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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part I: Infiltration

Chapter One: The News

Nathan Black
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In the town of Fyr’nay, the Royal News Service was already up and running. The sun had barely managed to peek its rim over the horizon, but in the large, wooden building, messengers and agents were creating a general state of chaos.

Nilrid was used to the disorder. He had served as a crier since he was twelve years old, calling out the news in the northern edge of Fyr’nay and some of the smaller villages inside the Wysia Forest. At fifteen, he stood nearly six feet tall, with muscular legs, a towering posture and light brown hair. His parents and most of his friends lived in a small village called Gastrin, in the neighboring country of Mallsey. While Nilrid enjoyed his job, and was paid well, he always felt as though he didn’t belong in Fyr’nay.

Taking his trumpet out his case and assembling the various pieces, he pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and looked over the day’s news:

June 15, 1128: R.N.S. Events.
  1. King Corlais of Tanaveri assassinated, replacement to be chosen today.
  2. Rogilian capital officially moved from Rogilia City to Riverside, on the Salaver River, for “security reasons.”
  3. Ilsonne, Esanta replaces Perisanta, Querisia as the largest port city. Mallsey, Mallsey remains at third.

Frowning, Nilrid looked again at the first announcement. Tanaveri was the largest nation in the world of Derenda, and historically, it had always been at war with the other five. Tanaverians worshipped Malthan, the Goddess of Night, instead of the Almighty Gelz. In the Indimer War (named for the city where it started) of six hundred years ago, the country of Querisia, to which Fyr’nay belonged, had received substantial attacks from the forces of Malthan, which at that time were completely inhuman. Since the end of the war, human recruiting had been the Goddess of Night’s most powerful method of attack, since it was impossible to tell the difference between a Querisian and a Tanaverian.

However, the most recent King had been something of a moderate. He had opened relations with the countries bordering his—Esanta and Rogilia—and, for the first time, allowed his citizens to leave their own homeland. Nilrid supposed that his reforms had meant the end of him, now lying six feet underground with his heart punctured and silent.

His replacement, no doubt, would be an old, closed-minded conservative who had probably been involved in the assassination to some degree. Tanaveri’s relations with the outside world would quickly deteriorate, and war would almost certainly break out. Nilrid realized what Rogilia meant by “security reasons.”

“Get going, boy!” the crier’s supervisor hollered. “We haven’t got all day!”

Jumping with surprise, Nilrid scurried northward, to the aristocratic part of Fyr’nay. Putting his trumpet to his lips, he blew a fast, loud tune.

“Hear ye, hear ye!” he cried. “The King of Tanaveri has been assassinated, and will be replaced today! Rogilia has moved their capital from Rogilia City to Riverside for security reasons! And Ilsonne, Esanta has replaced our own Perisanta as the largest port city, with Mallsey remaining at third!”

There seemed to be no life within the huge, marble houses. Probably, the nobles were all sleeping. Nilrid had an inborn dislike for aristocrats.

His route continued up the northern road, passing out of Fyr’nay and into the large, spaced trees of the Wysia Forest. The air, normally warm and humid, turned cool and pleasant in the forest, as the animals awakened and began their various routines. The sun was fully up by the time Nilrid reached the first village, called Harkon. The people there were all awake and in the streets, listening carefully as he cried the news. That’s the way it should be, the boy thought as he left the village, satisfied.

He stopped through three more villages, and then reached a small, weather-beaten cottage at the northern edge of his route. It was the home of his only real friend in Querisia, an old man named Morgan. Every time Nilrid went to visit, and share the news, Morgan had something equally interesting to relay to his young companion.

Nilrid knocked on the door, and waited patiently. The old man’s hearing wasn’t what it used to be, and often it took several minutes for him to notice that someone was visiting.

Today, however, the door opened immediately. Morgan used to have a head of bright red hair, which had turned into an equally luminescent white. His withered face and unkempt beard made him look uncivilized, but in his prime, the old man had been a key player in Querisian policy.

“Come in, Nilrid,” he said briskly, in a more serious tone than usual.

The boy entered the cottage, which was just as rundown on the inside as the outside. The floor had not been cleaned in years, and the bed had never been made. The single room had the pungent, stale smell of extended human habitation, but it was all familiar. As Morgan shut and bolted the door behind him, Nilrid sat in a rickety chair and wiped the cool sweat from his brow.

“I prepared no tea for you today, Nilrid,” Morgan began, seating himself. “A very grave issue has come up—an issue that you, no doubt, have already reported in your daily rounds.”

“The assassination?” Nilrid asked.

“Precisely. Corlais was the best thing that ever happened to Tanaveri, and the best Tanaverian that ever happened to the rest of the world. But now that he’s gone, we can only expect more trouble from the Malthanian nation.”

“Of course.” These were all assumptions that Nilrid had made earlier. What was the old man getting at?

“This wasn’t a typical assassination, Nilrid. I was summoned late last night to a meeting of Querisian wizards in Yansor.”

“You were a wizard?” the boy interrupted, surprised.

“I am a wizard, boy. I had to teleport myself to the capital, because it’s more than a hundred miles from here. Once there, I sat down with about fifteen of my colleagues, and spoke with old Jizir himself!”

Nilrid raised his eyebrows. King Jizir XI was a little-known leader, and not nearly as shrewd as his mother, Xanate, who had died seven years before. It was said that even the guards in Yansor rarely saw their King.

“What did he say?”

“Hardly anything. But one of my friends, the High Wizard of Querisia, pointed out the method by which Corlais was murdered.”

“I didn’t hear about that.”

“No, you wouldn’t have. It seems as though he was thoroughly incinerated—all that was found of him was a pile of ashes.”

“So who do you think killed him?”

“We’re not entirely sure, but the motive wasn’t political. It is our belief that a high-ranking servant of Malthan killed him, and will now begin a new era of anti-Gelz policy.”

“Another war?” Nilrid shuddered. He had heard enough about the Indimer War to be afraid of a repeat event.

“Probably yes. But not immediately. First, there will be a huge gathering of fanatic Malthanians in Tanaveri. Moderation has met its end there, Nilrid, and now the safety of the Gelzan world is threatened.”

“What can you do?” the boy asked. “And I swear, the R.N.S. won’t hear a word of it.”

Morgan laughed. “They certainly won’t. Because you, boy, will never be going back to Fyr’nay.”

Nilrid frowned in confusion. “What?” he asked quietly.

“You see, Nilrid, the most we can do right now is try to infiltrate Tanaveri—find out who’s on the throne, why, and what he’s doing with his power. But if we sent a wizard into the country, he would be spotted and probably killed. We need someone not recognized by Gelz as a magic-user, but who can use combat magic anyway, to some extent. He needs to be faithful, resourceful, and intelligent. That someone is you.”

“But I don’t have any magical ability!” the boy protested.

“Not yet. But by the time you’ve traveled across the world, you’ll have enough to at least defend yourself. The first leg of your journey will be from here to Yansor, where you will meet the High Wizard of Querisia. His name is Wekain, in case you need to ask around. Just tell him that Morgan of Proseym sent you. Wekain will teach you the most, I imagine, and send you on to Ulist, where you will meet another contact, and learn some more. Do you see how, gradually, we will educate you?”

“Yes. Will I be going through Mallsey?”

“No, Nilrid. We were considering it, but decided that seeing your parents would be too emotional for you. The only thing that is to be on your mind at any moment is your task. There will be no reward for your success. It is up to you to remind yourself that you are, in your own way, helping us save the world. Do you understand?”


“Will you do it?”

Nilrid thought carefully. Of course, the idea of high adventure and the knowledge of magic appealed to him. But the danger seemed great, and he doubted that his mother would approve of his accepting the mission.

After a long moment of silence, he made up his mind. If he didn’t risk his life at some point, he would be shouting news in Fyr’nay for the rest of his life. Why didn’t he try to make news? “Yes, I will.”

“Thank you,” Morgan said, sounding extremely relieved.

“When should I leave?”

“Right now, unless you want to stay and rest a while.”

“Well, I could leave now, but shouldn’t I be taking along some supplies with me? I doubt a trumpet will be of much use to me in this forest.”

“I’m sorry, Nilrid. I can offer you no food, water, or weapons. Nor can I teleport you directly to Yansor. By taking myself last night, I was risking detection by a Malthanian Necromancer, which is not a good thing to cause. You’ll have to live off the land as much as you can, until you reach the capital. And who knows? A trumpet could save your life, if you use it wisely.”

The boy nodded grimly. “Then I’ll leave.” Opening the door, he stepped back into the forest.

“Stay near the road, but not on it,” Morgan instructed. “The forest is not as safe as it used to be. And never trust anyone! The human servants of Malthan live all over the world, not just in Tanaveri.”

“I’ll be careful,” Nilrid assured his friend. But as he walked away from the cottage, doubt lay in his heart. Could he be careful enough?

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Copyright ©Nathan Black, 1998
By the same author RSSThere are no more works at
Date of publicationOctober 1999
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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