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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part I: Infiltration

Chapter Thirteen: Foul Surprises

Nathan Black
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The next morning, Nilrid awoke at the gates of Romira, having completed that part of the journey the night before. It was large geographically, but seemed empty for lack of an equally large population. The boy was able to walk through the streets without the thousands of townspeople breathing down his back, which was pleasant but more than a little boring. After all, the only truly large city he’d ever been in was Mallsey, and even that made poor comparison to places like Indimer, Ilsonne or Ulist.

He chose not to stay the night, so instead, he bought a few more supplies and continued on his way. As he headed southeast on the road to the capital of Wystarin, he noticed that the plains were beginning to slope upward, and the grass was less green. Nilrid was getting close to the Finsyn Mountains that separated the old nations from the new, the populated from the quaint. In the days of the Indimer War, this natural barrier had been all that kept the raging armies in the east from spilling into Wystarin, allowing the leaders of that time a little breathing room. Eventually, however, the fighting spread everywhere, and actually ended near the eastern city of Rogilia.

The boy was pondering these bits of history when suddenly, a bush cracked behind him. Whirling around, with his magical energy ready for seizure at any moment, he gasped. It was the stone-faced royal guard from the night before, with a polished crossbow trained directly on him!

“Didn’t think you’d ever see me again, hmm?” he grated, smiling evilly. “Jizir XI was right, you know—never trust anyone. A good lesson, but a little too late for you. Surrender yourself peacefully, and perhaps you’ll get to meet King Beynar himself before you pass.”

“Now listen,” Nilrid soothed, his heart racing with surprise, “surely there must be a way to reach some kind of compromise...”

“Is that a no?” the informant asked coldly.

“I’m not an unreasonable bargainer, you know, and there is much I have to offer. If you would just give me a chance to...”

“Never!” he cried, and fired the crossbow.

Nilrid almost smiled as he fashioned one of the cleverest items he’d ever thought of. It was a huge, invisible wall, that not only repelled the metal in the tip of an arrow but sent it bouncing back.

The corrupt sentry had no time to react. One moment, his bolt was speeding toward the boy, and in the next, it was lodged in his own heart. With a strangled cry, filled more with shock than with pain, he clutched his check and fell dead. The crossbow clattered to the ground beside him.

Stepping gingerly up to the body, Nilrid retrieved the bow and its remaining bolts. Perhaps Tanaverians were useful for something. As he was taking his prize, the boy also noticed a small, folded note in the man’s shirt pocket. Curious, he unfolded the paper and read:

Informant to King Beynar of Tanaveri
Notes: Spy Nilrid
Collected 7-1-28 at Summit Green, near Romira, Wystarin
  • Nilrid left Summit Green evening of 7-1, headed to Indimer.
  • Told King he was recognized magically in Tsatira (village near Ulist?).

Nilrid gasped. Supposing he hadn’t been able to kill his pursuer? Supposing the man hadn’t been so stupid as to stalk an ordained wizard? He could have dashed his hopes—the world’s hopes—of ever defeating Malthan, in that one foolish moment! Sighing with relief, the boy promised himself that he would never openly discuss anything about his true purpose, except perhaps with Morgan or Wekain themselves. After all, if he couldn’t talk with someone, he would surely go mad.

Well, there was no use in scolding himself. Getting up, he continued his journey, feeling extremely inept but a little more knowledgeable about the troubled and cruel world around him.

Now Entering the
Kingdom of Esanta
Malthanians Will Be Killed Upon Identification

“Oh, thank Gelz!” Morgan cried, falling on his face.

Wekain just laughed, his voice little more than a parched rasp, and lay on the ground beside his companion. The past five days had been nothing short of hell for the two wizards, but now that they had left the desert and officially entered a civilized nation, things could only get better.

“Do you think we could start eating real food now?” the High Wizard asked. Ever since leaving the Palace of Darkness, their only sustenance had been magically-created rations and water.

“Anytime you’re ready,” Morgan replied. “Why don’t you get up and kill something?”

“Never mind,” Wekain muttered. “I’m not that hungry.”

“Quiet!” the other wizard hissed.

Wekain bristled. “Well, if you’re going to be unpleasant...”

“I said quiet!” Morgan snapped. “I thought I heard a bush cracking, over there.” He pointed to the first object of vegetation they had seen in days.

Suddenly, an arrow shot from the bush, whizzing between the sitting wizards and lodging itself in the second object of vegetation, an old, scraggly tree. Before the High Wizard could blink, Morgan had closed his eyes, and turned the enemy’s hiding place into a crackling inferno.

“That’s the last of my power,” he murmured wearily, falling again to the ground. “Good luck, Wekain!”

“Thank you so much,” the High Wizard growled, turning to face his opponent. It was a single short, squatty creature, carrying an oversized crossbow and with a small sword at its belt.

“A bogfiend,” Wekain cooed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of you before. You’re kind of cute, aren’t you?”

The creature grunted and fired another arrow. Halfway through its journey, the bolt turned into a pile of glowing metal and stinking ash. The High Wizard closed his eyes again, preparing to deal the final blow, and then stopped. Supposing this unpleasant beast was edible? Food was food, and he doubted that Malthan had ever bothered to make her first creations poisonous.

Quickly, Wekain changed his spell to a small block of freezing ice, and gently inserted it into the bogfiend’s heart. He heard a gasp, and a thud before opening his eyes. The creature looked surprised, but completely undamaged. It had never finished loading its third arrow.

“Well, I killed something!” the High Wizard told his companion cheerfully. “And since you were of such great assistance, you get to gut the pig. Are you listening, Morgan? This is no time for sleeping!”

“I heard you,” Morgan groaned.

“Then get up! The longer you lie there, the worse it smells.”

“All right, all right,” the other wizard conceded, forcing himself to stand, and examining the untouched carcass.

It wasn’t a bad meal—at least, it was a thousand times better than anything they’d been eating. The meat was a little tough, partly because of the bogfiend’s muscular build, and party because of its momentary shock before it died. Still, Morgan and Wekain enjoyed every bite.

The sun had gone down by the time they were finished. Both satisfied with themselves, they quickly fell asleep.

That night, Wekain had a dream. He was floating far above the Finsyn Mountains, with the wind rushing all over him. Then, very slowly, he began to descend into the top of one of the peaks. As he was about to run into the summit, it fell in on itself, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. Yet the wizard was unaffected, and he continued his descent into the mountain.

After a few more minutes, he was surrounded by darkness. A huge voice spoke to him, echoing off every invisible wall.

“You dare to kill one of my servants? You have much nerve, High Wizard Wekain, to challenge my authority.”

“Who are you?” the High Wizard answered. He had been in the business of mind discipline long enough to distinguish between dream and reality, and he saw no reason to show any respect to a nightmare.

“You may call me Ryovin. I am one of the Great Beasts, second to Pakil herself in power and influence. So tell me, High Wizard Wekain: who are you to show disrespect and take a life in my territory?”

“Oh, so this is your territory?” Wekain laughed. “I must have misread the border sign.”

Do not mock me!” the dragon boomed. “Neither Wystarin nor Esanta has any control over this area. There is only me, and I think it is time you learned that. What would you and your friend say to meeting me in person, at ten o’clock tomorrow morning?”

“Name a place,” the High Wizard replied, but he was becoming more uneasy. The beast couldn’t hurt him here, but the next morning was an entirely different matter. Had he just sealed the fate of Morgan, himself and the Ritual of Summoning for Malthan’s temple?

“Oh, where you are will be quite adequate. I look forward to seeing you, my pompous breakfast.”

“Obliged,” Wekain said, as the dream ended.

The next morning, the wizards were both up with the sun. At first, the High Wizard said nothing, knowing how his companion’s temper could flare after awakening. It was nearly seven thirty when he finally broke the news.

“Oh, by the way, I don’t think we’ll be traveling today,” he said simply, as he packed the rest of the bogfiend in a skin bag.

Morgan frowned. “Why not?”

“I’ve made an appointment with a dragon for ten o’clock in this very spot. He was quite egotistical, so I thought we’d get rid of him.”

The other wizard’s eyes grew very wide. “Wekain, you...”

“Shut up,” Wekain snapped. “It’s too late to change anything, and every minute we stand here yelling at each other is one less we have to plan. As much as they’d like us to think they’re immortal, they aren’t, and we’re going to have to prove it. Do you remember the time when we had to speak before the Council, and had twenty minutes to prepare a report on two years of research?”

“Oh, I remember,” Morgan laughed dryly. “We did fairly well, as I recall. The Chancellor herself bothered to clap.”

“Well, this time we have two and a half hours. What can we do to stand a chance against a beast that would burn us to cinders in conventional combat? Fire shields, I suppose, but they would have to be maintained and wouldn’t protect us from claws and teeth.”

“No, and Whitefire’s out, too,” the other wizard mused. “The shock-wave would bounce right off his scales—maybe back at us! His weakness is cold, so we should use something to that effect. What did you do to that bogfiend?”

“Oh, I froze his heart,” the High Wizard shrugged. “But that wouldn’t work on anything as big as a dragon. Malthan was smart; according to what I’ve heard, their scales shield them completely from direct attack.”

“Then what about a case of ice?”

Wekain chuckled. “You want to make a forty-foot cube and hold it for two hours against a fire-breathing monster? Go ahead.”

“Never mind. But perhaps there’s a way to spread the necessary amount of ice around the area, and then bring it up around the dragon at once.”

The High Wizard nodded. “Creative. It might work, too—conceal a huge glacier a few inches underground, and then fold it over him when he lands. But what would we do? Humans die much more easily than dragons.”

“We’ve got a while, don’t we? Plenty of time to make an underground chamber, that would be uncovered by our ice trap. We could stay there until he’s encased, and then come out to inspect our results.”

“Brilliant!” Wekain cried. Immediately, they began to hollow out the ground.

Their subterranean hideout was done in minutes. Climbing in, the wizards sealed off the hole, and bored a hole several hundred yards to the east for ventilation. Then, they began to make the trap.

It proved to be a little more difficult than they had expected. The glacier was easy to make, and easy to place, but the way Morgan had planned it, the ground would come up and trap the dragon, with the ice behind it. So, they had to make a complicated procedure in which the ground lifted, reversed itself so that the glacier was in front, and then rushed to the largest warm-blooded organism in the area. All of this had to be completed in less than a second, or else the dragon would realize it was walking into a snare and take to the air.

Half an hour after they’d finished, they heard the beating of huge wings. “Here goes!” Wekain murmured, crouching down in the chamber. Falling mud from where the ground lifted up wouldn’t hurt them, but falling chunks of ice was another matter. Both the wizards put their hands over their heads, and waited.

“Good morning, High Wizard and friend!” Ryovin cried. From the distance of the voice, Wekain could tell their adversary was still airborne, but close enough to the ground that it was probably about to land.

“You are here, are you not?” the dragon continued, his voice closer. “Even if you are a bit high-strung, Wekain, I was certain you had enough honor to meet your appointment.”

The beating of wings suddenly stopped, as Ryovin began his final descent. “If you can hear me, I suggest you make some kind of sign. I don’t appreciate cowards, and...”

At that moment, Wekain and Morgan were uncovered as their roof swept up fifty feet into the air. Flipping around perfectly, it encased the startled dragon. They heard clawing sounds inside the bundle, and decided it was wise to stay where they were, at least until the dragon’s final struggles ended.

A minute or so later, the clawing stopped, and the two wizards emerged from their hiding place, feeling very proud of themselves. Wekain eyed the gigantic trap, and chuckled, “Should we just leave it here?”

Suddenly, a huge, clawed foot stuck out of the bundle, and swiped at Morgan. With a grunt, the old man fell to the ground.

The High Wizard was caught between panic and complete surprise. He had heard of the power and endurance of dragons before, but he’d never dreamed that one could break from that icy tomb! No wonder it had taken a full regiment of the Wystarinian army and the Firedisc to finish them off in the Indimer War.

Wekain paused for a moment. The Firedisc!

He closed his eyes, shrinking down his power, and then opened them again. The spell he was about to cast was one of the few that were outlawed by the Council of the Arcane. All through his education in Perisanta, there had been two rules: never create non-people, and never steal using magic. And to cast it on the Temple of the Dawn... this could cost him his medallion, even his life!

But when he saw his friend, lying in a shallow pool of his own blood, he forgot every regulation he’d ever heard. Closing his eyes again, he shaped a perfect copy of the Firedisc. Of course, he had gone to the Temple of the Dawn as a young man, and gotten a fleeting glimpse of it there. He had no idea how he remembered well enough to shape it, but somehow, in his desperation, he was able.

Opening his eyes, he saw the small, circular object in his shaking hands. Well, Gelz hadn’t struck him down, so he supposed everything was going well so far. Now, if he could just figure out how to use it!

Ah, yes. He recalled a report he’d read on the Indimer War, which described every last detail of those nine years, including the last battle. It had described exactly how King Jizir’s top general had held up the disc, said a few words, and brought down the wrath of the skies on the unsuspecting dragons. And while it wasn’t a stormy day, the weapon might work with divine intervention...

Thrusting the Firedisc high in the air, Wekain cried, “Elja Gelz, antorv nyr tiend!” which meant, in a much older tongue, “Mighty Gelz, hear our cry!”

Just as the words left his mouth, the sky grew as black as night, and a thousand forks of lightning cut into the opening trap. There was an unearthly screech from the dragon inside, and then the entire structure came crashing to the ground (thankfully falling the other way).


Still trembling, and with enough adrenaline inside him to kill an elephant, the High Wizard gently placed the Firedisc on the ground, and called out, “Your wish is my command, Exalted Lord,” he stammered. Immediately, the deadly weapon disappeared from sight, and Gelz left with it.

Morgan groaned, leaning over. “What happened?” he asked wearily.

“I’ll tell you later,” Wekain said, rushing over. He supposed Gelz didn’t have the time to go around and heal every mortally wounded old man he came across. “I’d better take care of you first.”

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Copyright ©Nathan Black, 1998
By the same author RSSThere are no more works at
Date of publicationFebruary 2000
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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