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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part I: Infiltration

Chapter Two: Murder and Pursuit

Nathan Black
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Nilrid left around ten in the morning. By then, the sun was high in the sky, but still pleasant. Hoping to reach Yansor in less than a week, he walked as fast as he could. By noon, he was quite exhausted, and began to feel the heat of the humid June day. He sat at the edge of a tree and rested for an hour or so, when hunger forced him to his feet. How was he supposed to kill an animal with his bare hands and a trumpet? Whatever the answer was, he needed to find it quickly.

Up until this point, he had been walking about a yard to the west of the main road. Now, he strayed further to the west, eventually finding a cool forest stream. Drinking briefly, he tried to catch a few fish, but they slipped out of his awkward, freezing hands. In frustration, the boy sat back against a tree and closed his eyes. The hunger was getting to him, and all he wanted to do was sleep.

Suddenly, a female deer and her fawn limbered up to the stream, and drank quietly. Nilrid was barely noticed, and struggled to keep from breathing too loud. Racking his mind for a method to kill one of the animals, he finally settled on a heavy, sharp-looking pumice rock. As quietly as he could, he picked up the rock and hurled it at the mother.

It was a well-aimed shot, and the deer died instantly. The fawn, panicking, ran off into the thicket, but Nilrid didn’t care. As he went about the grisly business of collecting meat, he saw that he had enough food to get to Yansor, perhaps even further. As he cooked the venison, he couldn’t help feeling a little relief.

When he was done with his meal, he made a makeshift bag out of the deerskin and put the remaining meat in it. Shouldering the bag, he found the road again and continued on his journey.

He traveled until the sun set, and then found a soft place among the pine needles and leaves from the previous autumn. With his bag of provisions next to him, he quickly fell asleep.

The door swung open, revealing a tall, black-haired woman lying on her royally-decorated bed. “Care to knock?” she hissed.

“I apologize, milady,” the sorcerer said nervously. Despite her kind outward appearance and manner, the woman he reported to had a fierce temper, and the means to carry out almost every wish she could dream of. “I’ve come to report on a secret meeting I attended in Yansor, Querisia.”

“Go on.”

“King Jizir called the meeting...”

Overwhelming pain came over the sorcerer, and he fell forward. As he writhed with agony on the floor, the woman snarled, “You will not use that name in my presence. Perhaps you are referring to the current King of Querisia?”

“Yes,” the sorcerer croaked, barely able to speak.

“Then call him Jizir the Eleventh. Such a mistake by you will not be tolerated again.”

“Yes, milady.”

The pain stopped, and the sorcerer slowly rose to his feet. “Continue,” the woman ordered.

“King Jizir XI called the meeting to discuss the news of Corlais’s assassination. As a recognized wizard of Querisia, I was invited, and, of course, went.”

“Naturally, my subject. Get to the point.”

“The wizards seem to have realized that the murder was, more or less, non-political, and for our purposes.”

“As they should have.”

“Yes. But instead of sending one of their own to investigate, they chose a boy known by Morgan.”

“Morgan?” the woman frowned. “Ah yes. Before he became a senile quack, he did a little time in a Tanaverian prison. He learned quite a bit about our country, but was sworn to secrecy. Generally, those ordered to keep silent about Malthanian secrets do. But who is this boy?”

“His name is Nilrid, milady. I don’t even know what he looks like, but he lives in Fyr’nay, Querisia. Apparently, he left today for Yansor, where the High Wizard Wekain will receive him, teach him a few spells, and pass him on. It can be assumed that, judging from his northward direction, he’ll be passing through Ulist, Sumiton, Indimer...”

“And then right into the hands of the soldiers in Osir, on the Tanaverian side of the border.”

“Hopefully, milady, but supposing he goes off-road?”

“We should be able to detect him, if he’s learned enough spells. I suppose the wizards think they’ll keep him from being recognized by Gelz?”

“That was the plan, milady.”

“How typical. Maybe you can’t detect a non-recognized magic-user, but any Necromancer or dragon can. It won’t be as easy as finding a fully ordained wizard, but we’ll root him out.”

“The dragons have been awakened?” the sorcerer gasped.

“Of course,” the woman confirmed soothingly. “As helpful as humans can be, they can’t breathe fire.”

“No, milady.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, milady.”

“Then go. I’ll summon you when we’ve captured the boy, and then you may deal with him as you like.”

“Oh, thank you!” the sorcerer cried as he left the room.

Nilrid’s legs hurt terribly the next morning, and he had a thirst like that of a man dying in the desert. Wearily, he staggered to the stream (which, thankfully, still followed near the road) and drank until he thought he would be sick. But he still had to wait for about an hour before his legs were able to walk on.

He plodded along slowly, and by noon had only gone about six miles. Fortunately, he didn’t have to catch any food, and dined on a bland meal of dried venison. Not his first choice of meal, but it would keep him alive until Yansor.

About an hour after his midday meal, as Nilrid was fighting his way through a particularly stubborn mass of underbrush, he stumbled over something fairly large. Almost tripping, he was able to regain his balance and look down.

It was a body!

Judging from the appearance (and the smell), the man had been dead for a few days, at the least. However, his face was still recognizable. It was Enon, who had worked at the Royal News Service with Nilrid. The boy hadn’t known him very well, but even seeing the body, strewn out and with numerous puncture wounds, gave him the chills.

Stooping down, Nilrid decided that there had definitely been a murder, and that he should search the body for clues. From examining the carcass itself, he saw that the culprit had been no common thief, angry over a failed robbery. Every wound had come from a huge weapon, larger than what a human could possibly hold in two hands. Clutched in Enon’s hand was a crumpled piece of parchment, marked with the insignia of the R.N.S. Gritting his teeth as he pried the lifeless hand open, Nilrid unfolded the paper and read:

R.N.S. Reporter, Enon of Fyr’nay
Notes: Assassination of King Corlais (Tanaveri): 6-15-28
Collected 6-16-28 in Yansor, Querisia
  • Beynar of Alvirna elected by Tanaverian Assembly as the new King of Tanaveri, 25-2.
  • Querisian government knows nothing about—neither, apparently, does any other nation.
  • King Beynar’s daughter, Sirinta, claims that her father will make “monumental reforms” in Tanaverian international policy.
  • Tanaverian dissidents accuse Beynar of being a Necromancer—hotly denied.

There was no doubt that Enon had been killed because of what he knew, and that the most sensitive information probably involved the Necromancer accusations. But who in Querisia was huge enough to kill him so brutally, and if the accusations were false, why? Perhaps they weren’t false at all.

The thought of that made Nilrid shudder. The Necromancers had commanded Malthan’s armies only briefly, before dragons were introduced in the ranks, but their power surpassed that of most human wizards combined. They had the ability to strike a person dead in a single blow, just by wishing it and saying a few words. Their methods of torture by magic in the Indimer War were enough to make a high-spirited soldier run for his or her life.

Seeing that he had learned as much as he could, the boy left the body in peace, and continued on his way. Despite his general slowness that day, he had traveled well enough the day before to be within thirty-five miles, or twelve hours’ of good travel, of Yansor. Stopping near the stream this night, he sighed with exhaustion and fell asleep in minutes.

The pain was not nearly as acute on the morning of June 17. Nilrid supposed that, even in the last two days, his legs had grown stronger. After drinking heartily at the stream, he shouldered his sack of venison and went on his way.

Hoping to reach the capital by sunset, he didn’t feel he had time to eat breakfast. While this did, admittedly, save him about half an hour of time, by ten in the morning his hunger was great enough to make him keel over.

Finally, Nilrid decided to give in. Sitting down in the middle of the road, he pulled out a tough piece of deer meat and chewed ferociously. He had managed to swallow a single strip when there was a rustling in the bushes.

“Who’s there?” the boy called nervously. After seeing the murder the day before, he wasn’t really in the mood to trust anyone.

There was no answer, but suddenly, the bushes parted, and a gigantic humanoid stepped onto the road. It stood about eight feet tall, with deep blue, callused skin. Dirty brown hair fell to its shoulders.

Lalsyr matoi!” the creature yelled when it saw Nilrid, pulling a huge sword out of its belt.

Though he didn’t understand a word of the humanoid’s strange language, the boy got the general idea. With a start, he leapt to his feet and began running.

The monster pursued immediately, with giant, pounding strides. No matter how fast Nilrid could go, it would catch up with him sooner or later, because with larger steps it would tire less quickly.

So if I can’t run, Nilrid thought, in an attempt at logic, what do I do? For the life of him, he couldn’t think of an answer.

The beast was just a few paces behind him now. Trying to concentrate on the road in front of him, not the thing behind him, Nilrid rushed forward in quick leaps, and then a breathless jog. He couldn’t hold out for much longer!

Suddenly, the trees separated, and the boy was approaching a well-kept bridge. Spanning the mighty Yansor River, this landmark was the twenty-five mile point from Yansor. There was no way he could make it, Nilrid realized.

Especially since there were six more of the strange creatures standing together on the bridge.

Looking around frantically for an escape route, and seeing none, the boy decided that death at the hands of six monsters would be faster than at the hands of just one. At a determined pace, he ran straight toward the bridge. The beasts grinned sadistically, and drew their swords to chop him to pieces.

Just two feet from the bridge. Nilrid refused to close his eyes, concentrating on the white of the monster’s teeth.

In the next instant, the rest of the world turned just as white.

Nilrid blinked. He was lying on the ground, a good three yards from the beginning of the bridge. All seven of his adversaries were gone—into thin air, it seemed. On the far side of the Yansor River, and old man was standing, with a smug smile on his ancient face.

“Nilrid of Fyr’nay?” he asked. Though older than Morgan would ever be, his voice had a smooth, kind quality.

“Yes, sir,” the boy said, catching his breath.

“Pleased to meet you. My name is Wekain.”

“The High Wizard of Querisia?” Nilrid asked, jumping to his feet.

“Of course, my boy. Do you think killing seven forest trolls is court jester work?”

So that’s what they were.” The three types of trolls: forest, desert, and mountain, were Malthan’s main soldiers, whom she produced by the hundreds of thousands. “Thank you for saving my life.”

“It’s not saved yet,” Wekain laughed. “You can thank me—and all of us—when your task is done, and this new King of Tanaveri is lying alongside the man he murdered. For now, you must come with me. There is much to show you.”

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