blow wounded the earth.
There, far to the north, could that be it? No. But some beast of great
size does dwell in those fetid waters. And if there is one... He stood
there pondering the chasm as night fell and this worlds lone moon rose, and
he was full of awe, never having seen a sattelite so large. He laid down
and slept, dreaming of his landshard home, that drifted high above the
surface of the world he called his own.
He awoke suddenly, and tried to draw his sword, but could not.
Something very large held him aloft, and the beating of great wings filled
his ears. As the stars wheeled overhead, the miles passed below. He saw the
beginnings of low hills, and soon a sole forbidding mountain spire appeared
within their midst. Towards this his captor bore him, at last setting him
upon a high ledge before the mouth of a dark cavern. As he inspected his
kidnapper, he began to smile, at last to laugh openly, and when it
beckoned him inside the mountain, he followed it willingly.
For miles, it seemed, the tunnel led inwards and down, ending at last
in a simple wooden door. Beyond the door lay a small but comfortable
apartment, richly decorated, mostly by books and maps of unknown realms.
The winged beast moved to a large overstuffed chair and bade Aristarchus to
sit where he would. The beast then slowly took on the form of a man, and
one that Aristarchus knew well, having once been called upon to banish him
from another world and time. he was still young, about twenty or so, even
though Ari' had slain him in that other world more than a century before.
They spoke of many things, and when dawn at last found them, it revealed
the far wall to be a single piece of transparent material, showing the
hills and beyond, even the gulf of Tyen-Zur.
Soon thereafter, he told his old adversary of his quest, and his
reasons for seeking the Misty Palace. A gleam of a tear came to Edward's
eye then, for he too had once known a woman much like Elissa. That she had
been the cause of his downfall he did not mind, but he swore to aid
Aristarchus in his quest if he could. Edward then spoke of a man he knew
who dwelled in far Kasrine, and had once entered the Misty Palace and
returned alive and whole. The palace, it was said, floated on the waters
unanchored, drifting freely about. The Kasrines story also spoke of the
great beasts that flourished in the red waters, whose appetites ran in
directions better not discussed. The palace itself was home to a being of
great power, demigod or demon at least, who did not welcome visitors.
Aristarchus voiced a desire for his companions of old to be there, that
they might all together storm the place, at which Edward rose and sought a
binder from among the bookshelves. Chuckling, he paged through it, finally
bringing forth two pages. Upon these sheets were words and numbers in an
unknown language, but bearing the images of the two of whom Aris' had
spoken! Edward regarded these, and seemed to fade, then dividing into three
parts. Two of these reformed themselves into those pictured on the now
blank pages, while the third remained distinctly Edward. A sound, as if a
great bell had chimmed there in the room, and all three became solid once
more. Grond, eight foot of solid ogrish muscle, and demure Cymoril, her
dark-elven beauty brightening any setting. Edward fended their amazed
questions with a grin, plainly amused at a joke only he shared.
The four rode out from Lonely Mountain across the hills and back to
Tyen-Zur, bearing strange contrivances their host had produced from one of
the many closets that came and went in his home. Upon reaching the cliffs,
they assembled them, great kites of skin and hollow steel. When the mist
cleared and their goal came into view, they leapt as one and dropped slowly
to the Palace's highest tower.
The place seemed made of solid mist, of the pinkish tint so common
against the base of the cliffs. As they proceeded down into the castle,
they were ever on guard, lest they be taken unawares. But they saw no-one
until they at last entered the great hall, were their host and quest both
sat. Thirteen or more feet he must have stood, a lopsided giant with deep
red skin. On his left side he had two small arms, with steel-toned claws
six inches long. His right side had but one arm, massively muscled and long
enough to touch the floor. In that arm it bore a ruby axe. Its head was
strangest of all, having no real shape, but suggesting a sphere in which
lightning danced to the sound of their steady tread. Chained to its throne
by a silver cord lay Elissa, her eyes tightly closed, asleep and tossing in
her sleep in an obvious nightlmare.
The voice of the thing rang in their minds, challenging them to free his
prize at the price of their lives. At that they bore down on it, drawing
their weapons to end this abominations life and free its captive. But
battle as they might, the beast took no wounds, while they did lose much of
themselves on the floor. Aristarchus turned at last to see Edward pausing
over Elissa, taking her into his arms. As she awoke, she gazed at Edward
with something like recognition, and a sign of utter peace came upon her
face. He smiled at her then, and kissed her, whereupon she began to fade.
Having thus freed Elissa from her nightmare in the both worlds, Edward
leapt up and twisted the cord about what should have been the creatures
neck. Then and only then could they see the true extent of the creatures
wounds, so they did redouble their efforts and soon slay the thing.
Aristarchus moved among them, touching their wounds with his blade and
healing them fresh. Only Grond forebore his treatment, wishing to retain a
scar or two as mementoes. An extensive search found a hidden quay where
small boats were found, and in one of these the four travelled the length
of Tyen-Zur, finally making landfall at the city of Rhiana. They then
accompanied Edward back to Lonely Mountain, where they spent some time
before riding off to Talgor's Azure Castle, thence returning to their own
Almost a year passed before Aris' once again rode to Eor, there to
claim the one he hoped would be his bride. He found her, as before, tending
her parent's farm. They were married there in town, by the Baron of that
realm. They had many happy years before Aris' was finally lost in an
assault on a wizard's private realm. But even then, it is said by some that
he lives yet, trapped in some nightmare world. Or maybe just as a piece of
paper in a dreamer's notebook?
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