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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part I: Infiltration

Chapter Three: The High Wizard

Nathan Black
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“Where are you taking me?” Nilrid asked, as Wekain veered off the road and began fighting through underbrush.

“To my house, of course,” the High Wizard replied. “You’ll be going through Yansor anyway, and I want to keep you away from civilization as much as possible. You’re hunted, boy, and it’s my job to protect you from here until Tamaya can pick you up near Ulist.”

“Is that why all those trolls were after me? Because someone wants me, specifically?”

“Not just ‘someone.’ The Goddess of Night herself has a price on your head!”

Nilrid stumbled with surprise, almost falling on his face.

“What could Malthan want from me?” he demanded, trying to control his voice. “I’m the most boring person alive!”

“Are you forgetting what your job is?”

“But she can’t know about that! She...”

“Of course she can,” Wekain snapped. “Don’t think for an instant that she doesn’t know both of us inside out. Until yesterday, I assumed that Malthan had backed out of human affairs for good, and would let you do whatever you wanted with the King of Tanaveri. But that’s changed.”

“What happened yesterday?”

“A man named Beynar was selected as the new King.”

“Yes, I realized that. I’ve never heard of him.”

“No, you wouldn’t have. But two hundred years ago, a wizard named Ranyeb was stripped of his medallion in Rogilia because he tortured and murdered a very high-ranking noble, trying to obtain information about an ancient project known as Thunderclap.”

Ranyeb was, of course, Beynar spelled backwards. Nilrid’s mind caught onto that fact immediately. But he had never heard of any ancient project in Rogilia, or anywhere else. “What is Thunderclap?” he asked.

“Wizards under Project Thunderclap created a weapon called the Firedisc. It was used to end the Indimer War in the year 536. But that’s off the subject. Do you understand, Nilrid, that you’re going to have trolls—or worse—on your tail from here to the Tanaverian border, at which point they’ll get off your tail and attack you outright? If you don’t learn to defend yourself wisely, no amount of magical knowledge will ever help you.”

Abruptly, the High Wizard stopped, and made a right turn into dense foliage. Nilrid followed, and they both came out in a small clearing. A cottage, quaint but in much better shape than Morgan’s, stood there.

“This is where you will stay until the nineteenth, when I shall ask you to leave. It is critical that you change your location constantly; trolls are dangerous, and Necromancers even more so, but it is humans—Querisian citizens—that pose the greatest threat to you at this point.”

“When are you going to teach me to do magic?”

“Anytime you like. But if you ask my opinion, you look too tired to think at all, much less concentrate. I’ve got a cot prepared for you, so why don’t you forget your urgencies for a while and get some sleep? The key to this entire plan is you not only keeping a trained mind, but an active one.”

Those were welcome words in the ears of the exhausted boy. Wekain led him into the cottage, up some wooden stairs, and into a small guest room. Not even bothering to turn down the sheets, Nilrid fell on the bed and drifted off immediately.

The sun was going down when he awoke. He turned over, and almost knocked over a bowl of soup that was at his bedside, along with a hastily written note. Picking up the paper, Nilrid forced his bleary eyes to adjust and read:


In Yansor for a quick errand. You’ll be alone until ten, approximately. If someone comes to the door, and gives six short knocks and a roll, admit them and introduce yourself. Otherwise, DO NOT ANSWER.


Gingerly testing the soup, Nilrid found it to be somewhat tasteless, but filling. Standing, he decided that while he was alone, he might as well take a look around the cottage, and see what he could find.

There were two rooms upstairs, and one downstairs. The latter was filled to the brim with rolls of parchment; some new, others looking as though they had stayed in the same place since Malthan controlled this area of the world. One of them in particular caught Nilrid’s eye; an attached tag read: The Complete History of the Indimer War (527-536).

The top of the scroll had an ominous warning: “RESTRICTED TO THE EYES OF HIGH WIZARDS, ROYALTY, AND GENERALS OR OTHER ELITE COMMANDERS. UNAUTHORIZED EXAMINATION WILL RESULT IN EXECUTION BY THE AUTHORITY OF HIS MAJESTY, KING JIZIR OF QUERISIA.” Nilrid realized that the Jizir mentioned was not the current King, but Jizir the First, who had played a key role in the victory over Malthan.

Browsing idly through the ancient script, the boy found little that he didn’t know about. The mustering of troops in Pakil, later to become the capital of Tanaveri, the initial attack on Indimer in 527, its fall two years later, the separation of the country of Wystarin into three separate nations and the crowning of Jizir as King of Querisia... nothing confidential or interesting. However, as he read on, he found a section on the siege of Yansor.

“...and on October 12, 532, the fifth anniversary of the attack on Indimer, the heavy fortifications of Yansor gave way, and the dragon Pakil rushed her troops in like water into a bucket. King Jizir, in fear of his life, fled to Fyr’nay, 105 miles to the southwest. On October 17, Jizir ordered the beginning of a new project, to be titled Thunderclap (see below). On January 20, 533, Fyr’nay also fell...”

Nilrid paused for a moment, remembering what the High Wizard had said about Project Thunderclap. As he found the appropriate section, he wondered if perhaps this was the reason why the scroll was so secret.

“PROJECT THUNDERCLAP: Begun October 17, 532 in Fyr’nay, Querisia; finished February 18, 536 in Fort Rogilia, Unclaimed Territory. Product: The Firedisc, which, on a stormy day, brings all potential lightning to one specified location under extremely powerful magic. Used on March 3, 536 on a Malthanian army commanded by the dragon Pakil. Timing as monitored by spies a mile from the camp.

Half past four a.m. Order reconfirmed by King Jizir: use of Firedisc approved.

Five a.m. Rousing of army in Pakil’s camp.

A quarter past five a.m. Pakil announces her departure to the Mallseyan border, to inspect another army. Information is relayed to Jizir. Pakil flies to the south.

A quarter to six a.m. Information reaches Jizir. Order reconfirmed: proceed.

Six a.m. Firedisc used on army. All dragons killed, but other soldiers unharmed.

A quarter past six a.m. Reason confirmed by Jizir’s councilors; largest bodies attracted lightning, so major damage was avoided.”

Nilrid caught his breath. A weapon that could kill every dragon in a battlefield, and even more than that if no dragons were present? It was no wonder the secret was so carefully hidden, and so viciously sought for.

Wanting to learn more, but assuming that he probably wouldn’t, he put the scroll back on its shelf, and searched for another. At that moment, three sharp knocks came at the door.

Nilrid froze. If someone comes to the door, and gives six short knocks and a roll, admit them and introduce yourself. Otherwise, DO NOT ANSWER, he remembered. But if the visitors decided to invite themselves in, how could he possibly defend himself? He realized that, ironically, his chances of survival here were less than they had been on his entire trip (except for the troll part, of course).

“Open the door!” a harsh voice cried, as the boy did the only thing he could—run and take cover behind a piece of very old-looking furniture. “I think he’s gone, Daer’nay.”

“Of course he’s gone. Do you think I stopped by here to have a run-in with the High Wizard of Querisia? I mean the boy. The Inferiors lost him at the Yansor Bridge, and I can’t see how he could have gone anywhere else so quickly.”

Nilrid’s heart froze. A troll was one thing, but intelligent humans after his neck... how would he ever make it to Tanaveri?

“Relax, boys,” a woman said in a soft tone. “Did you question the trolls, allowing no resistance?”

“The trolls were burnt to a crisp, milady,” the first, grating voice snapped. “We were watching them through a crystal ball we borrowed from the Querisian Royal Palace. The boy—Nilrid, I think—was running right into our trap when the entire image turned white.”

“Well then, Wekain was definitely involved. But that does nothing to prove that this middling spy of theirs is here now.

“By Malthan, we need more pay for this rotten job!” Daer’nay growled.

Nilrid heard the sound of a slap through the door. “I am responsible for all of you, Daer’nay, and I will not be chastised and humiliated in front of the Regional Master because one of my stupid charges took the name of the Almighty Queen in vain. If you must, swear by Nyranne—she’s almost divine by now, or at the least a demigod.”

“Come on,” the raspy man said. “We’re not learning anything by standing around here arguing. Either he’s in here, or he isn’t.”

“But if he isn’t, he’s on the move,” the woman countered, “and every minute we waste here gives him more time. I say we check all of the roads, and scour the countryside. If he’s not there, we’ll come back.”

“And supposing the High Wizard returns before us?” Daer’nay asked skeptically.

“We’ll bring the Regional Master along with us. Well shrouded, of course; I’d rather not have a bunch of thick-headed idiots and a political scandal on my hands when Nyranne makes a spot check.“

At her last statement, the other two men fell silent. Nilrid was barely able to pick up the sound of their feet as they circled the house and vanished from earshot. Breathing quickly, he heaved himself up onto the furniture and tried to relax.

He was lying there when Wekain returned. While most of the sweat on his brow had evaporated, his heart was pounding like a war drum in the Siege of Mallsey. The High Wizard unlocked the door of his home (giving the boy a jolt that would have stopped an older man’s heart), and registered a double-take when he saw his guest, pale and terrified.

“Who came?” he asked sharply, guessing immediately what had happened. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Nilrid gasped. “Three people... two men and a woman... looking for me, not you. They talked about... a Regional Master, and a woman... named Nyranne. They’re coming back.”

“When?” the old man snapped, and then composing himself. “And with who? Have they gone for the Regional Master and Nyranne, whoever they are?”

“Just the Regional Master,” the boy replied, trying to sound indifferent.

“Well, it doesn’t sound appealing. Quick, boy, get upstairs! We can turn this cottage into a fortress in half an hour, if we don’t sit here indulging our lungs!”

With another jolt, Nilrid was up and running.

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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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