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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part II: Imprisonment

Chapter Three: Briefings

Nathan Black
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Nilrid’s six companions were not pleased when he arrived back at the camp an hour after dawn. Before he even reached the circle of blankets, Asinai’s commanding figure appeared, and snatched him by the shoulders. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, awakening every bird and beast from Mount Pakil to the distant Rogilian border.

“I had an errand to run,” the boy replied calmly. “Would you like to hear about it, or are you just going to keep shaking me?”

“I’m just going to keep shaking you!” the High Wizard of Esanta cried, demonstrating. “Do you have any idea how we felt, just losing Wekain and then waking up and finding you gone? We had the funeral all arranged!”

“As well you should have. I fought Pakil, Asinai... and I won.”

The shaking stopped. Asinai peered intently into the face of his young comrade. “You what?” he whispered.

“Wekain has been avenged. I fought Pakil in her underground chamber, and was able to kill her. Not with magic—she had the power to level the entire mountain—but with the poison Deathdrop. I saved a little of it in a bottle, just for souvenir purposes.”

“Well,” the High Wizard murmured, “I’d say that pretty much excuses your absence.” Then, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “I found him! And I’ve got a little news for you!”

The other five members of the party quickly gathered around Nilrid and Asinai. When everyone was there, the High Wizard announced, “You will all be pleased to know that during his absence, Nilrid decided to make himself useful. He tells me that the Queen Dragon Pakil is slain.”

A loud cheer went up, followed by numerous congratulations and slaps on the back. Of course, he was asked how he did it, and explained.

“Deathdrop poison is an item used in the Ritual of Summoning—or Imprisonment—for Malthan,” Asinai added. “I believe there’s only one item left to be found.”

“Essence of the Moon,” Nilrid said. He had read the Ritual again on his way back, recalling the translation into the Divine Tongue that he would have to use at the Temple of Darkness.

“Well, that’s easy!” Yiratam exclaimed sarcastically. “We’ll just fly him up there and give him a bottle to keep it in.”

“The Essence of the Moon,” the High Wizard of Esanta said patiently, “is a magical stone that, according to legend, fell from the sky as a gift from the Archgod Tyrdonne at the beginning of Derenda. It originally belonged to Gelz, and he used it for the control of weather, but when Malthan became corrupted she stole it, and tried to put a permanent cloud cover over her Palace. It’s the kind of thing the Goddess of Darkness enjoys. But it wouldn’t work for her, so she hid it away.”

“Any idea where?” Salintia asked.

“None whatsoever,” Asinai replied. “It could be in Tanaveri, or the Esanta Desert, or the Esantan side of the Ilsonne Marsh—she could have put it in King Alimond’s back pocket, for all I know. Nilrid will have to use quite a bit of his amazing intellect to figure out where it is.”

The boy shrugged. “Maybe when we go to the Council of the Arcane, they’ll be able to dig something up.”

Asinai laughed. “Who said anything about we?”

Nilrid frowned.

“I did tell him he would be making a presentation to King Dysone and the Council of the Arcane,” Honir put in. “I thought that was the agreement—it usually is customary to let the spy talk about his own mission.”

“It was the agreement before I learned there was a Ritual to be completed,” the High Wizard of Esanta explained. “I’m not going to miss the chance to eliminate Malthan from the face of Derenda for some ceremony.”

The boy floundered. “Well, um, at least someone could, uh, come along with me?”

“What use would they be?” Asinai responded. “You’re the only one with any chance of finding the thing, and you’ve got all of the other Ritual items. A companion might keep you sane for a little longer, I’ll admit, but he’d also get you captured a little faster.”

“So you’re going to drop me at the Rogilian border and say, ‘Good luck?’” Nilrid was getting more horrified with each passing moment.

“No, we’re going to drop you right here. There isn’t any point in dragging you along with us, if you’re probably going to have to circle right back to central Tanaveri. You know, you can probably teleport anywhere you want from here, and with the news circulating that you just killed Malthan’s top commander, I doubt that anyone will try to bother you.”


“Stop whining,” the High Wizard snapped. “You’ll be just fine. Now, eat your breakfast, and then we’ll be on our way.”

Nilrid ate very slowly; he hadn’t much of an appetite. How in Gelz’s name did the High Wizard expect him to manage out here? He could zap anything that came his way with magic, but he still had to eat. Magically-created food was far from pleasant, he’d heard.

Finally, when he was finished, each of his six companions shook him by the hand. Honir said, “Just keep your wits about you, and I’m sure you’ll succeed. You’re an amazing boy, Nilrid, and as long as you don’t lose faith in your abilities, even Malthan can’t stand against you.”

Asinai’s message was less emotionally-geared. “When you’ve found the Essence of the Moon, start looking for the Temple of Darkness,” he said bluntly. “I would rather you not come to Indimer until Malthan is imprisoned—unless, of course, you have a serious injury.” He smiled, seeming to realize the turmoil he was putting the boy through. “I’m sorry it has to be this way. Most fifteen-year old boys are still working as apprentices right now. But if you can’t save the Gelzan world, who will? Good luck, Nilrid.”

“Thank you,” the boy whispered. He watched grimly as they walked off into the distance, all ready to protect each other if something came along to threaten any one of them.

But who would protect him?

Pakil was the most logical place to go. There were plenty of other bustling cities in Tanaveri, but only the capital had an authentic Necromancer sitting on the Palace throne. But what was he going to do once he got there? March into Ranyeb’s chambers and demand to know everything he knew about the Essence of the Moon? Asinai was right—his slaying of the Dragon Queen would make most Malthanians keep their distance—but the King of Tanaveri, and a centuries-old Necromancer, might not be terribly intimidated. And though Nilrid at least equaled the Vinatira in magical ability, he didn’t have a country to back him up.

Still, he didn’t have any other options. Closing his eyes, he fixed an image of the Pakil western gatehouse in his mind (he didn’t want to cause panic in the city by teleporting to the Market Square), and for the third time felt the tugging sensation as he was brought to the new location.

They had stepped up security considerably since the last time he’d passed through the gates. Now, there were twenty stern, fully armored soldiers standing on the Pakil Highway.

“Nilrid of Fyr’nay?” one of the guards asked.

All the boy could do was stare.

“I suppose so,” his captor laughed. “Well, Nilrid, we’re certainly pleased to have you back in Pakil—the King especially. After your little escapade down below the Palace, we were sure you’d visited for the last time, but a good friend of yours told us otherwise.”

Nilrid frowned. Who could have tipped the Royal Guard off? The innkeeper of The Dragon’s Claw, perhaps? No, she hadn’t been given even a clue as to what the eight of them had been doing on her second floor.

“You’ll get to reunite with him in just a moment, and then you finally get an audience with the King himself!”

“I’ve met him,” the boy muttered.

The guard shrugged. “Well, now you’ll get to know him a little better! Come along, now!”

Escape was utterly out of the question. Trying to maintain his dignity, Nilrid lifted his chin stiffly as four of the guards grabbed his arms and marched him into the city.

The dungeons were even more dismal than Nilrid remembered. Of course, he’d only visited the oversized cells, and the regular accommodations on the fifth level were even more dank and musty. As was the custom in most Malthanian dungeons, the sound of dripping, dirty water was often interrupted by a horrible, blood-chilling scream. The boy wished someone would bother to build a dungeon with separate torture chambers (or “questioning rooms,” as they were called).

“Now, go have a talk with your friend!” his captor said mockingly, shoving him into one of the cells. The door shut behind him with an ominous clang, leaving Nilrid alone with his unknown companion.

He almost passed out from the surge of magical power that hit him as the dirty, dejected man awoke from his sleep on a bed of overused straw. Even in the dark, the boy could make out his brilliant, blue eyes. He could also tell for certain that he’d never seen this person before in his life.

“Um, excuse me...” Nilrid said tentatively, “should I know you?”

“No,” the man replied bluntly in a soft, soothing voice. The boy felt a sudden compulsion to just listen to his cell-mate talk all day, surrounding himself with that perfectly-toned rhythm. “When I realized you were about to teleport to the city, I froze you in the stage of motion and demanded an audience with the King. It seemed the best way to get you in here.”

Nilrid tried not to think about the voice as he demanded, “You froze me in the middle of teleportation? Is such a thing possible?”

“Of course it is. Right now, it’s mid-afternoon on the fourth of August. I’m surprised you didn’t notice the sun was in a different position than it was when you left Mount Pakil.”

“You seem to know a great deal about me, and I’m not sure I like it.” By Gelz, that last part was hard to say!

His cell-mate studied him closely for a moment, and then gave a little grunt of dissatisfaction. Nilrid almost breathed a sigh of relief as the compulsion drained away like water from a sieve. “I’m sorry,” the man said. “I didn’t mean to use my power on you. But your magic is strong enough to attract other energy as well, so I suppose both of our abilities were drawn together like magnets. That’s useful, to know you’re that proficient.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, sir, but exactly who are you?”

The man sighed. “I was afraid you’d ask that. Perhaps I should have left the compulsion on you—but no, you’re useless as a mind-slave. If you must put a name on me, you may call me Tyrdonne.”

Nilrid gasped as everything fell into place. He was talking to the Archgod, of not only Derenda but who knew how many other worlds!

“Yes, the Archgod,” Tyrdonne affirmed, casually reading his companion’s mind. “And I only created four other worlds besides this one. There are more powerful beings than myself, entities that could eliminate Malthan or Gelz from existence faster than you could blink an eye.”

“Such as?”

The Archgod laughed. “You’re a curious one, aren’t you? Well, I suppose that’s only natural; as important as you are, you’re only fifteen. For now, all you need to know is that there are other Archgods, and that we have masters. Perhaps someday you will get to meet them.

“Now, to more important business. I believe... all right, I won’t lie to you. I know you have the Ritual. The one I gave to your friends Wekain and Morgan at the Palace of Darkness.”

The mention of Wekain left Nilrid choked up, and unable to speak.

“I’m terribly sorry about Wekain,” Tyrdonne said quietly. “Just remember that all mortal souls go beyond even my reach eventually. At least he was able to live out eighty-two full, productive years.

“I can see this pains you, so we’ll discuss it no further. I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about the Ritual of Summoning.”

“What of it?” the boy snapped, his emotional balance offset. “It’s mine, and I have two thirds of the items.”

“Excellent! That makes my job quite a bit easier. You see, I thought I was going to have to take an hour explaining what Deathdrop is, but now all I have to tell you about is the Essence of the Moon.”

“Asinai gave me the details.”

“What a helpful man. But I doubt he knew where the Essence actually is, did he?”

“No. And I can’t leave Tanaveri until I find it.”

The Archgod laughed. “My, the demands they put on young wizards these days! Fortunately for you, though, the Essence of the Moon is located within the Tanaverian borders.”

“I’m listening,” Nilrid prompted, looking around cautiously to see if he could detect any hidden watchers.

“The room is warded,” Tyrdonne reassured him. “Now, my boy, if you were to take the Pakil Highway eastward out of this city, you would come to a small town near the coast named Crossroads. And, if you turned north onto the Ilsonne Road, you would reach the royal hideout of Nynbas within a week. It would appear as though there is nowhere to go from Nynbas but north or south, but if you’re shrewd, you’ll notice a small, beaten path heading to the west. This path was meant as a final escape route for the King of Tanaveri in an emergency. It leads deep into the Ilsonne Marsh, past another royal hideout, and finally to the abandoned city of Endineer. This was Malthan’s original capital, before she left Pakil to rule the eastern region of the world and moved to the Esanta Desert.” The Archgod smiled. “What better place to hide the Essence of the Moon, an object she prizes so highly and which could be so dangerous to her in the hands of another?”

“Pakil Highway to Crossroads, Ilsonne Road to Nynbas and beaten path to Endineer?” the boy confirmed. “Thank you very much, Almighty Tyrdonne. I don’t want to think about how much time you just saved me.”

“Don’t mention it,” the Archgod said modestly. “Now, shall we get you moving along out of the city? From a little telepathy I just finished, I believe your execution is scheduled in two hours.”

“I think I’d appreciate leaving,” Nilrid replied coolly, though the word “execution” had sent a pang of shock up his spine. “Will you be all right, when they come to fetch me and you’re the only one left?”

Tyrdonne chuckled warmly. “I’d really like to see them try to cut off my head, Nilrid, I really would. It’s been nice talking with you.” Suddenly, his eyes flashed with a brilliant light, and the boy was gone.

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