Published at
Cover Library Novels Global Fiction
PreviousTable of contentsNext

The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part II: Imprisonment

Chapter One: Questions

Nathan Black
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook

Mount Pakil was on the northern fringe of the extensive Tanaveri Mountains. For centuries, people had believed that the dragon herself lived there, but when rumors began bringing dragon-slayers into the country, King Kallison quickly announced that she had been moved to a remote location.

Had Pakil ever really moved? Wekain wondered to himself. The first human King of Tanaveri was said to be a very brave and ambitious man, but the High Wizard of Querisia still found it hard to believe that he’d had the nerve to awaken Derenda’s most powerful beast.

Stop thinking! he chastised himself. Everyone was irritated enough as it was, and if he started bothering himself with impossible questions, he would drive himself to wit’s end.

Konys had taken things better than the two wizards, but even he looked tired of stumbling through the rough grasslands of central Tanaveri for the last few days. It was now the first of August—the infiltration in the Palace had been over for at least thirty-six hours, and Nilrid was either fleeing the city or lying on the fifth level dungeons in rusty chains.

Thinking about Nilrid, he began to worry for the hundredth time in the past few days. He trusted the boy’s abilities now, and was sure that he could be stealthy and resourceful if he put his mind to it, but by Gelz, he was going up against a Necromancer! The energy Beynar emitted had been too powerful for him to be anything else, and Wekain was sure he recognized the voice from the day they had been trapped in rocks. It took quite a bit of effort to detect a wizard three hundred feet underground, but Nilrid was very strong—and so was the King of Tanaveri.

If the boy died, the Council of the Arcane would have to march the four Esantan agents to Perisanta to make a report by themselves. Having to admit that they had let Nilrid be executed would be shameful, humiliating, and would utterly eliminate Asinai’s chance of becoming Chancellor. Glancing over at the High Wizard of Esanta, he realized that the bright-eyed, charismatic man must be even more nervous than he was. Asinai was too young for such stress.

“Pay attention,” Konys said to both of the wizards. “We’re approaching the mountain.”

“How are we supposed to find this Mustering?” Asinai asked.

“I’m familiar with a number of passages that lead to the center of the mountain. Hopefully, whatever is happening will happen there. If not... well, I suppose we’ll just turn around and head north.”

“What if Nilrid and the Esantans can’t stay in Pakil?” Wekain inquired sharply. “We can’t just walk in a straight line and hope to meet up with them midway between the city and the mountain.”

“If we can’t find them, I suppose we’ll have to turn around at Pakil, and... no, you’re right. We’ll never spot them in this accursed place.” The Esantan agent spat forcefully on the hard ground. “We’ll just wait here, until someone important shows up. But if we’re the ones that have to take off running, then we might as well forget seeing our five friends in Tanaveri. As soon as we shake off any pursuers, we’ll make straight for the Rogilian border, and try to find the others there.”

In another hour, they had reached the base of the mountain. There were several paths leading up, winding through jagged rock and impossibly sheer cliffs to the three-mile high summit.

“Which one do we follow?” the High Wizard of Esanta asked their clever, black-cloaked guide.

“None of them,” Konys replied, sounding slightly annoyed. “Those are all paths carved by the Wystarinian Order of Dragon-Slayers when they were trying to find Pakil. They all seemed to think that the most important mortal being in the world would, naturally, hide up in subzero temperatures at the top of a mountain. Fortunately, while the senile King Alimond I of Wystarin was pouring out thousands of his best knights to this area, the Esantan government had already started boring tunnels.” He bent over and pulled out a loose rock in a steep wall of granite, and suddenly, a huge slab of the mountain slid backward like a giant door. “That is the path we’re going to follow. I hope none of you have a problem with darkness.”

“Well, I was brought up as a follower of Gelz, but if you insist...” Wekain began.

“Don’t get smart with me, Respected High Wizard,” Konys said in a soft, pleasant tone. “Your life is more or less in my hands in the moment.”

The passageway was almost pitch black, lighted only by a torch that Konys had thought to bring along (Esantan spies always had a pack’s worth of equipment with them). As they moved into the mountain and downward, the air grew very still, and uncomfortably warm. If anyone had been foolish enough to speak above a whisper, the sound would have echoed a thousand times, and probably brought just as many Malthanian soldiers.

Half an hour after they left the surface, they reached a three-way corridor. Each of the three new paths ran off beyond their sight, seeming to narrow slightly as they disappeared into the distance.

“Which way?” the High Wizard of Querisia whispered, looking confusedly at his choices.

“Good question,” the Esantan murmured. “I’ve never been down here before either, and I haven’t had much of a chance to do any reading about the project to infiltrate this hellhole.” Emphatically, he wiped the sweat off his brow.

“Everybody go one way, then,” Asinai suggested. “We’ll meet back here in an hour. Don’t get lost! And if you happen to meet anything, I won’t blame you if you run for your life. Just don’t expect to find your way out of here.”

“Encouraging,” Wekain said brightly.

“I think you need to be alone for a while,” the High Wizard of Esanta replied.

With that, the three of them parted ways. Wekain created a magical ball of light (which made him more than a little nervous—a constant object was tiring and very easy to detect) and went down the passageway leading to the right. It was getting so hot that he had to stop and rest every hundred yards or so. This is hardly what most eighty-two year old men are doing right now, he thought bitterly.

The slope of the passage gradually changed, so that eventually it was heading downward at a sixty-degree angle. The High Wizard of Querisia, for all his years on rickety merchant ships, couldn’t keep his footing. He fell once, quickly got up, and then fell over again. Before he knew it, he was sliding at a dangerous and increasing speed down the tunnel.

He had been sliding for less than a minute when a wide, twenty-foot high granite wall appeared at the end of the corridor. Wekain clawed desperately at the slippery rock, trying to slow his descent, but his sweaty and trembling hands slid right off of any hold he found.

The wall wasn’t five yards away now. Realizing that his only option was more magic, he closed his eyes and began making a cushion of air to throw down in front of himself.

An instant before the spell would have been complete, there was a sickening crack, and an overwhelming pain shot up through Wekain from his left leg. With a groan, he realized that he wouldn’t be walking for weeks.

Just then, the wall slid away, and a massive head stuck out. The High Wizard’s heart pounded in terror as he faced the dragon. The beast was even more enormous than the one he and Morgan had battled on the edge of the Esanta Desert. It was covered with shiny, black scales, except for a solid band of glittering gold across its huge, probing eyes.

That band of gold was supposed to mean something...

“Oh, how disappointing!” the dragon boomed. “I was just certain you were some young idiot coming here to seek your fortune, and I’m aching for a tender, plump human for a midnight treat. You are much too small and stringy to be any good. So greetings, Wekain of Querisia, who I won’t be dining on today. I know who you are; do you have any idea who I am?”

Wekain stared harder at the dragon’s face, thinking back through every history lesson he’d every had. And then, he remembered.

“If you don’t mind Pakil,” he said, trying to back away, “I’ll be heading back to the surface now.”

The Queen of the Dragons calmly observed the High Wizard’s broken leg, which he was vigorously trying to move. “You won’t be heading anywhere, with an injury like that. So just sit back and relax—I may not get to eat you, but now that you’re here, we do have quite a bit to talk about.”

“I appreciate your mercy,” Wekain said smoothly. He was amazed at how calm his voice sounded, since his chances of making it out of this mountain alive were more slim than those of any other situation he’d ever been in. Malthan was infinitely more dangerous, but she was a divine being and not subject to insane anger or violent mood swings. According to the High Wizard’s knowledge of the beast—which Wekain recalled vividly now—Pakil was not quite moderate.

“Don’t mention it,” Pakil said. “Now, don’t you dare try to deny that you know the boy wizard, Nilrid of Mallsey.”

“I know him,” the High Wizard of Querisia replied.

“And you were aware of the plans for the infiltration of the Tanaverian Palace on July 30.”

“Yes, I was.” This wasn’t going nearly as badly as Wekain had thought it would.

“Well, my friend, I have wonderful news for you: the infiltration worked! Nilrid got all the way down to the eighteenth level, and took a certain Black Staff that was made for Malthan by the Archgod Tyrdonne, and which I had the privilege of using during the Indimer War.” Pakil paused, and stared at Wekain intently. “Tyrdonne. That’s a lovely name, isn’t it?”

“I suppose,” the High Wizard said carefully.

“Have you ever heard it before?”

“I am a mortal...”

“So am I,” the dragon snapped. “Answer the question.”

“Yes, I have. A group of philosophers from the Council of the Arcane discovered the name of the Archgod at the Temple of the Dawn.”

“The Temple of the Dawn, hmm? Tsatira was always one of my favorite Gelzan towns.”

“Pardon me, Pakil, but are there any high-ranking Malthanians who don’t know where we hid the Temple?” Wekain asked, irritated.

The Queen of the Dragons laughed. “Not many, Wekain, not many. So the only time you ever heard of Tyrdonne was because of some under-funded research project? You must have been very bored, to listen to those old scholarly types.”

“Well, I am the High Wizard of Querisia. There’s a certain amount of meetings and research projects I have to put up with every year. In fact, I’m a little relieved that your Queen is finally active again—now I have something real to work on and fight with.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you. Staying holed up in here for nearly five hundred years was extremely tedious.”

“You mean you really were here, all this time?”

“Of course. A few Esantans even managed to break into my chambers; they didn’t last very long, though.

“Anyway, I’d like to congratulate you on your escape from Malthan’s Palace. That’s no easy feat.”

“Thank you,” Wekain said, frowning. Pakil was leading somewhere, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

“That secret escape route hasn’t been used for centuries. However did you find it?”

“We got some assistance,” the High Wizard answered vaguely.

“Oh, that’s wonderful! Gelz bless every brave, self-sacrificing patriot.” The Queen of the Dragons gave a sarcastic, mocking smile, showing row after row of meter-high fangs. “And Malthan bless the practical, intelligent people of the world. Did this compassionate, heroic savior give you anything besides directions?”

Now Wekain saw where this was going. He sat there on the stone floor, in safe, unrevealing silence.

“Answer me, human! Did he give you anything?”

“Yes,” the High Wizard replied quietly. “He did, and I’m not obliged to discuss it.”

“There’s no need,” Pakil answered. “Malthan gave me a personal summons to her chambers, and told me the news herself. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be awakened by a raging goddess in the middle of the night? I’ve never seen her so angry in my life.”

“I suppose that’s why she sent your friend Ryovin after us. We must have given her quite a surprise.”

“Oh, don’t credit yourself. Who do you suppose that spy with the Ritual really was?”

“He seemed like a perfectly ordinary...” Wekain thought a moment. “Well, now that you mention it, it was a bit odd that he wasn’t killed or even affected by a Whitefire Spell.”

“Exactly!” Pakil hissed. “Even I would be severely wounded by Whitefire—depending on the spell’s potency, it might even burn through my scales and kill me. The only beings in existence that are completely immune to that kind of extreme heat are divinities.”

In spite of himself, the High Wizard smiled. “So it was Gelz who gave us the Ritual. I didn’t know he could take a human form without being released from his Temple.”

“He can’t leave the temple physically, Wekain. It was Tyrdonne who gave you the Ritual.”

Wekain gave a start of surprise. “But all those philosophers in Perisanta said that Archgods were neutral...”

“They are,” Pakil explained. “This has absolutely nothing to do with the struggle between Malthan and Gelz. It appears that Tyrdonne wants Derenda to be obliterated, but Malthan made him a deal. If she kills every Gelzan in the world, then the Archgod will let her rule her own people in peace.”

“What a noble goddess you have,” the High Wizard growled.

“Don’t be obstinate. The problem is that Tyrdonne thinks his daughter is hesitating. After all, I am supposedly sound asleep, and the new top Malthanian commanders, the Zienar, are still a closely-kept secret. So, to speed things along, he gave the Ritual of Summoning to you. He thinks that with her freedom threatened, she’ll be quick to cleanse Derenda of all Gelzans, and get the Ritual back.

“So Malthan is caught in a trap of blackmail from which she cannot escape; at least, not without challenging the authority of an Archgod. But I am just a young, foolish mortal who doesn’t know there’s any other deity besides the Almighty Queen.” Pakil smiled again. “Who could blame me, then, for taking the Ritual and returning it to my mistress? It’s the proper thing to do.”

“Does Tyrdonne really consider a six hundred year old dragon to be young and foolish?”

“In comparison to himself—or his children—absolutely. Now, if you would be so kind...”

“I don’t have it.”

There was a long pause. Finally, the Queen of the Dragons asked quietly, “What did you say?”

The High Wizard took a deep breath, and tried not to tremble. “I said, I don’t have it. It’s been passed along, and is pretty well out of your reach.”

Pakil drew herself up, her eyes glinting with fury. “You gave it to Nilrid, didn’t you? Sneaky old bastard!” Her voice was booming now, a deafening succession of sound that pounded into Wekain’s ears. “Well, if I can’t have the Ritual, then I’ll just settle for you. See if you can get out of this one, Wekain of Querisia!”

And then the world turned to fire.

PreviousTable of contentsNext
Table of related information
Copyright ©Nathan Black, 1998
By the same author RSSThere are no more works at
Date of publicationApril 2000
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
How to add an image to this work

Besides sending your opinion about this work, you can add a photo (or more than one) to this page in three simple steps:

  1. Find a photo related with this text at Flickr and, there, add the following tag: (machine tag)

    To tag photos you must be a member of Flickr (don’t worry, the basic service is free).

    Choose photos taken by yourself or from The Commons. You may need special privileges to tag photos if they are not your own. If the photo wasn’t taken by you and it is not from The Commons, please ask permission to the author or check that the license authorizes this use.

  2. Once tagged, check that the new tag is publicly available (it may take some minutes) clicking the following link till your photo is shown: show photos ...

  3. Once your photo is shown, you can add it to this page:

Even though does not display the identity of the person who added a photo, this action is not anonymous (tags are linked to the user who added them at Flickr). reserves the right to remove inappropriate photos. If you find a photo that does not really illustrate the work or whose license does not allow its use, let us know.

If you added a photo (for example, testing this service) that is not really related with this work, you can remove it deleting the machine tag at Flickr (step 1). Verify that the removal is already public (step 2) and then press the button at step 3 to update this page. shows 10 photos per work maximum. Idea, design & development: Xavier Badosa (1995–2018)